Five trailers down, lived Bonnie Campbell. She was lame and so walked slowly down the holler with a cane. Small statured, but overweight she had the skin of tanned sunbaked roast beef. And while she wasn’t precisely ancient, she had three strokes brought on by heavy drug use.
She was weak and so was her husband, Will, who for the first two years of my acquintence of them had been faking a broken arm to doctors and Welfare as to achieve an SSI check.
Together they had one child, a mentally handicapped boy named Andie. He and I rode the bus back and forth to school every day for twelve years. He was never picked on, but his sometimes random masturbating was joked about discreetly behind his back. I don’t even think he would have understood being mocked even if it had happened.
But that is a story for another time, this is about the power of nicotine.
And so after her fourth stroke, things went really south for them. Will took advantage of her feeble state and spent her money as he saw fit. They soon lived in that little blue one story shack without electricity and water. After graduating, Andie was home all the time and it isn’t like he could get a job. No one took any special care for looking after him, no teachers or social workers.
So Bonnie would wobble herself the five trailers downhill and knock on our door, “Bishop? Bishop? Bishop?” She would knock tenuously, but sadly with all the strength she could muster, “Bishop?” That is what she called my dad, his surname. I don’t even think she knew my dad’s first name.
And she would knock until someone could answer the door. This disrupted my mother, who slept in the living room where there was enough space for her cancer treatment equipment. She laid in a large overstuffed lift chair she controlled by remote. On the left side was her potty chair and on the right was her wheelchair.
Bonnie just knocking away, “Bishop? Bishop?”
Sometimes Mom would yell, “Bishop is not here!”
“….okay….” Bonnie would say and then go on to the next house.
Other times Mom would get in her wheelchair and answer, “What is it, Bonnie?”
And her answer was always the exact same every single time, “I juz waunted tah know if y’all got any cig-ur-etts?”
And if Mom did, she would give her a couple. If she didn’t, she would say so.
But if no one answered the door, Bonnie would just wait on the porch for someone to come along. Many times we would see her sitting on the porch swing as we pulled into the driveway from a doctor’s appointment.
Then one day, Mom had this genius idea.
We were sitting in the living room watching one of her murder mystery shows. She had it all figured out in under five minutes of watching it, so the mystery element was dead and we were just listening to it for background noise. She was feeling good that day and I sat between her legs on the floor as she braided my hair in a large plait down my back.
Tap Tap Tap
Mom sighed in annoyance, “That’s Bonnie.”
“Do we have cigarettes?” I asked as I stood up and straightened my tank top.
“Just rollies.”
“Okay.” I turned to the door and opened it a crack.
Even through all her strokes she managed to frown when she saw me. She always did, “Bishop here?”
“His carz ere.” Her oily gray eyes glazed thinking she had tripped me up.
“That’s because his friend picked him up…not that it’s any of your business. Anyway, we don’t have any cigarettes. Bye, Bonnie.” and I closed the door without hearing another word.
I sat back down and Mom started working on my hair. I could hear her thinking, “Penny for your thoughts?”
She sighed again, “I don’t like being rude to her…”
“Well, she’s fucking annoying.”
“Yeah…but….I also don’t like that she walks all the way down here and gets nothing. She’s sick too and I know what it’s like just wanting a cigarette.”
“I guess.”
Mom patted me and I moved to sit on the sofa. She got her remote and her chair whirred back working its little motor, “I think I will give her Bible quotes.”
I laughed, “What?”
“Get me a hat, two pieces of paper, a pen…no wait I got one here….alright and a pair of scissors and the Bible.”
“Yes, Ma’am. Want a little tap dance with that, Missus?” I joked as I went about the room gathering the things she asked for.
“Oh, knock it off.” She said, but she still smiled to herself.
She cut little snips and copied down small versus, folded them, and put them all in a hat. She was really proud of herself. I thought it was hilarious.
A few days later I was making deer chilli for dinner. Mom was complaining it smelled to spicy, “My stomach can’t handle all those seasonings.” She reminded me.
“I know, Mom. I know.”
Tap Tap Tap
“Let me get this.” Mom said. She started going down in her chair.
“Hold on!” She called out, grunting to pull herself into her wheelchair.
“Hold on!” I yelled sharply watching Mom navigate to the door. It isn’t easy having a wheelchair in a mobile home.
Mom had the hat on the stand and picked a verse out. She opened the door just enough and said, “Bishop is taking a nap, we have no cigarettes, go in peace.” And placed the paper in Bonnie’s hand before closing the door.
A couple hours later the phone rang and Dad answered it in his bedroom. He came out with a puzzled look over his face and leaned against the counter top, “Missy, did you give Bonnie a Bible quote like on a piece of paper?”
I was laughing. Mom was smiling.
“Well…” Dad said, “She just called and wanted to know if she had done something wrong to you?”
“What? No. I’m just tired of not being able to give her nothing.”
“Hmm, well…alright.”
Andie began coming down in her place like her emissary. I could never say no to him and always gave him a cigarette even if it was just a rollie.
Mom didn’t like that one bit, “She should not send that poor boy in the snow for one lousy cigarette. That’s bullshit. He already has to suffer being her son!”
She wouldn’t let me answer the door anymore, but she would give him Biblical quotes as well. I tried to point out that it just makes him have to walk further until he gets what his mom is after, but she didn’t listen.
Andie…poor Andie. When I was about 19-20, he died of a seizure. Now, this is really fucked up, but 100% the truth.
See, the road we live on is called Melody Hollow after some French explorer who settled near the area, but nowadays it is known as Felony Holler. It is at the beginning of the Cherokee Forest so perfect for pot growers/sellers, far away enough from the schools so it’s also pervert friendly. The only four families not ever having legal troubles were the Myrtles, the Shanagoldens, old Mr. Williams, and my own family. Everyone else were nothing but recidivists always in and out of the Marcusville Correctional Facility unless you were a woman in which case you went to Saintsville Women’s in Ribault, Kentucky.
This bad reputation meant two things:
1. That the neighborhood, for the most part was safe, so long as you lived there and wasn’t an ‘outsider’. Like nobody liked Estill Easterday because he was a fat tub of ignorant racist lard and his son, EJ, was a thief…but they were OUR thieves. In a weird sort of way we were like a dysfunctional family.
2. In case of emergency, a sheriff was designated to escort an ambulance when 911 was called. BECAUSE ambulances were easy targets for junkies to hold up for pain medication.
And five days after Andie turned 21, he had a seizure and Bonnie came to our door and asked for the phone. She had no tears in her eyes and spoke in a matter of fact tone into the phone, “My son is having a seizure. We need an ambulance….41 Melody Holler.”
She handed me the phone and asked, “Can Bishop drive me back up the road?”
She didn’t need to ask twice. I rushed into Dad’s room and said, “Get up. Andie has had a seizure. Bonnie just called 911. We got to get her back.”
“….shit….” he mumbled as he got out of bed.
“Andie had a seizure?” Mom asked.
“Is having.” Bonnie corrected.
“Get me my walker!” Mom cried.
And we all piled into Dad’s little white Nissan.
When we arrived, Andie was shivering and flailing around on the floor. Will was watching television seemingly unaffected by his son’s radical behavior. Well, a slight annoyance was visible on his person because he turned the volume up.
Mom’s nursing training had kicked into overdrive as she directed me at what to do. She sat in her chair in the doorway and pointed, “The thing is to let him go and then when he isn’t moving, get down there and hold him. Let him breath…but now…get a cool wash clothe.”
I fetched a semi clean kitchen towelette, but there wasn’t any water. I ran outside and dipped it in the creek. By my return he was still and so I held him in my arms. I cradled him and rocked him. His eyes were moving rapidly behind their lids and small twitches ran over his body every now and again. I soothed him for half an hour when Mom said, “Where is the ambulance?!”
“What’s wrong, Mom?”
Her silent face was in a stone grimace and I could tell whatever her eagle eye saw was not good, “His breathing. His sweating. Does he feel cold?”
I felt his forehead, “Clammy.”
She scowled and cursed.
Will sucked his teeth, “The kid does this. He’ll come out of it.”
“Bill, go call 911 again from the house. Will, turn that t.v. down…I can’t think with all that shooting.”
Dad was zooming in that car.
“I don’t know why I get roped into this shit.” He grumbled but still obeyed her order.
But I snapped, “Oh, be a fucking man.”
“Git outta my house you little bitch.”
“Hey! No one talks to my daughter that way!”
“Mom…” I gasped, “He is having a hard time breathing. I can feel the tension.” His back spasmed with every labored breath.
Dad came back red faced, “The fucking ambulance is waiting at the beginning of the road. They won’t come until a sheriff arrives.”
“Get him to the car. Let’s go! Let’s go!”
He stopped breathing in the car altogether and he died by the time they had gotten onto the highway. Will left Bonnie after the funeral and she lived in a disheveled way until her sister, Kelsie, came to live with her. They do all the drugs together. Just all of them.
Now this catches us up to present day. Mom passed four years ago this coming March. I’m a grown woman, married with two daughters, Antonia and Leighbeth. I don’t live on Felony Holler anymore. We live in a second story apartment in York, Ohio about fifteen minutes outside of Columbus. It’s not the best place to live, but it is far better than what I am used to.
In recent history, we had downstairs neighbors named Jon and Alice. Scandal should have been their last name. Always yelling about some new drama. Him sleeping around while they were broke and her breaking up with him because he cheated. They drank spiked cough syrup for fun and had an infant named Xekondarius.
Thanfully, they were given the boot.
Our new neighbors are a couple, Rex and Lillyanne. They have no kids. She is pretty with long soft brown hair and doe brown eyes. He is slightly off putting. Like an aged wigger with his black curls. When he smokes a cigarette he looks shady.
For the first two weeks of them living beneath us, she has asked me for a cigarette every single day. And borrowed one of my special writing pens. Sometimes twice. Sometimes while I’m in the shower. I heard them arguing yesterday when I was in the shower and when she came bumming I gave her two because hey, who doesn’t have an argument with their spouse?
But it wasn’t until today that I put it all together.
I was lying in bed a bit after noon. Down with a headache. Leighanne was in her playpen watching Willy Wonka. Antonia was in the playroom building a castle with Legos. It seemed pretty calm enough for me to try and have a nap.
But then I heard that familiar knock of Lillyanne’s. And I rubbed my eyes and answered the door. She looked desperate, but not overly emotional, “Hey…can I talk to you a moment?”
‘Oh no…’ I thought to myself.
I stepped outside on the landing, “What’s up?”
“I wanted to know if you or your husband could loan me, personally, five dollars? See, you heard us arguing the other day…well that’s cause he stole my money. He left me, truth be told, stole my money and took off. But I get my SSI check later today. I could pay you back after five. Just five dollars…or even a couple cigarettes?”
“I don’t have any money on me.” I replied, not really wanting to hear this torrid tale of white trash romance I have heard time and time again, “But I do have a couple cigarettes. Stay right here.” She seemed kind of relieved as I went back into the apartment.
Unfortunately, I had not realized that I was in a sorry state myself. Just four crumpled Hi-Lo Lights in a pack. I got one out and handed it to her at the door. She thanked me and said, “I will get you back. I promise.”
I closed the door and pondered at why people go into telling their personal stories. Their inner narratives. I don’t care what has happened or is happening in your life, just get on with what you’re after and depending on my resources I will try to help you. I’m a simple kind of person in that regard and I have a blunt short nature.
However, my second thought made my stomach churn in morbid laughter. I called my husband who was on lunch at work and asked him if he recalled Bonnie Campbell from Melody.
“Oh god. Yes.” He snorted in disgust.
I retold what had just occurred between Lillyanne and I and ended with, “So, I was thinking of giving her Bible quotes, but like, ones serial killers would use. Like the really sick descriptive ones.”
He laughed, “You’re so fucked up.”
“You love me though.”
And as I sit here now nearing one in the morning, she still hasn’t got me back. And she hasn’t returned my sspecial pen I use for writing either. They borrowed one the first day they moved in. So I’m sitting here having to type all of this because I can’t find a pen and I don’t have any cigarettes.
I can practically smell the nicotine wafting up through the floors from their apartment. Now her apartment since he left.
Fuck that, he will probably be back in a couple of days. That is how it always works out.
“Your boyfriend stole all your money and you’re having to wait for your SSI check to buy a pack of smokes? Well, we don’t cover that shit! American Monarch Insurance.”


The Grain of A Man or: How Some Women Learn To Play the Sex Racket

Christmas Eve 2013, 9:39 p.m.

Hollie Dollie is up working, grinding what she got on the stage to some protopunk
song with a dropped down vocal and flashing black and red lights. She’s twenty-four
years old and weighs over two hundred and fifty pounds, but she can do the splits with
the best of them. Not too shabby on pole work either. She tosses her bleached blonde hair
this way and that and the men go wild. She’s covered in Confederate flag and punk skull
tattoos shaking her ass in a tye dye bikini.
But Hollie isn’t a stripper because she’s earning her way through college and she
sure as hell isn’t a single mother of three. Hell, she doesn’t care too much about money.
No way. Hollie is a stripper because she likes cocaine and people who have cocaine. Lots
of cocaine. All of the time.
I’ve seen her leave the club with numerous men, most frequently with a guy
named Mr. Mason. Some fat cat in a swank suit and a horseshoe pinky ring. He kinda
looks like that Alpha type who used to play football in high school, but now has a belly
due to the laziness good money brings.
Fun fact; she likes to go ghost hunting around the tri-state area.
Her set is over and she waddles around on her hands and knees gathering the rest
of her earnings. She stuffs the dollar bills in wads clenched tightly in her chubby, greedy
fists. Like a scavenger over a corpse, I think Hollie’s been dead inside for years now.
I take a sip of wine from my flask as I watch her exit the stage. The MC starts
playing something synth with a heavy beat while the other costumers get lap dances,
drink, and carry on.
If I’d known it was going to be this crowded on Christmas Eve, I wouldn’t have
bothered. I’d have stayed home. Least I could openly smoke pot there, but no! I’ve got to
wait for Vanilla to come get me and go to the dressing room. I can’t wait until it’s
legalized. This sneaking around is for the birds.
I see Tiffany Amber Threesome and Angelique making the rounds dressed in the
skimpy uniform of The Cum Again Club carrying stacks of shots and pre-opened bottles
of beer. I make eye contact with each of them and Angelique comes directly, but Tiffany
Amber flips me off.
“Dude, why’d that bitch give me the finger?” I take another drink from the flask,
“What’s taking Vanilla so long?”
“Tiffany Amber didn’t tell you?” She looks dumb struck with those velvet eyes,
but I’ve seen her use this charm before. I call this the Brigitte Bardot.
“Tell me what?” I ask in frustration.
“Vanilla was askin’ for you ‘bout twinny mins ago.”
“Thanks.” I look over her shoulder and Tiffany Amber is serving drinks to Italian
businessmen. She still scowls at me.
Angelique walks on in an obvious stare. She has a sort of resting bubbly face with
gloss and the whole thing. To be honest, I wouldn’t be able to tell if she was an evil
genius. She’s always perky and wouldn’t that be low key evil genius status? To be able to
I butt out my cigarette in the red plastic ashtray on the edge of the stage. What did
I do to Tiffany? Why was she so pissed? I think the last time I saw her was…at a house
party and as I recall we barely spoke to each other. Maybe it was something I didn’t
I’m walking parallel to the bar when I hear a, “Hey, Suzy Lee!” Waichie stands
behind the bar in a tight fitted black shirt to show off his muscles. He works out twice a
day, “Phone call.” He hands it to me uselessly flexing.
Who’s even knows I’m here? For a second, I entertain the notion that
Grandmawmaw is dead, but no one can be that lucky, “Hello?”
“Suzy…Sssuuuzy…hey girl…”
“….yah. Yep. Thas tha one…”
“You’re drunk.” That is not a question and I make sure he hears the contention in
my voice.
“It’s Christmas Eve…”
“What city you in?” I ask almost ready to hang up.
“Port Alex!” Someone is talking in the background and his line becomes muffled.
“You’re in town?!” I haven’t seen him or Pax or Clay or Elijah since they started
their bus tour at the first break of summer.
“Hold on.” He says quickly and the phone mutes again.
I wait for sixty seconds, “Hey! Patrick!”
“You’re in town? Right now?”
“Yeah. Two months-oh-uh…spilt my beer…”
“I’ll see you tomorrow then?”
“No. Tonight.” And that is him not asking a question.
“No. I’m tired. It’s been shitty holidays for me. I just wanna walk home and get
“Awwww…come on, Sleazy Lee…me an ole Hinton’ll pick you up.”
“Hinton? Hinton Greenspan?”
“Yeah…yous in?”
“He’s a miserable twerp.” And I hand the phone back to Waichie who hangs it up
for me.
I’m towards the back and catch Tiffany Amber in my sight. She rolls her eyes and
bumps me when we pass each other. I spin around on a tight heel, “What’s the fucking
problem, Tiff?”
She smashes her lips together slathered with burgundy-black lipstick and even
they seem like they’ve been spray tanned under all that, “Ain’t got no problem, no how…”
“You obviously do.”
“Waitress!” A yell flows out and she takes off into the crowd of groping hands
smacking at her body with wiggling wolf tongues and licentiousness. Fuck it. She can
stay mad all she wants. At least I don’t have to fuck strangers for money.
I get to do it for fun.
As glamorous as the front of the club is, you’d think the rest would be, but that
isn’t so. Away from the seeking eyes of the costumers it is a labyrinth of halls lit by dim
wall sconces. The doors are sunk into shadow so you’d get lost if you didn’t know your
way around. I sigh. The guy who built this must just love confusion. I wonder how many
dancers have been felt up by mysterious hands back here?
A girl with a malnourished frame walks up a set of stairs wearing white fringe and
bare skin. She has an overbite and frizzy purple hair, “Where’s the dressing room? I
always get fucking lost back here.”
“Down these stairs, take a right, second door on the left.” She whispers. She
motions downward lazily and gives me the heebie jeebies. She’s all bone and the entire
right side of her mouth is caved in forming a crescent shaped indentation.
We pass each other narrowly and the hair on the back of my neck stands straight
up. I make eye contact with her once more, I don’t think she knows how to blink. It’s a
hell of a poker face that’s for damn sure.
Down here in the depths of the club, I can smell them out. They started smoking
without me!
I open the door and they’re all sitting there passing a massive blunt, “What the
fuck, ya’ll?”
Vanilla sits so straight laced like there’s a stick propping her up. She chokes on
the blunt alternating between laughing and coughing. She passes it to Hollie who holds it
out to me.
“I thought someone was supposed to come get me? Tiffany’s being a real bitch.” I
hit it and lick my lips, “Oh grape. That’s nice.”
“Mr. Arliss doesn’t like the smell reaching the clients.” Vanilla pushes back a
strand of fire engine red hair.
“Costumers.” Natalia corrects, but speaks with such a thick Russian accent that it
sounds more like ‘kas-tu-merz’.
“Close the door.” Hollie says pulling up a lavender stocking.
I hit the blunt a couple more times while I close the door and the smoke envelopes
us. The room seems to shrink and the walls add to the claustrophobia as they are covered
from floor to ceiling with Mardi Gras masks and boas.
Each girl’s section is more colorful than the last as if rainbows come here to die,
but Vanilla’s has always been the focus of social activity. From the frame of her vanity to
the decorations and all her costumes down to the darn stitches are bubble gum pink.
Intrusively soft and sickening. With her petite build she attracts the real weirdos by
marketing herself as a Lolita. She’s thirty-seven years old and nobody can tell otherwise
through the low lighting and below the state regulated pricing of undiluted alcohol.
Vanilla’s phone starts buzzing. She picks it up with concern, “That’s strange.”
“Who is it?”
“Aw! Shiayt! Am I on?” Plateenum calls out past a cloud of OG Kush.
All the backs arch and they all try to pretend they’re not stoned out of their minds.
Carefully, she swipes left and asks, “Hello?” Her worried face returns to normal rather
quickly, “Oh, yeah. Hol’ on.” She holds her cell out to me, “For you.”
“In a matter of speaking.”
I pass her the roach of a peach blunt, “Waichie?”
“Look, Suzy, this guy is blowing up the line trying to get a hold of you. I gave
him Van’s number. Just giving you a head’s up.”
“Well shit! Thanks a friggin lot, you damned oriental. What if he was some serial
killer guy?”
“As if you don’t know em all already, dumb bitch.” He hangs up and the phone
rings again before I can even give it back to Vanilla. You know that I know the number…
“Patrick, leave me alone.”
“Awwww….don’t be like that lil Suzy Sue…” he drunk hiccups, “Little Suzy
Leeann…” he slurs.
“Vanilla doesn’t like people playin’ games on her phone, Paddy.” I glance to her
for background reassurance but all she says is, “It’s yall’s business.”
‘What the fuck’ I mouth to her and she laughs at my expense.
“Come on, Sally baby. Come out with us…we’ll come pick you up…”
“You’re with that toad.”
“Wha’? You don’t like him?”
“Damn it! You know I don’t.”
“Come on…”
“I don’t have any money.”
“Is okay…baby leg.”
“Awww haha come on. Don’t be like that. We’re already here.”
“In the parking lot.” I can hear the glugs he’s taking from the bottle or can, “You
wanna…how longs it been since I seen you? Since you seen me?!”
I bite my lip and even though I don’t want to say it, I do but with one condition,
“Alright. Fine. But can we go get Clay?”
The phone is smothered by a palm, but I can kinda still hear him, “she…come…
yeah, Clay…West Port still…okay, okay, okay. Okie dokay, Suzy Lucifer.”
“Suzy Lee.”
“Yep.” he hiccups.
I hang up and I feel like I’m fuming, “Who’ll walk me to the main door?”
“You’re an adult. You got yourself into this, get yourself out.” Hollie lights a
cigarette from the end of her sleek, black holder.
“What? I’m not walking back through there alone. It’s a fucking maze and I saw a
ghoul earlier. A loungress!”
“Dat caunt be real theeng. A lawn-chress?” Natalia gives me a skeptical eye, “Dat
isn’t real.”
“It is.”
“It is.”
“Vat is it thaan?”
“Like a phantom, a fucking ghoul, ya know?”
“Sound like new girl to me. Her name Dee-vine. I’ll go vith you. My set up
anyway.” Her accent is so atrocious.
Her seven inch platform heels leave a shallow impression behind us as we
venture down the hall.
Kind of like a click-clack-patty-whack…give a hoe a bone.
Natalia Stacevitch and I aren’t particularly close. We have different goals in life. I
like getting high and listening to records while I paint. She likes to shoot up and fuck for
money. For real, they call her The Golden Pussy.
See, we are all layered in different ways.
“I heard you say you need de monies?”
“The monies?”
“Yeah, green stuff. You buy and pay monies.”
It clicks in my head what she’s talking about and I laugh, “Shit, doesn’t
“Plateenum and me be going to party tomorrow. You could earn some good
“Doing what?”
“Kissing a little. Dey pass out before you do like the sucking.”
I burst out nervous giggles, “No, dude. No thanks.”
“Vat? It’s good monies. I got grand jus last week.”
“No really. I’m totally good.”
“Fine.” she shrugs, “Your loss, skinny girl.”


I’m out into the brisk winter air huddled beneath an oversized olive green
corduroy coat fattened with padding and lined with matted wool. The shirt underneath is
too thin and my choice of wearing pigtails wasn’t the best move on my part, but I
remembered my scarf so that’s something.
I see them at the furthest end of the parking lot. Hinton is pulling up through the
alley. He’s barely at a full stop before Patrick hops out. He smashes a bottle on the street.
Do you know how fucking hard it is to break a bottle? Usually, they’ll just bounce with
sever damage, but it doesn’t matter. Patrick is beastly. Tall, honed, and toned. He seems
so much bigger now than before.
“HEY-O! There’s my minxy bitch!”
“Don’t call me that.” I walk towards them, “I don’t have enough cigarettes.”
“Don’t worry.”
“But I’ll run out.”
“Get in. I’ll think he’ll buy you some.” Hinton answers.
“We need more beer!”
I ignore Patrick’s outburst, “Hinton…”
“Yeah…” His sneaky cerulean eyes level on my chest and then pigtails. God. Just
seeing him pisses me off.
Hinton was a scruffy little boy of fifteen when I last saw him. With a mop of
golden hair and all the deep rooted signs of a Napoleon Complex. Now he’s standing
beside his glossy, emerald Trans Am with a smugness that already makes me sick to my
stomach, “You really filled out since high school, Suzy…”
“You haven’t.”
“She got ya there, Hint.” Patrick pats him on the head.
Hinton Filmore Greenspan V.
What a stupid fucking name.
We pile in. I have to climb behind the driver’s side and I know Hinton’s trying to
see the shape of my ass past my coat. He exudes false machismo with his oddly parted
hair and overt cologne. And he squints. That isn’t even the shape of his eyes, he just
squints for whatever reason. I hate them. They’re like beady tricksy fox eyes.
He takes off while Patrick reaches backward and plunges his hand between my
legs. His other grabs a beer from a twenty-four pack beside me, “Patrick!” I yell, but he
smiles with a glassy gaze.
“You hit that?” Hinton asks.
“Back when, Shinton.”
“I’m literally sitting right here, you guys.”
Patrick guzzles half the beer and throws it out the window. His voice is deviously
calm, “Let’s go to McAfee’s. I wanna fuck a college bitch with a nigger name.”
“Don’t scare, Hinton.” I mock.
“You wish I was scared. How much for a blowjob?”
“Fuck outta town. I need smokes.”
“Stop at this gas station, Shint. We need more beer.”
He pulls of the road and I want to get out with him, but I’m trapped between a
douchbag and a case of beer.
“We need cigarettes.” I remind him.
“Yeah.” He gets out while the car is still rolling.
“Whoa!” Hinton gasps, but Patrick is slick and merely bumps his ankle.
“So, how many guys you fucking, Suzy Lee?”
“None. I’m not looking.”
“Bullshit. Bitches are always looking for a man to pay their bills or take care of
their kids.”
“Nope. Not this girl. I pay my own bills and I don’t have kids. Can I smoke in
your car?”
I shove the cigarette back in my silver case, “Right.”
Patrick comes tripping out of the store taller than his own shadow with another
case of beer and a carton of Georgian brand cigarettes, “You still smoke those?” He
pushes them at me as he gets in.
“I smoke Hi-Lo’s now. This had to be a pretty penny.”
“Don’t worry. I got money.”
“Go to McAfee’s, Shinton. I wanna fuck something!” He rips into the newly
bought beer and starts going to town.
“Take is easy, banana hands.” I say on deaf ears.
McAfee’s Pub, est. 1985
McAfee’s is the only true college bar in town. It has a d.j. and a dance floor,
billiards, beer pong tables, and a very long and happily accommodating bar. Over a year
ago I’d came here to listen to the band. When they went out on tour, after Pax and I broke
up, I stopped going out into public. I made the strip club an exception, I mean…it is
Christmas after all. And if not Christmas…when?
So, yeah, it’s packed to the brim. People are spilling out from the dance floor unto
the pool players and the bar folk are gathering mass heading out to the alley so that they
can smoke while they drink. It’s hot and everyone is overlapping and cheering Christmas
I tug on Patrick’s and he bends an ear, “I wonder how many abortions will happen
because of tonight?”
He laughs loudly scaring a brunette in a short white mini dress. Her legs are shiny
and orange like she is a mannequin dipped in Tang. She snarls up at us from her chair, her
blinking lashes thick and clumpy from mascara.
“Hey, Rocky Raccoon!” Patrick yells, but then shoves on through the crowd
squeezing my hand. As if I’d run away…more like, as if I’d have the opportunity to run
away. He leads us to the bar and clasps a hand on my ass, slipping a twenty in my palm,
“Get me a beer. I gotta piss.”
“What kind?” I hate being left alone with Hinton again.
“Whatever!” He calls out over the heaving swarm of other drunken fools,
Because they will have Israeli beer here in southern Ohio…
Hinton leans against the bar too close to me, “So, I own my own business now.”
My fingernails tap the marble top while his stubby fingers reach in his back pocket to
give me a card, “Impressed?”
“Why not?”
“Because I find you repulsive as a human being and I wish your dick would rot
off just so I could pick it up and shove it down your throat until you choke and die and
this…” I hold up his card to his face, “…let’s me know where not to go for car repair
even if I had a fucking car.”
He laughs as if I said something really funny, “You’re still a slut aren’t you? Bet
you’re planning to tag team me and Patrick. Sucking us off by the end of the night.”
Vomit and fury fill the back of my throat. God damn it, he is a special kind of
horrible. I struggle to swallow my vitriol as a tender slides up, “One cheap domestic, a
bourbon, and a water.”
The balding man winks, nods, and says, “Comin’ right up, darlin’.”
I can feel my face burning red and he gives me the most brilliant sneaky bastard
smile of all time, “Girls blush when they’re horny…”
“Or about to commit homicide, you little worm.”
“Ohhhh….using them big words, huh?”
I ignore him and pay the bartender for the drinks he sits before me. I take the
plastic cup of water and dump it over Hinton’s head, “It’s five below out. You’ll have fun
walking back to the car.”
“Damn…she mad…” A girl wearing polka dot leggings voices, “Mmmhhmm…”
Before he can utter a word, Patrick is back and has the beer in hand, “Jesus Christ,
Hinton! The hell happened to you?” He starts groping me hard and fast. I try to wiggle
away, but he’s much stronger than I am and so he holds me to him, “Suzy girl, Suzy, play
nice with Shinton. He’s a good guy, ain’t you, Shinton?”
He doesn’t say anything as he storms off to the bathroom like the girl he is.
Patrick and I get a table. It’s too warm in here with all these people. I’m sure
they’re pushing maximum occupancy. He scans the mass like a shark, “And just think,
baby girl, no one knows we are the worst people here.”
I smile genuinely for the first time tonight, “They’re clueless.”
“God damn right they are.” His face lights up looking off over the heads of
patrons, “Pax!”
My belly bottoms out, my heat leaps, to my throat as I turn around in my seat. Pax
is moving through with ease with a girl on his arm. He seems better than I remember. A
solidarity looms over him as he closes the gap between us. He looks good in a fitted
leather jacket, but the girl he’s with looks better. I can tell by the way they move together
that they are together and my heart breaks a little bit and falls to the floor right with the
spilt beer and cuff marks.
Pax and Patrick clap each other on the shoulder and then I slid off the stool for a
hug. I murmur in his ear, “Please, save me from him?”
He breathes heat against my ear, “I spent almost a year with him. He’s your
problem now.” His grin speaks of vengeance. Revenge for me breaking up with him all
that time ago. It’s amazing how long eight months can feel.
And they’re gone as quickly as they appeared. My eyes follow after their trail
wantingly, “Who was that with him?”
Patrick’s hunter eyes are practically swimming in their sockets, “Who?”
“That chick with Pax…”
“Oh, uh, Saija. He picked her up in Topeka. Stayed with us ’til the end. Guess
she’s sticking around. Who gives a fuck though? She’s a fat bitch anyway.”
But she’s the fat bitch in his arms.
I slam back my shot, “I wanna go home.”
“Ah, come on, baby legs…we got to go to King’s! It’s tradition.”
“It isn’t.” I say under my breath even though it really is tradition.
King’s Court, est. 1952
We walk across the esplanade and I smile to myself when I see Hinton pull the
hood over his wet hair. Shiver, you little cunt. Shiver.
They head in as I stay outside smoking a cigarette. I could ditch them right here
and just walk back home, but Patrick’s unstable. He’s too drunk to be left with Hinton.
He could get hurt, or worse…arrested. I should ask him where he’s staying since he gave
up his apartment before he left town. All his shit is in storage so long as he remembered
to pay the bill.
I smoke the cigarette and listen to the hullabaloo across the way at McAfee’s. Pax
is in there dancing with her. Laughing with her. I’m probably the last thought on his mind
because I’m the cunt that crushed his heart. I’d cry if I thought my tears wouldn’t turn
into crystals.
She was so pretty too with her hooded navy-gray eyes and matchy matchy outfit.
Her bowed clips holding back her dark red hair. I don’t know why Patrick called her fat
though. She had chubby cheeks, a sizeable ass, but nothing like Kirstie Alley on a
Dunken Donuts spree.
I toss the butt out to the street and go inside. Patrick and Hinton are playing pool,
barely in one man’s case. Patrick has three beers lined up on the bar and Hinton is nursing
an unknown substance. The great inebriated one hit’s a striped ball in the left pocket and
looks over at me, “What you drinkin’, Sally-Sal Lane?”
“What do you want?”
He holds out his arms, “It’s on me, slut biscuit.”
“That isn’t a thing.”
“Could be if you let it.” He winks, “A screwdriver for the butch, I mean bitch, I
mean…her!” he points to me absently.
Before I can blink there’s one in my hand. I slurp it down watching them play.
Both are awful. Patrick keeps critiquing the music selection of some college patrons,
“Bastards wouldn’t know good music if it bit ’em in the dicks.”
“Shut up, Paddy.” I rise from my position in the corner.
“Where you goin’?”
“To the bathroom. Am I allowed?”
“Mmm, I love it when girls ask permission.” Hinton smirks and they laugh
In the bathroom, I smoke a bit of a blunt. Shit combined with all I’ve smoked, the
drinks, and the two denies (Dennexatrine) I snorted before I left the house…I’m looking
pretty blurry eyed in the mirror. But my pigtails look straight enough and my make up
isn’t askew so I’m doing better than most other ladies under the influence.
I’m scarcely out of the bathroom and Patrick is there waiting. He grabs me up
pinning me against the wall, “Patrick, fucking stop.” He tries to kiss me and he smells
like booze and puke, “Quit it!”
“Oh, come on! I’m jus’ playin’, ya fucking apple baby.”
Apple baby? I’m not Native American.
“I don’t want to be here anymore.”
“Yeah, let’s hit it.” And he smacks my ass hard enough to make me jump.
Frank’s Bar, est. 1981
We were headed towards Voudou Alley when Patrick got distracted by a couple of
girls in skimpy Santa outfits going inside Frank’s, “We’re going there.”
“I don’t want to go to a coke bar, Patrick.”
“Well…” He stumbles and breaks a bottle down the middle of the sidewalk almost
hitting Hinton. I carefully brush a few pieces from my jeans.
Past the flashing neon lights and shivering smokers, the inside of Frank’s is colder
than the wintry weather encircling these pile of bricks despite all the tweekers dancing to
southern rock rubbing their noses.
“Everyone looks like Rudolph.” Patrick laughs going up to a waitress, “Two
beers, a shot of whiskey, and a shot of whiskey.”
“RC for me, thanks.” Hinton points to himself.
“You said whiskey twice, Paddy.”
“Oh, uh, Two beers and two whiskies.” Patrick corrects himself as the elderly
woman nods her head and ducks behind the bar.
Hinton’s feathers seem ruffled as I watch him gather in his surroundings. Yes, you
pig oaf, you’re in one of the most notorious bars in Shawnee County where everyone is
on drugs and of your two companions; one loathes you and the other is a drunken
madman. I want to ask him if this is how his mommy wanted him to spend his Christmas,
but then remember his mother (one Florence ’Flo’ Greenspan of now 723 W. Derbyshire
Lane, Dubay, Mississippi) abandoned him when he was three.
Oh well. It doesn’t matter. All parents leave at some point or another rather it’s by
death or personal decision. No one loses, but no one really wins either.
Patrick grabs my arm so hard I feel bruises already forming, “Ow!”
He ignores me, “Hey, hey, hey, Shinton, there’s a house party on Sixth Street.”
“No way, man. I think I need to…”
“Don’t be a pouty Mary, Shinton. This girl here has been telling me about it.” He
turns around to reveal a beautiful Nubian Queen behind him that I hadn’t noticed him
talking to, “I’ve got beer.”
“You got weed?” She asks me.
I say yes, I’ve got like three blunts on me.
And after he drinks everything he has ordered, we’re going again…

2:30 a.m.

Right off the bat, I know we’ve screwed up.
At the stop light right before Sixth, a car of girls pulls up beside us. Patrick rolls
his window down, “Hey, ya goin’ to the house party?”
They giggle at him.
“Dumb redneck bitches. How much beer we got back there, Suzy Sue?”
“Um, two twenty-four packs. Relatively.”
He reaches blindly backward tickling my inner thigh. I push him away and he
fondles around for a beer. He eventually gets one, but not before he pinches my calf with
a wink.
“How’d you get so buff, Patrick?”
“Jus’ working out. Had a lot of time out on the road. Getting booed off stage and
shit. I don’t know, jus’ how I spent my time.” He shakes his head and take a swig, “I’m
just another cog in the machine, Cindy Sue.”
“Don’t call me that!”
“Well, you don’t call me Polly Pocket, ya dumb broad.”
“We’re here.” Hinton announces while parking across the street.
I look through the foggy window and it’s a goddamned traphouse, “Patrick, this
isn’t a good idea.” But he’s already out of the car and carrying a case of beer.
I hate to agree with a woman, but I think you’re right.”
“Shut the fuck up, Hinton.” I get out of the car and snuggle my coat closed and
carry on behind my foolhardy friend as Hinton pitters bringing up the rear. We march up
the steep cement stairs and pass a small huddled group on the porch.
The music is shallow as we enter on the bass drop vibrating ratty wood floors.
Groups of people are clustered about holding red and blue plastic cups and bobbing their
heads. Hinton nudges me, “We’re the only white people here.”
“So?” But I am worried. I’m worried about what’s going to pop out of Patrick’s
mouth. I don’t bother taking off my coat. Patrick’s need to shock people has never
allowed me to get comfortable anywhere new and tonight he is agitated and restless.
What happened to my friend? Even his green eyes seem a little less vibrant. Glossy from
spirits, but dead as ghosts.
He’s putting the beer in their fridge and chatting up random people. Hinton sits on
the sofa with the coats. I don’t really know what to do or say and I’m feeling a bit wobbly
on my feet. I need to smoke some pot and stabilize or I’ll pass out on the floor.
“These ig’nant niggers don’t know anything.” Patrick mumbles in my ear,
“They’re listening to this shit rap. Not even decent rap. Nobody here has heard of Danny
“Who’s Danny Brown?” I smile.
“Aw, get outta here with that shit.” And he rubs my head like I’m a kid.
I saunter over to a guy with shoulder length dreads and tear drop tattoos under his
eyes holding a half empty Mad Dog, “You know were the bathroom is?”
“Through the hall there, first door.”
The entire time I’m pissing, washing my hands, and toking on a mango blunt; I
am praying he’s not out there saying anything stupid. He may be the tallest and built guy
here, but he would be one against twenty at least. And this is a traphouse and where there
are traphouses…there are guns.
I walk back out and notice right off that Hinton is nowhere to be seen, “Patrick?”
He’s talking to a couple of girls about some murder rapper named Esham, but he
looks like he’s being a real dick based on the way he is standing. With folded arms over
his chest and his hips cocked to the side and he gives off that dead eyes stare.
“Patrick?” I repeat.
“Where’s that dwarf Hinton?”
“Oh, he took off.” He’s so nonchalant about it that I’m shocked.
“What the fuck you mean?”
“Said it was getting too late for him. Fuck him. He’s a pussy.”
For a second I forget that I only live three blocks from here, “How am I getting
home? How are you going to get back to his place, Patrick? Patrick?! Pay attention to me,
damn it!”
“What’s wrong?” He slurs behind another brown bottle.
“How…are you…gonna get back…to his place?” I slow my words so he can
properly understand me.
“Why’d I go to is house?”
“Aren’t you staying with him?”
“No. I’m a bang a random slut and couch surf from there. Stay with Elijah.”
“Yeah, where is he?”
“His trailer. Where else would he be?” He looks at me like I’m stupid.
I go back to the bathroom and regroup. Plus, liquor makes me pee a lot.
Damn. There was a whole carton of cigarettes in his backseat! What the hell is he
going to do with them? He don’t even fucking smoke!
I’ve got to get home. I don’t live that far from here anyway. Patrick can crash on
my sofa or whatever, but I need to get out of here -out of this night- smoke a bowl and
pass out. I just hate the holidays.
I walk out into an uproar and some guy looks at me with a red glare, “And you
gotta go too!”
“What’s going on?”
The guy I’d asked where the bathroom was is on Patrick’s heels, “Yah don’t come
up in mah crib disrespectin’ my peoples. Get the hell outta here…”
Somehow, I’ve been ushered out unto the porch and am standing at the top of the
cement stairs, “Patrick! What did you say?!?”
He stands in the street below me lit by the lonesome pestering glow of the
streetlight. With a bottle to his lips and an antagonizing gleam in his eye.
Somebody shoves me. I’m quick to grab the railing before I fell down every step,
“You BOTH gotta go!”
“Hey, man…okay, but you don’t have to push!”
“THEY TOUCH YOU?!?!?!” Patrick shouts.
As I stand here looking down at him and the alcohol fueled blood lust in his eyes,
I see him as something else. Something else entirely.
You see, when you’ve known someone most of your life, you don’t witness their
aging like the outside world does. Or even as you look unto yourself in the mirror every
morning. You just see them, never the lines or the graying or the oncoming Dad/Mom
bodies. And people change, but you’re morphing along beside them so there is no notice
until you get a big old moment of clarity like I’m having right this second.
And in this particular moment, I see that Patrick is no boy. He has become a man.
A year on the road has challenged his hometown sensibilities and the road won. No
longer is he the peacekeeper, but the warrior instead. All his baby fat is gone. All his heart
lay barbaric and naked. In all the years we have known each other, I never thought he
would turn out so raw.
The second has passed and I carefully descend as his screaming echoes into the
Yule tide darkness, “Don’t you niggers TOUCH her! You wanna FIGHT! I’ll go Scioto
County on all you got dainmed darkies! Come on! Come on! YOU BUNCH OF
PUSSIES! I ain’t scared!”
“Hush, Patrick. I’m fine.” I tug on his shirt sleeve marveling at him being without
a coat in this weather, “Stop being a dick. Let’s go!”
He shrugs me off, “I’ll beat yall’s asses!”
“I’ve had it wit this crackah’s shit.” I hear someone yell out from the porch.
Like lightning cracking, shots ring out and Patrick grabs my hand. We’re running
so fast I can’t tell what direction we’re going and my nervous laughter seems manic
against the silence of the night.
But he’s laughing too…and that scares me more than bullets.

3:26 a.m.

Patrick and I sit in a taxi driven by a man named Elvin who seems to be one of
those quiet weirdos who shoot up a coffee house because they don’t sell the right kind of
bagels. His sparse graying hair is parted sharply to the left like a French art film villain
and you know what else? I think he has a glass eye.
A fucking glass eye!
“Can I smoke in here?” I ask.
“No.” Elvin answers strictly.
For fuck’s sake. Can’t a bitch get a break?
“Where youn’s headin’?”
“Jus’, uh, drop us off the mouth at o’ Crooked Creek Holler.” Patrick fumbles
with his seatbelt.
“That’ll cost an extre five goin’ tah West Port.”
“Tha’s fine.”
“We’re going to Clay’s?” I perk up.
“Yeah! Ole buddy, ole pal Clayton!” He acts as if he hasn’t seen him. Like he
didn’t just get off tour with him. What an asshole.
“It’s, like, three a.m. What about his parents?”
“We’ll be quiet.” He whispers that lie like a toddler.
“Yeah, right.” But screw it, it feels like forever since we three have been in the
same room.
Patrick blathers on the entire ride about nothing in particular while Elvin curtly
nods and I absently laugh at random words he mispronounces. It is apparent that Elvin
can’t wait for us not to be in his cab. He speeds down the icy highway connecting Port
Alex and West Port at an alarming pace and I’m not even allowed a fucking cigarette?
What health nut bullshit.
Elvin pulls up to the corner of Crooked Creek Hollow where the Parker residence
rests right at the crosshair. Patrick pays the man with a twenty and jumps out before he
receives the change. I get the five and chase after him. I pull him back, but his newfound
weight is like a bag of bricks, “Hey, wait up! His parents will be asleep. If we knock the
dogs will bark.”
“So? We can wake up the WHOLE WEST SIDE!”
“Shush! No we will not!” I laugh.
“Patrick? Suzy Lee?” Clay steps out from beneath the giant elm at the corner of
his parent’s property smoking a cigarette. His mom, Tonya Lynne, is on an oxygen
machine so all smoking is done outside. Except pot, of course.
“Clayton, my man! Best bassist in the world!” Patrick thwacks him on the back,
“Oh fuck!” He trips a little, but regains his footing just as quickly, “You got any that
Washington weed left?”
Clay laughs prudently as he hushes him, “Dude, shut up. Yeah, I got some, but
you’ve got to be quiet and let me finish my cigarette.”
“Me too.” I say sparking up a Georgian.
Patrick leans heavily on me, pawing at me while half singing Pink Champagne by
The Honeydrippers. He exaggerates the word wine every single time, “Wiiiiiine! Wiiiine!
Wiiiine!” One hand thumping a vague beat on his thigh.
I push him off, “Your jeans are gay as fuck, Paddy.”
“Wha’? I don’t pick this shit out.”
“Well, you ought to. Who doesn’t pick out their own fucking clothes?”
“Let’s go up Paw Paw Hill…Sofie Sue…”
“That isn’t even close to my real name. You know that, right?” I look at Clay who
seems beyond amused by us, “Was he like this the entire time ya’ll were gone?”
His face shadows over and shrugs, “It…touring isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.
You done?”
“Yeah, I s’pose.” And I toss my cigarette out unto the road.
We creep through the squat one-story house in line. Clay’s dad, Clint, sleeps on
the sofa snoring louder than the breaks on a train. Patrick is stumbling in a mildly
functioning kind of way.
Jesus! He almost collapsed on Clint!
Huddled in Clay’s room, I flop down on the bed and Patrick sits beside me, “Hey
Clay, let me see that First Act guitar.”
“Nah, man. It’s too late. Let’s toke a bowl.”
“Yeah, but let me see that First Act?”
“Let him pack a bowl first.”
In a matter of minutes, we’re passing the pipe of some good shit called Affluenza.
Patrick lights it and says, “Straight to the DOME!” And inhales the entire thing leaving
nothing but ash, “Clayton? Let me see that First Act?”
“Fine, but play it low.” Clay gathers the guitar from the corner and hands it to
Patrick doesn’t play it low. He strums the shit out of it and as loudly as possible
too. Clay snatches it from him, “Right, that’s enough.”
“Aw, come on, Clayton? I’s jus’ getting started.”
“Let it go, Patrick.” I motion to Clay, “He’s been trying to fuck me all night. Since
when is that a thing?”
“Half subhuman bitch.” He tries fingering me through my jeans, but I kick at him,
“You know the only thing saving you from being a full subhuman bitch is that you’re
white trash like me. Like Clay. We’re just scum poor fucking nobodies. Fucking
nothing.” He gets silent then bolts from the room making his way to the backyard.
Clay and I look at each other in confusion and follow him out. Oh god, it’s gross
and really sad watching him vomit.
“I forgot to tell you…we got shot at.”
“Oh shit, where?”
“Down in the East End. We were at a party and he started saying racist shit…he’s
out of control, Clay.”
Together we stand on the porch and watch Patrick puke his guts out under the
cold moon hanging like a death sentence over him. He’s leaning over the chain link fence
separating the Parker’s yard from the Gillis’ yard. All that liquor and beer pumped up hot
from his stomach over the fence and unto Brock Gillis’ award winning rose bushes.
Luckily, they’re nothing but thorns on sticks this time of year. His sneaker clad heels rise
two inches with every wet, congested heave of liquid.
Clay and I watch with Nihilistic voyeurism and smoke cigarettes until I ask, “Are
you alright, Patrick?”
He staggers backwards wiping his mouth, “Yeah, hey, Clayton…let me see that
First Act?”

4:32 a.m.

After some private negotiating between Patrick and Clay while I stay outside and
chain smoke; it is decided that we go.
They come out and Clay looks exasperated, “Can you take this from here?” And
by this, he means Patrick’s hooliganism or more likely Patrick himself.
“Yeah, I got him.”
He goes back to the warm sanity of his house while I’m alone with Patrick once
We travel around the house and down the small side yard lined with ceramic pots
of long since dead petunias and Queen Anne’s Lace. Tonya Lynne used to be quite the
gardener in her day. Now it all lays in a paused state of perpetual decay.
Patrick climbs over the fence, breaks a decorative pot, and giggles. He falls to the
other side on his shoulder. I shake my head as I push the gate open, “You’re a belligerent
“Bout to be more than jus’ drunk, baby face.” His lips curl in a grin that puts the
fear in my belly.
“What do you mean by more?”
He holds a protesting hand up, “I’ll tell you when we get to your place.”
We got to the stop sign and wait for another taxi. He slides down the pole and
kind of lay-sits on the frozen tundra this land has become this December. He’s shivering
and a small streak of pity rises its head. I sit beside him and he encapsulates me like a
jellyfish, “Go up on Paw Paw Hill with me?”
“No. You smell like beer and bile.”
“God, I wanna fuck you so bad. Jus’ fuck the shit outta yah, cuddle yah, and wake
up and fuck you again. You have no idea.”
“You’re such a romantic, Patrick.”
“I mean it.”
“No, you don’t. You’re drunk.”
“Drunks tell the truth.”
“You don’t.”
He pushes his hand up my shirt to cup my breasts. I don’t say anything. It’s too
cold. He shakes and we grow closer beneath the soft street light. We cuddle there in
silence until the headlights of the cab come hovering over the hilltop.

5:02 a.m.

My apartment is warm, but I turn the heater knob until it clicks. Patrick falls down
on the couch and kicks off his shoes, “Guess what I got?”
“Whiskey dick?”
He smirks, “Nope. Guess again.”
“Christ in your heart?”
“Well, I’m beat. I’m sticking with my first answer. Whiskey dick.”
He reveals a vile of that all elusive, luminescent tangerine liquid, “Number 9.”
I sit down beside him in awe, “Where the fuck did you get that?”
“Clay bought half a gallon from some redneck in Mobile, boiled it in his shed. It’s
the best stuff. We tripped for months on the road.”
“Oh my god, Patrick.”
“That’s who we’re about to see.” And he takes a sip, but a sip is all you need.
I haven’t tripped hard in such a long time and Number 9? Well, it’s the best
hallucinogen that has ever been made. You get completely devoured by visions that
gradually wear off over a period of three to five days, but what you see gets ever more
vivid and vicious until it’s totally out of your system.
I take the vile, “Bottoms up!” I press my tongue to the glass and dip my tongue.

The Intermission

I’m at a party. No, I’m not. I’m on drugs that is making me think I’m at a party
because I doubt Matt Damon and Idi Amin Dada are spending their Christmas in Port
Alexandria, Ohio.
I’m blinking my eyes really hard looking around. People are buzzing everywhere
dancing and laughing and drinking. Their edges are blurred white light, but they look so
real. Like if I touched them they would touch me back. I don’t want to.
I need to find Patrick. Neither of us should be alone on this trip.
I ramble around and see my mother and sisters sit talking to men dressed in
shabby garbage men uniforms. I almost ask her if she’s seen Patrick, but she gives me
this look as if she’ll eat my soul if I dare to speak.
Oh my god, the Queen Mother is topless!
Avert the eyes and look somewhere else! Anywhere else! Anywhere!
“Suzy Lee…” I hear Patrick’s call ringing inside my head.
I walk through the crowd gathered at tables eating roast beef and drinking
champagne in phallus shaped flutes. This is absurd. I bump into the table of a middle
aged red haired lady and a man wearing a full tuxedo, “Excuse me.”
She grabs my hand and rubs it sweetly, “You need no excuse.”
My nose scrunches up as I take my hand back, “Thanks, I guess.”
“Suzy Lee?”
I turn and see Patrick’s hand stretched out and waiting for me. His palms feel dry
as he guides me to the edge of the party where we come to stand upon the top of an
ancient, stone staircase as long and wide as the Ohio River, “Patrick, where are we?”
“They used to have four temples overlooking the valley for strategy. There was
this one, one across, and two down that way running parallel. Now all that’s left are these
stairs to a temple long gone…”
I glance down to see my toes equal with the stone’s edge and tighten my grip on
“…we are standing on the edge of a dead civilization, Suzy Lee. Doesn’t that
blow your mind?”
“No.” I release him and retreat a few steps.
He looks crushed, “But why not?”
“You know I hate heights.”
“But this is a dream.” He smiles at me with all the innocence of the boy I once
knew, “And in dreams you can fly.”
I shake my head, “You’re wrong. You’re always wrong, Patrick.”

Christmas Day, 2:00 p.m.

