Potluck

 

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Five Poems by Jo Barchi

Everybody's Darlin'

I became a minor celebrity around town after the police threw me through the plate glass window of the porno shop.

Traffic was stopped. Everyone saw.

There was bursting glass. And there was me soaring headfirst onto the sidewalk.

When I staggered to my feet, those fucking pigs were still standing in the store, looking down at me. I was finally out in the sunshine though and look at them up there in the shadows.

I had a bag of heroin in my pocket; but I had committed no crime, so I yelled, “Well what now?”

“Get going,” one of the cops said. He kicked more glass at me.

The other cop shook his head, zipped his fly.

It was a complete surprise when I wasn’t arrested. I guess all my leaky crimson and the embarrassment was enough.

It usually goes like this:

Live Your Life + Intersect With Other Lives = Wake Up In Jail.

But this one time, I was walking on. Kicking my sneakers in front of me through the gravel headed towards whatever else the sun and moon and stars had going on.  


A mustard-colored convertible pulled out of the gridlock. And a girl was yelling, “Dude! I just saw the whole thing!”

“Did you now?”

She unlatched the door.

“Get in.”

“I’m a fountain of blood, you don’t want that in your car.”

She motioned again. I climbed in and glass fell out of my hair and my shirt and my face.

“This isn’t my car, this is my stepmother’s car. Bleed all you want in my stepmother’s car.”


We drove behind the porno shop. A narrow path. Branches slapping the windshield making me flinch, but she didn’t flinch. Some lucky people fear nothing.

But in the trees, all sap covered and weather-faded, I saw a blow up doll someone had resurrected from the dumpster, and hung there in the dead branches, lying horizontal flying like Superman or Superwoman. Transexual. I pointed up, but the girl didn’t lose a beat.

“I see that every day,” she said, and just kept cruising. “Hey why’d they do that? Why’d they throw you through the window?”

“I walked in the backroom and caught those cops masterbating on a guy they’d handcuffed. Having some kind of a race.”

“That’s what our tax dollars are for?”

“Some of them, anyway.” I wiped my bloody brow, quivering. Adrenaline gone and me suddenly overtaken by weakness. “I was just looking for a quiet place to get high.”

The girl nodded. “10-4.”

We hit a whoopdee, the car flew.

“This is fun,” she said. “I feel alive.”

“Oh, what’s that like?”

The car crashed down. Each of my inner organs became a pinball of meat bouncing against other pinballs of meat. I was at my limit and bent over, so my forehead pressed against the dash.

“Shit, please pull over,” I gasped.

“Sure.”

She slammed the brakes. Dust engulfed us, catching back up to us.

“I’m in massive pain, it’d help if I could inject some of the heroin I have in my pocket.”

She spun side saddle on the bench seat and faced me like I was the main feature in a movie house. People can romanticize anything. “I’ve never seen a real life junky before,” she said.

“We’re a dying breed.”

She was all smiles. Beanpole skinny. Giant glasses. Thin hair. So unsexy, and at the same time just the sexiest thing.

“Need my belt?”

She took her belt off, handed it to me. Butterflies all over the belt. I ran my fingers across one’s wings. But I didn’t need her belt and gave it back.

I took my gear from my fanny pack. Needle and tourniquet. Then I began the real work with lighter and cotton ball. She had out a note pad and she jotted notes with a pen with the logo of her university.

“I might do my thesis on this.”

“Cool.”

“I’m a Drug Studies Major,” she said.

“Professor’ll love it. A Plus Plus Plus.”

I slid the needle in, pushed the plunger.


Then we were in the golden hour. We were track and field stars. She was the Statue of Liberty sandblasted and shined up and shrunk down to the size of an ordinary Miss America. My blood that was still pouring out of me wasn’t blood anymore, it was honey and Miss America was a bee keeper and I was making her money. She’d collect it and sell it to somebody.

“Tell me more about yourself …”

I sighed, I said, “Here’s some free honey for you. In a dream I had one time, I used to own that porno shop.”

