Yellow Mama Archives

Willie Smith
Home
Abbott, Patricia
Aclin, Ken
Adhikari, Sudeep
Ahern, Edward
Alan, Jeff
Aldrich, Janet M.
Allen, M. G.
Allen, Nick
Allison, Shane
Ammonds, Phillip J.
Anderson, Peter
Andreopoulos, Elliott
Anick, Ronald
Anonymous 9
Arab, Bint
Arkell, Steven
Ashley, Jonathan
Aymar, E. A.
Ayris, Ian
Babbs, James
Baber, Bill
Bagwell, Dennis
Baird, Meg
Bakala, Brendan
Baker, Bobby Steve
Baker, Nathan
Balaz, Joe
Baltensperger, Peter
BAM
Barber, Shannon
Barnett, Brian
Bates, Jack
Baugh, Darlene
Baumgartner, Jessica Marie
Beale, Jonathan
Beck, George
Beckman, Paul
Beloin, Phil
Benet, Esme
Bennett, Brett
Bennett, Charlie
Bennett, Eric
Berg, Carly
Bergland, Grant
Berman, Daniel
Berriozabal, Luis
Beveridge, Robert
Bickerstaff, Russ
Bigney, Tyler
Blair, Travis
Blake, Steven
Bohem, Charlie Keys and Les
Bolt, Andy
Bonehill, L. R.
Booth, Brenton
Boran, P. Keith
Bosworth, Mel
Bowen, Sean C.
Boyd, A. V.
Boyd, Morgan
Bracey, DG
Bradford, Ryan
Bradshaw, Bob
Brady, Dave
Brannigan, Tory
Brawn, Jason D.
Brewka-Clark, Nancy
Britt, Alan
Brock, Brandon K.
brook, j.
Brown, Melanie
Brown, R. Thomas
Brown, Sam
Bull, Warren
Burton, Michael
Butler, Janet
Butler, Simon Hardy
Butler, Terence
Cameron, W. B.
Campbell, J. J.
Campbell, Jack Jr.
Cano, Valentina
Carlton, Bob
Cartwright, Steve
Carver, Marc
Castle, Chris
Catlin, Alan
Chen, Colleen
Chesler, Adam
Christensen, Jan
Christopher, J. B.
Clausen, Daniel
Clevenger, Victor
Clifton, Gary
Coffey, James
Colasuonno, Alfonso
Compton, Sheldon Lee
Conley, Jen
Conley, Stephen
Connor, Tod
Cooper, Malcolm Graham
Coral, Jay
Corman-Roberts, Paul
Cosby, S. A.
Crandall, Rob
Criscuolo, Carla
Crisman, Robert
Crist, Kenneth
Crouch & Woods
Crumpton, J. C.
Cunningham, Stephen
Curry, A. R.
D., Jack
Dabbe, Lyla K.
Dallett, Cassandra
Damian, Josephine
Danoski, Joseph V.
Daly, Jim
Dalzell, Randy
Davis, Christopher
Day, Holly
Deal, Chris
de Bruler, Connor
De France, Steve
De La Garza, Lela Marie
de Marco, Guy Anthony
Deming, Ruth Z.
DeVeau, Spencer
Dexter, Matthew
Di Chellis, Peter
Dick, Earl
Dick, Paul "Deadeye"
DiLorenzo, Ciro
Dionne, Ron
Domenichini, John
Doran, Phil
Doreski, William
Dorman, Roy
Dosser, Jeff
Draime, Doug
Drake, Lena Judith
Dromey, John H.
Duke, Jason
Duncan, Gary
Dunham, T. Fox
Dunn, Robin Wyatt
Dunwoody, David
Duxbury, Karen
Duy, Michelle
Elias, Ramsey Mark
Elliott, Beverlyn L.
Elliott, Garnett
Ellis, Asher
Ellman, Neil
England, Kellie R.
England, Kristina
Erianne, John
Erlewine, David
Esterholm, Jeff
Fallow, Jeff
Falo, William
Fedigan, William J.
Fenster, Timothy
Ferraro, Diana
Filas, Cameron
Flanagan, Daniel N.
Flanagan, Ryan Quinn
Folz, Crystal
Franceschina, Susan
Funk, Matthew C.
Gallik, Daniel
Gann, Alan
Gardner, Cheryl Ann
Genz, Brian
Gilbert, Colin
Gladeview, Lawrence
Glass, Donald
Goddard, L. B.
Godwin, Richard
Goff, Christopher
Goodman, Tina
Goss, Christopher
Gradowski, Janel
Grant, Christopher
Grant, Stewart
Greenberg, Paul
Grey, John
Grover, Michael
Gunn, Johnny
Gurney, Kenneth P.
Haglund, Tobias
Hamlin, Mason
Hanna, J. T.
Hansen, Melissa
Hanson, Christopher Kenneth
Hanson, Kip
Hardin, J. Scott
Harrington, Jim
Harris, Bruce
Hart, GJ
Hartman, Michelle
Haskins, Chad
Hatzialexandrou, Anjelica
Hawley, Doug
Haycock, Brian
Hayes, A. J.
Hayes, John
Hayes, Peter W. J.
Heatley, Paul
Heifetz, Justin
Heimler, Heidi
Heitz, Russ
Helmsley, Fiona
Hendry, Mark
Henry, Robert Louis
Heyns, Heather
Hilary, Sarah
Hill, Richard
Hilson, J. Robert
Hivner, Christopher
Hobbs, R. J.
Hodges, Oliver
Hodgkinson, Marie
Holderfield, Culley
Holton, Dave
Hor, Emme
Houston, Jennifer
Howard, Peter
Howells, Ann
Huchu, Tendai
Hudson, Rick
Huguenin, Timothy G.
Hunt, Jason
Huskey, Jason L.
Irwin, Daniel
Jacobson, E. J.
Jaggers, J. David
James, Christopher
James, Colin
Jensen, Steve
Johanson, Jacob
Johnson, Beau
Johnson, Moctezuma
Johnson, Zakariah
Jones, D. S.
Jones, Erin J.
Jones, Mark
Kabel, Dana
Kaplan, Barry Jay
Kay, S.
Keaton, David James
Keith, Michael C.
Kempka, Hal
Kerins, Mike
Kerry, Vic
