There are endless cigarettes
and empty bottles
reigning over my precious head.
There is something on fire,
but my eyes are busted close,
burning over my boiling blood.
Slipping over me like gasoline,
slick and wailing,
howling angry insults at the others.
I couldn’t forget the warmth of sunshine,
but I’ve stopped all illusions.
The days run together
in massive amounts of time.
It’s almost Halloween,
and I thought it was August.
Soul shivers in my seat.
I couldn’t forget the warmth of sunshine,
cleansing me like hellfire,
everything endlessly endless.
When The Big Bag of Blood is Desired
Defiant. That word is used to describe someone who is either stubborn or religious. People say I’m defiant because of how I dress and the music I listen to. I am defiant because I’m a girl with only guy friends. I am defiant because I prefer jeans to a skirt and I prefer black to pink.
My skin is as pale and cold as a corpse. My eyes are neither soulful nor beautiful. They are made of warmed earth and salt water. My hair falls in the blackest of curls down my back and over my shoulders. My nose is too large, I have more scars than I could count, and it seems that my weeping makes men tremble. My bloodline is impure. I’m no blue-blooded anything. I’m a wailer, a failure, an unfocused girl called art in motion.
I’m fourteen. Is this how it’s supposed to go?
But I am not defiant sitting on my bathroom floor smoking weed behind the safety of a locked door. It’s expected of teenagers to experiment with so called drugs but only if we dress this way and act that way akin to the West Port whores. Only then will I be considered tame.
I shake my head tapping off some ash of a joint I’m halfway through and my mind zones out to the Jean Ritchie song coming from the radio. I’ve heard it a million times before this moment. Still, I turn it up because it’s Hamhock radio and the pirate station’s been off air since last Tuesday. It reflects from it’s perch on the toilet lid and fills the small four walled room with the soothing sound of the dulcimer.
Leaning back against the bathtub, I stretch my legs outward across the floor. The tips of my shoes almost touch the door at this angle.
The obituaries rest beside my free hand sitting there one next to the other neatly. The editors had chosen their school photos. In the first clipping, Audie’s is almost too dark to see except for his expressionless face and bleak, stringy hair. Merri is smiling, but they misspelled her name by adding an extra ‘t’ in Martings.
Those wounds, though deep, feel so much older now than they used to. I will never forget them. I’ll always remember how it felt when we three held each other. How it was when we kissed and danced to David Leonard records. No one can measure love. I don’t think it can be gathered and weighed. When you love, when it’s true and to the bone and you feel like you’re falling in a terrifying wonderland, then your heart will miss them and cry for them long after death.
But the other clipping…the death I never expected.
Ajay might’ve been fucked up, but I could have helped him. I was halfway through those defenses he’d put up. Those walls he’d built up around his soul reinforced with concrete and bars.
All of them. Audie, Merrilee, and Ajay…they’d all been defiant and now they’re all dead.
I still may inspire painters, poets, writers, and some singers. Not always in the way I may always wish, but my name could be there and that’s what counts, right? Just one stroke of the brush in thought of me makes it mine. But I’m no one’s eccentric muse. I’m not an alpha, beta, or even a fucking omega. I could have been a lady when called in for question.
But no, it wasn’t meant to be. My love breeds death.
“What a joke.” I laugh out, but I’m crying on the inside. The tears just don’t want to come out.
I toke the last of the joint until it burns my fingers and butt it out in the ashtray. I wrap the papers around it and gently place it in my back jeans pocket. A cigarette finds itself to my lips to which I light it without consultation of my lungs. It’s so smoky in here that I have to rub my eyes and I notice the overhead fan roaring louder than the music. It’s too cloudy and that fan is ear-splitting.
“You’re listening to WRSL 99.2, Hamhock Radio, your local station for the Appalachian. This is Gary Powers here introducing that new soul cat, Johnny Checkers and his new hit I Took Out That Waitress Like Motherfucking Tay Sachs Disease. And not only did it reach number 19 on the charts, but it showed the Country Western fans that Johnny L.B. Checkers was a formidable foe. And his next hit All The Women In My Life Have Disappeared, it went all the way up to number 7 which cemented his new Country Western sound.