“Oh, what’s it like selling sexual happiness in a dream state?”

“Two truths about dildos I’ll say to you. Miserable people don’t own a single dildo …” I blinked. I blinked again. Everything was glorious one second and then the next second I was asleep.

 


I woke up on a miniature couch, a folk band hellishly playing in the corner. A tall woman playing an electric harp. A short man fingering a wash tub bass. Someone unseen, yodeling.

When I die, if it is today, if it is tomorrow, will someone please write At Least He Hated Folk Music on my tombstone.

Also let it be noted, I didn’t like folks.

The room was packed with folks, and the room kept closing in, but it wasn’t my fault. It was a college dormitory, not much larger than a jail cell. I panicked like I was covered in fire ants. I leapt up on the couch from a prone position to a standing one so my skull cracked the ceiling and I almost knocked me back out.

Below me there were what seemed like hundreds of slimy-faced students in grandma underwear, pimples and creative facial hair, and shaking plastic cups so wine and beer sloshed everywhere and all over their own sweaty bodies. They were beyond thrilled that I was awake and I’m not used to that.

The band stopped. The students cheered.

The girl from earlier was topless and holding a microphone.

“Everyone, this is my friend! Meet my extraordinary friend!” The microphone squealed through a tiny amplifier as she told the party I was the most interesting person they’d ever meet.  

“… Like a character from a JT Slazenger short story.”

I said, “Who the hell is JT Slazenger?”

“… Launched through a brick wall by a riot squad.”

“Not true.”

“… Filled his entire body with cyanide in my step-brother’s car.”

“Also not true.”

“… After that he shit himself but it’s alright.”

I reached down my pants and my underwear was gone, so maybe that one had happened.

I jumped down from the couch. Students latched on, I couldn’t pry them off. My elbows and knees did nothing.

The girl shouted, “Don’t get mad! You’re the guest of honor!”

Vomit bubbled up my throat.

They all moved then.

I vomited my way out of the room, vomited my way into the hallway, ruining all those academic rugs all along the way.  


Now I was wandering the maze of the quad, no idea how to exit. I stumbled past a room of kids, with their door open, drinking beer, watching a kung fu film.

“How do I get out?”

“Yo,” one dude said, standing up and shutting the door in my face. “You just get out!” he yelled through the closed door.

That’s one way.

Next stop on my journey, I discovered a silver water fountain and washed my mouth out.

A boy saw me. He was sitting crisscross applesauce, possibly meditating under a window with utter blackness leaking through the window and into the fluorescent building of higher learning.

“You okay?” the boy said.

“I’m fine,” I said, touching my broken face. “Cops beat the shit out of me.”

“Why?”

“Caught them being cops. They like to be cops in secret.”

“They beat you without due process?”

“Um, nah, I don’t think so.”

“That’s illegal,” he said. “I should know. I’m studying law.”

“Righteous,” I said, and my guts stared to pulse again.

But I had enough strength and sense to hold my hand out and let him write his phone number on the back of my hand.

“For next time,” he said.

She appeared again, running up behind me in the hallway, shirt on but still in underwear.

“Don’t leave,” she said.

“Not in the mood for a party,” I said.

“Let’s go somewhere quiet …”

“Don’t wanna talk. Just wanna be smothered in bliss for fifteen minutes, then I want to be unconscious.”

“Okay,” she said.

“Okay.”

So odd this nature from which we are sprung.

And the negations we have to make with this natural world in order to keep living here in it though our cells may be protesting most every minute of it.

We left the college, rejoining the freeze and thaw world. Her step mother or father’s or brother’s car was parked directly beneath a full moon, shining on it like a beacon from the natural world. She had money. I said I’d push my own needle in, but I’d let her push the plunger. We zigzaggged on.

The girl still wasn’t wearing pants.

Bud Smith works heavy construction. His book Dust Bunny City is out now rom Disorder Press. This year, CCM will release a memoir called Work Safe Or Die Trying about the intersection of creativity and working for a living. www.budsmithwrites.com and @bud_smith.