Monday, February 29, 2016

poem of the day 02.29.16

all american pig heads

pig heads
hanging from sweaty windows
on fifth avenue
like the two fat italian guys i’m watching
eating pizza and watching hoops in their NYPD t-shirts
this is what passes for sightseeing around here
this is what passes for heroics
cop t-shirts or millionaire athletes
i watch them sucking cheese and processed meat
i can tell the way this country is going
by the way their eyes flicker toward ESPN
instead of the truth
i shouldn’t hate these men upon sight
but i do
i don’t know their politics
i don’t know where their hearts are
but i’m willing to take an educated guess
based on two hundred and forty years of crooked history
we’re from the same mother i understand
the same industrial beast bleeding from the center
but we’re not the same kind, right?
still, we must have a common loneliness at times
the same dissatisfaction seeping from our all-american pores
or have our souls been shipped overseas?
come on, i mean even i have sucked down a slice or two
ravenously over a game
as if this little democracy was going to end
on a hail mary touchdown or a missed goal
i hate myself
when confronted with such an obtuse throne of judgement
hate myself underdressed in the winter breeze
watching these two men slap five
over every nuance of the knicks game
despising them and their simple afternoon splendor
up the street from me
the empire state building glows crystal white
down here the verrazano-narrows bends toward infinity
moving away from the window
i’m jostled by a strong gust
just a pig’s head here on third avenue
a cog in the colossus
swaying in the slop
looking for the quickest way

Friday, February 26, 2016

poem of the day 02.26.16

all apologies vincent smith

i ask my wife how he does that
she says, it’s sand
red paint and sand
moves her hand like
she’s rubbing it over the grainy canvas
like jean dubuffet , she says
all these years and i still know nothing about art
we walk around the small room
looking at the work
four large canvases on four white walls
the grainy redpaintsand makes tenement walls
distorted african faces looking out of windows
vincent smith was basquiat before basquiat
i announce
suddenly enlightened
i also know where to find the apartment
where the heroin took jean-michel too soon
i think we’ll go there next
when suddenly there’s a clatter in the quiet gallery
the redpainflesh gush of fat tourist faces
filling up the small room
taking up seats on window sills
exasperated and worn-out
from walking one new york block
they text and take pictures of trump tower across the street
fifth avenue like a parade route of mammon
glance at the paintings
snap a bored shot for posterity
all these years and america still knows nothing about art
all apologies vincent smith
for the rude interruption upon our time
my wife and i try to get in a few more glances
redpaintsand and this edvard munch motif by way of harlem
but we’re being backed into a corner
by the hungry wolves of capitalism
as the room continues to fill up
a flood water of knock-off louis v bags
and t-shirts that falsely declare “i love ny”
i look at my wife
squeeze her hand
tell her i want to go home and get drunk
i tell her these tourists, baby
they make me want to scream

Thursday, February 25, 2016

poem of the day 02.25.16

the stalker

mary keeps
showing up at my house
with her mom
showing up at my job
with her friends or her new boyfriend
she threatens to go to my bars
she threatens to go to my clubs
steve has heard from her
how do they even know each other?
calvin has heard from her
he says i let a good one get away
colby said she sent him two letters
mary keeps
calling almost every night
but i won’t pick up the phone
my old man says he’s tired of hearing her voice
someone sent a basket of flowers to my job
i just know it was mary
last week kris and i saw her at barnes and noble
yesterday a six page letter showed up in the mail
on pink paper with blue script
in mary’s bubbly handwriting
she keeps
trying to get us back together
despite the boyfriend
despite the months we’ve been apart
despite one year and nine months of bullshit
mary finally get me on the phone
i tell her please
that this just isn’t in me
i tell her please
for the sake of my sanity
i’d sacrifice job, career, family
friends, love
happiness, she added
for my one goal to be a writer
mary keeps
hanging up on me when i tell her this
she says she’ll leave me alone for good
but driving home from calvin’s last night
i swear i saw her
lovelorn and crazed
a sad clown grinning in my rearview mirror.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

sort of "best of" poem of the day 02.24.16

deep in the novel poems coming slow.
this isn't a best of poem...i don't think i ever put this up here (there were reasons at the time)
so here goes:

my enemy

i have an enemy

he’s been sharpening his hatred for me for years
keeping it all stored for a later date

he is the simplest of pronouns

he claims that i have family issues
that i never got along with daddy
that mommy never loved me

that i’m so negative because i didn’t  grow up right

he has a degree in psychology
that’s decades old

my enemy claims to be freud
but i feel like machiavelli whenever he’s around

he’s a pretty big failure all the same

failed at being a spouse
failed at being a human being

he used to piss himself
and once he shit his pants on the way to the movies

everyone says my enemy is harmless
he’s just jealous because his life didn’t pan out
and now he’s facing the tattered end of the line

i don’t know if i believe them
i can see the murder in the man’s eyes
the perverse joy he takes in hating me

plus people have caught him shouting about me
into his cellphone
kicking at walls as he spewed invective and threats

he once claimed to want to kill me

i believe his hatred for me gives him a purpose
and a reason to wake up in the morning

everyone is somebody’s villain
everyone is somebody’s asshole

i’m his

my enemy
what can i really do about him?

he keeps my poems and stories
in a crisp manila folders
as evidence of my cruelty toward him
and the rest of humanity

he wants me hung for making art
out of my scrap heap life

i had no clue that he was such a fan

i’m thinking of dedicating my next book him
giving him a signed copy
the next time that i see him
with an inscription that’ll read

dear enemy,
thank you from the bottom of my heart
for all of your time and energy
for all of your dedication and support
for all of those sleepless nights
for the sad and pathetic troll of a shit stain that you are
on this old world

and for the strong man that your weakness
and petty resolve
have forced me to become

i couldn’t have done it all without you                            07.25.12/08.06.12

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

poem of the day 02.23.16

portrait of the artist
on the cusp of forty-two

3:20 a.m.
at least that’s what the clock tells me

sweet after scent of vodka
mixing with morning breath

we have had heat again for five hours
in this shithole
but the pipe is already going cold

the bright bathroom lights
causing epileptic eye flutters
as i try to clean cat shit
off the bottom of my right foot

cursing the blind, deaf beast
as she circles the shaded apartment
whining or whatever it is she does these days
that passes for meowing

looking for new and improved places
to vomit to defecate to spread snot

sixteen years old to my way over forty-one

we should probably both
be taken back to bed or put to pasture

my long trying-to-stay-young hair
keeps getting in my face
as i retch and wipe the tar-thick excrement
with wet toilet paper scented with bathroom soap
for a knockout punch of disgusting

and i still have to piss

oh, the things you find yourself doing
on the cusp of forty-two
at 3:20 in the morning

a witching hour lifetime that has spanned

pill-fueled poem writing
soliciting prostitutes
and falling asleep drunk in diners
to cleaning crap off of my bare feet

i wonder what the next twenty will bring
other than cirrhosis of the liver
and turning completely invisible to the young

3:20 in the morning
as i sit on the cold ceramic of the commode
feeling every bit the gray color spectrum of my age

the sound of water running
somewhere in the building

as the cat stares but does not stare at the joke of me

trying to remember what i was dreaming about
what it was socrates said about the unexamined life

or if i should go ahead
and wander fresh footed into the kitchen
to dance with the cockroaches
over one last immortal drink.