I don’t want to ever move from this spot. The blankets all piled over me and their
fuzz tickles my skin as I roll over. My bed is so comfortable even if my ears are ringing a
little bit from all the partying last night. I yawn and rub my eyes to see Patrick at the table
eating a bowl of cereal and texting. There’s a flash of a miniature Idi Amin Dada demon
on his shoulder. I rub my eyes and it‘s gone. Damn Number 9.
“What time is it?”
“Two in the afternoon, lazy ass.” He says with a mouth full of milk and tasty
“What day is it?”
“Today and don’t you know today is the greatest?”
“Smartass.” I get out of bed still wearing the same clothes as the night before.
After a shit, a shower, and finding some (decently) clean clothes, I sit with my
house guest who is still eating my food and texting. I light a joint I must have rolled the
night before as he belly laughs at a message, “Who’s got you wrapped around their
“Her name’s Keira.” He fiddles with his phone and then flashes a picture of
blonde hair and ass, “I’m meeting her later at Frank’s.”
“Somebody from the tour?”
He shakes his head, “Craigslist. I’m going to take her to a hotel and fuck her
brains out.”
“Don’t you have a girlfriend? Oh shit, what’s her name? Lindsey, Lissy, Liddy?”
“Leslie, and yes she’s still my girlfriend.”
“Why don’t you fuck her and eat her off brand cereal?” I cough out.
“I did and, uh, she buys real Lucky Charms.”
“You’re an asshole.”
“I’m an insatiable asshole.” He pushes the now empty bowl away with a clatter of
the spoon, “What are your plans?”
I carefully flick the ash into the bowl thinking on what to say. I don‘t want to get
looped into another night with him, “Thinking of going to a party with some Mexicans
and strippers.”
“Mexican strippers?”
“No. Russian.”
He cringes, “Good luck with that.”

Around 5-ish

Through various phone calls to the numerous exotic dancers of the lower-middle
east side, I got a hold of Natalia around three-thirty. I told her that I was interested in
being a ride along to her scam because I had nothing better to do on Christmas…so long
as I didn’t have to touch anyone’s dick or riffle through pockets. She said that was cool
and that I could make an entrance as eye candy then hide out in the bathroom until they
were done.
With the deal struck, I pissed around for a while before getting ready. I already
have makeup and hair done and I’m putting on a tight black blouse, silky and very low
cut, “What time you taking off?”
Patrick, who is dressed like some clean cut prick from an Old Navy ad, checks the
time on his phone, “About ten minutes. Soon.”
“You meet Keira before?”
He stares at me in careful consideration as I wiggle into a pair of jeans, “I have to
get a boner pill.”
“The fuck?”
He shrugs into a tan bomber jacket (where the hell did that come from?), “I can’t
just fuck a bitch I don’t know unless I’m drunk or know her…better.”
“I wouldn’t drink and pop one of those suckers at the same time. That’s a recipe
for a heart attack.”
He walks across the room and kisses me on the forehead, “I’ll be fine, worry wort.
Meet me at the bar after your weird sex party.”
“Which bar?”
“You’ll know the one.” He says with the slamming of my front door.
With him gone, I lit a cigarette and gather my utensils to pack them in my purse.
Miniature grinder? Check,
Pipe? Check.
Big bag of sticky green?
Wait, before I check that off the list I’m a roll one while I wait. A fat fucker too
because I’m not good at rolling anything better.
I sit and smoke and lace up my boots waiting for my ride. My apartment is a
shroud of smoke and I’m heaving my lungs out by the time that knock comes to my door,
“Suzy Lee?”
“Hold up, I’m comin’.”
I put on my coat and purple knitted gloves, grab my purse which is really more of
a backpack, and head out the door.
Plateenum is an African Queen donning a skimpy white sequenced dress. Her legs
are long and supple. When she dances the pole at the Cum Again Club, I’ve noticed men
really love when those legs hold her up as she spins to do tricks. And she is a true blue
pole dancer in every sense of the phrase.
Her fingernails are a good two inches of neon green clenching a Virginia Slim.
She smacks her maroon glossed lips and looks me down from head to toe, “This is you
trying to make men thirsty?”
I shrug, “What of it?”
A perfectly groomed brow arches, “Ain’t none my bidness.”
“What the hell does that mean, Plateenum? What? Because I ain’t gussied up like
some Amazonian stripper goddess that means I can’t possibly be attractive?”
She chuckles. Her chocolate eyes lighting up as she flicks ash on the floor of the
apartment complex’s hallway, “Is jus’ funny how you do things. You’re different than any
white girl I ever met.”
“You need to meet more white girls then.” I lock my door and follow her into the
chilly air, “Because you sound racist as fuck.”
She laughs loudly with a snort, “Ya can’t be racist to white people. Ya’ll done too
much fucked up shit.”
“I think it’s you and me against Big Brother.”
“I was raised in a trailer in a holler mostly without indoor plumbing. You think
those nice suits in their big houses on the hill like me any better just because I’m white?
If this was olden times, I’d be lynched right with you. White trash is still trash to those
kinds of people. It’s called classism.” Plateenum pushes back her long, wavy weave locks
and nods as if she understands, but I don’t think she does. But it doesn’t matter in the end.
I playfully nudge her elbow, “How can you be warm in that outfit anyhow? I see more
skin here than I do at the club!”
“Well, girl, I be movin’ an’ shit. Whatcha think of Natalia’s Santa’s slut lookin’
ass?” She’s laughing as she points to Natalia as we get in the car.
“Vat? I luk good. Like Santa elf.” And she really does. She looks like a Christmas
special Barbie doll with her honey hair in soft ringlets and her icy white skin is pleasantly
contoured, but then she belts out with that thick accent. Deep and throaty, she slices
silence with it like a sharpened bloody knife to nubile flesh.
I quickly regret this decision I’ve made and I only did this as an excuse not to get
rolled up in more of Patrick’s insanity. I don’t want to see a bunch of drunk, horny
Mexicans. I don’t want to see anyone drunk and horny. Just remembering Patrick’s
roaming hand makes my belly ache, flipping and flopping, “I don’t feel so good.”
“Here. Dayk dis.” Natalia passes back a blunt.
I hit it and lick my lips, “What flavor is this?”
“Weed flavored.” Plateenum answers.
“Bullshit!” I hit it again and I don’t taste a fruity after taste, but it does seem
potent, “I’m serious…”
“It’s a dope flavored wrap. Honest engine.” Plateenum scratches her cheek with
one of those talons.
“Holy guacamole, Batman! They make those?”
“Bought it down at theRed Store.” She nods.
“Nice!” And so I spend the entire car ride toking in marvel. Weed flavored wraps,
oh my god, I must get some of these! This is awesome! What will they come up with
The house she pulls up to is a crumbling two-story. It’s skinny with white paint
peeling to expose its bones. Every light inside is on and there’s Christmas music with a
salsa flare playing. I can’t understand any of the hoots and hollers coming from inside,
but my stomach is in knots again. This is idiotic. I don’t even know what I’m doing here.
There’s no point. No point to any of this.
“Can’t I just wait in the car?”
“Ant freeze to deat?” She says something in Russia that I’m pretty sure is a curse
word and shakes her head.
“How long will this take?” I ask biting my lip.
She shrugs loosely, “Don’t know. Dee-pends. Maybe hour, maybe five.”
“What?” I stop dead in my tracks sliding a little on the snowy sidewalk, “I can’t
hide in a bathroom for five hours.” Oh holy Jesus, the Number 9…
“No. I give you sign when to go.”
“What kind?”
“You’ll know. Don’t worry, short girl.”
Why are people being so god damned vague with me today? It’s bullshit. After
this is over, I’m going home and reevaluating why I put myself in the hands of less than
responsible folks.
For the past year, since Pax and I stopped sharing a bed, I’ve been doing really
stupid shit. Just passing the months in meaningless void. Barely leaving my apartment.
Hell, I haven’t even painted…not even a sketch. A doodle here and here, but they usually
get thrown out at last call.
I’ve got to shake this off, but I can’t. I’m sad and I screwed up. I should have
gone with the band out on the road like Pax wanted. Maybe Patrick wouldn’t be so
fucked up, maybe Clay wouldn’t be so withdrawn. I don’t know, but I do know that my
heart wouldn’t be so broken as it is right now. I could be cuddled up to Pax in bed
laughing at a cheesy joke he’s made, but instead here I am at a party with two stripper
streetwalkers on Christmas night while he’s got another gal on his arm. In his bed, in the
place where I used to lay. I don’t even know what he’d say if I were able to tell him
where I am.
He used to rescue me, but somewhere along the way we all grew up. I can’t even
remember the last time I saw Dutchie, let alone talk to him. Everyone is gone or changed
or both. I’m tired of it all. I want to recapture the past and relive it and I’m only twenty-
four! I suppose regrets make you feel older than natural age. Weighed down by all those
‘what could have beens’.
“Suzy Lee, Benny. Benny, Suzy Lee…”
Lost in my own thoughts, I hadn’t realize I was inside and face to face with our
venerable host. A gaunt man, I clock him at six-seven easy as pie, maybe taller?
I crane my neck to meet his hooded eyes. He looks disinterested like he doesn’t
even want to be at his own party. I stick out my hand, “Hi, nice to meet you.” I furce out
my best smile.
He doesn’t shake my hand and says in a low voice that is early inaudible, “Feliz
“Yeah, Merry Christmas.”

10:00 p.m.

As the hours pass, I’m introduced to a few men with desire and hard cocks ready
to go.
Santiago is handsome in that ever so swarthy way, but he has his cap at Natalia’s
door. Which is positively okay by me. I see she never leaves him or Benny without a
fresh shot or distracting eye.
Speaking of shots!
Plateenum is a one woman force to be reckoned with! She’s got Mateo, Alejandro,
and a gaggle of guys taking body shots of her belly on the kitchen counter. She soaks up
the energy of the whole house and bathes in it like a cat in sunlight. She laughs, teases,
and plays a great game.
A dude named Tomas keeps on my trail though. He’s nursing a beer and attempts
conversation with me multiple times. He even tries putting his rummy arms around my
I wiggle free and give Natalia a desperate silent plea. She excuses herself from
Santiago, “Suzy Lee, you come to bathroom with me.”
She takes me upstairs where people are passing out here and there. Some so far
gone that they’ve spilled their drinks all over themselves. I want to run as fast as I can out
of here, but I’ve come this far.
I need heavier drugs to deal with these brief touches of lunacy. These dealings
with the underside of life. No, not heavier drugs, just better drugs.
Natalia ushers me into a small bathroom that smells like stale cigar smoke and
used condoms. She slams the toilet lid down, “You sit until we come get you.”
“Fine, Miss Bossy Pants.”
“I not this Bossy Pant. It is Stacevitch. Natalia Stacevitch.” She says in confusion.
I laugh at her, “No, it’s just a saying.”
She scoffs, “Americans have too many sayings. I can’t keep up. You sit. I’ll be
right back.”
With her gone and the quiet overriding me, I pack a full bowl not knowing how
long all this is going to last. I wonder if they implore roofies? Is this aiding and abetting?
I laugh at myself, at my predicament, and feel a little more apathetic than I did
earlier. It’s the pot and shadow shapes forming along the grapevine print wallpaper. I feel
numb and giddy sitting on a closed toilet smoking weed while my comrades coerce
alcohol down men’s gullets so they can go through their wallets.
I close my eyes trying to push the Number 9 visions away as I sense the
weightlessness that comes with them. I hit the pipe trying to calm the nerves.

1:00 a.m.

Sometime later after someone stumbled against the door asking to come in, and
then after my fist buzz faded a little did Natalia knock on the door, “We leaving.”
I gather my things and hop to. The house is an unsettingly mixture of
noiselessness and shade. Plateenum plummets a twenty-four pack of Potter Beer,
imported from Brimson, Missouri into my arms. She moves on before I can protest.
I struggle to move as quick as them even though Plateenum crosses over a sheet
of ice in seven inch heels. The whole time carrying three bottles of XR-Teek liquor and
stuffing money down her cleavage. I felt the urgency to leave, but at the same time
everyone in the house is asleep. Slumped over sofas and lying on floors. And since
they’re out doesn’t mean I should break my ankle.
I push the beer in first then slide in beside it. The leather bucket seats squeak in
the cold. Natalia softly levels the engine while Plateenum whirlwinds her way in like a
bull on the passenger’s side.
There are no cars at one a.m. on Christmas. All the kids are sleeping in bliss
having opened their gifts. Parents around here either get drunk or do right. So, here’s to
hoping that each kid got something rather it was a ball or an orange.
It’s so dark that the streetlamps seem frosted on a glimmering pale green. There
are no stars tonight, just windy snowflakes…but by God if it ain’t bitter, “How’d you
make out?”
“We get grand each.” Natalia answers.
“Well, hell! That’s a very lucrative business you got going.”
“You want a cuts of monies?”
“No. I’ll just take a beer for the road.”
“Where we going anyway?” I light a cigarette and make rings in the air with the
smoke and echo of my breath.
They talk about how huge Benny’s dick is and how his fingers are long and
bendable while I sit quiet occasionally flicking my ash out the rolled down slit of the
window. Everything seems to be in slow motion and it’s taking forever for this big
Oldsmobile to chug its way up The Hill in this weather.
And Plateenum just chats away comparing cocks and the shallower sides of
different men’s personalities. She’s so damn chipper for being as tall and strong as she is.
Like one of those professional body builders. Her body harkens back to muscle bikini
contests of the 1980’s.
“Did anyone ever tell me where we’re going?” I ask hazily. Somewhere out in
Port Alexandria I hear the last of the Saint Melito’s Christmas bells of the season.
Natalia pulls up to the gate of Building D of the Dwayne Dells apartment complex
and I know from all the experience that they’re about to traipse on through the door of D-
7. That belongs to De Vahn and Colleen and I want no part of it, “I’m taking off.”
“Where?” Natalia asks as the engine roars down.
“To the bar…I guess.”
“Vait here, I’ll drive you to after ve’re done.”
And so I do.
And so I wait.
It’s pretty uneventful so far.
Cold and bleak as hell. A solid white rock of desolate social sludge. A wintry
wasteland. And so I’m not waiting for them. Why?
I take my beer and jilt the bitches.

1:20 a.m.

I butt out my cigarette and walk into Frank’s. Patrick is sitting at the bar talking to
Luey Shapiro and Margery a.k.a. Madame Skag. He hasn’t seen them in over a year. The
last time we were altogether was at the band’s last show at McAfee’s. That was before we
had gone to Mississippi.
Luey stands up in an ironed button down with crisp slacks and handmade leather
British shoes. We hug and say our howdy-do’s. Margery steals me a look with her
heterochromic eyes and says, “I hear a lot about this Netflix and chill, but what about
traphouse and choke a bitch?”
I laugh and shove her shoulder, “Where the hell have you been?”
“Oh, I got caught up in some shit and had to lay low. There was a warrant out for
me, but that’s all taken care of now.” She smiles yellowing rows and I observe a fresh
scar running up her cheek and curving on the left side of her nose. She giggles as I stare,
“You like it? Courtesy of a Rottweiler outside of Hanging Hill, West Virginia.”
I crowd Luey out of his stool, “What the fuck? Are you serious? What happened?”
“One of my girls sucked this one guy’s dick and they found her body upriver. The
house in Hanging Hill got hot so we scored a ride with this widow named Minerva. She
had these two Rottweilers and one, Germany, was skittish. We were in the back of her
van and Luey’s getting loud and stupid in front of Germany and she attacked me. Luey
got into beast mode…Luey? Show her what Germany did to you?”
Luey lifts his Irish setter’s hat and there is a gash running over his eyebrow and
down the side of his face over his temple, “Oh my god, Luey? What the fuck were you
thinking yelling at her like that?”
“No, now I did screw up pretty bad.” Margery says bluntly, “I gave that guy a
clean bill to visit my house and to some other rival’s house”
“But still…” I am distracted by Patrick’s face. It is swollen and shiny on one side
like he’s been in a fight, “What happened to you?”
“I’m having an allergic reaction.”
“To what?”
“Let’s go first.”
“Go where?”
“To a bar.”
“What bar?”
“A bar where I can tell you to go fuck yourself. Come on. Don’t get comfortable,
let’s go.” He slams a five on the counter.
“I want to visit.”
“Nah, we were heading out anyway.” Luey pipes up, “We have real Anarchist shit
to do.”
“I thought you were a Capitalist?” I ask.
“I am, but the chaos turns me on.”
“Suzy Lee…?”
“Okay!” I snap.
I hug them and out we go into the night of hypothermic sidewalk people, “So?”
“So what?”
“What is wrong with your face?”
“I’m having an allergic reaction to that boner pill I took.”
“Yeah, I told you not to drink with it. I can’t leave you for five hours! You’re a
mess, Paddy! A hot fucking mess! I love you and everything, but this has got to stop. You
look like Quasimodo.” I light a cigarette, “What happened to Keira when she saw the
ugly mug?”
“She never showed.” He checks his phone for the time, “We have to get going.”
“Going where?”
“To The Bayou Inn.”
“I’m going with or without you.”
“Is that a threat?”
“It’s a fact, Jack.” Damn, he thinks he’s so smooth.
“Okay. Why are we going there?”
“Why does anyone go to The Bayou, Suzy Lee? To get their dick wet.”
“I don’t want to be apart of this.”
“Too late.”
“What? No, it isn’t.”
“It is.” He points ahead through the wafting snow, “We’re already here.”

2:42 a.m., The Bayou Hotel-Motel est. 1950

The Bayou Hotel-Motel, or the Bayou Inn as referred by us locals, is THE hooker
hotel in town. The crème de la crème of broken people and their equally broken dreams.
The building itself is a decrepit creature with hanging pipes and busted stairs
covered in archaic shag carpet. Painted a dull lavender with a gargantuan sign made of
stylized cardboard propped on the roof. And with all of this, each window still has blinds
and a set of curtains closed and closed tightly. That’s the nuance of a hooker hotel.
“Room 217.”
“No fucking way!” I exclaim, “This place has gone to shit. Look at that, Patrick?
There’s a baby stroller.” I point out as we walk twenty feet past it just sitting there in the
middle of the parking lot.
Carefully, and I do mean carefully, I find my footing on the precarious stairs.
Patrick’s up them in no time impatiently awaiting me. I don’t give a fuck. I’d rather not
“Slow fat ass.” I hear him grumble.
‘Oh, yeah? Your face looks like a Gobstopper, Paddy.” I laugh reaching him,
“You’re turning violet, Violet!”
“Shut the fuck up.” He laughs and then turns on the hunt for the room.
All the doors are royal purple with tarnished fake gold numbers, all of it chipping
away. Faded and fading from memory.
This used to be a hot spot back in the 70’s. A goldmine, if that was your thing.
The girls were trashy, but they were proud. There wasn’t any of this forced self-shame
you see now. The stigma. The stain of being a soiled dove. That was when low rent
working gals still wore red lipstick and high heels. The mighty days of AquaNet and
moose. I shudder to think of what is behind door number 217 when he knocks on it
because I know it won’t be anything as what it should be or even what it could be.
I can see my breath hanging like diamonds in the cold when this woman answers,
“Crystle?” Patrick asks briskly.
“Yee-aw. Come on ee-an.”
Her hair is in a messy bun all dried out and dull brown. She’s wearing an
oversized gray t-shirt with moth holes dotting the seams like Swiss cheese, no pants.
She’s tweeking madly trying to eat a microwavable burrito, “If it’s two of ya, it be
double. Mah rats are mah rats.”
“Rats?” I question.
“Her rates.” Patrick whispers to me then faces her with a look carved in stone, “I
jus’ want a…hand job.”
“Fine. But lemme git some mout’wursh. I dun wan bee-an breath.” She motions to
our left and says, “That’s mah sisa, Nita, an er boyfrien, Jovan. Dun min if dey wash?”
And like THAT our vision comes together as one. Nita is a chubby girl with
smeary eyeshadow doing whippets at a small table. And what I can only describe as a big
fucking Asian guy, sits next to her shooting heroin. Balloons and heroin are splayed
across the table along with opened cereal boxes and stacks of dirty dishes.
I start laughing and wave, “Hey.”
Neither acknowledge me.
“I don’t care if they watch.” Patrick answers her question.
“I don’t want to. Is there another room I can go to or something?” I demand.
“No.” She says anxiously as she scratches pimples on the back of her neck.
I give Patrick a ‘oh, come on’ look, but he’s peeking out the window. His fingers
cracked between two blinds. He doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t need to. I can tell when
he gets serious enough to just roll with it.
He digs in his pocket and tosses a hundred on the bed, “If anyone asks, I paid you
to wash my car.” He grabs my hand and there we are faced with Jack Frost once more.
“Oh my god.” I say seeing that beside the stroller we saw coming in now has a
cop car next to it and one of the pigs is holding a crying black baby.
This time he doesn’t wait for to carefully descend as he gently tugs me to follow
suit. Not aggressively, but sternly and with enough pressure to inform my fuzzy brain to
shape the fuck up for a few minutes and try not to trip over my boots on the way down.
And by god, don’t draw the attention of the uniformed swine.
“Where are we going?” I ask crossing the parking lot, our arms linked together.
“To the bar. Well, any bar. Or a tavern or pub if you like? A place to get rowdy
and mean. To fight and fuck.”
“The fuck drugs you on, boy-o?”
“Liquor and genetic superiority.”
We weed through a small patch of encroaching wood from the hill away from the
cops’ hearing, “Did you see that fucking shit? That was a baby, Patrick! A baby! A human
life left out to die in this weather!”
He doesn’t say anything for a long time as we make it back to the drinking
district, but mutters, “She had a microwavable burrito.”
“But there wasn’t a microwave.” He is most amused.
And I giggle.
Hm, the words of a poet.

3:37 a.m.

King’s Court is dead except for us and a few people in the back. It’s pretty calm.
The cute waitress slinks down in a wooden chair to the right of the cash register. She
looks exhausted which she’s due since it’s the end of the night. A larger man, less salty in
attitude, wipes out glasses on a tray and stakes them on a shelf behind him.
Patrick is drinking beer rubbing his face, “Feels like it’s gone down some.”
“A little bit. You look like you got roughed up down at the docks.”
He smirks tipping his bottle towards me, “No matter what, you’re always funny.
Such a clever girl. You’ve always been a clever girl, Suzy Lee.”
“I take that as a compliment.”
“You should.”
A few people by the pool tables shuffle and scuffle out the door lifting up what’s
left of their night’s pride from the floor like picking up shattered glass. It is a primordial
fear to be as alone as it is to touch something that draws blood, but some are drawn to
pieces of glass as if they only appreciate their lives when they’re in shards.
I shake my head at the thought and sip my whiskey and water. Two flies strut up
to the bar looking jacked up and ready for bed. One has sandy hair all curled and gelled,
but losing it’s bounce…much like her tits. The other is an olive-skinned brunette with
hair as straight as a board.
Patrick the Predator turns on his charm light like a chameleon, “What are you
pretty foxes, drinking?”
“Sherry.” Answers the blondish one.
“Potter Light Lime.” Says the other.
“Sherry and a Potter Lime for my girls here!” He calls out slapping the edge of
the bar in proclamation.
I roll my eyes.
They introduce themselves. The sherry sipper is Roxie. And she looks like a
Roxie in that tight red pleather skirt and black halter top. The other is Junelle. She’s
younger and says she’s a freshman at Scioto State University. She’s certainly fresh. Off
the boat like this bomb ass dank, Fresh. Capitol F. And by way of her accent, I believe
she’s a New Englander. Maybe New Hampshire?
“Right, you go to school…any job, Roxie?” I take a drink of tongue numbing
She is brazen and dumb behind those big owl eyes, “I waitress over at the Truck
and Slurp.”
“Out on Route 139?” Patrick slurs taking his gaze from her tits for exactly three
seconds, “Marion’s Diner?”
Roxie shakes her head, “Not anymore. Gill bought Marion out so now it’s just the
Truck and Slurp…with a diner.”
“That makes me a little sad. Like another era has died.” I take the rest of my
whiskey in honor.
She seems unsure of what to say and blurts, “But our hushpuppies are way better.”
“I bet they are.” Patrick stands up from the bar, “You’s girls wanna accomp-
accomp-accompany me and my sister, Sally Sals, here to breakfast at the All American?
It’s like…fuck, Suuuuzy, what time is it?”
“Late or early depending on your point of view.”
“Well, I say it’s time for biscuits and gravy. The good kind with sausage. They
don’t make gravy right in the south.” He pats Junelle on her flat ass and she turns skittish.
She giggles anxiously into the straw sticking out of her beer.
“Can we at least finish our drinks, cowboy?”
“If I had a hat it would tip it jus’ for you, darlin’.” He grins. His face does look a
little less swollen. Not by a lot, but definitely an improvement. He stretches out his arms
and both girls stare at his muscle, then at each other. They want him. They want to feel
him. They want him to chew them and spit them out. Get gnawed on like a piece of
“I’m a take off home, Paddy.” I stumble from the barstool. My head is a fog like a
rolling cloud crushing my skull and blurring my vision. For once, in a long time, my head
is aching from a hangover and not DT’s.
“Nononononono. We’re getting breakfast, Sally Luey Longenberger.”
“Shut the fuck up. That isn’t even close to my name.”
He lightly nudges my arm, “You like it. An’ I know you, bitch, and I know after a
looooong night of partying that you can’t ever say no to blueberry pancakes and hot
I stiffen. Damn it, he has me here, but I try to rebuff, “If you know me then you
know I like sleep better.”
But I’ve worn down his patience. He turns back to Roxie and Junelle with a snake
charmer’s smile, “My sister gets so prickly.”
“As a cactus.” I whisper.

4-5 a.m.

Roxie drives all across town in her beat up 1978 Cordoba painted marijuana green
with a Coexist bumper sticker. The odd color is, or rather was, NOT a factory approved
shade. No. This was done Shawnee County style with spray paint and desperate need.
There had been no masking anything off as green flecks pepper each window. It gives off
this false impression that she’s just come back from a mudding adventure, especially
beneath the dimming starlit sky now barely transforming into morning.
Patrick keeps the mood lively in the car. He acts like his talking will somehow
extend the night. That he alone will stave off the inevitability of dawn, of being sober, of
being an adult, of being a man, of everything…because Patrick Randal Louder’s will is
so strong and so beyond measure, he can hold off time itself. And he’s never looked so
human as he does right now. He shows his delicacy in what he doesn’t say. Inside the
short gaps of thick Appalachian boy mojo, he is an artist, a failure, and my very best
God only know what he thinks about anyone else.
Roxie pulls up sharply in front of the Ole American and I can hear the ice and
slush splattering out unto the concrete. The snow has seemed to dissipate some, but I
bet’ll freeze before seven a.m.
Hitchhike by Marvin Gaye is playing on the radio from the kitchen. A couple of
waitresses in their yellow and white checkered uniforms talk as they fiddle with the
coffee pots. A few bikers are in the back drinking water and eating steak and eggs.
There’s an old Jewish couple in the left corner near some strung out junkies. A few Black
Panthers sit in a booth over untouched menus.
For the record, as it stands to this day, life is hard in a small town and so there are
just neutral places about the county where no one starts shit with anyone else. It’s the
food really and it’s 24/7.
We sit at an open table that fills the space between the Panthers and the bikers.
From the griffen with flames patch, I can tell they’re the Flaming Demons and not the
other one-percenter gang in town, The Cunts. Who’s patch is not what you’d think when
you first hear the name The Cunts.
The younger of the two waitresses comes over with a worn out glide and a tray of
ice waters and menus. Slick girl. Her name’s Caroline. She works part time, but I’ve seen
her a couple of times before. It must have been a long night for her too, but she’s still
smiling and bubbly as she passes out the drinks, “Merry Christmas, ya’ll.” She has a
pronounced overbite with squeaky like mousy features and freckles as cute as a Raggedy
Anne button.
“Merry Christmas.” Roxie, Junelle, and I say at the same time.
“And Happy New Year.” Patrick guzzles the water placed before him, “I already
know what I’m having. Biscuits and gravy. Proper gravy with sausage. None of this
pepper gravy shit. That’s bullshit.”
“Is that how they make it down south there, Harold?” I ask fetching a cigarette
from my case. I snap my lighter twice before I realize it’s dead. I lean over to a Black
Panther chick and ask, “Any you gotta light?”
None of them do, but she points to the Jewish man, “D. Bones do though.”
Patrick looks over at him and says, “Hey, D. Bones? You got a light for my sister
here?” I don’t alert him to the fact that just yesterday he had his hands up my shirt and
how creepy it is him calling me that.
D. Bones wipes his brow with a clothe napkin he had to have brought from home
and tell me to come over. As I saddle up beside their table he chuckles, “Aren’t you a
colorful bird?”
I inadvertently blush, “Thanks.”
He reaches within his sport coat and presents a Zippo, “Keep it, keep it. I have em
all over the house. Esther hates it.”
“Ugh.” His wife sighs in revulsion, “In the sofa, on the floor, on the table, in the
sock drawer. Everywhere.”
I light my cigarette, “Thanks for the lighter.”
I take my seat back with someone in mid-sentence, “…here before?”
“Nope.” Junelle blinks, “But I heard Roxie talk about it before though.”
“Yeah. My parents brought me here after church when I was little.” There is a
sound to Roxie’s voice that notes sadness.
But Patrick doesn’t give a fuck, “”So what’ll ya have?”
Caroline is still waiting for orders, “I can come back…”
“Nah. I’ll have blueberry pancakes and a hot chocolate.” I hand back my menu.
“Flapjacks with eggs.” Roxie replies.
“How yeh want those eggs, hun?”
“Over easy.”
Junelle’s oversized hazel eyes scan the menu meticulously, “Do you have
anything gluten free?”
Caroline chews the inside of her lip, “We got buckwheat germ.”
She looks worried, “Do you have bottled water?”
“Fall Springs or Aqua-Aqua-Aqua?”
“Fall Springs.”
Caroline pencils it in, “Anything else?”
“Is your bacon organic, um, range free?”
I laugh. So does Patrick.
Caroline seems confused, “Range free?”
Junelle bats her lashes in solidarity, “Were the pigs fed naturally and without
Caroline laughs caustically with an open mouth much like a naying horse, “Hey,
Rhonda? This girl here wanna know if the bacon didn’t have…what was it? Antibiotics!”
Both waitresses are rolling with laughter while a snicker goes through the patronage.
“Who the hell cares? It’s a pig.”
Junelle’s face tightens and her throat is clenched with the sigh of the offended, “I
“You want animals to go without antibiotics?”
“Yes. It’s unnatural to their existence and it makes people immune to diseases.”
“So, what? You wanna eat sick meat?” Caroline scoffs.
“That’s what I’m trying to avoid.”
“I don’t think you understand her counterpoint, Junelle.” I lick my lips, “When
cattle live together ad eat together and shit together, they can get sick together which is
why farmers give their animals antibiotics.”
She purses her lips for a second before, “I’ll just have the pancakes, ‘kay?
Patrick and I listen to them chatter about a few friends of theirs. I guess Arizona is
a real tramp, who knew?
“Sally Sallien!” Patrick drinks a cup of coffee, “Favorite piece of Tarantino
“Hmmm…” I think butting out my cigarette in the metal ashtray, “It’s a tie
between Tim Roth’s joke as Mr. Orange in Reservoir Dogs and Aldo the Apache’s little
motivational speech in Inglorious Basterds.”
“And I want my scalps.” He quotes, “I like Ordell Robbie’s gun speech in Jack
“As good as Jule’s ending lines in Pulp Fiction?”
He takes a gulp of water, “No, but I think it’s better than all of Kill Bill.”
“What? Aw, fuck off with that shit! Kill Bill doesn’t need longwinded craziness. It
already has all that violence . And it don’t matter ‘cause Carradine owned that movie.”
“Fair enough. Django’s the best though. Second to Dogs.”
“But you asked for best dialogue.” I remind him.
“Oh, yeah.”
Caroline returns with plates. Junelle doesn’t seem to be aware that her bottled
water is open with a straw. It’s a small thrill to me. No doubt Caroline and Rhonda took
turns hocking loogies in it. People can be so mean to each other, but fuck it. I’m stoned,
drunk, and slightly hallucinating. I’ll find amusement where I can at this point.
“Favorite Keitel moment?” I pose almost done with my first pancake. The
chocolate tastes so thick and rich. Nobody makes it like Deenie Moretto in the back. How
he carefully boils the milk and whips the cream p by scratch the week before in bulk. It
might as well be crack.
“The Wolf, hands down.”
“What? No, Mr. White? More range there. The Wolf is more like a gimmick one
time character within the narrative.”
“I’d watch a movie just about The Wolf. Keitel and Tarantino have chemistry.
Like McDowell and Kubrick or…”
“Divine and John Waters?”
“Only you’d say that, Suzy Lee.” He grins.
“Divine? Isn’t that the new girl at the Cum Again Club?” Roxie asks.
“No.” I answer, “We’re talking about an actor.”
“Oh.” Her cherry stained lips form a perfect circle. She looks like a cheap blow
up doll. Her hair is frizzier than it was at the bar, but I think that has to be a mixture of
lighting and alcohol. Junelle may be younger, but she’s as sour as a dried cranberry.
Roxie is the prettier of the two and that says a lot on its own.
“Let me out. Gotta take a piss.” Patrick requests.
“Me too. Excuse us.” And I follow him to the back.
I wait in the hall until he’s done and then go in after he stumbles back to the table.
I do my business ad toke a few on off a joint from my cigarette case. I don’t think I’ve
been in here for three minutes when a banging rattles the door down to its bolts,
“Come on out! They ditched us!”
“What?” I butt out the jay ad open the door.
“Did you wash your hands?” He chides.
“What do you mean they ditched us?”
“I mean they went scram. Gone. Left us with the bill.”
“Left you with the bill, you mean?”
“Yeah, I already paid it. Want to go back to Frank’s with me?”
I laugh, “Hell no. I’m going home. And besides, it’s like five in the morning.”
“Jus’ walk with me over to the Ole Bayou and I’ll let you go back home.”
“If I don’t?”
“I’ll rape you, beat you, and the cops won’t give a shit because you hang out at
places like the strip club and you’re not a tax payer.”
I sigh, “Fine. Let me get my coat.”

Who the hell cares about time anymore?

The five block walk to the Bayou Bridge Tavern is a cold, somber one. We share
the rest of a joint in quiet chill of leftover seasonal lights and Christmas displays. Frost
glitters from the trees and the snow crunches under our boots. The slush froze while we
ate, but at least it stropped snowing.
I don’t really know how he’s still standing after all this, but his eyelids are
drooping and his legs move like Jello. Each step he takes seems like a struggle not to pass
out, “You wanna lean on me, Paddy?”
He slumps his shoulders to reach my level and drapes an arm over me. He starts
humming at first and the humming becomes whistling. I think it’s an old Dixie Cups
song, “We’re goin’ to the chapel and-we’re gunna get married…gee, I really love you an-
we’re gunna get married.” Patrick sings, “Spring is here, the sky is blue..whoooahhoho,
birds all sings as if they knew…today is the day we say I do and we won’t be lonely
“This is unnerving.”
A hand wanders to my right breast, “You gotta stop wearing these push up bras.”
“I’m not wearing a push-up bra, asshole. Stop touching me. Less than an hour ago
I was your sister, remember? I’m too tired, too stoned. You’re too drunk and full. And
we’re both vastly disappointed.”
He flings his arms out wildly and nearly trips backwards unto the road, “The night
is young!”
“The night, Patrick? It’s over.”
He smiles at me and bops my nose, “You’re as cynical as you are clever.”
“And you’re as douche as you are drunk.”
He laughs and snorts ad hobbles about three feet beside me, but he grows tranquil
as we near the last bar of this awful misadventure. The bar under the bridge. Really, more
of shack built for sailors and bargemen who come up and down the rivers. I don’t know
how old it is, but I do know that it’s never had electricity wired in so it’s always darker
than the usual dive.
It sits back nestled in the thicket of river weeds and reeds with a narrow rock path
that slightly slopes downward. Many drunks have fallen on this walk, but the bar isn’t
necessarily legal. Well, anyway that is a discussion of pros and cons (and ethics) meant
for another time.
I open the door to the rickety old place and the scent of beer and fried fish exit,
“Ladies first, Patricia.”
“Har-har.” He snarls, but goes in ducking to get through the doorway.
The tumbledown planks creak below our feet. Mary is tending bar. Oh, yeah,
‘cause there’s so many people here! By tending bar, I mean wiping a single spot on the
counter repeatedly while her nose is buried deep in chapter five of My Baby is Movie
Famous, Crime of The Century; The Shawnna Crane Story.
A couple of old timers are spread among tables sipping rum and cokes as they
slowly die. It’s so quiet. The only other thing I hear is the soft droning of The Joker by
the Steve Miller Band. I don’t see a jukebox so who knows where it’s coming from.
Patrick settles himself at the bar, “Bourbon, neat.”
Mary glances up from her book with her enormous brown spectacles, “Haven’t
seen you’ns in a while.”
“Been on the road.” He rubs his eyes while I move away from him, “Share a drink
with me ‘fore ya go?”
I shrug, “I guess. I’ll be back in a sec.”
The bathroom behind the bar is difficult to get to if your eyes aren’t properly
adjusted to the dankness of under-dwellings.
I have to admit something. I really like cleverly named restrooms. Like Guys and
Dolls or Marion and Barry. Here at the Bayou, they are noted by cardboard signs which
read Steve and Eve in big black marker.
It’s cramped inside and I shimmy my way between the sink and toilet. I pull
down my jeans and bang the shit out of my knee at the corner of the sink board, “Son of a
bitch!” It will most definitely bruise.
I stand and walk out only to realize I’ll be limping home as well in this dreary
The elderly patrons abandoned the place while Mary tinkers loudly in the kitchen.
Patrick has already downed two bourbons and working on his third as I slither up beside
him. I hop up on the stool with a grunt, “How fares it, music man?”
The corners of his mouth twitch as he holds his glass before him staring intently
into it’s alcoholic soul, “I squandered myself, my opportunities, my whole life.” He sighs
deeply in his throat, “Do you remember when Holly got me that summer job at Howard
Buchanan’s ranch? Out on 28?”
“You were obsessed with those fucking horses.”
He nods, “I was. I loved horses back then. I was going to be a rancher just like
Grampaw. Last day I worked there, Mr. Buchanan’s son…”
“That piece of shit Bucky.”
“The very one. He brought home this big red stallion. He was a beautiful fucker,
Suzy Lee. Silky black man, a machine of muscle…” He takes a sip of his bourbon,
“While I was looking at him that motherfucker bucked and kicked me square in the chest!
I remember lying on the ground staring at the sky listening to Dad and Bucky laughing at
me. I couldn’t do nothing but lay there and catch my breath and it was there I decided I
didn’t want to be a rancher. I didn’t want to get kicked by animals all fucking day!
When I got up, I was dedicated myself to my guitar and singing. I felt it was like
god whatever out there was blessing me, I mean, the two best musicians I know were
already my best friends! Music man? Hmph…I’m a grain of the man I could have been,
Suzy Lee. One kick and I was done. We went out there and showed the world our souls
and they booed us! All I kept thinking out there was that I could’ve been a rancher. I can
handle an ill tempered horse better than an ugly crowd.” He finishes his drink in a slow
roll, “I’m a be here for a while. Why don’t you go on home?”
“You sure? Maybe I should stay?”
“Nah, go on with yourself. I’ll be fine. I’m a big boy. You look tired anyway.”
“Jesus Christ! You should never say that to a girl!”
“You’re a girl?”
I playfully hit him, “Stop it!”
“Oh, come ‘ere.” He scoops me up in his arms and hugs me as tight as a vice grip
on a finger, “I’ll be seeing you ‘round, Suz. You know I’m in town for the next couple
“I know…I just…don’t like leaving you this way.”
“Aw, fuck off. Don’t get sappy on me now, girl. Get the hell outta here, you
mangy bitch.”
I giggle at that one and kiss him on the cheek, “Stop by later today and we’ll get
“Sounds like a date.” He turns back to the drink I never touched and literally
drowns his sorrows.
I reach he door and brace for the cold, but I can’t make myself go out the door. I
turn around to see him leaning against the rough wooded bar. His head in his hands with
all the doubt and fear of a child shifting behind those boozy green eyes, “Hey, Patrick?”
“You’re getting a little fat.”
He laughs out a, “Bitch.”
I wave and leave having the same amount of questions as answers, but nothing is
making sense to me right now. Thoughts best left to deal with another day.


Cracked, Smashed, and Smeared; A Day in The Life of Suzy Lee Long

I am AWAKE. I feel like Godzilla. Every nerve ending is on ice; tingling flurries rowing upwards and downwards over my entire body. My eyes are wide and alert looking around the apartment with a new respect for how confused my life has been recently. There’s sketches and empty bottles of wine strewn about the floor. Some papers are stained violet from spilled drinks in attempts of walking drunk to get to the toilet before puke hit said drawings. A new set of paintings has begun from these doodles, a new project. Maybe I’ll call it Paper Dolls and Meth Filters. Don’t know yet, it’s a working title.
This place…oh, god it’s a travesty of unhappy housekeeping. I drank so much. I touch my head gently. I’m so far gone from a normal hangover that I feel nothing at all. There’s no headache, no nausea, not even the alcohol shits. It must have been all that weed I smoked. What was it called again?
Oh yeah, The Funk.
Jesus God! That had to be the best pot ever. A half a pound and I didn’t stop drinking until the bag was gone. That was three weeks ago. I’ve been binging for little under a month on the most potent weed I have ever smoked…and the wine, of course.
I’ve eaten bologna, I think. Maybe some ravioli? It’s not exactly a blur because I know I spent my time productively. But I’m not all here. Have I ever been?
Damn it, I don’t think so.
Rising from bed I see the sun intruding through the windows. It’s gonna be another hot ass day. Well, as long as I’ve got smokes and a little bit of pot to tide me over I’ll be alright.
Who would dare call right now?! Do they not understand that a living, breathing, albeit lazy person lives here? Or it’s one of those bastard friends of mine wanting me to do something, to go somewhere. Not today. NO! I need twenty-four hours to compose myself. A whole day for me and mine.
I hurry to the bathroom and the beige rotary phone sits in the sink and answered with a rushed, “Yeah-Hello?”
Shit, it’s Phyllis the apartment manager, “Hi, yeah, it’s me…Suzy Lee.”
“Sooo….I was just calling to let you know that Graham’ll be coming by to pick up the rent.”
I’m relieved. Graham may very well be her husband, but I think he’s been crushing on me for a minute. He’s always really nice and I and I caught him looking at my boobs one time when he came to fix the lights, “Oh, okay. What time you think?”
“Not really sure, he’s working nights now.”
“Right on. I’ll be here all day so he can come by anytime.”
“Uh, no offense, but you can call and tell him that.” She’s growing impatient with me. I can hear her fuchsia nails tapping on her desk right beside the table calendar drawn with neon marker of everyone’s birthdays. Little balloons and party hats in green highlighter ink; It’s enough to make a person sick.
“Okay.” I won’t.
“Bye.” I hang up.
Well, that was pleasant.
I feel shaky. My hands are like jittering humming birds. I bristle out of my clothes and stand in the bathtub turning on the cold water. I rejoiced in my hangover-less world a bit too soon.
I sense evil under my skin writhing up my spine. This painful shaking anxiety clasps my brain stem and I’ve seized.
Falling down I bang my knee on the corner of the bathtub. I don’t feel it. I don’t feel anything except the nervous convulsions my muscles twitter to. My arms, my hands, refuse to still and my legs are weak and twitching. It’s the fucking withdrawal. It’s begun.
I shut off the water and slowly climb out of the tub. I’m too fragile to stand on my own and so I fall directly upon the tiled floor. Oh God, I want to die. Rip my skin from the tissue. I realize I’m sweating and covered in freezing water. Some ibuprofen and a nap won’t fix this. I’ve got to get some real deal-BUNG BUNG-Buffalo Sioux medicine. I wobble to lean against the toilet and vomit. It feels so early in the morning. Hurling wine and…oh god…yep, ravioli until bile touches my lips. I wipe them clean…
…whatever I’m doing it’s like a stumble-fall-crawl to the sofa. I must look like a lobster fighting not to be put in the pot of boiling water. I ascend from the floor as my nails dig into the polyester flowers and wiggle unto the cushion. I lay like a dead fish until my head stops buzzing and I can sit normally.
The contents of my coffee table tell any visitor everything they need to know about me:
A long horizontal statue of an African nude made from alabaster. I named her Head Shot. There is my metal pipe the Tin Man, scattered tobacco and empty tubes waiting to be filled. The box in which my weed accouterments rest in. When it’s closed, it looks like a simple wooden box with a wolf howling at the moon depicted on top. Open, one can see a sewing needle, a flexible wire coated in resin, and a credit card that belongs to Clay.
But there’s a surprise for me here. One bottle of blackberry merlot has gone unfinished.
My belly turns over at the thought, but I’ve got to have it. Like old parchment soaks ink, it seems to dissolve in my greedy mouth. My tastebuds scream in delight, but we know the sad truth of it and it’s that I’m going to be sick either way.
Unless I get some weed in me.
As quickly as I can with aching joints, I reach for the box and open it only to be disappointed.
Looks like I’m heading out in this summer heat with D.T.’s. Fan-fucking-tastic.

In ancient Egypt, they worshipped the sun under the name of Ra. Well…fuck Ra and fuck the sun. Fuck it’s orbit and everything to do with the whole goddamned operation. We’re all just specks of stardust and bags of salt water walking around on a rock floating in an infinite universe that’s always expanding and with all that going on we still must deal with swamp heat. If there is or ever was a God, he could’ve been like, “They got enough shit going on, let’s make the weather nice at least.” But no, He/She didn’t because gods and goddesses are not made of fluffy sweets and marshmallows. They’re made of FUCK IT ALL LET THEM BURN, DIE, KILL THEMSELVES.
And as I drag my happy ass down Lonesome Maple Lane, I smoke a cigarette in hatred and sweat. It’s so hot that mirages of water puddles have formed in the middle of the road. These houses that surround me are oppressive with their rugged windows and looming, darkened porches. I hate going this way. I don’t even know what made me take this short cut. I could have gone down Jefferson and been at Old Man Harry’s in less than two. But oh no, my laziness dictated we not cross Petite Rouge due to the afternoon traffic. I don’t think I could handle the sound of it anyway.
The air is thicker the closer I walk to the river and my lungs feel like they’ve been poisoned. I do something I very rarely do and stop to squash my cigarette beneath my boot.
Before I can think of what’s going on, there’s a dog latched on my ankle. It’s teeth nearly penetrate my jeans when I hear, “HEY! Whad ur duin’ on mah lawn?” The well sized mutt with it’s ill groomed brown fur is going insane as a barrel bellied man swings his ratty screen door open.
“I’m not in your yard! The sidewalk is public fucking domain! Call this little shit off!” I yell. Oh god, I’m going to puke. My heart is thumping and blood is pumping through to my brain in scarlet waves, “SHIT!” The fucker’s teeth cut through my jeans as I tried to shake him off.
Bending down, I do the only thing I can think off. I keep the leg he’s got perfectly still and while he’s busy, I take one of his own legs in my grasp. With the butt of my palm and jab his joint as hard as I can. In a matter of seconds, he’s limping back to the fat man whimpering like a child. I didn’t even hear the bone crack, just that cry.
“You’re paying his vet bill, you bitch!” He screams out from a bloated, wet mouth.
“The hell I am. You’re fucking dog attacked me.”
From the corner of my eye, I see a man in a white button up tucked into khakis running across the street. His green and blue stripped tie is held in place by a gold clip in the shape of Thor’s hammer, “Are you alright, Miss?”
I’m so out of it. I pull up my jeans and see a tiny trickle of blood running down into my boot, “Yeah, I think it’s superficial.”
The well dressed man points a finger at the dog’s owner, “Buford, you’ve been warned numerous times about that monster. You either have it put it down or I’ll do it myself.”
Buford. Of course that would be his name, the slob. He scratches his flabbiness and walks with bowlegs back in the hole from which he crawled from taking his crying canine with him.
“Are you sure you’re alright?”
“Yeah, positive.”
He shifts and reaches in his pocket, “Well, if you find that there’s any permanent damage, give me a call.” He hands me a card.
“Philip Van Der Blud, attorney at law?”
His hand brushes mine, “Call me if you need anything.”
Jesus Christ. Here I am shaking from withdrawal and being burned alive, standing here bleeding and he’s hitting on me, “Uh, yeah…thanks.”
He turns away and I’m left bewildered but in a hurry.

Old Man Harry is sitting on his porch in a broken down metal lawn chair in very short denim shorts with ripped fringe. As usual his shirt is draped over the back of the chair and his sunburnt belly bounces as he laughs at a joke I can’t hear. Fake gold chains nestle in his wiry curling white chest hair. His glaucoma eyes spot me as I come walking up through the yard, “Hey, hey there, Suzy Lee. What pleasure brings this siren to my humble domicile?”
I sniffle as I sit on the step below him and lean against the column, “I was wondering if ya had any smoke?”
He frowns, “I’m waiting on my fella now. Should be here in the next couple hours. You want a brew?”
“Sure.” I sigh lighting a cigarette.
“Ladonna, run upstairs and get our most honored guest a beer, huh?” He asks his girlfriend of unknown years.
She stands all to five foot three with a gut that rivals Harry’s and rubs it, “Alright, but you gonna owe me.” She sounds like she’s been smoking since she came from the womb.
Harry snorts, “Be glad I still keep your ass ‘round since I caught you in my pills.” He looks at me with wiggling nose hair, “It’s because I love her so much.”
‘Yeah, and you’re her pimp.’ I think, but I smile big, “That’s so sweet.”
“Sweet ain’t got nothing to do with him, honey tits.” She says as she disappears in the house. I can hear the stairs creaking beneath her weight as she gains higher altitude.
Harry goes straight to staring down my shirt, “So, uh, when you going to be…of age?”
Okay, so I’ve been older than eighteen for some time, but he doesn’t know that and I keep it that way. If he knew my real age he’d start touching me when I come over and a lot of girls are fine with it, but I’d be down one great cannabis connection, “In a couple years.”
“Well, you just come and see me on your birthday. We’ll party, just you and me, yeah?”
I force myself to nod. My grin is vacant, “Sure.”
He adjusts himself and I can see his boner outlined through the denim, “Yeah, it’ll be a great night. Get some beer, a little tye stick. I might even let you watch a couple dirty movies.” He chuckles grossly, “Are you a virgin, Suzy Lee?”
He asks me every single time I come over, “Nope.”
“A bit broken in, huh?”
I shrug, “I guess so, don’t really know what you mean.”
“How many lovers have you had?”
I try not to blush because any girlish habits makes him worse, “A couple.”
“Mhmm, bet you’re dirty.”
“Harry!” Ladonna is there with a hand on her hip, “Ain’t nobody dirtier than me.” She hands me the beer and sits on his lap as if to claim him. Her narrow red ringed eyes scan me, “She wouldn’t even know how to handle a cock like yours.”
No, I couldn’t and neither would I want to. I imagine oozing, puss filled lesions covering his dick and I gag.
“What’s a matter?” He asks.
“Nothing.” I cough out, “I’ve just been feeling a little bad today. Looking for smoke.” I open the can and drink it as quickly as I can. I’ve never been one for beer, but I’ve never been one to refuse free alcohol.
“The county’s practically dry. It’s taken me weeks to get this guy to come off some. In fact, I wouldn’t even sell you the shit he’s bringing. It’s middies at best, know what I mean?”
“Yeah.” I place the drained can beside his flip-flop, “I’ve got to get going. It’s too hot out here.”
“Be careful and, uh, don’t forget what I was talking ‘bout. Your birthday?”
“Yeah, no, I won’t forget.” I never do.