Keshigian, Michael
Kimball R. D.
King, Michelle Ann
Kirk, D.
Klim, Christopher
Knapp, Kristen Lee
Koenig, Michael
Korpon, Nik
Kowalcyzk, Alec
Krafft, E. K.
Lacks, Lee Todd
Lang, Preston
La Rosa, F. Michael
Larkham, Jack
Leatherwood, Roger
Lee, M.A.B.
Lees, Arlette
Lees, Lonni
Leins, Tom
LeJay, Brian K. Jr.
Lemming, Jennifer
Lerner, Steven M
Lewis, Cynthia Ruth
Lifshin, Lyn
Lin, Jamie
Lodge, Oliver
Lopez, Aurelio Rico III
Lorca, Aurelia
Lo Rocco, Brian
Loucks, Lindsey
Lovisi, Gary
Lucas, Gregory E.
Lukas, Anthony
Lynch, Nulty
Lyons, Matthew
Mac, David
MacArthur, Jodi
Macor, Iris
Madeleine, Julia
Malone, Joe
Manteufel, M. B.
Manzolillo, Nicholas
Marcius, Cal
Marlin, Brick
Marlowe, Jack T.
Martyn, Clive
Mason, Wayne
Massengill, David
Mattila, Matt
McAdams, Liz
McBride, Matthew
McCabe, Sinead
McCartney, Chris
McDaris, Catfish
McFarlane, Adam Beau
McGinley, Jerry
McElhiney, Sean
McLean, David
McMannus, Jack
McQuiston, Rick
Mellon, Mark
Memblatt, Bruce
Memi, Samantha
Merrigan, Court
Miles, Marietta
Miller, Laurita
Miller, Max
Mintz, Gwendolyn
Monaghan, Timothy P.
Monteferrante, Luigi
Monson, Mike
Mooney, Christopher P.
Moore, Katie
Morgan, Bill W.
Morgan, Stephen
Moss, David Harry
Mullins, Ian
Mulvihill, Michael
Murdock, Franklin
Muslim, Kristine Ong
Nardolilli, Ben
Nazar, Rebecca
Nell, Dani
Nelson, Trevor
Nessly, Ray
Nester, Steven
Neuda, M. C.
Newell, Ben
Newman, Paul
Nielsen, Ayaz
Nienaber, T. M.
Ogurek, Douglas J.
Ortiz, Sergio
Pagel, Briane
Parr, Rodger
Parrish, Rhonda
Partin-Nielsen, Judith
Penton, Jonathan
Perez, Juan M.
Perl, Puma
Perri, Gavin
Peterson, Rob
Peterson, Ross
Petroziello, Brian
Pettie, Jack
Picher, Gabrielle
Piech, JC
Pierce, Rob
Pietrzykowski, Marc
Plath, Rob
Pletzers, Lee
Pluck, Thomas
Pohl, Stephen
Pointer, David
Polson, Aaron
Power, Jed
Powers, M. P.
Price, David
Priest, Ryan
Prusky, Steve
Pruitt, Eryk
Purfield, M. E.
Purkis, Gordon
Quinlan, Joseph R.
Ram, Sri
Ramos, Emma
Rapth, Sam
Ravindra, Rudy
Rawson, Keith
Ray, Paula
Reale, Michelle
reutter, g emil
Rhatigan, Chris
Ribas, Tom
Richardson, Travis
Richey, John Lunar
Ridgeway, Kevin
Ritchie, Bob
Ritchie, Salvadore
Roberts, Paul C.
Robertson, Lee
Robinson, John D.
Robinson, Kent
Rodgers, K. M.
Roger, Frank
Rogers, Stephen D.
Rohrbacher, Chad
Rosa, Basil
Rose, Mandi
Rosenberger, Brian
Rosenblum, Mark
Rosmus, Cindy
Rowe, Brian
Rowley, Aaron
Ruhlman, Walter
Rutherford, Scotch
Saus, Steven M.
Savage, Jack
Sawyer, Mark
Sayles, Ryan
Schneeweiss, Jonathan
Schraeder, E. F.
Schumejda, Rebecca
Scott, Craig
Scott, Jess C.
Scribner, Joshua
See, Tom
Seen, Calvin
Servis, Steven P.
Sexton, Rex
Seymour, J. E.
Sfarnas, John
Shafee, Fariel
Shaikh, Aftab Yusuf
Shea, Kieran
Shepherd, Robert
Sim, Anton
Simmler, T. Maxim
Sin, Natalie L.
Sinisi, J. J.
Sixsmith, JD
Slagle, Cutter
Slaviero, Susan
Sloan, Frank
Smith, Adam Francis
Smith, Ben
Smith, C.R.J.
Smith, Copper
Smith, Daniel C.
Smith, Paul
Smith, Stephanie
Smith, Willie
Smuts, Carolyn
Snoody, Elmore
So, Gerald
Sojka, Carol
Solender, Michael J.
Sortwell, Pete
Sosnoski, Karen
Sparling, George
Speed, Allen
Spicer, David
Spires, Will
Spitzer, Mark
Spuler, Rick
Stephens, Ransom
Stewart, Michael S.
Stickel, Anne
Stolec, Trina
Straus, Todd
Stryker, Joseph H.
Stucchio, Chris
Stuckey, Cinnamon
Succre, Ray
Sullivan, Thomas
Swanson, Peter
Swartz, Justin A.
Sweet, John
Tarbard, Grant
Taylor, J. M.
Thoburn, Leland
Thomas, C. T.
Thompson, John L.
Thompson, Phillip
Titus, Lori
Tivey, Lauren
Tobin, Tim
Todd, Jeffrey
Tolland, Timothry
Tomlinson, Brenton
Tomolillo, Bob
Tu, Andy
Ullerich, Eric
Valent, Raymond A.
Valvis, James
Vilhotti, Jerry
Waldman, Dr. Mel
Walsh, Patricia
Ward, Emma
Ward, Jared
Waters, Andrew
Weber, R.O.
Weir, G. Kenneth
White, J.
White, Judy Friedman
White, Robb
White, Terry
Williams, Alun
Willoughby, Megan
Wilsky, Jim
Wilson, Robley
Wilson, Scott
Wilson, Tabitha
Wright, David
Young, Scot
Yuan, Changming
Zafiro, Frank
Zapata, Angel
Zickgraf, Catherine
Zimmerman, Thomas
Znaidi, Ali

noeffect.jpg
Art by Steve Cartwright

 