Monday, February 22, 2016

poem of the day 02.22.16


my mother
bless her soul
thought the girls
should all love me
all two-hundred-forty pounds of me
glasses barely fitting on my fat face
pants specially tailored xxxl me
if she saw me talking to some girl
oh, you should ask her out
she had friends at work
who had daughters my age
co-workers just a couple of years older
it was easy to forgive her
mom wasn’t with me on the school buses
when high school girls laughed at me
until i turned scarlet and bitter
she never sat in english class
and watched  jamie johnson play
when his hand landed on my head
or looked into the sad disappointed eyes
of the other girl
as we both played wingman to our friends
mom just wanted to play
matchmaker for me, i guess
to see me stroll around the mall
like all of those other healthy young couples
instead of watching me
put back three helpings of spaghetti
before attacking an entenmann’s crumb cake
usually i just felt bad
for the girl in those scenarios
like this one blonde cutie
she worked my brother’s birthday party
at this video store
where they showed 2nd run movies
i was helping her set up chairs
and maybe we were talking about movies
or music or some thing
being the only teenagers in the place
i made her laugh a few times
if nothing else i could always make the girls laugh
being a fat clown came as easy to me
as clearing away a bag of potato chips
but when mom heard the girl
in the throes of laughter
she came over to us and said
you two seem like you’d be real good together
because it’s good to see people
who can make each other laugh
oh, man
the look on this girl’s face
i’d seen it dozens of times
she excused herself to go and get the
cake and soda
the stuff i was really there for
and came back ten minutes later
switched from a blonde
to a brunette
nametag switched to a guy named jeff
who called me bro
and said this year was the penguins year
to take it all
as i craned my neck
catching courtney’s eyes stocking action films
just before jeff shut the door
and the room
then black.


Friday, February 19, 2016

poem of the day 02.19.16

selfie nation

there are more
than a dozen pictures
on her phone
each one
bright red lipstick
kardashian face
sunken cheeks allure
a fine example
of what she’s done
with her afternoon
pretty boy next to me
on the d train
is doing his best to rival her
frosted greasy tips
chin up
brooding eyes
each snap a quitter
or a keeper
which one will make
oh, i got the millennial blues
i look around the train
there has to be
at least half a dozen others
of these vain swine
every race
every gender
doing the same thing
young dimwits
reasonably good looking
but so what?
all ready for their close-up
wouldn’t know the president
from a pop song
so don’t ask me again
what’s wrong
with america
these days.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

poem of the day 02.18.16

i thought i daydreamed the sunset

the taste of excrement
on my tongue
from a sewer blown in a storm
you can’t have it seventeen degrees one day
fifty-five the next
without a little bit of rain falling
without pipes bursting
rivers of shit
waterfalls of piss
microbursts of vomit etc.
pouring out from under doors
filling hallways and closets and kitchens
a flotsam of serving bowls
and christmas tree boxes passing by
the intestinal track of this whole neighborhood
gurgle-swirling in the deluge
turds like driftwood on the mighty mississippi
such a beautiful stink
i think i might die in this wicked failing infrastructure
standing here on the edge
of the basement steps
like a dumbstruck tourist on a dock
waiting for the sun to set
watching brown icebergs melt into putrid slop
telling two girls that it’ll be all right
helplessly trapped on a tabletop
holding their noses
they are so pale so white
i doubt they believe me
as the foul circles around them
splashing so childishly
so careless like fun on the beach
creeping inch by inch
going into refrigerators
contaminating water bottles
sneaking up toward electrical outlets
our own little FEMA disaster
if it keeps on rainin’ the levee’s goin’ to break
we watch the garbage can tip over
and sail around the room
slow like the steamboat natchez
spilling trash as it bobs along
i declare
oh, this south will rise again, man.                                            

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

poem of the day 02.17.16

love poem to yulia tymoshenko

i sit here drinking cold coffee
wondering where the time has gone
for both of us

remember the days when there wasn’t
all of this global bullshit?

yeah…me neither

we’re both a bit weathered now
only you wear these trying times better than me

a bit of the ol’ golden goddess still in your step

but i don’t think i hate the russians
as much as you

i let those feelings go back
when rocky balboa beat ivan drago

true, it’s not the same thing
but if not a literal connection
then there is something to be said
for wanting to defend yourself

you do have a point
about the united states and the european union
meddling into your affairs

americans are like scrappy little dogs
taking shits all over the globe and never cleaning it up

and it’s hard for me to not see
all of those refugees pouring into germany

and not think about
all of the good falafel they’ll get in berlin
when all violence and genocide is said and done

i just want you
to take it easy kid

do those constitutional changes
when you feel like it

have those parliamentary votes at your leisure

take a holiday to one of those
crimean beaches if you still can

and remember a minority party
is still one hell of a ride

with the right people
the right tunes

and an extra splash of vodka in the punch
for when vlad and all the boys show up

at your doorstep
once again.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

poem of the day 02.16.16


duncan is running around the kettle bar
with his sister olive
screaming and yelling
while people are eating bar food
or starting in early on the day’s drunk
duncan is maybe three but still looks vacant
olive is pushing two at best
and has a set of pipes on her
that could raise the damned
there are no other children in the bar
because it’s a bar
duncan’s old man is your garden variety domestic asshole
with his receding hairline and dad gut
his sculpted man boobs
under an ugly maroon v-neck sweater
with tufts of chest hair coming out
he apologies to my wife and i
when duncan and olive repeatedly smack into our table
but he doesn’t mean it
because we reek of childlessness and other malaises
because his america counts more than mine
dad is enjoying his stolen afternoon beer too much
to worry about duncan and olive
killing other people’s time
he’s too caught up in the entitlement of being a parent
at the turn of the twenty-first century
praising his children
for what used to garner an ass whooping
duncan’s mom is a beast of a woman too
who wears the wounds of a war
of knocking out two kids in under four years
on her soulless stomach
i think she has diamonds
embedded into her glasses frame
for that extra douche bag oomph
and somewhere on her fat dego ass
i’m willing to bet
is a faded tattoo of a beloved cartoon character
she got at the beach
before duncan and olive were a drunken mistake
in the gleam of her eye
she thinks naming her children
duncan and olive
makes them more than the common
screaming creeps they are
mom had been carrying olive’s dirty diaper for fifteen minutes
until she set it down on the table next to us
blue and white and brown ball
of non-biodegradable plastic
a table someone else will eventually eat/drink on
she doesn’t care
because duncan and olive are so precious
their shit doesn’t stink
they’re the zenith of what she’ll accomplish in this world
ignorance that she’ll pass on
like family jewels and disease
boutique named monsters free to run around a bar
screaming and yelling
and raising hell on a monday afternoon
where we are all captives to this mundane madness
that gets passed around these days
under the guise of precocious ingenuity
duncan in his rookie-of-the-year t-shirt
olive in her plaid dress
smacking their heads off the worn bar and laughing
the little philistine prince and princess of bay ridge
with ketchup stained faces
from french fries flung on the bar floor
like nut shells and sawdust
little landmines we’ll try not to slide in
as we forgo another beer
and get up to leave
to duncan screaming bloody murder
to an old hootie and the blowfish song
as olive prat falls and farts
and our proud patriotic parents
order another round.