“After the trial and wedding to his first wife, Miss. Martha Gaye Johnson, whom he killed, his ultra platinum I Kill With The Best Of ‘Em came out and BOY! It was such a hit that even Jack Quarter said, ‘That’s one nigger I won’t even play for behind bars.’”
I switch it off and stand up, “No sleep for the heretics.” I mutter as I spray some air freshener until I can barely think straight. The radio goes back on the shelf above the toilet and I contemplate if any of them had thought of me before they’d been taken by the forever darkness.
No tears. Not right now.
Shit, they probably were thinking they didn’t wanna fucking die.
I find myself staggering down the hallway like a predator of all the lonely men in the world, preying on the weakest. Nosferatu of the worst kind. A dope fiend.
Mom sits in her rocking chair with the fat, bluebonnet cushions watching the news as usual. She shudders, “Those liberals aren’t making the Republicans love them very much. They’re trying to mold this country into the latest Hell. They’ll fall, like Ron Paul. War on drugs over, my ass…” She spits it out like a curse.
My hand is almost on the doorknob when Raeann leers at me with contempt, “Where are you going? It’s not a date looking like that.”
Inside, I am crying and screaming, “My spirit can not be contained! I AM FREEDOM!” But I bristle with a shoulder shrug, “Jus’ takin’ a walk.”
“To where?” She laughs, “The sign post?”
I am only what she wants me to be, she’s just manipulating me so I’ll get in trouble. She just wants to capture me and shove me in a jar to put on the mantle so she and her little friends can laugh at me.
I do the only sane thing and wait until Mom turns her head to light another cigarette and flip my little sister the bird.
“MOM!” She whines.
“What, sweetie?” Her voice is as sticky as honey.
“Sally flipped me off.”
Mom looks me over without fellowship, her nostrils flaring with disdain, “I tried raisin’ a lady. What I got was a heathen. Apologize.”
I stare at Raeann with barren eyes. The way her dark auburn ringlets hang down past her round, tanned face. Her eyes so narrow and shallow. I make her, them, wait. Watching her nose crinkle with impatience. I wait until I no longer feel like she’s winning, that I am a trophy with a cost. I wait until I feel the dust nearly settle before I say, “I’m sorry.”
“I don’t accept it.” Her nose turns up and away from me.
“Raeann!” Mom’s tone is low, but sharp.
She purses those fat worm lips together, “Fine, I accept, but I’m still mad at ‘er.”
“Still spoiled you mean.” I whisper.
“What was that?”
“Nothin’.” I try to appear as innocent as I can.
“Alright. Make sure you’re back for dinner.”
For fuck’s sake…it’s one in the afternoon. What am I gonna do in hundred degree weather for six hours?
I don’t argue or smart back. I am a goddamned rainbow of randomized thoughts and deliberate movements and I’m too focused on getting the hell up outta here.
When my sneakers hit the shoddy black pavement, I know I’m heading for the abandoned tobacco barn over on Willoughby Creek Run. I could go the hill route, but there’s too many snakes, wild dogs, and pot fields where I could get shot for trespassing. It’ll take a bit longer if I walk along the highway, but I’m sure I’ll fair worse before this life is over.
I feel like I’m the glow that is basked within. My inner light, my inner child. Judgmental assholes. It’s okay to be emotional every once in a while, I know that. It’s okay to cry and play and laugh and celebrate life because I’ll suffocate if I’m not allowed out and about anymore. How can people exist without smiling or listening to music? No life. No life at all.
I shouldn’t have stepped outta the house. It’s sweltering out here and the highway is directly beneath the sun. My tank top and jeans are soaked. My whole self is drenched and I know I should turn around. I could get high, relax on my bed and sketch in the air conditioning.
I am my lovers’ lover after all.
My tennis shoes are shuffling along and I feel like I can’t breath. Heat stroke? Heart attack?