E.l. has a real nice little shotgun house off of Dakota Drive. A nice paved path winding up a brick front porch, but from halfway down the block by the Legion I see Lisa Marie standing on the porch yelling and waving her flashy French tips around. E.l. is walking away towards a guy running backward. Shit, man. E.l. has a fucking machete. I bend over with my hands on my knees, “Gah, I need this shit in my life.”
I stroll up on the sly and Lisa Marie waves me in while she’s screaming, “They gonna call the cops, E.l.! They gonna call em!”
“FUCK!” I hear as I sit uncomfortably on their bean bag chair. E.l. comes in sweating like a madman with rage burned in his bulging veins. Lisa Marie follows him in closing the screen door, “How much you need?”
“You do it, baby.” E.I. is pacing back and forth.
Disappointing, she always shorts me, but fuck it. She sits down and shakes her head while she gets a big plastic bag full of pot from under the couch cushion, “Shit’s been crazy ‘round here. Our electrics out and that guy kept talkin’ while E.I. was on the phone with them tryin’ to straighten it out.”
“That sucks.” I say watching her measure it in a cup on an electronic scale.
E.I. is messing with his phone, “It’s those voice operation bullshit. There’s no real people anymore. Just fucking ‘droids.” He turns on the speaker filling the room with elevator music. Smooooove jazz.
“The day’s been crappy for everyone. I got attacked by a dog on the way over here. It was so fucked.”
“There was a big problem like that in my hometown, Bandieville.” Lisa Marie is tying it up.
“Is that in Chateau County, Virginia?” I laugh, “I watched a documentary about a family that comes from there. The, uh, The Vulnerable, Vile Ventures of Bandieville, Virginia.”
“…please press seven…”
She laughs, “I got the hell outta there the minute those guys came out from Nashville wantin’ to do that video.”
“You’re a Venture?”
“Carli Bo is my mom, Moll Venture is my aunt…”
“…please wait for an available operator to assist you…”
“Wow, you’re real Appalachian royalty.”
She shrugs, “I don’t want no cameras here lookin’ at what I do, what we do.” I agree with a salute and she tosses the bag on the table, “There’s ten.”
I reach in my pocket and find…lint. My other has my key, “Shit, I forgot my money. Keep this on ice and I’ll be right back.”
She nods.
“…please hold for an available operator to take your call…”

I’m dripping revulsion walking all the way across town to Duque Federal Credit Union. It’s only five dollars to keep it open. I haven’t been to the main branch since last week when they fucked me over ten bucks and I had words with the clerk.
I bet I look like a burnt out version of myself, hair wild and loopy eyes. They think I’m a dope fiend, a junkie. I am, but I’ve never been nothing but nice and quiet to them and they screw me because I skirt around their frame of reality. I’ve noticed the repugnance on their unmolested faces. Tellers always act like you’re intruding on their precious time and I hate that shit. You’re in public service, put a smile on your face, and fake it like you do remorse when a celebrity dies.
I open the first glass door and feel the sudden rush of freezing unmoving air-conditioning. It smells like carpet deodorizer and cologne walking through the second door into the lobby. Making my way through the obstacle course of waiting rope and greet a red haired filly with her name typed on her titty tag, “How may I help you today?”
“Yeah, I’d like to get thirty dollars out of my account.” I hand her my I.D. and bank card. She examines them like I’m a criminal.
While she types one button at a time on her keyboard I overhear the girl at the booth next to me talking with a gruff voice, “Yep, ‘most got far’d from work ‘cause sum bitch said I’s snortin’ pills in the bathroom. I was, but she was too with me! So I ratted her out an’ guess who got fired?”
The animosity from that single ramble of inane stupidity makes me snap. My stomach churns and I feel about as strong as a passed out badger, “Your the reason my mother is DEAD!”
All talking and movement stops and all eyes are on me.
“Eh…excuse me?” She’s looking at me. Her junkie panic has set in and her neck retreats a bobbling head.
“You and your goddamn pill heads killed my mother! People die every day in pain because of your fucking selfishness and greed!”
“I…I’m sorry….”
“Is there a problem, here?” My teller has returned with a straighter back.
“No!” I’m so sharp I feel like a razor blade, “Just give me my cash.”
“We can’t have you in the bank if you come in here to make a disturbance to our other patrons.”
“Patrons? That’s a pretty big word for you…Kinzie. They teach you that in training? I want to speak to your manager.”
“I am this regional bank’s manager. Maeve, get Todd out here.” She’s got level eyes on me, “You’re no longer allowed to do transactions in this building. You can go to our secondary location on Myrtlebank Street.” She pushes my I.D., bank card, money, and receipt beneath the glass partition.
I snatch it up and turn around to be greeted by a burly security guard, “Seriously? It’s like, five fucking feet to the door.”
“Job’s a job, Ma’am.” And he follows me and even opens it for me.
I swear to what the hell ever is holy, I better not see that woman ever again. Fucking junkies…
“Wait a second!”
I turn around and I can’t believe what I’m fucking seeing. I see her up close and personal, her black mascara smeared. Even with heels on I didn’t realize how short she was, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean nothing…”
She seemed sincere but my rage was fueled by ignorance and I screamed, “NO! You don’t get to apologize! I wouldn’t even accept if I could.”
She’s bowing like a doe.
“You’re coming with me!”
“Okay.” She says clambering behind me with her stick legs marching along in wedge heels. I take the long way around to Bernard’s by way of crossing St. Germaine Street at the light, the traffic loose and fragmented and her trailing me and with every clank of her heels hitting the pavement seemed make my head throb towards explosion. Bridge View Val-U was playing 108.9 The Classiks a.m. and ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ blared over their speakers.
“I laike this song.” She slurred.
As we turn down the alley beside Val-U and the furniture rental store, a man runs up to her, “Hey, Crista. Waz up, girl?”
“I’m following her.” She points a short claw to me.
“Who’s she?”
She shrugs heavy faux fur shoulders, “I don’t know, Toad.”
First Bufurd, now Toad.. He’s a not wholly a man with a good ten o’clock shadow and bruised eyes, “I’ll come with yea.”
Here we stroll, the Mistress of Junkies with her two loyal subjects in tow, down Main Street Port Alex, across Pike Street, and land ourselves in Bernard’s parking lot. The sun is so fucking hot and I’ve got sweat rolling down tickling folds I never knew I had and my belly churns over and over. The suburbans hurry along in who are we kidding jogging suits and tennis shoes. Those cougars in brown leather boots and everyone looks pissed as a totally unbothered resting bitch face permeates.
“Would you like a cigarette?” I ask, digging in my back pocket.
“Aw, that’d be great.” Her eyes are shadowed. He smiles toking on his own cigarette.
I take a cigarette out of its pack and light it. I rapture in the essence of smoke and heat and for a moment I’m suspended from my ailments, but the globe always comes crashing down and after one hit I toss it to the ground and smother it with my boot. Moist tobacco sticks to the ground and the entire bottom of my sole, “It’s too bad, I just run out.”
And hell, my mom isn’t even dead.

There’s a tan Escalade parked in front of E.I. and Lisa Marie’s house and that bodes ill for me. I always get nervous like I’m about to walk right into a bust or a sting or I’m being recorded. I don’t know. I never know and that’s what gives me the jitters.
I go up ready to knock on the screen but E.I. is there waiting to let me in. The first thing I see is a very dark girl sitting on the floor in short-shorts exposing an entire backside of cellulite. Her black hair is in a spindly ponytail complete with a fine mustache spotting her flat face.
I sit at the end of the table rooting around for ten bucks and lay out a twenty instead. That leaves me five for a bottle of wine and five for a pack of smokes. Lisa Marie recalibrates the bag she pre-made while E.I. does introductions, “This is my friend, Keilly. She’s got some nice lemonade moonshine for sale.”
And I thought they were piss jugs, “Wish I could buy some.”
“How mush you got?” She motions with a head bob and flicker of acrylic nail.
“After this, I got ten, but five is for smokes.”
“I give you jug for five.” She already has it in hand pushing it to me. I take it quickly and it’s heavier than what it looked like all the way over there.
“Thanks!” I dig out a fiver and she takes it shoving it in her bra.
Lisa Marie sends me on my way, “It’s good shit, man. You’ll love it.”

It’s dark by the time I reach my trusty apartment with its crooked golden eight swaying back and forth. It’s a bit drafty in the hall for being so warm out and I don’t think the government agency that owns this piece of shit would care much if we had air-conditioning during one hundred and three degree weather.
The sloshing jug of moonshine was so awkward to carry all those blocks and it made it harder to look inconspicuous. Smoking a cigarette lugging around a gallon of what was for sure not any milk known to man.
I unlock my door and heave a sigh of relief as I place the moonshine on the kitchen counter. I close that thick walnut door listening to it latch in the dark silence when I hear a click and light comes flooding the room, “Dutchie, damn it! I told you to stop breaking in!”
“Who’s Dutchie?”
I turn slowly around and see that it’s Graham, the collector. My heart slows down, “Shit, you fucking scared me.”
I can smell his cologne from ten feet away and his jeans are bit snug. His face is a handsome rugged like a forester or a carpenter, “Sorry, but Phyllis was pretty insistent I come by and get the rent and you know how she gets.”
I let out an easy laugh moving towards the counters by the refrigerator (that has barely worked since I first moved in four years ago), “ Yeah, I don’t really like messing with her much.” I flip on the light and stand on my very tip toes to reach the ceramic pig on the top shelf, “Can you fetch this for me?”
“Fetch?” He shortens the distance between us with a chuckle about him, “You’re so cute. How old are you anyway?”
Is he gauging right now?
“I’m old enough.”
“I bet you are.” He winks and gets the piggy bank down and gives it to me and his hand brushes against my breast.
My muscles tense as I unplug the fragile beast and get a random assortment of fives. It’s only twenty dollars for rent here, I shouldn’t bitch so much, “Here you go.”
Graham doesn’t take it. He has a swaggering stance as he looks down at me from a six feet four stature, “You know, you are a damn pretty girl.” He strokes my cheek.
I put on my most sincere smile, “I like it rough you couldn’t handle me.”
His body contorts to that of a demon with such a smug smirk slathering his chin, “I like it kinky.” In a motion so swiftly, he grabs the back of my hair and pulls. I drop the pig and I can hear it break, but I can do nothing. Graham has me in a tight hold kissing me. His tongue invading my mouth tasting like cotton candy of all things. And he’s a smoker too.
A hand roams over my chest as he talks, “You like that? You a dirty girl? Huh? You a dirty girl?” He’s nipping at my neck which prickles at his touch.
“Stop…” I’m completely paralyzed by fear that I can barely get the word out.
He is touching me lower and lower until his calloused fingers finds their target. His grasp isn’t particularly harsh but they’re not graceful either. He’s had practice doing this, controlling women. Which makes me both pleased and frightened.
I squirm away with the money held out. I can’t say anything. My tongue is tied up in knots. I feel like total shit and I just want this creep out of here so I can get drunk and forget today ever happened in the first place!
He’s slick as he goes about it in the silence. He grabs his wallet and cooly sets a fifty on the counter. He takes the money in my hand, kisses my forehead, and says, “Thanks, baby girl. I’m a have a hard on for you for weeks.”
I feel like I’ve been bathed in grease.
I don’t watch him leave. I just see the piggy bank that I’ve had since I was ten scattered in unforgivable pieces. Shattered beyond repair. The face of Ulysses S. Grant staring blankly at me.
I hate with such a hate and blinded by that hate, I don’t even remember opening the moonshine…

The Ole Americans

Male Stripper Moonshine

There was cigarette smoke
smothering the stale moonshine
and the blood ran with sweating stench.

There was a male stripper,
some sort of sideshow freak
with gore running down his arms.
His fresh wounds over many slave scars.
He messed with his hair
and I think of he’s vain.

The couple in the corner:
A red headed harlot
and the virgin pirate
all dressed up,
and shoving the alcohol
down my young throat.

I tell them I’m gonna be a cult leader
when I grow up.
They all think I’m so funny.

We were all laughing
when my white shirt went red.
The blonde girl had a nose bleed
and I carried her up the stairs.
I told her Dave Wyndorf was coming,
but she didn’t believe me.

They love everything I do,
all I say is genius,
and they just eat it fucking up….
…howling at the moon.
I believe it’ll howl back one of these days.

The Ole Americans


A broken off commission of the incestuous Wylt clan have moved in across the hall.
All my neighbors are a bunch semi-worthless emotionally deformed flunkies, whores, and relics of years long gone, but I feel this open familiarity between this new family really sends the neighborhood to hell, ya know?
They wrote all their names from oldest to youngest on their mailbox outside. Their middle names included as to dare someone to attempt identity theft.
Matriarch Alicia Erinna Wylt, a small olive woman with a vaguely ethnic look about her wrinkled face. Doesn’t surprise me, I hear the Wylt’s claim dark Welsh ancestry.
Her son, Adam Anthony Wylt, favors her, but his bulky body is twisted and he’s balding obviously with his stringy hair combed over the entire top half of his head. This man snarls a long shadow with grotesque gorilla arms.
Carolina Arizona Wylt looks young for her age from far away, but up close she’s a withered bat-bratt who dresses in greasy leotards. I’ve seen a lot guys roaming these halls with her. None of them are good looking characters, I may add.
There are the twins, James O’Brien and Steven Eric. The oldest girl is Sarah Bayley and she’s screwing them both. Their attempts at discretion has been overruled by their hushed power struggles I’ve seen around the grounds.
The fourth poisoned fruit is AJ BillyJo with his pinched birdlike features. His face sickens me and what a ludicrous name. American Monarch as Ford would say. Straight hillbilly.
The youngest two, Brandon Samuel and Kira Nicole, are around my age and I’m just going to lay it on the line that he’s the hottest one…but they’re all fucking weird. I think AJ has been diddling them both since childhood.
In some way or another they eat pork chop sandwiches, chicken salad, a type of bean soup, potatoes, collard greens, and strawberry ice cream every single day. They dump the leftovers in an open compost beneath their bay window. To leave the premises I’ve got to walk by this odor of decaying matter.
I miss the tranny and her drunk boyfriend. At least he smelled like whiskey and not this chipped beef chuck slush vomit. Flies are always outside now. A small swarm with just enough power to creep me out.
People living this close to squaller are witnesses to each other’s bullshit. They’ve seen a fair share of my oddities. I mean, most of my apartment is made of windows.
Seriously though, I’ve heard about the incest and inbreeding of this family before. Like most of the large Appalachian clans who hold fast to the old ways. Those traveling gypsies like the Wylts, the Milos, the Fords, and the Ventures. Like locusts purging all that’s good around them. So called the Merry Folk, but that’s said in irony.
It’s not just the new people across the hall. I know some Milo’s by way of Dutchie, and I even personally know a Ford. These large government families have become all too frequent. They breed and abuse the system with no remorse of their actions. They’re not the type to care if they’re taking funds from a family who might need them. They claim fake injuries, get crazy checks for their kids, and still they bitch about how Big Brother knocks ‘em around.
Sometimes, I give myself the willies using my foodstamp card.
But I’ve got to get my head in the game. I’ve got to get ready!
I smile to myself as I light a cigarette. Deviated mental conversations are common after toking a pipe. I’m in anticipation for three-thirty. It gives me time to meet my friends early, but still be fashionably late for the show.
The warmth of the electric heater, the pot in my lungs, the smoke in the room, and the bottomless flame from the wine are making me feel so good I don’t wanna move. Comfortable in my skin and in my jeans and gray knitted spaghetti string top. From my messy Grecian style of jet braids down to my scuffed black boots nicely tied. I am fire.


“HEYYO BITCH!” I yell as I walk through the narrow glass door, “Give me your wallet so I can make a living!”

“Heyyo bitch! I gave your grammaw up for Lent!” Bear roars over the sweltering little diner.

Four in the morning and the place is packed with KKK members, bikers, and black Hasidic Jews. A strange brew with my friends sitting in the heart of the mixture in a collection of audacity and stoned belligerence.
Clay is first to hug me, then Pax. I fawn over Bear and Kelly Ann while Patrick simply waves as if I’m complete disinterest.

“Forgive me for not getting up.” Alec gestures to his awkward corner seat.

“Don’t forgive me. I’m too lazy and you’re not worth getting up for.”

Dutchie smirks lighting a cigarette.

“Shut the fuck up.” I glare. Rough words, good hearts. Well, for the most part.

I squeeze in between Clay and Pax, “Did anyone happen to order for me?”

“Were we supposed to?” Bear asks.

“Nah, I’s just hopin’ against hope.”

“I did.” Pax says over talking fog, “Steak and eggs. Three shots of vodka.” He motions to his lap where there sits a bottle of liquor wrapped within a brown bag.

“Nice, fill me up, Sir.” I hand him my empty flask.

Kelly Ann crinkles her button nose humorously, “No, you don’t get any, little lady.”

I sprawl my hands on the table and plead, “Oh! Please, Mother? I won’t have too much! Pwetty-pweety-pwease?”

She’s as coy as a sprite, “Alright, but jus’ this once.”

The vodka is carefully poured in my silver and chrome flask as the conversation that had swelled before I’d arrived now continues as I am the last one expected, “How long ’til Richardson goes on?” I whisper to Clay.

He shrugs, “Don’t know. Maybe ‘bout half an hour?”

“Good.” I nod, “That’s enough time to pop out for a ciggy and some adventure.”


The steak is unnaturally bloody and I caused a ruckus amongst the table when I put hot sauce on it. Okay, drowned more like, but I don’t care. It’s my food and it’s not like they’re eating it.

Every restaurant in the world has a great dish that’s their signature they serve, but depends on the patron’s willingness to try new things. Those who like beef may not like the signature chicken and those who like chicken may not enjoy the notable beef. However, this does not stop people from hating on the midnight diners.

In my experience, I’ve found that fork and spoon joints like the Ole American have the best food. Every dish is a real home cooked beauty. Maybe it’s because the lack of forced health code regulations or maybe it’s because Big Butch has been slaving in that kitchen since 1949. Whatever it is, they’re working for the benefit of all us insomniacs.

“The other day Brittany and I were comparing the ideals and tactics of the Crusades and Vietnam and I told her I think I’d get some great training if I joined the Army. She said I’d be the first person ever fragged in bootcamp.” I shove a piece of salty, buttery egg in my mouth.

“I don’t know, damn it! Even as parables, what does the Bible teach us, Alec?” Patrick leans back cooly with folded arms, “It was a deal between God and the devil, unfairly, and the whole thing with Lot’s daughters? It should be x-rated not this fluffy t.v. bullshit they’ve got going on now.”

“They’re right, Suzy Lee.” Pax answers me, “You couldn’t hack it in the military.”

“Yeah? I watched Mama Gayle’s Shuffle, Bear sent it to me.” Clay covers his mouth to keep from laughing too hard, “Did you watch the link I sent you, Dutch?”

Dutchie’s dark gleam slants into happiness, “It…it was people fucking in a trailer park, wudn’t it?” He shakes his head, “I sent you a clip from January Joe’s. Gay, gay, gay.”

“They’d have needed soldiers like you in ‘Nam, lil girl. You’d been a fucking MARINE!” Bear buries his face in an artisan breaded meat-cake dripping stains over his gold rings onto the burgundy placemat.

“I can see you taking Hill 471 now.” Kelly Ann agrees as she takes a sip of soda pop, “They would have needed you and another Ronald Spiers.”

“I hate these people who say it wasn’t wine. If course it was wine! Jesus isn’t wasting a miracle to make Welch’s, bitch!” Alec makes the entire table erupt.

I take a couple sips of vodka and ask, “That porn you’re talking about, Clay? Was that the one with the girl who goes up to her neighbor’s and asks for dennies?”

“Yeah!” He’s chuckling.

“Remind me to show you Kamikaze Cocksucker.”

“Is it Japanese?” Bear asks quickly.

I snort laughter, “No, but it’s pretty damn funny.”

“I saw one the other day called Spud Rockers. Fake Irish, bad accents, in a dive pub. Very American.” He answers.

“I bet it was awful-awesome.”

God, fatty steak is so good. Charbroiled? Is that the right term? Whatever it is, this food is sexy.


I am Death. I move through this tightened tiled hall towards the backdoor like a breathless dragon. Skulking from door to door in search of the soul that will set us all free of our godly bonds. I lead this conga line on The Mission.

Code: It’s time to pray for washboard Jazz and flea-bottle drugs. It’s time to pray. Pray for things unchanged, for persons unblamed.

Decoded: We’re going out back to get high before the show starts.
The exit is found by the intimidating black letters above a stooping wood door. It swings open at bare touch and the air is bittersweet. A potent combo of sweet pies baking and four day old trash collecting from the surrounding houses.

I lean against the brick wall beneath a dim yellow motion light. Dutchie, Clay, Pax, and Bear crowd about me. Patrick, the ever prepared, lights two blunts at once and hands me the smaller of the two. It’s messier, but it was made with love and a strong mango flavor wrap. His is the Lauder Special which he personally calls the Jack White. A cherry wrap paper with a white strip of regular rolling paper swirling around it like a barber shop sign. It’s held together with blue agave nectar and then dried under a sunlamp. In other words, Patrick’s dick must be bigger then mine, but since I’m a girl that doesn’t say much for him.

“Suzy.” Bear coughs out between thickly smoking tokes, “Have you had a shameful liaison with a Latin lover?”

“Yes, and we had bizarre sexual practices involving voodoo rites and various Maymoran themed rituals.”

“Sounds like ya’ll made Lovecraft, not love.” Pax murmurs through red eyes and a slack jaw.

“No, I’m not into hentai.” I shrug and allow this line of conversation to stall because Patrick is carrying on a much more interesting one with Clay, “You got a new what?”

“Dog.” Patrick replies, “Picked her up from the shelter a couple days ago. Her name used to be Becky, but I changed it to Sonia.”

“Sonia’s name used to be Becky? That’s a weird name for a dog.” Clay tokes the mango blunt.

“We knew a dog named Becky, Becky Leigh Pollack.” Pax quips and we all explode with laughter.

“I’m not in on the joke.” Bear replies with a curious smile.

“She was a nasty bitch we went to school with. She had a crush on me didn’t she, Suzy?” Clay coughs so roughly that we wince collectively.
Pax shakes his head in disgust, “Hit bitch. She used to smile with her gums and little nano-chompers for teeth.”

“Ew!” Clay exclaims, “Did Suzy Lee ever tell you ‘bout when Becky called her?”

“No, but you know I enjoy a good story.” Bear grins.

I taste the Lauder Special feeling put on the spot, “She was dating some guy that worked at the quarry and she called me one time after staying the night with him. Just to chat, ya know? Anyway, Becky Leigh kinda gasped in the middle of something she was saying and I asked her what was wrong, but she didn’t say anything..and then she told me that she’d farted and she thought she shit herself. She put the phone down and I was laughing my ass off! I laughed for five whole minutes ’til she got back on the phone and told me she hadn’t shit. She’d had anal sex with her boyfriend that night and his cum came out when she’d farted.”

Bear’s face distorts into a horrified laugh, Patrick looks like he’s about to throw up, but Clay is composed, “Didn’t you tell me she masturbated using a vodka bottle and some got in her?”

“She doesn’t have red hair, but she was fire crotch that night…on video chat to boot.”


Ron Richardson stumbles into smokey spotlight on the small corner stage. His hair is like ink and hangs in oily strands down to the brown and gray flannel shirt. In one hand is clasped a cigarette and he fiddles around on stage making himself comfortable. He places a scotch and water on a stool and grabs the microphone in instant fury, “GO THE FUCK AWAY!”

“Fuck you, motherfucker!” Bear hollers.

He flips his hair only for it fall back in place over his gaunt, pinched face, “I’m sick of this shit, man. Pot needs to be legalized already. People are too violent now.” He’s sweating like a hunted pig and he’s just begun, “We need light and fire. Light to roll a joint and a fire to smoke it. Here man, before you go on your killing spree…pause for the cause.”
The crowd shouts and screams quick praise before he says, “Yeah, I molested that one armed waitress in Tupelo.”

“A douchebag says what?” A man from the back calls.

“Fuck you. I’ll burn your face with a torch and feed your family Zyklon B.” Ron Richardson, threatening hecklers since 1983.

He goes on for a while bitching eloquently about dolphins, drugs, and a myriad of other subjects going through them at a quick pace and in between his most diehard fans. Truly, the man feeds off hecklers. He’s brilliant like that.

He holds up his nearly empty glass, “YouVid, you’re a bunch of cocksuckers. You motherfuckers in the comments. It’s like a sea of mental retardation. It’s a wave of stupidity that flows like it’s a horrible under current of the internet and of the fucking world and you motherfuckers bring it out. You bring it out! It’s like PubTalk. PubTalk is a wasteland. It’s a horrible fucking wasteland! There are no fucking brains! There’s nothing but just shit and fucking rumors. I heard so-and-so sucked dick for an oxy…good for them! They’re a worthless motherfucker anyway!”

“Here, here!” Pax screams.

Standing ovation.

“Someone! Get me another fucking drink.” Ron says walking off the stage.

I tip our waitress’ notice and point to the comedian and then the stocked bar behind her. She tilts her chin in acknowledgement.


Unlike some interesting and eccentric people, Ron is a sociable listener. He’s making the rounds being tiny and introspective and walking with shy, hunched shoulders.

It’s six a.m. and a full swing party. Bear takes a bold guzzle from my flask right after taking a shot of bourbon. He pauses making no face whatsoever, “I’m having a heart attack, fucking vodka.”

“BRING DOWN THE SPUD!” Pax smacks the table.

“Like a potato gun to the lungs.” Alec sings out.

I’m out of my mind mumbling, “The CIA base of operations is somewhere in the Marshall Islands. It’s true, I’ve read up on it.”

“Hey! Look what the cat drug in!” Pax hoots.

I look behind me and the mist of my mind parts and there walks Lisette Robertson on the arm of River Tregaron. Members of the local beautiful people. No, they’re not dating. She doesn’t date, she fucks and devours like a black widow.

Lissie is like a stretched white piece of taffy with a long Anne Boleyn neck draped in a blue pearl choker. The Robertson’s are a large old family in these parts. Her dad alone must have a hundred hands for how many pockets they’ve been found in. Some say it’s to restore their grand brick house on the hill top on Gloria Glenn Corner, but anyone who knows her knows he’s just a crooked son of a bitch.

She’s standing in front of my in a skimpy dress that clings to her body formulating a more feminine figure. She’s all up and down, you see. Oh, and she carries a varying degree of daggers she sharpens daily. Long bare legs inside clear platform heels. So much pale skin showing and not one blade noticeable.

The first time I met her, she said, “I don’t give a fuck about anything.” And I doubt that will ever change, but I wouldn’t have her any other way.

River is taller than everyone in the room which is a feat indeed, but he seems almost normal beside Lissie due to her own height.
Ah, he’s classically handsome like Rudolph Valentino. Clean, dapper, and with cold white eyes. He may not be inhuman, but he is striking.
Lissie comes running to me and I’m frightened she’ll fall, but she dances in those suckers so she’s pretty balanced,

“Suzy Lee!”

“Shit! What are ya doing here?” I get up and hug her with more strength then I intended. Turning to River, he’s positively lusting,

“Darling!” He lays on a charming smile.

“We stopped by to get a quick bite to eat ‘fore we do this killer shit called Temple of Dreams.” She whispers so only River and I can hear her.

Pax joins us as everyone else goes back to their own topics of interest,

“What are yah talking about?”

“Temple of Dreams.” I answer unclearly.

Lissie licks her pout lips and smiles from within her sky doe eyes,

“It’s from Kenya.”

“What is it?”

“Well, it’s kinda like a powdered LSD, but it focuses on spirituality. It really opens the mind.”

“Do you shoot it up?” I ask.

River taps his nose, “Snort it, like coke.”

Lissie’s eyes are wider than usual and I feel certain this is something I want to try. When would the opportunity come again?

“What are the effects?” Pax asks.

She carefully mulls over the question before answering, “Like, if opium and acid had a dirty little baby. You feel like you’re floating in heaven, man. A true celestial being.”

“That sounds disturbing.”

Her gaze is shielded and leveling, “It is very disturbing. You might shit yourself and snort pixie dust in an outhouse, but you will only see beauty.”

River unveils a lilac powder within a petite Victorian glass vile in the palm of his hand, “Shakespeare once wrote, ‘Hell is empty and all the devils are here’.”

Yep, this is happening.


A fog has settled over the hills. Deep and impenetrable like smoke and cigarette ash. There must be a collection of colors to make this gray so detestable to the senses. A large blinding cloud from hell finally opening it’s glass and iron jaws. No arrow would be able to find its target, no sight to be seen but dead trees and dead air. Even the decay of earth is thicker than usual. The dirt lies in heaps of mud and fodder from the leaves and broken roots.

The fog is creeping down to us laying in a field. I attempt to speak, but no words will come. Only a slow, drawn out groan like a dying cow. I want to scream and bang my arms bloody against metal.


Light comes flooding down on me. A light so bright that I use the last of my energy to keep my eyes shut. My sockets ache…
Minutes. Minutes like hours where control becomes deniable. These times when the insanity rushes the open gates of hell and let the cruelty through. Those who think enough can reclaim their place.
I’m fucked for sure, but true….?


There are hours unaccounted for. A serious drunken pot binge didn’t prepare me for this Temple of Dreams and I must have blacked out.
But I’ve just woken up with a canvas on my lap with a rough sketch of a landscape. Sketches on old pieces of paper and napkins lay scattered on the floor. Trees, descending hill mist, and melting faces made of mud and sticks.

I feel foolish even through the headache. It would be me to black out and do something boring. Not rioting, not screaming war rants, not even a surly celebration of independence. Trees and hills, that’s what I do.

Maybe I’m a secret? I don’t know.

I rub my eyes as I move forward on the love-seat. A once pretty purple floral pattern now worn down to a dingy sea foam. The seats are still deep and comfortable which I think makes up for the wear and tear.
I sit for a long time slobbering and trying to piece together what happened to me last night. I don’t know. I’m not even sure I want to know. Lisette and River got pretty wild. Sex? Nah, I don’t think so. Just some harmless introspective stargazing on my part, I hope.

Slowly I reach for my cigarette case and find two-thirds of a cancer stick left and the Lauder Special roach. My head is buzzing and it feels like there’s a heavy bass bouncing inside my left ear. The nicotine is to adjust. The blunt roach is to stabilize. The left over wine in the bottle beside me is just a perk.

With lit smoke hanging between my lips and sweat dripping from my hairline, I pack a bowl. It’s haphazard work, but fuck it. I can’t fucking think! I haven’t dared clearing my throat. Not once.
The world tilts gently straight making it safe-ish to get to the bathroom. If I can take a shower I might be a more accurate person.


“What the fuck?!”

I jump wildly and for a second I’m pretty sure my brain sloshed around.

“Arizona! Open the fucking door!”

I’m a deer in headlights.

“Come on you old beggar bitch! Open the goddamn door!” A man screams.

He’s gonna beat my door down. I move towards it while he’s still banging away. The hinges won’t be able to take much more of this,

“Arizona don’t live here! Fuck off!”


“I know you’re in there, bitch!”

Looking around I grab the first pointed object I spot. I quickly unlock the door, opening it frightfully,

“You can cry and shit, like the others, but it won’t do any good. I’m one cold hearted motherfucker and I’ll skin ya as fast I’d cut ya.”

The man in front of me with his arm still in the air mid-knock looks down at the long, sharp points protruding from the end of the meat tenderizer. Honestly, I have such a collection of random shit around my place that I don’t know where this thing came from. It was just there waiting for me, but ah…such are the mysteries, right?


He’s burly with a barreled body and covered in coarse hair.

“If you’re looking for Arizona Wylt, it’s that apartment over there.”

I point to the number nine on the strong walnut door katty-corner from mine,

“Do not ever knock on this door again or I’ll be holding a gun with your name written on every bullet.”

I slam the door in his face, lock it, and head straight to the shower where I puke and clean myself with tears and cold water.
Which is weird because the water should be scolding.


It’s amazing how gradual the sound of the day comes on. In the morning, it’s quiet with Cardinals flitting through the Dogwood branches and the early morning rushers.. By lunchtime, there is an abundance of chirping birds and music blaring inaudibly from passing cars. I have to turn the record player up a little after one and that has gotten progressively louder as the hours pass. I’ve got to drown out the knowledge of those bastards across the hall.

I noticed this today while I finished the last chapter of The Helil by Pepper K. Route. I closed it’s pages a few ago with mixed emotions. On one hand, I loved it. The romance was almost terrifying with her notable chaotic writing style, but I’m sad it’s over. There’s something about reading that is so intimate. Like a secret shared between lovers.
The sun is going down with a burning glaze across the sky as if the cosmos paints with blood. The clouds cut the sun making it appear to be a spiraling orange peel on fire.

I should take a walk, do something to get out of this house. The Wylt’s are having a party of some sort and they all snort like hogs when they laugh. Crude giggling pigs wallowing in filth and sexually transmitted MRSA. They’ve got The Grits…hey, that’s what I should start calling them!

The Grits are too loud and there isn’t enough pot in the world that could mute their bullshit.

I hear a couple moving swiftly down the hall. A man sings a drunken ditty as loudly as he can crackle,

“Give me sugar, give me love, baby! Fuck that! I’m a man (inaudible) who I will always be! Give me sugar, baby!”

Jesus God, please give me peace. Some breath. Am I asking too much?
With soft deft hands, I roll a fat blunt to the best of my abilities. I’ll never get better, but I can’t get any worse. When I first started rolling they looked like flatworms. Now, they’re still sorta flat, but chubby little pricks that don’t burn down too quick.

I gather my things and out the door I venture.


I gulp down half the wine of my second bottle as I trudge up the hill to the underpass of Bayou Bridge. It’s chilly out here. I should’ve brought a sweater or coat, but there’s not forethought with those people around.

But here in front of the river is peace. I breath in the heavy scent of coal barges and rotting fish. The ripples in the browned water make me wonder how people can’t appreciate this land. I’ve never been proud of my family or the state or the country. I’m not boasting about how my hometown may look, but I’m damn proud of being Appalachian. Outsiders see us as an inferior species of limited intelligence. Like we’re feral children who need to be screamed at over bath time.


We are grain, we are corn, we are the land. We are the water and the hills. We are grown and we have the power to flex our muscles whenever we so see fit.

And by anything that’s holy, we may be a lot of things, but one thing we possess in abundance is our infinite ability to SURVIVE.

Bear always says, “When shit hits the fan, it’ll be Appalachians they’ll try to suppress first because we’ll put up the longest, bloodiest fight.”

I take a couple drinks and turn around. I’ve never been the kind to hang around bridges. Too many cars. Too many hobos and junkies searching for someone to roll.


I carefully sit the empty wine bottle outside the doors of the Concord Alley apartment building. I walk up the grated metal stairs to the screen door. Through there, down the hallway, and past two doors, I find myself knocking on the overwhelmingly powerful white door that reflects a curvaceous numeral 3.

“Who is it?! Who’s that?! There!”Comes a high paranoid voice from beyond the door.

“SHH! Calm down, it’s just Satan. He’s come to digest what’s left of your soul.”



I back away when I hear another loud bang and then, “Who’s there?”

“It’s me, Suzy Lee.”

The locks clink and clack and Alec gives me the dead eyes smile, “Long time no see.”

“Did I come at a bad time?” I ask as he lets me through the threshold.

“Oh, no. Jonah’s a little upset.”

I see it as soon as I walk in. Jonah is hanging by his fingernails from the doorway that connects the dinning room and hallway. His body is extended and I never noticed how fit he was before. He uses the frame as a makeshift weight pull by lifting his legs together until they touch his chest. On the fourth go around, he falls right on his hip and laughs…but there’s tears streaming down his cheeks.
Running an ink stained hand through his short brown hair he seems stressed to the max, “Hey there, Suzy.”
I wave a hello and he excuses himself to the bathroom.
I turn to Alec in confusion, “What’s that about?”

“Olivia left him.”

I nod. I can see why he’d be going off the rails, “How long were they together anyway?”

Alec shrugs, “Longer than most I imagine.”

Olivia and Jonah were a serious thing when I was in teenage infancy. I’ve a hundred questions, but I can’t give into curiosity. It’s too soon and good or bad news comes in time.

But whatever the reason, two things are certain:
First, the goth queen of southern Ohio, Olivia St. Jean is single.
Second, the sexiest most sought after local photographer, Jonah Grayson Grimm, is also single.

This could change the dynamic between everyone like a domino effect. Everyone’ll turn into sexual scavengers drooling over art fag scrapes. Men will become coyotes chasing after her. Women will flaunt themselves in full slut machine mode.

“Would you care for some cheese and wine?”

Alec ushers me towards the living room.

“I’d love some.”

I smile, but really I’m blown away by the excellence of his effort. Candlelight glitters on the framed glass paintings and windows. A bottle of rose wine sits in ice on the table with glasses and a cheese platter,

“Did you know I’s coming over or is this for Jonah?”

“Nope, just lunch.”

He slides onto the slick beige leather sofa.

I take a nibble of asiago and settle in the vacant cushion beside him,

“Where’s Shad?”

You see, there are three roommates in this apartment. Alec the Gentleman, Jonah the Artist, and Shad McElvain the Professional.

“Unlike some people, he has a job.”

He thinks he’s so sly,

“Not all of us can be a professional student, Luther.”

“We using Christian names now?”

Jonah swaggers in carrying a big black book. He takes the chair closest to me and tosses the book carelessly down beside the wine with a loud THUNK.
I scoot it towards me, “The Ultimate Tome of Drugs and Effects.” Huh, it’s alphabetical.

“I plan on making my way through it.”

“What letter ya on?”

“H.” He rubs his forehead and winces from pain, “Where is Shad?”
Alec pours three very full cups of wine,
“He and Catlin went to a football game in Steelton.”
“She’s a good woman. He deserves a good woman, there’s not many around these days.”
His bleak eyes stare into me until I feel like a small child. I’m five and in trouble. Alec crosses his legs like an aging queen. He sips in contentment,

“I know you’re hurting right now, Jonah, but there are so many girls in your future.”

He laughs to himself,

“They fall all over you any time you go out the door.”

He snarls,

“I don’t want any of those empty headed barbarian women. I want her.”

He groans lowly,

“It’s not about them or my ego or even my heart. It’s about her. She makes me better, quicker. I’m stronger with her than with anyone else. I feel like a man. A real man, red blooded. With those others…they’re nothing but holes. Seven years…gone for that foreign cocksucker.”

“Jonah, you are so full of shit.”

I say attempting to drink Alec’s offered wine, but it’s too expensive for my taste,

“I understand you’re hurt, but it’s all in your head. You’ll get over her and you’ll find a woman who’ll make ya feel better than a man. She’ll make ya feel human, weak and vulnerable and you’ll be scared, but it’ll be too exhilarating. Olivia will just be another memory. Another one of those girls you’re talking about.”

God, this wine really is fucking terrible. It tastes like bubbly motor oil. I wonder how much this bottle cost? Then again, I don’t want to know. It’s probably half a year’s rent.

Before Jonah can respond to my tirade, the front door slams and Shad comes through holding up a large brown bag,

“It’s time for scotch.”


“Working in a coal mine
going down
sliding down
nodding off
hitting drug needles on the way down.
Nodding off
blowing shit up
nodding off
having a collapse on the way up.
Shooting up in a coal mine
going down
nodding off
hitting shit
all around
gonna die…
Jim fell in the bottom
stuck a needle in his eye…”
“There ain’t no lovin’ after the song’s done, bitch!”

Alec howls over the music, his lips wet with alcohol.
Shad’s sitting in his tidy whities typing away on his laptop. I guess he and Catlin had a fight over different views on the Chinese-Japanese policy.

Jonah is like a ball of unfocused energy about to split apart any second. A full crystal glass of scotch and soda he rests against his forehead.
As for me? Well, I’m fucking plastered dancing in the middle of the room with the half full bottle of liquor.

“You’d make an excellent photograph, Suzy Lee.” Alec instigates.

“Better than Shadrach and his personal panty party over there.”

I say as I swivel my feet in a quick two step and this single action makes me grab my stomach. I feel like I’m about to hurl,

“I don’t feel so hot, ya’ll.”

“No puking in the living room.” Shad warns.

“No dying in the house unless it’s Sacrificial Wednesdays.” Alec smirks.

Jonah slips his drink down faster than I can blink and rises from his seat like a doomed Lucifer being driven back to hell,

“I’ll take care of you.”

His fingers lace through mine and he leads me and my drunken belly towards his bedroom.

“No…no…” I slur.

Leaning against the doorframe he grins,

“What? Rape? You wish, you foxy minx.”

I laugh and follow unable to deny my assumption.
His room looks like a Byronic hero jumped the gun with his decorator. Charcoal gray walls with blurred black and white framed pictures hanging with intentionally placed manners. He turns on a sleek black table side lamp to illuminate his personal library of drab literature. Depressing Russian novels, German philosophy, and French pros mixed with medieval history thrown in here and there.
I crawl on top of the circular bed cloaked in red satins and faux furs.
I cradle my abdomen tightly,

“I don’t feel so sick now.”

Jonah curls up beside me. His arms fall over me with more grace than I could’ve imagined given our present state. I gently push a loose brown strand from his hazel eyes. He radiates sticky sweat and booze and a tear slides,

“You know, this isn’t how I wanted to get you in my bed.”

“Hmmm…maybe one day you’ll get lucky.”

“No, no, no.”

His whispers send shivers down my spine,

“Alec was right when he said you’d be an excellent photograph. You’re not a woman to woo, you’re a picture of all that makes women desirable. You’re intelligent, witty, beautiful, and you thrive on art and music. No, a mortal man like myself could never get lucky with something as ethereal as you. A man can not love a photograph, only admire it.”


“In other news, Jason Raymond aged 34 from Steelton, Ohio, mowed down three of his neighbor’s dogs in cold blood. In response, the owner of the deceased canines carried their corpses to Raymond’s porch and dumped them…”

I am awake and there’s something delicious drifting through. I climb over Jonah’s fully clothed snoring body and walk to the kitchen as quietly as I can. Alec is standing in front of the counter listening to the local news broadcast as he whisks up some pink tinged batter,

“Morning Miss. Memory Loss. Did you enjoy the roofie I slipped in your drink last night?”

“Don’t tease me, Luther. You know my fetish…”

He chuckles, “You staying for breakfast? Sausage and apple muffins.”

My stomach gurgles at the thought,

“Another day. I gotta get goin’. My weed ain’t gonna smoke itself.”

“You sure?”

My belly flips and flops,

“Yeah, I’m sure.”


The walk back to the L. Grey apartments takes a lot longer when not under the influence of drugs and alcohol which means I’m directly miserable. There’s not even a joint hidden in my bra. It was sheer luck that Jonah left his clove cigarettes out. Emo faggot smokes, but good enough to tide me over.

I’ve never missed government housing so much as I do right now. My heart leaps to my throat when those big, beige bricks come into view welcoming me home.

I take the long way around the avoid the Grits’ bay window compost of vomitous substances. Butting out the clove against a fallen brick, I push my way through the most disgusting smell I have ever encountered. I cover my mouth and nose, but it’s too strong. It’s more rancid the closer I get to my trusty number 8.


My brains sees before I can compute. The Wylt’s door is wide open and hanging from a single hinge. Curiosity gets the better of me and I sneak forward until I can peek inside.

The place is literally trashed. It looks like a garbage truck just backed up and dumped the city’s refuse inside. All of the electronics are gone and furniture seems beyond repair.

“Took off last night.”

I jump at the voice and turn to see Bert Adkins of apartment 12 standing behind me. The old man with his shock white crewcut leans heavily on the crooked wooden cane.

“I wonder what happened?” I ask.

His shoulders shake,
“God only knows.”
He takes a shallow breath,
“But turns out they took the radiator. No hot water ’til Tuesday.”
“Oh! For fuck’s sake!”
“And they stolen all the satellite dishes. Nobody’s got cable.”
Well, that doesn’t effect me, but,
“When’s someone gonna take care of that fucking smell?”
“Don’t know. Soon, I hope.”
I move towards my door and wish Bert a good day. Behind my closed and locked fortress I rejoice,
“They’re gone!”
I smoke a bowl in celebration. I can take all the cold showers from here to doomsday so long as I don’t have to live next to them, but no amount of incense is gonna get that stink out of the air. Win-win or win-lose? I don’t know and I don’t care…but then again, hardly anyone does anymore.

When The Big Bag of Blood is Desired


There are endless cigarettes
and empty bottles
reigning over my precious head.

There is something on fire,
but my eyes are busted close,
burning over my boiling blood.

Slipping over me like gasoline,
slick and wailing,
howling angry insults at the others.

I couldn’t forget the warmth of sunshine,
but I’ve stopped all illusions.
The days run together
in massive amounts of time.

It’s almost Halloween,
and I thought it was August.
Soul shivers in my seat.

I couldn’t forget the warmth of sunshine,
cleansing me like hellfire,
everything endlessly endless.

When The Big Bag of Blood is Desired


Defiant. That word is used to describe someone who is either stubborn or religious. People say I’m defiant because of how I dress and the music I listen to. I am defiant because I’m a girl with only guy friends. I am defiant because I prefer jeans to a skirt and I prefer black to pink.

My skin is as pale and cold as a corpse. My eyes are neither soulful nor beautiful. They are made of warmed earth and salt water. My hair falls in the blackest of curls down my back and over my shoulders. My nose is too large, I have more scars than I could count, and it seems that my weeping makes men tremble. My bloodline is impure. I’m no blue-blooded anything. I’m a wailer, a failure, an unfocused girl called art in motion.

I’m fourteen. Is this how it’s supposed to go?

But I am not defiant sitting on my bathroom floor smoking weed behind the safety of a locked door. It’s expected of teenagers to experiment with so called drugs but only if we dress this way and act that way akin to the West Port whores. Only then will I be considered tame.

I shake my head tapping off some ash of a joint I’m halfway through and my mind zones out to the Jean Ritchie song coming from the radio. I’ve heard it a million times before this moment. Still, I turn it up because it’s Hamhock radio and the pirate station’s been off air since last Tuesday. It reflects from it’s perch on the toilet lid and fills the small four walled room with the soothing sound of the dulcimer.

Leaning back against the bathtub, I stretch my legs outward across the floor. The tips of my shoes almost touch the door at this angle.

The obituaries rest beside my free hand sitting there one next to the other neatly. The editors had chosen their school photos. In the first clipping, Audie’s is almost too dark to see except for his expressionless face and bleak, stringy hair. Merri is smiling, but they misspelled her name by adding an extra ‘t’ in Martings.

Those wounds, though deep, feel so much older now than they used to. I will never forget them. I’ll always remember how it felt when we three held each other. How it was when we kissed and danced to David Leonard records. No one can measure love. I don’t think it can be gathered and weighed. When you love, when it’s true and to the bone and you feel like you’re falling in a terrifying wonderland, then your heart will miss them and cry for them long after death.

But the other clipping…the death I never expected.

Ajay might’ve been fucked up, but I could have helped him. I was halfway through those defenses he’d put up. Those walls he’d built up around his soul reinforced with concrete and bars.

All of them. Audie, Merrilee, and Ajay…they’d all been defiant and now they’re all dead.

I still may inspire painters, poets, writers, and some singers. Not always in the way I may always wish, but my name could be there and that’s what counts, right? Just one stroke of the brush in thought of me makes it mine. But I’m no one’s eccentric muse. I’m not an alpha, beta, or even a fucking omega. I could have been a lady when called in for question.

But no, it wasn’t meant to be. My love breeds death.

“What a joke.” I laugh out, but I’m crying on the inside. The tears just don’t want to come out.

I toke the last of the joint until it burns my fingers and butt it out in the ashtray. I wrap the papers around it and gently place it in my back jeans pocket. A cigarette finds itself to my lips to which I light it without consultation of my lungs. It’s so smoky in here that I have to rub my eyes and I notice the overhead fan roaring louder than the music. It’s too cloudy and that fan is ear-splitting.

“You’re listening to WRSL 99.2, Hamhock Radio, your local station for the Appalachian. This is Gary Powers here introducing that new soul cat, Johnny Checkers and his new hit I Took Out That Waitress Like Motherfucking Tay Sachs Disease. And not only did it reach number 19 on the charts, but it showed the Country Western fans that Johnny L.B. Checkers was a formidable foe. And his next hit All The Women In My Life Have Disappeared, it went all the way up to number 7 which cemented his new Country Western sound.

“After the trial and wedding to his first wife, Miss. Martha Gaye Johnson, whom he killed, his ultra platinum I Kill With The Best Of ‘Em came out and BOY! It was such a hit that even Jack Quarter said, ‘That’s one nigger I won’t even play for behind bars.’”

I switch it off and stand up, “No sleep for the heretics.” I mutter as I spray some air freshener until I can barely think straight. The radio goes back on the shelf above the toilet and I contemplate if any of them had thought of me before they’d been taken by the forever darkness.

No tears. Not right now.

Shit, they probably were thinking they didn’t wanna fucking die.

I find myself staggering down the hallway like a predator of all the lonely men in the world, preying on the weakest. Nosferatu of the worst kind. A dope fiend.

Mom sits in her rocking chair with the fat, bluebonnet cushions watching the news as usual. She shudders, “Those liberals aren’t making the Republicans love them very much. They’re trying to mold this country into the latest Hell. They’ll fall, like Ron Paul. War on drugs over, my ass…” She spits it out like a curse.

My hand is almost on the doorknob when Raeann leers at me with contempt, “Where are you going? It’s not a date looking like that.”

Inside, I am crying and screaming, “My spirit can not be contained! I AM FREEDOM!” But I bristle with a shoulder shrug, “Jus’ takin’ a walk.”

“To where?” She laughs, “The sign post?”

I am only what she wants me to be, she’s just manipulating me so I’ll get in trouble. She just wants to capture me and shove me in a jar to put on the mantle so she and her little friends can laugh at me.

I do the only sane thing and wait until Mom turns her head to light another cigarette and flip my little sister the bird.

“MOM!” She whines.

“What, sweetie?” Her voice is as sticky as honey.

“Sally flipped me off.”

Mom looks me over without fellowship, her nostrils flaring with disdain, “I tried raisin’ a lady. What I got was a heathen. Apologize.”

I stare at Raeann with barren eyes. The way her dark auburn ringlets hang down past her round, tanned face. Her eyes so narrow and shallow. I make her, them, wait. Watching her nose crinkle with impatience. I wait until I no longer feel like she’s winning, that I am a trophy with a cost. I wait until I feel the dust nearly settle before I say, “I’m sorry.”

“I don’t accept it.” Her nose turns up and away from me.

“Raeann!” Mom’s tone is low, but sharp.

She purses those fat worm lips together, “Fine, I accept, but I’m still mad at ‘er.”

“Still spoiled you mean.” I whisper.

“What was that?”

“Nothin’.” I try to appear as innocent as I can.

“Alright. Make sure you’re back for dinner.”

For fuck’s sake…it’s one in the afternoon. What am I gonna do in hundred degree weather for six hours?

I don’t argue or smart back. I am a goddamned rainbow of randomized thoughts and deliberate movements and I’m too focused on getting the hell up outta here.

When my sneakers hit the shoddy black pavement, I know I’m heading for the abandoned tobacco barn over on Willoughby Creek Run. I could go the hill route, but there’s too many snakes, wild dogs, and pot fields where I could get shot for trespassing. It’ll take a bit longer if I walk along the highway, but I’m sure I’ll fair worse before this life is over.

I feel like I’m the glow that is basked within. My inner light, my inner child. Judgmental assholes. It’s okay to be emotional every once in a while, I know that. It’s okay to cry and play and laugh and celebrate life because I’ll suffocate if I’m not allowed out and about anymore. How can people exist without smiling or listening to music? No life. No life at all.



I shouldn’t have stepped outta the house. It’s sweltering out here and the highway is directly beneath the sun. My tank top and jeans are soaked. My whole self is drenched and I know I should turn around. I could get high, relax on my bed and sketch in the air conditioning.


I am my lovers’ lover after all.

My tennis shoes are shuffling along and I feel like I can’t breath. Heat stroke? Heart attack?

I don’t know. My mind is a misting swirl of devolutions as I sit calmly down in this corn field, sliding down the metal road sign on the corner of Willoughby Creek. I wipe the streams of sweat from my hot skin. The stalks grow and stretch before and above me. It is a never ending menagerie of vibrancy and the freshly rotted corn husks of the season in which they had not been picked. Forgotten, maybe used for cattle, but relatively the purpose is unknown to me

I close my eyes while the cars whiz past. I sit and listen to the wind ripping through the tops of the leaves and I feel very much at peace. My mind settled in recognition of the splendor of all that’s around me. The air smells of fresh earth and heated tar with a hint of stalled river stink.

I wish I could say the sun feeds me. That the rays that rain down in ethereal glow nourish my body in ways nothing else could, but that would be a stone cold lie. Fuck the sun. Fuck it’s orbit, fuck it’s usefulness, fuck it up it’s fiery asshole.

Lowly here in this dry muck, I feel more beautiful than any other. I am forever youthful and silent and completely infected by liberty in every sense of the word. I am my own individual, not dictated by the incompetence of those around me. I am no one’s child, no one’s daughter, or sister. I am a stunted sunflower soaking up this godforsaken sunlight which pollutes the trees as even they seem despondent and ill.