Monday, February 15, 2016

poem of the day 02.15.16

che guevara on the 4 train

che guevara is on the 4 train
in his field jacket and beret

getting jostled by straphangers
with big book bags and cell phones

he’s not even trying to hide the fact that it’s him

although his hair is a bit longer
and, of course, it’s gone gray

i want to ask him how he pulled it off
down there in bolivia

how he fooled us all and lived

but che looks like he hates
the 4 train as much as i do

it’s always packed no matter the time of day
and there’s always some asshole standing by the door
who makes it impossible for people
to get on and off at their stop

people are getting slashed
with razor blades down here

some lady got jabbed with a needle last week
and now she has to take these shots
for things like hepatitis and AIDS

i wonder what che guevara thinks about that
like maybe it’s time for a revolution on these trains

i imagine one must get tired of revolutions
of always having to liberate yourself
and a bunch of ungrateful people

che looks tired on this afternoon 4 train

tired of getting smacked with some dude’s book bag
tired of the chick screaming in her phone

and the fat ass trying to eat
an onion and scallion bagel over his head

the people on this train aren’t worth
fighting a revolution for

che and i should throw most of them to the dogs

then head to the MoMA
and catch the end of that picasso exhibit

discuss the benefits of genocide
over coffee or orange spiced tea

plus picasso was kind of a revolutionary too

he refused to leave france during the nazi occupation
and he painted guernica after all

although i don’t know what pablo thought
about the cuban revolution or che guevara

and i doubt he’s ever been on the 4 train

not even once
not even during rush hour

when revolutions are pipe dreams
and it’s every man for himself.


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Hiatus time

hello all

taking the week off
taking a hiatus to go and play tourist in my own city
see you Monday February 15th.


Friday, February 5, 2016

poem of the day 02.05.16

try someone else brother

then there’s this lunatic
sitting next to us on the N train

one of those shouting screaming ones
who has multiple souls inside of him
all trying to tear him apart

the schizophrenics never get benevolent beings
i state as a matter of fact

but still we were the stupid ones
who didn’t see him there

didn’t realize one half of the train was empty
save this guy and all his innards

but that’s what euphoria will do
or is this just relief?

i mean you were gone what?
three, three-and-a-half hours

this after coming out of the exam room twice
in your gown, which i know you hate

in tears i might add

because the technicians had lost your films
and weren’t going to do the mammogram

it was stupid of me, all things considered
to be thinking in that moment…thank christ

not because i didn’t want the mammogram done
we’d been steeling ourselves for it for two months

because breast cancer at thirty-seven will do that

or because i wanted you to have to trudge home
take off work again
worry for who knows how many weeks
because of some clerical error or filing mishap

it’s just that i thought thank christ
because i’d seen you crying in hospital gowns before

in corridors with fake picasso’s on the wall

knowing that it could get
much much worse than a cancelled appointment

but still three hours was a long time
i’ve never paced in a waiting room before

like a film character
something out of a 1930s baby romp
as people who came in after came and went

i wondered if it would be an impropriety
to barge back in that examining room
find you within the crowd of women

all in hospital gowns and on cell phones
all facing their own kind of terror

just for some information and solace

and i was going to do it too
except you came out around high noon
with thumbs up and a smile

safe for another six months
before we start this circus all over again

so, really, what’s one lunatic schizo
screaming in my face
mean to us on an afternoon N train?

a lot

that’s why we got the hell off at the next stop
and ran like two scheming kids to the next train

his madcap voice trailing us down the station

because the surge of life
will do that to you

they say it’s funny sometimes
so darling…laugh     
we got so much to live for                    

Thursday, February 4, 2016

not poem of the day 02.04.16 i hear change is good.  unless it's my local wrap place who got rid of my blackened chicken wrap...then change can eat shit. anyway...thought i'd post a short story today. it's actually a piece of a novel (not the one i'm working on) and involves a younger version of the character from my novel, The Librarian, one Randall Epicurus Wyndham. The story is pretty raw and will probably be revised. For this who read it, thank you. For those waiting on the poems...they'll be back tomorrow....but the Blackened chicken wrap? That shit is gone forever.

Communion Party

In May I went with Jenny’s family to Chicago for her nephew's first communion. Things were about average between us. She being my first real relationship I didn’t have any kind of gauge as to what average meant. We hung around together. There were trips to the mall. Chain restaurants. Bad television shows and movies. We had sex. It was vanilla missionary sex, but to a guy who’d been a virgin a mere month before I couldn’t complain. Vanilla sex beat jacking off. We didn’t have much of value to say, which I thought could be a problem down the line. Jenny told me she loved me all the time. I told her I loved her too. I assumed that’s what couples did. I love you. No, I love you. Back then I thought people loved being in love. 

I didn’t really have much to say to Jenny anyway. Talking always lead to me saying something about one of her ex-boyfriends. I was jealous of them. Something about going where other men had gone before made losing my cherry to Jenny a bit anti-climactic. I especially hated this one named Leif.  What kind of a name was Leif? It was the name of some thirty-one year old dude who spent the previous summer fucking my eighteen year old soon-to-be-girlfriend. That was who Leif was. Leif who was so smart. Leif who was so mature with his investor job. Leif who had a big house in the posh North Hills, who had a gym membership and a new car. Yeah Jenny? But could Leif read James Joyce and get him? No. Because he was a money-making philistine.

            “Mom, I want my music,” Jenny said.  We were in the backseat.  I was trying to read an Ann Charters biography on Jack Kerouac in lieu of having to talk to anyone, but it was getting dark out. Jenny was pissed that I was reading. She had a subtle hatred for knowledge that was only beginning to express itself. She looked at books that I was reading the way a jealous woman counted the competition. Books were her Leif. So she kept kicking her legs like a petulant child.  “Mommmmmmmmmmm.”