I don’t know. My mind is a misting swirl of devolutions as I sit calmly down in this corn field, sliding down the metal road sign on the corner of Willoughby Creek. I wipe the streams of sweat from my hot skin. The stalks grow and stretch before and above me. It is a never ending menagerie of vibrancy and the freshly rotted corn husks of the season in which they had not been picked. Forgotten, maybe used for cattle, but relatively the purpose is unknown to me
I close my eyes while the cars whiz past. I sit and listen to the wind ripping through the tops of the leaves and I feel very much at peace. My mind settled in recognition of the splendor of all that’s around me. The air smells of fresh earth and heated tar with a hint of stalled river stink.
I wish I could say the sun feeds me. That the rays that rain down in ethereal glow nourish my body in ways nothing else could, but that would be a stone cold lie. Fuck the sun. Fuck it’s orbit, fuck it’s usefulness, fuck it up it’s fiery asshole.
Lowly here in this dry muck, I feel more beautiful than any other. I am forever youthful and silent and completely infected by liberty in every sense of the word. I am my own individual, not dictated by the incompetence of those around me. I am no one’s child, no one’s daughter, or sister. I am a stunted sunflower soaking up this godforsaken sunlight which pollutes the trees as even they seem despondent and ill.
I wonder how many people driving past think I’m strung out on dennies and that I just passed out here?
I open my eyes to feverish slits and see The Beast rolling up with crunching tires stirring between the rows of my make believe castle. Clay hangs out the window. He has the most luxurious golden hippie hair I’ve ever seen. He waves to me with a goofy, stoned grin.
The little girl inside of me wills my rescue to be a fluttering fairy to steal me away to their mound and make me one of them forever. My shoulder blades could sprout wings reflecting all light and blinding others with their sheer magnificence.
Or a robber wearing his buttoned up jumpsuit trekking out into the wilderness and I, so blindly, sitting on the very spot he must dig.
But sometimes, reality is sweeter than fantasy. Never in my case, but I hear sometimes its sweeter.
“You don’t look so hot.” Pax says.
“Fuck you.” I rasp as Patrick gets out of the car and helps me up.
“Suzy Lee?” My name is spoken with concern uneasily, “What are you thinking, girl? Coming out in this heat? You’re a psycho.”
“Well, girls think you’re mysterious…wait until they’re disappointed.” I notice a spot of something liquid next to the car door and speak while I climb in beside Clay, “I think The Beast is leaking.”
“We’d smell it if it was gas, wouldn’t we?” Clay rolls a lit joint between his fingers in thought.
Patrick slides in the passenger seat so cool wearing an olive green wife beater and cargo shorts, “Only way to find out is to throw a cigarette on it.”
A chuckle is shared much to my irritation, “Get this thing movin’, man. I’m dying back here!”
Pax gets The Beast chugging along and I lean heavy on the window. The breeze is warm, but it moves through my hair like nirvana, “Can a bitch get a smoke or a toke?” I sit back against the ripped leather seats as Clay hands me the joint, “Thanks.”
“Were you trying to walk to town?” His voice so stern it pains me.
“No.” I flick some ash out the window which comes back to settle on my legs, “You know I couldn’t do that if I tried.”
“Remind me to show you the short cut sometime.” Clay offers.
One of these days I’ll get around to having him show me, but not today. It’s too fucking hot to care. “What brings ya’ll out this way?” I ask after exhaling a cloud of the sweet, skunky smoke.
“Coming to pick you up actually.” Pax answers making an illegal u-turn.
Patrick swivels in his seat, “We got something.” A pear shaped vile falls loosely from his grip unto my lap. It’s about the size of a green bean and skinny as a Virginia Slim, but it’s the liquid inside that intrigues me. A bright orange with streaks of neon yellow.
“What the fuck is this? I’ve never seen anything like this before, it’s like fire.”
“It’s called Number 9. Dutchie told me it’s like acid, only stronger. Like, way stronger.”
And here I thought I’d remain innocent.
I look at him and I smile as kindly as I can muster. His eyes are so piercing that I can’t gaze longer than a breath, “Are we…?”