I wonder how many people driving past think I’m strung out on dennies and that I just passed out here?


I open my eyes to feverish slits and see The Beast rolling up with crunching tires stirring between the rows of my make believe castle. Clay hangs out the window. He has the most luxurious golden hippie hair I’ve ever seen. He waves to me with a goofy, stoned grin.

The little girl inside of me wills my rescue to be a fluttering fairy to steal me away to their mound and make me one of them forever. My shoulder blades could sprout wings reflecting all light and blinding others with their sheer magnificence.

Or a robber wearing his buttoned up jumpsuit trekking out into the wilderness and I, so blindly, sitting on the very spot he must dig.

But sometimes, reality is sweeter than fantasy. Never in my case, but I hear sometimes its sweeter.

“You don’t look so hot.” Pax says.

“Fuck you.” I rasp as Patrick gets out of the car and helps me up.

“Suzy Lee?” My name is spoken with concern uneasily, “What are you thinking, girl? Coming out in this heat? You’re a psycho.”

“Well, girls think you’re mysterious…wait until they’re disappointed.” I notice a spot of something liquid next to the car door and speak while I climb in beside Clay, “I think The Beast is leaking.”

“We’d smell it if it was gas, wouldn’t we?” Clay rolls a lit joint between his fingers in thought.

Patrick slides in the passenger seat so cool wearing an olive green wife beater and cargo shorts, “Only way to find out is to throw a cigarette on it.”

A chuckle is shared much to my irritation, “Get this thing movin’, man. I’m dying back here!”

Pax gets The Beast chugging along and I lean heavy on the window. The breeze is warm, but it moves through my hair like nirvana, “Can a bitch get a smoke or a toke?” I sit back against the ripped leather seats as Clay hands me the joint, “Thanks.”

“Were you trying to walk to town?” His voice so stern it pains me.

“No.” I flick some ash out the window which comes back to settle on my legs, “You know I couldn’t do that if I tried.”

“Remind me to show you the short cut sometime.” Clay offers.

One of these days I’ll get around to having him show me, but not today. It’s too fucking hot to care. “What brings ya’ll out this way?” I ask after exhaling a cloud of the sweet, skunky smoke.

“Coming to pick you up actually.” Pax answers making an illegal u-turn.

Patrick swivels in his seat, “We got something.” A pear shaped vile falls loosely from his grip unto my lap. It’s about the size of a green bean and skinny as a Virginia Slim, but it’s the liquid inside that intrigues me. A bright orange with streaks of neon yellow.

“What the fuck is this? I’ve never seen anything like this before, it’s like fire.”

“It’s called Number 9. Dutchie told me it’s like acid, only stronger. Like, way stronger.”

And here I thought I’d remain innocent.

I look at him and I smile as kindly as I can muster. His eyes are so piercing that I can’t gaze longer than a breath, “Are we…?”

He nods in silence. He’s an iceberg, so chilled and clear. I hold my hand out to offer the vile and I graze his bare shoulder. He takes the it back, but moves so swiftly away from me like I’m diseased. I slump back into tinges of sadness, “You act like I’d hurt you.”

“No, it’s just too hot to touch each other.” He turns around, “We got something else too.”


“Tell her, beautiful.” He snickers.

Clay clears his throat, “My uncle started growing weed in his attic. It was growing real good for a while, but then he got paranoid that the cops were gonna bust in so he took the lab apart and gave, like, seventy percent of it to me. We hid it in my room, but I got a good amount on me.”

“There’s half a stalk in the trunk, but it’s pretty good shit.” Pax flings a menthol out into rushing air and I can tell he’s stressed out.

“Farmer’s Fresh, baby!” Clay laughs.

I can’t imagine Dutchie giving anyone drugs without him being present, “Are we gonna pick up Dutch or what?”

“Eventually. He had some shit to do so he asked us to go pick up a hookah.”

Hmm…that means we’re going to Steelton and that’s a twenty-thirty minute trip, “Someone’s gonna have to stay with The Beast at Remy’s with that weed in the trunk.”

“I will.” Clay volunteers himself.

I shake my head, “I don’t understand. Where’d all the money come from? The hookah, the gasoline?”

“Don’t worry your manic little head about it, Suzy Lee. It’s all taken care of and you were the one who said it’d be a good time to buy a hookah…last week, I think it was.” Patrick props his legs on the dashboard.

Guys with overly muscular legs are too weird for me. They seem like the types that listen to Tom Waits when they have sex, but Patrick isn’t built that way. While Pax is farm boy strong and Clay is simply intimidating, Patrick is purely toned.

And here…we are still considered children.

I feel a prickle of tears, but I am the face of unbroken composure.


Remy’s Gifts and Dolls is a front for stoners. It’s divided into two rooms connected only by a large glass counter where Remy sits by the register reading the newspaper. The Beast is kicking top soil with flashes of overheated anger in the parking lot, but I don’t need to be inside the squat building to know I’m right. If Remy is anything, he’s predictable.

“I can’t fucking do this anymore! I can’t!” Pax hits the steering column and the car settles and shuts down with a cloud of smoke coming from the hood. We sit and wait until his temper calms and he gets out the car, “I’ll see if Remy’s got a water jug or something, fucking piece of shit car.” He holds the door open and I’m the first one to smell the incense and faint hint of marijuana mingling together in the air conditioning. My shoes squeak along the freshly waxed tiles.

It feels like Grandma’s house at Christmas. Tony Montana and Bobby Womack posters are nailed to the wood paneled walls. Bongs, pictures, pipes, jewelry, hookahs, hemp clothing and handbags, and knick-knacks galore. And it’s all handcrafted with each piece completely unique from the other.

Remy folds his paper and sets it aside, “How can I help you’ns?” His short, wavy brown hair has a hint of gray as does his trimmed goatee. His white shirt is crisp and clashes with the unopened leather vest. An aging biker if you ever saw one and he’s staring directly at my tits.

“We’re just looking for a hookah for about four to five people.” Pax shimmies around me.

“Ya’ll came to the rat place fur that. We got em in all sizes.”

“Do you have any for less than…”

I don’t care about their dealings and haggling so I make my way around the shop. I want to absorb all that I see. No, I really want to buy one of everything.

My fingers caress a life sized statue of the Greek goddess Artemis. There are smaller ones ranging from Ancient Rome to African fetish art surrounding her. I step back because they’re knee high and I don’t want any fucked up bruises.

The jewelry is unimpressive with it’s cheap nickel plating and sparkling gems. Cute red cherry belly rings and star shaped nose studs. All useless to a fourteen year old girl without holes to stick them through.

I wander towards the clothing racks. So many pretty blouses in the style of 1970’s peasants. I covet them all.

Patrick and Pax are looking at bongs commenting on shapes and colors. I shake my head, “It’s about how deep the bowl is and how good it hits, you fools. It being nice lookin’ is just a side effect.”

“Indeed.” Pax agrees.

I venture to the counter where Remy has taken his paper back, skimming it with bottle cap glasses. Pipes laid out for what seems like forever made of glass, aluminum, brass, stone, steel, clay, wood, and whatever other material one could think of. However, one catches my eye. Bigger than a one-hitter, but discreet enough to fit in the palm of my hand. Beautifully polished steel with a black spiral engraved around the stem similar to Celtic knot work.

“See anything you like?” Patrick asks moving up beside me. He smells like sweet chilies and off brand laundry detergent.

“I do. That metal pipe there.” I point.

“One by the blue glass?” I nod and he questions, “Hey, Remy? How much is this little steel pipe?”

“$16.50 after tax.” He speaks under low rum soaked breath.

“You want it?” He smiles at me with those green eyes.

“I don’t know…”

He shrugs, “I can’t if I don’t have to.”

“Will not is more the appropriate term.”

He crosses his arms over his chest, “What I can’t do and what I won’t do are two different things and you know why this is.”

“You’re so normal and you have to be…”

“It’s no biggie, really. If you want it all you have to do is say so.”

I bite my lips, “Alright, as long as I don’t have to owe you.”

“You owe me everything already, baby cakes.” He slaps me with a stupid grin, “We’ll take that one too.”

I clap my hands in girlish excitement and hug him, “Thank you, Patrick!” He doesn’t embrace me. He never has. He seems sociable and warm, but in him sings the song of the sociopath, “We really are gonna get fucked up tonight.”

“I’d fuck you.”

I playfully tap his arm, “Don’t be a do-rag douche bag, Paddy.”

“Ahhh….and I thought I thought of everything.”

“You forgot the condom.”

“Or did I?”

I laugh at his absurdity, “I love you.”

“Suck my dick, bitch.” He whispers close to my ear.

Pax lumbers over and puts a five tubed hookah on the counter as Patrick admires it. Standing two feet tall, it’s bottom is curved with the intermingling skeletons and bones akin Jolly Rogers. The tubes are lime and black thread twisted together in a spiraled design with mouth pieces resembling tiny silver bells, “It’s very masculine.”

“Did yah think it’d be pink covered in hearts and bloody vaginas?” Pax jeers.

Remy rings the items up, “Corruption first takes seed not in cash, but a kiss.”

“Who said that?” I ask.

“Me, just then.”

“I like it. You should put it on a sign or a t-shirt or something.”

He wraps the hookah and the pipe up in a brown paper bag and winks, “For you girl, anything.”


“My family’s old. Like, real old. When they first washed up shore in Virginia they were called Prussians. How many of them do you see walkin’ around? None, ‘cause we don’t exist anymore. What was it for, huh? To go through all those centuries to just…whoosh…be gone?” Dutchie sits in the Queen Anne’s chair like an upstart sitting on a stolen throne; comfortable and very much aware.

I’m standing by the doorway watching him entertain his guests if that’s what the proper term for criminals who buy massive amounts of product from are called. I give a little wave that catches his eye, “I gotta get goin’, gents. The girls will see ya up.”

“You’re not joinin’ in?” A man with a shaved head and scar over his left eye seems so disheartened.

“Nah, Abel, I got my own thang goin’ on.” Dutchie points a long finger at me which draws the attention of the entire room and suddenly there are six pairs of eyes scrutinizing my body with delicious appeal.

I am me. I want to scream, but I refrain. I am who I am, who I will ever be and that is someone they will never have. My serenity, if I ever had any, is shattered when the scarred man slaps Dutch on the back and proclaims, “Damn, boy! She looks wild!”

Dutchie’s laugh sounds fanciful, “Oh, yeah, she’s something else.” He comes and puts an arm over me with slivers of hope lingering on, “And she’s all mine. Come on, Suzy, something I gotta get.”

As we exit the living room a couple of girls walk past us. I’ve seen them before, but I don’t know where, “What’s that about, Dutch?”


I glance behind me to see one of the girls has a flat, flabby ass, “I hope it’s worth it.”

I follow him upstairs to his bedroom. For such a competent and flamboyant trader, his personal space is drab. A lone psychedelic poster hangs crooked amongst bulging cracked beige walls. A twin mattress without a sheet and crumpled blankets lays on the floor, “Jesus Christ, it’s so sad in here.”

He shrugs his long monkey arms, “Suits my needs.”

I don’t know why I said that. I’ve seen his room a million times. We’ve partied this house down, but for some reason I’ve never seen it look so pathetic, “You haven’t been gettin’ laid?”

He smirks as he retrieves a beaten red leather pouch hidden inside an old heating vent, “Not as much as I’d like.” He stands and the light coming from his window touches the soft auburn highlights of his black hair, “Suzy…”

“What’s in there?” I quickly cut him off.

His lips are large and turn in a slick snarl, “You’ll see. Come on, it’s time to go.”

Why does everyone say that to me?


“Woke up this morning and got myself gun
My wife wouldn’t shut up
I knew what had to be done
Woke up this morning
and I felt evil times three
By the end of the evening
I’ll be on WDBZ…”

The radio coos along as Pax pulls into the empty gravel parking area of Painted Face Creek.

The sun is going down and the heat is almost tolerable. It’s so peaceful here with only the sounds of chirping birds and rushing water. Most people don’t come here since it’s a Wood People burial plot. There’s a lot of superstition in this area of Ohio. Pax’s Catholic guilt is cinched on his face when he gets out of The Beast.

“I don’t, Suzy, you’re the only girl. It’s obvious you’d be Dorothy.” Clay says following me to the edge of the creek.

I slip my shoes and socks off, “But I like the Wicked Witch, she’s got green skin.”

“Bitch, if anybody’s the Wicked Witch, it’s me.” Dutchie exclaims sitting down on the grassy knoll beside me.

I concede, “That makes sense.”

“Oh shit, Suzy, you know who the Tin Man is, don’t you?” Patrick questions me taking off his shirt.

“Who? You?”

“No. Your pipe.” He grabs it from his pocket and hands it to me.

“Hey! That’s awesome! The Tin Man, I love it.”

We sit down and Clay reaches inside one of the big brown paper bags he got from the trunk and pulls out a bud, “Wanna break in the Tin Man?”

I flutter my eyelashes and feign a southern drawl, “I’d love to, Sir, just love to.” I take the plump bud Clay offers me and tear it into bits, “Dang, this shit’s moist.”

“Yeah, I didn’t want to dry it out in the oven.”

“Who would I be in your Wizard of Oz scheme?” Pax asks.


“The dog?!”

That dog is loyal to Dorothy through the entire thing.”

“Yeah, but you’re not Dorothy, Suzy Lee. You’re the fucking Wizard.”

I tilt my head back with a laugh, “You’re probably right and Clay’s the cowardly lion and Patrick is Dorothy.”

“Oh, I’d kill that fucking dress.” Patrick imitates a feminine voice.

“It’s got a built in screen.” I say as I pack the pot in the bowl, “Thank you so much for this. I get so tired of asking you guys to roll me joints. Shall I take the first hit?”

They egg me on and I comply with glee. Farmer’s Fresh is hard to hit due to the moisture, but I get a couple of good tokes in there before passing it off, “I say we smoke that bowl, a hookah, and then I wanna try Number 9.”

“It’s not to be taken lightly, now. This is serious shit, you know? It’s like concentrated peyote.” That’s Dutchie’s rhetorical tone, “This shit’s potent. It lasts a long time. It’s not like acid where you see some stuff here and there. This is, like, you’re in a different place, time. Abel told me today that he tripped balls thinking he was walking around Jerusalem with Jesus.”

“Yeah…okay…” I mumble as the bowl gets cashed, “Are ya gonna show me how to smoke out of the hookah?”

“You’re such a newbie.” Dutchie sneers.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I haven’t been doing drugs since I popped out of my mom’s nasty cunt.”

“Bitch…” He laughs out trying to be serious, “Don’t talk about my mama or her nasty pussy. Her stank ain’t none of your concern.”

Pax prepares the water pipe and soon it’s my turn. I watched everyone suck and hold and smile at each other like they just lost their virginities. I roll my eyes while Clay passes it to me. He can’t keep the smoke down and coughs all over the place, “I am the state!”

What the fuck? Where’d that come from?

I’ve no time to think more about it. It’s my turn and I do exactly what they do, “It’s not hittin’ right.”

“It’s ‘cause yah doing it wrong.” Pax accuses.

“I am not. I’m doing it just the way ya’ll did it.”

“No, yah got to breath it in.”

I try again with the same result, “I don’t like this. It sucks.”

“You’re not doing it right.”

“Pax.” I say coolly rising, “You say that to me one more time, I’m going to steal any children you may have and put them in a Salvation Army Hostel.”

“Oh, snap.” Dutchie giggles.

I wade a little in the creek, “How many snakes do you think are in here?”

“A shit bunch.” Dutchie takes off his shirt and begins messing with the leather pouch, “I had to buy these off Aaija today.” He points to a bundle of needles, “All clean.”

“Of course.” I say, but still…?

“Gather ‘round.” Dutchie motions and the boys make a circle saving a space for me between Pax and Patrick.

My heart flutters as a warning, but I quiet it down. I am going to do this and no one is going to stop me. I smile and take my place like a good little girl.

“Everybody’s on Facebook.” Dutchie likes talks when he does something intensive or constructive. Right now he’s pouring Number 9 into a bent spoon, “Everybody’s on Facebook, including prisoners. And you know they’re calling their mamma like, ‘So, what’s going on, Mom’?” He puts a lighter to the bottom of the spoon, occasionally stirring, “And she’ll be like, ‘Two people liked your picture of the old horse in front of the old barn in eighteen hundred and eighty. Uhhh…Dick Sergeant replied, ‘White power, brother, can’t wait til ya get out nicca. Keep your head up nicca’.” Carefully, he pulls the needle’s caps off and fill them with an extremely small amount. Five in total and he makes the rounds just like a junkie doctor.

Clay’s face turns red as Dutchie tightens the tourniquet around his arm. I don’t think he breaths until the needle’s done it’s business and the rubber band comes off. But his face is still red and he looks like he either needs to cry, fight, or fuck.

Patrick handles himself like a popsicle, stiff and silent.

“Yah all know now how I feel about needles…” Pax croaks out.

I grab his hand and rub his palm with my fingernails, “I’m right there with ya, but I’m still wilin’ to try. I’ll be right here beside you. Honest.”

He looks to Patrick and then gives a curt not towards Dutchie. He winces and for a second squeezes my hand into numbness. He gets through it looking shaken, but intact.

It’s my turn. I close my eyes, stick out my arm and say, “Think of England.”

“Fuck England. Think of Canada.” Clay calls.

First the band and I hate it instantly and squirm. Dutchie holds my arm and taps the crook of my elbow a couple of times, “Just breath…” And there’s the sting, but I try not to move until the rubber is gone.


I’m a little girl standing at the top of a grated metal porch connected to a dingy trailer in the middle of a wheat field. I know this place, I think.

I’m wearing a baggy white shirt and I’m staring down in the trunk of a shabby car. There’s a dead deer inside. A big buck with beautiful ivory antlers. Blood all gathered at his neck, bright but clotting.

Chris and Walty are standing on one side of its corpse while Dad is on the other side. They’re smiling with pride, Walty seems more jealous of Chris. Salty even being near him.

Mom is praising them. She’s shielding her eyes from the sun and she’s just so happy.

I’m not. I want to lick the deer’s blood and cry. I curl my small hands into fists, but I stay there staring at it.

Lick the blood, smear it over my fingers. Lick the blood, lick it. Laugh. Laugh really, really hard.





My skin is in flames when the water touches me. My heart is thumping so loudly that it could crack open my chest if I just flicked my fingertip the right way. I am overcome by the stillness over the creek. I could faint. Drown.

The sun is going to sleep leaving all us animals to howl and eat out here in the wilderness. The last rays of sunlight seem to be sitting on the leaves like small beams in the shape of fairies. Sharp eared creatures made of mini-infernos.

But this feels like purgatory. Doldrums…?

“Come on!” Patrick is waving to me as everyone is running into the woods, “The braves are waiting!”

This urge, the pull comes over me and I feel like I’m being led to heaven. I’m running, splashing, and forcing myself at full pace towards him. He turns around and we are wild. We run through the woods with our hearts beating to one rhythm that spins in our souls.

I hear the call of our ancestors and we are in an empty valley. The hills seem so familiar, but I don’t recognize them. Clay is standing by a vibrant tree eating a juicy apple. I want one, I want to go to him, but I can’t. The pull is too strong and I start running again.

Patrick and Pax are hooting and hollering with Wood indian warriors screaming out in joy with them. All around us they sing in a language I’ve never heard. I don’t understand them, or my friends, it’s irrelevant. Nothing matters now. Nothing except the pull and the run…


“It’s a 1950’s family friendly coming of age story about deep family incest and Johnny Checkers does the whole soundtrack and makes a cameo appearance. It’s Family Style Number Two.”

Why do they keep going on about Johnny fucking Checkers?

My head is killing me as I weakly open my eyes. I can’t even grunt. My cheek peels away from the leather upholstery of The Beast’s backseat with SLURTCH. I untangle my legs from Pax’s and my arms I yank from beneath Patrick’s torso. Dutchie and Clay are cuddled on the front seat. It’s so fucking hot and the air is so sticky. The whole thing is nauseous.

I root around in Pax’s jeans and fetch and cigarette and matchbox. I light one with wobbly arms and faltering wrists, “Where the fuck are we?”

Patrick peeks over the window with heavy lids, “A parking lot.”

“But where?”

Dutchie and Clay shift positions and Clay clears his throat, “Gramps’ Adult Film Store.” He reads the white board sign with the huge red letters, “I feel like a hammer came down on my head.” He sounds tired, wasted.

“This is a sleazy shit hole, we need to get out of here.” Patrick grumbles, curling under his shirt as if it were a blanket.

I nudge Pax and he slowly rolls over with a booming, “Fuck!” And he and Dutchie switch seats by climbing over the driver’s side.

The Beast roars to life like a kitten with emphysema. Everyone starts smoking except Patrick. He only smokes weed and speaking of, he’s rolling a jay up right now, “I saw some fucked up shit.” His voice is a shadow of it’s former strength.

No one says anything. No one needs to. The radio, which had woken me up, is still droning on about some weird ass movie, but we all seem so worn out. Bags are under every eye, including mine I’m sure. Our skin somehow sour like spoiled milk. Our eyes darker, but passioned all the same. We’re different now.

I glance out the window long enough to see a stand of some kind and blurt out, “Go back! Go back…back there!”

Pax finds a place off road and turns around. I feel frantic as he approaches the little wooden bench. A young Wood indian man sits on a stool surrounded by blandly weaved blankets. He smiles at us and nods as The Beast comes to a halt.

I get out having to pace myself. On further inspection, I see he also sells jewelry, but I don’t care for it. I look at the blankets instead. I want to say something, but I can’t think of anything.

I am lovingly, choking, smothered by his scent. It’s something ancient, sickly sweet and covering every inch of my being. I’ve become infected by him. Addicted. Is there any such thing as a healthy narcotic?

I see it already, but like most distasteful things it is ignored.

“Holy shit, you guys.” Dutchie has his serious tone on.

“What?” We ask in creepy unison.

“We’ve been out here for four days.”

“What?” I’m shocked.

“I just checked my phone, for real. We’ve been out here four days.” He’s laughing.

“I don’t believe you. Let me see your phone.” I demand.

“Okay, but you’ll just see what I did. No joke.”

I see it for myself, “Jesus Christ, he’s right. We have! We’ve been out here for days!”

“What did we do?” Clay is completely bewildered.

“You know,” the blanket and jewelry salesman speaks up in a pleasantly wavering voice, “You should never buy blankets off my people. You never know when we might strike back.”

And with that said, the man and his stand and his blankets are gone. I look to my boys, but they’re as closed and freaked out as I am. With the only sound of rustling clothes, we gather ourselves into The Beast and leave Painted Face Creek and even I, as curious as I always am, don’t look back.

Fat Land and Irrigated Bills


By: Myandra Wolfthorn



We grow




Over treetops

and useless



We grow

we eat

all things

all nature.

We’re beasts



We grow.

Fat Land and Irrigated Bills


The quantum immortality theory states that there is a chance you, as in you of the general public, may never die which in a collaborative paper by Professor U. S. Simpson states would create a multitude of parallel universes, that he believes would then domino effect a catastrophic flux throughout our universe and damage all multiverses.

And another paper by Professor Miranda Moss states that when we die our consciousness goes on to a parallel universe and we ‘wake up’ with memories from where we’d just been and the life we are now living.

In either case, I want to send out a collective surge to all my other Suzy Lee’s in every corner of space and time and have them all commit suicide at exactly the same moment because then none of us, especially me, would have to attend the art show tonight as we would be negating our natural existence.

I love painting and I like praise for my work like any other person, but I hate pretentious little art fags. They stick up their noses towards me, ignore my work, but then feel personally affronted when I don’t go to introduce my new collection.

It’s because I’m talented. I know that sounds conceited, but I’m pretty sure it’s true. They’re jealous of me because I live an actual life. I don’t try and maintain some air that I’m a down and out painter living off daddy’s money or some shit like that. No, when they look at me they see reality and that bothers them right down to their polished, name brand shoes. Of which, all of them say they don’t do name brands, but they do. They all do. All they do is lie, shop, and criticize actual people by saying they are not organic or authentic.

Artists are beautiful. Models are vain. Critics are morons. And art fags must die.

Unacceptable. What crap it all is. Endless, turgid crap. That’s what art is about today. No one is voicing any type of social concern or beauty. They’re just picking the bones or our fore fathers; Dali, Picasso, Rembrandt, and Spare. There is no meat there anymore, children! No meat! No sustenance!

I have a very busy day today and I feel it in my marrow as I get up and see that it’s well before noon.

But I am insecure and shallow just like them and even though I will hate it and hate how much they all love it; I will go and peddle my paintings like hot pussy on a cold corner.

I have become a whore for my art.

I rise and smoke a cigarette first. I want to smoke a couple of joints before I leave, but I’ll do it after my shower. I mean, I’d rather smell like weed then take a shower high. I’ve done it before and it makes me feel stupid. I forget what I’m doing, bask in the warm water over my back, and smile at myself for no reason other than I’m stoned. No, that won’t do me much good today to start off pretending I’m standing under some Bali waterfall.

I’m walking to the bathroom while my decor seems to follow my every step. The empty sockets of sugar skulls, the drawn out sighs of the unclean discontent of old paintings, and taped up posters from my former years as a black sheep, bah, bah, bah.

I toss the cigarette butt in the toilet and start the water. It seems like it takes forever for the hot water to kick in, but what can you except from government housing? Competence? I think not.

I wait until I hear the blurred rings of my telephone. With pursed lips, I open the trunk and unravel it from the blanket, “Hello?”

“Sally Long?”


“Hey, this is Phyllis…” Her voice is like undulating gravel, if that’s imaginable.

How does this fucking bitch always know when I’m about to get money?

“Oh, hi, Phyllis. How have you been?”

“Good, good. I was just looking at my calendar and saw you haven’t paid this month’s rent yet…mind, mind telling me about that?” Her voice makes me want suck a fucking gun.

“It’s only the third…”

“I know, I know. I just don’t want late payments. You understand, don’t you?” VULTURE. VAMPIRE. HARPY OF HELL.

“Yeah, well, I’m getting paid later. I’ll drop off the rent at the office.” Since it is government housing, I only pay twenty bucks, but twenty is a lot of money these days.

“Good, good. Alrighty, I’m glad to hear it. I’ll see you then.” She hangs up without even saying goodbye.

I fucking hate phones! I hate how people are so rude all the time!

Just calm down, take a shower, and smoke a little herb. Everything is going to be fine. Today is just another day. No different, no same.


I’m cleaned, dressed, and stoned with eyes as red as my peasant skirt. I’m standing in front of the canvas covered with rough ended gray fabric dried with hard casings of paint smears in multicolored carelessness. Karin told me yesterday what my space was and I already know exactly what I want to say in arrangement.

There comes a beating of a rhythm on my door and it sounds complicated and comical, “Come off it, Suzy Slope…come on downtown…” Pax starts singing and the beat becomes more bluesy, “Come off it, Suzy Slope…come on downtown…once yuer get that feelin’…” I walk over and lean unto the door, “Blues gone south…Come off it Suzy Slope…you best be comin’ down the road…come on, open yuer door…”

There is a pause when I say, “I don’t want to. Keep singing.”

Patrick raps it lightly, “Come on, Suzy Lee, you’ve got stuff to do. We’ll get back to that later.”

I open the door and they come in looking indie suave. Patrick in a cream button up shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. His soft brown hair lays in waves like Jim Morrison, woeful. Pax swaggers in broad-shouldered and dominating. His leather pants are blacker than black and his dark grey shirt tight over his muscles. Heavy boots move over the wood flooring. How do I attract these beautiful freaks? Some girls get lucky in money, some in love, but I get to experience creation.

“You can stack em, it won’t hurt.” I say while they pick up five each.

I follow them closely, locking my door, and walking out to the car, “You guys walk too fast.”

“You’re out of shape.” Patrick says.

“So says the fucking sailor. Way to go, dick.” I groan in a simper I know just grates his nerves.

“Shut up, Suzy. You know you’re fucking pretty and you just flaunt it around. You know what you are? Another narcotic. It’s just what this town needs.”

I stop short of the car while they pack the canvases in the trunk of The Beast, “I’m sorry, Patrick.”

He turns around with a grimace, “Hey, I’m sorry.” He comes to me and wraps his arms around me. I inhale his wild scent and tug a curl from the back of his head. He jerks away with a smile, “Bitch, God! You know I can’t stand that!” He taps my shoulder and then opens the backseat door for me.

“Thank you, Jeeves.” I say as I climb in.


Death’s Head Art Gallery is on the corner of Death’s Head Street and Vieux Market Villa in all three stories of a rounded, mostly windowed building made of old red stone slabs. A wrought iron cage domes the top like it’s Frankenstein’s castle or something. Such fancy things for such small things. This place could hold dying people, sick children, an orphanage, but no. It’s for art and that makes my belly queasy.

I pull the glass door open for Pax and Patrick as they bring in my work, “It’s the two back walls, the ones that are slanted…yeah…” I call after them, but they already know where they’re going.

I follow them feeling the cinders scattering in my stomach. I think I’m going to be sick. Why am I so paranoid?

Two guys stop me on my way, both short with dark Welsh features, “You S. L. Long?”


“I’m Walt,” The one wearing a red hat says before pointing a thumb towards the man beside him, “This is Jesus. Just tell us where you want em placed and we’ll do it.”

Frame monkeys, “Oh, okay.” I bluff, “Follow me?”

“Sure thang.” Walt sounds like he’s from South Hill, Kentucky and that’s a totally different kind of corn fed.

Patrick passes me without a goodbye, but Pax leans in and kisses me on the head, “We’ll pick you up for the hop.”

“Tell Patrick to act a little less excited, will ya?”

He smirks, but follows Patrick who waits impatiently by the door. He waves quickly at me and they’re gone like mist at two in the afternoon.

One of these days, I’m gonna cut that motherfucker. He is such an asshole.

I head towards my space and begin, “So, uh, Jesus, Walt, I don’t want these uncovered. There’s a string already in back, no frames. I don’t actually need help. I can do this by myself.”

Walt nods, “There’s a sculpture thing going on the roof and they could use some extra hands, but if you need us…”

“I’ll know where to look.” I say, but I won’t be needing them.

I watch them walk on and take a step back to look at my space. I do have the best one tonight and while that makes my pride swell, but this means I’m the highlight of the evening. This happened only once before and I flubbed it up because I was drinking to cover my nerves, but then…well, I ended up tearing my series with a machete. I still don’t know how or when I got the machete, but that’s what I hear happened. I think Dutchie exaggerated it because if I’d done something like that, I don’t think I’d be allowed back. Ever.

I’m cold. I’m always cold. My fingertips forever frozen. I hear footsteps coming towards me with grandiose intent and then there’s a, “Suzy Lee!”

I don’t want to acknowledge them because I want to get this set up and drink, “Hey…”

“Whoa, I’m taken back by your enthusiasm.” Jonah kidds.

I’m going to be accosted by Olivia St. Jean swank, New York City clothes in that bohemian-goth perfection. Every time I think I’ve got my shit together, here she comes to just blow me out of the water and I suddenly become her very own knock-off brand. It’s what everyone thinks.

I turn carefully and smile as best as I can, but I can’t look at her. She is stunning and I am her inferior mocking. Her bright red hair falls in soft tumbles and her hazel eyes are sleepy, but she’s as alert as a shark, “Hey, Olivia!”

She nods, toking on a long black clove, “Hiii…” Her voice is an extended version of her scorn.

“So, you got the back wall? Impressive.” Jonah moves closer to me in his cologne and charcoal fingertips.

“Yeah, it’s pretty cool.”

“I’m jealous, really jealous.”

“You shouldn’t be.” I quietly laugh out.

Berl Gowdy barrels towards us with Taylor Jewell in tow and we suddenly become a circle of artists and one muse. Olivia doesn’t have to say anything, just existing near me she steals my life from me one exhale at a time. Chipping away my self-esteem with her dispassion.

Berl pats me on the back like I’m his little brother, “What’s the new series called?”

“Um, The Walking American.” I reply.

“Doesn’t sound very provocative.” Taylor quips.

My sight narrows on him. God, he even looks trivial with his styled beard and hipster glasses. He is one boiling charade in that trendy sport coat and ‘Til Tuesday shirt tucked inside high watered khakis, “It isn’t meant to be.”

“Mine’s called Seven Years of Blood.” Berl tries to get my mind off the douche bag he calls friend, “I got really into Ivana Rinkhoff for a while and did a whole series about her bloodied ballet shoes.”

I’ve no idea what the hell he’s talking about, but I’m over the whole thing, “Yeah, I need to get these up. I’ve got to meet someone.”

Jonah is curled around Olivia, but he’s staring at me with unquenchable thirst, “Got a new lover, Suzy?”

I start hanging the paintings on the wall, “No, nothing that surreal.”

“You’re such a little pilgrim. So not subtle.” Taylor jests to Olivia over me.

“You’re a fucking cocksucker. How’s that for subtle, dick?” I swing around as I hang the last picture, “You fucking hipster weird ass poser, coming over here dissing me. You can’t even draw a stick figure, so fuck off!”

“Is there a problem?” Karin drifts to us in her flowing skirts and ethereal splendor. Her honey brown hair makes Sebastian Bach’s look like rat fur. Her enlarged lips so cosmetically altered smile entrances me, “Is everything alright?”

Everyone disperses, leaving me alone with the curator, “Yeah, it’s all cool.”

She nods, looking at me in suspicion, “I just don’t want tonight to end up like last time, you know?”

I agree sheepishly to everything she says until she’s done and leaves me alone as she moves onto some new local artist I don’t know.


I’m walking down Petite Rouge Street brown bagging the bottle of Old Elijah I bought at the King Co. It’s a hubbub, a hullabaloo of people antiquing and shuffling in and out of the little shops carrying bags and laughing about things I don’t know.

I have to keep my wavering down to a minimum or else I’ll bump into them and scare the buyer’s off because I know some of them are going to the art show. My work is fuck all, but I refuse to take money from the other artists. That would be an asshole move on my part and I’d carry the guilt with me for the next ten years.

I make my through the crowd with unease and severe tipsy anxiety to sit down in the gazebo of the elderly people’s private park. Everything is so two-dimensional lately. Black or white. What happened to all the gray?

I’m getting those pre-showing jitters. I have to maintain. I have to remain calm because right now I’d rather get into a fight at all male prison over the rules of playing pool.

I guess that would be an invite to rape. Still, I think I’d prefer that to tonight. The judgement, the scrutiny I’ll face for the images I create on a canvas. I feel sick again and so I rise and circle the park when I hear a sobbing from around a corner of the retirement home.

I stop short and glance past the bricks to see a woman sitting on the sidewalk. She’s cradling her face as a man rests beside her. All I see is arms and a tramp stamp of a colorless butterfly, “I can’t leave him, Jamie…I jus’ can’t. He doesn’t mean to hit me, he jus’ can’t help it…he’ll get help.”

“Yeah, stay with a guy that caves your face in. Do you know how ignorant that sounds? Leave him or else ya gonna end up blowin’ his brains out with that sawed off shot gun you stole from your step daddy who touched you when you were seven.” The man holding her sounds all too happy at the words flying out his mouth.

Jesus God, that’s cold blooded and all she does is cry harder. The inevitable truth I feel is that this girl will never leave him and it will spiral until he cheats on her and then they all become reality television stars. This world is getting all sorts of fucked up.


I stroll into OddBall Orchid and my drunken senses are struck by the obtrusive floral perfume and all natural makeup. I recognize the clerks, but I have never cared enough to ask their names. One is a middle aged woman with a sharply trimmed blonde bob and the other is a younger girl closer to my age with long, black hair and glasses. Her freckles are so dark that they nearly maul her tanned skin like peanut butter and dark chocolate candy cups.

I shove the bottle in my backpack as the older woman springs a brightly, “Hello!”

I wield a silent response and walk deeper in the store. I can’t afford any of their new age jewelry, the tarot cards, and all the other newfangled things my heart covets when I enter this particular establishment. I yearn for one of everything, but I try as hard as I can to ignore it all.

Instead, I travel to the back where the clearance section is. Mostly, it’s the stuff that doesn’t sell so they mark it down, but it’s like an intelligent shoplifter’s dream. And they have to know I’ve been stealing books off them for years, but not once has anything ever been said.

I turn the corner and instantly my eyes seek out a small, slender gray book titled The Cleansing Hand of The Master; A Simple Guide to Dominant and Submissive Behavior. I pick it up in a feverish and fiendish way and peruse it’s pages with hungry glances.

“Do you like Amelia Jefferson’s work as well?” An orphic voice, like from an angel’s choir.

I am docile in my inspection and there stands a tall, lean man wearing leather pants and a tight, black shirt. He is youth incarnate with a frame of golden mane and thick black eyeliner circling the palest set of blue eyes I’ve ever peered into. A narrow nose and gentle, angular features casts a villainous spell, “What?”

“Amelia Jefferson? She wrote the book.” He holds up a copy of the book I’ve been studying.

I swallow hard and feel the outpouring of want easing over me, “She, um, she writes those vampire books too, doesn’t she?”

He sneers, “Yeah, but that’s just teen fluff. Her real masterpiece is The Lady Grey Diaries.”

“What did you just say?!”

“The Lady Grey Diaries. Even though she’s local, I’m not surprised you’ve never heard of her before.” He puts the book back down on the table and tinkers around with some low priced chain necklaces.

Lady Grey….I’m shocked. I turn the book over, but there isn’t a picture of the author. Disappointed and feeling this strange unsettling fall over me, I peek over some of the other books.

“If BDSM was your first preference, you won’t like any of the other books. They’re acutely tame.” He says in a bored tone, but he glances at me with mischief, “Would you like to step in the bathroom with me and snort a dennie?”

My lips part and before my filter can kick in, I say, “Hell yes, I would.”

We walk together to the unisex public bathroom and I close the door behind us. The room is large but the owners’ homely touches make it seem almost personal. Down to the incense burner on the back of the toilet.

He reaches in his pocket and holds a sleek, silver object and crushes a pill within it. His fingers are nimble as he taps the powder out on the counter by the sink. He starts clearing his nose and with a card he separates the powder into two fat lines, “Do you have a straw or a dollar bill?”

I shake my head, restlessly. I’m riddled with aches and pains I can’t explain and I feel like I’m going to fucking puke right there in the toilet.

He pats his back pocket and gets a hundred dollar bill out. Rolling it up tightly, he snorts a line. He stands as straight as a board and rubs his nose frantically with a cheap weirdo crack. Handing me the bill, I snort the other and we stare at one another for a few minutes in a hanging empty feeling, as if everything is vast and expanding all at once before he shakes his head and goes for the door.

I’m standing there in bewilderment, “Thank you, Sir.”

His fear of God eyes review me with pure dishonor, “No problem. It was no problem at all.”


The walk home was a revolting maze of electricity and melting lollipops with it’s sticky goo dissolving over God’s face while I tripped hardcore down back alleys. Mutant babies being eaten by homeless men…maybe it was fried chicken, maybe it was nothing.

I feel like less than nothing. I am nihility, obliteration of the highest order. Weakly and with capacious pupils I pull myself together enough to get ready. I can’t even monkey around with the weed on the table, my brain is over simulated as it is.

Denexatrine is like prescribed cocaine. It numbs all the important things while still giving you enough knowledge of mobility and the ability to form vague sentences. Some people call them seventies, some call them dennies, but the hardcore users call them…constantly.

And you’ll know the look of a Denexatrine addict because the whites of their eyes turn a shade of pale yellow and there lies a stiff stupidity in their movements. But to people like me, who rarely fuck with them, there are no signs. Simply, a feathery light presence around others.

I think night is coming on and I’ve got to get ready, but I’ve fallen down in the shower twice.

God, girl, get your shit together. Come on, it’s just some booze and a pill, you’re being ridiculous right now.

Silly, too silly.

I blunder around after scrubbing myself until I can’t feel my skin anymore. My clothes have to be so-so tonight. I can’t look too good or I’ll stand out, but I don’t want to appear to be one of Taylor’s ilk. I’m no kin of that flabbergasted wind bag.

A simple black button up with sleeves to the elbow and a pair of bell-bottoms. My boots will do just fine and I’ll wear that burgundy scarf. It’s all coming together. I glance at myself in the mirror to see if the water from the shower didn’t mess me up too bad. It just seems like I got a little buzz on which means I’ll really fit in.

I sit on the sofa and wait for my boys to pick me up. I chop up some weed with a pair of miniature scissors and pack the sheet metal pipe. I’m going to have to go in there and take off the covers and everyone is going to be staring and judging. They’re going to know all my secrets and I am ashamed.

The Walking American, how he laughed smugly at my babies. Ew, that just crawls on my nerves. Why do artists have to be so filled with condescension and egos? I don’t think I’m that way, but shit…I may be and not realize it.

And not one person is gonna buy my paintings. They’re going to look at them as if they’re scrape.

They won’t understand them. The irony I’m trying to get across. They won’t understand me and they’ll know my fucking secrets! My anger is flaring up and trying to get the better of me. I have to choke it down or it will take over my night and my art may never be shown again.

Would that be such a bad thing?

There’s a knock on the door and I hear a holler, “We’re all gonna die sometime, Suzy Lee, are you gonna die tonight or tomorrow?!”

I put the pipe down and run across the floor to open the door. Pax scoops me up so fast, he leaves me breathless, “Ah! Ya excited, lil darlin’?”

I know there’s a plastered grin on my face, but I’m crumbling inside, “It’s gonna be fun, I can feel it.”

I follow Pax to The Beast and get in the backseat while Clay is in the passenger’s, “Where’s Patrick?”

“He borrowed Victoria’s car to take Elaina.”

“Elaina’s gonna be there?”

“Yeah, why?” Clay doesn’t understand it, or sense it, but I’m seething like a simpering, capricious child.

I shrug carrying on my lightweight facade, “I haven’t met her yet.”

“Oh, she’s real nice…”

“You say that about everyone, Clay.”

And it’s true, he really does. It’s a mark of his genuine belief that all people are good, I suppose.

I think everyone is full of shit until I see the bag rip open. Hellfire.


I tread into a chaotic interment camp. Everyone is scrambling to finish touches and straighten edges. The girlfriends all stand huddled smoking cloves and cigarettes they roll for fun and look at their surroundings with disdain, but secluded jealousy. Pax and Clay mingle with Jonah and I think I see Patrick, but I can’t tell through the crowd.

I march my happy ass to the back wall and begin unveiling the portraits one at a time;

The Life of Long Tall Sally, I saw a proud, leafy marijuana stalk rising high against the clouds one sunny day in front of the abandoned Cotter drug house. It was last summer walking over in West Port, closer to that hideous one-story school, I can’t remember it’s name now. I remember the feeling from that day, it was warm and I was kind of sweating, but it was healthy. I just felt good. And it was so tall and luscious and it just seemed to tell me her name was Sally. However, she bore no bud, but lordy she was fine.

American Monarch, no joke, a band of hillbilly gypsies moved in across from Bear at the trailer park and they raised some hellaciously amazing parties. All weekend nothing but grilling, screaming, flat foot dancing, cheating, dates, swapping, stabbings. They were all encompassing and they sucked the park of it’s life and then they were gone after six months. They took all the piping, stripped anything that they could make money from. And this picture, the dancing men in their ripped jeans stained with oil cavorting about a wood and insulation fire drinking and loving on their women…I was there and it was a grand affair indeed.

God with Butterfly Wings, I was stoned and started to sketch a Cthulhu baby, but then it ended up being Satan with angel wings wearing a war helmut drinking whiskey with one hand as he holds a machine gun in the other. At the time, I was listening to a lot of Joni Mitchell. Go figure.

Waiting to Wait, I saw two old hobos sitting at a bus stop and there was this look on their faces. I couldn’t even tell if they knew each other or if they felt anything at all. They were vacant spaces of former men. I stood there sketching them on an envelope of an old bill long enough to know that neither were waiting for anything but to die.

Toothache and A Cigarette, I saw a seven year old girl smoking a cigarette outside a laundry mat. She barked at me…and I was scared.

Over Gravel and Under Sky, I was walking drunk around town and it was around dawn when I came across a drug deal going on between two Monte Carlos. I ducked down behind a building, but the fear of being shot burnt itself on me. There was nothing but gravel along the train tracks and the trees were coming up like flames and the air rushing through me never felt so real.

Little Succubus Blues, I had a dream of a woman weeping in her hands every night for week and if I didn’t see it with my own eyes, I would have gone insane. Just black and white, she sits on a rock crying into herself all alone.

I turn around and the world induces.


I’m standing on one side of Patrick while Elaina and Olivia talk amongst themselves with Elaina asking, “What do I get?”

“You get someone’s pilfered baby.”

What the fuck? Everyone’s chatter is one loud undercurrent to the music coming over the speakers. There are clouds of perfume and dustings of cigarette ash falling down suit coats and the backs of their women’s dresses made vintage, ordered offline.

“What do you think of her?” Patrick whispers.

“Are you talking about your linebacker, I mean…lady?” I ask, sipping my scotch.

“Aw, now that’s not fair.” Patrick pokes my waist and I inadvertently giggle as he says, “I played football and one time I told this guy Dion, who was a real dick, that I hated him and my dad made me stand on the corner for two hours. Never told a black guy I hated him again.”

“People shouldn’t write me hate mail if they can’t spell. That’s just bleeding ignorance otherwise.” Olivia practically announces with a wave of scarlet hair.

“For grammar is the hand that holds the blade known as my silver tongue.” I speak lowly and she she rolls her eyes.

Patrick parades Elaina around the gallery to look at the paintings and drawings and I gloat at her bouncing around in that poorly designed purple silk and black lace corset and black denim miniskirt. I want to jump on her and throttle her until her implants stop heaving. Where the fuck does Patrick meet these bimbo barbies?

“Oh, Suzy Lee, have you met Lathan Barnett?” Olivia questions me with a sudden rekindled flame in as she pulls the lanky fellow to her side.

“No, I haven’t had the privilege.”

Her eyes are so bright and her stare could go on forever. It looks like Miss Perfect Muse has found another artist she wishes to cap. Jonah will be another emotional trauma like the string of former good men before him.

Lathan’s regard is noble and tense as he seems to be looking within me, “Let’s try to conjure Satan.”

“No, it’s Friday. It needs to be like a Wednesday or something.”

He shuffles his Mod boots awkwardly, “Yeah, you’re right. Friday is probably his downtime. It’s the day he’s half goat or some shit and we don’t want to conjure the devil for an intricate threesome while he’s still half goat.”

“Which means we can’t die on Friday either.”

“For true.”

Olivia is affronted by our odd wit and her queenliness falters just a sliver to witness herself, “I’ve got to see where Jonah went.”


Pax is standing about four feet from The Walking American with an inquisitive appearance. I stand there with him for a few minutes before I have to ask, “Well, what do you think?”

“It looks like my daddy abused me all through little boy time.”


He’s being vexatious with me and I loathe it, “I’m sorry. I really like them. Truly. They’re wonderful. Your best work so far.”

I don’t want to ask or know, but I have to, “Which one’s your favorite?”

“Hmm, I don’t know, but I really like that crying girl. She kinda looks like ya.”


“Yeah, it kinda looks like ya…”

My eyes go directly to the painting and I feel so embarrassed. Oh my God, there I am bleeding in front of everyone. It is me…I painted myself!

“Ya didn’t see it, did ya?” He lays an arm over my shoulders.

“I can’t even look at it.” I bow my head to the floor as there is ruckus at the entrance.

Melito Arliss swivels in followed by his groupies. He is style manifested. A top hat settled atop long, glossy hair. I’m sure he would be the very vision of gothic culture in his skintight suit, but he’s too civilized. There’s too much clean cut Italian-American boy with those gaunt features.

And there the mystery man from OddBall Orchid strides up through the gathering to stand by Mr. Arliss. They chatter idly over Jonah’s series with taut control beneath black mesh and leather. He looks positively nefarious…

I duck behind the fountain as they begin touring the show and yes, I’m aware of the fact that I’m a total basket case.


“Well, I’m gonna check out Berl’s stuff. Looks pretty good. Meet me in a minute?” Pax needles an agreement from me as he walks away.

I feel helpless and pristine, alone in the crowd as usual. I light up a cigarette butt and immediately question where everyone is flicking their ashes. Probably in some Art Deco monstrosity that’s staring me right in the face, but is somehow disguised as a dog or a swan. I just ash in the fountain sitting in the middle of the room.

There is a brush against my arm. I look left and see nothing, I look right and there he is…and his smile is incorrigible, “Hey, there.”

I blush and already feel like I’m fumbling downward, “Hi…”

He holds out his hand with a laugh, “I’m Diamund Helmsley.”

Everything clicks together in my mind and the nerves are on fire, “Ohhh….you’re the one all the chicks call Master Diamund down at Madame Du Bree’s, aren’t you?”

I’ve made him bashful as he demurely rubs the back of his head, “Yes, yes they do.”

“Why are you being so shy? There’s no shame in being a…dominatrix?”

“A dom. I’m a dom.”

“That’s fascinating.” I lick my lips, curious on how well he could abuse me.

“What are you doing after this?”

“Oh, I’ve got nothing planned.”

Diamund leans into my ear and kisses it softly, “American.” The word is almost inaudible, so breathless and rootless. He’s nearly across the room when I finally open my eyes and see that he’s gone. Phantom touches, as if he wasn’t there in the first place, but I can still sense the lingering.


Makayla Keeton busts in like a drunk fairy, white trash slag. It’s amazing how animated small people are. She’s practically climbing the walls and bumping into people, but everyone enjoys her. They call her a delight and her presence is heralded among the groups as a good sign.

I see her as the cooze she is. She may be a model, and she may be seen as the ultimate social butterfly, but she’s just another overly opinionated snob who doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She’ll agree, but mostly disagree with anything that’s voiced to her. No matter if it does or does not exist.

Melito Arliss has the largest entourage, but Makayla leads the other. And Dino and Wren follow in her retinue with thunderous abuse ready to spew from their offhanded tongues.

I stand back in anonymity smoking a cigarette by the fountain with a tightened poise.

“Like she could paint her way out of a paper bag.” Makayla judges and moves on.

“Talentless.” Dino booms out in a voice so loud most people around him look over to see what’s going on. His shifting eyes make sure he was heard too, the weasel.

“She gets around.” Wren the ever-gossip.

What the hell does that have to do with anything?

I feel that perversion swarming in my stomach. How abysmal! These people, this place, right now! This time! Why couldn’t I have had a calling to something less apt for self-wreckage? It’s the damned determination I’ve got over this shit. If I don’t do it, I know I will die and it will be out of fear and love.


“Hey, bitch! How’s it going?” Dutchie stands beside me looking like one hot mess, but I can’t sheriff him or want him anymore.

He’s my Achilles heel, my drug, my unsurpassable weakness. And while my body reacts to him with an overwhelming magnitude, my mind is appalled, and my heart is locked away.

I hug on him sadly, “I just want to go home, Dutch.”

“Do you want to go to bed?”

“Yeah, mostly because I don’t wanna wrestle with my bra.”

“Aw, it’s been that kind of night?”

“I don’t know how, Suzy, your shit’s like fucking gold.” Pax declares.

I shake my head wanting to cry, “No. No.”

“I’m serious.” Pax comes to stand directly in front of me, “It’s all everyone’s talking about.”

Dutchie bumps my arm with his fist, “Let’s go smoke.”

We meander through the congregation with Dutchie and Pax saying quick hellos to people I’ve never seen before. Elaina is clinging onto Patrick’s arm and sharply dragging behind him in chunk heels with a tee-hee along the way.

“Did ya see the exhibit on the roof?” Pax is astonished.

Clay lights a cigarette, “We shoulda gone up there to get high…”

“We need to go to the arboretum and get baked, aimless around, you know?” Dutchie bangs himself against the dumpster and lights up a fat fucking joint. He hits it and it flames a blue for just a second before it calms down, “I dipped it.”

“In what?” Elaina asks with cherub cheeks.

She may be with Patrick tonight, but Dutchie sizes her up with those stormy black eyes, “PCP.”

“FUCK YES!” Patrick screams.

“Shush! Shut the fuck up, dude!” I whisper harshly.

I lean up to see if anyone from the roof is looking down in curiosity, but I don’t see anyone in the darkened sky.

Dutchie is a cool customer when he smokes, Patrick is an excitable ball, Elaina holds it between two press on nails to pink lathered lips, “Is this gunna make us see shit?”

