Original Short Peices by Chris Prioleau

Original Short Peices by Chris Prioleau
The purpose of this blog is two-fold.
A) It's for me to churn out a really short piece as often as I can
and B) for you to shut up and read it.
Any questions should be forwarded and forwarded until you can't forward them anymore.

29 May 2011

A Matchstick in the Sun






Non-Fiction

By Chris Prioleau

I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?”

The Body, Stephen King

I believe that people who share the same name as you have a lot to teach you about who you are, or rather, who you could be. For me, being introduced to someone named Chris is sometimes more of an act of remembering than that of meeting someone for the first time. Members of a prenatal cosmic fraternity encountering one another on the other side. When I was twelve I had a couple of friends named Chris: Chris Grace & Chris Bell. Chris Grace was white, Chris Bell and I were black. I still am. They’d known each other since they were small, lived in the same neighborhood around a kid named James that we all hung out with, black kid. There was a white James too, we were all friends. Chris, Chris, Chris, James, and James.

On the last day of middle school the black Chris, the black James, and I were at Chris’ house. It was the first and last time I was ever over there. We were getting ready for a graduation party. The idea of graduating from middle school was a joke to us even then, but parties were still something new, something mature. High school buzzed above us then, the big mystery dropping slowly, only now just beyond reach.

I remember calling the kid who’s house the party was at, to try and find out what time we should come. Chris and James made me do it because I hadn’t actually been invited. I had to pretend I was Chris, my first of many penances to the Party Gods.

“Who is this?”

“Chris.”

“Oh. You sound different on the phone.”

“Yeah.”

The three of us waited outside (always waiting), enjoying that surreal first taste of summer. The smell of chlorine and gun powder first wafting in from the delta, spindly tips teasing your nose. Chris had a lawn that was much bigger than James’ or mine. I remember being surprised. My house was much bigger, my family had more money but Chris had this lawn with enough space for a tree to grow. It wasn’t a huge tree, but still it was there, right in the middle of the lawn.

On this particular day, hot out, freedom in the air, we found a noose hanging from a low branch of the tree in Chris’ front yard. None of us had any idea why it would be there. James and Chris went straight to it though, I remember, like it was some dumb artifact from a lost society. They laughed at it and slapped it around some but we were all confused and maybe a little uncomfortable: three black boys pondering the significance of a noose on the first day of summer.

“It’s dumb that this is here, I bet you could really hang someone from it. Kill them.” James said, pulling open the loop, examining it, holding it above his head. On him it looked like a crown. James was the leader. In those days groups had leaders.

“Nu-uh, man! You can’t fucking hang nobody from this, it aint high enough off the ground!” Chris said, snatching the rope out of James’ hands and holding it out of reach like we were dying to get it back. Regardless of what it was, we’d found it in his yard, making him both owner and protector of the mysterious object for the time being.

“Bet you could!” James said, “Hang a nigga from that and he’d be all grehikkk graggg hikkk” James wrapped both hands around his throat, bugged out his eyes, and made believe like he was a black kid being hung from a tree. A ridiculous image; we all laughed. Big and proud, we.

“The party” I said, when the laughter had passed. “Should we--?”

“How much you wanna bet?” Chris asked, stretching to hold the rope farther out of reach from whoever he thought was making for it.

“I’ll bet you fiiiive dollars.” James said, crossed his arms.

“Wait, how would you--? How would we--?”

“Pfffft. You’re on. Bout to spend that on some Mickey Dee’s, chump.” He tossed the noose to James underhand like he was throwing a baseball. It swung right into his hands and the branch creaked a warning. “Taco Bell” Chris said.

A Cheshire grin bled over James’ face. This was back in the days when he’d had his hair cut in a flat top and the tips of his curls were bleached. It made him look long and impish. Chris was taller than both of us and had his ears pierced. He’d already been laid too, if you believed him. I wore glasses.

“Okay Chriiiis” James called to me like a snake charmer. He stroked the noose’s loop of and the first cold summer’s sweat ran down my armpits. “Get down on your hands and knees”, he said.

I smiled, wiped my brow in a hopefully comic parody of relief. In the middle of the afternoon the grass was still pretty wet, like the sprinklers had come on while we was standing there or something. The moisture in it, though, was being fried out by the sun even quicker than the soil could suck it in. You gotta feel bad for the water in a situation like that, getting volleyed between two powerful things, having no say in it at all.