He nods in silence. He’s an iceberg, so chilled and clear. I hold my hand out to offer the vile and I graze his bare shoulder. He takes the it back, but moves so swiftly away from me like I’m diseased. I slump back into tinges of sadness, “You act like I’d hurt you.”
“No, it’s just too hot to touch each other.” He turns around, “We got something else too.”
“Tell her, beautiful.” He snickers.
Clay clears his throat, “My uncle started growing weed in his attic. It was growing real good for a while, but then he got paranoid that the cops were gonna bust in so he took the lab apart and gave, like, seventy percent of it to me. We hid it in my room, but I got a good amount on me.”
“There’s half a stalk in the trunk, but it’s pretty good shit.” Pax flings a menthol out into rushing air and I can tell he’s stressed out.
“Farmer’s Fresh, baby!” Clay laughs.
I can’t imagine Dutchie giving anyone drugs without him being present, “Are we gonna pick up Dutch or what?”
“Eventually. He had some shit to do so he asked us to go pick up a hookah.”
Hmm…that means we’re going to Steelton and that’s a twenty-thirty minute trip, “Someone’s gonna have to stay with The Beast at Remy’s with that weed in the trunk.”
“I will.” Clay volunteers himself.
I shake my head, “I don’t understand. Where’d all the money come from? The hookah, the gasoline?”
“Don’t worry your manic little head about it, Suzy Lee. It’s all taken care of and you were the one who said it’d be a good time to buy a hookah…last week, I think it was.” Patrick props his legs on the dashboard.
Guys with overly muscular legs are too weird for me. They seem like the types that listen to Tom Waits when they have sex, but Patrick isn’t built that way. While Pax is farm boy strong and Clay is simply intimidating, Patrick is purely toned.
And here…we are still considered children.
I feel a prickle of tears, but I am the face of unbroken composure.
Remy’s Gifts and Dolls is a front for stoners. It’s divided into two rooms connected only by a large glass counter where Remy sits by the register reading the newspaper. The Beast is kicking top soil with flashes of overheated anger in the parking lot, but I don’t need to be inside the squat building to know I’m right. If Remy is anything, he’s predictable.
“I can’t fucking do this anymore! I can’t!” Pax hits the steering column and the car settles and shuts down with a cloud of smoke coming from the hood. We sit and wait until his temper calms and he gets out the car, “I’ll see if Remy’s got a water jug or something, fucking piece of shit car.” He holds the door open and I’m the first one to smell the incense and faint hint of marijuana mingling together in the air conditioning. My shoes squeak along the freshly waxed tiles.
It feels like Grandma’s house at Christmas. Tony Montana and Bobby Womack posters are nailed to the wood paneled walls. Bongs, pictures, pipes, jewelry, hookahs, hemp clothing and handbags, and knick-knacks galore. And it’s all handcrafted with each piece completely unique from the other.
Remy folds his paper and sets it aside, “How can I help you’ns?” His short, wavy brown hair has a hint of gray as does his trimmed goatee. His white shirt is crisp and clashes with the unopened leather vest. An aging biker if you ever saw one and he’s staring directly at my tits.
“We’re just looking for a hookah for about four to five people.” Pax shimmies around me.
“Ya’ll came to the rat place fur that. We got em in all sizes.”
“Do you have any for less than…”
I don’t care about their dealings and haggling so I make my way around the shop. I want to absorb all that I see. No, I really want to buy one of everything.
My fingers caress a life sized statue of the Greek goddess Artemis. There are smaller ones ranging from Ancient Rome to African fetish art surrounding her. I step back because they’re knee high and I don’t want any fucked up bruises.
The jewelry is unimpressive with it’s cheap nickel plating and sparkling gems. Cute red cherry belly rings and star shaped nose studs. All useless to a fourteen year old girl without holes to stick them through.
I wander towards the clothing racks. So many pretty blouses in the style of 1970’s peasants. I covet them all.
Patrick and Pax are looking at bongs commenting on shapes and colors. I shake my head, “It’s about how deep the bowl is and how good it hits, you fools. It being nice lookin’ is just a side effect.”
“Indeed.” Pax agrees.
