Pray The Day Ain’t Poison


Leaving

By Myandra Wolfthorn

I’m running away
leaving this place
for fucking good
I’m done with
people
places
things
washing
drying

Everything.

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

No more.

Pray The Day Ain’t Poison

1

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’.”

2

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.

3

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?”

Click

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

4

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.

HIPSTER!”

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.

5

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.

BEAUREGARD

BARRETT C

272-48-

Protestant

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.”

6

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…”

7

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?”

How?”

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.”

8

Eleven.

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.

9

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.

10

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

HEAD-ON!

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.

11

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.

12

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?”

13

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.

14

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.”

Blackness.

15

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.

16

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.”

17

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.”

18

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.

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