“Good. Alright now, Chris you stand on his back and put this shit around your neck.”

“Wait a minute” I said to the Earth. “I don’t want him on my back; he’s like ten feet tall.”

“What, you rather get in the rope?” James asked from above.

That ended that. Though if James’d told me to get into the noose I would have, would have let him hang me until I rotted and baked in the sun, turned to pubescent black jerky for the vultures. I was lucky enough to be there in the first place really: middle class, good grades, bad at sports, lucky to be black at all.

When Chris stepped on my back, it felt like my whole body had been turned into a levee about to breach. My back creaked and my limbs wobbled. Floods of sweat fled down my arms, splashed from my brow, pooled in my crotch. I could hear them laughing. Chris leaned back and forth, for fun, surfing his lawn with my spine. Of course I wanted to collapse, to throw him off and end this stupid game once for all but I couldn’t. Chris was cooler than me, so I had play Atlas. It was teenage law. You would have done the same thing.

After a little while they stopped and I could feel him up there making minute, precise movements: shifting his body weight to grab the noose, to straighten it out and pull it over his neck.

“Huh”, he said. And then: “OK you’re right you could totally hang somebody fro—hkkkkkk!

Something heavy hit me in the ribs and I fell into the grass face first. I groaned, coughed, rubbed the intense ache in my side. James had kicked me, I could hear his wild laughter. I moaned into the earth and started to notice the erratic wind above me. It was blowing down my shirt frantic and powerful like swinging limbs, the creaking of a tree trunk.

Hkkkkkkkk, rkkkkkkkk, gukkkkkkkkk

I scrambled from underneath Chris’s kicking legs, crawling low, my face dragging against blades of grass until it was safe enough to stand. I ran towards him, trying to help while James just sat back, laughing. Chris was too freaked out; he kicked me as soon as I came close, right in the sternum. I flew backwards through the air and landed on my back in the sun. I couldn’t breathe. James laughed even harder.

“Fool, you need to calm down if we’re going to help you out of there.” He said, folding his arms.

I sat up, wincing at the bruises on my chest and side. Chris’ face was purple and swollen, his knuckles white, wrapped tight around the loop that was slowly strangling him. He had this wide, animalistic look in his eyes, like he was staring past us into something we couldn’t see. He stopped kicking, hung perfectly still.

Hkkkkk, gkkkk. James. You-play-too-much.

We walked over to him and I lifted his thin body up a few inches to get rid of the tension. His shirt was in my face and I could feel his heart beat manically through my cheek. James meanwhile slipped the noose off his neck. Together we helped him down and to his feet. He was leaning against the tree with one shaky arm taking these full, shaky breaths like he was sobbing. We were all wet and sticky under the sun, like blackberries.

“So” James said, “How bout that five bucks?”

We saw each other after that, a bunch of times actually. Chris’ playful lynching wasn’t a watershed moment in any of our lives, which, when you think about it, is the great thing about being twelve. You could be hung from a tree by your best friends one day, and then the very next morning ride your bike to the mall with no scars to show besides the rope burn healing around your neck like ribbon left on the maypole. Still, my thoughts turn back to that afternoon sometimes and when they do I feel a pinch in my heart like the pain of remembering a broken promise. You’re the survivor, Memory says, you figure out what it meant.

What kind of a guy was he? Chris was crazy like a matchstick in the sun. He was the first guy I knew who jacked any alcohol, a bottle of Mudslide one night just slipped down into the big back pocket of his jeans, impossibly baggy, right in front of the check out lady. Man, she didn’t say shit! How could she? Look at those jeans.

Ninth grade afternoons after class Chris would bound off towards the old middle school. I always thought he was picking up his little brother. One day we went with him though and found out that he was pocket checking kids, one by one, as they slinked off campus and strayed from their normal packs. Let me up out yo pockets, cuz. Let me up out yo pockets. I thought it was wrong that he was stealing from kids so much younger than he, but I found out later that he was doing the same thing to guys our age too, on weekends, so maybe it was okay.

He was a good guy too. He wasn’t a sociopath, he was my friend. There’s this image that I have of him, sitting next to me on James’ bed, it’s late at night, I’m crying like I used to, his arm is around me and he’s not saying anything, neither of us are. I forget the context.