I venture to the counter where Remy has taken his paper back, skimming it with bottle cap glasses. Pipes laid out for what seems like forever made of glass, aluminum, brass, stone, steel, clay, wood, and whatever other material one could think of. However, one catches my eye. Bigger than a one-hitter, but discreet enough to fit in the palm of my hand. Beautifully polished steel with a black spiral engraved around the stem similar to Celtic knot work.
“See anything you like?” Patrick asks moving up beside me. He smells like sweet chilies and off brand laundry detergent.
“I do. That metal pipe there.” I point.
“One by the blue glass?” I nod and he questions, “Hey, Remy? How much is this little steel pipe?”
“$16.50 after tax.” He speaks under low rum soaked breath.
“You want it?” He smiles at me with those green eyes.
“I don’t know…”
He shrugs, “I can’t if I don’t have to.”
“Will not is more the appropriate term.”
He crosses his arms over his chest, “What I can’t do and what I won’t do are two different things and you know why this is.”
“You’re so normal and you have to be…”
“It’s no biggie, really. If you want it all you have to do is say so.”
I bite my lips, “Alright, as long as I don’t have to owe you.”
“You owe me everything already, baby cakes.” He slaps me with a stupid grin, “We’ll take that one too.”
I clap my hands in girlish excitement and hug him, “Thank you, Patrick!” He doesn’t embrace me. He never has. He seems sociable and warm, but in him sings the song of the sociopath, “We really are gonna get fucked up tonight.”
“I’d fuck you.”
I playfully tap his arm, “Don’t be a do-rag douche bag, Paddy.”
“Ahhh….and I thought I thought of everything.”
“You forgot the condom.”
“Or did I?”
I laugh at his absurdity, “I love you.”
“Suck my dick, bitch.” He whispers close to my ear.
Pax lumbers over and puts a five tubed hookah on the counter as Patrick admires it. Standing two feet tall, it’s bottom is curved with the intermingling skeletons and bones akin Jolly Rogers. The tubes are lime and black thread twisted together in a spiraled design with mouth pieces resembling tiny silver bells, “It’s very masculine.”
“Did yah think it’d be pink covered in hearts and bloody vaginas?” Pax jeers.
Remy rings the items up, “Corruption first takes seed not in cash, but a kiss.”
“Who said that?” I ask.
“Me, just then.”
“I like it. You should put it on a sign or a t-shirt or something.”
He wraps the hookah and the pipe up in a brown paper bag and winks, “For you girl, anything.”
“My family’s old. Like, real old. When they first washed up shore in Virginia they were called Prussians. How many of them do you see walkin’ around? None, ‘cause we don’t exist anymore. What was it for, huh? To go through all those centuries to just…whoosh…be gone?” Dutchie sits in the Queen Anne’s chair like an upstart sitting on a stolen throne; comfortable and very much aware.
I’m standing by the doorway watching him entertain his guests if that’s what the proper term for criminals who buy massive amounts of product from are called. I give a little wave that catches his eye, “I gotta get goin’, gents. The girls will see ya up.”
“You’re not joinin’ in?” A man with a shaved head and scar over his left eye seems so disheartened.
“Nah, Abel, I got my own thang goin’ on.” Dutchie points a long finger at me which draws the attention of the entire room and suddenly there are six pairs of eyes scrutinizing my body with delicious appeal.
I am me. I want to scream, but I refrain. I am who I am, who I will ever be and that is someone they will never have. My serenity, if I ever had any, is shattered when the scarred man slaps Dutch on the back and proclaims, “Damn, boy! She looks wild!”
Dutchie’s laugh sounds fanciful, “Oh, yeah, she’s something else.” He comes and puts an arm over me with slivers of hope lingering on, “And she’s all mine. Come on, Suzy, something I gotta get.”
As we exit the living room a couple of girls walk past us. I’ve seen them before, but I don’t know where, “What’s that about, Dutch?”
I glance behind me to see one of the girls has a flat, flabby ass, “I hope it’s worth it.”
I follow him upstairs to his bedroom. For such a competent and flamboyant trader, his personal space is drab. A lone psychedelic poster hangs crooked amongst bulging cracked beige walls. A twin mattress without a sheet and crumpled blankets lays on the floor, “Jesus Christ, it’s so sad in here.”
