They shouldn't throw away tires with no treads
or retread them, either.
Just keep them
on some fucked up rear wheel drive cars
that still run
and have fun at abandoned parking lots.
Make sure to get rid
of the concrete things
at the end of the parking spots.
Get it sponsored by the closest gas stations.
Spray it all down with water
and charge twenty bucks for five minutes.
Bring your own helmet
and anger or joy or whatever
but make it once a week
so it can be just as disappointing
as everything else
if you don't get a chance to ride.
As the hatch closes, I feel my daughter’s hand reach in and touch my fingers. She pulls back quickly. I hear the hatch click, the hiss of the air pumping in and then quiet. She says I love you and places her right hand on the glass above me. I reach up. Her husband pulls her away and sunlight fills the sling.
“Just like you asked for,” says a voice in my ear, “we’re going to play “Space Oddity.” The guitar starts, teases the drums out. I take a deep breath as David Bowie’s voice starts. “We’re gong in five.”
Five seconds later, the sling tilts forward and I’m standing straight up. Far in the distance, I see the line of the ocean and below me, the launch track drops away before arcing forward and toward the sky. “In five, we’re going skyward.”
Five seconds later, I feel the first rocket fire and the sling drops, lurches down at the earth. The track clacks and clangs, metal on metal, machine gun slamming. I’m weightless for a moment, then my shoulder straps are keeping my head from hitting the the top of the sling. My neck compresses, it hurts. I put my hands in the pockets over my belly. The ocean on the horizon gets a little higher in the distance. The second rocket hits, the shoulder and waist straps clamp down, sucking me deeper into the sling and I’m one with the shaking and buckling. I bite my tongue and blood fills my mouth when the third rocket hits, and I know my feet are pointing at the sky. I know I’ve passed the bottom of the track because the ocean disappears and sky fills the glass again. It feels like my throat is lodged into the bottom of my brain and I can’t breathe. The track gets madder, a metal tornado, high pitched metal pinging and then the track is gone as the fourth and fifth rockets fire. Now it’s nothing but sound my ears and brain can’t understand maybe this is what people hear when they skydive. Just one flat harsh tone blanketing the eardrums. The sky outside the glass gets darker.
It’s cold now.
Misfit is a word I have always really liked. Most people think of the band, the white face paint with the tongue out, punk rock, noise and neon. But to me, it’s just that something doesn’t fit. And not just that it doesn’t fit, but that it was SUPPOSED to fit. Like a mistake. Like a misfire. This thing was made to fit, but it is a misfit. Because that’s how I often feel. As if I should be capable of operating in a certain manner, but I just don’t. I’m not down for politics at work, the bullshit of meandering around what needs to be done so people don’t get upset. I mean, just fucking tell them so we can all be on the same page and move on with our lives. I don’t like fireworks that much. Like, ok, shit is blowing up in the sky, do we really need to set off our own in the street so we have to pick up the remains of the impotent attempt afterward. The god damned Halloween decorations. I mean, just give out candy on fucking Halloween. Even this, me writing every day, is a misfit. I don’t have the inspiration or juice to do this on the daily and have it be any good. It’s why most of it is depressing and whiny shit. Like me.
Growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness meant I didn’t celebrate holidays so I seldom had to deal with ornaments. I’d see them in people’s houses, through their windows, or while I stood at the door and my dad tried to convince someone that their religion was wrong. I remember one Christmas, the house we knocked at was the home of one of the kids in my class. He stood behind his grandmother in his underwear and some candy cane socks and he was kinda dancing around and he knew I could see him. It was kinda strange. He never mentioned it to me.
The only place I was exposed to ornaments was on the hoods of cars. When I’d go to the junkyard with my uncle, I’d yank on them and watch them twang or break. That’s kind of it for ornaments. They seem like a dangerous sort of thing. If you’re doing 90 on the highway and that thing decides to go, man, I don’t know what it would do to the windshields of older cars.
I don’t know what to think of hood ornaments or Christmas trees. I don’t have time to worry about that shit. Even now, for Halloween, my kid and girlfriend are trying to put out all these Halloween decorations that keep getting knocked over by the wind, or the tape dries up and the thing falls off the door and I’m like who gives a shit why are you chasing this nonsense? I mean, go buy candy. But fuck ornaments.
On the drive home, I was complaining to my father about my problem disconnecting from work. It’s real easy for him and I think it’s because he’s always been an hourly worker. If he ain’t getting paid for it, he ain’t giving a fuck. I was also dreading doing homework with my son, who is kinda smart, but doesn’t put forth the right kind of effort. “Right kind of effort” is douchey. I know. But he rushes through everything because it’s not fun, you know? It’s fucking homework. So, pretty much every day, I have to wade through the wild lead scratchings on his papers and then deal with him being upset that I have found his answers to be wrong. I asked my dad, how the fuck did I do this? How was I able to do homework? My father didn’t even know English and I learned the language while in school. How in the fuck was I in honors classes? He says, aptitude. And I call bullshit, though I really don’t know how I pulled it off.
I ask him how he did in school. And he tells me he was smart enough but he just did enough to get by. He didn’t want to join the study groups. As long as he got a 70, he was ok with it. He tells me how instead, as soon as he could, he used to walk 3 to 4 miles to a camp with his grandfather to cut sugar cane and make a little money. And he’d walk the miles back with the old man, last name of Caballero. How when he was in Spain he used to work washing dishes in a hotel and how he’d think oh man, it’s gonna be an easy day and then several parties would show up at 10 pm and he’d be washing dishes til 1 in the morning. How in the labor camp in Cuba he was favored for being a problem solver and how some of the bosses would try to fuck with him but the head boss with the lispy voice would protect him. Was he fucking this guy? I don’t know. He tells me this is where he met and protected my pediatrician, Dr. Castro, who had never done work with his hands. I guess it was handy being friends with a doc. These are the little things I can tease out of him before he realizes he’s telling stories and quickly says he has some things to do and thanks for calling, he’ll talk to me later.
