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He Told Me I Was Beautiful
by Andrew Amundson


He told me I was beautiful. Said he was in real estate. Said he sold used cars. Said he owned a funeral home.
    They are supposed to be three ounces. Roughly. You do it for long enough and you’re not thinking about the three ounces. You’re thinking about Paris Hilton. You’re thinking about 11:34. You’re thinking about that lump.
    But being unapologetically green, I was OCD with the three ounces.
    “What’s your name?”
    “Sounds foreign.”
    “You’re a born salesman—shouldn’t be working in a place like this.”
    “Where do you live?”
    This old fag. But I play along.
    “If you ever need any money, or anything, just call me at this number.”
    Slips me a folded napkin across the counter. Gives me a tip of fifty dollars. I give him a 3.27 oz. of black walnut settled in a frayed waffle cone.
    So this nursing home escapee’s rotary phone rings a few days later.
    “Why, if it isn’t the salesman.”
    I could feel his dentured grin through the receiver.
    Sigh.
    At this bar with peanut exoskeletons basking in the umbrella of our stools, I’m grateful for the feeless buzz I’m nursing. And he’s grateful for my fifth-of-a-century aged body.
    “Open your palm,” says the social security snatching queen.
    I do.
    He presses some once-alive presidents into my creased pink.
    Closes my hand for me.
    “I don’t even like ice cream,” he hisses. Hand on my denim knee. Gives me an unreciprocated wink.
    I’m blitzed. He said he had something else for me at his house. A gift, something. In his bedroom. Typical. He’s done this before. I hadn’t. I close my eyes. Pretend it’s someone else. What’s his name. Irish, maybe. Pretend it’s no one. Chapped lips on my head. I pull out of his mouth. He wants to swallow me. Fuck that. I finish myself off. Can feel his look from my double-vision periphery. He’s tug-tug-tugging away. On his floor. Vericose veins discovering new heights. I go to the bathroom to vomit, partially from dehydration, but mostly from the flashbulb memory of the Robotussin reeking sixty year old that just sucked me off. I wanted to crawl out of the window. There isn’t one. He looks still when I return to the room. Very still.

***


    Years ago, even before the aforementioned pedophile was a shell in his daddy’s chamber, there was a dinner. A voluptuous state banquet, and present were all the delicacies of the day. But the coup de grace was yet to come. A Frenchman, and coincidentally the master chef, had apparently concocted a new dish. The mercury midget and not unlike virginal snow, the dessert was said to be creamier, said to be sweeter that any other dessert that had ever come before. The guests were delighted, as was the host.
    “Fair chef,” I shall give you 500 pounds a year, annually.”
    “Why is this sir?”
    “To promise—promise—that you shall never ever serve this here dessert anywhere but…here.”
    “Here, sir?”
    “Here.”
    But it seemed Charles I loved this iced cream much much more than his people loved him. His head said farewell to the rest of him in 1649 A.D, and as the guillotine dropped the chef’s mouth came ajar. Promise unkept and recipe—well—undone.

***


    Daytime drama groupies saw it on Dynasty. What a way to go. Wheezing orgasm followed by wheezing heart. Mr. McHarland. Now wheezing bagpipes at the ceremony. I didn’t even know. I just left him there. Found my DNA on the carpet. They had a few questions. Nevermind.

***


    I drop the printer paper onto the rounded kitchen table. Yawn.
    “So you were the last one to see him?”
    I whisper a yes.
    This was the pedophile’s son—Frances McHarland. Met him at the funeral. He has no wife. Had no wife. Estranged from his fertilizer father. I can only imagine the shit that went down in that house. Frances is (was, rather) a dream writer. For a local underground journal. The Cellar, something. A weekly publication. And each week nearly, Frances’ column would be featured. He would jot down what his subconscious had to say. His small fan-base referred to him as the Dali of the page. Dali’s turning.

    “How do you take your coffee?”
    Kitchen all late 70’s vomit decor.
    “How did he seem, I mean, how was he? Before he went?”
    Erect.
    My shoulders elevate. He continues to stir away at the counter; I look out the semi-curtained windows, squinting.
    “The reason I asked you here is to be my muse.”
    What.
    “I haven’t slept. Ever since he um. Haven’t slept.”
    Coffee’s awful.
    “Creatively…I’m just—have nothing. Tell me of your time with him. Think I could use it as a platform. I’ll pay you.”
    I laugh, not really so much at the proposition, but I do nonetheless.
    “But I don’t have any money. No cash, not on me. But I do have something else.”
    Rock n’ roll.