            Mrs. Pellegrino sighed.  The gray mop of her hair rumbled.  I tried feeling bad for her.  I couldn’t imagine having an adult daughter who needed her music played like a child. Jenny still had stuffed animals and Disney shit on her bedroom wall.  It was strange having sex with a stuffed Donald Duck looking at you, but I did my best.  “I heard you.” 


            “Your father is listening to the baseball game.”

            “But mommmmmmm,” Jenny said.  There was some whispering from the front seat.  Then it was bye-bye ballgame, hello Stone Temple Pilots. Jenny didn’t even say thanks.

We listened to Stone Temple Pilots. The band was going to give me an aneurysm. “Rand, how are you even reading that book?” Jenny said. “It’s dark.”

“Focus, babe. Focus.”

Mr. Pellegrino laughed.  He drove the car and looked like he missed the comfort of his home and the blue light of the TV. I hoped for his sake that Jenny's sister had a TV.  I’d been dating Jenny for a few months, but her old man and I hardly spoke. I always thought about the bad things I wanted to do to Jenny when he and I spoke. Like when Mr. Pellegrino tried talking to me about hockey I couldn’t help but think about the first time I tried licking Jenny’s asshole. I wanted to tell Mr. Pellegrino that his daughter had no imagination in bed.  Instead I told him that the Flyers were going to take it all this year. His daughter’s lack of kink was my problem, not his. I wondered if Jenny had been kinky with Leif?

“You’re going to miss all of the scenery,” Jenny said.

“It’s an Interstate,” I said.  “It exists to kill scenery.”

“Gee, aren’t you a downer.”

“Don’t blame me. Blame Eisenhower.” More laugher from Mr. Pellegrino.

“Mommmmm, turn the music up.”

Mrs. Pellegrino did as told.  There was no point in my reading with STP going full throttle.  I shut the book. I could hear a satisfied sigh come from the front seat. I was certain Mrs. Pellegrino was smiling. I knew she didn’t like me much. Before me, Jenny had been going to Saturday night mass almost religiously. Even Leif was a Eucharistic minister even though he was fucking chicks barely overage. Maybe that’s what Jesus would’ve wanted. Didn’t he hang out with hookers? But after my heathen ass showed up Jenny abstained from the good word as well. I’d caused a rift. Instead of Jenny doing the act of contrition and hallelujah, she was crying Oh God, Oh God, while I ate her out in her bedroom, underneath photos of ex-boyfriends who’d happily taken communion before taking a piece of her ass.

“I told you my sister is a slut, right?” Jenny said, apropos of nothing.

“Jenny,” Mrs. Pellegrino said.

“Well, she is.” Jenny turned to me. “She dresses like a slut.”

“I like sluts,” I said. Which was true, unless I happened to be dating one. Sluts just never liked me.

“I’m not a slut and you love me.”

“I have a voracious appetite for each and all.” Mr. Pellegrino laughed again.  Maybe I could talk to him about his daughter’s lack of kink, or ask him how to man-up when you knew your girl had been with an older dude.

“Jenny, stop calling your sister a slut,” Mrs. Pellegrino said.

“A spade is a spade, mom.”

“Now you’re just being racist,” I said.

I didn’t care what Jenny’s sister was.  If she was a slut, fine, more flesh for me.  I was just excited to see Chicago. Illinois was the furthest west I'd ever been. It was a pathetic statistic considering all the Kerouac I had been ingesting for two years. I talked a good game about going west. San Francisco. Seattle. Take the summer and go. It never amounted to anything. I just stayed at my job working the circulation desk at the library, and then hung around nights at the Eat’n’Park trying to pick up girls like Jenny. 

“Can I sleep on you?” Jenny said.

“How can you sleep with all of this so-called music?” I said.

“I’ll make you a fan yet.” Then Jenny laid on me anyway.  I watched the glorious Eisenhower landscape disappear into the black of night. McDonald’s arches glowed in the distance like fat, happy stars. Eventually Mr. Pellegrino turned the STP off, and found a west coast game.

Hours later that city showed in the distance, beyond the sulfuric stench of Gary, Indiana. Oh how it glowed majestically. Chicago. The Sears Tower combed the early morning sky. Lake Michigan curled against the waterfront. I was anxious to get into the mix of it. I wondered when we were. Where would we be staying? The North Side? But the Pellegrino car rolled by the city like it was a roadside attraction. Soon the whole metropolis was nearly gone. It was nothing but a faded gray shape against the flat Midwestern landscape.

Jenny woke up.  She rubbed her eyes and yawned in my face.  Christ, her breath.  “Morning.”

“We passed Chicago,” I said.

“Well, we’re not going to Chicago proper.”

“You told me we were going to Chicago. Chicago was the reason I came on this trip. It was the reason I fought with my alcoholic, anorexic boss for this weekend off. Without Chicago this trip is worthless to me. It’s a weekend lost. One I could’ve used making money for rent and those Tom Hanks movies and Mexican food dinners you like.”

“Well, Charlene lives in the suburbs,” Jenny said. “What can I tell you, Rand?  I mean who’d want to go to Chicago anyway? It’s dirty.”

Yeah. Like fucking older dudes? Like licking asshole, right Jenny?

            We ended up in the suburbs. There I was in the goddamned suburbs where it looked like we hadn't traveled at all. There were white houses and picket fences and little bastard kids on bicycles galore. I hated it. I loathed the suburbs anew. America was one vast and ugly suburb connected by long, gray spools of Interstate. I may have lived in a shithole studio in the Bloomfield section of Pittsburgh, but at least it was the city. At least those pink lights at night were mine.
Jenny got out of the car and looked with wonder. Those white homes were exactly what she and her mother were always yapping about. They were status. They were what good, church-going people strove for. They were monuments to the type of success the Leifs on the world were hell bent on achieving. I could feel Jenny looking at me. I could tell her mind was moving. She was wondering what it would take to get me locked behind the walls in a joint like that. It would take my soul, Jenny. It would take my goddamned heart and soul to end up a prisoner in some suburban concentration camp. I looked back at her. Jenny smiled. I didn’t. Keep dreaming, I thought.

            The niece and nephew stormed out of the house. Little Sarah and Joey. The girl was blonde and about as pale as a kid could get. The boy looked Mexican. Jenny claimed they had the same old man. She wasn’t sure why he split on her sister. Seeing the difference between the two kids I had my reasons as to why he left. Maybe Jenny was blind. Only a few weeks before, we were looking at her old family photos. Mr. Pellegrino was practically bald in the pictures.  Now he had a full head of black hair. Jenny couldn’t understand how this had happened. When I suggested he was wearing a piece she shoved the pictures back in the box. Then she pouted.  And I drove back to the city sexless that night, thinking about her old man’s hair and ways to murder Leif.

            “Jewn-nee,” Joey said.

            “Gwam-my and Gwamps,” Sarah said.

Both kids needed a speech therapist. Pronto. They hugged their grandparents and then they squeezed and clasped on to Jenny. Then the two attacked me at the waist. They were flesh and blood repellents.