The last time I saw him I was in a drug dealer’s mom’s car. The drug dealer was my best friend at the time, Jewish guy from another school, kind of a dork, an accountant now. I was alone sitting shotgun outside of Lamont’s house while my friend was inside doing business. I had introduced him to Lamont, had known Lamont from before, but it didn’t matter. Those were the rules at the time. You would have done the same thing. The sun was setting and I was watching the sky start its slow turn from pink to black while I rode out the end of one foggy high on my way soon enough to another. The Blottos blared from my friend’s mom’s Camry, announcing my sixteeness to the whole block.

Lamont’s front door opened and I expected to see my buddy, smiling, two ounces heavier, but instead it’s my old friend Chris. I hadn’t seen him in months but I wasn’t surprised, not just because he was still friends with Lamont but because I’m never surprised to see Chris.

He was rail thin then, as he always was, but this day it didn’t fit him. He looked gaunt. There was a wild, paranoid look in his eyes and dark heavy bags hung from them like his skin would rather be anywhere else but with him. It reminded me instantly of him ensnared in the noose, many years and strained friendships before, his trapped far off glare. He saw me, sitting in the car watching him and let out a sigh of relief that touched me, an old friend excited to see you, members of a prenatal cosmic fraternity encountering one another on the other side. He walked quickly to my window looking over his shoulder more than once.

“Chris, man. How’s it goin, cuz? Long time no see, man.”

“Dude, yeah, it’s good to see you. How have you been?”

“Shit man.” He said, and looked down the block, past it, I tried to see what he was staring at but couldn’t get it. Just another day to me. He turned back and leaned in close, conspiratorial. “Hey man you’re smart, right? Let me ask you something. If you hit somebody with your car and then drive off is that a felony?” His big dark eyes were wide, earnest, pinpointed on me like lasers.

I frowned. “Uh, yeah man. I think it is. Hit and run.”

Chris let out a sigh and backed away from me, sort of violent, as if I had committed a crime instead of merely telling him about it. “Shit”, he said. “Alright than, Chris! It was good seeing you my man, I gotta go.” He high fived me quick and hard and took off down the block, almost running.

“Alright man, good luck!” I called after him.

It was a few weeks later. Chris was over at a friend’s house, a guy I didn’t know. The guy’s dad had died recently, from cancer I think it was. There were some other people there too, a girl that a buddy of mine knew, another black guy named James that I didn’t know too well, and Chris, and this guy, and a lot of guns that the guy’s dad owned. They’d been drinking and I think that he only meant to do it once but for a while nobody knew what to think.

“How much you wanna bet me I won’t?” They’d said he’d said.

Russian Roulette is what people kept saying. Russian Roulette but nobody else wanted to play. I think he only meant to do it once, just to prove that he would. Of course he would, no doubting that. A matchstick in the sun.

I ran into Lamont at a party a few months ago and he said that James had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia last year.

“Man, he’s messed up bad, man. Says he hears the voice of the Devil every day. He tried going to church but it don’t help him none. When was the last time you saw him?”

“Years.” I said, “Years and years and years and years and years.”

Who put that noose there, in Chris’ tree, that afternoon eleven years ago. I was a little boy and so were they, our skin a fresh spectrum of colors collected from burnt match sticks, growing wet in the sun. Was it a warning?

You can have this summer, the noose said, a few more after that too, but we’ll be back for you quicker than you can say ‘graduation’. A noose. Death comes to you in forms you’re built to understand.

But Chris. He was the boldest of us, bold in a way I couldn’t be then, loud in a way I hadn’t learned yet. He was a part of me though, as much as any of the friends I had but more too. If everything is relative, if we’re just a bunch of floating molecules what’s the difference, why couldn’t I be him? His bravado, his cool. We had the same skin, same history, answered to the same name. Why not just take the extra leap, hang me from a tree so I could see what he saw?

But then who would stay behind to write about it?” Chris asks.

Members of a prenatal cosmic fraternity encountering one another on the other side.

