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John Benditt in conversation with Nancy Pearl - University Bookstore Wednesday, February 25th, 7:00pm
A Slick Six from Camouflage Country
Sitcom Stars Storm the Beach
At nightfall we ran aground. Faint stars and fainter tails of comets like bullwhips. Passengers fainting face first onto the sand. Turn them like this. Good. Make it more like the movies. We eureka-ed the MDMA powder with vacuum-like precision and soon enough our hands joined like people who join cults join and afterward we said a little prayer that tonight would outshine the notion of night and that we would survive to tell the tale to some fat network execs and maybe even add a scene or two in our inevitable biopics and now the fainters were up and the bonfire was lit and just as the orgy was about to shift into the next gear we heard the sound of the sky slicing, gulls crying, and then we watched a helicopter white-knuckle it onto the beach. Out of the black bird popped a famous film director renowned for wearing dual eye patches every time he directs. Good. We are actors dammit, children who never ceased believing. Give us direction.
Our Tolerance of Youth
We heard Kmart Country leaking from a rusted El Dorado. Then we heard there was no truth in politics. Still, we pursued happiness, which for us meant selling medicinal marijuana scripts in order to supplement our true passion: Lawn Darts. We plunged Chem-lawns and natural lawns and golf courses up and down the west coast until the money ran out. Then we got ripped and ran into ourselves, explored the inner workings of our daydreams. Then night fell and so did your mother. We stayed the winter in the Rockies, slept in separate beds, encouraged her brittle hip to mend using myriad herbal remedies and quasi-urban shamanism. We watched gobs of MTV, wondered whatever happened to our tolerance of youth, the cast of the first Real World, good music. During commercials we drew pictures of each other and pressed them against the picture window in the living room. I made your hair blue and your mother’s hair red. You’d never heard the deep belly laugh of a mountain before. I’d never known simple pleasures so easy.
A String of Hot Seconds
The stars glittered like strippers’ chests and you said: “I give you my word.” I said: “Not so fast! How about we just start with a letter?” My uncle always warned me a promise is only as good as the person who says it and you were as good as gone. I’d found your bus ticket to Mexico. You hit the jets and the bubbles bubbled up between my legs. My genitals danced. Some hard minutes passed until finally we softened them with the spit in our cheeks. Through the gap in your front teeth you hissed a string of hot seconds that swirled in the whirlpool between us. Despite your secrets there was something in your face that told me I should take a chance. When I turned around to put on some Van Halen, you jammed a steak knife between my shoulder blades and I slipped beneath the water for the big sleep. You cranked the tub up to boiling and my dying mind got fixed on a loop of my uncle throwing down his cowboy hat outside a saloon. Through the dust that kicked up all around, my eyes kept returning to the horses tethered nearby, their long faces blank and beautiful as catwalk amnesiacs.
No One Can Hear The Cotton Screams of Ronnie James Dio
Years later we were like a worm separated by a bicycle wheel, doubling down again: inaugurating our end during closing time at a restaurant marred by salad bars. Playing footsy with future dividends. Toasting to each other posthumously. Turning off our weddings rings forever. There we were in our minds, skin naked and pink, teeth-tearing our favorite concert tees and slam dancing with mechanics, each of us happier and each of us the wiser for it.
It All Almost
A dog on the grass, chewing on a toy: as stupid and beautiful as anything I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen it all almost.
It was a super secret surprise party one second and then the authorities that showed up hardly looked like authorities, but we still left. It was Christmas Eve in Pensacola and she said the dog track was our best bet. We sat on the bleachers, watching the night sky explode pink and white with human myth and gunpowder. I said, “Santa’s in trouble.” You said, “This baby isn’t yours.” Later, beneath a saltwater sun, bullet dogs race-ripped the track as I shuffled westward toward the next best kept.
Mel Bosworth is the author of the novel FREIGHT. His work has appeared in Monkeybicycle, New World Writing, and Melville House, among others. He is also an associate series editor for the Wigleaf Top 50 and the curator of The Small Press Book Review. Visit him at melbosworth.com
Ryan Ridge is the author of the story collection Hunters & Gamblers, the poetry collection Ox, as well as the chapbooks Hey, it’s America and 22nd Century Man. A fiction editor at Juked, he lives in Long Beach and teaches at the University of California, Irvine. Read more from / about him here.