“No, well, maybe. It depends on the person.” He’s so fucking sly it makes me sick.

Pax hits it with admiration and panic, Clay inhales so deeply he coughs up slime on the side walk, but I got the joint before all that. I toke it and taste nothing particular. I think I’ve slaughtered my tastebuds by all the unfiltered cigarettes, “Well, you know that’ll happen if you have an unbalanced load…”

“Oh cheer the fuck up, Suzy Lee. You’re starting to look like that old gay friend. Better don your makeup, honey.” Dutchie’s banter is so thrilling.

“Cheer up?” I ask with a stoned smile, “Fact, the state of Ohio is leading with the most presidents, astronauts, and serial killers. How cheerful is that?”

“If you don’t eat oats…FUCK YOU!” Patrick screams in Elaina’s face.

She tears up and covers her face as she runs off into the alleyway, “Fucking pillbillies!”

“She thinks we do pills?” I question.

“We do do pills, Suzy Lee.” Dutchie, ever quick on the draw….the bastard.


I’m dangling on Pax’s arm as we come floundering through the doors. There’s no one inside except the artists getting their leftover paintings down from the walls. Some will keep them up for any buyers that walk through one day.

Vacant noise hangs over the air in a heavy cloud. Debris consisting of cigarette butts, crinkled pamphlets, and a few paper cups line the floor. Such disregard, such wastefulness.

I rub my arms from a twitch inching through my veins, “I bet mine are all still there.” My frown is firmly until I see the back wall is empty, “Karin! Hey, Karin?!”

She drifts over on a cloud of paisley skirt and the clicking of organically made, hypo-allergenic sandals, “I’ve been looking everywhere for you. I…”

“Where are my babies?” I know my eyes are as big as saucers and I hold this urge to vomit and crawl beneath bulky blankets to sleep for eternity, “Where are my paintings?”

“Wel’…they were sold.” My shock must be clearly there on my face because she taps my shoulder, “Every single one. Sold.”


“Congrats!” Clay pipes up with a clap on the back.

“Who the fuck bought them?” Images of my babies sitting in attics collecting dust scorch my ever living thoughts. I grab my stomach in a nervous frenzy of internal angst.

Patrick leans in with a, “Nice job, Suzy.” And a nod of approval from Elaina who is suspiciously closer to Dutchie. There’s poison in my well.

Karin holds out a check to me for one thousand and two hundred and fifty dollars and my jaw drops to the floor.


I’ll have enough money for rent! For dope! For shit! I’m smiling as I walk to the Ole American Pub, the hot spot for three a.m. munchies attacking a desperately weakened and wasted individual such as myself.

This tiny two story cinderblock building attracts the greasiest of the greasy. All spawn rejected from the night gather here in an attempt to collect their thoughts, enjoy decent food, and calm their rattling nerves from whatever they were into previously. Queer spooks in dusted leather coats and dirty jeans, people with worn out eyes jaded and tired, and the scent of something vaguely burnt lingers on the breeze.

I open the door and his eyes seek me out. I am instantly ensnared by temptation. His back straight and a hand brushing back the blonde hair from his heart shaped face. His grin is forceless and hindered only by the private optimism I can see there in those eyes when he looks at me.

I sit opposite him and I’m trapped there on the spot by his gaze. They’re so acute and bitterly blue that timidity singes my heart. He takes a hit from his cigarette and his hair falls back in his face, “Holy fuck, Mary Poppins. Meeting you tonight put me in such a good mood that it’d make June Cleaver puke.”

“Day time drinking, because it’s always an option.” I feel meek and under scrutiny as I light my own cigarette.

“Like a valley of the dead, corpses everywhere thrilling and chilling you like a creeped out, real life maniacal forest.”

I laugh out smoke, “You’re high.”

“Yeah, what of it?”

“Nothing, you’re just being funny. That’s all.”

“Your face is funny.”

I chuckle from shock, “It’s not really polite to criticize your date’s face.”

His palm is spread over the table by his coffee cup, “Are we on a date?”

“I don’t fucking know. Are we?” I counter.

“When I die, fire shall consume the earth…”

“Nero said that.” I answer.

He’s practically screaming satisfaction sitting there like a spoiled child, “Yes, this is a date.”


Pray The Day Ain’t Poison


By Myandra Wolfthorn

I’m running away
leaving this place
for fucking good
I’m done with


No more
eco babble
bed times
helping hands
hurting hands
no more
no more

No more.

Pray The Day Ain’t Poison


Bear’s phone doesn’t ring. Instead, it sings out a valkyrie like tune and for a moment I actually thought I was on a World War II battlefield somewhere in Europe. Bastogne! I was dreaming of course, however, now that I’m awake I don’t want to move. My body is so sore and I know there’s a crick in my neck. I know it before I even shift.

I’m lying on my back with a flat pillow beneath my head. The ceiling fan is barely scraping the staled party air around. Bear’s Pappy looks down on me from his war portrait with an all-knowing smile as if to say, “I told yah not to drink so much.” But he didn’t tell me anything. He’s been dead now fifteen years and even if he had advised me not to drink too much, I wouldn’t have listened and I think that’s why he smiles at me now in that way that I’ve never noticed before.

Am I on the sofa or the floor? Move your arm, Suzy Lee, and find out.

I flick my finger and even that hurts, but I feel the soft suede of couch. At least my back won’t be killing me for days. As many drugs as I’ve been taking recently, I don’t think I’d feel anything anyway.

Jesus, I’m tired. I think I passed out about four in the morning. Bear and Clay were still watching some Vietnam movie and Earle had been sitting in the corner hand rolling cigarettes in that ever present toboggan of his.

I need to know what time it is.

I blink my eyes hard and lean up. My head is spinning like a record and I have to stop and look down at my skirt before forcing my eyes to meet the clock. Dang, it’s only five-thirty in the morning.

Who the fuck was calling? Probably, Casey, that crazy bastard. He calls Bear a minimum of five times throughout the night. Oh well, at least I know I’ve been asleep for about an hour and a half and Clay told me that shortcut between Port Alex and West Port, so I can walk back home in less than an hour. Taxis are for queers, don’t ya know?

I carefully step over Earle who’s curled in a ball on the floor cuddling a pillow. I stumble on the other side of the sofa. Oh my God, I’m still so drunk. I can’t tell if it’s my head or the room, but one of us is circling nearly out of control. I close my eyes and focus on my aching body and blink until I feel secure in opening them. My little black backpack has found it’s way in my hand. Maybe it was there the entire time?

All the dogs are in the pin out back, so I don’t feel the need to hurry out the door once it’s opened. Which is good, because the brightening morning sun and mist make my entire body hurl backward like a vampire. I want to hiss and snarl, curl back on the couch as previously positioned, but no, I can’t be so trepidatious.

I step out and meet the sunup with a stupefied glaze and half eaten wit. Last night, I looked fine. My mini-skirt was tight in all the right places. As Marilyn Monroe once said, “Your clothes should be tight enough to show you’re a woman, but loose enough to show you’re a lady.” I like that. I’ve never cared for Marilyn Monroe. I’m a Mae West sort of person, but hey, when you’re right you’re fucking too right.

Now, with that said, let’s get back to the problem at hand. I know I was looking pretty decent last night, but now I look like a semi-homeless crackhead hooker in downtown L.A. who just come in from a rough night with a guy in the back of a butcher’s shop and I’ve got to walk (in heels) all the way to my apartment in Port Alex.

The short cut is along the highway so, somehow I’ve got to get back to that white slum without being picked up by a cop or worse. Funny thing is, I didn’t smoke crack and I know for sure I’m not a prostitute, but cops just want to fill their quotas so tra la la, here an honest stoner who just wanted to dress up might be charged with prostitution.

Half an hour? I can do this. I don’t have the money for a cab, I’m out of smokes, except for a joint tucked in my bra, and a smeared look of drunken disdain. This might be fun.

I walk down Mainstrasse Corner, away from Bear’s beige and burgundy two-story All-American and stumble a little by the turn in the road. Why does it have to be so curvy out here? We should have straighter roads. West Port is like a mini suburb until the wilderness, cut off by deep hills.

I pass the Saint Appollonia Holy Catholic Church and wince-smile. The siding is a perfect alabaster, but the shutters to the otherwise unnoticed building are this fluorescent red with matching roof.

There was this guy named Lawrence Welk who lived down the street from Bear who went here every single day of his life. Then, his doctor told him he had cancer. So, he got a loan from the bank for like fifty thousand, I think, and got them that roof and those shutters and even then he bought a whole bunch of guns and died.

He’s kinda become our hero, a mantra we say before we drink, “And this is for Lawrence Welk for his fuck you to the man! And for all the bubbles!”

Because what’s a Lawrence Welk show without some bubbles?

I walk past the opening of Crooked Creek Holler and down a small patch of backroad that opens up to the highway. Not very busy compared to most cities, but the drivers go fast enough to give me a heart attack. Whizzing on by in their broken down steamers, fucking boys hanging off tractors, and primer grey pieces of shit and some even hoot and holler which scares me too. Even worse than cops are college guys.

Murdered? Maybe. Raped? For true. College guys are the worst. They come here because their rich mommies and daddies don’t want to spend the extra for their lower level classes at Harvard or Stanford. So, they just show up for a few years to get trashed and addicted to whatever is big at the moment and then leave. They cause total insanity every year.

However, there are the track guys running past my house every summer and that’s a pretty good pro.

Tottering down the highway. The sun is almost out and it’ll be a thousand and one degrees, but right now I’m shivering. My teeth hurt from the sharp seizing shivering crossing from my hands. Maybe the college guys will leave me alone. I kind of look like I been gang raped already.

I try to clean my face as best as I can. But really, I’m just smearing the eyeliner and mascara all around. I smoked all my cigarettes there. The silver plated cigarette holder tucked in the waistband of my shirt says so. Empty and my lighter’s fucking gone.

The heat is slow to come on, but by mid-journey it’s enough to make me get in my own bed before it gets any worse.

But, there on the corner of the highway where it cuts into immediate town is a bench with some Chinese advertisement pasted on except a few letters are scratched out and it says something about cumming from a penis. Whatever, I’m sitting down on that bitch.

My feet take rest as I look around on the ground. Cigarette butts line the place, but none of them are long enough. This fresh air is killing my lungs and the cars are rushing past me in hurried ways to get to jobs they hate. That reminds me, I need to get back to work soon. Ah, I will in a few days.

There’s a rumble from the small patch of back country and a man gets up from a pile of newspapers and leaves. He’s older with a bit of salt and pepper in his sandy colored hair and there is still some youth with his hallowed air superiority blue eyes. His clothes are baggy and don’t fit him at all. His pants are a faded Navy and hang from his frame like loose skin on the elderly.

He sits down beside me and smells like weed, piss, and cat food. Silently, he takes a crumpled pack of cigarettes from the inner pocket of his heavy coat and offers me one. I take one out, “Thanks, man. Who are you, the smokes fairy?”

He lights a cigarette and holds his lighter out for my own. We take a collective toke as he looks out over the highway, “I wanna be outta here by 2015. I mean no lie, I wanna be outta here by 2015. ‘Cause you know you got all these people and fucking retard weirdos from the eighties that were calm and shit. Well look, three generations are coming up, dude. These motherfuckin’ guys’ kids went on to college and had kids and did a good job, but the third generation are gonna pop out just like their grandparents and they’re gonna be like ‘I wanna DRINK and SMOKE SOME METH’ and it’ll be total fucking chaos. I can’t handle that shit. Like cicadas, man, they’ll come back ‘round, like every fifteen years and it’s right now and you know they ripe fast. It’s kinda like American Gypsy in way, like the AMERICAN MO-NARCH. Like a big fucking, like…Dio…fucking, like a big fucking Dio butterfly with fucking whiskey bottles and a fucking machine gun. You see what I’m sayin’? Smoking meth out of a motherucking tailpipe from a ’63 fucking Cornotto. Feel me?”

I’m about to die from laughter, “Yes.”

Fuck it. It needs to be said. Society is fucking unmanned. The fucking bridge is fucking open. Nobody’s driving the Enterprise. It’s going into the fucking moon. Fuck it.”

I nod and take a hit from my slightly bent cigarette, “And they’re all uncouth, low-crust, no tact motherfuckers.”

He agrees with a curt nod and gets up, “Nice talkin’ to you. Name’s Ford, Edward Ford.”

I shake his hand, “Suzy Lee. It was nice meetin’ you, Edward.”

He smiles with rotted teeth, but at least it’s pleasant, “Most people jus’ call me E.L., lil darlin’.”


My apartment door is made of heavy walnut. The finish is chipping away to reveal it’s all natural beauty beneath and if I touch it so-so I get splinters. The eight is crooked hanging only by a tack I put up there a few months ago, but to look upon it’s plastic molded over by silver is a welcome to me and my body.

My keys are inside on my dinning room table and I get my cigarette holder out from the band and slyly retrieve the pin which holds the clasps together. I wiggle the pin inside my lock until I hear it click. If I remember right, through all the weed haze, this is the third time I’ve broken into my place this week.

The door is barely closed before the heels come off. I fix my smokes holder and strip down all which traps me. My bed is calling my name. A kingsize on the floor smothered with thick blankets and fat pillows waiting for my head to settle upon them.

I collapse into them as my eyes swim still drunk.


Jesus God Almighty…” I roll over with a stiff body and a desperate need to shower. I smell like pot and vomit. My hair is hard from sweat and spilt bourbon and finished off with all the soot which collects between stoners and smokers at a small get together.

I sit up with a puffy feeling face and look over at the clock on my dinning table. The arrows over the inlaid peace sign tell me it’s around three. If I don’t get up and about now there will be no more early days and it’ll throw my entire schedule off track for work. Which I still can’t believe I’m not fired from, but then again it’s a sex shop. It’s not like it’s that big of a deal to not get your jerk off video that day and besides, we’re the only one in town. They can fucking deal or blow off.

I toss the covers aside and make my way to my cigarettes. I light the one I always make way ahead of time for my mornings after. I sit down with bare ass to cold chair and begin making smokes for my pilgrimage ahead. I put the tobacco from a small bag I carry in a piece of folded paper. I roll, lick, roll, lick. Such a process and you’d think I’d be good at this by now, but I’m not and most likely never will be. At best they look like flatworms. However, I have a regular cigarette rolling machine which I also use. I don’t want to run out like last time so I make two packs. One goes inside an old menthol pack of smokes from one of Pax’s visits and the other twenty go inside my special holder.

You can easily tell the difference between people who can afford pre-made cigarettes and ones who roll their own. Those who have money keep their cigs in their original pack. The ones who roll keep their’s in a case. Bear’s has a picture of Elvis Presley singing, Clay’s is black with a Spanish coin embedded on the clasp, and mine is silver with a fairy holding the moon. Mine is bent from lack of proper care, but America has taught me that these kinds of things represent who I am. So, I guess I’m pretty and a bit worked out of shape, but I can still hold what the world gives me within my bosom.

I rub my hands of any excess tobacco crumblings and walk to the bathroom. Almost as soon as I turn the water on, the phone rings a loud obnoxious volume and of course my apartment would be shitty because there is only one telephone jack and it’s in my bathroom.

It’ll take a minute to get scolding, so I open the trunk beneath my sink and there lays the phone vibrating a message to me wrapped in a black blanket. I just hate phones. I would much have my friends accidentally walking in on me naked or shitting than to hear this fucking thing, “Hello?”


Bastards hung up on me. I close the trunk, “Well, I’ve got better things to do anyway.”


The walk back is unceremonious. I didn’t dress up again, opting for jeans and a Hank Williams shirt I found at the Charity Store for two bucks and no heels either. It’s the fake Chuck Taylor’s for this girl. I wear my hair in pigtails with a bright red Irish cap sitting on top of my head.


I look up as a group of college guys yell at me. What the fuck is a hipster? Are they like teamsters from the ’60’s? Are they the kind of jeans I’m wearing? I hate that! I hate when people call me things I don’t know. I’ll ask Clay when I get back. He seems to know everything.

I light a cigarette and kick a can from my path, but stop dead in my tracks, “What the…”

There, not two inches from the tips of my toes is a heroin rig. Someone must of used it and then just chucked it out the window. Laid out in a small leather satchel open for the world to see. A needle, a spoon, a lighter, and some other miniscule odds and ends I wouldn’t be able to begin to know what they’re used for. One looks like a crooked swizzle stick used to stir coffee. I hover over it, amazed. I am truly in awe of such filth. The first time I saw one of these was at the lake about three years ago. They pop up every now and again, but it never surprises me. It just encourages my hatred against people and also makes me want to get high. Yes, let me show my anger by smoking pot and doing nothing. I’m a real harm, aren’t I? And I drink and I don’t even drive. What a parasite to society I am. Working, paying taxes, single, no kids, filling my lonesome with booze and weed with my best friends. How. Fucking. Awful.

This affirms I could be doing so much worse. I could be injecting homemade chemicals in my veins, driving around on the highways at two a.m. on a Tuesday, being burdened by some other kinds of demons. And then to throw my rig right there in the road. You know, every pothead has the tools they’ve fashioned themselves for whatever their equipment is. I have my pipe, The Tinman, and whatever I’ve found to clean that bitch called resin. A pair of nail clippers, a piece cut from a wire hanger, and a pen drained of ink with an extremely fine pointed end and it is all kept safely tucked away in a box with wolves howling at the moon printed on the wood. I call it The Howl, and I be damned if I tossed it out of a moving car. I spend hours manufacturing these items. Countless tries and miscalculations of what works and what doesn’t. Fuck that, junkies are a menace. An impolite menace at that. No care. They have no care, pride, or shame.

I take the path up past Crooked Creek and then turn the wide corner. I hear the neighbors across the way arguing and I know instantly where Bear and them are.


I climb up the steps of Bear’s front porch where he sits in the recliner known as the Throne of Bloody Bill. It is the most apprehensive of reds and the helmet he wore during the war sits beside him on top of the headrest. His tags are around his neck, but I’ve seen them up close.





A bullet hole makes the rest of his numbers unreadable, but he knows them by heart.

There is a table on his right with a seashell shaped ashtray filled to the teeth of cigarette butts and roaches and a Muddy Waters commemorative plate full of utensils used solely for the purpose of getting high. Which is how Muddy would have wanted I’d think.

Clay sits on the other side of the table holding his ever present cigarette. I swear, the man must smoke three packs a day. It amazes me how smooth his voice still is, but he’s hitting the ranks of Tom Waits and Mark Lanegan when he sings these days.

I take up the seat next to Earle who is rolling a hog leg sized joint as I ask, “When did they start arguin’?” Because it just sounds like babble flowing through the airwaves at the moment.

Clay adjusts himself in the seat, “Well, I come out here for a smoke break and Yolanda just screamed out all you want is MONEY and I was like ‘all hell, gotta get Bear’.”

We stop talking and listen and we hear Yolanda slam the backdoor and Kizzy starts, “I told you she’d say that! Didn’t I tell you?”

How’s I spost know you’re keeping it!” Chris retorts in his all too odd accent.

Of course I’m a keep the baby! I can’t keep nothin’ while you go ‘round sticking your dick in everything!”

I told you, that was just a one night stand, baby.”

We laugh at their misery, but really…they’re the ones hooked on pills. HA! Hooked on Phonics….Shawnee County is Hooked on Pills!

Kizzy’s pregnant?” I ask in disbelief, “I didn’t think that was possible anymore.”

Bear shrugs his shoulders, “I guess so.”

Clay taps his ash out in his cigarette, “I guess her womb wasn’t polluted.”

I get the joke, but no, “You’ve seen that bitch right? Her womb is definably polluted. She’s like a fucking misshapen rug someone bought out of pity and it sits in the back hallway that no one goes down unless they need blankets from the utility closet. She’s not used very much, but the bitch is abused.”

More like the abuser.”

For sure, Bear.”

There is a pause in the conversation before Earle says, “Yeah, we thought you’d gone off and died somewhere.”

What?” I ask.

Well, we woke up and you were gone. I had Clay look around in the yard see if you passed out there.” Bear answers.

Nah, I walked back home.”

Earle lights up the joint, caressing it like a woman he’d long for to have, “This is some good shit, brother. Guy who sold this to me called it Long Tall Sally.”

He passes it to Bear who grins a plastic fantastic face, “Starting the day off right with Long Tall Sally in your pocket, no woman will be able to resist you…” He hits it nice and clean, “Long Tall Sally. That shit’s bushy, call it Barbara Bush.”

I hit it a couple of times and feel the world falling back into place, “God, I woke up so drunk this morning. I might still be a little drunk.”

Well, I got more liquor here…” Earle holds up a two gallon sized jug of moonshine.

Yeah, yeah, here, take a cup Suzy Lee. We’ll get you set up nice and pretty.” Bear hands me a cup and Earle just sloshes it in there.

You guys are gonna kill me before I’m thirty, but it’ll be a damn fine way to go.” I take a huge gulp and pass the joint to Clay, “For Lawrence Welk and his fuck you to the MAN!”

I HOPE I’M THE REASON YOU’RE SHOOTING UP, BITCH!” Chris screams as we watch Kizzy walk down the road with her hood up to cover her face.

Clay leans over to Bear with a nonchalant gaze, “That could be a Hallmark card.”


Earle Rogers is a weird guy. I have to say out of all the freaks I’ve met, he’s in the top ten. He’s an older now retired male stripper who has become a traveling-true-rambling man. The lines now upon his face detail experience, but he carries looks resembling of Sean Connery. For being in his mid-fifties, he’s pretty hot. BUT, he hardly ever speaks to me. For real, it’s like prying a pearl from a shell, hard as fuck. He comes over here to Bear’s and smokes us out, pours huge drinks for everyone until every bottle he’s got is bone diddly dry, and then leaves. He talks to Bear and Clay, but not so much to me.

I think the man either hates me and puts up with me because I hang out here a lot and he’s too lonely to say anything or he’s got a crazy fucking crush on me. Either way, I don’t care because it’s all free and that kicks ass, but I felt that should be stated.

And the alcohol is knowing no limits tonight. He has three of those two gallon moonshine killers tucked by his legs. I think I’ve had three, God maybe four, of those big summer cups you get for ice tea at the Dollar Deal. I roll my head around and my neck feels nothing.

NOTHING! And it’s never felt so good.

A car rolls slowly past us and pulls into the driveway next door. Like a clown car, people pile out. Kelly Ann waves over to Bear, “Can you come get these groceries? I got to help Guy with his homework.”

Sure enough, baby. Consider it done.”

Hey, Suzy Lee…” Kelly Ann is all smiles and cheeks.

Hey, Kelly Ann, what’s been going on?”

Ah, nothing much…as usual.”

Virginia gets out of the car and shakes her butt towards us to which Bear yells, “Quit it ya old bitch, no one wants to see that shit!”

Maybe they do! You don’t know!” She’s laughing, cackling old lady style.

Well, go ahead, but we ain’t paying you!”

Virginia is Bear’s mom and she lives next door with Guy who is Bear’s nephew. Mark, Guy’s dad, got arrested for distributing meth and is spending the next seven years behind bars. And Sandi, Mark’s wife, was just too busy to look after her own son. So, Guy, being a fourteen year old lil shit got a twenty year old chick pregnant. Now, they all live over there like happy little bees.

Kelly Ann helps Guy out and I guess it would be a good thing if your aunt was a school teacher.

Ciara, Guy’s girlfriend, waddles over to us in her flip-flops, “Hey, Bubba Bear.”

Hey there, Ciara. What you been doin’?”

She stands closest to him and clicks her tongue with her mouth, “Well, it’s been a rough day, let me tell you…first I woke up and there was no pop left in the fridge and then we went to the prison to tell Mark about the baby and he told Guy to have me abort it and I was like no-that’s-not-happening. And your mom said you and he wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for her getting pregnant at sixteen and that Guy wouldn’t be here if him and Sandi hadn’t had him when they were seventeen. And then they stripped search us and Guy had to squat while some guard had a hold of his balls. I felt like we were on NCIS or something.”

They had a female guard on you, right?” Bear asks.

Oh yeah.”

And she didn’t touch you or anything….right?”

No, God, no.”

Well….did you enjoy it?”

A burst of smoke comes from me laughing. I hold up my hand to excuse myself, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” But they’re all laughing too.

Well, is there anything else I can do for you?”

Yeah, I was wondering if you knew were I could get a joint?” Her nose is all scrunched and it’s obvious he’s her last chance at getting high today.

But he looks at that round belly of her’s and we all see it in his face. Through a series of events unknown to most, Bear can’t have kids. He shoots blanks which he thinks has to do some gas they experimented with over in the middle east, but he doesn’t know for sure. All he knows is that he was in perfect condition when he went there and when he came back to retire and start a family with his woman (and Kelly Ann waited a long time for her man to come back) they couldn’t have babies.

And every time he looks at Ciara and she says this stupid shit he knows he’s got to be nice because that’s his great nephew or niece in there. He sees life yet to be lived, a being in need of protection from the one person needing to care for it the most, “No, darlin’, we ain’t got nuthin’. Just smoked our last bowl.”

Oh, well, that’s okay.” She gives a little wave to everyone, “See ya.” And trots off next door.

When she’s inside, Bear shakes his head at me, “We got like forty-forty-five. Uncle Earle’s got seventy.”

And don’t forget the moonshine…”


My keeping up skills are slagging behind. I’m on my seventh cup and I honestly don’t know how much we’ve smoked. I tap a cigarette on my case, “If the next time I go to the bathroom and I talk to myself in the mirror, I’ll know I’m drunk.”

Holla, holla, holla…praise be to Allah.” Clay laughs out behind a cloud of smoke.

You know, if the Taliban came here in the hills to kill everybody calling them infidels, nobody would have any idea of what they’d be talking about. Fidel? Fidel who? We don’t know no Fidel Castro here.” Bear says as he puffs on a regular 100.

Or they’d be like no nigga, we in Ohio…not Fidel.” Earle mumbles. Why does he do that?

Clay hits a blunt that Bear rolled, “This is epic, Bear. We should worship it, like at Mecca.” He passes it to me, “I played guitar at Mecca. I rocked Mecca the fuck out! Then, Mecca tried to rock me out…by trying to stone me to death.”

Oh, Jesus! That’s mad negram!”

Which reminds me…” Clay brings out his phone and is quickly absorbed into Skynet, or at least that’s how it feels to me.

I don’t know why no one is reading that parody I posted.” He says.

Probably because it’s written like a poem.” I answer which is surprising because I can’t feel my tongue.

I don’t wanna read them fag words!” Bear yells out. It echoes into the night, “Hey, Suzy Lee, how did Michael Jackson die?”


He chocked on Blanket.”

OOOooohhhh…..” Is all Earle can say.

Clay shakes his head with a smile, “Thy penis shall not spring to life unless ye has plentiful buttocks.”

Oh, fuck. We gotta go inside.” Earle says.

What?” Bear asks.

Look, there’s Viney.”

Oh, you and her on the outs again?”

Earle nods as we retreat as quickly as we can which is too close because Viney pitches herself in front of Bear’s house, “I know yer in there, Earle!” We’re peeking through the curtains at her. She’s a hideously withered thing with loose crocodile skin mauled by meth and sunbathing, “I just wanted to spend Christmas with you, motherfucker!” She’s crying, but she looks way more pissed than sad, “I know yer in there! I just wanted to spend Christmas with you! You fucking asshole!”

Earle is rocking back and forth on the sofa rolling another fatty. He mumbles something I can’t make out.

Viney moves on down the street yelling all the way, “I spent Christmas alone! Bluegrass music, motherfucker! BLUEGRASS! And don’t worry ‘bout me telling anyone you like your asshole licked! WHORE! Selfish asshole!”

I turn around and flop down on the sofa while Earle says, “I hate that twangy bluegrass shit she listens to. I woke up there in a camper and I stepped out and I was at a bluegrass festival. What if that’s what hell’s like? You wake up at a bluegrass festival with no shoes and it’s just never-fucking-ending?”

Clay?” I ask.

What’s up?”

What’s a hipster? Someone yelled that at me today.”

He shrugs, “They wear thick glasses and drink shitty beer. You’re not one. You’re an original, Suzy Lee. No one is like you at all.”



As my head hits the back of the sofa, I think of that number. Eleven. What was it for? Do I have eleven cigarettes left? No, I’ve got less than that. Two, maybe three. Eleven what?

My eyes open one at a time as I look out to Bear and Clay, “What does eleven mean to ya?”

Nothing to me.” Bear says.

You said you’d had eleven cups of drank.” Clay answers.

I laugh and point at them while my brain pulsates, “You’re all covered in black fuzzy dots.”

Eleven glasses of that swill. I lean back again, the television fading from one war scene to another. Why am I not dead? Am I immortal? What am I doing here? Why did I even come over? I could have stayed home and slept and watch television. That’s what I’ll do tomorrow. I’ll watch some TV and do a little painting. Sounds like a good plan.


It’s the valkyrie song again. I’m laying on the sofa with my eyes staring straight at the slowly revolving fan. I hear the answering machine click on and Casey’s voice fills the air, “Ay. You, Barry, gunna fuck my mom? You say you gonna fuck my mom? Piss on you, mu’fukka. I fuck you up. Those kitchen girls got fat asses, you stu’ mu’fukka.” He hangs up.

I close my eyes again wishing Casey wasn’t such a reclusive drunk bastard and then I wouldn’t have to wake up to his singularly ranting tones. But he can’t help himself, I know. He hates being out of his house, hates seeing people, hates everything about there is to hate. So, he sits in there getting drunk listening to (not even good) rap from the early 90’s and randomly calls people up…though it’s mostly Bear. I bet most of his brain is eaten up with booze, but who am I to judge?

I lunge myself forward and make the crawl of the Wondering Jew over Earle and to the door. I glance back at the clock noting the time. Around five, give or take. My shoes shuffle loudly over the cement porch.

I’m already shivering half to death as I reach the end of the path to the highway. The end of my nose is like an ice pop. It’s gonna be hot again by the time I get back, God, I hate this shit. Fucking hate it.

Halfway down, I see the bench. A woman wearing black jeans with chains criss-crossing in a complicated pattern. Her fire engine red hair is piled on her head in a long winding ponytail and the ends which are a sunburst clashing against her deep violet belly-sweater. Her eyeshadow is a rainbow of glitter, but her lips are pin-up style red. Classic.

I sit down next to her and light a cigarette. I turn to look at her and she’s reading a book. A large heavy looking thing with a swishing depiction of a southern mansion on the front, “I love your pants.”

She looks up at me with a squat, ruddy face, “Thanks. I don’t think it’s girly. It’s like oh pink bra then on to I wanna FUCK YOUR FACE.”

The vibration of her voice takes me back. I flick my ashes, “I get that. Sometimes, when I look at people I want to rape them with punji sticks until they’re almost out of breath. Other times, when I see a hot guy I just wanna bend him over and fuck him like a man. I’ve heard people call it penis envy, but I don’t believe in that. I think some women are just more in tune with both masculine and feminine sides.” I’ve got half a smoke left, “Ya smoke?”

Sometimes. Mostly cloves.”

Ya want this?”

She eyes it suspiciously, “Okay. Sure.”

I pass it to her and get up, “It was nice meeting ya. Enjoy your book.”

She places it near her small braless tits and giggles, “Oh, I will.”

I only look back once as she awkwardly puffs the cigarette. She’s like Popeye trying to be sexy. I shake my head and continue down the crusty old road. I feel worse than I did yesterday, but at least my tennis shoes keep my feet on clouds of less than demanding Heaven.

Home is coming up soon. I’m dragging ass, man. I’m fucking drunk and I think at some point during this little journey I discreetly smoked a jay heading east on Parallelo Road. Fucking madness. I’m drunk and high walking around at dawn like a fucking zombie doing a walk of shame. I’m embarrassed and my face is as red as beets. What is wrong with me?

My door, but ah! I remembered my keys this time so I won’t get any weird looks from my neighbors. They’re like all night gas station people with beards and nineteen years olds wearing pearl necklaces. Multi-flavored condom eyes a sheen of sexually repressed loins and latex lined wallets with just enough cash for a hot sandwich and a bottle of liquid speed. And they always stare whenever I come around.

I’m taking off my top as I close my door and before I take two more steps I’m naked, standing in my bathrobe, smoking a cigarette. Drunken skill, baby. Some of us have it, some of us don’t, but really no one wants it.

Asleep I shall be, tightly tucked beneath cheap silks and hard labor, maybe masturbate, but try and mostly sleep with an exciting night of lazy television watching ahead of me.

Happy thoughts I think until I see nothing but darkness.


I am a weak, dull, and pained creature. I feel like my entire body has been supplanted with roots now wrapping myself to my bed. Hurtful to every muscle, to the bone. I adjust my robe and stand up.

I wobble over to my bookshelf and peruse a printing of The Satanic Witch and my heart beats a little faster. Anton LaVey can make any woman feel good about herself if they just got over the whole Satan thing. It’s not about Satan, people! It’s an empowerment. It’s a real man’s statement on women and it’s beautiful.

I don’t get orgasms cleaning the kitchen floor!” I heard this once in a Quantum Leap episode, I think it’s a quote from The Feminine Mystique.

I carry it to the sofa and turn on the TV. I listen to mindless dribble while I read a couple of chapters, but eventually I hunger for tobacco and this means I must roll some.

I flip channels as I make smokes and this is what I get;

A commercial for The High Chaparral

A show exploiting obese people for sleazy primetime entertainment

Some British mystery show

Commercials for hair care and coloring


Commercial for women’s weight loss

Another British mystery show

Some lady trying to prove herself in the boy’s club

Commercials for old people

A cop show with tons of one liners

Nine o’ clock news at three in the afternoon

An old black woman and a male cheerleader doing something I don’t understand

Seafood commercials

Women selling turtlenecks and open knitted vests

Possibly gay men selling electronics

Carlotta Tom-Whitmore, D-Chairman of the Clean and Safety Coalition

A male prostitute and an insecure, flat chested woman in a romantic comedy

Life after Hurricane Katrina

Shawnee County Storm Chasers, Severe Weather Warning Sirens If you hear thunder, seek shelter

A bulletin for the River Grace Baptist Church

Reality show about editing reality shows

An in depth discussion on the Eucharist and Christ’s crucifixion

Mostly clear tonight

Guns and Spanish guitar shot old school 70’s style

Port Alexandria Junior High School Choir which could make dogs bark

Commercial for cell phones

Infomercial about cleaning out unwanted ear wax

Oh my God! TV has totally gone to shit! Not even anything on the public tube, nothing! Nothing! No wonder I go out and about.

After rolling twenty something cigarettes, I move a couple of small stacks of books and find a tiny baggy of weed. Maybe a pipeful, but it’ll be delicious. I pack the crumbles and red hairs in tightly. I take a few hits and I feel my eyes start to bead slightly, “I can not believe this shit.”

With the pipe and lighter in one hand, I turn off the TV and walk over to my records sitting in the corner. I flip through the many names and faces. They’re like old familiar friends, my friends. Singing out advice on love, life, addiction, and everything else under the sun. I take a few more puffs before I settle on playing the record that’s already in the player. The calming yet neurotic tunes of the Velvet Underground comes on like the last death clap of thunder. I turn it up, put the Tinman on the coffee table, and head to the bathroom.

I’m humming the song as I pull my curls up in a high ponytail. A long ribbon for decoration. A pair of snuggly fitted jeans, a lilac peasant top, and some more innocent appearing makeup. Anything to look younger especially these days. I’m nineteen and I’ve heard people think I’m twenty-seven. I think it’s my body; big boobs, small waist, the whole child bearing hips-hourglass figure. Men look at me and want me to be older because the guilt of me being younger would be too much for them, but I’m no stranger to filling the position of Lolita. I’m just an aging one now.

I look out the bay window to the street. Jeez, it looks pretty hot out there. Sweltering streets and the branches hang low from the humidity. My legs are restless and my tongue licks my lips. Great Uncle Earle’ll be there with the rest of the moonshine and I’ll be here with my measly amount of manager’s special wine.

I throw the curtain back, “Fuck this.”

I grab my cigarettes, my keys, and put on my shoes before my body goes through detox or withdrawal or whatever could happen. I’m out the door in under thirty seconds flat.


Halfway there, I double over on the side of the highway. I lean over the metal bump checker and puke my brains out at the beginning edge of the wilderness. The first upchuck was chunky, now it’s all clear with that distinct taste of bile biting the back of my throat with astringency. I don’t even know what I could be puking. I think, maybe Kelly Ann had made orange and vanilla ice cream sandwiches, but I don’t think they’d be so chunky coming back up.

I lean against the metal and wipe my mouth with the bottom hem of my shirt. I light a cigarette to calm my belly down. I feel green under the gills, my stomach sloshing back and forth. I’ve got to keep going or else I’m going to pass out here on the side of the road and God knows who or what would do with my unconscious body.

The sweats are coming on and pouring down my forehead. I have got to keep going. I have to. My heart is thumping and pumping like I’m about to have a fucking heart attack. No panic, no real pain, just pure death. Straight up like a shot of whiskey. I rub my stomach over and over and over again until I’m able to move on.


Bear, Clay, and Earle are sitting on the porch again along with Jason Brant, but he goes by his surname only. By the sound of it, he’s on a pretty good rant so I lean back by the steps, “People in the Hill call heroin boy. What if somebody went up to buy some drugs and the guy sellin’ never heard that before? Hey, can I get some boy, man? What the fuck? What are you comin’ here tryin’ to buy a kid? You some kind o’ child rapist? Get outta here you motherfucker!”

Everyone laughs and then Bear says, “Come on, Lady Long! Pull up a chair.”

I drag a chair from the other side of the porch and come to sit in between him and Brant. Earle is the furthest away, but he looks up at me from the jay he’s rolling, “Thought you went off and died somewhere.”

I own an ailing smile, “I think I did.”

Coming over late today.” Bear notes aloud.

Yeah, well. Sick is as sick does, I’m guessin’.” I look to Brant, a skeleton of his former self, “What ya doing ‘round these parts?”

Looking for pussy. Find any?”

I got some, but I’m not giving it out to crackheads today.”

Brant’s reptile tongue licks the paper of a blunt, “Give me a call tomorrow, ‘kay?”

Want some aloe with that burn, Suzy Lee?” Clay asks through the laughter.

I stare at him, “Ya look just like that movie Reefer Madness. Faster! Faster! Faster!”

Brant coughs a grin as he begins the blunt. He looks at me sideways through the stalling slits of his eyes, “You wan’ in on this?”

I rub my palms over my knees, “Hell yes.”

Pass that down to ‘er.” Earle hands one of those tall cups to Brant who then hands it to me.

I don’t have to smell it to know what it is. I hold it up in Earle’s direction, “For Great Uncle Earle, GG Allin, and Townes Van Zandt.”

And Lawrence Welk!” Clay screams.

The last of cowboy country.” Bear nods and holds his own cup for respect.

I take a swig and I don’t feel it until it wants to come back up. Heat blistering my already feverish skin. I am a snake lying out in the sun as most Appalachians feel because fire breathing dragons reside south. Deeper and brighter, past Tennessee. Somewhere in bayous, lingering on hefty tree limbs and around ancient poisons. There are no myths down there, only the truths we don’t need to see.

Here we have the truths we don’t want to see, but we force ourselves to watch because we’re too fucking bored not to.

Brant passes the blunt off to me and it’s green apple glory, “Mmm, that tastes so good.”

Clay coughs so hard, what comes out of him is lung butter. Real dirty butter. I can’t look at it as he apologizes and cleans it up. Bear has just come back from inside and he covers it up with a New Orleans’ Saints towel and everything goes back to normal. Well, stoned normal.

Do ya guys ever wonder if Anne Frank would get mad at everyone reading her diary? Or do you think she’d understand it’s importance?” I ask.

I don’t know. I guess if she never died we wouldn’t have the book in the first place.” Clay responds taking another drink of moonshine.

Maybe she would’ve released it when she was old.”

Or burn it from the memories.” Bear whispers.

I would’ve kept it, if I’d been her and had survived.”

Brant passes me the joint and looks at me with his deeply sunken shadowed eyes, “Who’s Anne Frank?”


The night wears on and does so thinly. Brant goes on and on and fucking on about how Larissa left him for Jimmy Applegate and how Caleb is calling Jimmy Applegate daddy and not him, even though everyone except Brant is pretty sure Celeb isn’t his son, but whatever. People live in their own fantasies and addicts live in alternate realities. It is the parallel of our nature.

I heard she’s been doing shake and bake meth out her car.” Clay says.

I lean back in the chair and pass the cup down to Earle for my third refill, “I swear to God, someone needs to punch that bitch in the cunt. She’s so fucking nasty. Just another gross woman here to ruin men and women alike.”

But you know, in the end she’ll only destroy herself.” Bear points out.

But I counter him, “Yeah, and Caleb. A mother is the most crucial figure in a young boy’s life. She is the one who has to kiss away all the boo-boos and scare the monsters out of the closest. She’s the maker or breaker of a child and if she even falters once, you’ll be able to tell through the kid. No offense, Brant, but Caleb is probably going to grow up jaded and hating women and then he’ll get with chicks just like his mom, just like Larissa, and they will use and abuse him and he’ll die without ever once having a normal relationship. Larissa needs her fucking uterus scooped out before she has anymore.”

Brant wipes a tear from his eye and pats me on the knee, “You’re right…”

I cross my legs so he’s no longer touching me, “That still don’t mean I’ll fuck ya, Brant. I just hate her and everything she stands for.”

I think we need to toast to that!” Bear cheers and we all tink our cups together. Mine newly refilled spills over on a waterproof matt, “Don’t worry, babes, it’ll go to Tupac.”

For Tupac!”

We drink and guzzle and are hedonists to the best of our abilities. Pantera comes wafting out through the screened window. Brant refuses to listen to Bear’s music and Bear has the sense of curiosity when it comes to Brant’s tastes, which is mostly rap and metal.

As much as I love our metal music, it will never be as hard as that metal from the Netherlands.” I hit a pipe unknown to me and hand it to Bear, but he passes and I move on to Clay who agrees, “That’s true.”

They have cults…”

Real life Satanic cults that burn down churches.” Clay hits it and his face takes on a ruddy hue.

And all we have is the Westboro Baptists.” That’s so sad.

He laughs, “We should hire a Norwegian horde of black metal church burners to burn down the Westboro Baptist church.”

The Scourge of Topeka, Kansas!” Pax says as he walks up to the porch, pulling up a chair. I give him a sideways hug.

Brant shakes his shaved head, “We’d being screwing our’selfs though. We’d have no corn, but from Mexico. My kid’d come to me and as’ why we have this great famine and I’d say…Vengeance.”

Oh my God, I’ve got to stop hanging out with you crazy ass people. You fucks.” I say that, but this is what they hear, “OUAh!” cough, cough, “me gawd”, deep breathing followed by laughing then coughing, “I’vegotto…” cough, cough, cough, “stop…hanging out…withyou…crazyass…people. Fucks.” I clear my throat and take a drink of moonshine.

Awww….oh no.” Bear whispers, “What’s he doing here?”

Oh, he called me earlier said he wanted to smoke with us. Said he had some killer shit.” Clay says suddenly surprised.

We’re drinking, dude. No way. I don’t get drunk with teenagers anywhere around me. No, sir.”

I look over to the field across the street and see Torchia and Farmer Matt walking over. Bear takes a deep breath, “Hey, Raven! No do tonight! I’m drinking, we’re drinking, you understand, brah?”

Torchia waves and they turn right around, but Bear fills with grief, “Fuck, I hate doin’ that. I love that boy, but I just don’t drink around kids. Not after that one night when I had that…episode and he stole the whiskey. He got sick right on that corner of the house. I had to pick him up and carry him in the house. I had a bruise the size of my canteen where he fucking accidentally kicked it into me. No, fuck that.”

Except us.” Pax quips.


We’re inside. I’m slouching on a sofa, my head coiling. Shit, man, I am drunk…I think. Brant’s gone, Clay is almost asleep beside me and Bear has his war helmut on and holding a machine gun. He’s grinning broadly at the television. It’s a war documentary. He’s having an episode right now…god, my neck hurts so bad. My teeth are aching.

OH YEAH? Well, it’s BOXING Day, motherfucker!” Bear screams. He’s in, full blown.

I roll my head over to look at Clay, “Hey, ya were talkin’ about Tyreeka…”

His eyes slightly open, “Oh yeah. Yeah, we thought Tyreeka Bitch was pregnant. Her titties were getting bigger, but I don’t know…they stopped.”

I’m too tired to even smile, “Ya should never say that out loud again.”



I. Am. Alive. Exactly my first thoughts. I feel great, like beyond awesome. I’m half drunk and half headache, but I’m amazing. I wipe my eyes of excess makeup and gather my things trying to be as quiet as a waiting alligator.

I am out the door and breathing in the crisp river air. It’s beautiful out here. No course air just wonderful. Everything is peachy keen.

I feel like a million bucks and the crazy thing is that I make it back home without stop or hassle. Yes, I collapse on my bed, but it is more out of laziness. I hope I feel this good when I wake up.


I’m up not wanting to let go of the last wonders of my dream. An orgy of delights. A wanton spectacle, a resurgence of my beauty as a woman. I roll over letting the sunlight warm my face, “I need a nice big dick.”

I giggle and get out of bed heading towards the record player. I put on an Elliott Smith vinyl and get prepared for the day. A day that will not be like any other.

I’m in the shower shaving my legs and covered in slithering good smelling stuff. Washing my hair, my curls are a little warped today, but ah well.

I wear my skinny jeans and a wife beater. Socks, paisley button up rolled to the elbow, and the boots. Tall powerful shit kickers, Army surplus style. As they were a gift from Bear, I’ve named them Beauregard and Bugleboy Panzram. Black and faded, but reinforced darlings.

I get the jar on top of the refrigerator and hold forty bucks in fives to tuck politely in my pocket. Well, it’s relatively forty. I just want enough. I turn the player off and lock the door.

Out on the street, I stop at the corner store for a pack of Georgians and a lighter. The cashier is super hot with an all American look about him. So blonde and tan, I could eat him alive. And I want to and he’d want to, but this is the only moment there is in store for us. I pay for the cigarettes with a smile and batt of eyelashes, and say, “Thanks.” But I’m really thinking, ‘I could eat you for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.’ Succulent man, corn fed for sure.

I’m on the highway when I see a buss full of college guys just coming back from God knows where. A few of ‘em whistle and shout, but I get worried when I hear the sudden stop. Fuck.

I turn around and see them hanging out the windows, “Hey, come ride with us!”

I wave at them nervously, but begin taking steps away from them, “I can’t. I gotta get going…”

Come on! We won’t hurt you!” One of them yells from his frat house insignia on his sweatshirt.

A clunking smoking car pulls up beside me and I hear a rough voice come coughing, “Get in, I’ll give ya ride home.”

I lean down to the window and see that it’s Ford dressed in those baggy clothes with a bottle of vodka between his legs and a cigarette between his lips, “Are ya gonna rape me and chop up into pieces while you’re dressed up like Lucille Ball?”

He starts with a smirk, but after he pulls the cigarette from his mouth, he looks as smooth and awe striking as a shark, “Get your cracker ass in the car before some fucking apple baby decides you look good for the eatin’, little fish.”

My jaw drops, “What the fuck?!”

He pats the seat, “Come on, get it. I’m not gonna wait here all day. It’s either adventure or a gutter, throat cut or no. I’m a fucking gentleman, ya know? I’ll drive you straight home.”

I hold up my hands in defense, “Fine. Let’s go.” I open the door and climb in. I close it and look over at him with an inquisitive look, “Let’s go?”

He pulls back into traffic and we are on the road heading to West Port, “What if I stalked you? Would that be a buzzkill?”

First of all, no man who stalks me is gonna say words like buzzkill.”

Note taken. I can tell I’m going to like coming back to Port Alex.”

Ya don’t live here?”

No.” He unscrews the cap of the bottle.

Where do ya live?”

Everywhere. I like to travel. My ole ladies live here, I come see ‘em every once a while. Just driftin’.”

Ya seem very strange.” I light a cigarette.

Yeah, well, you’re the one who got into a stranger’s car and didn’t tell him where to go first.”

I glance in front of me, “Get in the left lane. You’ll make a left coming up.” He drives so confidently, “Ya drive a lot?”

Whenever I got a car.”

Is this one stolen?” I flick some ashes out the window.

It hasn’t been reported yet, so no.” He takes a huge drink of gas station vodka that stinks up the entire car, “You ever heard of Benny Hill?”

Yeah, my dad used to watch him all the time. He’s pretty funny.”

You know what killed him?”

What?” I ask.

Political correctness.”

I smile big and roll the window all the way down and scream, “Being politically correct murdered Benny Hill! Fuck ya censored swine!”

I sit back down and we’ve come to a stop, “Left or right, lil one?”

You’ll go right then turn at the pharmacy.”

You a workin’ girl?” He doesn’t sound hopeful, more interested in chit-chat.

No, I’m getting some weed.”

You must be gettin’ weed a lot as many times I see you walk this strip of town.” He laughs.

I know, I just smoke a lot. Drink a lot too. It’s not very lady like…”

But it’s human. To drink and smoke is to be human. People who do it are hurting, people like us, the pros…we’ve got scars too deep and breathing to not be treated. People say go to doctors, I say FUCK doctors. Ain’t nothing in this world can’t be cured by a fucking rainbow serpent looking bud and some vodka.”

I’m a whiskey girl, myself.”

I like it all. Just happen to be drinking vodka right now.” He snickers and messes with a decrepit looking tape deck, “You like the blues, Suzy Lee?”

Hell yes, I do! And not that whimpy white bread BLUES-BOY shit most people listen to. I like actual blues. Poverty, woman done gone, the devil…it’s beautiful.”

He nods, “This is Memphis Minnie, Hoodoo Lady Blues. It speaks to me.”

I examine him closer than I have before and he looks so much younger than he did the other day when he was The Green Man coming up from the earth. His sandy hair is loose and wavy at the ends and while I can tell he’s naturally fair skinned, he has almost a sun drenched quality about him. His clothes all touched by pure rays faded at the shoulders and his eyes are a watery blue as if he’s on a constant urge of wrath or sadness. I see a chain hanging around his neck and ask, “What’s on your necklace? One of those male fertility symbols?”

He lefts it out form the folds of cloth, “Dog tags.”

You’re in the army?”

I was a Marine in the Gulf War.”

I have a friend who was in Iraq. He’s got mad PTSD now.”

I ain’t scared of PTSD. PTSD’s scared of me.” He slows the car, “This pharmacy?”

Yeah. I can go ahead and walk from here.”

You sure?” His eyes look worried for me, “Young girls like you shouldn’t be walking around? You know, this town’ll eat you alive and spit out your bones.”

I smile, comforted, “I ain’t scared of this town. This town is scared of me.”


As I walk up the path and can see Bear’s house from afar I have one of those epiphanies. Everyday is the same. I already know what’s going to happen before it happens. I bet Jheremy and Ayana are there now getting high with Bear, Clay, and Earle on some super shit. Ninjette flitting around in her bone stretched skin and everyone is laughing and somebody will say they thought I wondered off to die like I’m a wounded dog.

How long has it been since I worked on my paintings? How long has been since I haven’t craved wine alone in my apartment to pain and get high all by myself? How long has it been since I got drunk? How long has it been since I haven’t woken up drunk?

I’ve drowned enough for this month. I’ll spend the next couple at home and put the phone back in the box.

Past Crooked Creek and Lawrence Welk’s church, I spot Jheremy and Ayana sitting on the porch. Ninjette holds the bong she named Black Lung Betty and true enough there’s laughter wafting over the clouds.

I stride up with my hands in my pockets and Clay pulls an empty chair beside him, “Hey, we thought you went off and died somewhere this morning.”

My simper is feeble, “I just met the coolest guy. He said his name was Ford. Really weird.”

Did he try to touch your naughty bits, Lady Long?” Bear asks as he light up a joint.

No.” I laugh out, “He was just cool, ya know?”

Jheremy sits tiny with a Civil War cap on his head. He leers like there’s a cynical old man within his twenty-two year old body. There might be, he could be possessed, “Hey, Suzy.”

Hey, man. How ya guys been?”

Before he can answer, Ayana shoves her huge tits in the conversation, “We moved.”

Oh, where?”

Up in Sundown. It’s pretty nice.”

I look to Ninjette who hands Black Lung to me, “What about you? Any new news?”

She tucks a piece of silky blonde hair behind her ear, “I moved in with them.”

Your mom hassling ya about guys being over again?”