No Effect on Me

 

by Willie Smith

 

     In the early sixties my fave actor is Rip Torn. I can barely bring his face to mind. Know almost nothing about him. Just seen him on TV. But I love the name: Rip Torn – a toughie who suffers; whose soul the world has shredded to bits, and still he perseveres – acting in drama after drama.

     I especially like Torn in that THRILLER episode where he slurs at the top of his lungs – thrashing in a canopied bed in an upstairs chamber of the haunted house – “Barbiturates have no effect on me!” before the drug finally overwhelms him and he later awakens only to be literally scared to death.

     I’m thinking of Torn this afternoon, shortly after my parents have gone for a Sunday drive, leaving me alone, and I am ripping off my clothes in preparation for strutting around the house nude. A guaranteed three hours of unmolested perversion.

     I leave the clothes in a heap. Pants on top of shoes and socks. Underwear and shirt piled over pants. Step around into the bathroom. Stand on the toilet seat. Lean over into the medicine-chest mirror above the sink. Admire in-the-flesh me.

     Adequate body – slim, trim, at fifteen still maybe another inch to grow; penis almond-tan, gray-pink tipped and healthy. Hop down. Parade into the living room, bare feet luxuriating in buff wall-to-wall shag.

     Climb onto the couch. Gaze out the picture window down at the sidewalk looped around our suburban hillside court.  

     There she is. Every Sunday afternoon about this time. Don’t know her name, about my age, brunette, nice-enough looking. They just moved in last month. She doesn’t see me up here. Holds her head down trudging uphill. The part in her page-boy white as the dotted line on a box of chocolates saying “open here.”

     I wobble off the couch. Pad over the shag past the bookcase, sparsely populated with The World Book Encyclopedia, boxed National Geo’s and Reader’s Digest Condensed Books. Pivot left. Hustle down the stairs, through the entrance foyer, into the rec room.

     Draw up in front of the draped window. Count to, breathing heavily, catching my breath, five. Yank open drapes.  

     The motion catches her eye. A single pane of glass plus fifteen feet of sunshine separate my greedy pupils from the surprise in her own.

     This is a play. We are young adults. Innocent, curious, intelligent. Not far removed from either child or adult. Inhabiting a warp in between, where a certain magic holds sway, driving reality down the road with a well-tuned dream engine.  

     Play like I don’t see her. It’s a lovely day, I’m perfectly relaxed, quietly savoring the moment. I often walk around nude. Easier way to live life. Clothing such an unnecessary encumbrance, especially in such nice weather. No skin off my ass if other people want to try it, too. Say, for instance, if the girl next door were nonchalantly to disrobe, invite herself in; I’d be delighted to show her how cool it is to walk around the house not wearing a stitch.

     All houses on the court, in the whole development, in fact, have the same floor plan. Ambling around my house nude just the same as ambling around her house nude. This all perfectly natural. Maybe once we start talking we’ll find we have a lot in common. Maybe she… slowly I start touching myself… not looking down… not even really thinking about it… maybe she too, on these boring Sunday afternoons, occasionally is not entirely averse to touching whatever it is…

     She breaks off eye contact. Her face, naturally pale, turns death white, creases with a frown. She hurries off.

     Craning my head around to the left I glimpse her run up to her front door. Give one last grimace back at my sun-spanked window. Disappear inside.

     This is not good. A tiny voice argues everything is OK. She just stepped inside to leave her pocketbook on her own rec room hide-a-bed. She’ll be right back out, maybe already without her shoes and socks, knocking on my door and I may as well go over there and get ready to welcome her in. But… I, no…, KNOW this is BAD.

     I’m moving toward the foyer, getting ready not to open the door, but to climb the stairs back to the safety of my bedroom, when I spot her father – a burly day-sleeper who is rumored to drive truck for Coca-Cola – emerge from her house. Head up the sidewalk toward our rec room window, his daughter not two steps behind, she scowling, he disturbed, waking up…

     I dash upstairs. Leap back into my clothes. Forget the socks, the underpants. Toss the rumpled socks in the closet. Hide the fruit-of-the-loom’s… where?... wadded under a pillow.

     The dream machine burns oil. Belches black suicide clouds. Bucks. Stalls. Self-jumpstarts.

     I hustle through the living room – keeping my head down – as if anyone could see me up here on the second floor of our splitlevel. Turn through the dining area. Burst into the kitchen. Yank out a drawer. Fumble through utensils till I snatch a steak knife. Point the four-inch serrated blade at my navel.

     I’ll jab right through the shirt and undershirt. They’ll find me fully clothed. The slut imagined I was naked. She made the whole thing up. I was in my room reading a book completely clothed, when I heard a commotion out front and when I looked down and saw everybody glaring up hatefully, I decided to kill myself. It’s all that slut’s fault. If it weren’t for her overactive adolescent imagination… hormones driving her insane…

     Remember I’m not wearing underpants. No socks, not so bad. But if they discover no underpants on the suicide…

     Hunch over. Hustle back to my bedroom. Start to remember where I stashed the fruit-of-the-loom’s, then realize knife still in fist. Drop knife. Slap myself in the face – stupid!

     Crawl back out to the couch. Worm up onto a cushion. Peek over the sill down at Mr. Teamster and his daughter, both with arms folded over stomachs, she in disgust, he skeptically. All four eyes riveted on the window below. Not a thought of glancing up at the living room window.

