®í-§þon-$uh -bɻ (Responsible)
Some say a sad poem is slightly better than a bad poem. I had the habit of writing both.
When I called her an easy lay, I didn’t mean how it sounded. I didn’t mean she plowed thru seventy-two Kappa Kappa Kupals during a hot stretch in South Padre. No, I meant she led me in—easily—as easily as a new flock led into the church basement for Sunday bible study.
I simply erupted without all the manufactured circumstances. She let me off, let me drip like a fireman’s hose after dousing out a great inferno. I was in and out without emotional involvement.
She’d fall asleep fast, as if relishing in a mix of Mexican brown and Chernobyl chemicals. Lying there tucked and tangled in thin sheets and an electric blanket no longer exerting electricity, she was snug as a baby cub in a den. The room had plenty of warmth even though I lacked the funds to mail to the gas company.
The next morning she showered in the basement using up all the hot water. I did my best to fix breakfast but the grabbers in the toaster were a tough nut to crack. The local paper was sprawled across a broken, open dining table covering the space where the leaf should have been. The headline on page eight read the Mark Twain branch was closing due to city management mismanaging funds, higher ups helping themselves to higher pay.
The mayor was going to get a call and it would be short.
Mark Twain was the library where Papa made me learn to read but let me parade around wearing only a cape, skivvies and cowboy boots. The librarians were good to us. It was a damn good library, full of smells like buckwheat and caramel and full of thick books that taught me the world’s greatest adventures.
My pitch to the mayor went like this…
“Listen you Dildo, if Mark Twain is closing, you’ll be getting’ a fat dildo in the mail that will explode in your face.”
Mark Twain and my Papa would have been proud. When threatening the mayor and his children with a dirty bomb encapsulated around pink, extra-girthy silicone, it’s wise to execute the call at a pay phone six or so blocks away from the house.
Staring over at the fucking swear jar next to the oven clock, scores of two bits spilling over with George’s beady eyes and pigtails, I thought about my next move. I thought about the northeast library and Papa’s cigarette ashes on the books we carried home and I thought about the call I had to make. But first someone was calling on me.
I walked out of the kitchen leaving the fridge door open to cool off the hottest room.
The phone rang five times, and I followed the ringer up the oatmeal stairs. I hated chasing the ringer or standing flat footed for hours on end wasting time talking. These correspondences centered mostly on my petty prosperities. I was a college kid, my prosperities were all out on loan.
Usually, when the thing rang more than five, the news was shitty. Sometimes my home-made rules didn’t apply.
“You sittin’ down?” I hadn’t heard from Vanilla for weeks.
This question more often than not caused a person to stand and sprint. Vanilla’s question, her tone caused my mind to dig through the filing cabinet to recite Kenneth Fearing’s poem, “As the Fuse Burns Down.” What will you do, when the phone rings, and they say to you: What will you do?
What did I do? Not a whole a hell of a lot. Shaky, I sat on Mother’s unmade bed, deserting the burnt toast in the uncooperative toaster that hadn’t been topped with blackberry jelly.
I tried to smile into the telephone. Pretending to be an active listener but instead of writing important information on the scratch pad by the grey box, I doodled a stick-figure sitting cross-legged on the commode, clipping toenails.
“You’re pregnant,” she hissed from the receiver.
The stick-figure sprang, lifting up the toilet seat.
Oh, fuck me sideways. I had fucked up nature.
“I’m a…I’m a…a who?”
Through the floor, I heard a shampoo bottle hit the tile.
Vanilla was usually cups full of sugar, the sweetest tea East Texans ever sipped, but she left that charm far behind when dialing up my number a moment ago. My call to the mayor about his exploding dildo would have to wait.
“How did it happen?” The dumbest question I could summon.
“As far as I can tell your penis ejaculated while I was ovulating...”
Vanilla knew science. Science happened.
“…what are you, high?”
Not high enough.
“No, but the shrooms are in the fridge under the butter dish. Wanna bake later?
“I read your line the first day we met. I knew this would happen.” Vanilla was a classically trained palm-reader, a palmist.
“Would baking be bad for the kid?” This question may be more amenable than my last.
“I don’t know. Maybe not. I don’t know much about this crap.”
I did know this “you’re pregnant” drug caused you to vomit without warning and hallucinate a future where you buy a Bugaboo stroller and a safe-deposit box in which you store your freedom and dignity for eighteen years.
Through the floor, I heard a sweet voice humming and singing an old Patsy Cline tune.
“I… fall.. to piec—es. Each time some - one speaks your name.”
What continued were long bouts of silence and rhythmic breathing, proving a form of primordial communication still persisted. I doodled a stick-figure hanging from the gallows with a trap-door.
I took issue with talking into a piece of plastic and purportedly exchanging ideas and points of view. Smelling a cleaning solution heavily composed of bleach, someone wiped away all the prints and evidence from the phone’s previous intercourse; I could have used more of this wipe.
“So what…what do you wanna to do?” Vanilla said it to end the dead air and said it so casually, as if we were discussing what to watch on Friday night: a sitcom supplemented with professional laughter, a snuggling romance supplemented with professional tears, or National Geographic’s Raw Anatomy.
I was the freeway, poorly bracing before an accident between an eighteen wheeler and a bobsled. The results would be nothing short of the most disastrous collision the comedic fates ever contrived. The broken glass, the broken Hawaiian queen figurine who would shimmy-sway no more, the fiberglass, the torn ‘God Bless America’ sticker that read ‘less America’, the undeniable compression—my jaw hurt.
“Raw Anatomy.” It was my only answer.
“What!” If Vanilla’s arm could have teleported through the phone line, it would have scooped up my most sensitive anatomy and squeezed out its production.