“Isn’t that cute,” Jenny said.

“Cute is a word,” I said while trying to keep the kids from cutting off the circulation to my family jewels.

“What if we have one, one day?”

I thought about all of my school notebooks. The ones Jenny had scrawled on. Her name with my last name affixed to it; the names of two random, unmade children who had my name as well. “I’d rather have anal cancer.”

Then Jenny’s brother Dave and his girlfriend Melody came out of the house. They'd just gotten there and looked stoned. Melody was a pretty chick. She had straight brown hair that came to her shoulders, and a permanent tan. She wore sandals. I usually wasn’t attracted to hippie chicks, but I couldn't help wonder what this Melody might be like in bed.  I was sure she liked her ass licked. Maybe she liked to lick ass. Oh Dave, you lucky fucker. He looked like Mr. Pellegrino before the hairpiece. But Melody was no match for Jenny's sister, Charlene. 

Holy Christ. I almost fell over when she came outside to greet us. Jenny wasn’t lying.  Charlene was slut from top to bottom. But she was a good- looking woman. She was gothically erotic, if gothically is even a word. She had long jet-black hair and a pale face with these wide, rich eyes to match wide, rich hips. Charlene looked like a vampire, a mistress of the suburban night. She wore a red halter-top that matched the color of her lipstick. She had on jeans that hung low, almost to her ass crack. When she hugged me I got insta-boner. Leif might’ve liked them young, but I’d been a world class MILF lover since I’d first bust a nut over a sitcom mom whose name I will not mention.

“Where’d you find this one?” she asked Jenny. Charlene cocked an eyebrow and then winked. Had she felt me?

“This is Rand,” Jenny said. She glared at me. I looked down at my crotch. Jenny did too.

“That’s a strong name.”

“It’s an Australian penal colony name,” I said.

“Really?” Charlene said.

I stared at her tits. “I have no fucking clue.”

It was best for all that we went inside before I busted a nut out of sheer force of will. Charlene introduced us to her new boyfriend Chuck. A chill went through the room. Jenny and her folks had never mentioned a Chuck. I was no psychic but I had a suspicion that they didn’t know about him. Mr. Pellegrino still had that same blank face that he always had, but Mrs. Pellegrino looked pissed. She looked at Chuck like she looked at me on Saturday nights, when I came over to fuck her daughter instead of going with them to church. We were both walking pieces of garbage in her eyes.

            “Slut,” Jenny whispered. She was still going on about her hot-ass sister. I didn’t understand it. Jenny and Charlene had a decade between them. There had to have been no competition growing up. Plus, knowing the vast history of Jenny’s men I’d say she’d done all right for herself. At the very least she’d bagged Leif. She’d at least never been too lonely.

            “Chuck.  Chuck,” Charlene said, to get her man out of his chair. 

But Chuck wasn’t budging.  He was drinking beer and watching the Cubbies. He was in his own paradise. He looked like a suburban lay about with his head of shaggy black hair that hadn’t been combed in weeks. Chuck had a big caterpillar moustache. I couldn't believe he was able to pull a woman like Charlene. I would’ve imagined her getting ahold of her own sugar daddy. Some silver haired benevolent old fuck who flung the money around as long as he was getting head. I wanted to find out what Chuck’s secret was. It was probably confidence. It always came down to confidence when money wasn’t involved.

“You want a beer, kid?” Chuck said to me.

“Rand is only twenty,” Jenny said.

“Just in dog years,” I said. “I’ll take one.”

“Help yourself.” Chuck tilted his head toward the kitchen.

I went in to get a beer. Jenny cock-blocked the fridge. “What are you doing?” she said.

“Getting a beer,” I said. “Drinking with Chuck.”

“We don’t know Chuck.”

“He’s Charlene’s beau.” I went for that beer again. Cock-blocked.

“You can’t drink in front of my parents.”

“Tell them to avert their eyes,” I said.  “Have your mom pray for me.”


“It’s a party, kid. Lighten up.” I felt cool using Chuck’s lingo. I opened the fridge door when Jenny finally moved out of the way. Chuck had the fucker packed with more aluminum than a set of low income row houses. I grabbed a tall can of Colorado piss water, cracked the top, and let go. I felt better almost instantly. Maybe I’d become an alcoholic. Drunks seemed like they had it all figured out. “You want?”

“Um, I’ll have a soda,” Jenny said.

“Help yourself,” I said. I titled my head toward the fridge Chuck-style.

I went back into the living room with two beers. One for me and another for Chuck. He was where I left him, watching the good ol’ Cubs. Mr. Pellegrino watched too. He looked relieved to see a TV set. He didn't seem to care either way about Chuck. 

Every time Charlene walked by Chuck looked at her ravenously. He looked like he wanted to tear her flesh from the bone. I saw him do the same to Melody. The man was a world class pussy hound. He had to know how good he had it being surrounded by these women.  Dudes who typically looked like Chuck hadn’t had ass since people burned Bee Gees records. He raised his head and nodded at me when Jenny bent over to play Legos with Joey. It was like Chuck was sculpting her ass with his mind. I felt like a proud father.

“Hey kid,” he said. Chuck tilted his head toward Mrs. Pellegrino. She was sitting in the far corner of the dining room. She looked displeased as usual. “How in the hell do you think that made those two sexy girls?”

“I try not to focus on science, Chuck,” I said. But looking at the gray, frumpy lump of Mrs. Pellegrino I often wondered the same thing.

“Fuck science.”

“I think Carl Sagan said that.”

“Well, fuck him too.” Chuck laughed.

“What kind of work you in?” I said, because I felt like being the typical American dickhead who asked people what they did for a living.

“Trucking.” Chuck took down the rest of his beer in a gulp. He cracked the one I brought him and killed half of that. When he burped Mrs. Pellegrino gasped, but little Sarah and Joey laughed. “What’re you? College?”

“Aries actually.”

“You should do trucking.”

“I thought about getting into trucking. I figured it be a good gateway drug for amphetamines.”

“Yeah.” Chuck killed the rest of his beer. “Speed is fucking cool.” Then Charlene sauntered by with that ass of hers. Chuck scratched his belly and burped. Charlene looked back and winked. “Excuse me, kid,” he said. Then they both went up the stairs. They didn't come back for some time. Chuck was one lucky fucker.

            “Can you even believe this?” Jenny said later. We were in a spare bedroom that we were going to share with Dave and Melody. We were putting away our things while I imagined a night of Melody tossing and turning in her underwear.

            “No I can’t,” I said. “Melody and Dave got the bigger bed.”

            “Stop trying to be funny, Rand.  No one here thinks you’re funny.”

“Sorry, kid.”

            “And stop talking like him.”

            “Chuck seems okay,” I said. “I’m sure he’s only abusive when drunk.  And probably only verbally.”