     I wait them out. Terrified any minute Mom and Dad will pull up. Or her dad will dash inside to call the cops. I pray to Rip Torn some force of nature will shred me to pieces, remove my existence from the universe.

     What was I doing? What made me think my stringy nude body topped with plain face would enchant? What black magic made me act as if my vile flesh could cause such white magic as…

     Mr. T. shrugs. Looks around at our front lawn, at the street, down below at the busy street perpendicular to the bottom of the court. Says something to his daughter. Wanders back toward their house, head down. She sneers one last time at the window downstairs. Follows him with obvious disappointment back to the identical house next door.

     Rip Torn, horrified in the haunted house, has just died of a heart attack. I’m still alive, heart pounding in ears, cold blood squirting through garbed body. I myself, when the cocky little voice inside finally disintegrates, am horrified (unfortunately not dead) to understand that I ALONE am the slut. The deviate, the pervert, the sex killer.

     Crawl back to the bedroom. Pick up the knife. Return, still crawling, the blade to the kitchen drawer.

     When Mom and Dad, about an hour later, pull up in the drive, come inside, turn on the TV downstairs, I’m on the bed in my room consumed with algebra. I’m the best math student in the whole class. I’m memorizing, for extra credit, each and every step of the derivation of the quadratic equation.

     Rip Torn’s corpse giggles every ten seconds or so. All else inside the mind dead quiet.

     For days, weeks, maybe a couple months, I live in fear Mr. Coca Cola will after all demand to talk to my parents, or the police. Or Miss Offended will confront me (she attends Catholic School, our paths rarely cross (she and her family move less than a year later to an undisclosed locale (we never talked to them, they never talked to any neighbors), another year after that and I leave home for college on the other end of the continental United States, where I settle down to live)). Every one of those days, weeks, months, now it’s been years, Rip giggles without warning, sometimes more than once a day. He’d like to remind me never again to dance naked before an unwilling, uninvited, utterly UNINTERESTED audience.

     But since he’s a corpse, all he can do is giggle. All I can do is hope and pray that, once I myself become a corpse, the giggling stops.            
 
 

whatillneverbe.jpg
Art by Steve Cartwright 2015

WHAT I’LL NEVER BE

By Willie Smith

 

 

     Early one Saturday afternoon in the early sixties, when I am eleven and Kennedy is turning out to be a pretty good President after all, I sprawl on my bed reading a book about Mars. I am trying to form an opinion as to whether the canals are real or just hallucinations; first seen almost a hundred years ago by Schiaparelli, an uncle of the famous dress designer, whom I never heard of, but that’s what the book says.

     Some subsequent observers reported seeing canals, some didn’t; all admitted whatever they were, they lay at the extreme limit of even the world’s largest telescopes. At that, the canal network can be glimpsed only by trained professionals on nights of superb viewing.

     Dad, preceded by an invisible cloud of booze-breath, staggers into the room. Demands to know what I am doing.

     “Reading a book,” I say, not looking up.

      He slurs he can see that. Orders me to put the book down, come downstairs with him and have a look at what I did.

     Mom is gone for the weekend – up in Philly visiting Aunt Frances. Meaning Dad can drink more, earlier and less secretly than otherwise. This can be good, because, under such circumstances, he notices much less. This can be bad, because when he DOES notice something…

     I swing off the bed. Follow him out of the room, across the hall, through the door to the basement. He nearly falls twice, each time at the last moment catching himself with both hands on the bannister. He leads me over to the far end of his workbench, where I keep my chemistry set.

     “Look at that!”

     I kneel where he points. A mess of broken glass. Several large shards, two dozen smaller ones; maybe a few specks of glass powder. My eyes are still accustoming to the dim light in the spacious basement of the new construction Dad’s government functionary salary bought the mortgage on and moved the family into less than a year ago…

     “Look what you did – clean that up!”

     Mechanically I pick a large shard, then another, then a third off the cement floor. Pile them – not knowing where else to put them – in my left palm. On the fourth shard cut my finger, while thinking, “Why can’t I remember breaking this… must be the beaker… Dad calls it a beaker… it’s actually an Erlenmeyer flask… WAS an Erlenmeyer…”

     “You’ll never be a chemist – you’re too SLOPPY! Here…” He hands me an empty bag that still holds the shape of a bottle… “Put the glass in this…. You’ll NEVER be a chemist.”

     He’s right. I’m sloppy. Kind of on the lazy side, too. But did I break…?

     No, upstairs all day cruising delicious facts about the red planet. Nobody draws the canals exactly the same way twice, although Percival Lowell convinced himself of the location of a few that he showed more or less consistently on several of his done-at-the-eyepiece drawings.

     I dump the shards into the bag. I could still be a THEORETICAL chemist…

     Look around for something to scoop up the finer breakage. Up on the workbench spot a dustpan…

     “YOU didn’t do this!” He is chuckling. “You know who broke the beaker?”

     Oh. Of course. I drop the bag. Stand up, sticking my only-slightly-cut finger in my pocket – to get it out of sight. The fewer further topics of conversation the better.

     “I broke it!” He belches, rocks on his heels, staggers, nearly falls over backwards. “Now why don’t you… don’t you stick… stick your nose back in that book!”

     Hurry upstairs to my room. Crawl back onto the bed. Pick up the facedown hardback.

     I likely won’t be an astronomer, either. Just want to collect the facts. Marvel over their implications. Keep up with developments. Learn the names of all the stars.

     I remember the hand still cramped in the pocket of my jeans. Pull it out. Hold the finger up to my face.

     Bleeding stopped. Just a couple drops, really. I pat it dry on my T-shirt, gliding eyes back into the argument as to whether anybody has ever REALLY seen any canals crisscrossing the fourth rock from the sun. People so often so easily convince themselves of something that just isn’t there.



dislocatedknee.jpg

DISLOCATION

 

By Willie Smith

 

     I’m down in the basement playing imaginary baseball. Dick Donovan  coaxes Roy Sievers into grounding back to the mound. This should end the game.