    The translucent purple bong bubbles like the stew that brothed and kept the witches warm in Hamlet. THC Columbine’ing our brain cells, making us forget to remember our synapses. On the scarred couch, giggling at nothing, he commences with the inquisition as I bring the full moon staring from the crescent window betwixt my fingers, debating whether or not I should crush the white light.

    I tell him what happened.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH
AHAHHAHAHAHH
AHAHAH
AHAHAHA
HAHAHAHAH
AHAHAHAHH
AHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHA


    “I’m fucking starving,” we say.

***


    Alexander the Great took willing icy precipitants, introduced them to tears of nectar and screams of honey, and then fucked his man/woman
du jours
. King Solomon sipped on beverages so chilled they were almost—oh wait, there’s a baby, let’s tear in half. Nero Claudius Caesar neglected his wife, had an affair with his slave(s), then clapped twice and the slave(s) ventured into the nearby mountains to retrieve snow, which was then flavored with fruits and juices and stains of their love. Marco screamed his first name, and instead of hearing his second in return, the Far East told him to shut the fuck up and instilled him the recipe for what we call today, sherbet.

***


    !Onomatopoeia! goes the glass after introduced to the brick. My mittened hand reaching through the now jigsaw-door, I writhe the knob and Mayberry’s is ours.

    Four minutes and forty three seconds earlier

    A bloodshot Sorry We’re Closed sign stares at the bloodshot duo.

Almond Silk Mousse Coffee English Toffee Crunch Crème Dementhe Dark Raisins and Rum Okra Dastardly Mash French Louisiana Praline Gaelic Delight Ice Tea with Ginseng Lemon Blueberry Cobbler Cucumber Delight Peppermint Carob Chip Yak Meat Biscotti Alpine Fudge Crunch Bavarian Thin Mint Black Forest Cheesecake Bordeaux Lime Sorbet from 20,000 Fathoms Mackinac Island Fudge Masque of the Raspberry Organic Korean Sorbet Pear and Cinnamon Basil Sarabeths Peanut Butter with Plum Cherry Jam Tequila and Cilantro To Die For Vienna Finger Cookie Zabaione Cherry Cappuccino Canadian Chunk Cashew Praline Parfait Iranian Cabbage



    All at our disposal.
    I’m hunched over the counter, the counter where I met the eldest McHarland, my ice cream meth lab cubicle, concocting Dr. Seuss-in-height sundaes. The middle McHarland is perusing the freezer in the back. I had since been fired from Mayberry’s for telling Claire, my former boss, to—

Wait.
Sirens outside.
Split.

***

Diary of Frances in Freezer




Day 1 Where the fuck is *beep*? There were some cops outside earlier, I think. One of them must have brushed against the door’s lock, because the goddamn thing’s not opening. Hot Christ it’s cold. And I can’t stop shaking. Still a little stoned. Someone should be here by morning.

Day 2 Barely slept. I need my insulin shots. None of the ice cream here is sugar-free. Don’t feel like getting up. Have insulated myself as much as I can. Starting to sll—l—ur when talking to myself.

Day 3 Stopped shivering. Hunger. Can’t move. Can’t thi—

    Frost-kissed and hypothermic Frances ravaged a two-tone chocolate and pecan praline late Sunday afternoon, his absurd blood sugar level lullabying his body into a coma. That fat fuck Claire found him on Monday’s dawn; he had been there all weekend.
***


    “And the colored girls go, doo do doo do doo do,” striking more Chet Baker than Lou Reed, the self-crooning stranger, legs crossed, sitting near the bed, turns his head away from his bed-father when I pace into the hospital room. Seems my age. Ray-Bans insouciantly draping him, about half the size of the ones Cruise rocked in Risky Business. I would later find out that this was Sebastian(self-named) McHarland, son of the comatose. Sebastian was blind. Legally. Wouldn’t recognize his mother’s womb if he was to ever be sent back. Frances had lied. His wife had died soon after Sebastian had named himself Sebastian. And no, not what you’re thinking. Not breast cancer. The McHarland family had a history of depression and dementia running through its limbs and veins. So when they did marry, they were oft strategic about finding a psychologically balanced mate. Not Frances. Peggy had been the Zelda to his Fitzgerald, albeit twice as mad and half the muse. So, after years of haphazardly raising a blind boy, she had decided to feed herself a meal of arsenic. The note on the nightstand stipulated to give her eyes to her son.
    “Hello,” he smiles.
    I shuffle my feet on the stale linoleum.
    We dissolved into a tactile love, as I would hand him bad poetry in Braille as we sat atop his speaker listening to Interpol. I only kissed him once in the coming weeks. And he I. Sebastian had been estranged from his father most of his life— hardly knew his grandfather. So he had few questions. I just told him I was an avid reader of his dad’s column. He scoffed.
***