“Anyone who gives you beer is going to be okay. He’s so gross. He’s just the type my sister ends up with.”

            “Not everyone can pull thirty one year old investment bankers.”

            “Don’t be rude,” Jenny said.

“You’re the one who called her a slut.” I pictured Chuck and Charlene. I pictured them going upstairs so that he could molest her with his moustache. Chuck looked like an ass man. A doggystyle aficionado. Or he lay on his back and had the woman do the work. It still didn't make sense though. “Chuck defies science. Biology specifically.”

“What’s with you and science today.  Carl Sagan?”

            “Chuck digs science,” I said.

“I saw the way that creep looked at me and Melody.
            “He’s a man of good taste.”

            “He hasn’t worked in six months.”

            “Wow,” I said. “How’d he pull that off?”

            “He found my whore sister,” Jenny said.

            “She doesn’t seem like a whore either,” I said. 

            “Oh get off it. I suppose if I wore halter-tops and showed my ass, you'd defend me more, too.”

“If I wasn’t dating you I would.”

“You heard them up here, right?”

“Was kind of hard not to,” I said. “That Chuck needs to find his inside voice, and find it fast, before your mom has an aneurysm.”

            “Forget I said anything,” Jenny said. “Just keep making a joke of everything.” 

She unpacked her clothes and opened a drawer to put them in. The drawer was already filled with Melody's clothes. Jenny pulled out one of Melody's rolled joints, and a pair of her black, lace thongs. She made a face. Jenny held the joint like she was holding a turd. The sight of those thongs was a momentary ray of light. Like golden arches on interstates. I was facing a tough weekend: Melody and Charlene.

            “You should probably put those away,” I said.

            Jenny looked at Melody's thongs. “This whole drawer already smells like marijuana.”  She put the thong and the joint back in Melody's drawer. Then Jenny put her clothes back in the bag and came over to give me a hug. “Rand, even though Chuck is horrid I'm so glad we have this weekend here. Mom said maybe on Sunday we'll go into the city. Would you like to see dirty Chicago firsthand?”

“I already told you Chicago is my raison d’etre this weekend,” I said. Jenny kissed me.  She made for a quick one. But I kept it going. “But why don’t we have a little bit of our own fun?”

She looked toward the empty hallway. “I don’t know.”

“You know I have a good inside voice.”

I kissed Jenny again. I started angling her toward the bed. Dave and Melody’s bed. I had a hand on her ass, and the other was already heading inside the front of her shorts. Yet it always seemed awkward to me when we started; like I imagined other boys and men doing this to Jenny. I was sure they did it better. I imagined Leif with his hands down her pants. I was probably the reason Jenny wasn’t kinkier. Me and my fumbling hands. Christ. I sometimes wished that she hadn’t been my first.

“Excuse me, kids.” I pulled my hand out of Jenny’s pants. Chuck was in the doorway.  His smirk made the caterpillar moustache wiggle sideways. “I got the grill on and burgers frying,” he said. “Just letting you lovebirds know.” He left the doorway for a second but came back. “Do you like whiskey, kid?”

            “More than my own mother, Chuck,” I said.

“Fuckin-a. I got a bottle of Jack downstairs, and I've been looking for a guy to drink some whiskey with.” Chuck smiled. He winked at Jenny. Then he left.

“Don't you dare continue to make friends with that pig,” Jenny said.

            “I’ve made friends with worse.”

            “Don’t be too surprised if Chuck is gone the next time we come here. I'm just saying. Don’t go making best friends because he might not be here when you come back.”

Neither might I, I thought. “It’s just whiskey.  It’s just hanging out and having some fun.”

 “Right,” she said. “Fun.”

Then Jenny left the room too, and I was alone with my thoughts of inferiority and the contents of Melody's underwear drawer.

Charlene and Chuck put on a big char-grilled feast of dead animal for everyone. There were tons and tons of side dishes too. It looked delicious after a day of drinking beer. Chuck brought out the Jack Daniels. He made me drinks, mixing the whiskey with Coke. They were good. They went down smooth and sweet. I kept drinking them until Jenny, her family, Chuck, Melody, my sexual malaise, and the whole Chicago suburb grew nice and blurry. Being drunk felt magical. Straights couldn’t understand this. I was totally going to become some kind of drunk.

I was in a good place. I was trying to have a good time. Chuck was my co-pilot on the flight to boozy bliss. Jenny hated me for it. Her eyes burned through me. She looked on murderously when Chuck sat Charlene on his lap, and began playfully slapping at her supple hips. Jenny thought everything had to be modest and decent and last forever. That’s why she had a corkboard full of pictures of ex-boyfriends who’d burned her. They were still her friends. Yeah right. That’s why she let some Eucharistic minister put his head between her legs. I wanted to take a whack at Charlene’s hips too. But I didn’t dare even look. 

Chuck made me another whiskey and Coke. “For the college boy,” he said. He was starting to slur his words.

“I am in college,” I said.  “That’s absolutely, one-hundred percent fucking true, Chuck.”

“Rand,” Mrs. Pellegrino said. “Language.”

“What’s so great about college?” He was addressing the audience. I was in college. Jenny was doing to communications thing at community college. Melody and her hot hippy ass were in college. Psyche major. Dave was in college. He was doing engineering, just like his old man. A couch and all-day sports watching awaited him down the line.

“Freedom?” Melody said.

“I got freedom right here,” Chuck said. He slapped Charlene on her hips again and she giggled and burped. Mrs. Pellegrino sighed. At least Chuck hadn’t told us that freedom isn’t fucking free. “College is debt.”

“Well, my parents are paying for mine,” Melody said.  Dumb answer. Chuck scoffed and then his lips sort of fell into his booze glass. Poor Melody blushed. She turned a fine pink.

“Mommy and daddy paying for you too, college boy?”

“I’ll be in debt until I’m sixty,” I said.

            “Owned like a good little corporate soldier.”

            “Chuck, sounds like you’re an expert on everything,” Jenny said.

            “I know enough little girl,” he said. He had another sloppy sip on his drink. Then he pulled Charlene close for another feel, another laugh. That’s when the crash came. The crying.  Little Sarah running into the backyard holding her wrist. “What happened?”

            “Joey hit me,” she said.

            Charlene got up off of Chuck’s lap. She set her drink on the picnic table. It wobbled a bit.  She wobbled a bit. Charlene bent down to check her daughter’s wrist. “There’s nothing there, honey.”

            Then came another crash. “The fuck?” Chuck said. 

He got up off his lawn chair and placed his drink next to Charlene’s. Then he was inside the house in a drunken heat. I could hear murmurs at first. Then shouting. Chuck’s voice. It mingled with Joey’s whimpers and then his tears. Jenny, her mother, Melody, and even Dave all exchanged awkward glances. Mr. Pellegrino was oblivious because the Sox game was now on, on a small color TV outside on the deck. I kept my eyes to myself. I didn’t want to be involved.  It wasn’t my place. I was just the boyfriend, and a shitty one at that.