     Donovan fields the yellow ball bounced off the cinderblock wall. Turns to throw to the first baseman stood beside the staircase.

     My knee fails to follow Donovan’s pivot. Since sliding into home last week, in a losing effort against Hybla Valley Drugs, it’s been swollen.

     The leg hangs limp. Cap floated over to one side.

     I drop the tennis ball, drop the glove. Stumble over to the stairs, right hand holding the cap so it won’t float anywhere else. Pull myself up the stairs, yelling for Mom to call the doctor, I think my leg or something broke.

     The doctor says to bring me in right away. Mom calls Dad. Twenty minutes later Dad speeds home from work, drives us to the clinic.

     The doctor shoves the cap more or less back into place. Explains, wrapping on a wet cast, the patella is a sesamoid. Meaning it is not attached to any other bone. Just held in place by ligaments. Water on the knee and sudden pressure in the wrong direction can cause the patella to dislocate – slide over onto one side of where the femur and the tibia join. Felt like my whole leg was coming apart at the seams, didn’t it?

     Wincing, unsure if the physical pain of the pop-back-into-place is easier than the anguish of imagining all this inner slipping around, I nod, mumble, “Seems like it’ll squirt right back out!”

     “Don’t worry, son,” he pats the finished cast. “This comes off in three weeks and you’ll be back in the lineup good as new. Meantime keep ice on the plaster; that’ll reduce the swelling and dull whatever pain – pain all in your mind anyway; the fluid prevented bruising; cap slipped back in slick as poop through a tin horn.” Doc Harrelson was a Navy surgeon in Korea and is known for his colorful language.

     I load myself into the backseat. My left foot, just as Dad slams the passenger-side door, finds the floorboards. Head cramped against armrest. Cast stretched out to opposite armrest. Tires whine as we spiral up from the underground lot at twice the recommended speed of 10 mph.

     Under his sunglasses, under his sweaty nose, Dad sits tightlipped concentrating on the wheel, on paying the one-buck parking fee, on darting into traffic at the first opening.

     The Buick is kicking itself into power-shift, merging us neatly, if somewhat precariously, into the pre-rushhour scramble, when I detect alcohol stink. He probably sneaked a nip from the glove on the way to pick us up, another while he lagged behind to lock up while Mom hurried me, as best I could hurry, on into the clinic.

     Under better circumstances this would signify a state of awareness making Dad a better driver. Just one nip shy, however, of brazening out of the trenches and into the direct fire of alcoholic lunacy.

     Sober, Dad is just another guy. One or two drinks, he is Everyman at Everyman’s best; above three, he warps into a fiend with the mind of a bug, the heart of a sociopath, the soul of an ice-cube pitched into a blast furnace.

     These are not better circumstances. Some other scent, that, like the liquor-breath, the now-lit Chesterfield strives but fails to mask. An ozone-whiff of anxiety. I know it is coming off the parents up front; but feel nonetheless responsible as backseat paranoid; the observer skewing the experiment in a direction his own anxiety is probably creating. I feel guilty, stupid, scared, bored; already beneath the cast the skin itches.    

     Spend the evening in bed worrying about the icepack sliding off and soaking the sheets. Mom worries about not putting enough cubes in the pack. I am further worrying about how can I get to sleep in a cold wet bed and how will I know if the cap pops out again, and if it does, does that mean the cap – jammed under the cast – will stick to one side and I’ll never be able to walk again?

     I’m worrying about what it means to my fantasy baseball that Donovan never throws the ball to first and so while everyone is worried about the position of Dick Donovan’s patella, does Roy Sievers simply circle the bases and now the Senator’s will need to go into extra innings tied at two-all?

     “SON OF A BITCH!”

     “Bill – keep your voice down!” Mom hisses in the dark.

     “I’ll keep my VOICE down when you LISTEN!”

     From the deep space of sleep, I am sucked into the airlock of hearing words I understand but not understanding where I am. The airlock opens and I glide motionlessly into on-my-back-in-bed. I blink at the pitch black ceiling I know is there but can’t see.

     “I’M NOT COMING HOME TOMORROW!”

     Mom hisses something unintelligible.

     “YOU WON’T GET A DIME! I’m leaving… I’M NOT COMING HOME TOMORROW!”

     “You won’t even give your own son a ride when his leg is broken…”

     “THAT’S NOT IT!” A wall gets punched. My closed bedroom door jiggles in the frame. “JUST WATER ON THE KNEE! You keep taking me away from work for emergencies that don’t exist… you know I hate my boss… don’t have a high school diploma for a job that requires college and that sonofabitch is looking for any excuse… YOU WON’T GET A DIME! GODDAMNIT, NOT ONE DIME!”

     Mom mumbles a sentence containing OFFICE. That word designating the building where money is gathered, where total attention is required, where souls are burned like sparklers made of dried shit. Where a sort of high school from hell plays out forever and for keeps.

     “Of course I don’t drink at the office. Nobody drinks there. We have one to help us work and then there’s lunch and we often have a few to keep it… nobody is going to listen to your BULLSHIT about my… your imagining about my… NOT ONE DIME!”

     A chair gets kicked. He has apparently wandered out into the dining room. I picture Mom following, wringing her veiny hands, her five-foot, 98-pound frame already hunched at barely forty-five; she doesn’t have a high school diploma, either; or a job; or a drinking or a smoking habit; all she does is clean, cook, worry, worry about worrying and worry about not cleaning enough or cooking incorrectly.  

     “SON OF A BITCH!” Glass breaks. Maybe a drinking glass thrown across the room into the kitchen sink.

     Perfectly still I lie. Dad, and other adult males, call me “son.” Am I the Son of a Bitch? Is all this my fault? Is Dad going to bust in and kick my ass, dislocate my other knee, jump up and down on my balls? Is he leaving Mom because I am… I do… don’t do…?

     If I persist in not moving a muscle they will ignore me, forget about me, and if the thought of me in here in the dark does cross a parental mind, they will dismiss the boy as sound asleep, hardly worth an ass-kick, a patella dislocation, a scrotum smash.