Yeah…” Her voice contrasts so much with her giant skinny body, I sometimes think I’m talking to a dude.

DID you hear that The Misfits are gunna be in Toledo?” Jheremy asks.

Bear shakes his head, “Not my style. I just can’t get into it.”

How much?” Clay asks.

Fifty and get this it’s, like, two hundred and fifty for some po’ dunk Christmas Carol in Port Alex.” Ayana tokes the apple flavored blunt being passed around.

That’s idiotic.” Clay brushes ash from his Misfits shirt.

Hey, Clay?” I say after hitting the bong and hand it to Bear, “Could ya run up to Russ’ for a twenty sack for me? I’m thinking of taking a break for a while. Work on some pieces.”

Sure.” He gets up and adjusts himself, “Oh, I saw that one painting you did, uh, A Portrait of Darnell Cuntington on the internets.”

I shift uneasily in the chair, “I, yeah, it sold in Cambodia. Meeting with Eric went up to fifty in Serbia.” I don’t like talking about my work around Ayana and them. They don’t even like me that well. Except for Ninjette who’s so burnt I don’t think she knows who she’s with half the time and by the blank expression she has covering her flawless girl next door face, I don’t think she knows anyone is talking either.

Clay holds out his hand, “I need the money before I go.”

Duh, Suzy Lee. Stop staring at Ninjette and give him the money. I dig in my pocket and give him a bill in which I find that I must have grabbed sixty ‘cause I’ve got an extra twenty, “Get forty, but two different sacks, eh?”

Sure thang, boss-lady.”

Bear eyes me in dubiety, “You know you don’t have to buy anything.”

Oh, I know, I know. I’ve got to start working on some of my projects. I’ve been flaking off too much. One twenty is for me and the other is for you and Earle for all the free shit and then I’m a buy me some wine.”

Bear listens to me and nods, “Well, you know, it is all appreciated. You know we love having Lady Long in our presence.”

I bow my head, “As it is honoring to be here, brother.”


Clay comes back and hands me a hefty feeling bag. I say my goodbyes and give Bear and Clay hugs and then I’m on my way.

It’s such a nice day. I feel like I haven’t been sober or drunk in a long time. I light a cigarette and stop at Bernard’s on the way home. With twenty, I get four giant bottles of manager’s special wine. Two of them are spiced fruit flavored, one is a mango twist, and the third is blackberry which is my favorite, but they only had one.

Walking down the street carrying a large weighty bag full of self-abuse and imposed debauchery, knowing I am reluctant to work, but I must. The scenes, the brush bang on my brain with a hammer like thud, “HELLO? Are you even listening to US?” I hear what needs to be sketched and done, I just feel that my steps are getting heavier as of late.

The Way of the Resin

Drug Deal Behind The Church

by Myandra Wolfthorn

He likes to do it in public.
old man,
don’t be slithering up on me.
I ain’t your baby, lil girl, or sweet thang…

old man,
don’t be laughing at my innocence,
or I’ll stop shopping here.
I fucking mean it…

old man,
hand me that baggy there in your hand.
I ain’t got no time for jokes,
for real motherfucker…

very funny old man,
make me happy
with that sticky green bag…

He is very proud of his long hair.
old man,
I don’t give a shit,
but I’ll give you my money…

Step One – Drive Away
Step Two – Unroll Baggy
Step Three – Inspect Product


“Shit! Old man screwed me again!”

The Way of The Resin


I heard that fucking phone ringing earlier, but I didn’t get up. I still haven’t gotten up. I need to get this day started. I need to get out of this bed, get dressed, and get on with it. Think of England, that kind of shit. What I really need is a cigarette.

Sweet nicotine sucking between my lips, seeping down my throat. Inhaling, exhaling, and the scent carried on my clothes.

That’s it!

I toss the blankets aside and I shiver when my feet touch the chilled wooden planks. I rub my eyes while I hear the faint sound of an audience clapping, “Clay, what the hell are ya watching?”

He’s sitting on the threadbare love-seat lighting one cigarette with the butt of another to conserve his lighter fluid, “Ice skating.”

“Jesus, isn’t there something better on? Like, something on that Public Access Channel?” I fluff my bed-head and walk over to him. I lean beside him on the sofa and steal his cigarette and watch the images on the screen.

“This is the Public Access Channel.”

The static lines caress the figures more than their skates touch ice. There are flashes of periwinkle and flourishes of frills, “God, how can ya watch this shit?”

“It’s soothing.”

I give back his cigarette and walk towards the bathroom, “It’s gay.”

“Hey, don’t be using words you don’t understand, Suzy Lee. You know how many hoes’ numbers I got on my cell?”

“I don’t think they like to be called hoes anymore, Clay.” I say, heading into the bathroom.

“They may not, but that doesn’t stop you from being a bitch, does it?”

“No. It does not.” I whisper.

I change from my elongated nightshirt to a pair of jeans and a tee that proclaims my Irishness with its limerick hue. There’s been a heatwave going through recently so I make sure to put my hair up in a super tight green ribbon, “Hey, Clay? What time is it?”

“Time to go. We got twelve minutes ‘till we meet Dutchie.”

With practice, the wingtip eyeliner trick can be done within seconds. Not so much for me. It takes minutes, and I can barely get it right. Makeup is just another reason why I hate (and love) being a girl. Some plum shadow, some blush, and dab of lip gloss. I stop hassling myself to take a look…well, I look better than before.

I grab my purse off the hook by the door, “I’m good. Ready to go?”

He butts out a cigarette and gets up with humph. Tapping his jean pockets and looks around on the coffee table, “Yeah, I’m good.”

“I can’t believe ya were able to sleep on that couch.”

“It was a squeeze, that’s for sure.”

“That’s what she said.”

Clay laughs and we head out the door to midday, which is the worst time of day. Then again, all daylight is the worst time for me. I usually don’t get my shit together until eight.


The Port Alexandria Public Library looks like a mansion and smaller than it did when I saw a child. I stopped going here when I was twelve because I owe, like, a hundred and eighty plus for some Clive Hulse and RJ Major novels. 18th century philosophy and modern transgressive crime, respectively.

It’s kind of a misery to look at now. Their Dewey Decimal system is fucked anyway these days and with all the state cutbacks, they can only run the air-conditioning two days a week.

And we live in a valley by a river, so only the true and dedicated go here which narrows the public library clientele to the elderly wanting serial killer books and housewives who touch themselves over romance covers. All those lean, hard muscled hunks are too much to handle sometimes.

I sit down on the bench further from the road, closer to the building. The other bench has been taken over by three guys joking about some shit that’s no consequence to me. Clay doesn’t sit down beside me, “I’m a go inside, see if he’s in there.”

“Don’t fib to me, big brother. You’re gonna take a shit.”

“A har har har.” His sarcasm amazes me.

I sit and I smoke cigarettes and wait. Life is all about waiting. Waiting for dinner to be done, waiting for a ride, waiting for a friend. It’s all we ever fucking do.

“I ain’t got nowhere to live, man. Shit’s been rough. Ain’t got no house, no woman no more, not even a fucking toilet to dump in, man.” One of the guys says as he pushes a grocery cart full of clothes back and forth.

A fourth guy walks up to them wearing baggy, black shorts and a huge black t-shirt with skulls all over it. His hat is backwards with a straight bill, “Was up, g’s?”

Jesus Christ, now I have to listen to white guy pretending to be something he’s not. This is Ohio, we don’t have gangsta. We’ve got hillbillies, pill poppers, hookers with scars and guns, movers, shakers, smack takers. But we don’t have any gangstas. Oh wait, my bad we do….here they’re called The Police.

“‘Ey, you hungry, man?”

“Yea, I’m starvin’.”

“Yeh wanna doughnut?”

“Yea, yea.”

“Take one, dude.”

“Not that big one! That ones mine.”


“But have a couple.”

The wigger takes the offered doughnuts and crouches down in front of them, “I can’t wait ‘till the first. I’m a smoke some crack, get high, smoke some kush.”

“I ain’t got no place to live.”

“Me neither, brother, me neither…but we’ll get some shit to make us forget all that.”

I lean over and look at them with humored eyes, “Hey, guys…now, I’m not sayin’ I am, but if I was a cop, I could bust ya’ll right now. I’m not against anyone gettin’ high, Lord knows I’m not, but keep that shit to yourselves. There’s little kids ‘bout to get outta school. Know what I’m sayin’?”

The wigger who has tear drops tattooed down both of his eyes nods to me, “Sorry, Ma’am.”

Ma’am? Ma’am? I’m nineteen years old, at most I’m a Ms. Fuck it, fuck it all, “It’s alright…I was just saying you might not want to spread that around.”

The one with dulled, outlined crack tats starts talking to his friends, “Hey, ya’ll got fifty cents? I need to make a call.” When they refuse him, he walks over to with a hand out, “You got fifty cents I could have, Ma’am? I’m stranded out here in town and I’d really ‘preciate it.”

Silently, I dig in my pocket and hand over some dimes and nickels. I don’t know if that’ll add up to what he’s wanting, but I’ll be damned if I’m handing over my quarters. Our economy has never been what used to be, if it ever was in the first place. Whatever, I still don’t get equal pay no matter what century we’re living in. I guess I should be happy I get paid at all. I mean, I could be some syphilitic whore being gutted by Jack the Ripper.

Clay hasn’t come out of the library and so gets no experience of the local delights. I laugh to myself as I watch them leave. The one with the change jingling in his pocket goes on to the payphone in front of Monkee Doughnuts while the others walk down the sidewalk. I can still hear the bump and thump of the cart as they venture out of sight.

That was great. I always feel so good when I get to be apart of something priceless. Doughnuts and Crack….that could be my next painting.

All around me people begin to come and sit on the steps of the library and on benches waiting for their kids to get out of school. Everyone is smoking and scratching their legs or cackling with thick, barfly voices. I am in a paradise. They’re so real and undiluted and I feel so different from them. Not above them like I’m high class, just separate like I was born to observe rather than be.

As I have been; A Born Observer.

Clay pushes himself out of the bulky double doors and comes to sit beside me, “I miss anything?”


There is an explosion of children spilling out unto the streets, getting into cars, and on buses. Little kids stalk over from the elementary school and find their moms in the crowd which we’re in the midst of. Teenagers making out and breaking up are strewn about the place like dirty clothes.

Is that weed I smell? God, I’d love to have some smoke right about now, “Do you smell that?”

“Dutchie, probably.” Clay answers, “He gets ‘em high on his good shit for free, then sells them his shake for the same price, saving all that crystalized bud for the real buyers which goes to them for double. He makes twice the profits and nobody knows the difference.”

“Natural born swindler. God, you’d think these kids would know better. We always knew better.”

“Yeah, but that’s West Port. We’ve got country out there where they can really grow the stuff. So, we knew. These kids? They don’t know shit from apple butter and then there’s the fact that everyone, including the cops, are scared shitless of him.” He takes a long drag from his home rolled cigarette, “You know that thrity-two percent of high school graduates don’t know where America is on the map?”

“What the fuck? I quit school and I know that! What dumb asses. I bet it don’t help we live in the most underdeveloped part of the goddamned country.”

“I think I see him.” Clay rises and leaves me once again. The guy can’t seem to stay anywhere longer than an hour. I bet a dollar he’ll find some girl to go home with by today’s end.

A boy no older than seventeen comes to sit next to me on the bench. A white, little goth thing with nervous eyes, “I haven’t seen you before.”

“That’s because I don’t go to school.”

“Where do you go? West Port? Forest Green?”

“I don’t go at all.”

“Oh, that’s cool. That’s really cool.” He licks his lips and scratches his face below the blood red eyeliner, “Um, could I, uh, could I get your number?”

Is this bitch for real? I am not about to be someone’s Mrs. Robinson, “I have a boyfriend.”


“Wasn’t him.” Clay stops by the arm of the bench and stoops over the boy. He casts a long shadow, “You’re in my seat.”

The boy is about to crap himself, “I’m sorry. Sorry…” He practically runs away.

Clay drops down with laughter as I tap his arm with my knuckles, “That wasn’t very nice.”

“Nice is a relative term. What’d he want anyway?”

“My number. Could you imagine?”

“Dutchie would like him.” He snickers.

My boyfriend, Dutch Allen Mossberger, is well known for dealing, pimping, and loving the young boys. I don’t think he can help it either, but it’s not like he’s gonna suddenly start wearing a clip-on tie and go to church and I wouldn’t want him to. I would like it if he stopped fucking boys when we’re not together, but he wouldn’t and he won’t.

Together, Clay and I wait and smoke cigarettes while all the people around us disappear one, two, three at a time. Some go home to well prepared meals and video games, others to soggy bowls of cereal and busted down swings at public parks. Some don’t even go home, they go to the homeless shelter or worse.

There’s a rustling of leaves by me and I look over to see a man standing up. He steps leisurely out of the shrubbery and quickly walks away like he’s got a stick up his ass, “Clay, did you see that?”

“It’s true what they say, creepers really hide in the bushes.” Dutchie startles us as we look up towards him standing over Clay counting a huge wad of cash, “Let’s go get high.”


“Where are we going?” I ask.

“I don’t know.” Dutchie shrugs.

“Okay, stop. Let’s figure out what we’re doing.” I say as we stop dead on the sidewalk, “We can’t go to Russ’ ‘cause we don’t have a car and Pax is MIA right now.”

“Yeah, what’s he doing?”

“He’s mixing tracks for the band over in Marcusville.” Clay answers.

Dutchie gives him a high five, “Hell yeah, bro.”

“Yeah, awesome. Now, can we focus? I wanna get high before midnight. Where are we going?”

“We can’t smoke my stash. It’s being sold tomorrow night.” Dutchie lights a cigarette, “We could go to hippie Rodney’s…”

“That’s in Cardinalville.” Clay’s beau blue eyes are wide, “We might as well walk to Capitol Hill.”

“It’s not that far away and you told me last night Russ is out.” Dutchie defends.

“Let me have a smoke, baby.” I hold out my hand and Dutchie roughly places a hard pack of regular cigarettes and a blue-violet lighter on my palm. I light a cigarette and bite my lip, “Fuck…let’s go to hippie Rodney’s. I heard he’s got a connection with some killer shit. What do you think, Clay?”

He shrugs, “Do I really have a choice?”

“Not really.”

“Can we at least pick up a couple of forty’s on the way there?”


Ashford Ridge…why does it have to be out in the middle of nowhere? Times like this make me wish I had the want to drive. My legs don’t ache thanks to the forties and wine we’re carrying and sharing between us. With a full on guzzle by Dutchie on to my infamous three-gulp and then to Clay with a sip that would make a dainty Satan blush.

Back and forth, back and forth…our demons are thirsty.

Hippie Rodney’s house is just up ahead. A flattened wood square painted a disgusting bole brown with a rusted white tin roof. The outside is splendidly landscaped with trimmed bushes of yellow and red begonias, a manicured lawn outstretching beyond all sides of the home, and unblemished apple trees.

I am not fooled. I know what’s inside that little house of horrors.

I stay behind Dutchie and Clay. I hate going in this place. I hate how Rodney’s wife, Ula Mae, decorates. My skin is unsettling at the thought, “Clay, sit with me and let Dutchie go in.”

“Suck it up, Suzy Lee.”

Dutchie knocks on the door and I suddenly feel like everyone’s eyes are on me even though we are technically in the middle of nowhere. The door swings open and there’s hippie Rodney with his straight gray beard and white hair all fully braided in a lengthy plait hanging over his left shoulder down his tattooed chest. He’s tiny eyes are slits of cloudy blue, “Well, hell, how ya’ll doin’?”

“Good, good…”

“Come on in, Ula Mae jus’ made some of her cheddar an’ beer soup.” Rodney widens the door and we file in. I more slowly than my two compatriots.

Oh, Jesus, she has the display lights on.

See, Ula Mae collects porcelain clowns. They sit on homemade pedestals painted blizzard blue and blond and they hang from the ceiling on small swings, and their glass eyes follow me…I swear it. I fucking hate them. I hate clowns, their baggy suits, and their blank eyes. Everything has their faces on it; throw pillows, paintings, and even some are painted along the brick of the fireplace. It’s so gross and I feel my stomach lurch at the scent of her soup.

We sit on the sofa and a clown pillow touches my arm. I try not to flinch. I just try not to look at any of them, but it’s so hard.

Rodney takes his bronze cloth throne in front of us, “What brings ya’ll the way out here?”

“We were wondering if you had any pot for sale.” Dutchie lights a cigarette.

Rodney clicks his teeth, “I had some good shit ‘bout two days ‘go, but I am tapped out, brother. I got some new bud comin’ in, but it’ll be, at least, another three, maybe four, weeks ‘fore it’ll be ready, know wha’ I’m sayin’?”

“Shit, man. That really sucks, but you know we’ll be back in a couple of weeks.” Dutchie says.

Ula Mae comes wobbling in on her funky Igor leg, “Haaaay you guys! Soup’s ready, you’uns gonna stay fer it? I got some fried maters. Yeah, buddy, we’re gonna have a big ole eatin’.”

I stand up trying to hide my nerves, “Nah, Ula Mae, we’ve gotta get going. We have to walk all the way back to town.”

The fat in her cheeks sag and bring out all her fifty-three years. Her frown sincere, “Wayl, shi-at, I’s hopin’ of ya trying out may soup. I hadn’t made it since last fall.”

“Sorry, Ula Mae.” I have a sense my smile is more of a snarl.

Dutchie shakes Rodney’s hand, “It was nice seeing you. Now, hold us back a bag when your bud’s done.”

“Oh, he will.” She says with a playful wag of her finger, “It’s gonna be a good, strong bud too. It’s already starting to crystalize.”

“Mmm…that sounds awesome.” Clay moans.

“I’m a call it White Soul. I know she’s gonna be a good toke, I tell yeh.” He laughs in chuckles and escorts us out the door.


We stop at the corner of Ashford Edge beside it’s two foot tall sign with. I lean against the flowery, amaranth pink scrawled E in Edge, “I feel as heavy as sorghum syrup.” My breathing is heavy and I feel like I’m gonna pass out because of this ridiculous heat.

Clay’s usually ivory face is bright red and sweat drips from the hairline of his mohawk, “My legs are cramping.”

“Get off it, you pussies.” Dutchie makes us continue.

“Where are we going now?” I ask as I follow up behind him.

“Ole Man Harry’s.”

“Oh, come on. Let’s just go back to your house and smoke some of your shit.”

“No. We’re going to his house.”

“But that’s all the way over on Second Street!”

He looks back at me with a hard, but humored gaze, “I don’t care. That’s where we’re heading. He owes me a fifty. I was planning on getting it later tonight, but fuck it. Let’s go get high.”

God, I really hate him sometimes. He is such a fucking asshole. Now, we’ve got to go all the way on the other side of Port Alex to the ultimate last resort. Dutchie has dealings with him, but neither me nor my boys have had any dealings with him since we were fifteen.

I hear a squeal of tires coming to an immediate stop. I look behind me and see the glitter of bright ube and see Brittany Knappenberger’s head stick out of the jeep’s window, “You guys need a ride?!” Her fairy like voice carries over the intense rustle of cars along the highway.

I hop over there and give her hug through the window, “Man, am I glad to see you!” I go around and sit in the passenger’s seat. The boys climb in the back of this pussy wagon. The old trusty, Lavender Lee; the fancy cousin of Robert E. Lee. That’s what she’s told people anytime they call her a dyke for the jeep’s rainbow stickers, rainbow crystals hanging from her windshield, and it’s intense purple hue.

“Where am I taking you?” She asks as she bats her lashes over us. Her long, maroon hair makes her ruddy cheeks and cerulean frost eyes prominent. She’s always reminded me of a classical German pin-up, but with some extra padding.

“Second Street.” I reply as she pulls her car back on the pavement, “How are things with you and Rickey?”

She rolls her eyes with indignation, “He came over yesterday on my day off…again. He brought me batteries and potted meat and I asked him if he liked shitting in a can for me. Then, he tried to kiss me. I don’t want him to touch me, let alone kiss me!”

“What’s his fucking problem? Didn’t you break up with him?” Dutchie asks.

“Yeah! But he just doesn’t get it. He’s a fucking moron!”

“What a jackass.” I shake my head, turning in my seat to face Clay, “The other day, when Britt went home, Rickey was outside in his car. He’d been out there for four hours!”


“He was waiting for me to get off work…for four freaking hours. I tell him that I want to be left alone, I don’t want to be touched, and I don’t want him coming around every single time I have a day off.”

“I’ll make him disappear if you want me to.” Dutchie smiles darkly.

“Be my guest.” She laughs.


Ole Man Harry Coakley never changes, no matter the season, no matter the reason or year. He’s sitting in a broken down lawn chair on the front porch in cut off denim shorts and a fake gold chain. The medallion is embedded within a bare, white haired chest. And the closer we get, the worst his smell is. Like old bisexual man sex on a dirty floor covered in a light film of shit.

He’s overseeing a small get together with the Pyles family from the apartment below him. I hope we don’t stay very long.

Harry’s Columbia blues are eagling us, “What you want around these parts, huh?” His lips contract tartly as to allow his gloss to glisten beneath the sunlight, “You’re looking pretty good, Dutch. Your jeans fitting in all the right places. Who’s your friend?”

“That’s Brittany. She’s cool.”

Siblings, Brook and Timmy Pyles give her a wave and he says, “Nice to meet you.”

Ole Man Harry nods and extends his hand, “If I give you some gas money, could you run Ladonna for a beer run, Miss Brittany?”

She shrugs, but I can tell she really doesn’t want to, “Shuure…”

Dutchie leans to her, “I’ll go with you.”

Ladonna Pickard has to be one of the nastiest women in Shawnee County. Sometimes, she’s a hooker, but she’s a druggie and drunk all the time. Her fifty plus ass walks down the cement steps wearing a pair of cut off denims and a greasy tube-top. She’s rubbing her pregnant looking gut with an icky looking hand. Usually when she does this, she says, “I’m so sexy, the sexiest piece o’ ass in the state.” But not today. She shakes Brittany’s hand, “Niz ta meaht yer.”

“You too.” Damn, Brittany can play it sweet to a fault!

Ole Man Harry hands Dutchie a fiver and everyone except Clay piles back into the Lavender Lee. I’m back in the passenger’s while Dutchie and Ladonna are in the back. Once we’re on the road, she starts running her toothless, floppy lipped mouth, “I luv ‘Arry do mutch. Yer know ‘ow loang we ben dogedder? Twenty yers.”

“Congrats, Ladonna.” I say through a forced smile.

“Yea, we meaht fifteen yers ‘go and we ben dogedder e’er since. An’ we daded first two, fi’ yers ‘go. We geddin’ merr’d.” Her seeping cinereous eyes idly look over to Dutchie, “You a ‘andsum yun’ thang, Dutch. An’one e’er tell you dat?”

He nods with a smug smile, “My girl does, every day. Now, how long you and Ole Man been together again?”

Her nasty hand rubs his upper leg through the denims, “I ben dow’ de streets fer a long time. I a dime piece o’ ass…”

Brittany and I both have our hands covering our mouths, suppressing the laughter. She somehow swallows a cackle enough to ask, “Where do you want to get the beer, Ladonna?”


It’s a quick trip and Ladonna nearly jumps out of the jeep when she pulls in the parking lot. We watch her moseying around the store. Dutchie leans forward between the seats, “Did you see that bitch rubbing up on my leg?”

We can’t hold it in any longer and we laugh like maddened hyenas. Dutchie taps our shoulders, “Shut up, here she comes.”


Ladonna struggles with carrying the twenty-four pack of the cheapest beer she could’ve possibly bought while we walk over to the porch and take our seats here and there. Clay is happily talking to Ole Man Harry about the different types of marijuana when Ole Man interrupts him in mid-sentence, “I got this for you, Dutch.” His fat hand with it’s withered skin hands him a full fifty sack.

“Thanks, man.”

“Roll that shit up, babe.” I call.

“Don’t be a greedy bitch, Suzy Lee.” Clay laughs.

“Now, that’s some OG Kush.” Ole Man Harry smiles proudly.

“You always say it’s OG Kush and it never is.” Dutchie is rolling one up while he talks, “But that’s alright, man. There’s only two types of pot; shit that gets you high and shit that don’t.”

“Amen, brother.” Timmy pops up and scoots closer to us.

The Pyles family of 5715 Second Street Apt. 2 are some of the most inbred motherfuckers Appalachia has ever seen. Dinah, their mom is religious and takes that ten percent tithing to heart. No matter if her bills go unpaid or if they go without groceries. Likewise, the church doesn’t care if she and her two adults kids go without food or electricity. Just as long as she keeps handing over her ten percent.

Oh yeah, I don’t think anyone knows who their father is, but what we do know (and something they don’t talk about except with a few trusted people) is that Dinah found Brook molesting Timmy when they were all teens, and she didn’t stop it. In fact, she joined in.

Dutchie lights and passes around two hefty blunts and the real world has begun. Beers are flowing and the smoke stays around us like a paste.

Timmy is tall and would have a decent build if he wasn’t all tied up in his momma’s apron strings. His long, auburn hair is slicked back in a tight ponytail with the sides and back shaved. He wears all green because he knows it highlights the red in his hair and he doesn’t call himself an Appalachian of Irish descent. Oh no, he’s an Irishman, full blooded. He even learned Gaelic, as if that would convince anyone. I’d love to see a real Irish guy kick Timmy’s posing ass.

Brook is mousy with greasy black hair and dark blue eyes. Her yellowed skin is marked by deep set pimples and blackheads. God, I want to get the fuck out of here.

“Yer a big boy, ain’t ya?” Ladonna coasts over to Clay, “You know, I culd suck yer…”

“Suzy Lee, if I was just five years younger…” Ole Man is looking down at me from his chair.

“What, Harry?” I ask.

“I was just saying you and your friend, Brittany…whew! I’d love to be smothered by some black and red snatch. Call it a koi-way.” He chuckles as his belly bounces tightly up and down.

I look over to Dutchie and I see Timmy’s hand moving down his back to his ass crack. Dutchie jumps off the porch before Timmy can touch anything, “Hey, Harry, it was nice hanging out with you, but we gotta get going, you know?”

“I understand. You have a good night with that girl of yours, girl looks wild.”

When we four get into Lavender Lee and all the doors are shut, I shake my head, “What a bunch of fucking freaks!”

“Agreed.” Brittany says with a wide eye.

“Hey, are you spending the night, Dutchie?” I ask.

He leans forward and kisses me awkwardly between the seats, “Course, baby, but do you mind stopping at Bernard’s, Britt? I want to get some bourbon.”

“Sure.” She makes a wild turn and heads down Petite Rouge Street.

“Turn that shit up, babe.” Dutchie says to me.

I twist the knob and realize that it’s the new Shartruse song all hip-hop techno. It makes me sick, “I don’t know what you hear in this shit.”

“Makes me wanna get drunk and rave and she’s so fucking hot. I’d fuck her on a bed of glass, let her beat me with a TV Guide.”

Clay laughs out, “Who’d be on the glass? You or her?”

“We’ll roll around and bleed together.”

“You’d get GRIDS.” I say.

“Not just GRIDS, that bitch is nasty. You’d get, like, Tron-GRIDS.” Clay is rolling a blunt masterfully with Britt’s insane driving skills going on, “Did you hear what Ladonna said to me?”

Oh, I can’t wait for this, “What?”

“She said she’d suck me off for free, that’s how good looking I am.” He licks the paper, “And that her mouth was the closest thing to heaven since she didn’t have no teeth.”


Bernard’s Grocery Store is a conglomerate federation and their chain or brand is seen along the Mason-Dixon Line as well as the Bible Belt. Both we straddle and they cater to our needs. Liquor is between soda pop and frozen pies. Bam, stoner-drunk isle.

Clay looks at the neatly labeled moonshine, Brittany is absorbed in the pretty colors they make alcohol these days (neon green, blues, and purples), but Dutch and I are hounds for the bourbon. We’re like witches sniffing out damned souls.

“Do ya think Venus Blue is about how we treat the earth?”

“Who? What the fuck are talking about?”

Damn it, no one ever listens to Acid Bath. Why do I keep forgetting that I’m the only one?

“Wait, are you talking about music again? Is it David Leonard?”

“No, never mind.” I frown.

David Leonard doesn’t even sound like Acid Bath. I shake my head and then we are there. The bourbon section. Choices, choices! What decisions we have before us! The manager’s special wine we passed was foreplay, but this was the real deal. Seventy-one proof and higher, oh holy be.

“Which one ya gettin’?” I ask.

“The cheapest one.”

“I knew that, stupid. There’s seven different ones at fifteen bucks. Which one?”

“The highest proof.”

Jesus, sometimes I think he thinks I’m still a little kid, “Get the Evangeline brand. It makes you taste carmel when you belch.”

“It’s only forty proof.” He picks up a giant plastic bottle, “Looks like Ole Elijah won out again.”

“Well, let’s get it and go. I wanna get drunk.”

He bats his long, dark lashes, “Why, Sally Long, are we running from something traumatic? Or are we just weak?”

My hands go instantly to my hips, “Both, dickweed. Now, let’s get the booze and get outta here before their 80’s ballads give me the HIV.”


“That guy was really cute.” Dutchie says as we get into Lavender Lee.

“You think every guy is cute.”

“Shut up.” He taps my shoulder playfully.

As Brittany starts the engine, Clay light up the blunt he so carefully created. He hits it, “I made it with grape flavored papers this time.”

Now, some information for the reader. While grape is delicious and all that jazz, it is not…REPEAT, is not as good as green apple. Green apple leaves a taste on your lips that is both sweet and sour and it makes you lick your lips repeatedly. Aside from Ladonna’s half toothless mouth (apparently) is the next thing to heaven. You know when people eat something good and they say, “It’s like an orgy for your mouth!” Well, it’s like that, but for your lips and still working taste buds. You know, because smoking makes you taste things at a more benign level.

Grape is tied at cherry. Cherry is decent, but it doesn’t have that sour taste which makes your tongue go gaga. Grape is great, but always seemingly dry for some unknown reason. Though, I’ve heard that it’s first rate among some circles.

And now you know….and knowing is half the battle. So they say on cartoon reruns.

Brittany rolls down her window because of three reasons;

First (and Second); she believes that weed should only be smoked when one is terminally ill and has a hard time eating or keeping food down or one is going on a spiritual journey.

Third; She believes it to be harmful drug that zonks people’s brains until they’re zombies. In fact, I’ve only seen her smoke pot once when she first started college. She was already pretty wasted and just sat there and smiled like a goblin prepared to kill.

We whiz past high schools and through narrow streets and it does no good for her. She’s giggling like a girl, despite herself. Clam bake, baby. This is how it’s done.

“You think Muddy Waters was really a ho?” Clay asks as he passes me the blunt for the second time around.

“What is with you guys? Can’t you fuckers just get high without talking all intellectual?” Dutchie is exasperated and smiling.

“No.” I respond quickly, “Fuck you for wanting to be stupid.”

“Hey, bitch. I’m not stupid. I like to control stupid people.”

“Then, why ya with me?” I pose a question that I’ve never received an answer since tenth grade and pass half a blunt to him.

“I fucking love your brain. You being hot as fuck is just a perk and you know I wouldn’t date anyone ugly.”

“God forbid it. Your ego would shoot itself.” I take a fast sip of the now open bourbon, “Are you staying over, Clay? Shit, I don’t even know how you got in this morning.”

I can see him thinking there in the darkened corner of the jeep before he answers, “No, I’m thinking of going with Brittany…and you left your door unlocked. Again.”

I stare at her with an open mouth, “Go on and get yourself some, girl. You deserve it with all that grief what’s his face been giving you.”

She giggles which makes me giggle and that makes the boys laugh. And for no reason we simply stop talking and laugh.

I caress my lips, “I taste honey.”

“You’re high.”

“Hey, no one ever answered my question! Suzy Lee, do you think Muddy was a man-slut?”


I open my door with staggering laughter. Dutchie is behind me holding the bottle for all public view. No brown paper bag for this fellow, oh no.

We stumble into my apartment like we’ve done a thousand times before. It’s the reason why I don’t have anything within five feet of the door, “I bet Clay’ll fuck Britt looking in her eyes.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

I shrug, tossing my key down on the table, “I don’t know. I’m drunk.”

Dutchie cruises past me and sits on the love-seat still holding the bottle, “Let’s watch some Public Access.”

I remember how long the night was when we first had sex. I think we both came eight or nine times, “Why don’t we jus’ fuck?” In my head I call it making love, but he won’t abide by that kind of language. Not even after this long of knowing each other.

“Stop being paranoid and sit down here.” He pats the seat beside him and I adhere to his commend because I am weak for good dick.

And no, I don’t give a shit if that’s lady like. Women shit, piss, sweat, have casual sex, have periods, and there are some things to pregnancy that makes even us sick to our stomachs. Anyone who denies these truths do not live in reality. We are all animals ruled by our basic desires. We can pretend we are enlightened because we’re higher on the food chain, but that’s all we are…higher on the food chain. We are no better than the lions, hyenas, toads, and muck we live amongst. No better and no worse.

We watch a half an hour of a donkey farm before he says, “Ha, brings a whole new meaning to being donkey punched.”

I take the bottle from him, “You’re a hog.”

“I’m a drunk and you know this.”

“Stop being so honest.” I take a drink, “How come we don’t do it like we used to?”

“‘Cause we don’t need to do it all the time.”

“But we did.”

He moves around in his seat with a strong grimace, “I don’t know, Suzy Lee.”

“Are you screwing someone else?”

He doesn’t look at me. His eyes are glued insecurely to the television screen which illuminates my apartment, “I’ve been fooling around with Marty Beckett.”

I want to scream, but remain a jovial, almost laughing tone, “The little twink at Zandt Burgers?”


“You know people say he’s got diseases. That’s why he’s a clerk and doesn’t work with the food.”

“Shut up. Don’t say things like that.”

“Do you want to date him too?” I’ve been dreading this. When he’d get tired of just pussy and he’d get that craving for something more. I know, I know we’d decided on an open relationship because he likes guys and I like girls, but can I help that I’m jealous?

I do think we are primitive beings lost in a technological world, but can I for real help my jealousy?

He shrugs, “I dunno. Maybe.”

I hate him and everything he stands for. All the we stand for. If Merrilee and Audie were here this would never happen. None of this would be happening. I want to peel my face off and scream and bleed all over him, but I don’t. I don’t do anything except turn my face to the mule being milked and say, “Every guy I know is a whore.”

The Modern Youth

Sweet Sadists

by Myandra Wolfthorn

Lips turn twisted blue
as the sun bent to touch
We didn’t cry
or show any remorse
There was a sadist
in that romance
and it never fit right
We didn’t take chase
We didn’t run away
A sweet love turned sour
and I died inside that day

The Modern Youth


Well, it’s raining outside. The droplets explode on the safety glass of the school bus window. This fall seems wetter than the other ones. I can’t even enjoy the leaves. They’re all brown and they blend with the mud while the pale, beige stems stick up here and there in the muck and gravel.

I wish I could’ve skipped school today, but Mom made that big wail about how it’s too early in the year for the truancy officer to be called to the house, “This is high school, Suzy Lee. You can’t be as lazy as you’ve been.” I guess my freshman year is supposed to have special meaning or something.

I think life is life and so far it’s pretty much shit.

Sure, I’ve got friends, but they’re all good looking oddballs and I get called a slut for hanging out with them. I’ve never even been kissed, but I’m a total gutter whore. Go figure.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my boys. It’s just that all the guys think I’m too easy to ask out and no other girl, besides Merrilee Martings, talks to me with any decency. Clay, Pax, Patrick, and Dutchie all have other friends. Of both sexes, I might add, but all I have is them.

Merrilee is called a slut too. When we were in seventh grade, there was a rumor that she let guys gangbang her behind Bernard’s Grocery Store for a cupcake. Then again, there was a rumor that I had Elton John’s baby. Tall tales know no boundaries.

In the mornings riding the bus, everyone is too groggy to bully and antagonize. It’s in the evenings when all the girls are full of gossip and other nasty things on their tongues and the boys are riled up something foul that it becomes the usual nightmare. I’ll say one thing for these baboon assed idiots, they have consistency. I can always rely on a ‘muff diver’ behind my back or a note in nice, curvy handwriting spelling ‘dyke in large print. Thinking about all the wasted paper just to write one insult makes my stomach flip-flop. Poor Amazon.

It’s gloomy out so it’s quiet. Only my thoughts and the roar of the bus engine keep me alert until we roll up to the front of the school.

West Port Alexandria High School looks like a prison. A tall, wide square of flat beige bricks with white mortar. The teachers guard it like a jailhouse too. They stand around outside in their khaki/polo uniforms in the dew riddled grass along the path watching all the kids march themselves inside, like we’re a herd of oxen and this is where we’re forced to graze. Mind numbingly pasturing while the sun rises high and we waste away over Revolutionary War facts I’ve known since I was nine. Isn’t repetition a component of brainwashing?

The driver opens the doors with a screech and we all stand up. I wait. I’m in no rush to get inside. Besides, no one likes me enough to cut in front of them.

I am the last to step off. The scent of scared anticipation is something I hope I never forget. Wet sod, the varying sweetness of the cheerleader’s perfume, the old brown leather of the bus seats. I am the last to smell the beginning of this dreary Thursday as the twilight stays strong against the flags rippling up there on the pole. The bright red, white, and blue of Old Glory and the Ohio state flag slightly bigger beneath it.

I find it’s best to keep my head down on the walk from the bus to the double glass doors. I wish I had time for a cigarette, but then I hear that first bell and the hair on my arms stand straight up despite the dampening weather. It’s the warning bell which means I’ve got five minutes to hang out with my friends before we have to separate…and graze.

Have you ever noticed how great and awful girls look in the mornings? They all have perfectly moused hair, defining their makeup better as they sit lining the hallways. Each have a different nose and chin. One might have chestnut eyes and another may have gray eyes, but they pretty much look the same, don’t they? They shop at the same malls and watch the same shows. Not one of them is without a favored tanning salon, blond hair dye, or style of French tipped fingernails.

They all look the same, but at least it’s a good look….right?

I rush up the stairs to see my boys in the far corner opposite of me with all the popular jocks and rich boys leaning against the lockers in between. My eyes stick to the tan and lime tiles as I make my way through the crowd. I hear them laugh about pussy and mimicking something funny from TV. when Hadrian Journey bashes into my shoulder, “Hey, sexy.”

They never call me the more crueler names in front of my boys. My guys are too tall, too broad, too handsome, and too frightening to be fucked with.

I shrug off Hadrian the jackass and with a grin across my face, I practically jump on Clay with a hug, “Heyyo bitch!”

He laughs, “Heyyo bitch.” Lovely Clay; he’s the one with the most muscle which tends to put people ill at ease and that’s funny because no one knows he’s the quiet one who is less likely to hurt anybody.

I lean against the wall and notice Merrilee sitting by my feet. She is like a little goth rag doll. She looks up at me with dark aquamarine eyes lined with heavy red makeup. Her smile is soft and her words are warm, “Good morning, Suzy Lee.”

I slide down and sit beside her, “I’m diggin’ the corset. What’d ya make this one out of?”

She blushes an orange hue giving new meaning to the term peachy keen, “You remember that red skirt I made a couple of weeks ago?”

“Ya made it from a curtain, right?”

Her cheeks deepen, “Yeah, well, it’s out of that material and this top lace I got from the Charity Store. I think it was a widow’s veil.”

“That’s awesome. I wish I was that crafty. I can barely fix the seam in my backpack.”

She nudges me and I see the black rose in her hair, “Whatever. You got body like decks have aces. I’m like Audrey Hepburn and you’re like Jane Russell.”

I peer down at my chipped, black nail polish, “I don’t think Jane Russell would appreciate the comparison.” The bells rings and the air I breath becomes a bustle, but we sit still, “Can I walk with you to class?”

She crinkles her nose with a giggle, “We have the same class.”

Now I’m blushing, “Yeah, I…”

Merrilee and I walk downstairs in tandem with Patrick and Dutchie behind us. Patrick, lean like a Roman legionnaire, a musical man not prone to fantasy and Dutchie, the tallest of us all and I think that everyone knows by now that he was born a sadist. They don’t like each other much, but they make do because I’m their friend and we understand one another in this strange land called life, and it’s hard to find someone who gets you…let alone four someones.

God, I love how my bell-bottoms feel against my skin. Tight in all the right places. I know they’re looking, I can feel their collective stare burning my ass, but I don’t care. Being this close to Merrilee gives me a skip in my step.

I don’t feel that confused about this. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how confused they get when they have these kinds of feelings. What I mean by that euphemism is that they get scared when they want to fuck someone with the same genitals as them. I am not afraid. I’ve known I liked other girls when I first saw Merrilee Martings.

We were ten when she first walked into my world. We both were so small and timid, but she never spoke a word to me. I knew I liked guys when I saw Brad Pitt in a vampire movie, just in case you were wondering.

There is one thing I’m not sure about. You see, whenever I’ve seen two chicks making it on television they’re always so…well, one looks like a girl and the other looks like a guy with a vagina. The only time I’ve ever seen two girls who dress and act like girls, it’s a porn.

Merrilee and I are both females. If we are too similar, will it even work? This is making me nervous. I feel sweaty and I want to go home. I mean, I’m not saying she’s a girly-girl, neither am I, but Dutchie told me that lipstick lesbians don’t really exist and that they’re just used as straight guy bait.

My head is a whirl of thoughts when we sit down in Mrs. Wright’s class. Patrick is on my left, Dutchie is in front of me, and Merrilee is behind me. Dutchies worn out t-shirt has holes in it, but he smells delicious. He smells like how a man should.

Mrs. Wright is a blond bombshell and goes on to explain iambic pentameter to the class, but I am somewhere else.

I never really noticed it before, but Dutchie has facial hair. Jesus, it’s hot. I bite my lip and imagine him fucking me from behind with a pristine bed made before me covered in with rose petals, but that’s wishful thinking on my part. He’s been with almost forty people now and I have no doubt he’d think it’d be hot to take my virginity in the backseat right outside the Hi-Low Rest Stop and somehow he’d make it classy, get me to giggle, and convince me to run in and get him a sandwich.

A note suddenly drops on my desk. I glance around to make sure no one is looking and open it. Merrilee’s handwriting to unique and the ink is heavy and pressed firmly into the paper. The letters are small, tightly packed together cursive loops.

I want your number. We should go out.

My heart is pounding. My blood is pounding, pulsing. I feel a cold sweat come over me, I write;

Like a date?

I flip the note over my shoulder while Mrs. Wright is reading over our new summery papers.

I’ve never been on a date before. I wonder what Mom will think? No, best not tell her. Maybe Merrilee’s family are more understanding. If not, we’ll have to keep it a secret. Except for my boys. They know more about myself than I do.

The paper flops down on my desk another time like slowly rolling thunder. I feel like I’m going to be sick. Through my panic, I open it and it says;


Oh my God, I want to get up and dance. Shit this is our only class together. I weigh my options and ideas and ask her if she’ll meet me behind the school after the last bell. My eyes just read her confirmation when this interrupts my cloud-fucking-nine, “Suzy Lee, are you passing notes?”

“No, Mrs. Wright.”

“I saw you get a note. Now, get up and read it.” She has thick lips smothered in rose colored gloss. It’s a shame, really. She could’ve been another Jayne Mansfield look-a-like, but instead she gets to hear and put up with shit head kids like me.

I stand up straight and proud like my momma taught me, “It says, ‘Mrs. Wright is a fat cunt.”


“Why do you say the things you do?”

I’m in the counselor’s office again. I’m not sent to Principle Leadingham’s office, or even Vice Principle Basil’s office anymore. They think I’ve got mental problems or something. I mean, I probably do, but does that mean I have to come here? I can’t decide which is worse; Being considered a slutty bitch or a slutty basket case? Girls gotta have options, they say.

I look at the two pairs of eyes staring back at me and I wonder if I am crazy. Mrs. Bending sits behind her desk dressed in a orange tan and snazzy pantsuit too young for her. Her French tipped fingernails tap the stack of manila folders which has been insinuated as my file. Mr. Horn sits on the corner of her desk in pleated cream trousers and apprehensive mustache. He’s twirling a ballpoint pen between his skinny, blanched fingers.

I imagine snatching it, jumping on top of him, and stabbing him in the neck until no more blood could possibly come from his body. Mrs. Bending would scream, looking down at us in terror standing in the corner by her filing cabinet. I wouldn’t use the pen on her. No. I’d get that counselor’s diploma off the wall and bash her face in with the heavy metal frame. I’m sick and fucking tired of seeing her raccoon eyes and poorly implanted button nose. I want to cave her in like a weak mineshaft until I’m out of breath and red in the face.

I grip the arms of the veneer and plastic chair and lick my lips. I’m insane, but they have all the certificates.

“Did you even hear me, Sally?” Mr. Horn asks in his effeminate manner.

I hate when people call me that. Sally SueLee Long may be the name on my Social Security card, but I’ve gone by Suzy Lee since I was little. Why do they insist on pissing me off?

‘No, I didn’t. I was just mulling over your possible murder. I foresee brutality in your very near future.’ I think one thing, but say, “I don’t see the problem.”

They look at each other with shocked laughter. It froths up in her throat like a rabid bubble as she reads a paper slip, “You called Mrs. Wright a…a…I can’t even say that word.”

“And you were passing a note around that said that and you know as well as I do that’s not right.” Mr. Horn adds.

I take a deep breath, “But it was my note and I didn’t want to share it. It’s my personal business and Mrs. Wright stuck her nose in and got hurt. I don’t care about her feelings. I’ve got rights that protect my privacy.”

“Not in this school! When you are in this building you adhere to the rules and you, you most of all, know the rules. You’re such a smart girl, Sally. Why do you always shoot yourself in the foot?” She asks as she opens my file, “You get excellent grades, far above average…”

I shake my head, “So what? I don’t want to go to college. I want to live a normal, anonymous life working on my paintings, smoking cigarettes, and hanging out with my friends. Maybe I don’t want to get married and maybe I don’t want kids. I’ll start drinking. I don’t know what I’ll do, maybe ride the rails and learn how to read hobo signs. What leaves tonight?” I look up at them, “This is an invasion of my privacy.”

“You’re on school grounds.” Mr. Horn reminds me.

“This is going around in circles.”

“You’re trivializing. Why do you think you do that?”

Blood. Blood. Blood. Blood gushing and pouring blood. I hate being analyzed, especially by idiots like these two. I’m not sure if it’s an act or if they are genuine, but I know that neither of them could possibly understand what it’s like to be me. Just like I wouldn’t know where to begin understanding them. We’re all strangers in this place, some of us are just more violent than others.

“I don’t know. I’ll try harder. I won’t pass notes in class anymore.” I clinch my jaw, “But, if it’s anyone’s time I’m wasting, it’s mine. Mrs. Wright is paid to spend her time here, like ya’ll and I’m supposed to come here willingly or by the threat of a truancy officer. In the end, it’s your paycheck, but my life. It’s mine and if she didn’t want to hear something bad, she shoulda kept her nose out of it. I’m being violated here. Trust that while I’m adhering to your rules, know that it’s a kind of rape…I just don’t know what kind.”

“You are not being…raped. Rules are rules. If people didn’t follow rules or laws, the world would be chaos.” Mr. Horn sounds like he’s making a point, but he just comes off as tired.

“Yes, there are rules we should follow as people, but the world is chaos already. Children kill each other in the streets, police kill the elderly, half a country has AIDS, and everyone is medicated to make ‘em forget it all. And we’re gonna sit here and debate a single word?”

Mrs. Bending smoothes down the right side of her honey brown hair, “Notes can carry answers to tests.”

By God, before I die, I will choke this woman, “But we weren’t taking a test. We weren’t doing anything.”

“That’s beside the point.”

No. I think it is the point, but I’m never going to get out of here at this rate. It’s like a freshly redecorated hell every fucking time I walk into this place. I rub my forehead, “I’m getting a headache.”

Mr. Horn shuffles smugly as if he’s won a the prize at the bottom of the cereal box, “Go on to class.”

Mrs. Bending passes a note to me, “Give this to your teacher so you won’t get in trouble.”

“Thanks.” I say.

I traipse from their office to the side door on the opposite side of the building. I prop the door open and smoke cigarettes until I hear the bell for lunch.


Lunch is nerve wracking. It’s loud, crowded, and my only friends that share my lunch period are Dutchie and Merrilee. Neither is of much solace. All the people make her feel paranoid and she retreats into her trey. Dutchie spends two minutes to pick at his food then hops from table to table to chat and flirt with all his customers. He may be young, but he hustles like an old pro.

Dutchie and I stand in line like cattle, “Ya know where Merrilee’s at?”

His wide, somber eyes scope the room, “I don’t know, but there’s Chris…bitch owes me ten bucks. I’ll be back in a sec.”

I pick up a plastic green trey containing a sloppy joe, corn, and apple sauce and slide it along until it comes to the lunch lady at the cash register. I’ve seen her everyday since the beginning of the year, but I don’t know her name. I punch in my four digit code and she looks at me with her hand out, “That’ll be two-seventy-five, Sally.”

I wish Sally was dead, “I’ll have to charge it.”

Her brows come together to pull an ugly look, “That’ll be twelve dollars you’ll owe.”

Jesus, “I don’t have any money on me.” I’ve got twenty dollars in my pocket and it took me three months to save it up for new David Leonard album and I’ll be damned if I have to wait any longer for it.

She rolls her eyes in annoyance and thumbs for me to go on somewhere. I’m not even worth words.

I sit at the usual table isolated between the corner wall and the tables where the stoners sit. I am tucked away, alone and hidden. I eat my sandwich and drink the chocolate milk. I try a bite of the corn, half of the kernels fall off the spork. The half that remains tastes like plastic. I spit it into a napkin and I’m done. The clock tells me that I have another twenty-six minutes to sit here by myself and listen to everyone’s laughter until another bell rings.

I close my eyes and pretend I’m mowing all my lovely peers down with a tommy gun.


I look forward to my last class. Pax, Patrick, Dutchie, and Clay are all there with me. They sit in that formation in front of blank computer screens. I sit at the end by Clay because he’s my personal tech support. Poor guy. Technology can suck my phantom dick.

The room is filled with the clicking of keys. I’m the slowest one. My fingers push the buttons with an unsure force.

A greatly satisfied woman went with a truly white dense spade through the hat of my good little well-fattened pig 

Before Kate-Una left the Iona cattle auction with hops

Mister Jack, you type much better than your friend Wolf

By the seventh page, I’m  typing;

A greatly unsatisfied woman went with an untruly black shovel through the head of my bloody cock

Before Kate-Una left the cattle auction with big mugs of beer and tits

Mister-sister Jackie, you type much better however tacky

Everyone is done and talking and I still have six more pages left to fill. Fuck! Patrick looks down the line to me, “You done, yet?”

“No. Obviously.”

“Just print it out and give it to her. She won’t know the difference.” He always sounds so confident and the more confidence he has the more trouble I get into.

I click all the buttons and I hear the printer rumble to life. I swallow hard and walk across the room. I feel like all their eyes are on me. It’s as if they get quieter as I pass them. My black corduroys make a swish swish with every movement of my legs. I don’t know why I’m so nervous, but I want to go to the bathroom and scream.

I pick up my papers and hand them to Mrs. Levi. She smiles at me with a touch of crow’s. Her hair is a vibrant red and she rides this badass motorcycle that’s in the reserved parking out front, “Sally, I’ve got to make some copies. Make sure they don’t get too loud, ‘kay?”

I nod and have become numb inside. I watch her walk out the door in frozen fear. I look to my seat and it seems so far away and I’ve got to walk all that way unprotected. It’s five minutes until the bell rings and I meet Merrilee outside.

My eyes are to the stiff navy carpet and drudge through the path where Hadrian and goons sit laughing. I can see them throwing waded paper balls at each other. Jordan Roof taps him on the arm and points to me. I pretend not to notice because I’m almost past them and around the corner. Just a couple more steps…

There is a quick roll of chair wheels across the carpet. Hands grab my hips and I’m down on someone’s lap. I squirm, “What the fuck? Let me go!”

“Aren’t you a sexy button?” Hadrian Journey. I should’ve guessed.

“What the fuck does that mean?” They’re laughing like hyenas at me.

Before I know what, my boys are standing in front of me with flared nostrils of anger. Dutchie is shrieking, “I’m gonna shove my foot so far up your ass, you’ll taste my athlete’s foot!”

“You’ll be brushin’ your teeth with Preparation H.” Clay quips.

“You’d know all ‘bout that, faggots.” Jordan’s fat mouth sneers.

