Each week it gets harder to talk to God, even my version. I’ve linked it to the construction of the human ear—the Eustachian tube in particular—which is normally collapsed, but opens with pressure, with swallowing, when taking off in an airplane. All I know is the movement of that unreachable, uncontrollable air. I love frenetic bass drums when a guy’s stomping like he’ll never die, each song a measure of the rage I can no longer express. I’m in a Subaru going eighty in a thirty-five and wish I could jerk the wheel left off the overpass, headlong into a quiet, endless nothing. No more pre-dawn coffees with rotgut instead of creamer, no more infections, no more head tilts and slow blinks every time they give her bad news. I’m planning my revolution—baseball bats and shit-kickers and bags of gunpowder harvested from fireworks bought over the state line instead of urine samples and blood draws and clogged ports and the lavender sound of words like infusion and that one fucking doctor who wears crab socks and whale socks and bunny socks and all I want to do is knock him over, hold him down, and rip them off his feet, unsure if I would stuff them in his mouth or just slide them in my pocket and walk out. The fantasy varies.
taking the bus
Dischord No. 172
When we walked in, our hoodies hung, soaked. We slid beside each other in the back booth next to the jukebox, playing Led Zeppelin or Johnny Cash—the best they had to offer. The show had been a washout, but we’d walked through the park, circling the abandoned go-kart track, not giving a damn about rogue storms as long as we were together. Both of us knew come spring, come May, come move out day, we’d go our separate ways, but we held our confessions down in the meat of our chests. When he noticed me studying his hands, he took me to the car. After we’d steamed the windshield, I made baby footprints on the glass with the pinky side of my fist while he drove. Scattered & smothered. No cheese. No pork. No cushion on our bones, no padding from aches we were too young to understand. Wendy, all starched and stiffened and crooked smiled, glanced at the parking lot, afraid of something wicked, something
coming, someone headed inside. Babies, she said, y’all best get on your way. When Wendy called us babies, we listened, dropping a ten-dollar bill on the table. We shed our
sweatshirts and rose, skin prickled from ice-cold air. But I stalled, drew a wide heart in the condensation on the window, wrote Fuck Rednecks when all he wanted was the privilege of leaving unnoticed.
recipe for hate monster truck at the waffle house
Dischord No. 048
The sofa on his front porch housed a thousand cockroaches, but in hazy daylight, they stayed hidden in the creases, in the springs, tucked into decaying Poly-fil. I dug for the steamroller we kept hidden in the torn upholstery, hoping like hell the nasty fuckers wouldn’t stir, but had no problem covering my lips with blue plastic, watching the chamber fill, and kicking back with a boombox, falling asleep in summer’s flaring height, waking with knee sweat and lip sweat and dampness between my legs like I’d been running. People came home, swapped tapes, and left again. Plinky guitar and saxophone meant men in white socks and blue starched suits dancing like they were trying to figure out which direction they should go. These bands made me think of the teddy bear in a suit my dad had given me—one of a handful of presents that were supposed to make things right, make things better. When they move on stage, when they blow, when they pluck, they all transform into the bear in the navy suit, and though I sweated through my clothes and summer turned me into my own version of vermin, I giggled through the song, and fast forwarded through the memory of my coworker at Pizza Hut, the man ten years my senior who kept calling, with his after-hour shoulder pads and wide-brimmed hat and his nonchalance about age. The next song was better and I climbed onto the railing, practicing old moves, an arabesque against humidity.
in a mailbox
Beth Gilstrap is the author of I Am Barbarella: Stories (2015) from Twelve Winters Press and No Man’s Wild Laura (2016) from Hyacinth Girl Press. She thinks she’s crazy lucky to work as Fiction Editor over at Little Fiction | Big Truths. Her fiction and essays have appeared in Bull, WhiskeyPaper, The Minnesota Review, Literary Orphans, and Little Patuxent Review, among others. Follow her on Twitter @BettySueBlue.
Jim Warner’s poetry has appeared in various journals including The North American Review, RHINO Poetry, New South, and he is the author of two collections (PaperKite Press). His latest book, actual miles, will be released in 2017 by Sundress Publications. Jim is the host of the literary podcast Citizen Lit and is a faculty member of Arcadia University’s MFA program. Follow him on Twitter @whoismisterjim and @citizenlitcast.
Image: Photograph by Brian Michael Barbeito, a Canadian writer and photographer.