This guy, what’s he got to do but feed the cats?
I spent a lot of time with my mother’s side of the family when I was a kid. My father didn’t interact with them very much aside from waving at them from the car when he dropped me off. Probably because he divorced my mother for being a lot of things, which I’m not going to mention, because this is Writober. Not therapy. Sometimes, if I was over a long time, he would get pizza for me and my cousins as a thank you for them having me over. The expectation was that once he agreed to get pizza over the phone, I was to hang up and wait outside for him to arrive at the curb. As the car approached, I was expected to run my fat ass out to the street to immediately retrieve the pizza. It was important that I did this quickly as he had many tasks to accomplish. This was the price of pizza. And he waved as he drove away, the outline of his glasses the only thing visible in the darkness of the car. It was this way at night or during the daytime because of the shade from the giant banyan tree in front of my aunt’s house. I think he would use the times I was away from the house to listen to the baseball game on the radio at home and recover from dealing with a pain in the ass little boy by himself most days. Or maybe he was banging somebody. Who knows?
Naturally, my younger cousins wondered about this man who delivered the pizzas long before pizza delivery was a thing. What was his job? He was a metal polisher. Was he nice? Yeah, but he didn’t talk much. What about his time in Cuba? This is where I came up with the legend of the Cuban Machete Force. I explained that in Cuba, they didn’t let people have guns because they might rise up against the Communist government, so they trained the best of the best to be lethal with machetes. I also told them that I wasn’t supposed to know about this. That I found out because I’d found some papers in boxes. If he knew I knew, my life might be at risk. So they never brought it up and just waved back, afraid.
Dammit, Chris, what am I supposed to do with overgrown? At least you were able to draw that pyramid for your thing. I could’ve drawn a crazy plant or the fence where my neighbor’s weeds are growing over it. Or Swamp Thing. But I’m stuck trying to write about overgrown. I had written a thing about nose hairs and fingernails and back hair and I scrapped it before I got to pubes, but I was there. And now I’m here. Then I was going to write about an overgrown dark heart and I was like ah fuck that noise, I really don’t want to be depressing today. Life sucks enough. Only other thing I can think of for overgrown is apes for some reason. Like some asshole calling a circus or zoo animal a big damn overgrown ape. That just seems so mean. Overgrown animals seems amazing to me. And that makes me think of Dog from Half Life 2. And now I’m depressed again. Thanks a lot, Chris…
The first song my son learned was Ring Around the Rosie when he was like two. When he dropped to his butt at the “all fall down” part, it was so cute. Even then, he was a little performer. I had no idea this song was about the Black Plague and the ashes were from the bodies they burned to stop the spread of disease. I guess. Maybe this was their version of a safety song for kids. How come we don’t have one these days about mass shootings? It could go viral. Someone’s Soundcloud could become really famous. Or on a tiktok account. On the ‘gram.
The first time I ever saw ash in a way that shook me to my core, the Everglades was on fire. I was like ten and at a park with my cousins. We were all riding our bikes,All of a sudden the sky got dark and a minute later, ash landed on my tongue. I remember thinking, wow this is the stuff that’s usually inside the barbecue. The acrid smell cranked up, too. We were inside the barbecue, but there was a strong breeze. It made no sense, a smell like fire and the air like a tornado wanted to start. We rode our bikes hard back to the picnic area where our family had set up. They screamed at us when they saw us, asked where we’d been, smacked us across the back of our heads and made us pile into the cars. We were fine. Nothing happened to us. Just another ashy Everglade summer.
“Dada! Come look!” he screamed through the bathroom door. Not in fear or shock, just excited. I turned off my phone and finished my business. He stood there looking up at me when I opened the door. “Come on,” and he walked into his room.
“I found an iguana,” and he pointed to the base of his cabinet. On top of one of his red sneakers, I saw the small lizard. “How did it even get in here?”
“Wow,” and I crouched, fearing my knees. “Dude, I think maybe that’s a dragon.”
“Ha!” and he shook his head, stomped past me. The dragon made a move and I stopped my son.
“Gotta go slow, dude. And even then, no one has ever caught a dragon.”
It looked at us, eyes locked as its body slowly adjusted for a move in a direction away from us. It had seen humans before.
“Watch,” I said, “This is how you catch a dragon.” I took the box he uses to cover the blinking light from his electric toothbrush when it charges at night. I moved slowly toward the red shoe and the massive creature atop it. I failed, for all of humanity, once again, to catch a dragon.
Back up the stairs for the last time, I ran my fingers along the dingy wooden handrail to the second floor. I tried to hold on to the feel of the cold on my lips, the smell of the wetness outside. Ahead of me, in the dark narrow stairway, bags in her hand, her black fuzzy boots clomped up the steps.
“Are you glad your flight got canceled?”
“Yeah.” But I was worried about leaving my luggage in a locker at the airport. What if someone got my pants? But you don’t say this to a girl. You want to be brave though your heart is breaking because life has taught you that it has many feet and the next one is always coming. She clinks and clanks at the door and we go in quiet so we don’t stir any roommates.
In her room, we didn’t fumble in the early evening dark. We’d been doing this for days and wanting it for months before that. Her vanilla smell invaded my nose, made my skull hurt with a stretching want. She said let’s go see a movie and when we went outside, in the big round bulb of a small streetlight, I saw snow falling for the first time.
“Is it snow?”
She didn’t make a joke and smiled big and said, “Uh huh.” She pulled out a cigarette and we sat on a bench and watched it come down slow through the smoky haze from her Marlboro Menthol Lights.