09 February 2011

The Gospel of the Best


by Chris Prioleau


Marco's dad's name is Don and he'd been the custodial supervisor for our entire town for what seemed like three thousand years. The first time I met him – I'd seen him tons of times of course – but the first time I actually met him he told me that he'd started out as the guy who cleaned the gunk off the coathangers at the Planned Parenthood, that he'd worked his way up from there. “I'm telling you Brinco” he said in his smoky, dungeness voice “that doctor's office looked like the walk in closet of the Queen. Poor querubíns pulled up to heaven in style, fucking Rolls Royce.” He smiled, deep and brown, and treated himself to a slurp from his overbrimming snifter. Once swallowed though, a terrible shadow came over his face. It was very masculine. Like he was eulogizing brothers of an ancient fraternity, lost in a forgotten battle. “A shame” he whispered, bowed his head, made the sign of the cross: “all that's done online now.”

Don was the most important man in town; something else he told me once: “the man who controls the garbage is the master of the material, the master of the material is the master of our world.” When he heard that, Marco put this look on his face, this exaggerated like nauseous fish look that was meant to be a sort of oh-dad-I've-heard-your-master-of-the-material-story-so-many-god-damn-times-now-I'm-gonna-spit-this-beer-all-over-mom's-pleather-ottoman kinda look, but there was something sweet about it too, you know, like the rimshot at the end of the joke. Of course he was proud; people would come up to Don on the street. Most weekdays you could find him on N. Washington, holding court, sweeping storefronts with a bronze handled broomstick as people came to him with their immaculacy issues.

“Don” they would say, lifting a basket of cookies or a bottle of brandy up to him with their white knuckled hands, “what's the best way to get Masala out of lingerie?”

And Marco's dad would consider it for a moment, passing the gift off to Martine, his assistant. “A warm romantic bath for two. Save the water, add a pinch of ginger to it and let the article soak overnight.”

Another. “Don, you must help me, I do not know where else to turn, you're the only one I can trust. My husband he never cleans, he makes a mess of everything but never lifts a finger to clean. If you don't help me soon I'm afraid I might do something terr--”

“Please, please” he'd say, ruffling through the pockets of his faux mink coat “don't say another word. Here's 30 dollars. Take your children to the movies tonight, see something in 3-D. When you come back your husband will be in dish gloves and aprons.”

Last month something bad happened. Because of budget cuts, the state shuffled all the area's sanitation departments back into the county, meaning that instead of there being twenty-four departments from here to Arborville now there's only one. The sidewalks don't glimmer like they used to, in their lively flirtatious way, now they stay dusty for days, trash bins waiting curbside like delusional latchkey children. It's sad. We were once ranked as the #6 City To Take Wind Of Before You Die in “Aroma Fetishist Today” and now I heard they want their plaque back.

Worst still, Marco's dad is out of the job. He protected their streets from unwanted clutter, rubbish, muck and bulk for over thirty years and still the board of directors dumped him for fresh blood. Martine is the County Supervisor now.

I haven't seen Marco too much since, seen him like talked to him anyway. I guess things at home have been pretty bad because Cena, Marco's cousin, has been driving Marco around in his tagged up Scion just joyriding, though it's hard to see the joy in it. All the times that I've seen them Marco is just staring dumbly out the window, no emotion, looking like a Mexican crash test dummy. Cena has him lubed up for sure, drunk enough he probably thinks he is a dummy or a table lamp or a load of trash. Lucky bastard. Nobody's ever done something that nice for me.

Early this week I was drunk and with Lillian and we were walking to the Bigguns Soulfood and Sandwhiches downtown and we saw Marco and Cena driving down the street. They were on our side of the road, coming almost right at us.

“Hey Marco!”, “Trash Prince!”, “He's returned!”, “Pull the shit over!”, nothing. I know they saw us too. I even chucked a rock at them as they passed by, hit the taillight on the passenger side, probably cracked it but didn't bust it.

I was the pitcher on my little league team every year I played, best in the league. Could've went Varsity sophomore year in high school, but there was too much politics. Too much oh-who's-been-drinking-with-who.

Imagine my surprise though when Cena, Marco, and a freshly bought 24 pack came gliding in from their crash test travels one afternoon, right into my dad's backyard like they'd phoned ahead. Lillian and I were each one deep playing speed on the back lawn, you know, just savoring the full blast of sun while it's highest in the sky, a tad gripey on account of the nature of the game, the prickles of overgrown grass, and our recent, gift bearing, intruders.