     Stiller than still I lie. Maybe they found out about the jerking off. Baseball isn’t the only imaginary game I play.

     Couple months ago they screamed and hissed all night, Mom insisting I go to the doctor for a “problem” that sounded like maybe, from what intent listening in the dark could gather, was the fluid I was leaving behind in my underpants and on the sheets.

     “SON OF A BITCH!” Dad screamed that night, breaking something ceramic. “I work all day in a goddamn office and come home to this BULLSHIT?”

     That was a good twenty-five drunken nights ago. Not a mention of my “problem” since; but, although time heals all wounds, time never heals a single crime.

     “NOT ONE MORE DROP OF ALCOHOL IN THIS HOUSE!” Gee… Mom is yelling. This is unheard of…

     A shuddering CRASH! resounds from out in the living room. Silence follows. Good. Dad has collapsed. His drunker nights often end this way. Dick Donovan and I call it: Sudden Death Drunk-off.

     Rustling sounds of Mom removing linen from the hall closet, then covering the already-snoring remains of Dad likely in his usual Sudden Death slot between the cocktail table and the sofa. Sometimes before dawn he’ll manage to crawl up onto the sofa proper.

     Only when the springs in the master bedroom finally squeak, signifying Mom has also retired, do I breathe easy, permit myself the luxury of carefully turning over onto one side. 

     The dog emerges from her hiding place under the kitchen table. Click-click-click, her toenails enter the dining room, feeling in the night for her spot on the throw-rug in front of the china closet.

     Despite itches lighting campfires inside the cast, I soon join Mom, Dad and the dog in slumber.

     Three weeks later the cast comes off. I’m back in time to play the last two innings of our final game against Johnson’s Hardware (we lose three to two; but I don’t get to bat, so no blame there).

     Knee good as new. Mom and Dad hitched as ever. No further doctoring for me – the possible Son of a Bitch. Because, although it likely is all my fault, I’m not yet caught; because I continue as ever to lie in the dark perfectly still.



badburger.jpg
Art by Steve Cartwright 2017

BAD BURGER

 

By Willie Smith

 

 

     I crashed open the door. Hustled through the empty locker room. Banged into the head. Flushed a wall of urinals – skush! skush! – one after the other. Then turned and foot-flushed the crappers.

     I spun around. Stormed through the swing door into the smaller, inner locker room.

     Found my locker. Kicked it five times with my street shoes. Spat on it. Twirled the combination.

     Yanked it open. Grabbed jock, shorts, shirt, shoes. Threw them out on the bench. Changed up.

     “French America!” I huffed, tying laces. “God French America!”

     I punched shut the locker. Left the lock on the bench. Belted my way through the head, through the underclassmen locker room, out into the hall.

     Passed Coach’s office. Thought about spitting on his window. Thought better. Not because I loved Coach more, but because my mouth was parched.

     I was late for practice. Indoors today, because – although you’d never know it from the gym – a torrent raged outside.

     I jogged up the ramp to the classroom section of the south wing. Loped the linoleum till I came to the shop. Angled north past home ec. Gathered speed along restrooms, school store, janitorial supply, till I reached the cafeteria.

     Without breaking stride, I shoved open the bar-handled door.

     Bright lights, noise and stale air re-awoke my headache.

     I squinted. The door slammed. I jogged in place.

     Coach – arms folded – stood beside the serving line. On the opposite end, closer to me, ran the pack.

     Benzil, team captain, in front. John, Cliff, Tom – knotted behind. Alex, Phil, Greg, Marc – stretched back two or three tables. S.H. straggled – rounding the row over by the serving line.

     “Let’s go!” Coach yelled. “C’mon Alex, Phil – you can catch Cliff, Tom! Let’s go, John!”

     As he strode by, I joined Benzil.

     “This is our fifth lap,” he growled, hammering a step ahead of me. “Ten to go. C’mon, fall in, keep the pace.”

     My head pulsed. My ears whined. Breath seared my lungs. My eyes shut. Bodies elbowed past.

     I forced my eyes open. Focused on Marc’s butt. Marc had never beaten me. In disgust, I tried to step it up. Coughed. Straightened, hands on hips, pain in side.

     “Let’s go, Woodrow!” Coach hollered, spotting me, falling back fast. “Where you been, son? Gimme five extra laps, Woodrow!”

     My stomach puzzled gas. My pace dwindled further. Paralysis of the breadbasket. I fought collapse.

     S.H. wheezed at my back. If he passed – mere froth on the tsunami of disgrace. No… S.H. stood for Shit Head. He had a real name… No. Johnson would never pass. Cold mercury burbled in my stomach.

     “You doin’ OK, Woody?” Shit Head Johnson gasped at my side.

     “Got a hangover.”

     “You drink?”

     “First time,” I confessed. Unthinkingly. Couldn’t think. Guts syrup, chest styrofoam, legs rubber.

     We reached the end of a row, puffed around the edge of a table that seated eight. But now its chairs were like all the other chairs – upside down on their tables.

     Skimmed my fingers along the veneer, as we stumbled, changing direction, S.H. leading me by a toe.

     Johnson’s being the slowest on the team wasn’t half the problem. The crux of his being team butt was how he acted.

     He was a nerd. When you asked him how his day was going, he said, “Fine, yeah.” If somebody told a joke, Johnson didn’t get it. If it was recently out of style, Johnson wore it. If you turned around too fast, Johnson was in your face with a question.

     He didn’t talk too much, but he had a flair for interruption. He never knew what you were talking about. His favorite topic was how he worried you didn’t understand what he was saying.

     S.H. was the kind of guy, if he was a chicken, he would’ve been pecked to death seventeen years ago.

     “Excuse me,” he gasped. “Hope you don’t mind my asking… Hear tell you and Colleen are not… getting along?”

     “Broke up.”

     I fisted my way even with his frame, as our narrow-heeled shoes thudded fluorescent-lit linoleum, and rain exploded outside.

     “Why you got drunk?”