He shrugs his long monkey arms, “Suits my needs.”
I don’t know why I said that. I’ve seen his room a million times. We’ve partied this house down, but for some reason I’ve never seen it look so pathetic, “You haven’t been gettin’ laid?”
He smirks as he retrieves a beaten red leather pouch hidden inside an old heating vent, “Not as much as I’d like.” He stands and the light coming from his window touches the soft auburn highlights of his black hair, “Suzy…”
“What’s in there?” I quickly cut him off.
His lips are large and turn in a slick snarl, “You’ll see. Come on, it’s time to go.”
Why does everyone say that to me?
“Woke up this morning and got myself gun
My wife wouldn’t shut up
I knew what had to be done
Woke up this morning
and I felt evil times three
By the end of the evening
I’ll be on WDBZ…”
The radio coos along as Pax pulls into the empty gravel parking area of Painted Face Creek.
The sun is going down and the heat is almost tolerable. It’s so peaceful here with only the sounds of chirping birds and rushing water. Most people don’t come here since it’s a Wood People burial plot. There’s a lot of superstition in this area of Ohio. Pax’s Catholic guilt is cinched on his face when he gets out of The Beast.
“I don’t, Suzy, you’re the only girl. It’s obvious you’d be Dorothy.” Clay says following me to the edge of the creek.
I slip my shoes and socks off, “But I like the Wicked Witch, she’s got green skin.”
“Bitch, if anybody’s the Wicked Witch, it’s me.” Dutchie exclaims sitting down on the grassy knoll beside me.
I concede, “That makes sense.”
“Oh shit, Suzy, you know who the Tin Man is, don’t you?” Patrick questions me taking off his shirt.
“No. Your pipe.” He grabs it from his pocket and hands it to me.
“Hey! That’s awesome! The Tin Man, I love it.”
We sit down and Clay reaches inside one of the big brown paper bags he got from the trunk and pulls out a bud, “Wanna break in the Tin Man?”
I flutter my eyelashes and feign a southern drawl, “I’d love to, Sir, just love to.” I take the plump bud Clay offers me and tear it into bits, “Dang, this shit’s moist.”
“Yeah, I didn’t want to dry it out in the oven.”
“Who would I be in your Wizard of Oz scheme?” Pax asks.
That dog is loyal to Dorothy through the entire thing.”
“Yeah, but you’re not Dorothy, Suzy Lee. You’re the fucking Wizard.”
I tilt my head back with a laugh, “You’re probably right and Clay’s the cowardly lion and Patrick is Dorothy.”
“Oh, I’d kill that fucking dress.” Patrick imitates a feminine voice.
“It’s got a built in screen.” I say as I pack the pot in the bowl, “Thank you so much for this. I get so tired of asking you guys to roll me joints. Shall I take the first hit?”
They egg me on and I comply with glee. Farmer’s Fresh is hard to hit due to the moisture, but I get a couple of good tokes in there before passing it off, “I say we smoke that bowl, a hookah, and then I wanna try Number 9.”
“It’s not to be taken lightly, now. This is serious shit, you know? It’s like concentrated peyote.” That’s Dutchie’s rhetorical tone, “This shit’s potent. It lasts a long time. It’s not like acid where you see some stuff here and there. This is, like, you’re in a different place, time. Abel told me today that he tripped balls thinking he was walking around Jerusalem with Jesus.”
“Yeah…okay…” I mumble as the bowl gets cashed, “Are ya gonna show me how to smoke out of the hookah?”
“You’re such a newbie.” Dutchie sneers.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I haven’t been doing drugs since I popped out of my mom’s nasty cunt.”
“Bitch…” He laughs out trying to be serious, “Don’t talk about my mama or her nasty pussy. Her stank ain’t none of your concern.”
Pax prepares the water pipe and soon it’s my turn. I watched everyone suck and hold and smile at each other like they just lost their virginities. I roll my eyes while Clay passes it to me. He can’t keep the smoke down and coughs all over the place, “I am the state!”