Chuck came back out on the deck. Joey was still crying in the house. “He got into the goddamned communion cake. Smeared the holy cracker and everything.”

“It’s a host,” Mrs. Pellegrino said.

“Yeah…well…the moron should know better.”

“Chuck,” Charlene said.  She stood up from her daughter and went to tend to her son.

            “What?”  He sat back down on his lawn chair like the king of the castle. The man didn’t even notice the glares. Goddamned enemy of the state and Chuck sat there like a prince sipping on his Jack and Cokes. “You know how kids are.”

            That was when Mrs. Pellegrino got up to join her daughter.

            “I know they say the darndest things,” I said. I wasn’t so sure I wanted Chuck as my co-pilot anymore.

            “Well, they’re rowdy. They get a little nuts. Especially boys.”

            “Do tell,” Jenny said.

            “They just need a guiding hand,” Chuck said. He had another big pull on his drink while he looked at both sides of his open right hand. “Joey is mostly good. What am I telling you guys for? You all know that. It’s just that boys need men around.”

            “Otherwise cakes would get smeared,” I said. “And Americans are funny about cakes.”

            Then Charlene and Mrs. Pellegrino were back with both kids in tow.  Joey’s eyes were streaked but he had a Batman figure to play with now. Sarah had a coloring book and she sidled up to the picnic table to go to town. Charlene went for her drink. She eyed Mrs. Pellegrino as she sat back down, shaking her head. There’d obviously been words. I was sure the name Chuck had been bandied about. Mothers and daughters, man. Then Charlene sat back on Chuck’s lap.

            “Crisis averted,” he said.

            “For now.”

            An hour later, Charlene put the kids to bed. Mr. and Mrs. Pellegrino went inside the house to watch the TV. The rest of us stayed outside. We had some more booze, and listened to Chuck tell us college kids what the real world was like. Even Jenny lightened up. Out of the glare of her mother she let Chuck fix her a few rum and Cokes. Jenny sat on my lap. We all continued to bullshit. Casually, she ground her little ass into my crotch. It seemed like a nice night. Jenny was so friendly I thought I’d get laid later on.

            “You guys wanna spark one?” Dave said. He smiled, raised his big, bushy eyebrows.

            “Shit yeah,” Melody said.

            “Daaaaave,” Jenny said. She whined. If there was one thing Jenny Pellegrino didn’t tolerate it was marijuana. Marijuana led to delinquency. She’d used ex-boyfriends on me as warning signs about pot. That just led to me discussing her ex-boyfriends with my pals as we got high. We all had a lot to say about a guy like Leif.

            “You brought drugs into my house,” Chuck said. He looked dead serious.

            “I…” Dave began.

            Chuck laughed. “I’m just kidding, you puss.” He had more Jack and Coke. Chuck shook his head. “College kids.”

            “You’re not going to, right?” Jenny whispered to me.

            “Well, I haven’t seen Reefer Madness yet,” I said. “So I’m not really aware of the pitfalls.”

            “Don’t, Rand.”

            “Can’t you ever have a good time?” I said.

            “I don’t think doing drugs is a good time,” she said.

            “They define good times.”

            “Maybe we should ask a police officer what he thinks about drugs.”

            “Or a Eucharistic minister,” I said.

Dave dimmed the outside lights. He sparked a joint. He took a hit and handed it to Melody. She took a rich toke. Hippy chicks always knew how to smoke pot. Then Charlene toked up. She laughed after one hit. She was probably drunk, I thought. Chuck took a big hit. He followed it by downing the rest of his Jack and Coke. He gave the joint to me. It was the moment of truth. I sat there holding the joint, looking at Jenny Pellegrino’s disappointed face. Then I took a nice hard tug on the joint. 

Jenny got right off my leg. She went and sat alone on a concrete stoop near the backdoor.  I was so angry at her for being a child. She was always a child. Other than her young ass, I mean, what did an older dude she in her? I took another hard toke on the joint, and then passed it back to Dave. Fuck her, I thought. Fuck having a girlfriend. Fuck ex-boyfriends. Fuck Leif. I had a library job near the university and college girls came in all of the time. The summer was coming and people were loose. Jenny had given me the experience. All I needed was a set of balls, and I’d have my pick of the litter. The thought felt good. I had Chuck do a Jack Daniel’s shot with me. The whiskey was warm and comforting. I bummed a cigarette off of Charlene and the first drag was like coming home.

“You’re an asshole, Rand Wyndham,” Jenny said. Then she went inside the house to watch TV with her folks. I looked around the table. Everyone seemed to pity me. They all understood, even Chuck.

“Women,” he said, like it was an excuse passed down through generations of frustrated men. I was frustrated by the whole thing. Women. Relationships. Someone telling you what to do. Constant disappointment. I was tired of stacking myself up against the past. I wondered what it was that had made me want a girlfriend so badly in the first place.

The next morning I awoke on the floor. My head hurt and so did my chest. It was trapped gas. Everyone was asleep. Jenny was alone on our bed. Melody and Dave were wrapped up in each other on the other bed. I lifted my head. It throbbed. I farted to try and kill the chest pains. 

I looked over at Melody. She was above the covers in a t-shirt and panties, just as I prophesized it to be. I got hard. I thought about rubbing one out on the floor. Then the bedroom door creaked opened. It was Charlene. She saw me awake with my tent pole under the sheet.  She smiled and waved. She was wearing a black see-through kimono. There was nothing on underneath but a thong.

            “I thought you were all asleep,” Charlene whispered.

            “They are,” I whispered back.

            Charlene pointed at the closet. “I just have to get Joey’s communion shoes.”

            “You do as you like.”

            Charlene walked over to the closet. My eyes followed. She opened the door and bent over to dig through a few boxes. Her ass was on full display. It was just beautiful white firmness with a small indistinguishable tattoo on her left cheek. Holy Christ. I had Melody on one side in her panties, and Charlene nearly bare-assed in the closet. If I were anyone else I would’ve wandered in that closet and taken my chances. But I wasn’t. I was Rand Wyndham. I was Charlene’s sister’s henpecked boyfriend, who slept on the floor as a punishment. I was a sexual novice, jealous of a thirty one year old investment banker who moonlighted with Jesus on the side. I couldn’t keep up with what Charlene had to offer even if I wanted to. 

Finally she stood up. She closed the closet door and came right toward me. “Chuck has coffee on if you’re interested.”

            “I love coffee,” I said. “I’m practically Colombian.”

            “So was Joey’s dad.”

            “No shit.”

            “Chuck made Irish coffee, if you get my drift,” Charlene said.

            “I’m drifting away.”

            “I’ll be in the shower.”

            “Cleanliness is next to Godliness,” I said.