Cena's hair was all slicked back. There was so much product in it that it looked kind of gray in the sun, which, you know, is normal for him. He was wearing these white slacks, this collared shirt I'd never seen, and was leading Marco through the yard like he was trying to show him where to take a squat. Marco dangled the 24 pack from one trembly hand like a suitcase, like the little boy who ran away from home, eyes all red and small. I'd never seen someone with so much beer look so unhappy before. At a certain point it gets hard to feel sorry for a kid with such an ampling of hops in his possession. Makes you just wanna say 'Dude, the gods are smiling on you. Learn to read the freaking signs.'

“What's good Brinco?” Cena asked, but it came out as more of a proclamation. Cheerily, he stamped between Lillian and I, trampling the nice little game we'd set up. I lifted my usual hand to defend myself but instead of slapping it away he high-fived it. The impact of our flesh together must've, like, done something to the universe. It was like a sonic boom, it popped my ears and confused the hell out of me. All four of us watched the sound rise to the surface of our understanding like the bubbles in a cold beer. Woah.

“Woah.” I said.

“Yeah. That.” Cena said, looming. “You'll see.” He was blocking my sunlight so alls I could see was this giant shadow in beaming Chinos, kneading my cards into the dirt. “You're taking this llorón off my hands for the night and into the morning too. I'm going out with Malta tonight and this guy won't stop fucking crying already!”

Lillian, from behind Cena, my life preserver in the dark water: “You know Cena, I used to hang out with Clara, Marco's ex girlfriend, and she told me that when he was feeling blue she would just up and ruin his friend's card games. She said it got him really hot. And if that doesn't work I hear he also likes it when you just fuck off completely.” If Cena heard her from underneath whatever was up with him that day he didnt let on, or at least I didn't his shadow do anything about it. He was smiling, the sunlight was playing in the gaps between his teeth like kids on a jungle gym. My hand still buzzed with his afterglow.

“That's fine Cena, you don't have to order me to hang out with my friends” I said, gaining a little bit of courage from Lillian's outburst. “I don't consider it a punishment or anything.” I like to think I'm more clever than that. That's when I started to smell the aluminum though, that sweet smell of beer cans warming in the sun. God. It was distracting.

Sandeces! You haven't seen him. I've been with him for two fucking weeks and all he does is cry! The other night he made me rent Dead Poet's Society from Vallhalla Video, we watched it twice! Kept talking about how trash is poetry and how white boys would never call a Mexican their captain or something and blah blah blah blah blah. I've had enough! It's time for me to get my balls licked Brinco. And it's either you take him and I get it from Malta or you lick them yourself.” He let out a long breath at that and – I swear – even though it was like seventy something out I swear I saw his breath, I saw it twinkle in the sun. He looked down at me and winked.

“Besides. I brought you something.” he said.

Marco approached the edge of the broken circle and held up the 24 pack as a tear rolled down his cheek, the fabulous prize girl on some twisted game show.

“Milwaukee's Best? Gee Cena you shouldn't have. Paying for it in installments or did you have to refinance your haircut?” Lillian again, Gods bless her. But while she succeeded in finally getting Cena's attention, I was busy basking in that familiar itch in my sides, the nice little buzz that tells me that the Gods are transmitted a message, in Morse Code, straight to my liver.

Bzzzz bzzzz bzzzz “Pay attention to this brew, Slim. It's a good one. Packs a hell of a whallop. Don't forget to thank us later, in your own way.” I mouthed the words to myself as I received them.

“Forget everything you think you know about this beer little girl.” Cena said “I bought that pack for a reason. Had one in the car on the way over here, and that's why I'm in such a good mood, and that's why I'm not stringing you up by her balls for dinging my taillight the other day, Brinco. That's right I saw you. You better thank that beer homeboy. Since I learned The Gospel of the Best last night I've been a changed man. And now I'm spreading that gospel to you. It is now as it will be in heaven, or something, homes.”

“The hell is The Gospel of the Best?” I asked. The transmission was through.