“Wait a minute, wait a minute. This is stupid. Let her go…” Patrick says, “Before anything crazy happens.”

Hadrian’s strong football playing hands loosen and I’m free. I get up awkwardly and Jordan trips me and my cheek burns across the carpet.

“Oh, that’s it! Yah meet me in the parking lot, motherfucker.” Pax’s face is red dripped rage.

Clay helps me up as Patrick says, “He let her go. Just drop it.”

“No, fuck that. I hear them sayin’ their shit in the halls. I don’t care if yah play ball with them on the weekends or what-the-fuck-ever yah do, this is shit-all and yah know it.”

Patrick steps back with defensive hands raised, “Alright. Your call.”

Dutchie gets closer to Hadrian and Jordan laughs, “I will slit your throat and cum in the hole while you drown in it.”

The room is as silent as a cemetery. Everyone looks scared and excited. A pack of preppy girls in the corner are anxiously smiling. People get off on violence. Gladiator games, boxing, mixed marital arts. It’s all the same. People try to blame it on video games and some say it’s neglectful parents. I think it’s all bullshit. We have the violence in us, it’s been with us throughout the ages from the beginning of time and it’s going to come out rather it be through our fists or our creations. It’s there riding the tide in our veins and everyone in this room can hear it deafening their ears.

The bell rings and I can see the hallway filling up with the day’s hearsay and raunchy jokes. Slowly, the class files out, but we’re still here. Hadrian stands and Pax pushes him back down in the chair. Jordan pops up like he’s gonna punch him, but Patrick steps forward, “Outside.”

All the guys walk out puffed up and I stand alone. I get my backpack and run so hard and so fast that I don’t see people. They are blurs to a single-minded blindness.


It’s muggy wet and the sun is high beating the cement, echoing the heat back to the group encircling Pax, Dutchie, Hadrian, and Jordan. I force my way through the crowd and the fever from the fighting strikes me and takes my breath away.

Pax has Hadrian down on the ground beating on his face, his knuckles painted with blood. Hadrian looks like unprocessed hamburger; a raw, bloody rag puppet, “Don’t touch her ‘gain! I’ll kill yah, fucking kill yah!” That fight was over before it began.

Jordan is swaying on two feet. Dutchie’s nose is oozing bright gore, but he’s laughing. He’s enjoying it with every beat of his gray, spiky heart. He pounds his chest like a caveman, “Ya’ll wanna fuck wit my friends, huh, motherfucker?” Jordan wipes his forehead and Dutchie sends him on the ground with a hard left followed by a surprise uppercut. His heavy, black boot stomp with bone crunching effect, “Dumb fat bitch!”

“What’s going on here?!” Vice Principle Basil pushes his way through with a swollen angry face. Mr. Horn, Mr. Copas, and Mr. Liles follow him. Bas the Spaz and Mr. Liles get a hold of Dutchie while Mr. Horn and Mr. Copas get Pax off the ground.

“Back off! Back off!”

“It’s over now!”


Mr. Horn checks on Hadrian and on to Jordan, “They’re out cold.”

Mr. Basil points to my boys, “You’re suspended. Two weeks. Now, get outta here.”

The crowd disperses as Hadrian and Jordan’s unconscious bodies are carried back into the school. They won’t be playing football for some time. Patrick, Clay, and I got up to the bloody messes that are Paxton Howell and Dutch Mossberger. They’re both sweaty and scarlet and clapping each other on the backs for kicking ass.

I hug them both and give a kiss on each cheek, “I gotta go, but I’ll see ya’ll later, right?”

“Wait. Where the fuck are yah goin’?” Pax is pissed.

“I got business.” I scurry from them. My backpack is bouncing and I feel the bruising forming on my hip already.


My mind is a spinning, torrid wind. My skin is sweating from all these black clothes and I keep running and running.

She’s gone home. She’s not going to be there. She got tired of waiting and went home.

I stop short of the corner. My heart feels like it’s gonna thump right out of my chest. If I turn and she isn’t there…

I shake my head and walk around the sharpened edges of the bricks. She’s leaning against the building smoking a cigarette. She’s so pale and calm like a pretty corpse. She’s always so together.

“I, I didn’t see ya at lunch.” I say. God, I feel stupid.

She butts her cigarette out beneath a big, black boot, “I wasn’t hungry.”

Her back is straight as she turns to me. Her green eyes are deep and slanted, like the very demon of temptation. Those ruby lips and cold skin. My backpack falls from my shoulder to my feet. I can’t take my eyes off of her. She’s beautiful. She’s perfection. She is the breath I need.

We step to each other in unison and she nearly breaks my arm as we embrace. Her lips part and her cigarette and soda flavored tongue slips into my mouth and makes me explode throughout every inch of my body. I push her against the building and our hands roam over each other. I’ve never kissed anyone before and I’m probably fucking it up, but I’ve heard it’s best when it’s messy.

Merrilee surprises me and pins me. Her long, burgundy nails tug my curls, she bites my lip, and begins kissing my neck. Her soft exhales along my skin give me goosebumps. She kisses me again before she stares up at me with devilish glee, “Do you want to come home with me?”

I can’t speak. I’m nothing but heartbeat and tension. I nod and she takes me by the hand.


It’s been two weeks in something better than Heaven. A bliss better than anything I’ve known to exist. She is like looking at the moon, staring there and dreaming upon her. Better than the sun because I’ll never go blind.

Her dad, John Paul, is a drunk. Completely wasteful and is hardly ever home. Clare, her mom, died a long time ago. Merrilee doesn’t talk about either of them much, but there is a cherry hutch covered in pictures of Clare. This gives us plenty of time to be alone.

Mom loves the fact that I’ve got a friend that isn’t a guy so she’s let me stay these past couple of weeks with my Merri. She’s so glad that I’m acting less wanton, but I don’t have to heart to tell her my newfound happiness.

“We’re too young and live in a hillbilly town. Let’s save ourselves the trouble and stay low until we’re in college somewhere far, far away.” She tells me.

We sit together in the trailer she lives in and listen to David Leonard albums as we chain smoke. She has long, thin fingers that always find a way in my hair, “You’re so beautiful, Suzy Lee. I’ll tell you everyday until I’m dead.” This is how we spend our time.

We’re walking towards school, our hands intertwined. She’s wearing a black, velvet skirt and purple corset. Her makeup has a flare for the dramatic with heavy liner and dark eyeshadow. I’ve seen her fresh from the shower and she’s more better looking without all that shit on her face.

“I can’t wait until it’s winter.” She says with glee.

“Why? We’d have to walk in the snow…I’ll get pneumonia.”

“Yeah, but it would look romantic and that’s what matters.”

I almost let her hand slid from mine, “All that matters?”

She rubs my arm and smiles, “Not like that, Suzy Lee.”

We walk in the quiet early morning. We spend most of our time in silence. I know it sounds weird, but she speaks to me with her eyes. No words. It’s as if everything is understood.

It’s a long walk from Merrilee’s trailer to the school. The air is chilly and the echoes of barking dogs and morning shifters through the hills. Once out of Woodland Holler, we walk down the road which leads to Saint Malverde Corner. There is something eerie about this land. The fields surrounding are abandoned, neither cow nor wild dog have ever roamed here. The grass is a deadened yellow and the fence keeping the wilderness from engulfing us goes on forever. A mile and a half of old wooden posts and chicken wire. By the road sign there seems to be some fencing that used to be painted white, but it’s all peeling away.

We stop beneath the St. Malverde sign and take a breath. Merrilee looks at the pocket watch strapped to her bag, “We’ve got fifteen minutes.”

“How long we got ‘til we go again?”

She lights up a dark tubed cigarette, “We have time.”

I sit on the patch of cement and light myself a cigarette. I watch her as she smokes. I don’t think many would think she’s good looking. Her white heart-shaped face and narrow features lean her towards the exotic. Her thick lips and slender, slightly upturned nose gives her a natural duck-ish face. Her features are classical and understated. Her pitch, straight hair tousles and moves like silk with every flick of ash.

I look up to the sky and the clouds are starting to disperse, “I bet Mays is up in Heaven partying like it’s $19.95. Plus tax.”

“Of course.” She stumps her cigarette out and we’re on the move again.

We come upon the the stirred speed of the school and we stop holding hands. We arrive with an extra nine minutes.

We walk up the stairs as Pax finishes saying, “I don’t know. I just like a nice, big, juicy ass.”

I run up to him, “Shit! I forgot ya’ll were coming back today!”

Pax opens his arms with a smug smile to display himself, “New and improved, baby.”

I playfully hit his chest as Merrilee comes to stand beside me. I notice Dutchie whispering to Clay and giving me the cold shoulder, “Hey, big D.”

He turns with a scowl and pursed lips. His almond colored eyes bore into me then to Merrilee and then back to me, “You dating her now?” I nod and I can see the hatred seethe. He pushes his way between us and stomps down the hall.

“Fag.” Hadrian coughs out and everyone laughs, but their glee is cut short. You would think that jock prick would’ve learned his lesson.

Dutchie picks Hadrian up by his throat and pushes him against the locker. His eyes are flaming and a deviant smile twitches over his lips as he watches Hadrian choke and turn purple. I run over to them, “He’s not worth it, Dutch. Come on…let him go, please.”

It takes him a thoughtful second before he releases him. He friend hugs me tightly, “You do what you want to do.”

I soak in his arms and when he lets go of me, I feel a sort of emptiness. His heavy cologne and the scent of his semi-basement molded jeans trail away from me. What the fuck was that about?


Autumn comes on full force with chilling vengeance and Merrilee warned me that she always gets sick when the seasons change which is why I’m sitting alone with Clay in the cafeteria watching him eat a microwaved doughnut and chocolate milk.

“Garson!” I slap the table, “I want my coffee now…Now. Now, you bitch motherfucker, I said now!”

A gulp of milk spews from his nose as he laughs and snorts. I scrunch up my nose, “Ew, gross, dude.” His face turns beet red as he scurries off to the restroom. Milk is all over the table so I casually move to another table and lay my head down on my backpack waiting for the bell to ring.

I hear a group of girls two tables in front of me giggling. With one eye open, I see the kind of chicks they are. They all have blond highlights and are in a constant state of muffin top. The name brand whores who are too fat to be popular. I bet they used to have individual names, but now they’re all Katie, Kayla, or Kassie. Will I begrudge them when I’m out of this place?

A refreshed Clay sits down across from me, “There’s a new guy.”


“I have him in a couple of classes. I think you’d like him. He’s, uh, your type.”

“I doubt it.”

The bell rings and we go our separate ways. Mrs. Wright’s class is spent passing notes between Dutchie and Patrick and they too inform me of the newest addition of West Port High. By the writing I can tell Dutchie’s gay side is crushing and Patrick is ambivalent. Just one class in and I’m ready for this day to be over.

I’m walking through the hall when Jordan hits me in the shoulder, “Dyke!”

“Fuck you!”

“Hey!” Mrs. Voorhees points and bids me to her. I do as I’m told and see Jordan and his cronies laughing just beyond the corner, “Sally Long, you are a lady and ladies do not use that kind of language.” Her pinched face is as stoic as a ferret and her skin is peeling from her weekend cancer treatments.

“But he called me a dyke.”

“I didn’t hear that, but I did hear you and if I hear is again I’ll send you to Mrs. Bending for Wednesday detention.”

I shake my head, pissed off again, “Are we done here?”

“Yes.” Her voice is drenched in disappointment. Disappointment in me. Well, fuck her.

This is all a popularity contest. A caste system, but I won’t lay down and take it like some Untouchable. I’m gonna defend myself to the max because no one else is going to.

The image of me blowing up the school plays over and over as I start going down the stairs when I see an unfamiliar pair of shoes coming up them step by step. It’s only a second that he and I make eye contact, but it’s enough. It’s all I need to memorize everything about him.

Thick hair lying black waves past his shoulders framing an angular face with heavy-lidded eyes as dark as volcanic ash. He has a build for basketball, tall and muscularly thin. He’s got to be taller than Dutchie and he’s six foot two.

A pair of flat-footed, doodled on sneakers point out from the frayed cuffs of his worn out jeans. His denim shirt is mostly hidden by a faded flannel rolled up to his elbows. Multi-colored bracelets made of fabric and flexible rubber are clasped around his wrists.

He must be a bohemian god if there is such a thing, but then our second is over and we continue on our paths.

He’s too hot for someone like me.


A freak storm has hit us in the middle of October. I can’t believe this shit. Snow is a blanket covering the entire county.

“Global Warming.” I’d said as I watched the morning weather report.

“There’s no such thing, Suzy Lee.” Mom said. I ignored her and got ready for school.

That was this morning and this is now. Merrilee and I are drudging our way through three feet of virgin snow to get to her house. We hold hands, she sniffles, and I pretend my feet aren’t numb.

We approach the corner and I see a couple of guys sitting on the fence by the St. Malverde sign. She knows I don’t feel right about this place. She squeezes my hand to tame my fear. I shuffle my backpack more securely on my shoulder and keep my head low. We live out in the sticks and that means there are a lot more places to hide the bodies.

I’ve been thinking of reworking my idea of God to Aries or Ulf. They’re gods of war and to live is this constant, nagging bitch of a battle. Up hill, both ways. I could do that, worship war. Maybe that’s all the hormones flowing through me. Researchers say, shit my momma would say, is that teenagers are violently indecisive.

God, I mean Ulf, I need a cigarette.

We walk closer and with a glance I see that one of the guys is that new boy sitting pretty in patched jeans and tight fitted leather coat with zippers and patches of zombies safety pinned on. I can see a Cult shirt peeking between the open flaps. I nudge Merrilee, “That’s the guy…”

“Shit a brick, son.” Yeah, she thinks he’s hot too.

They stop talking while we pass them, “Nice ass.”

Merrilee’s eyes grow huge as she whips around, “Excuse me?”

He hops off the fence and fist bumps the other dude a silent goodbye. His friend gets off the fence and starts walking the opposite direction.

This pale boy with the chiseled cheekbones turns to us with a small grin, “I was speakin’ collectively, of course. I guess I shouldda said nice asses.” His boots crunch in the snow as he slithers slowly to us, “Would that’ve been more politically correct?”

“We don’t mind being lumped together.” I say.

“Yeah, I didn’t think so.” He smirks, “So, ya gonna let me carry your books and shit for ya?”

I bite my lip and look to Merrilee, “It’s a long way…”

“I don’t mind, really. I’d like to.” He’s holding out his hand. Merrilee looks at me with a nod and we give him our things, “The name’s Audie, Audie Atwater.”

“Good to know.” I smile sweetly as Merrilee leads us onward.

“Aren’t ya gonna tell me your names?”

She looks back with fluttering eyes, “We might. It’s too soon to tell.” Damn, she’s smooth.

The three of us go on in our wayward trek in silence. Early winter has made the fall leaves die, but some say death is rebirth. The trees will return after sleep is done with them. I glimpse to Merrilee and I see a spring in her step and I know she can see my own. I can feel his stare sizzling through my clothes and unto my skin. I blush as the wind blows snow dust in the air.

We stop at Merrilee’s red mailbox at 127 Woodland Holler and Audie shuffles the bags, “This your place?”

“You wanna listen to some records?” I ask.

There is a shine in his cloudy eyes, “Ya wanna get high?”

“I’ve never…”

“Let’s finish this inside, I’m freezing my titties off.” She interrupts, “It’s starting to snow…again.”

We walk along the driveway. I think there’s another foot of snow. The trees lean with the weight of crystallization. Merrilee looks so graceful in all this white with her inky black clothes. I’d scream my love for her, but I fear I would start an avalanche.

Inside it’s warm and smells of strange mildew and cigarettes. Audie does not wait for any more politeness and plops all the school stuff on the floor. He takes off his coat and sits on the sofa, “Ya want me to help you girls outta those wet clothes? I got nimble, talented fingers.”

“I bet you do.” She says as we take off our shoes and and socks.

We sit on pillows on the floor where the record/c.d. player rests in the middle with a heavy gold ashtray beside it. We light our mutual cigarettes and she puts on the new David Leonard record.

Audie digs in his pocket and gets out a cigar and slides down unto the pillow between us, “So, this’ll be the first time smoking, huh?”

“Merrilee has before, I haven’t.”

“Merrilee? Well then, you’re in for a treat. This is my best shit.” He says as he lights it up.

“Why’s it look like a cigar?” I ask.

He hits it a couple times and hands it to Merrilee, “Is called a blunt.”

Merrilee coughs some and gives it to me. They look at me like grinning goons, “Like a cigarette, right?”

“Hold the smoke in as long as ya can.” He advises.

I toke it and immediately cough until my face is red. They’re both laughing at me like I’m a clown. I try to pass back to him, but he refuses, “Try again.” I do, and I hold the smoke in just like he told me to.

We pass the blunt until it’s a puny nub of a thing and I lay back on the floor and watch the ceiling fan whirl round and round while I smoke a cigarette. I can feel the smoke pass through my teeth. It snakes from me and I swear it takes the shape of David Leonard riding a dragon. I am numb and laughing at the same time.

“The best song to fuck to is The Decline by NOFX.” Audie muses through slits for eyes.

“If this were a story, they might sue us for infringement or some shit.” I say.

Merrilee butts out her cigarette in the ashtray, “Good thing we’re real, huh?”

I feel her soft hands massaging my legs and she comes to lay beside me. She’s licking on my ear when Audie lays on my other side. He strokes my hair gently and nibbles at my neck. My heart would be pounding and my skin sweating if I could feel. I kiss Merrilee before Audie grabs me up. His lips feel like fire and his taste is sweet and harsh. I watch, as if I’m someone else, as he and Merrilee kiss and then we stop touching and stare at each other with all knowing looks.

“I bet you’ve never dated two people at the same time either?” Audie questions. He brushes a curl back behind my ear, “Tell me the names of my loves.”

“Suzy Lee.” I point to her, “Merrilee.”

He licks his lips, “The Lees…my Lees.” And we are his. Just like that.


Audie owns his house and he owns it for real. He’s not just some boy who lives with his family, oh no, his family lives with him. He started hustling women and peddling drugs when he was ten and he saved every dime to buy a house so his grandma could live the rest of her life somewhere decent for once. Not just some decrepit nursing home or government approved elderly apartment suite towering above the city where she can’t get anywhere without more help from government nurses. Nor was some shit downtown apartment going to work for his mother. He worked hard and spent his money well.

The house is a yellow brick two-story on the corner lot of 2111 Tampa Avenue with a large cement slab porch and columns. The windows are thin and were put in rather oddly so freezing winds come through constantly and the rooms are large and airy anyway. The rooms hold the bare minimum of mismatched furniture from antique stores and bare walls with random posters and old family photos tacked here and there.

Tammi Rose Campbell, Audie’s grammaw, who he calls ‘my favorite turd I’ll never flush’, stays hooked to an oxygen machine in the living room cut off by the rest of the house by an Iroquois blanket for a door. She sits in there with pruned skin watching by-gone science fiction reruns and smoking weed to keep her food down. The couple times Merrilee and I went inside, she didn’t speak, but she smiled and Audie told me that was something.

There are three other ladies who reside within the second story and they are a strange troop. Lorena is Audie’s mom. She is very dark with skin, hair, and eyes all the same shade of the deepest brown. She is a heavy drinker and she slouches most days at the kitchen table smoking crack through a glass pipe and listening to old country ballads.

Raelene is his aunt, Lorena’s older sister. She is taller than her sister, but twice as grotesque. Audie told me she’s got six or seven kids, but no one knows where they are or where they were placed when Children’s Protection Investigators took them. She walks around the house in clothes much too tight and short for her, showing legs streaked with dirt and scabby knees. I still don’t know why, but she walks barefoot everywhere.

Vicky Davis, from what I’ve been told, isn’t related to anyone except being a loyal friend to Raelene and Lorena. She’s short, mousy, and her blonde hair is cut straight to the line of her jaw. She barely talks and even when she does I can’t understand a single fucking word she says. Not that she’s foreign, well…unless you count the deep south as foreign.

A lot of men, and some women, come and visit them upstairs, and money is then placed in Audie’s hands for rent or his cut. And by God, when Audie speaks…all listen to him. He lectures and they listen. He breathes and they listen. Audie is not a leader, but a lone tyrant. A complete ruler unto his keep.

He is ruling his small kingdom while I attempt my homework. He is standing in front of the coffee table smoking a blunt. His bare chest is pale and muscular with a skull and crossbones tattoo between his nipples. His belt hangs low with three inch studded spikes holding up his tightened leather pants, “It’s nothing new, you know? Making up shit to start a war, the Romans were just good at it. Artists, man. They painted masterpieces with bullshit and we modern people still cling to it. The way they handled politics is still the way governments, states, countries, counties are run. Lined with shit, paved with shit, and always stained with innocent blood. Write that down in your little essay.”

“I don’t think Mrs. Wright would like the language.” I giggle.

“Well, fuck her then.” He takes a long toke and hands it to me.

I take smoke it with greed, “I wish Merri was here.” Instead of being with us, she had to stay at her house and watch after her dad. She’d said he was on another one of his benders and she’d have to clean up after him.

He nods, but says nothing as he walks over to his desk. A large oak creature with papers neatly stacked two feet high across all open areas. He sits lazily in a tired looking patio chair. He shuffles through some papers. I lift the blunt up, “You forgot about something.”

He brushes it off with a careless hand, “Take it. I don’t think I could get higher.” His bloodshot eyes scan the papers and he makes some marks in a small booklet from the desk drawer.

“You told me there was no such thing. You can always get higher.”

He looks at me with a smile, “You know me too well, babe.” He skulks from his chair in languid movements. Like a sly animal he comes to me, never breaking eye contact, and takes the weed from me. He sits on top of my homework with shimmering eyes, “If I could, I’d clone you so I could love two of you.”

“Merri and I aren’t enough?”

He cups my chin with a strong, cold hand, “The Lees are all I need.”




I tilt my head, “Is that somebody at the door?”

He shrugs and passes me the joint, “For the hoes, I assume.”

I hear the door open and then a scream, “AUDIE!”

He’s is up in a flash of white and black. I follow him into the foyer beyond the rainbow blanket-door and I see something that rips my heart in two.

Merrilee is puddle of white skin and dried blood in Vicky’s arms. I fall to the floor and take her into my hold. Her left eye is already bruising a royal purple and black and her clothes are torn from her, “What happened? Merrilee! Who did this?”

Her pout lips are white and dried, “Lay…me…down…” Her voice is so small.

Audie helps me carry her to his bedroom, back through the rainbow blanket and we lay her down on the bed by the back wall. She rests her head under my lap as I caress her ringlets, “Please, tell us what’s happened?”

“Dad broke a window and I didn’t get all the glass up before he stepped in it. He cut his foot and went berserker on me. He…” Mascara laced tears stains her already streaked cheeks, “He…”

Audie gently lifts her ripped skirt and we both see what she’s trying to say. Massive bruises of black and violet with cuts in her flesh tell us what her father’s done.

Audie’s face is stone, “Vicky, tell Mom and Aunt Raelene to get the car warmed up. We’re going for a ride.” He turns to me with a softer gaze, “Come on, Suzy Lee.”

I rise and lie her head kindly on an old pillow. My eyes are burning from the tears, “I can’t leave her, Audie. She needs a bath, something to eat…” I choke on my own words.

He hugs me, stroking my hair, “Shush, it’s okay, my dove. Vicky’ll take care of her, won’t you Vick?”

Vicky nods and then runs off to do what he’s told her. I bury my face in his chest and cry until he whispers airily, “Come on. It’s time to go.” He takes me by the hand and leads me outside. It’s cold, but I can barely feel anything. He doesn’t have a shirt and he doesn’t even shiver. Shock and anger keep us warm against the snow coming down.

Lorena and Raelene are sitting in the boat of a car of primer and rust. We call it Shawnee County Gray. It rattles and shakes just sitting there in the driveway without a muffler and a cloud of smoke piles around it as we get in the backseat.

The ride is quiet and bitter. He holds me close and looks out the window to the night. It takes only fifteen minutes in a car from Tampa Avenue to Woodland Hollor, but she had walked and that took two hours. The thought of my doll stumbling in the darkness makes knots in my belly.

Lorena drives the car down the path of 127 Woodland where it clinks and clanks to a halt. I can hear music blaring out from the trailer before we get out of the car. Even louder than the music are the sounds of a madman. The windows are broken out and half a table comes flying out the one looking into the kitchen. Audie is walking behind the car and he gets a baseball bat from the trunk, but he doesn’t close it. Maybe the sound would be heard? I doubt it with all John Paul’s shit going on though.

Audie leads us up the stairs and he tests the lock and nods to us. He opens the door and we are in hot pursuit. Audie is on John Paul hammering away at him before I can even see him. They’re on the floor and there’s blood seeping across the kitchen linoleum. There are pieces of pink mush and chips of skull are splintering with the sharp bashes Audie is giving him.

Lorena and Raelene search the house. Raelene in a gingerly pace past Audie and Lorena like she’s in some sort of secret agent movie. She turns the stereo off and there is silence. Then I hear Audie grunting. My heart is pounding and I move closer to him, “Audie. Come on, Audie.”

He stops still like a caught deer, not a muscle moving. He backs away and lights a cigarette with a small sigh. I look over and it’s not John Paul at all. It’s a woman with a black skirt and white blouse lying on the floor and then there’s all the blood. Jesus, her head…

My stomach pumps and I retch, fucking weed has me all dry. Audie catches me by my arms, tossing his cigarette, and puts his hand under my chin. He forces me to look at him and I think I’m going to be sick, “Suzy Lee, you look here. You’re not gonna vomit. You’re gonna be fine, you’re stomach is fine. You’ve seen this a thousand times before, in every movie you watch and every book you read. Remember that show we watched the other day? What was it? It was about killin’ babies an’ fuckin’ sisters and we watched ev’er second of it. It’s just like that…calm down. Ease down. You can hit me if you like…”

I sit down. There’s blood in the air, but I have to breath. I’ve got to keep it together.

“Audie, there’s a guy in here, in the bathroom, I think it’s her dad.” Lorena calls in her raspy barfly voice.

“Bring ‘im out here.” His eyes never leave me with this infernal leveling way.

John Paul comes down the hall with his hands up. Lorena shuffling behind him, “I’ll shoot you, mah’ fucker, don’t you think I won’t.”

Guns? Oh my God, Lorena has a gun. Raelene comes in carrying one and I thought they just had clubs. What the fuck is going on with me? I’m high as fuck and this, this can not be happening.

John Paul is as tall as Audie, but more stout. His black hair is disheveled and his mouth is bleeding. Scratches down his face still fresh, he’s stumbling on his feet and brings with him the smell of stale strawberry wine. My belly lurches, but I hold it back.

Lorena scoots past him, holding the gun at him with a flat unflappable stare. Her eyes are bulging so much they look like they’ll pop, “That girl dead, Audie?”

“Yeah, she’s died.” There’s almost a laugh in his voice. He moves closer while Lorena backs towards me. Audie points the big end of the bat to Merrilee’s dad, “You know what this for, so take it like a man.”

John Paul wipes his snarling, foamy mouth, “Fuck you, kid.”


I saw the ferocity with my own eyes. The bat hit him and he’s down on the floor in a heap. There was some blood, but not much and he starts moaning and moving around. His hand grasping for something, anything. Audie just stands over him, watching him, “Suzy Lee, take Mom and Aunt Raelene in the back and get her shit.”

I nod and we go about the task. Raelene has the grocery bags from a hook in the kitchen. We fly about stuffing Merrilee’s clothes in bags, her records, her makeup, her towels, the red shampoo and black conditioner, and her jewelry. Down to the nitty gritty, we collect everything and carry it all out to the car. Every task is weighed heavier by John Paul’s screams. I scurry back and forth, never glancing over there. Audie is on top of it and I thought I saw a knife, but I just can’t…I’d rather be ignorant than puke and leave my D.N.A. all over this tin piece of shit.

I ruffle the snow from my hair as I come back in. John Paul is screaming so loud that Raelene put the music back on to cover it, but I can still hear it. The low grunt-scream of a man who has blood on his soul. A sputtering wail spewing slaughter from his mouth.

I carefully walk to the cherry hutch and take down the picture of Clare Martings. Lorena and Raelene are outside waiting for us. Waiting for this to be over like bored housewives smoking cigarettes by the car and making small jokes.

The fact that John Paul isn’t making a sound hits me ruthlessly. My fingers and toes turn numb as I switch off the stereo, “Audie?” My voice comes out small as a mouse, “Baby?”

He turns around with red splatters on his face and holds something up that covers his hand in blood. I move closer to him, clutching the picture of the smiling, carefree woman, “What is that?”

“His dick.”

I feel my face flush as he stands up. He takes me by the hand, tossing the gross thing down, and leads me to the door. In a flash, I see that John Paul’s nose is gone, only protruding bone. A fierce white sticking out past peeled back skin. Audie ushers me to the car and holds me like a babe, “I don’t want you to tell Merri what happened. I’ll talk to her when she’s feeling better.”

“What about the cops? Won’t they take her away from us?” I ask.

“No, no, baby. They’ll think she’s dead.”


“You don’t need to worry about that.”

“What about school?” I’m so confused.

“She won’t be needin’ to go anymore.”

“My friends?”

“They’ll understand.” He says, and I know that they will. People’s feelings are pretty straightforward when it comes to rape, and this is sick rape. Even I understand that.


Mom’s sitting in the overstuffed blue chair watching television. Her Arthritic fingers grip a long, white cigarette. Her nails are like pink taffy colored talons ready to strike. She looks onto the Republican news channel with a gracefully blank face. Her short, strawberry blonde hair is curled and radiant while her brown eyes glisten to the rhetoric.

Raeann sits on the sofa twirling a basketball on her fingertip, and failing. She thinks she’s so athletic being on the junior high softball and volley ball teams, and she’s been talking about adding badminton and track to her achievements too. Her black gaze handles me with suspicion when I walk further into the living room. I sit down beside her and she playfully kicks me, “What’r you wantin’?”

“Nothing.” I say.

“…and now breaking news, we’re just learning twenty two American soldiers and over seventy civilians have been killed by a surprise attack by Al-Qaeda outside of Baghdad this morning. Leeann Yaeger is with us…Leeann?” The newscaster asks.

It goes to a split screen and a demure blond is standing in front of a desert, but I think it’s a green screen, “Yes, hello, James.”

“How is it looking there?”

“Well, the place has been in chaos since the attack. We’ve learned since then that Adnan Ibn Al’alim was an elite member of Al-Qaeda and this seems like a gesture of extremes. General Caindale has said…quote “We have ‘em on the run”.”

What the fuck is this? We have them on the run? We’ve had them on the run, they’re gorilla warfare fighters coming in blitz attacks. These news people are idiots, “Mom, I was wonderin’ if I could talk to ya.”

She turns down the television with a shake of her head, “It’s like these people don’t even want freedom. They want to keep living in mud huts, shooting each other with AK’s. You know, I was watching a drive the other day on the Light-Works station and they were talking about how oppressed these people are. It was so sad. The kids were barely clothed, little girls sold into marriages by the time they’re six. Jesus Christ needs to be working in their hearts. They need God over in that place.”

If anyone in the Middle East is oppressed it’s the women. And is six any worse than the fourteen year olds pregnant with their second kid walking around about to pop in isle 5 at Bernard’s Grocery Store? I don’t know. I don’t know what’s worse, but I do know we shouldn’t judge another culture without first evaluating our own, and ours isn’t that fucking great. Not that terrorism is good, but I think we teeter on the line of the definition of what terrorism is, “Mom?”

“What’s it, Suzy Lee? They’re about to list all the dead soldiers.”

They’ll list the soldiers and pick one with the most heart wrenching story and he’ll be this week’s poster child on the war of Democracy versus Terrorism versus Who Has The Most Oil. Female soldiers die too, but I haven’t heard of one yet, “I was wonderin’ since it’s a few weeks until school is over that I could stay with my friend Audilynn? I mean, it’s almost summer time, school’s almost over…”

“Audilynn? She was friends with Mary, right?”

“Merrilee.” I corrected with a fake a sad, pouty face when she was mentioned. Everyone thinks she’s dead, so I have to pretend to be so depressed. I’ve become a master at it after three hours with the school counselors.

Mom nods in thought. After Mrs. Bending called her with the report of my best friend’s death, she was being a lot more careful with me, “I, I think that’ll be very nice for you. Just make sure to give me her number so I can get a hold of you, okay?”

As I’m thanking her, she turns up the news to drown everything else out. I walk over to her and give her a kiss on the cheek anyway.


It’s freezing outside and the rain taps the roof in almost musical notes. Audie is lying the middle of the bed with Merrilee on one side and me on the other. My fingertips trail imaginary lines down his chest in the dark. All is silent except the sharp intact of breath as Merrilee and I rub him and nibble at his skin.

I run a curious finger lightly over his ear, down his neck, “What are you thinking about in that big head of yours?”

I can hear the sideways grin in the blackness of the room, “You have ESP, don’t you Lees?”

“Only with you.” Merrilee says.

He sits up and leans against the wooden headboard. He turns on the bedside light and grabs a matchbox and a pack of cigarettes, “I have been thinking about something.”

I steal away his cigarette, “What is it?”

He’s sly as he brushes a strand of silky hair behind his ear, “You know how I’ve been moving massive product to get the money so we can leave town? So Merrilee is safe and doesn’t have to stay cooped up in the house all day?”

I sit up a little, leaning on him, “Mmm, down south where it’s warm all year round. Beaches and barbecues in the fall. We could decorate palm trees for Christmas.”

I hand back his cigarette and he looks back and forth between us, “I thought of a way we could speed up the process.”

“How?” She asks, trying to sound interested, but we’re not interested in his words right now.

“We could, uh, could rob somebody or something.”

“We’re not master thieves, Audie.” She says.

“Who would we rob anyway?”

He shrugs, butting out the cigarette and enveloping an arm around each of us, “I don’t know…I don’t know.”

“I think you’ve been drinking too much, lovie.”

I sneak down beneath the powder blue sheet and kiss the outside of his burgundy and black stripped boxers. He moans, but it’s cut short by Merrilee’s kiss. He’s long and thick, difficult to fit in my mouth, but his hand grabs my hair in reassurance. He breaks the kiss with her and slides down to lay flat on the bed to press his lips against mine. His tongue softly licks at my own and his hand find it’s way between my legs. I love him, God as my witness, I love him and I love Merrilee. I never, ever want to be without them.

I kiss him and writhe against his touch. He understands my waiting which is why our love making (and yes, no matter what you say, we make love) has never gone past oral sex. Neither of them are virgins, but they wait for me. They love me.

“Audie…” I’m breathless, “Merrilee…”

Their eyes are so heated and their hearts echo the imprint of my picture through them. She traces my cheek and jawline with a black painted fingernail. Down and further down to my breast.

I hold down my wanting and my lust enough to say, “I’m ready.”

“Are you sure, my love?” She asks with an excited smile.

I nod, biting my lip, “Very, truly sure.” Audie kisses me and we three drown together between the sheets.


I am so stupid. I should’ve taken Pax’s offer for a ride to Audie’s house after school, but I said no because I wanted some time to myself and of course it would start snowing in the middle of my thinking. Now, I’m holding my backpack over my head to protect myself from the flurries of snow and freezing rain. My hands are practically comatose and my knees are getting wobbly and off course without my permission.

My boys were going there anyway. They hooted and howled at me as they passed, but that was before the weather changed. I bet they’re there now getting high and drinking whiskey from the bottle with the blinds rolled down oblivious to the fact that I’m in need a rescue. Fuck it, I’ll call this my walk of stupidity.

I run some, and then strut in quick stride. I want to get back as soon as possible. I can almost smell whatever delicious thing Merrilee has on the stove. And you know, I don’t mind Lorena and Raelene’s country music anymore. I want to hear it. I even miss it all, from my loves to the strange mold that’s developed in the bathroom. They’re all I think about in school. Even my boys have warmed to them, but I think it’s the fact they get free pot and booze.

I sigh relief when I see the Tampa Avenue street sign. I turn the corner and wish that the house was closer to the beginning of the street. The tip of my nose might actually come off and then I’ll stay inside with Merrilee.

I hear a commotion, some raised voices, and someone saying, “No, please, stop!”

Before I know it, I’m running to where I hear it and I see a boy in the grade above me named Huey Eifort kicking another boy I’ve never seen before. They’re down a little gravel half road between a couple of houses, “Hey, what are you doing?!” I carefully step forward.

Huey’s fair eyes meet mine, “Get outta here, dyke bitch.”

I rush him with my back pack out in front of me. We fall down, me on top of him and he yells out. I’m sure the gravel poking up feels real good on his back. I hop off him and jab his nose with the heavy end of my bag. I kick him as he scrambles to his feet and he takes off.

I turn around to the lump of scared boy behind him and hold my hand out to him, “Come on, man.”

He takes it and I’m astounded at how huge he is when he gets to his feet. He’s just as tall as Clay, but not muscular. He’s a honking piglet in a blue shirt with moth holes at the bottom and faded shorts, “Where’s your coat? Don’t ya know it’s snowing outside?”

His nose is blooded and running down his lips and chin. He looks at me with naturally squinted eyes, but then bows his head, “Thank you for helping me.” His words are slurred and slow. He takes his time with deliberating each syllable. He’s mentally ill, I see it now.

I shrug my backpack on, “What’s your name?”

“Daniel Porter.”

“Well, I’m Suzy Lee. Ya wanna come hang out with me and my friends for a little bit? We’ll get your nose cleaned up, get ya warm, huh?”

He nods quickly and follows me down the road. We go through the back to and walk into the kitchen. The scent of Merrilee’s chicken and dumplings make my stomach gurgle in hunger. She turns around, the wounds John Paul gave her are healing well. By the end, she’ll only have a small scar running across her nose, “Who’s this?”

“My friend, Daniel. Daniel, this is my girlfriend, Merrilee.”


“Hi.” Her brows knit together, “What happened to you, Daniel?”

His head shrinks lower in his shoulders and he starts rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet, “Beat up again.”

I touch his arm, “Hey, it’s okay. Are ya hungry? Ya want something to eat?”

He nods and sits down at the table. I look to Merrilee, “I’m gonna go get a rag to clean him up.”

I’m walking down the hall when I hear the boys hollering in the living room. I go in and they’re playing video games and throwing popcorn at each other. Audie sees me, “Hey, baby! Where’ve ya been?”

“I found Huey Eifort beating up a…well, a slow kid.” I say, “I have him in the kitchen. He didn’t even have a coat on.”

“Is he real big with, uh, shortish, kinda blonde hair?”



“Daniel Porter.” I say.

“Yeah, he walks around a lot. I don’t know where he lives, he just kind of…is.” He looks down to the carpet in thought, “Tell him to come in ‘ere, ‘kay?”

I agree and go about my business. When I’m back in the kitchen, Daniel is eating one dumpling at a time and slurping the soup loudly. Merrilee is pouring a glass of milk. She looks so beautiful, her skirt flowing around her slender legs, “I already cleaned him up.”

I sit down, “I went through all that work for nothing.” I say, “Is it good, Daniel?”

“Yes, good.” He smiles and two of his front teeth are missing and the rest are a strong yellow.

Merrilee and I chat a little until he’s done and has drunk the milk down in one gulp, “Hey Daniel, you wanna come meet my other friends?”


We go into the living room and there is layer upon layer of smoke. I make the introductions, but Daniel doesn’t leave my side.

“Do you have a place to stay, Daniel?” Audie asks.

“No.” He starts rocking again.

“Well, how about you come and hang out with us and maybe you can stay here.” Audie says with a friendly grin.

Daniel sits next to him on the sofa. I lean on the wooden trim in the doorway, the rainbow blanket being up releases some of the smoke out of the room, “We’re a brothel and a homeless shelter.”

“I prefer cathouse and hobo town.” He replies in a fun loving manner, but Audie does nothing without meaning. He loves me, he loves Merrilee, I know, but deviousness never leaves the bones…especially when one is born to it.


Two weeks until school, and my freshman year, is over! Then it’s a three month stretch of laying around (no more fucking homework!) and getting high with my loves and my boys and I just know it’s gonna be freaking awesome. Audie says by the start of next year, we can disappear down south. Heaven’s never been so close.

And ya know, we’ve really gone to another level in our relationship. The other day, we walked up into the woods and tied Audie up to a tree. We ate him alive and we three loved every second of it.

Since the weather’s gotten warmer, Audie and Daniel have been doing repair and upkeep on the outside of the house. And now that Pax has a car, we’ve all been cruising up and down the streets like true blue hoodlums. Even the previously asexual Clay got blown at a party…now he knows his real calling. I foresee man-slut in his future. Though, the girl did have a mustache, but oh well. He said her mouth was like a Hoover. Way to go sex!

Sexy sex. Outdoor sex, indoor sex, everywhere, all the time. It’s taken, like thirty times with Audie before it felt as great as it did for Merrilee the first time, and I’m pretty sure Merrilee knows every inch of me these days. The boys don’t even flinch when they see us entangled, all limbs on the sofa. Dutchie jokes he wants to join, but I can tell he wants to. He wants me still, but Audie would sooner dump him in the river than let him touch me. It’s just Merrilee, Audie, and me. Audie Atwater and The Lees…we could be a band.

Speaking of bands; Pax, Patrick, and some other guys have started jamming out back which has inspired Clay to learn how to play the bass, but he’s not there yet. At least he’s trying and that’s more than most do in their whole lives.

I’m standing on the small cement slab of a back porch in bare feet and my hand shields my eyes from the sun, “No, Daniel…you need to chase him! Chase Pax!” Everyone’s laughing while I give the big lug directions in playing tag.

“Daniel! Lees! Come ‘ere!” Audie shouts from the window.

“Come on, Daniel.” I wave him to follow me and we meet Merrilee in the living room, “What’s going on?”

There is no smoke in the room and all the windows are open letting the air flow through. Audie is biting his nails pacing throughout the room in the deepest concentration I’ve ever seen. On the coffee table, there are two maps. I look to Merrilee and she shakes her head and I know that we are in unknown territory, but at least we’re together. She takes a hold of my hand as we move near.

I’ve never seen his gray eyes so dangerous, not even when I saw him do what he did, “I’ve figured it out. Flawless, fucking flawless.”

“What’s flawless?” I ask.

He sits down and taps the maps so hard I imagine his fingers breaking, “This, Suzy Lee. This. I’ve figured it out.” Merrilee and I sit on either side of him and Daniel goes to the desk chair with bricked feet.

“What are we looking at, baby?” Merrilee strokes his hair.

He pushes it away and begins, “Okay this here is a map of Shawnee County and this is the blueprints of West Port high. There are over thirty abandoned buildings in or around the main part of town that are taller than two stories. If someone puts bombs in three of them, timed to go off ten minutes between, that’ll give us twenty minutes to get in and get out. The perfect distraction. No one’ll get hurt because they’re abandoned, but the blasts will be loud enough to get the attention of the cops.”

“Get in and get out where?” I think I know where this is going, but I really don’t want it to. He’s sober, and I don’t like it when he’s sober. I want my love high or drunk or tripping, but not this. He thinks and over-thinks.

He surveys me with an almost icy stare, “The school, Suzy, the school.”

“What? Why?”

He takes a deep breath and licks those full lips of his, “It’s the end of the school year, that means all the funds for every choir or band trip raised for the summer will be piled up with all the money raised for the football team during this past year. It’ll be counted and put in a lockbox and then placed in the room where the band keeps the extra instruments and uniforms. I’m pretty sure they’ll keep it there until the very last day when they have the school council meeting after school. I’m estimating about five, maybe six g’s, but that’s…stretchin’ it.”

“Audie, what are you fucking talkin’ about? Seriously, what are you talkin’ about?” My mouth is open in shock.

“I’m talkin’ ‘bout our dream, Suzy. Remember that? I’ve got some cash stashed away, all the work I’ve been doin’…I’ve been savin’. This extra could let us leave that day.”

“How are you gonna get in? Are you…are you gonna use a gun?”

“We’ll all use guns.”

I stand up and shake my head, “No, I won’t do this. I love you, but I won’t do this. I don’t want any part of it.”

He sits as still as stone for a long time. I can barely feel his heart beating, “Fine.” There’s a tick in his jaw, but all he says is, “Fine. You’ll hear no more of it then.”

I go outside and the sun doesn’t feel as warm as it did. My boys don’t look so strong anymore. I don’t feel so good.


Little Miss Patty Perfect plays at house well, but we do it better. Audie does his business in the living room while Merrilee cleans and cooks. I go to school, do my homework, and we spend our nights getting high and listening to music with my boys. Patrick and Dutchie have united in their mutual dislike of Audie. Pax doesn’t much care for him either, but for once everyone loves me. No one makes fun of me or ignores me.

Merrilee is stirring some homemade soup on the stove while I sit at the table with my history book open. I haven’t written anything the past fifteen minutes because I’ve been laughing so hard, “Clay, you’re secretly a xenophobe.”

“No, I’m not. I’m just careful of internet scams. Some bitch from Nigeria can hack into my shit and then all the sudden I own a speedboat and have to file bankruptcy.”

“Do they have a lot of speedboats in Nigeria?” Pax asks as he passes me a joint.

“Where there is water, there are douchebags with speedboats.” Clay defends with bloodshot eyes, “They could even get my baby pictures and then all the sudden I’m stuck on some perv’s wall as their favorite jerkoff.”

“I’ve seen your baby pictures and I don’t think pedophiles are into bowl cuts and fucked up Jewel teeth.” Patrick says.

I pass Clay the joint, “That’s cruel Patrick. Considering half your baby pics have handlebar mustaches drawn on them.”

He smiles, “It’s my sicko prevention.”

I laugh and close my book, “I’m not getting any of this done tonight. I’ll finish it Sunday.” I look to Pax, “I can’t believe you quit school, man.”

“Fuck it.” He shrugs, “Bas the Spaz told my mom that it’d be better if I transferred to another school. Screw that. I don’t want to go to Port Alex.”

“They’re not so Irish friendly there, you know?” Patrick tells me.

“What the heck do you know about being Irish, Patrick? Your last name’s Louder and that’s German last time I checked.” I grin and the joint rotates back to me. I hit it and hold it in then give it back to Clay, “But whatever, we’re all Irish. Well, Scotch-Irish.”

“I’m just glad that I got the money for the car before I told Mom and Dad I was quitting.”

“Yeah, Pax, your car needs a cool name.” I say.

“Like Big Beulah or Ugly Helga. That thing’s a monster.” Patrick laughs.

“Yes!” I say, “The Beast!”

Clay nods, “Perfect.”

“Suzy Lee? Come ‘ere a sec, baby.” Audie yells from the living room.

I roll my yes with a smile, “Always on the job.” I look at Merrilee who takes over my seat. I kiss her cheek, heated from the stove’s steam.

She been more fragile since the incident. She stares off into nothing and I don’t even think that she knows what she’s doing. Sometimes, she’ll blurt something out and excuses herself, “I thought we were talking.” She’ll say, but no one was talking. It’s all in her head.

I go to the living room where Audie is lying the sofa. He grins up at me through sunglasses and a stoned glaze, “Come here you beautiful girl.” His arms are outward and I bend down to be enveloped. I snuggle him and realize that Brick Linak is sitting in a chair across the coffee table.

Audie lets me go and sits up, “Come on, sit down. Brick brought us some primo.”

“What’s that?”

Brick’s smirk is full of mockery, “You’ll find out, lil lady.” His lips are thin and curl back as he speaks.


Brick lights a joint up and already I can tell it’s different. There’s a smell that I can’t place, but it reminds me of funeral homes. He is a rude smoker. He smokes half of it before he passes it to Audie. Oh well, he’s a good, maybe rough, but good costumer.

I hit and there’s a burning in the paper and a taste that is stronger than normal weed. I cough until my face is red while Brick laughs at me, “Jesus, what’s in this?”

My head is spinning as I hand the roach to Brick, “Coke sprinkled on top.”

“It’s fucking…jarring.”

“Damn right it is.”

Audie pats my leg, “Just give it a sec.”

I don’t have to. My head feels like a balloon ready to fly off. My arms start twitching, but the rest of body is instantly tired. I lean back, “I don’t like it.”

“What do you mean you don’t like it?” Brick is incensed.

“I mean, I don’t like the smell, the taste, and I don’t like feeling like this. I’m gonna puke. It’s gross.”

His teeth grind, “Audie, this is my best shit.”

“I know, I know. She’s just not used to this kind of stuff.” He takes off his glasses and his eyes are slits, “You want something to drink? Pop, whiskey?”

“A double.”

“Right.” Audie leaves and the room falls quiet.

Brick looks at me and starts pacing the room. He’s muscles, his body is moving involuntary, “You can’t say this shit’s bad.” He’s shaking his head, “I don’t need those rumors goin’ round.”

I lean forward and light a cigarette, “Look, dude, I didn’t mean to piss ya off. It’s just not my thing, okay?”

“Yeah, but you better not go ‘round town talkin’ shit ‘bout me. You listenin’?”

What the fuck is his problem? I roll my eyes in annoyance, “I’m not.”

“No, for real. If I hear my shit being talked ‘bout, I’ll know where it come from.”

“Dude, I already told you I wouldn’t and by the way, who the fuck you think you are coming in here telling what I can and cannot say, huh?”

He stops dead in his tracks, “Listen, bitch, you might be Audie’s slut, but you ain’t shit to me! I could call the Russians and have ‘em chop you up and tossed in the river!”

Oh, that is it.

I stand up and over turn the coffee table, “You get the fuck outta here, you stupid motherfucker. Crackhead looking asshole. You don’t tell me what to do and you don’t come in here and call me a slut. You’re nothing but another fucking druggie, and your drugs aren’t even that good!”

He steps up to my face, screaming to the top of his voice, “I’ll fucking cut you open and fuck the hole, you lil cunt!” He lifts his hand back and I prepare for the smack because there’s nowhere I can move, but it never comes.

Audie grabs it in mid-air and breaks his arm bending it backward. I hear the bone snap and Brick wails in pain. Audie twists it until Brick is on the floor, “Did you touch her? Did…you…touch…her?”

“I never touched the bitch, but I will. I’ll fuck her, give her to my buddies over in Brownton…” He has the audacity to laugh.

My boys are filing into the room and Audie lets Brick’s arm go, “Get this piece of shit outta here. Dutchie, I don’t want to see him again, clear?”


Pax kicks him in the head and knocks him out. Patrick and Dutchie pick him up and take him out. I hear The Beast cry to life and go down the road. Clay comes in and sees the mess, “What happened?”

Audie takes me by the hand and Merrilee comes and hugs me, “Nothing. Nothing.”

Merrilee cups my hands, “Are you okay? Did he hurt you?” Her worry is etched in her porcelain face, contorting it.

“No, no. He just yelled at me. Called me a slut.”

Audie laughs, “If he only knew…”


I should’ve stayed at Audie’s house with Merrilee like she asked me to, “No one goes the last day anyway.”

But no, I wanted to go. I had to see it out. Besides, Mom called me and told me that if I didn’t go and see Mrs. Bending one last time for this school year, she was going to have me come back home. Which, technically, is still in her power for the next three months…until I suddenly go missing.

I strut into her office and kick back in that plastic-not-plastic chair and pop a cherry in my mouth from a fruit cup I stole from the cafeteria, “How ya doin’, Mrs. Bending?”

“You seem happy today, Sally. That’s a nice change.” Her mouth twists in a strange smile. I think she’s actually relieved.

“Yeah, well, it’s the last day. Aren’t we all happy? Except you lot…you still work in the summer time, don’t ya? Summer school, meetings…a teacher’s job is never done. My bad, counselor’s job in your case.”

“So, I’m assuming things between you and your boyfriend are going pretty well then?” I agree and she asks, “He was that boy, came to school not very long if I remember. What was his name again?”

“Audie Atwater.”

“Is he attending Port Alexandria?”

He doesn’t attend anything, “He’s home schooled. None of the schools around would let him keep his lip piercing.” And he doesn’t even wear the ring anymore.

I see the grimace she tries to hide, “Dress codes are rules, and rules are rules.”

I’m sure the Nazi soldiers, the terrorists, and the Ottoman Empire all said similar things.

She stares at me with a glimmer of hope in her eye. She’s gonna make me sick, “I’m so glad things are going better for you, Sally. After what happened with Merrilee, I was so worried about you.”

Acting time!

I bow my head slightly and my hair hides my face from her, “They never caught the person who did it…”

“Oh, they will, I’m sure of it. Police officers work twenty-four hours a day and they solve all sorts of crimes.”

