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

1

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.

2

“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.”

3

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.

4

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.”

5

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.

6

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.

7

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.

POP

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….?

8

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.

BOOM
BOOM
BOOM

“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!”

BOOM
BOOM
BOOM
BOOM
CRACK
BOOM
BOOM

“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?

“Uh…”

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.

9

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.

10

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.

No.

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.

11

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.”

“AH FUCK!”

THUNK

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.”

12

“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.”

13

“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.”

14

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.

There!

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.

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