    “Hey, what can I get you two?”
    “Sundae. Butterscotch. “
    We sit, asses touching, in a booth towards the back, at least ten yards away from where I met his father’s father. His cane leaning on the table, (he never had a dog or anything, but would playfully call me his seeing-eye bitch), he’s done with his first shot of caffeine and wants another, holding his mug above his mug. Mayberry’s is only a kosher eatery because Claire has taken a leave of absence, apparently suffering some mild post-traumatic stress from seeing Sebastian’s father’s blue breathing corpse.
    Waiting to be refilled, Sebastian turns his head, left, opens his mouth.
     “They said some kids tried to rob this place a few weeks ago.”
    I laugh.
    He laughs.
    Some fratboy, home for the weekend, drops some spare change in Sebastian’s free-floating cup as he passes us, doing the WASP chuckle before-during-and after the act. Sebastian juts his leg out, almost involuntarily, and the prick falls onto the tile as Sebastian fishes out the orphaned dimes and nickels, slaps them onto the table and tells me to play some Blonde on Blonde on the jukebox. The waitress poured him as I plugged in AA07.


    We usually lodged in only the sketchiest of motels. I exit the shower, rubbing my nethers with one of the stock white towels. Sebastian, I call. No response. That’s my tie. Skinny ties, I always wanted one—with all my New Wave fetishizing. And a few days ago he agreed, and we went to some thrift store filled with mostly chick clothes, and found one. What do you think? I inquired of him. It compliments your eyes, he whispered. That’s my tie around his neck. The ceiling fan looking less ominous but more like an open-armed parachuter warm for embrace. Housekeeping had vacuumed around his lynched-smiling corpse while I was showering. But I didn’t know this. The phone by the freshly-made bed had a red light going off. One new message. I pick it up.
    “I never liked fiction,” says Sebastian.
    hang up, not in the mood.
    Realize that, right underneath the phone, was this week’s issue of Cellar Door. One page was dog-eared.
    Motherfucker.
***


    Frances McHarland had awoken from his coma. Insomniac Frances had just gotten the most sleep of his life. Wrote some piece about reuniting with his father, inspired by a dream he had when he was vegetating, apparently a variation of a reoccurring Amazon dream he’s had for years, and then threaded all that in with the shit I told him when we were high. Got his job back. Is now in talks with Penguin Books on publishing a novella. Unbeknownst to me, Sebastian had visited his father in the recovery room, I guess I was sleeping in room 7 next to his warm vacancy. He told Sebastian that he loved him, that he had had a breakthrough, then read an excerpt from his Cellar piece, revealing more or less everything. Said he could keep it. Frances cried during this. Sebastian didn’t. You could say grandfather McHarland and Sebastian killed themselves. I would refute that I had quite a lot to do with both of their deaths. And I had everything to do with Frances’. I had never operated a firearm before. But you don’t need to be no Oswald from point blank while standing in the man’s kitchen. A six year old could do it. Since his death his novella, Three Scoops, has become a New York Times bestseller.

***


State Inmate’s Final Meal Requests



Williams, Richard. 999251. 02/25/2006
Two chili cheese dogs, two cheeseburgers, two orders of onion rings with French dressing, turkey salad with French fries, chocolate cake, apple pie, butter pecan ice cream, egg rolls, one peach, three Dr. Peppers, jalapeno peppers, ketchup, and mayonnaise

Dunn, Henry. 999165. 03/06/2008
Cheeseburger (extra cheese, pickles, onion, lettuce, and salad dressing), tray of French fries, bottle of ketchup, 25 breaded fried shrimp, four cans of pineapple juice, two banana splits, bottle of Hershey's syrup, and one jar of apple butter jam


Massey, Jason. 999121. 04/03/2009
Fried chicken quarters (3), fried squash, fried egg plant, mashed potatoes, snap peas, boiled cabbage, corn on the cob (3 - with butter), spinach, broccoli (with cheese), pint of caramel pecan fudge or tin roof ice cream, pitcher of sweet tea

Hero, Stephen. 999607. 05/09/2010
Iced cream w/25 candles



    I had since legally changed my name as an homage to Sebastian. I told the chef it was my birthday. Happy birthday, he said. And then some prison guards and the priest and the chef all sang for me. As I sat in my chair, all I could think about was my fathe—



About the author:
i'm a junior at chapel hill, NC, birthday's 5/9/85, love salinger, bukowski, palahniuk, ginsberg..which is cliche for someone like me but shrug, and i want natalie portman to wife me



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