I wanted to ask if she was sure. I wanted to ask if she was positive. If this was the official line.
“Are you sure?”
“Am I sure? Am I sure my kid is goin’ to be mentally impaired because you’re a contaminated dickweasel?”
Was I the dickweasel or was the dick the dickweasel?
“You’re sure then.”
“You’re pregnant. I’m pregnant. I’m sure.”
I said “yes” and “uh huh” a lot after that.
Looking out the second story bedroom window, the sky the color of a three day old bruise, I saw an asshole and his bitch. The dog hunched low and defecated on my dry front yard. I watched the dog, the asshole watched the dog but neither of us were willing to help out the brown blades of grass. My neighbor Glen’s black S-10 with a thrown rod was parked on his front lawn so maintaining a curbside appeal didn’t amount to a degree from Morehead State. The ordinary shit was mixing with the defective shit and no one carried around a hand towel.
“I said, what do you wanna do?”
I wanted to throw myself through the window but the fall wouldn’t have killed me. More than likely I would have landed with a few broken bones and face first in a steamy dog swirl that looked like it had been churned out of a soft serve machine.
“Uh huh. Yea, whatever…whatever you want.”
“I thought I’m too young. I don’t wanna…I don’t want to go through this again. But I want it.”
I believe she misread my succinct responses, as she calmed, she started believing everything was in its desired working order.
“We’re gonna make this work.” Vanilla was coasting across Positivity Land where kids don’t cry and diapers rain from the sky.
I heard the water in the basement shutting off.
I doodled a stick-figure being pulled by a horse-drawn cart and quartered. This was work. Sitting became physically challenging, I lay down or momentarily lost consciousness while she implemented future plans.
“I’m gonna need you to go to the store. Get me some vitamins and the five pound bag of Red Hots. Atomic Fireball. Five pound bag.”
“Uh huh. Yeaaa.”
Stressing the aaa sound because I was in a class A shitwhirl whirling down a stinkpipe into the municipal water treatment system.
I couldn’t help thinking of the many nights ago. She rode reverse cowboy and I triumphantly adored it as she moved precisely, up and down on a couch fresh off of layaway, juddering in and out; both my hands up above my head like high-fiving an invisible friend. I saw her back broaden like wings, her legs tidily folded, and her ass prominently working through. These sweet sequences pumped in glorious unison.
Her shoulder blades rowed and rotated as if they were competing on the River Thames. A well-built machine attacking for pleasure and all I did was watch muscles lunging, weight shifting nimbly on top like a daredevil riding a Kawasaki. She was a super plunger sucking out the black vile, only turning, with blotches of perspiration, when she needed more arch.
“Baby. Just a little more.”
Watching it all compress, I gave more when I could; otherwise I wasn’t all that significant to the tasks unfolding unless you awarded points for hanging on.
“It must be good, your toes are curling.”
After the workload, I helped her off, the tentative unhitching of battling rams in Zion National Park. I finished my extra tall glass of milk, stretched out the kinks and floated off somewhere else. Letting it down on her moist neck, her hair seemed longer and thicker, lavishly covering her face; I imagined her now with a crooked smile. Thinking back, I rained on our bud, white sugar water antibodies to help it grow bigger, make the belly fatter.
Pressing the phone firm against my ear, I forgot what she told me. Reality had left the building with Elvis’ Memphis ghost. Elvis’ Las Vegas ghost stuck around waiting for the buffet line to open.
“Come over,” the last thing I heard before the signal died.
She came up from the basement a half hour later, as pretty as ever, drying her hair with something she found composed of cotton and saw the newspaper covering the table like a lousy wrapping on a present.
“You working on a project?’
“It’s a cut-up technique for a poem about the mayor and a cucumber.”
I wanted to be a great artist, not a lifelong babysitter who was always trapped indoors serving someone else. Maybe being an artist was a laughable goal, but I’d rather be laughed at then not noticed at all.
“I like this one.” She leaned in over me, putting her finger on a line on page twelve. Duckling rescue in sewer by residents almost turns deadly,
“That could be a magnificent poem.”
She smelled like strawberries picked from the vine and took a chomp out of my charred toast and jam while I was lost in her fragrance.
“Then write it.”
The sunshine would dry and color the rest of her damp hair.
We looked at each other for a moment and it was hard to tell whose smile was wider. I wanted to kiss her before she walked out the door, but I had to show I was willing to stay seated.
“Were you on the phone,” she asked as the crumbs from her bite sprinkled onto the news?
“What were they sellin’?” Purple-red jam was nestled at the commissures of her mouth.
“Nothing I wanted.” I wanted her to lick her lips in a slow motion.
She picked up her jade purse from the table, the size of my fifth grade lunch box before closing the empty fridge.
“C ya. Call me.”
“Just come back.”
“I just might,” she playfully promised, waved and left.
I doubted it. This voyage for hers was at the onset; she’ll be cruising on a fantastic trip through the ups and downs, maybe all the way to Laguna Beach. I wasn’t an up or a down, just a tourist stop.
I flipped through the movie guide section and thought back to Vanilla and our sexual mishaps. They had become an infinite date-movie, where no one could turn down the sappy automatic score peaking when the million dollar-method actor motioned for it. Fix it all in post-production, a saying never truer for such an occasion. Could I fix it after the product was produced? The credits in this far too realistic film should never be rolled because this was beyond naming, listing all the bit memories for all the bit parts, my part being a bit too unconvincing to be acknowledged as a credit.
Night time was coming on like the ache from a rotting tooth. That line vacationed in the belly of my brain…almost turns deadly.
I had to get up, find my sandals and go for a walk before the phone could do more damage.