Cena smiled and his gold tooth shone brilliantly in the sun. Ruining our game or no, he did seem to be in a rare, good mood. “Drink it and find out kiddies” he beamed. “Now if you'll excuse me I've got to take my shoulder to the vet, this one's been crying on it for so long it's starting to look like a fucking Shar Pei.” Pleased with himself, Cena patted me on the head, blew Lillian a lewd seeming kiss, and gave his cousin a surprisingly tender one on the cheek. Then he licked the tips of his pointer and middle fingers on one hand and pointed them up, towards the sun, as he shut the gate. Was it some conscious salute to the gods or merely a good luck charm, a benediction on his digits as they began their journey to Malta's netherworld? Hopefully I'll never know. And with Cena it's best not to ask.

“Your cousin is an asshole.” Lillian said to Marco as she started to collect the cards from the ground and rub the grass and boot stains from them. The creases, however, wouldn't be coming out. “I was about to go triples.” The Queen of Clubs was frowning as Lillian considered it.

“He's the only cousin I got, Brinco. So don't throw them out. Please” Marco sort of mumbled. Lillian and I, knowing the fabled volumes of his family (he has enough cousins to, at least, come by my dad's backyard and personally stamp the whole deck, jokers, rule sets and all into the grass, one card per cousin) turned to our friend in concern. He stood, swaying lightly in the afternoon breeze, cradling Cena's mysterious gift to his chest like someone was going to take his baby away. That's when we noticed he was piss drunk. No. Actually it was afterwards. Yeah. It was when he dropped the case onto the lawn and collapsed, screeching in Spanish and pounding his fits into my dad's prickly grass.

Que haremos? La gente del èxodo! A la deriva como Los restos flotantes! Soy un banco ignorado del parque y no es justo! Las personas no son objetos! Mi padre era el Rey de Los objetos! Era el Rey y yo era el prìncipe!” Yeah, that's when we realized he was drunk.

While Lillian leaned back on her hands and smiled to herself, I sprung into action. I grabbed Marco's writhing frame from behind, putting my weight on top of him and hugging his shoulders. I think I might've seen it in a movie. “It's okay buddy, let it out. Your dad's gonna be fine. We're all gonna be fine.” I had no idea what I was doing.

I felt like a bolt, in the middle of my dad's yard, the sun on my back, on top of this kid who, truth be told, I didn't know all that well. Really we only started kicking it with Marco a few months ago. In high school he was sort of a periphery character. Well, I guess the more truthful statement would be that I was the periphery character. Marco used to eat with all of the popular, industrious kids believe it or not, whereas I had usually escaped campus by lunchtime. I think he only hung out with them because of his dad's lofty position in town, which was the same reason he didn't go off to school once they all did. Marco always thought he'd inherit Don's junk throne once all was said and done. Trash Prince, trash dynasty. Anyway all of Marco's friends, who he always said “couldn't tell a garbage disposal from the hole in their asses” went on to nice schools, coming back on holidays with this ivy league world weariness that helped to lump Marco in with the rest of us out of a sense of shared reprobation. We were the kids who “weren't doing anything” and “would be stuck there forever” that matriculated freshman from all over the country bond over on cozy nights under stogelight. Fucking assholes.

So yeah, there I was, a bolt hugging this kid because some weird rule out there in the universe says that I should. I wasn't thinking a thought in the world, not about him, myself, or even the 24 pack watching this all go down. A bolt, like I said, and we were like that for a while. Marco's cries worked themselves back down to sobs and Lillian finished her entire cigarette.

“So that was cute.” She said finally, putting her stoge out in the grass. I took that as a queue and let off Marco. His back probably hurt and I'd fucked up his hair.

“It's like they don't even want to understand” he said, his voice was as sore and small as his eyes, which looked like they'd descended back into his skull. “People keep shitting on us and expecting us to take it. They see me and they see me as less than them. Like I'm theres, like they can buy me for a dollar or like, pass over me and get something else on the shelf. You know? Shit! They can! They bought my dad and kept him for, like, twenty years or something and then just sold him back to the dump. Now he's a street lamp and they don't ever have to think about him again.”

The wind picked up a little as he was talking. It made the hair on my arms stand up and tusseled some of my dad's cards from the neat stack that Lillian had put them in. If it were up to me it would have kept blowing though, a wind strong enough to blow away everything Marco was saying and feeling. It could have blown all that BS to the top of Mt. Budden for all I cared. Truthfully I didn't actually know what he was talking about, but I wasn't in any hurry to figure it out either. So we let it sit there for a moment and watched Marco stew in it. Lillian took another cigarette out of her pack and I thought a little about drinking. And yeah, we were almost clear of it until Marco started fucking crying again. That's when Lillian started to lose it.

