Watermelon and Gin

Watermelon and gin. Smashing the soft, red pulp against the side of a tumbler with the back of my spoon. 20 minutes in the freezer. Swirl, gulp and grimace. Damn, that’s no good. So I have two.

I feel bad for thin men. They have standards. They need vermouth or a mixer. They need social incentives. I just need the sun to go down on another Tuesday.

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August 24, 2015  Leave a comment

Summer Insects

Her foot’s swollen with ant bites. The leather straps of her sandal burrow into the plump flesh like binding twine over potter’s clay. “It looks like a bun,” she says, dangling her thick, tender leg in the air. But she won’t go for the cream or the Benadryl tablets. She won’t soak them in a warm water, in the plastic bin we bought for just such an occasion, to release the histamines and calm the grating devotion of an itch that won’t fucking die.

She’s gonna tough it out. She’s gonna take it like a big girl; a mock stoicism defined by incessant chatter and deep sighs and plaintive glances in my direction, all night long, minute by minute, maybe forever.

That’s how you deal with hardship now: the communal theatrics of endurance. July monsoon brings a coat of sweat and rejuvenated house plants and insects who’s primary crimes are bested only by the inflated response they receive. Through the front screen door I suddenly recognize the severe murmur of the cicadas. Somehow, they’re losing.

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July 14, 2015  Leave a comment

Cricket Hunter

There’s a cricket in the kitchen somewhere, squeaking up a storm. Can’t tell where he’s coming from, proud little fella. After three Captain-and-Cokes, the triangulation is more than a little unreliable, and I haven’t the slightest… I have to lean just so against the stove for balance. A streak of aged grease emerges on my t-shirt, just above the hip, something a little reddish. A blood stain along the love handles – the cost of staying upright.

Maybe it’s the toaster. I never have cleaned that thing. Bread crumbs scattered on the counter, crumbs of all type, pressed into the foul corners where buckled planes of mostly-white laminate meet. Garlic, pepper, and sea salt, that’s for sure, but also maybe a little paprika and parsley flakes, and cumin. Who knows, really: the seasoning of a crease. Thin, grey lines of compacted flavor, a stretched transcript of our many meals together over almost a year in this house. And I used to love cooking for you, my dear. I used to love sheltering you in warm gratitude when you would cook for me. It’s what we did best. We never loved so well as when we ate together, often from the same plate, chopsticks tapping furiously against chopsticks until there was nothing left. “Family style,” you called it, and then lifted your shirt to show me your round belly. This kitchen knows all that, has quietly kept a reckoning in dirt and spice. I’m mesmerized. I’m surprised the ants didn’t get to it first. I’m imagining they think of it as sacred, too. Maybe they liked the story as much as I did.

In the dead center of the room, I waver unsteadily, chin up, eyes closed and squinty, listening. He shuts up when you shuffle near, like he knows he’s being watched. Very clever. Very hard to catch. “Where you at, motherfucker?” I taunt the skylight. Listening. Listening. The sink light ticks like a metronome. “Oh, no, don’t you stop singing now, you son of a bitch. Finish what you started!” He’s been here too long, making noise. He’s got to go. It’s time.

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July 1, 2014  Leave a comment

Evacuate As One

For my birthday this year, I ate a 20oz, wood-fired ribeye steak with baked potato and onion rings from a chain restaurant in a suburban shopping complex. I visited the toilet three times the next morning, each sit-down slightly less violent than the last but no less repugnant. I got used to it, actually, eventually. And I got curious: pants coiled around my ankles, a desperate tremor in my gut, vulnerable and reconciled, but relaxed, scanning, inhaling, taking in the odors of the stall’s previous occupant like I was sampling dipping sauce at the farmers’ market. The secret science and pleasure of disgust. It was almost sweet, too sweet, really – the end of a dusty assembly line in a confectioner’s kitchen, the remnants at the bottom of a cotton candy spinner. That poor bastard.

Chemicals in, chemicals out. We consume and evacuate as one. When people talk about community, they never mention public restrooms. They never mention the saccharin scent of another man’s ass.

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June 27, 2014  Leave a comment

Fallen Marks

Warped cedar pickets, bent like idle quotes, lie in two stacks in the middle of the yard. I see the fallen marks: discarded punctuation from a powder blue, love-letter sky. It lends credence to the building of a fence.

All afternoon and for many days running, Momma’s been separating the good from the bad. That’s what you gotta do. And in the end, they’re mostly good.

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June 11, 2014  Leave a comment

Company Cold

Waiting room, mid-afternoon in June. I take sanctuary in the undermanned and tranquil automotive department at Walmart — eight days in a row above 100. The ACs nice enough, sputtering through a dusty vent in the ceiling, drying the throat. The swamp cooler at home stopped producing when the dew point got above 40, so now I buy things I don’t need just to use up some of that company cold.