Fat, doughnut munching morons. They couldn’t even tell the difference between a fourteen year old girl and John Paul’s girlfriend, and she’d been in her thirties. Fucking idiots. In the newspaper, the sheriff said, ‘At this point in time, it seems to have been a mutual suicide.’ What the fuck is that about? Yeah, Merrilee beat herself in the head repeatedly and her dad peeled his own face off. I don’t know where they get these incompetent fools from, but I’m pretty sure it’s just left of Mars.




I sit straight in the chair and look at Mrs. Bending. She gets up from her chair and moves to the door, “Stay here, Sally.” Se opens it and peeks out. BAP-BAP She closes it quickly. Her face is alabaster, “Oh, my sweet Christ.”

I stand up, “What is it? What’s going on?”

Very quietly, and very carefully, she says, “There are people with masks and guns. I saw them shoot a boy, I don’t know who…I, I think he might be dead.”

Oh. My. God. This is not happening. This can’t be happening, “Are you sure?”

She nods furiously, “We need to barricade the door.”

“Do the windows open?”


I take down the diploma from her wall and whack her outside the head. She falls down with an omph and glass flies in little pieces everywhere, “I’m sorry it’s better this way. If they think you’re dead then they’ve no reason to shoot you.” I nudge her leg with my foot, “Mrs. Bending…Mrs. Bending?”

She isn’t moving. She isn’t breathing. I bow down and shake her shoulder, but there’s nothing. I roll her over and I see a large piece of glass jutting from her forehead. A heavy pit forms in my stomach as I jump away from her, “Oh, my God. Oh, God.”

There is a burst of screaming and crying as Joni Leona Montague and two cheerleaders I don’t know come in followed by a junior grade boy. They’re trying to block the door, but someone is pushing in. Joni Leona is terrified, “Oh-me-god, is Mrs. Bending dead?!”

I get up from the floor, “Yes, I…” I don’t even know what I’m going to say.

She covers her hand with her mouth, mascara stained tears falling down her chipmunk cheeks, “They killed her! They killed her!” Snot bubbles are beginning to foam.

The boy is pushing on the door with strained features, “Somebody help me!”

The cheerleaders try, but it’s no use. The door erupts to reveal a hulking mass of human wearing a black ski mask and holding a long silvery looking gun. He shoots the boy in the shoulder and everyone gets down on the floor. My ears are ringing. I see the huddled girls and I see that they’re screaming, but I can’t make anything out. The masked beast grabs me by the arm and I feel like it’s gonna break. He holds me in front of him and points the gun to my head, “No moving, no talking.”

We make our way out, meeting with another masked intruder holding a large bag. We’re running out the door with the heated butt of the gun still pressed against my skull and I’m so afraid I’m going to trip and fall and be shot. Somehow…Jesus, somehow, I’m shoved in the backseat of a jeep that smells like rotting potatoes and my head held down by the carpet with my ass end up. My hip hits the metal side of the driver’s seat and we’re on the move. Hot and fast like dirty sex, we’re outta there.

There is no talking, not even heavy breathing. Something similar to a calm hysteria settles over the car. My head is petted and soothed like I’m a dog while the engine shrieks down a graded road until there is a slow, drawn out turn onto gravel. The tires gnaw and grind against the crushed rock and there is a stop. I’m pulled from the jeep and pushed into another car where my head is bowed down, but the feeling this time something less labored.

“We’re on Route 55.” A whisper of a whisper says.

“Let her up.”

I’m pulled up and let go to sit back behind the passenger side. I keep my eyes closed, “I haven’t seen ya’ll…you can let me go anytime, ‘kay?”

“Suzy Lee, cut that shit out and open your eyes.”

I bite my lips and open my eyes. Daniel is sitting beside me in a manner all too calm, Audie is driving almost below the speed limit, and Merrilee is in front of me with a arrow straight back. The smoke from their cigarettes are flowing beautifully out the windows, “It was you?”

“Who’d you expect it was?” He asks.

“You motherfucker!” I kick his seat and he swerves off road, but bounces back rapidly.

“What the fuck, Suzy?!”

“You killed people, Audie! You shot everyone! What the fuck were you thinkin’?” I kick the seat again, but he stays steady, “You’re evil! A demon! You’re a fuckin’ demon!”

He flicks his cigarette out the window, “Baby, you need to calm the fuck down. Not nobody was killed.”

“What the fuck are you talkin’ about, Audie? I saw Daniel shoot that guy!”

“In the arm.” Daniel reminds me, as if I couldn’t recall every detail.

“Shut up, Daniel! This is out of control. Merrilee, what the fuck?”

She turns around and pours into me with just a flash. She lays a soft hand on my leg, “Baby, everything is going to be fine. Just breath.”

I take a solid intake of air, but it tastes sour, “Give me that cigarette.” She does and I toke it until it burns down to my skin. I butt it out in the carpet of the cramped vehicle, “Why did he put a gun to my head? Why did ya’ll keep me down? What the fuck?”

“Don’t you watch any a’ those cop movies? You’re our hostage.” Audie sneers.

“I can not believe this is happening. Why didn’t you guys tell me?”

“You said you didn’t want any thing to do with it.”

“That didn’t mean you shouldn’t have told me.”

“I asked you not to go to today.” Merrilee interrupts sharply.

My heart, that muscle deep within the layers of tissue and veins, is starting to ease into a pace more suitable. Not so heart attack-ish, “I’m sorry I kicked ya.” I lean and rub Audie’s shoulder.

He touches is gently, “Is alright, babe. Everything’s gonna be alright now.”


Audie pulls into a field beyond some wilderness along the highway. An old barn sits far back from the dirt path and Audie bumps the car and we go across the overgrown grass and weeds making a trail through the field. The barn is covered in peeling black paint with faded white letters marking it a Post Poke Tobacco Co. which, to me, dates it turn of the century. The roof all red tin and rusted.

Audie parks on the other side between the barn and a line of trees, “Daniel, get the bag. Lees, go inside and get in those clothes.”

“You were gonna snatch me up any which way, weren’t you?” I am a glass vile on the edge of a table.

“You are my baby girl. You really think we was gonna leave you behind?”

Merrilee is at the now open door and holding her hand out to me, “Come on, Suzy Lee. Everything is fine now.”

“Hurry it up, people. We gotta get this show on the road, loves!”

Merrilee ushers me inside the barn. She’s rubbing my hand like I’m a child, “In less than twelve hours we’ll be down south and all this will just be another memory.”

“But it’s a bad memory, Merri.”

“Right now it is, but it’ll be one nonetheless.”

Inside, there are folding picnic tables with packs, elastic bands, and clothes piled on top, “We have to get these on. We’ve got to be quick, you know that, don’t you?”

I nod and we strip them off. I feel like they’ve been stuck on me for ages. Drowning in black to put on more black, to appear in constant mourning. I am mourning, aren’t I?

Merrilee helps put the bands around my thighs and waist. She helps me while I stand there like a dumb manikin. Audie and Daniel walk in and they’re smiling, laughing about something I don’t care much about.

“The other car is gassed up, waiting.” Audie changes his outfit and walks to me. He nuzzles my neck, “I am so sorry. I am.”

“I know, I know. I just…why couldn’t we’ve waited? It was only three months.”

He doesn’t answer me and they all dance around me in obscure clouds of themselves. One is fixing money to bands, one is fixing a short, red wig on, while the other does heavy lifting. I keep my feet planted still in the earth beneath my boots. All that money is there and it’s ours and we’re gonna be gone.

I’ll never have to see Mom and be ignored or pushed around. We’ll have our own place and we’ll have run of the streets. They’ll be our streets. The night will be our home and the grass is where we’ll lay our heads.

Anticipation fills me up like fear to a soon to be slaughtered lamb and I hear, “ATTENTION! This is the police! We have you surrounded! Let the hostage go, come out with your hands up.”


“Get down!” Audie has his gun in hand and we hit the ground. A rock hits my chin, but I’ve no time to think of that now. Merrilee and I crawl to him as he peeks out between the wood.

“It is true?” I ask.

He is stern, but never frightened, “Yes, they’re about twenty yards out, but I’ve got a plan.”

“No.” Daniel speaks lowly, “I go out, you take Lees and run.”

I look at him with tears in my eyes, “There’s gotta be something else.”

Audie’s nostrils flare in anger, but he knows. We all know, “Okay.” He takes us by the wrists and we crouch-walk to the furthest point of the barn. He kicks out a small section and I take a peek. No police, just trees.

Audie nods to Daniel and he heads out the front shooting like an old western. We creep out the back and before we can run, uniforms come from the trees. Merrilee holds up her gun and shots sing out through the field.

I fall back to the ground and I watch her fall down with a spray of blood coming from her chest. Audie has me around the waist, but I’m screaming, clawing my way to her, “Merri! Merri! You sons a’ bitches!”

I don’t know how, but we’re inside the barn again and Audie is rocking me. I try to hit him, but I just can’t. No anger can come to me, “Audie…please, Audie…”

“Baby girl, I love you. I love you so much. Don’t forget that…I love you.”

I stare at him and his eyes are as clear as dust, unclouded and tear smeared, “What are you gonna do?”

“Let the girl go and come with us, son.” A megaphone echoes.

He snorts back a cry and hugs me again, “I’ve gotta let you go, Suzy Lee.”

My throat is so dry and cutting that I can’t speak. No words are coming, but I form them…they just won’t come. My arms fit around him tighter. Don’t leave me. You can’t leave me. No, no, no. no. A million times no.

Audie takes my head in his hands and he kisses me. I climb on him, grab his hair with my hands. He breathes into my neck, “Baby, I love you.” I know what he’s going to do. I can’t let go of him. I can’t do this and I can’t let this happen. Please, don’t do this, Audie.

He grabs my arms, “Baby, it’s time. We’ve got to go, okay? We’ve gotta go.” I shake my head, but he refuses my quieted pleas, “No, it’s time to go.” He cradles me and yells out a crack of the wood, “We’re comin’ out! No guns a’ight?!”

“Alright! Put ‘em down, boys.”

He stands up and helps me to my feet, “You look awful.”

I try to smile, but all I can do hold his shirt in my fists. He brushes my hair down, “It’s okay, baby. Everything’s fine. You and me and Merrilee…we’re all okay.”

“I…I, I love you, Audie. I love you…”

“I love you. Let’s go now, baby. We gotta go out there and you’ve gotta go home.”

“But I don’t…”

He turns me around faster than I can think and his body is pressed against mine. The gun is by my temple and we steadily walk out and it’s like I haven’t seen the sunlight in a hundred years. It’s searing against my skin and my eyes don’t adjust. All the movements are vague shapes encircled with light.

“Don’t shoot. Don’t shoot. Alright, boy, now let the girl go.”

Gently, Audie lets the gun fall from me, “Go on now, baby. Go on home.” He nudges me forward, but I don’t move.

“Come on, girl, come on to us.”

Merrilee is in front of them lying in the grass. Her body is loose and settled there like she’ll grow roots. Her skirt is hiked up to her knees and her eyes look to the sky. The unblinking, unmoving, unfeeling green gazing at a world I have yet to see. She doesn’t look peaceful like in the movies. There’s no music, no slow motion, or poetry being read. Just her lying there like the dead being she really she is. I rush into tears and cover my mouth from the lament I know would scare all around me.

“Just walk towards me, girl. Come on.”

I look back to Audie, “Go on, Suzy Lee.”

‘I don’t want you to die.’ I mouth to him, but he tells me to walk and I do.

An officer grabs me up and someone covers me with a blanket. I’m led away from all I know and past the back end of the barn. I see Daniel laying in the grass, a puddle of blood seeping from his head. I’m pushed inside a polished jeep and locked within.

I’m helpless even as I hear gunshots and I know all my loves are dead. Helpless and I can’t even cry.


Mom is sitting on the front porch with a cigarette ready to be lit in her mouth when the entourage of cops pull into the driveway. All my brothers and my sisters lounge around her like the lackeys they are. The lead officer, I haven’t gotten his name, takes me up the steps and begins talking as if I’m not even there, “Mrs. Arlotte Long? I think she’s a bit…scared from the incident. I believe she was witness to several violent crimes, so I will come by personally tomorrow and question her, but I really think right now she’s needing some…motherly attendance, if you know what I’m saying?”

“I understand.” Mom says. She’s so simple. So fucking simple.

They leave. Everyone leaves. My brothers and sisters are obviously let down by the not so happening happenings. I’m still standing here with this horribly itchy blanket draped over my shoulders and Mom is looking at me with conjecture, “Are you…” She can’t even finish the question. I don’t know if she’s scared or if she doesn’t care, but she can’t finish her own fucking question.

I drop the blanket to the oak wood planks and walk into the house. Raeann and Erica are sitting on the sofa tossing a baseball back and forth. Erica glances up at me with a bemused look, “Have fun, Suzy Lee? How you like your boyfriend being a murderer?”

I say nothing. I feel nothing. I am nothing.

I walk to the back of the trailer and into the utility closet where all the tools are kept. They would be in the shed, but there are too many thieves on Poe Creek Road. I retrieve the shovel and head out and up. Out the door and up the hill behind the house. Why bother to see if anyone’s following me? They ain’t got no interest in anything to do with me anyway.

I strip naked. Bare, until only the elastic bands holding every cent Audie earned is showing. Ten thousand plus in stacks from small to large. I take the white bands down from my waist and thighs and begin digging a hole. I dig for as long as I can and push all that money in the hovel. I cover it, dress, and I go back down the hill and into my rudimentary house.

When I lay down in bed, I curl under the covers and wonder if life will always be this goddamn depressing.

A Day To Forget The Earth

Buyer’s Remorse

by Myandra Wolfthorn

Silly busted down
old ugly stupid thing
sitting there all junked up
in my driveway
your dirty white paint
is peeling and you need some gas
But why don’t you fucking work?
Why can’t you just run longer
than two weeks?
I’m starting to hate you
and under cooling
five dollars used to be enough
to satisfy your hunger
I just got you from the lot
not that long ago
and there you are
sputtering and swerving
like some foreign machine
I wish I could drop you
but I’m stuck here without you
how I hate your being there
all empty and not going
you make me sick
I hope that after I use you full
that I see them crush you
between two moving metal blocks

A Day To Forget The Earth


My eyes opened the second the bedroom door unlatched. A loud crack like a firework followed by subsequent snaps of veneer paneling, “Suzy Lee, Feo finally called yah.” Pax is rubbing his sleepy eyes.

When he passed out on his sofa last night, I took advantage of the queen sized mattress in his bedroom. I regret nothing.

I roll over. My brain is spinning and alert, but my body remains slow with stiff joints, “Did ya take a message? Shit, I need to call him back.”

“No. Now. He’s on the phone.”

I rise from the bed. I don’t have time to stretch. I’ve been waiting on this call for three days and that’s three days leaning on Pax’s generous hospitality.

They call him Feodore the Fairy. Not because he’s gay, but because he’s got a wife and three girlfriends all stashed around town. I know what you’re thinking; ‘well, that’s not politically correct’, but that’s how he was introduced to me, it’s what he prefers, and I’m not one to argue with a crack dealer.

I know Pax’s home phone is on the computer stand in the living room, but the whiskey still coursing through my veins is telling me it is further. It feels like it takes forever to walk there and pick it up, “Hello?”

“Hey there, Suzy-baby, how ya doin’?” His thick, low voice comes through spaces of static. I hate cell phones.

“I’m doing fine. I was wonderin’ if I could get that money you owe me. They cut my food card off and I need to get some groceries.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know it’s hard on everybody these days. They’ve been sayin’ it’s a recession on the t.v. box.”

“More like a depression.” I grumble.

“Yeah, I hear ya there.” Whatever, Feo. Anything less than fifty is chump change as far as you’re concerned, “About the money, I got to take my kid to his soccer game, so I won’t be able to run it out to ya, but Judy’s at the house.”


“So,” There’s shuffling on his end of the line, “Judy’ll be there and the money’s there to be picked up. Is that cool?”

“Yeah, it’ll be nice to visit Judy for a few.”

“ ‘Kay, good. I’ve got to go. Be careful, take care.”

“You too, brother.”

He hangs up in a hurry. He’s always in a hurry. It’s either the drugs or the business. Probably both, but it is a nice feeling to have a street pharmacist temporarily in my pocket even if it is by chance.

See, my momma had given me a hundred dollars when she got her first of the month check. It was meant to assist in my late rent, but I went on the riverboat to gamble with my buddies. Dutchie had brought Feo the Fairy along and before midnight, the dealer was five hundred under and I loaned him the cab fare home.

“What’d he say?” Poor Pax. My telephone was shut off two weeks ago and I’ve been having all my calls directed to his place. He says he doesn’t mind, but I think he’s just being kind. It’s no secret among our group that he’s wanted me to be his girl for a while now. We sleep together, we have good times together, but a wild flower can not grow in a cage. Not yet, anyway.

“I have to go all the way out there to get it.” Lord, that’s a twenty mile trip, ten there and ten back, “Shit.” I flop down on the pile of blankets on the sofa and begin putting on my knock off Chuck Taylor’s.

“Yah can’t walk all the way out there, it’ll take you all day. Let me get ready and I’ll take yah.”

“I can only give ya five in gas.”

“That’s fine.” He goes back to his bedroom and talks as he changes his clothes, “We can take the back way through the forest and up Open Sky Road.”

“Right on.” I say, “I’m gonna use the bathroom ‘fore we go. I’ll meet ya outside.”

The couple who lived here before my friend were horrid decorators. The bathroom is a wretched shade of pink with strips of the wallpaper peeking through from the wear and tear of neglectful tenants. Did I mention the bright tangerine trim? Yes, it really adds to the anxiety riddled, claustrophobic vibe it induces. The six vanity lights hurt my eyes. The room is far too small for such brilliance and they help ease on a panic attack for anybody who enters. This room is a vulgar uterus on display.

I look into the mirror as I wash my hands. The party last night sure took a toll on my eighteen year old complexion. The hip eyeliner from eight hours ago has caked and given me raccoon eyes. I wash it away, fluff up my curly black hair, and dab some scarlet lipstick to my cheeks for a healthier glow. Makeshift blush at its best.

Feeling satisfied with my appearance (you can only do so much with a hungover face) I meet Pax on the tiny stoop of his apartment. It is a door of many in a row in a tall boring building we call The Bounds as its address is 66 Boundary Street. He lives in number 2. Known for being a notorious complex, his is well situated with a row of white dogwood trees blocking the view of the other apartments which means they’re less likely to steal the kids toys in the front yard.

Pax is one of those part-time dads. His little boy, Conner, is a real sweetheart, but no one sees him that much because Pax is always doing something with him. He’ll save up every cent he earns and then blow it on the weekend to insure Conner has a good time. It doesn’t hurt that Pax and his ex-girlfriend, Holli Wolfe, have a good friendship. For having a kid from a one night stand, they handled themselves like adults and they’re both damn good parents.

I’m walking to his rusted jalopy we call The Beast while he locks the door. I smell like booze and cigarettes with a hint of THC. Oddly enough, that is the exact same smell of this whole county. Like a high school dropout dumping ground. It is a depression we’re suffering from and it’s called The Rich White Man’s Greed, but there is no need to start agonizing from Weltschmerz so early in the day.

The Beast has been a derelict car since Pax bought it for three hundred dollars when he was sixteen. He bought it, quit school, and started a band with a couple of friends who are now lost to history.

He lives from the generosity of his soft-hearted mother and welding jobs. Whatever he’s doing, it’s better than what I’m doing.

‘Maybe I should have him work on my budget?’ I smile to myself after that thought. I live day by day. I don’t think I could scrounge enough money to create a budget.

“The times are hard.” They say. But people are always saying that, aren’t they?

Does anyone care that we’re all starving and dying down here in Appalachia or are the past two-three hundred years our hard times we must bare?

My dear Port Alexandria used to be a swinging city resting on the confluence of the Ohio and Scioto rivers. There were jobs and shops. The riverboats weren’t just for gambling and the mining and automobile industries were up and running. There were people and children and the festivals and fairs were bigger and more exciting.

Now, it’s a wasteful hole where indifference and apathy are as high as the hilltops. Crooked cops, bribed officials, journalists on the take. There is no such thing as community anymore because everyone wants their piece of pie. No one cares about all us underthings that languish. I’ve heard it’s because we’re still looked upon as ignorant, inbred, drunk hillbillies. Personally, I’m a little of all those…except inbred, of course. At least…as far as I know…


“I hope we can make it to the gas station.” Pax’s rainbow flecked eyes shift nervously from the gas gauge to the road ahead of us.

I feel pretty bad about only giving him a few bucks, but do I apologize for having bad luck or do I apologize for life being unfair? Yes, it is my fault for not being a hardworking employee of some out of school desk job with mediocre benefits in case I die of old age or boredom. And yes, it is my fault for knowing the value of the twenty-five Feo owes me because I understand the value of a dollar. I understand a penny can make the difference and I know it from poor life choices, but it’s not my fault that it isn’t enough to deliver according to Feo’s high stakes lifestyle.

I don’t know what point I’m saying it for, but I light a cigarette, “Sorry I don’t have more to give ya, but I’ll give ya another five when we get to Feo’s house.”

“We’ll need it.” He smiles at me with reassuring dimples.

I pick up the gold pocket watch he leaves in the car. The Confederate flag is impressed on the front. The curves and precision it took to do this by hand is breathtaking. It opens to an engraving;

For my son, Stonewall 1942

Stonewall Howell is Pax’s father, named after the famed Civil War general. Pax’s pop is a great man indeed. I was in kindergarten when I first met him. Stonewall used to be a Baptist preacher then he became a Navy Seal, but he was well retired by the time I made my appearance. He is one cool customer. He tells these stories of honky tonk brawls, life in the military, and he explains the Bible is such miraculous ways that he temporarily raises my faith.

The masterfully crafted timepiece reads close to eleven-thirty. I’m guessing that by noon it’ll be ninety degrees. I don’t want to stay out in this swamp heat. Luckily, this is about a forty minute trip, so we should be back in comfort before twelve-thirty.

I wish The Beast had air-conditioning.

The old King Co. station is packed. It’s May 3rd and everyone on disability has received their checks. Plus, it’s the first hot day after that cold front went through. That means the fishermen, boatmen, and the hog and crow hunters are all out and about with their red and blue coolers full of red and blue canned beer. Man, traffic is going to suck today.

There is a wait all the way to the highway line of nine cars for full service, but there is only one at the self-service. That is a testament of our laziness as a people, I think. They’d rather leave their cars on and wait fifteen minutes than pay the attendant and pump their own gas. What a bunch of monkeys.

The guy in front of us is sharply dressed for a summer’s day. He looks to be smack dab in the middle of middle age and his tall height adds to his vague youth. On the other hand, his car does not correspond with him. While his tennis shoes are white, the tires are patched and half flat. And while his khakis are pleated and his Alice blue polo is made of something soft and fine, the car is covered in a dry, bubbling coat. The navy paint flakes off some here in the parking lot. Rust has taken over the bumper and is creeping along towards devouring the rest.

He’s just filled his tank, but he’s got two ten gallon drums on the cement slab to be filled.

Pax squeezes the wheel, “I can’t believe this. I can’t believe we’re stuck behind the slowest fuck on the lot. It’s either wait in a line for half an hour or wait one hour behind this fake ass foppish fuck.”

I shrug, “What do I do with my cigarette butt?” It’s burning there between my fingers and The Beast has never had an ashtray nor will he ever remember to replace it.

“Toss it out the window.”

“What? I can’t do that. We’re at a gas station. You can’t even smoke in a gas station parking lot.”

“Nonsense. The pumps are aaalll the way over there and we’re aaalll the way over here. Toss it out the window.”

My eyes weigh the options. If I were a dick, I’d put it out in his freshly opened can of soda. Then again, I could just burn my hand all easy as pie and hard ass like. I flick it out the window and just for a second I think, ‘I hope we don’t blow up.’

The man in front of us rubs sweat from his balding head as he finishes the second drum. Pax lets out an irritated sigh while we watch him pay the underage attendant. He walks calmly to his car and gets in. He sits. We wait. A minute goes by and his back lights flare on then go off. He sits. We wait. The third car in the full service lane is now first. He sits and we wait.

“Oh, come on already!” Pax snarls as he pushes down on the horn, “This kind of shit should be illegal!”

“Maybe he’s God and we’re being taught a lesson in patience. His car is evidence of his humility and piety.”

“Or maybe he’s just another asshole.” He says.

The man pulls out and Pax goes forward, “If I were God come to earth to teach patience to a couple of stoners, I’d have better hair than that guy.”


The quickest way to Marcusville is past West Port Alexandria, through a section of Cherokee Forest, then on to Open Sky Road which is the scenic backroad of West Port. It sounds like a lot, but it shaves off five miles of the journey if you’re driving.

The radio is on WSMP and they’re doing some half hour of a Phil Lynott tribute. It’s good, but it isn’t distracting me from the weather. It’s getting warmer and the air tastes like newly dug earth and heat.

West Port’s a first-class place to live in if you’re into white supremacy. I was born and raised in this ghetto sludge of mountain clan mentality down on Poe Creek Road by Washington Run.

It was uncomfortable to live and attend school here. Words like nigger and jiggaboo and sambo are said often and I’ve just never warmed to that kind of thinking.

My parents faked racism to fit in. I remember the picture of Martin Luther King Jr. on my father’s nightstand. There were biographies on every bookshelf. My dad would even quote him before giving us kids advice or a scolding. There was a great admiration and still he would chuckle, and move in his seat uneasily, at a racist joke.

When I was fifteen, a couple moved in at the beginning of the holler. The husband was African and his wife was Mexican. They had three beautiful daughters. I would see them play in the creek when I went by in the school bus. They all kept to themselves and never bothered anyone.

One day everything was fine. The next day they were gone and the remnants of a burning cross still glowed in their front yard. I never saw those girls play ever again.

What a sickening place. Aren’t we all just people?

I’m thankful when the houses become fewer and farther between. There is one big hill we go up before we see a sign;




The words are large with good scale projection and carved well in a big plank of wood. The letters are painted hunter green and it’s all so fucking lovely, “Pax, you think if trees could talk there would be one cryin’ over that sign, like ‘oh, no…they got Eddie’?”

There is a piece of the forest road which lays in a perpetual Autumn. In the summer, the leaves are brown and brittle like they’re about to fall, but they never do. In the winter, the pleasant shades clash with the blustery, barren days.

Five minutes on a gravel path and we come to a three way country bumpkin cluster fuck of a road. Bales of hay line the fence dividing the farm from the pavement where two stunning auburn mares feast away. Pax turns onto Open Sky Road. It used to be called Aryan Holler, but it was changed when the last of a local clan family member died back in sixty-eight.

The homes out here are made of logs. There are the cabins, the big farm houses, and the occasional tipi style A-frames, but they are all made from good ole fashioned wood.

The most beautiful homes are the giant mansions built for wealthy land owners. They are now all crumbling and falling over from weathered, festering ages of disuse, but if you look with the right eyes you can see the grandiloquence of their active years. The magnificent rose bushes that once lined the houses, the purebred horses, pastel colored dresses moving and dancing holding Mint Juleps and moonshine for their men.

I’m jealous that I can’t have one of these houses to fix up. All this empty land and abandoned homes and all these homeless people with nowhere to go. There’s just something not right with this.


Feodore Carmichael used to live in town back in the day, but he thought the police were too close for comfort. He’s got the perfect setup now. He and his family live in a three bedroom trailer, plain, without a stitch of real care and the crackhouse is at a secondary location and I think only Feo knows where that’s at. They live humbly which is smart. I’d imagine in that line of business you’d want to be as low as possible. They eat well and they dress nicely, but not too nice. His kids have their college educations paid for and he and Judy have a decent retirement. Life will be good for them someday.

I hope I don’t end up in a gutter when I’m old. I’ve seen it happen to those who live too freely. They fly so high that all they can do is fall.

Pax turns down their driveway and parks by Judy’s red van. It’s in so-so condition with a butterfly sticker on the bumper, “I’ll be right back.”

They don’t use their front door so I travel around back. Jesus, it’s hot! I wore a paisley button up shirt last night and now I’m suffocating in it.

The backdoor is wide open, “Judy?”

“Suzy Lee? Come on in.” She calls.

I walk in. It’s dim, but I can see she has her back to me washing the dishes. She dries her hands on a towel and turns to hug me. She welcomes me with a smile on her lips and in her eyes. Judy is a pretty social person, but my grumbling belly must keep focus and not get caught in her flux.

She looks darling in an orange tye-dye shirt and denim peddle pushers, “How have ya been, girrrl?”

“Oh, you know me. I just keep on keepin’ on.” My eyes adjust to the darkness of the room and I see their daughter, Terrie, eating a bowl of cereal on the sofa surrounded by a pack of dogs. They all sit calmly and and stare at me. Their collective eyes don’t shake from me. I gotta get outta here.

Her russet eyes grin with the beginning of crow’s feet, “You’re money is on the table under the basket.” She points behind me then turns away to stir something on her stove. I pick up a ragged twenty and a crisp five and she asks, “Would you like somethin’ to drink?”

“Nah, I gotta get goin’. Someone’s waitin’ on me.”

She circles around strongly and the dogs are fast on the draw. Their nails on hardwood floor makes a sound only reminiscent to Nazi boots clicking at attention, “You brought someone…here?”

Terrie is peeking over the counter. I’ve never seen such coal black eyes. My heart is in my throat, “N-uh, yeah, I don’t drive.”

Her posture eases and the dogs relax. She crinkles her thick, ski slope nose with funny amusement, “Really?”

“Never learned how.” If I ran for it, there would be no way to jump down those stairs and run over the uneven cobblestone walkway. With all the windows down in The Beast, they’d just leap in and tear us to shreds right there in the driveway.

“We’ll, you’ll learn soon enough. My sister didn’t start driving ‘til she was twenty-five.”

“Right on. Well, uh, I’ll be seein’ you ‘round.”

“Wait.” She says. She’s digging in a neon flower printed purse on the table. She hands out a five dollar bill, “For your driver.”

“Thanks.” I smile, “See you later, Judy. Bye, Terrie.” The girl waves, Judy hugs me again, and I ship out of there like a thankful dandy.

I shove all the money in my black cloth backpack except a five. I give that to Pax as I get in, “For gas.”

“It’s a good thing too, ‘cause we’re running out again.”


The Thorny Bush is a gas station, restaurant, and novelty shop out in the middle of nowhere, but it’s still a happening place somehow. People coming for fried chicken and potato wedges, pumping gas, talking on cell phones, all running around like their sheeple heads have been cut off.

All these families smiling and taking pictures and humming little ditties about nothing.

All while one of the biggest pot dealers in the county lives behind it in a government run abyss known as the Hayseed Apartments. They are listed in the telephone book as GHPP Block 48-101. GHPP means Government Housing for Poor Persons. There are a ton of those here. They mark the county landscape like bars and parking lots. I, myself, live in GHPP Block 1-26, apartment 8, but locally my building is called the L. Grey Rooms. It’s kind of confusing, but we members of the social un-elite have a lot of time to consume. In between marrying our cousins and making moonshine, of course.

I utilize the now empty soda can as an ashtray and wait as Pax goes about the business of purchase. There is a man also waiting on the other side of the gas pump. An angular face with blond hair and Air Force blue eyes in a smooth dark pickup. I went to school with him. I can’t place his name, but I remember him on the field during football practices after school. I only being there for detention due to tardiness because the children must suffer for parental ineptitude. Now, doesn’t that make sense?

I hate his face. He’s too good looking, his cheekbones are too sharp. All the days I spent being harassed by his friends. The humiliation I went through. All those nights wasted dreaming of a prince to come rescue me. A savior that is still absent. It’s no wonder I quit when I was sixteen. I was above them and below them at the same time when I really wanted to be in the middle with them. Safe unfeeling, nonthinking faces in cramped hallways. I almost wish I could’ve been like them, all the same.

Now, I can’t even remember his fucking name. I can only remember what he represents.

I wonder if the volume of this guitar solo on the radio is bothering him over there?

The main parts of me don’t care, but there is a little piece in there screaming, “I hope it makes your ears bleed! You garish ape motherfucker!”

But his ears do not bleed. He sits there in the air-conditioned protection of his shiny coated truck staring at the cars on the highway like a automaton.

I see Pax now handling the pump from the side mirror. Sweat rolls from his hairline and I feel so bad for him. On the bright side, he’s looking damn sexy. His strawberry blond curls feather at the ends and his semi-tattooed skin is that bronze farmer boys get when they work with their shirts off. His muscles thick and toned from playing guitar since he was ten. That’s nearly fifteen years of practices, creating bands, breaking bands, and finding his own sound for live shows and the studio work he’s doing now with International Incident.

He’s going to make it out of this dump and I hope I’m still in town to see it.

“That oughtta help.” Pax says as he climbs in behind the wheel.

“Great. Now, let’s get to the store.” My tastebuds are already whimpering for wine.

He turns right out of the parking lot and is heading for the highway that runs through Marcusville. But we stop hard as yellow vested men block off the road with a hulking sign with straight French rose letters;


“I’ll take Mallard Run, it should open up past all this.” Pax decides.

Shit, this means we have we have to make a huge u-turn by Fairy’s house. I get the feeling it would be wise to backtrack on Open Sky Road, “I wonder if anyone got hurt.”

“Eh, probably some dumb ass druggie like it usually is. Nobody around here can drive anyhow and then they go and snort pills…do they expect to drive better?”

All I wanna do is get some food, some wine, and get fueled up. I keep picturing blackberry wine pouring into a cup. Succulent, rich, deep wine. Manager’s special wine. Wine bottles. Aftertaste. Smell. Wine. Wine. Wine. My mouth runs dry and the heat kicks me in the stomach, “Ohgodohgodohgod…”

“Suzy Lee? What wrong?”

“I feel weak. Sick. I feel like I can’t hold my head up.”

Pax lights one of his menthols and hands it to me, “Here, this might help.”

I don’t know if he thinks the mint will calm my stomach down or if the action of smoking will be a distraction tactic. Either way, I’ve never been one to refuse a free cigarette. I take it and the flavor goes smoothly down. It helps, but this torridity is an unstoppable juggernaut of warfare, mentally and physically.

All the houses on Mallard Run look the same. The same faux bricks, the wood porches, and the same two family oriented cars being washed and waxed in their identical driveways. Inside, it’s a man, a woman, and their two children. The ones with at least one son feel superior to the ones with daughters and everyone goes fishing or swimming in the manmade ponds they all have in front of their houses. How a dismal existence is tolerated is beyond me.

We come out the mouth of Mallard Run by the abandoned auto shop, “What the hell is this?”

A couple of fire trucks sit idly while two men in vests wave off all the cars coming their way. A third man is putting up another accident sign. Pax’s anger has soured him, “We’re going to run out of gas in the middle of nowhere! I hope a senior citizen’s bus rolled over.”

“A little old lady was squashed to death today, by her own purse. Apparently, it contained one bag of hard candy and fifty pill bottles.” I pause, “We shouldn’t talk like that. Don’t you know the world is obviously against us? I don’t even see a fire back there…or cars.”

“Fuck ‘em, feed ‘em fish heads. We’ll go to the Sir Save-A-Lot in Marcusville.” He says.

“It’s cleaner than the one in town.” Is what I’ve said, but I’m really thinking, ‘They better have good wine there.’


One pack of garlic bologna.

One loaf of bread.

Three bottles of wine bought so cheap the smell should curl my toes.

We crack one bottle of cherry wine open as we head back towards Cherokee Forest. Pax keeps glancing at his gas gauge, but I don’t care. The day has finally begun. The alcohol sloshing in my mouth and bouncing off my teeth is like sanctuary. If The Beast broke down right now I’m sure we could walk the twenty miles in a drunken daze.

The Beast chugs up and we cruise down. I gulp, Pax sips. I steam when the breeze comes through the windows and he basks, “Oh, doesn’t that feel good?”

“About as good as a bloody eagle.” I mumble.





Back at Pax’s place, we got the blues playing on the box as we cool down.

I puked twice out the passenger window. Pax had said, “That’s what you get for drinking warm wine in the summer time.” But I didn’t care then, and I don’t care now. I take another swig until my stomach is iron.

We relax and I clean out my purse, “Hey, I found another five in here.”

“I have three bills in my wallet. Thinking of calling Clay?”


“That’s another trip to West Port, but I think we can make it.”

I move over and pickup the phone. I dial the number and it rings a few times before a familiar voice rings in my ear, “Heyyo bitch!”

“Heyyo bitch.”

“You still don’t have a phone?” Clay asks.


“I bet you love it.”

“I do. I wish they’d turn my electric off too. I could go back to basics.” I light a cigarette, “I’m wonderin’ if you could go up on Capitol Hill for me. I got a fiver.”

“Yeah, sure. I can later.”


“Raven’s here. I’m burning a c.d. for him. It’s gonna take a while, well, I already downloaded it so it’s not going to be that long. I’ll call you.” He’s high as hell.

I look out between the dirty blinds of Pax’s living room window. It’s getting dark. I don’t want to get stranded in West Port at night, “Okay…don’t forget to call. We’ll be waiting.”



“Mhm, bye.”


He always shows up at the worst times. Plus, he’s an asshole, but no one can do anything about it because 1.) He’s only sixteen and 2.) my guru, Barrett ‘The Bear’ Beauregard was friends with Raven’s now deceased father. In fact Raven’s real name is Houston Torchia Jr. Bear dubbed him Raven because of his black hair.

Even still, Bear has been pushing him away recently. I guess, he’s been flaking off in school and his aunt/legal guardian has been getting impatient. His aunt being friends with Bear, he gets all the skinny. I think he feels like he’s failing to teach Raven what a boy needs from a father. I’d be failing too if I was trying to teach a snotty, shit head teenager like Torchia to be a man.

And I know what they’re doing over there at Clay’s house. They’re over there sitting in his room cluttered to the ceiling with old electronics getting high listening to crappy rap music. Torchia’s preference as Clay hates it, but he can’t help but be a kind host.

“What’d he say?” Pax asks.

“He said he’d call for us to come over.”

“Aw, man. When is that gonna be?”

I shrug, “I don’t know. Torchia’s over there.” The phone rings and I feel a spurt of excitement, “Maybe that’s him.”

“Hello?” Pax holds the phone to his ear and a large smile crosses his pout lips, “I’m doing real good, man. How are yah?” He listens, he laughs, and says, “Yeah, she’s right here.” He hands me the phone, “Here, it’s Bear.”

“Hey, what’s up?”

“Nuthin’ much, baby girl. I’s callin’ to see what ya’ll doin’ tonight. I’s thinkin’ of comin’ over. See what Clay is doin’, come out.”

“That sounds cool. I know he’s busy right now. Raven’s over there.”

Bear grumbles something I can’t make out, then says, “An old friend of mine invited me out to his house way out in Brownton and I’d forgotten about it. I hate makin’ plans in advance ‘cause I forget ‘em, ya know? But anyways, I’s thinkin’ of comin’ over to the L’grey.”

“Well, I’m gonna be gettin’ some green here soon. It won’t be much, but you know I share what I got when I have it.”

“He’s got green too. It’s so far out there, behind that old Evangelical church, but I’ve never been out there and I wanna enjoy the day. I’m tired of being stuck up in this stuffy house. I wanna get out.”

“I’m sure you’ll have fun, but you should call me before you come over so I have time to walk there.”

“Oookay, I sure will.” His jovial tone is replaced by a stern, but quiet voice, “I stole his girlfriend in eighth grade, hope he doesn’t wanna kick my ass.”

“I doubt he even remembers her name.”

“Well, girly, I’m gonna give a ring to Clay. I’ll do some spyin’ see what Raven’s up to. I’ll call ya later, right, babe?”


“Bye, baby girl.”

I hang up and hand it to Pax, “I’ll give Clay fifteen minutes more then I’ll call him again.”

I need some weed. Running around in the heat, nearly mauled by dogs, stress, waiting, roads…and did I mention it’s HOT?

Pax cracks open a beer from the mini-fridge in the corner, “Why does he even hang out with that kid?”

“Hey, I was that kid once, traveling with the older bohemians. I still am, but I’m old enough to buy the liquor nowadays, even if it’s only ‘cause the cashier too busy looking at my tits and not my i.d.”

“I mean on an intellectual level. You’re smarter than any of us, but Clay and Torchia seem so distant from each other.”

Raven is smart. I’ve heard him speak on philosophy, he debates finely. He’s not like Clay, but then no one is, “I don’t know, he gets Clay high.”

He smiles, “Yah know what Bear calls Torchia?”






Goodnight Louise, that was the longest thirteen minutes of my life, “Hello?”

“Hey…” Clay sounds out of breath, “I was just calling to let you know I can do that thing for you.”

“Very cool. We’ll see you in a few.” I hang up and look to Pax, “Get your keys.”

“Got ‘em. Let’s go.”


Darkness does not creep here as it does over deserts and vast land. These are the hills and in the hills darkness settles like a deep blanket swallowing us whole making our world here displayed in black. The stars, moon, and headlights is what we see by on these country roads. Thistle brush grow by the narrow highways here. The soybean and rice fields stretch beneath the sky along this side of the river. Everything feels bigger and scarier at night. Everything is quiet and waiting.

Pax pulls up in front of the driveway of 42 Crooked Creek Hollow and Clay is already there. He’s cut his long winter locks and now his luscious champagne hair stands in a fluid mohawk. He smooths it back with his hand and puts on his flat cap backwards. His sunglasses, the black and white Drunken Luddites concert tee, black suit coat, jeans, and boots makes him a menacing six foot one statue.

He gets in the back seat, “HEYYO BITCH!”

“Hey!” I turn around in the seat, “It seems so long since I saw you last. What’s it been now, one…two days?”

He laughs. He’s getting a hand rolled cigarette from his case. Pax drives onward, “How should we do this now?”

“Drop me off on the corner of Keechle Street and I’ll meet back up with you at my house.”


Russ lives at the top of Keechle Street in a rundown cabin with his wife, his girlfriend, his son, and his son’s girlfriend. Since Keechle is on a steep hill we say, “I’m gonna spend me a bill up on Capitol Hill.”

But Russ is secretive. For one thing, he’s in the top five distributors of pot in the county and he’s got to keep his business low. For another, he has two jerk neighbors. The one on the right breeds fighting pits (which is horrifically disgusting of you ask me) and the one on the left despises the fact their neighbors are people of dubious intent.

We’ve been buying from Russ since we were fourteen thanks to Clay. Back in the beginning we got it from dirty old man Harry or hippie Rodney, but then Russ started paying Clay to fix his computer or do any other technological upgrade to his entertainment center.

When Clay turned sixteen, he asked Russ to pay him in weed since he usually came back to buy it anyway. That’s how magic is weaved, I suppose.

“Hey, did you hear Bobbie Mullins got arrested?” Clay asks.

“No!” Pax and I say at the same time. Clay is laughing and we’re smiling, “What did he do?”

“He tried to rob his neighbor when they went on vacation. Their house sitter saw him climbing in and out the front window. She called the police on her cell phone. He was trying to get a stack of video games when the cops picked him up.”

“Oh, my God.” I say, “Well, all those Mullins boys have been to jail. They go and come back just to go again three months later.”

“He’s facing some time on this one, though. His aunt told Mom he’s looking at five years.”

Five years in Marcusville State Penitentiary. That’s enough to make a man go mad. He’ll come out of there like Carl Panzram, warped and ready for war and rape. He’ll listen too much and he’ll learn too much. Bobbie Mullins, another boy I went to school with, has gone because he may be going there a boy, but he will come out a hardened criminal.

“How many suicides from our graduating class, Clay?” I ask.

“Um, I think it’s five. Oh, six if you count Franky Jay Collins.”

“I forgot about him.”

“Who’s Franky Jay?” Pax asks.

“A boy we went to school with. He’s a tragedy.” I look to Clay, but he says, “Tell the story, Suzy Lee. You know it better than me.”

“He was a football player, in our grade, and he got Brandie Evans, his girlfriend, pregnant. She was in the grade below us. Anyway, they got married and he got a job with the lumber mill right out of school. And you know you don’t make that much money at that shit hole, they don’t even offer benefits. Well, they couldn’t pay their bills, the baby was sick all the time, and they had to move in with her mom. I guess it got too much because he blew his brains out in their bathroom. Brandie told me she walked in from getting groceries, and all she saw was blood. Like, all over the mirror and walls and ceiling.”

“Jesus.” Pax stops at the corner of Keechle Street, “Wait, how long have you been out of school?”

“One year. Well, one year for Clay who graduated like a good boy. Two years years for me.”

“Six suicides in one year? That’s depressing.”

“That’s life.”

“I need the money.” Clay has his hand out waiting between the car seats.

“Oh, yeah. I think you’d need that, wouldn’t you?” I give him the five, he gets out, and starts walking to the cabin.

It takes two seconds for Pax to park in Clay’s driveway and I look towards the lights glowing through the windows of his house. I wonder if his parents ever question why we park here? They never come out, they’re too old to shoo off hooligans.

Clay walks quickly and he’s in the backseat within a blink of an eye. He talks as he gives me the weed and I put it in my purse, “Do you want to come over to Pax’s and smoke with us?”

“I do have another joint…”

“Then we’d practically have a ten sack.”

“But I told Bear I’d save it until he got back.”

“Oh, he went to that guy’s house?”

“Yeah, I guess he had a fifty bag. I’m so jealous, but at least Raven came over and smoked with me.”

“Did you use Ole Betsey?” That’s the name of Raven’s gas mask he converted in to smoking weed through.

He smiles and nods and is gone before I can say goodbye.


It’s blacker than ever outside. Pitch, as they say. I can almost see the copperheads slithering around in those dark weeds. The frogs croak for mates on the creek beds. Somewhere there is an echo of a fiddle and a banjo. With every twist and turn we get closer to it then farther away. I can hear from the faint clapping that some people are having themselves a mighty fine time.

“Suzy Lee, I hate to tell yah this, but…”

“But what?”

“The car just died.”

“What? But we’re still moving.”

“We’re coasting.”

We come to a complete halt in the middle of the road. I’m thankful there’s no one around, “Are we gonna make it back to your house?”

He shakes his head, “No. I don’t think we are.” He tries to start the car, but it doesn’t turn.

“What are we gonna do?” I take a quick sip of wine from my flask. There are bourbon dregs sharpening the sweet taste.

“Jed just lives right up here. We can park there and use his phone.”

“Couldn’t he take us into town?”

“No. It’s too late for him to be driving around.” He turns the key and The Beast roars back to life. He drives a little further up the holler and turns into Jed’s driveway.

Jed Ferrell. What an old freak. Kindhearted, yes, but a pervert nonetheless. He  was a police officer for twelve years and a prison guard for thirty before retiring. He was injured on the job and gets a big prescription of Denaxatrine, but he doesn’t really need them. Instead, his ninety year old tanning bed ass gets the young pillheads to strip for him and they get their hearts desire. If she dances really well, he gives them some cash too.

Now thinking about it, Pax knows Jed through one of his sisters. How did she meet him?

I get out of the car after Pax and we head to the backdoor of Jed’s two-story brick home. It’s a nice prison for a sleaze. He knocks on the door and a girl my age answers. She’s tan with a perfectly teased, highlighted pixie cut and a phone up to one ear, “Yeah?”

“Jed here?”

“Yeah. Hold on.” She steps away from the door, “Jed! Some guy and some…girl are at the door for you.”

“Who is it?” I can hear the elderly cough in his voice.

“I don’t know.” Her tone is snarly and ungrateful. She scratches at her nose then talks into the phone, “Yeah, I’m still here.”

Jed is short and stocky. His lizard like skin is mauled by suspicious moles and age spots, “Ah, Paxton.” His socks are loose and wiggle two inches from his toes.

“Hey, man, I know it’s late, but my car ran out of gas. Can I leave it here until the morning?”

“Yes, yes. You need a lift home?”

“Oh, man, do we ever?”

“Well, walk up the hill to Joe’s and he’ll give a lift. I would, but Tonia and me are in the middle of something.”


“Alright, thanks.”

“I’ll call him, let him know you’re coming.”

“Cool, good. Thanks.” Pax says with a wave of his hand.

“Thanks.” I mutter.

“You’re welcome, Suzy.” I know he’s looking at my ass.

I quickly walk to keep up with Pax, “What are we gonna do ‘bout the dogs?” I kind of regret drinking all that wine earlier, but if I get attacked I’ll die fast and I’d rather die in a blur than linger on in pain. No, no, not in this heat.

Pax reaches in The Beast and gets his Colt Python .357 Magnum, “Four inch barrel, nickel platted. It ought to make you feel safer.”

I take it from him, “What about you?”

“I got the .45 here.” He pats his waist, “And the Smith on my ankle.”

“Right on. Let’s go.”

“Get your flashlight out. We have to walk a few.”

I get it from my purse and we walk, “Who’s Joe?”

“Joe is Tonia’s boyfriend. He’s a friend of Ruby’s from way back.” And Ruby is Pax’s sister. One mystery solved.

“Does he know Tonia is at Jed’s?”

“Hell, he probably dropped her off there.”

“That’s sick, Pax.”

“That’s life, baby.”

We have to climb Joe’s driveway. There are huge deep dips and jagged rocks embedded in the clay dirt. I worry about snakes and wild dogs, I curse The Beast, this unbearable heat, and I’m completely out of breath when we reach the top. I fold over with my hands on my thighs, “I want to kill everyone.”

“You usually do.” He’s laughing at me and for a split second I imagine slitting his throat with my pocketknife and flinging his body into the ravine below. Okay, maybe it was longer than a second.

But people have seen us together, “No, too many witnesses.”


I stand up straight and smile, “Nothing.”


Joe lives in a little blue trailer with two expensive cars in his driveway, “What does Joe do?”

“He grows weed out on his property. He doesn’t sell it, he just gets paid by somebody to use the land. Pretty slick deal.”

“I’d say.”

Another backdoor. Another knock. Joe answers the door in a wife-beater, boxers, and  flip-flops. He’s rubbing his eyes, “How ya doin’, brother? I was sleepin’ when Jed called.”

“Aw, I’m sorry, man. But, hey, this is my friend, Suzy Lee.”

He’s tall and looks down on me with dull, stoned eyes, “Suzy Lee? Joe Fritz.” We shake hands, “Come on, let’s go.” He jingles a set of keys and we line up behind him.

We get into a compact silver charmer. The leather seats squeak as I slide in. For once in his life, Pax is the passenger, “Damn, Joe. This is a nice ride.”

Joe chuckles, “Yeah, it’s pretty cool, huh?” I see his long thin legs covered in hair under the dome light, “I call ‘er Africa ‘cause she purrs like a lion.”

Why would a family four door need to purr?


We’re in front of The Bounds. It’s a shame I met scandalous Joe Fritz on such an awkward night. He’s an engaging man.

“I’m sorry I don’t have any gas money for you, but I will get you back.” Pax says with a sad face.

“It’s all cool, man. I’ve run out of gas too. It happens and Tonia’s bringin’ up some money from Jed, so we even out.”

“Alright. Thanks, brother.” Pax gets out.

“It was nice meeting you, Joe, and thanks for the ride.” I say as I hop out. He waves with a slick two finger salute.

Pax turns the air-conditioning on the second we’re inside. He’s in his kitchen fixing a couple of glasses of RotGut Winery Peach Citrus Medley. Seventy proof. I take a comfy seat on the tattered red sofa and get out my notebook, weed, and my pipe from my bag. I grind the weed over the black leather-bound notebook now sitting on my lap, “Oh, fuck.”

Pax comes in and hands me a coffee mug of wine, “What’s wrong?”

“I know this is gonna sound incredible after the day we had, but for the first time ever…Russ screwed us. It’s shit weed.”

Pax falls down in his green plaid recliner, “You can’t win for losing.”

I feel bad for telling him that. I tap his knee, “Cheer up, mistro. We’ll get a little buzz on. I mean, we went on an adventure today. It may seem like just another bad day to you now, but one day you’ll see what I mean. We went on an adventure and no one can take it away from us. No one.”

I pack the bowl I named The Tin-man and it hits me like a bolt of lightening, “Aj Blenkinship.”


“It was a guy at the gas station. We went to school together, but I couldn’t remember his name.”

“And it just came to you?”


“Do you feel better now remembering it?”

I look at him in thought, “No. No, not really. I think it’s a pretty stupid name actually.”

He gives me a sideways grin, “You’re a secret optimist, aren’t you?”

I place my finger to my lips, “Shush, we mustn’t let anyone else know, or I’ll have to kill you.”