“Marco your family has more money than both of ours combined!” She yelled, her voice missing it's detached flatness, contorting and wringing with some words. “It's the economy, you swear like it's some personal vendetta with anybody with the last name Cruz or something. My dad lost his job like a year ago and you didn't see me riding around town in some coffin mobile like somebody had shot him.”

“Economy?” Marco sobbed “I'm a human being.”

You're a prince.”

“Jesus. Everybody sober up.” I said, without thinking. “Seriously. Both of you sober up I'm sick of this. It's bumming me out and I want to see what's up with that stuff Cena bought. Right? Don't you guys want to do that?”

The wind died down some, it'd been playing an impromptu game of 52 Pick Up and blown my dad's cards all over his back lawn. Neither Marco or Lillian said anything, or looked at me. Marco started tearing big patches of grass out and Lillian lit her ciggerette and stared at the smoke. Me, hell of a peacemaker right? I turned to the case of Milwaukee's, loosely arranged in our torrid semi circle like it was one of the guys. A delicious rectangle man. I could see the indentation of the can bases straining against the thin blue paper.

“So now what?” I asked him.

Have you ever stuck your ear up to an unopened beer can? Yeah? Sounds like the ocean doesn't it? You can hear the tides doing their subtle dance with the moon, probably my favorite thing about beer. Crazy thing though. I could hear other stuff in this one, like a shallow breathing underneath, a life under the sea. It wanted out.

So I took my stand. “Listen you guys can sit here and mope all you want but I'm young and I'm beautiful and I'm gonna drink that weird stuff in that case over there. There it is. You can either join me or you can walk home. I'm sick of this crap.”

Pleased to say it worked. A minute later we were standing on the side yard of my dad's house (he would've freaked if the neighbors had seen us drinking in the backyard), finally tearing the open the pack.

“Last night Cena and I were waiting on mi padre, my father, to come home you know, like we've been doing. And I told Cena to just leave, come back in an hour I had to be by myself. When he left I tried to summon him, I got into his brandy, I put on one of his coats, and I watched reruns of This Trash Life on DVR, hoping that he'd get the message but....something must've happened though. Something must've happened because when Cena came back his feet wernt touching the ground. I swear it. At first I thought that I'd just drank too much, but, you guys, he was floating.”

Lillian and I turned towards Marco, and he looked back at us with his earnest, sad little puppy eyes. Then we laughed, all of us, long, loud, whooping laughs that bounced off the whole, empty street.

The case had a scent to it, like an old cellar. It smelled like it had come some crazy long way to reach us: 3 kids going nowhere yet somehow still being smiled upon by the gods. The cans inside were covered in this layer of thin dust, absolutely covered, unblemished in only a few spots to give a clear look at the red paint underneath. Little red winks they were. In some spots, around the mouth and base of the can, there was this silver paint, a faux metallic color that would wink too, a playful wink that said: “Hey, I know we can't fool you but can you blame a guy for trying”. And underneath that silver, which was scratched away in some parts during the journey, was the real silver, the aluminum of the can. It was like one of those Russian things.

“Jesus how much did Cena spend on this?” Lillian asked These cans have probably been in here since the 80s.”

But my whole body was itching. “Sh-shut up. Free beer is free beer.” My hands were trembling.

“Yeah well. My dad drinks Brandy.” Marco said.

He cracked open his after that and I jumped a little and looked at his can. It sounded like it had something to say. Shit. I cracked mine after that and Lillian after me.

It smelled like boiled vegetables, that much was clear right away. Rotten enough to make a lesser men put it down. For a second, I admit I was about to chalk the whole thing up to Cena playing some nasty joke on us, giving us bad beer in payback for me busting his taillight, for Marco crying all the time, for Lillian being a smart ass, for us and our stupid wasted lives. But I sipped it anyway.

Cascades, little spirits trampling up my tongue,

they're incensed, the house is no good, tear it down

anyway it was never worth a damn

bought second or third hand from grifters and dime store affecianatos all,

trash since, sulfur smell

come quick come quick, it won't last long

organs composed place in poses, you need us

We don't need you.

Taken to where you finger my brain stem,

where you can be what I cannot

I am the clouds, my hops my hops

my hops my hops my hops my hops