To keep from drifting off, I attend to the popular: Home and Garden, Wired, Lowrider, and a Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, 2013. On the cover a creamy blonde poses against the wild in ironic winter parka, ghost white, and a bikini bottom. And in the background a dark grey mountain range mottled with snow rises quietly above choppy arctic seas. “Polar Bare,” it reads in a curvaceous font. She’s got her hip out, she’s got cleavage the size of icebergs, she’s got her mouth open, she’s got her eyes on something behind me. Conditioning doesn’t stop with temperature.

Outside the air is pregnant. You can feel it overhead: wet and heavy, quivering on roof tops like a plump water balloon, bulging over the gutters, slippery and aggressive and eager for the earth. You can feel it pressing down on the back of the neck, paternal and sincere. We’re a week away from the monsoon season, maybe two, and everyone’s stretched thin with the latex of their lives. Everyone’s counting days, shuffling from shade to shade, enclosure to enclosure, yearning to be broken wide open. I step out into the torrid parking lot and take a long, slow breath. It’s not so bad.

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June 7, 2014  Leave a comment

Heat and Sugar

An open door, no screen. Fly strip in a clear window, dotted with death, trembling in the wake of a ceiling fan. Distorted Banda on the radio (someone thinks a girl is pretty). Free banana water in a clear cup with rectangle ice and a bold red straw, cool in the hand and against the forehead. Vinyl flooring pretending it’s saltillo tile pops beneath my weight.

She doesn’t recommend the chamoy. Wrinkles her nose and calmly shakes her head, tilting back in her sandals to reveal a crusty brown spot on her neck near the clavicle. Strawberry seeds, maybe, or kiwi on a worn white collar. The scent of pineapple and cooking oil. “Oh, no,” she says plainly, crossing her arms beneath two abundant breasts. “Spicy… very spicy.” No justification, no story. She tosses her long black hair in seductive reproach. Even if he’s the only customer at lunch hour, you don’t sell a gringo on authenticity or adventure. He won’t appreciate those flavors. He can’t possibly understand the nuance of heat and sugar.

There’s no knife, not even a plastic one. I have to tear the bulging burro – warm and supple – in two with my bare hands. Slivers of thick-cut cabbage fall to the table like melted puzzle pieces. Chili sauce and re-fried beans beneath my fingernails burn to the quick. Something wet slips and sizzles down the edge of my palm, wrist, and forearm. Desperation.

“The respado es coming,” she assures me with a smile. A blender turns. I’m parched to the core.

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April 29, 2014  Leave a comment

Spoons

Granny collected spoons.  Story goes that cousin Amy rescued them from indifference and a thrift store donation shortly after Grandpa died.  We only sort of forgot them.  Now they hang like stillbirth belly fat on the faux wood paneling of aunt Ida Beth’s double-wide, amassing dust, a few of them crooked in their rests.  In the afternoon, sometimes, sun catches on what’s left of their metallic coating, sets the hallway aglow.  I love walking through that light, getting warmer, just a tiny bit.

Once, I paused to run my fingertips along their length.  I put a half dozen back in place, tried rubbing the gunk clear enough to read state names, national parks, company brands.  A folk narrative you can eat potato salad with, a covert museum in west Odessa.  But in no way a record, let’s get that straight.

Pretty sure Granny never made it to Alaska.  Before the collapse and the cancer, the cold wilderness called to them both.  They actually talked about rolling up there with me in the RV.  She would’ve done no driving, no complaining about gas mileage, no cursing the whippet for being underfoot.  He would’ve prepared no cups of coffee with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream, no reveling in his grandkid’s youthful enthusiasms.  Only the spoons know what might’ve happened.  Only the spoons care to tell that story.

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April 26, 2014  Leave a comment

Broke Down

Broke down on Good Friday shortly after breakfast. I was thinking the alternator. My uncle, on the phone, suspected something with the wiring, maybe a fuseable link not right.  Half an hour of fiddling with anything loose couldn’t get us going.  I jammed my screwdriver into the starter a few times and got it to turn, but we just couldn’t keep an idle.

Nearly $200 to haul us 17 miles into Deming. We crossed over the Mimbres river in a pristine white tow truck, humiliated and tired. My ’89 Dakota fastened lifeless to the hitch like a fat, stubborn mosquito in the final moments of its life. A light stippling of rain emerges from the asphalt. Inured to dark circles, I turn my attention to the driver and ask for guidance:

“Yeah, you know, we lost our mechanic to the border patrol,” he exclaims over the rumble of a diesel engine. “Manny was good, too.”

We’re taken to the only garage in town still open, and they’re about to close. A bulky heap of a farm boy named Chance and his clear-eyed colleagues set to work, poking and prodding the greasy innards of my wounded steed, contorting their scarred bodies to reach the dark corners. No go.

We lean against the frame and ponder a solution. Sometimes out loud, sometimes in silence. It could be so many things, and we’re a long way from Calvary.

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April 18, 2014  Leave a comment

Whole Lot of Creamy Nothing

Barbed wire fence as far as the eye can see and a weathered ranch gate that opens to a whole lot of creamy nothing.  I’m just fine with that: the sky, the earth, absorption, exodus.

There’s a part of the soul that can only see background.  You’d be wise to look for it.

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April 18, 2014  Leave a comment

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