What the fuck? Where’d that come from?
I’ve no time to think more about it. It’s my turn and I do exactly what they do, “It’s not hittin’ right.”
“It’s ‘cause yah doing it wrong.” Pax accuses.
“I am not. I’m doing it just the way ya’ll did it.”
“No, yah got to breath it in.”
I try again with the same result, “I don’t like this. It sucks.”
“You’re not doing it right.”
“Pax.” I say coolly rising, “You say that to me one more time, I’m going to steal any children you may have and put them in a Salvation Army Hostel.”
“Oh, snap.” Dutchie giggles.
I wade a little in the creek, “How many snakes do you think are in here?”
“A shit bunch.” Dutchie takes off his shirt and begins messing with the leather pouch, “I had to buy these off Aaija today.” He points to a bundle of needles, “All clean.”
“Of course.” I say, but still…?
“Gather ‘round.” Dutchie motions and the boys make a circle saving a space for me between Pax and Patrick.
My heart flutters as a warning, but I quiet it down. I am going to do this and no one is going to stop me. I smile and take my place like a good little girl.
“Everybody’s on Facebook.” Dutchie likes talks when he does something intensive or constructive. Right now he’s pouring Number 9 into a bent spoon, “Everybody’s on Facebook, including prisoners. And you know they’re calling their mamma like, ‘So, what’s going on, Mom’?” He puts a lighter to the bottom of the spoon, occasionally stirring, “And she’ll be like, ‘Two people liked your picture of the old horse in front of the old barn in eighteen hundred and eighty. Uhhh…Dick Sergeant replied, ‘White power, brother, can’t wait til ya get out nicca. Keep your head up nicca’.” Carefully, he pulls the needle’s caps off and fill them with an extremely small amount. Five in total and he makes the rounds just like a junkie doctor.
Clay’s face turns red as Dutchie tightens the tourniquet around his arm. I don’t think he breaths until the needle’s done it’s business and the rubber band comes off. But his face is still red and he looks like he either needs to cry, fight, or fuck.
Patrick handles himself like a popsicle, stiff and silent.
“Yah all know now how I feel about needles…” Pax croaks out.
I grab his hand and rub his palm with my fingernails, “I’m right there with ya, but I’m still wilin’ to try. I’ll be right here beside you. Honest.”
He looks to Patrick and then gives a curt not towards Dutchie. He winces and for a second squeezes my hand into numbness. He gets through it looking shaken, but intact.
It’s my turn. I close my eyes, stick out my arm and say, “Think of England.”
“Fuck England. Think of Canada.” Clay calls.
First the band and I hate it instantly and squirm. Dutchie holds my arm and taps the crook of my elbow a couple of times, “Just breath…” And there’s the sting, but I try not to move until the rubber is gone.
I’m a little girl standing at the top of a grated metal porch connected to a dingy trailer in the middle of a wheat field. I know this place, I think.
I’m wearing a baggy white shirt and I’m staring down in the trunk of a shabby car. There’s a dead deer inside. A big buck with beautiful ivory antlers. Blood all gathered at his neck, bright but clotting.
Chris and Walty are standing on one side of its corpse while Dad is on the other side. They’re smiling with pride, Walty seems more jealous of Chris. Salty even being near him.
Mom is praising them. She’s shielding her eyes from the sun and she’s just so happy.
I’m not. I want to lick the deer’s blood and cry. I curl my small hands into fists, but I stay there staring at it.
Lick the blood, smear it over my fingers. Lick the blood, lick it. Laugh. Laugh really, really hard.
My skin is in flames when the water touches me. My heart is thumping so loudly that it could crack open my chest if I just flicked my fingertip the right way. I am overcome by the stillness over the creek. I could faint. Drown.
The sun is going to sleep leaving all us animals to howl and eat out here in the wilderness. The last rays of sunlight seem to be sitting on the leaves like small beams in the shape of fairies. Sharp eared creatures made of mini-infernos.
But this feels like purgatory. Doldrums…?
“Come on!” Patrick is waving to me as everyone is running into the woods, “The braves are waiting!”