     “Maybe.” I hawked. Came up empty – save wooden scotch taste.

     “She dump ya?”

     S.H. had zero luck with girls. He and they were like putty versus a magnet. Nil reaction. Even his female teachers awarded C-minuses. Men instructors gave Johnson B-minus. He had no strong suit. He was mediocrely not stupid at everything. Track was his only sport. In three years he had never beaten anybody.

     I thought deliberately of lemon, grapefruit, green blackberry…

     “Know I got no business asking… wondered if what I heard is…”

     Saliva welled under my tongue. I spat on a table, grunted, pulled away from S.H. Fixed my eyes on Marc’s blue shorts. Pumped, pistoning ache into my gut. Eating throb for thrust.

     I was even with Cliff, when Coach yanked me out. I huffed, puffed, coughed, weaved in place. “Yeah, Coach?”

     He had seen me spit on that table. What was wrong with me? I arrived fifteen minutes late for practice. I was looking the most sorry-assed of the bunch. Now I had gone and drooled on school property!

     The pack was coming around again. Benzil was four tables ahead of the tangle of John, Cliff, Tom. Coach pulled him out. Benzil leaned over, touched his toes, breathing hard, but in control.

     “Yeah, Coach?”

     “Woodrow here thinks he’s a rich-boy. Don’t hafta work. Take him upstairs and run his ass ragged.”

     Benzil huffed: “Run the halls, third floor?”

     Coach patted him on the butt, muttered yep, gazing at the far corner of the cafeteria, yelling: “C’mon Cliff – you got Tom beat! C’mon Tom, let’s haul butt!”

     The third floor was usually janitor-free this early in the late afternoon. It had been a stormy spring. This was our fourth practice indoors. We thought we knew the maintenance schedule.

     But today we jogged up the cement stairs, banged open the bar-handled door – to find two hillbillies waxing linoleum with machines like squat garbage cans.

     “Keep to the inside,” Benzil muttered, jogging close to the lockers.

     He set a canter. I ran at his left hip. My stomach had tired of nagging, I was breathing OK, the legs weren’t giving it much thought.

     “You aren’t often late – how come?”

     “Oh… I dunno.”

     “You and that Colleen French still steadies?”

     We passed the janitors intent on their waxing. The machines keened, groaned, thrashed.

     “She dump ya?”

     I saw he was smiling. Tight mouth in a taut face. Benzil was half Indian. His dad had been a Philadelphia Italian in the Air Force, lost over Korea.

     When I failed to answer either question, he huffed, he didn’t see why Coach made us run indoors on account of a little water. Running in the rain would make us run better in the sun. We’d sweat. Rain slake it off. Harden our muscles. Secret of good track.

     Then Coach made us circle the cafeteria, switched on the lights. Didn’t want us to hit tables. Coach had no guts – c’mon, would I race him around the rectangle… maybe two hundred yards of hall?

     We lengthened stride, neither committed to a race. But mutually picking up the pace every fourth or fifth step.

     Last night burst in my mind like a firework.

     Colleen met the new boyfriend in a coffee shop in McLean. He’s nineteen. Going to college somewhere, she won’t say. I drove her home from debate.

     We are parked in her driveway. She is saying it’s over. No need to pick her up again after class.

     I want to puke – nauseated by rejection. I rev the engine. Ask her to get out, ask what for me is next?

     “I dunno,” she shuts the door. “I’m not sorry we met, it’s just…”

     “Yeh.” I drove off.

     Can’t even find this guy, much less slug him. No name, no address. She has fallen in love with the unknown. This is my first dumping.

     I bought a fifth of scotch, faking my age on sheer depression. Parked on the Potomac south of Mount Vernon. Consumed most of fifth in less than half hour. Drove away randomly.

     Crossed a bridge. Wondered why not dive into the river. Made it somehow home.

     Mom holding my face in her chilly hands: where had I been? what had I had?

     Mumbled about a hamburger. Off to bed.

     Math class flashed past. Caught a glimpse of an inequality still on the blackboard. I had been doing well in math. Till meeting Colleen four months back – trading academic interest for a feel, a taste, a tease.

     Benzil said, “Guess you got your finger in. She let you do that?”

     “Nah…” we slipped around a corner where I knew his mechanical drawing class met… “yeah.”

     “Smell bad?”

     I suddenly smelled my own sweat. Acrid, sweet. Like a rotted flower. Was I OK? I kept mum, double-timed to match his pace.

     “You know…” he responded to my doggedness by striding faster… “my dad, before he died, told Larry, my older brother, he should – out on a date – keep his pecker…” he really turned it on… “in his pants.”

     Common knowledge Benzil never got any. He was brown, short, stringy, wide-nosed. I was a medium, unremarkable Anglo – once got good grades.

     I sprinted after his butt.

     I never got any either. Colleen, a year ahead, the first. She seduced me. Her tongue parted my lips, her hand found the zipper; although I remained technically virgin.

     Caught Benzil and we tore together around a corner, nearly bowling over Stobbs – the head janitor.

     “You boys can’t run up here today!” he screamed, but we were full tilt gone around the next corner before we heard a thing.

     Besides, we weren’t listening. We weren’t talking. We were breathing, our hearts beating, arms pumping, torsos slogging, legs flying, feet airborne. We were running.

     Side by side we whizzed past 305 – Spanish class.

     “Let’s go another lap,” he gritted.

     “Make it two.”

     “OK.” He wasted energy, shooting me a half-grin. “Sure you’re up for it?”

     In answer – I moved a pace ahead. He responded immediately. We flew neck and neck around the math class corner. Sideswiped a floor waxer.

     One of the newer janitors yelped. The other one kept pushing the waxer, hovering bristles over linoleum.

     I was leading by a ball hair when we rounded the mechanical drawing corner and smashed into Stobbs. Couldn’t be helped. We clobbered him. Knocked him on his can, trampled his shins and shoulders. Inadvertently dislodged his dentures.

     We stopped. We had to.

     Blood flooded our stalled limbs. We panted like women giving birth. We turned around, hands on hips, gasping, pained.

