My father had a bee in his bonnet and egg on his face when he said, “You may feel all caged up like a slow boil, but don’t quit your day job.” Of course he thought if I put my feet on the ground and they stayed that way, I’d go places. I knew he was all talk, and my lips are sealed.
So many missed chances, I was wringing my head in shame and it was music to my ears. It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye, and the early bird waits with baited breath. Why me, why is it always me when the best of all possible worlds make me jump to Jupiter? Where’s the beef when your back’s to the wall? My hair was on the edge of its seat.
Youthful exuberance forced me to see the light. Beat a hasty retreat, fall head over heels, eat and run. I’ve got a second chance, and I’m going to grab it with both feet. Tit for tat is up for grabs!
Even though my father’s deaf as a post and couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn if it was staring him in the face, I left the house as quiet as a mouse dropping a pinful of angels. I wish I could’ve seen his face when he discovered I was gone—I’ll bet it took the thunder out of his sails.
Working from the bottom up, neither here nor there, I made my own breaks with a full head of steam. Bright lights, big city—hotter than a two-dollar whore. Hotter than two rats screwing in a wool sock in the desert. From the sublime to right on the money. I saw the world through rose-colored idle chitchat, truth was stranger than non-fiction. Too good to be true, I stuck my neck out and fell down the ugly tree and hit every branch. Found myself in a hole with the baby and the bathwater.
Not a hope in hell, I walked like a drunken sailor stewed to the gills, cheek by jowl. Closed the barn door after the hook was sunk in the fish’s mouth. Tried to fit ten pounds of shit in a new ball of wax. How much wood can a woodchuck stick a fork in to see if it’s done? I was dressed to cry my eyes out, a black cat with a red bird in its mouth. I’ve gummed up the candle at both ends.
Fact of the matter, it’s always darkest before the nick of time. Rather than wallowing in tears, I will have enough sense to come in out of the rain. I will strike while the iron’s bright as a button, throw my dice into the ring and hope it turns up trumps. I won’t let the door hit me in the ass as I pull myself up by the bootstraps, nor cover my backside when skating on thin ice. If at first you don’t succeed, eyeball it and then cut the mustard.
To give credit where credit did a slow burn, my father once said: Life is short, busman’s holidays are long.”
BUDDY ELLIOT: I guess I’m what you’d call an ace. Five trips down the aisle. My fifth wife—now she was somethin’. Had a name that sounded like someone crackin’ open walnuts with a ball-peen hammer. Kahachi Miluk Krzesislaznek. I was on a long-haul when I spotted her at the side of the road. She was a looker. Yes, she was. She had on this fancy dress, like she’d been to a dance or somethin’. She was wearin’ these kinda disco-shoes, tall gold heels with these sparkly jewels decoratin’ the front, and a teeny tiny chain that clasped itself around her ankle. Her little toes just cozied up to each other real nice. I’m a foot man myself, so that’s what I take in mostly. She didn’t put out her thumb or nothin’ like that. She just stared at me, cigarette danglin’ from her lips. Of course, I stopped, figurin’ she probably had car trouble or somethin’. She got into the cab, no explanation, and we were on our way. By the time we got to Elk City, my ashtray was full and my tank empty, so I stopped. The only place open, I kid you not, was one called the Hog Trough Restaurant. I think if you call a place “hog trough,” the word restaurant is kinda arguable. They had food that I would describe as plenty ‘a nothin’, but the town wasn’t “dry” and the beer was cold, so it was alright. We got to drinkin’ a bit, quite a bit actually, so gettin’ back into that cold cab and on the road wasn’t soundin’ so good. We took a room at the Super 8. Kahachi wanted to take a bath, but the water outta the faucet was brown. A stack of wood blocks was holdin’ up one corner of the bed, but at that point, we didn’t mind. When we got to Las Vegas, we stayed in another motel. That bed had all its legs, but the nightstand leaned like a drunken sailor. Well, after happy hour we got hitched. But I put my foot down at having the King as a witness—I believe some things is solemn and shouldn’t be messed with. Afterwards, Kahachi wanted to go to this club a lady at the Super 8 told her about. I’m not much into that, but she wanted to go. Kahachi got all dressed up; practically a whole can of spray to whip her hair up like cotton candy. She lit up a cigarette, and then there was this “whoosh” as her hair ignited, burnin’ like a campfire. I grabbed the ice bucket and threw the contents in her direction; the ice almost knocked her out, but didn’t really put out the fire. Finally, she dunked her head under the bathtub faucet and that did the trick. Now, I’ve never smoked myself. In my opinion, it’s a nasty habit.
Lori Romero won the Spire Press Poetry Chapbook Competition. Her first chapbook, Wall to Wall, was published by Finishing Line Press. Her short story, “Strange Saints”, was a semifinalist in the Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award. Lori’s poetry and short stories have been published in more than one hundred journals and anthologies. She was recently nominated for her second Pushcart Prize. Contact author.