This urge, the pull comes over me and I feel like I’m being led to heaven. I’m running, splashing, and forcing myself at full pace towards him. He turns around and we are wild. We run through the woods with our hearts beating to one rhythm that spins in our souls.
I hear the call of our ancestors and we are in an empty valley. The hills seem so familiar, but I don’t recognize them. Clay is standing by a vibrant tree eating a juicy apple. I want one, I want to go to him, but I can’t. The pull is too strong and I start running again.
Patrick and Pax are hooting and hollering with Wood indian warriors screaming out in joy with them. All around us they sing in a language I’ve never heard. I don’t understand them, or my friends, it’s irrelevant. Nothing matters now. Nothing except the pull and the run…
“It’s a 1950’s family friendly coming of age story about deep family incest and Johnny Checkers does the whole soundtrack and makes a cameo appearance. It’s Family Style Number Two.”
Why do they keep going on about Johnny fucking Checkers?
My head is killing me as I weakly open my eyes. I can’t even grunt. My cheek peels away from the leather upholstery of The Beast’s backseat with SLURTCH. I untangle my legs from Pax’s and my arms I yank from beneath Patrick’s torso. Dutchie and Clay are cuddled on the front seat. It’s so fucking hot and the air is so sticky. The whole thing is nauseous.
I root around in Pax’s jeans and fetch and cigarette and matchbox. I light one with wobbly arms and faltering wrists, “Where the fuck are we?”
Patrick peeks over the window with heavy lids, “A parking lot.”
Dutchie and Clay shift positions and Clay clears his throat, “Gramps’ Adult Film Store.” He reads the white board sign with the huge red letters, “I feel like a hammer came down on my head.” He sounds tired, wasted.
“This is a sleazy shit hole, we need to get out of here.” Patrick grumbles, curling under his shirt as if it were a blanket.
I nudge Pax and he slowly rolls over with a booming, “Fuck!” And he and Dutchie switch seats by climbing over the driver’s side.
The Beast roars to life like a kitten with emphysema. Everyone starts smoking except Patrick. He only smokes weed and speaking of, he’s rolling a jay up right now, “I saw some fucked up shit.” His voice is a shadow of it’s former strength.
No one says anything. No one needs to. The radio, which had woken me up, is still droning on about some weird ass movie, but we all seem so worn out. Bags are under every eye, including mine I’m sure. Our skin somehow sour like spoiled milk. Our eyes darker, but passioned all the same. We’re different now.
I glance out the window long enough to see a stand of some kind and blurt out, “Go back! Go back…back there!”
Pax finds a place off road and turns around. I feel frantic as he approaches the little wooden bench. A young Wood indian man sits on a stool surrounded by blandly weaved blankets. He smiles at us and nods as The Beast comes to a halt.
I get out having to pace myself. On further inspection, I see he also sells jewelry, but I don’t care for it. I look at the blankets instead. I want to say something, but I can’t think of anything.
I am lovingly, choking, smothered by his scent. It’s something ancient, sickly sweet and covering every inch of my being. I’ve become infected by him. Addicted. Is there any such thing as a healthy narcotic?
I see it already, but like most distasteful things it is ignored.
“Holy shit, you guys.” Dutchie has his serious tone on.
“What?” We ask in creepy unison.
“We’ve been out here for four days.”
“What?” I’m shocked.
“I just checked my phone, for real. We’ve been out here four days.” He’s laughing.
“I don’t believe you. Let me see your phone.” I demand.
“Okay, but you’ll just see what I did. No joke.”
I see it for myself, “Jesus Christ, he’s right. We have! We’ve been out here for days!”
“What did we do?” Clay is completely bewildered.
“You know,” the blanket and jewelry salesman speaks up in a pleasantly wavering voice, “You should never buy blankets off my people. You never know when we might strike back.”
And with that said, the man and his stand and his blankets are gone. I look to my boys, but they’re as closed and freaked out as I am. With the only sound of rustling clothes, we gather ourselves into The Beast and leave Painted Face Creek and even I, as curious as I always am, don’t look back.