     “You fuckers tried to kill me!” he was screaming.

     I fell to my knees. Gagged. Vomited bile, snot, trachea grease. I had nothing else to give. Hadn’t eaten since the scotch.

     Guess I passed out. Never quite collapsed. Events blur. Stobbs screaming. Benzil huffing he thought it was OK, we could run up here…

     Things get fresher in the gang shower. Warm water hydroplaning tiles. Steam, soaked chaos, jets of hot – as if hell had gone to heaven.

     I was OK. My head didn’t throb. I was no more nauseated than usual. Remembered, a little, refusing to let Benzil help me down the stairs. I felt tired, hungry, but safe.

     Cliff materialized out of the steam. “Coach wants ya,” he said. “In his office. Soon as you dress.”

 

     Once again in street clothes, I stood before Coach’s desk. He held a large chaw of Beechnut in his left cheek. His sweats drooped over his blubber. He wore his navy fatigue cap. He leaned back in his swivel chair. Crossed his short, thick legs. Placed his dirty Converse in the middle of the cluttered desk. Pulled up his sweatshirt, scratched hairy flab. Said, “Woodrow, I owe you an apology.”

     When I showed incomprehension, Coach cleared his throat, tongued his chaw, spat into the waste can next to his swivel chair. He explained he didn’t know I had been sick all day, absent from school with an illness. Didn’t realize I had stayed home, rested up, all so I could make practice that afternoon. Sorry he chewed me out for being late.

     I nodded. I was exhausted. I felt the birth of another headache.

     “Say, Woody,” he spat carefully into the can. “Word is you barfed up there. That right – you toss your biscuits?”

     I nodded. Sure. Yeah. I had done that.

     Coach chuckled, rolled his chaw to the opposite cheek. “Yeah, that Stobbs is awful pissed off somebody puked his precious fresh wax. Guess he’s gonna take it to Administration.”

     I muttered, noticing tobacco saliva at the corner of his mouth, “Sorry.”

     He grinned, spat without looking, hit the can. “I could give a chicken crap about that scrawny asshole’s wax. Tell him next time I ordered you run up there. This here team’s got priorities – ain’t that right?”

     “Sure.” I wondered if he knew the meaning of the word. If I knew the meaning.

     “So you th’ew up.” He grinned, winking chaw. “I like that. Proves you with the program. I gotta admire fella gives his all. To me, Woodrow, if a man don’t chuck after a race, he didn’t run that race. You hear me, son? It’s not for nothin’ they call it guts. It’s born inside.”

     Now that he mentioned it, my stomach churned.

     A moment passed. I stood in limbo – like a bad dream remembered inside a nightmare. My fingers trembled. Cold sweat bathed my chest. I forgot English. I forgot where. I forgot what. I stood rooted to the floor.

     Coach frowned. Swung down his feet. Hunched forward in the chair. “What was your sickness, Woodrow?”

     My eyes found the battleship gray. “I, uh, ate a bad burger. Out driving around went to Acey last night. Must’ve, I dunno…”

     “Bad hamburger, huh?” His face wrinkled, he appeared to swallow a squirt. “You still chasin’ that split tail?”

     I raised my eyes from the linoleum. Said, no, that was gossip. She and I were through.

     He grinned, stood. “That a fact? Yeah, there’ll be others. Never get split tail outta yer life totally. I’m sorry you had to bump into Stobbs like that. He’s nasty when he gets a burr up his butt. Don’t pay his bullshit no mind. Go home, meat and potatoes, get to bed early. Food poisonin’ ain’t no picnic. Believe me, had it enough myself in the Service.”

     Colleen French’s panties engulfed my mind. I had never seen them. Only felt parting elastic and rayon under skirt. My first, my very first.

     Yes, there was scent that lingered. Drove me to gnaw my finger. God knows I licked ample electric odor off knuckles. Whispering her name, closing eyes, sampling the remnant on my own flesh.

     Now gone. Now nothing.

     He came around from behind the desk. Clapped my butt. Told me go go home forget that split tail. Don’t let Stobbs bother me neither. He wanted me in shape for the County relays coming up at the end of March.

 

     But Stobbs got his way. Three days later, Administration prohibited indoor practice. It had been brought to their attention the interior of the building was not insured against accidents caused by running.

     The rest of that spring, when it hurricaned, practice was called. If we really wanted, we could run a few laps in the weather. Everybody went home.

     Except Benzil. The second time practice got rained out, I joined him on a five mile slosh over the cinders.

     When I jogged out to him on the track, he yelled through the downpour, “Gonna keep up with me this time?”

     “Sure.”

     “Gonna warm up?”

     “I’m warm, I jogged out from the locker room.”

     “OK – twenty laps… let’s go!”

     We clammed up for about two minutes. Down the first straightaway of the second lap, Benzil finally cut the riot of the rain with, “You won’t find Coach’s lard ass out here!”

     I was hurting from fresh blisters. My spikes were new. The rain was shrinking them up weird. I didn’t feel like talking. Going into the bend to begin the fifth lap, I said, “Nice day, think it’ll rain?”

     Toward the end of the thirty-minute five miles of striding, he gasped, “I’m gonna fart!”

     He did. The rain ate whatever stench. As if I could smell or take time to smell – catching a cold, concentrating on keeping up with Benzil.

     Turned out he was dead wrong about running in the rain improving your ability to run in the sun. I just got more colds, uglier blisters and strange muscle spasms.

     But I kept running with him on rainouts. The opportunity for pain attracted me. I still possessed a male hymen, though it hung by a thread. Didn’t seem likely, with Colleen out of my life, I’d lose it soon. But by tugging, scratching and digging in other directions, I hoped magically to rip it free. 


Deeply ashamed of being human, Willie Smith’s work celebrates this horror. He is a regular contributor to Andrei Codrescu's Exquisite Corpse Magazine. His latest story anthology can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Willie-Smith/e/B008381M30/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0.
      Not much else to say, really. Just sitting around waiting for death or retirement, whichever comes first.

In Association with Fossil Publications