            Then she left the room, giving me one more glimpse of that fine ass. A shower? Was that a hint to go and get soapy too? Or was Charlene just being informative? People were mundane to a fault. I shook all over. My head hurt and I wanted to burst. I was going into a sexual overload. I farted again. Then Jenny lifted her head off of the pillow and stared at me.

            “I told you she was a slut,” she said.

            The morning was a fucking blur. I nursed a hangover in church while little Joey and a couple dozen other kids got further indoctrinated into the sick rabbit-hole that was Catholicism.  I hadn’t been in a church since my mother died. I had no use for the Catholic Church. I put Jesus up there with Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus. That made me laugh, which made my head hurt more. 

Jenny squeezed my hand, not in a loving way. It was our first contact of the day, unless you counted her brushing by me in the hallway, after accusing me of gawking at her sister. I didn’t gawk so much as leer. Jenny said that was the same thing. I laughed again. Mrs. Pellegrino shot me a look. She had her rosary beads. She was in her glory. She was in her place. I worked to find mine, so I stared murderously at the one young Eucharistic minister. I was sure Leif was in the phone book. Eventually church ended. 

Back at the homestead, Chuck looked at me, smiled, and shook the Jack Daniels bottle. It was out of place on a dining room table set with cookies and vegetables and soda and cold cuts.  “Kid, you need a little something to wash the Jesus out of you?”

            “More than you know,” I said. Chuck grabbed two red, plastic party cups and poured us both whiskey and Cokes.

            “I really wish you wouldn’t drink in front of my parents,” Jenny said.

            “What mommy and daddy know won’t kill them,” Chuck said.

            “They do know. That’s why I said what I said.”

            “It’s only a whiskey,” I said. “It’s not like we’re going anywhere.”

            “What if the cops show up?” Jenny said.

            “The cops are going to crash a communion party?”

            “There was a drug den down the block,” Chuck offered.

            “Why am I not surprised that you’d know that,” Jenny said to him.

            “You don’t have to get smart, little girl.”

            “I’m nineteen.”

            “Hmmm,” Chuck said. He said it like he’d just as soon tear into Jenny as he would Charlene.
            “I’m going to play with the kids.” Jenny poured herself a Coke. Straight. I wondered what that tasted like. “It would be nice if you came with me, Rand.”

            “He’ll play with them later,” Chuck said. He sucked down half his drink. He poured some more whiskey in both our cups. “It ain’t like he don’t have the whole summer to play with them.”

            “What’s that supposed to mean?” Jenny said.


            Jenny’s face dropped. She frowned. The girl actually looked like she was going to cry right there in her sister’s dining room. “I thought they weren’t this year.”

            “Weren’t what?” I asked.

            “Where’s my mother?”

            “Kitchen,” Chuck said. He had that crooked caterpillar smirk going.

Jenny started away but I grabbed her arm. “Mind telling me what’s going on?”

            “Nothing,” she said. “Just the end of our lives for the summer.”

            Then she stormed away.

            I went out on the back deck with Chuck, the whiskey, a purloined two-liter of Coke, and a full pack of Camels. The day had turned overcast and a bit breezy. I didn’t mind. I hated the sun. I hated the heat. I kind of hated all weather. We held down the fort on the picnic table. 

“Don’t worry about that business with your broad,” Chuck said. He poured us another round. Chuck had a cooler full of beer. He took ice from it to keep our drinks cold. He also got us two beers to chase the booze.

            “Jenny,” I said.

            “Yeah. Charlene’s sister.”

            “I’m not worried, Chuck,” I said.  I lit a smoke. “Getting upset is sort of Jenny’s deal.”

            “They’re all fucking nuts. Her sister’s a dingbat too. But damn if she don’t wear a fine kimono, right?”

            I kept my opinions about the kimono to myself. “You know what she’s mad about?”

            Chuck sighed. “Probably about Sarah and Joey coming to Pittsburgh for the summer.”

            “Say what?”

            “Charlene wasn’t gonna  send them this year, but I talked her into this cruise. So…”

            “So the kids are coming to Pittsburgh,” I said. I shot my drink down. “And staying right in the room next to Jenny.” Bye-bye sex. Bye-bye almost full-throttle blowjobs.

            “Think of it as an art project,” Chuck said. 

            “You mean like fucking in bathrooms?”

            “You get it where you can.”

            “I’m twenty,” I said.

            “Back seat of a car worked for me at twenty.”

            How in the hell could you just dump your kids off for the summer? And do it more than once? And who’d be watching these kids now? Probably me and Jenny. Evenings. Weekends.  It would be a summer of fucking Disney films and runny ice cream cones and crying kids. Of course with Jenny chances were good the summer would go that way anyway. There’d be no sex. I had no illusions how close that spare room was to Jenny’s. You could fart in there and it would sound like someone doing it in your ear. Shit, even vanilla missionary sex was sex. And I had big plans for the summer. The one year anniversary of Leif. I was going to make Jenny forget him. At least make myself forget him. An art project for sure.

            “You look like you need another whiskey, kid,” Chuck said.

            “Charlene ever talk about ex-boyfriends?” I just sort of blurted it out.

            “Why in the hell would she do that?  She’s a grown-ass woman.”

            “No talk about Sarah and Joey’s dad?”

            “Which one?”

            “So they do come from different dads,” I said.

            Chuck poured us two more. He went heavy on the whiskey and light on the Coke. “That Joey looks like a little beaner. So tell me what you think, kid?”

            “And she never says anything?”

            “Just that they don’t send any money.” Chuck had a drink. “Why you asking? Is Junie a talker?”


            “Whatever. So she talks up the ex-boyfriends?”


            “Give her a good stuffin’ and she’ll quit moaning about them.”

            I killed my beer. I lit another smoke. “I’ve tried that.”

            “Maybe not enough.” Chuck had some of his drink. He stared off into the distance. I waited for his advice. I figured Chuck would have some kind of advice. “Charlene said one of Junie’s exes is a faggot?”


            “Better watch yourself,” he said. That gave him a good laugh.

            “I…I think it’s genetic,” I said.

            “Is that what that scientist Clark Seeger told you?”

            I was surprised he remembered Sagan at all. “Someone like him.”

            “Dude must’ve been really smart.”

            “Yeah,” I said. We drank. From inside the house came the sound of people yelling. Jenny. Charlene. Mrs. Pellegrino. There was crying too. Joey again. He seemed to be crier of the pair.

            “Well I guess you need to get used to that sound,” Chuck said. He raised his cup. We clinked. “To love and misery.”

            “Love and misery.”

            We both killed our drinks.

            “And a summer of freedom for me," Chuck said.

            We were silent a moment.

            “Charlene ever mention a guy named Leif?” I said. “In regards to Jenny.”

            Chuck gave another thoughtful glance into the suburban abyss. “Why? Was that the fag’s name?”