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Syntax Issue 10
Denver Syntax
{chemical sixteen}
  thomas johns


Itís a new mattress. Itís softer than any mattress I ever had. I sink into it about a foot Iíd say. Iím exaggerating.

The Ass Ponys are playing. I canít reach the remote, so I listen to ďCalifornia BingoĒ for the eighteenth time. ďItís California Bingo, everyoneís a winner.Ē No oneís home to see my crazy. Iím not averse to a nineteenth, but I reach for the remote anyhow. Two inches short. Two inches short.

Chuck Cleaver is the lead singer of the Ass Ponys; itís Chuckís voice saying ďIím fucked, Iím fucked, Iím fuuucked, again.Ē

I stop straining. I let Chuckís voice wash over me like the sad, carny, rock-a-billy dirge I need right now. I need to wallow in something not unlike self-pity, not unlike self-loathing, not unlike emotional neutron masturbation. Not unlike my havenít-showered funk. I need to smell it, live it, love my ride into the abyss. I canít wait until the point of no return. When I get there: all the regret Iíll ever need. I take the pill Mom left me.

And I take one of my own, which youíre not supposed to take with beer.



ďOh, Iím fucked, Iím fucked, Iím fuuucked, again.Ē

Thereís a crack of light coming from the dingy curtain, and Iíd kill the sun if I could. Kill the three pee-emm sun if I could. It pokes my eyes like MoeóGod is Moeóand I canít sleep on my stomach. I took some fists in my ponderous gut the other night, and Iím sore as fuckóChuck. Iím sore as fuck, Chuck. Chuck, she lured me in. She lured me in and they took all my moneyómy forty-five dollars and debit card and my Subway card (and I was only one away from a free sandwich). Chuck, they beat the shit out of me, man...beat me pretty good anyhow. They didnít beat me so bad because I gave up quick. They took my money, Chuck.

And Chuck answers, ďOh, Iím fucked, Iím fucked, Iím fuuucked, again.Ē It takes awhile, but pretty soon Chuck is really there, heís got a beard like the time I saw him close up at Schubas between sets.

She was so pretty, Chuck. A plump little chick, just like I like, you know: curves. Dirty blonde hair and a nice smile, and big clear, clean eyes. Her ad said she liked indie music, Chuck (and I emailed her, and she said she liked yíall). I ainít never met no one that liked the Ass Ponys (people are stupid, Chuck). She said she wanted to get a beer with a nice guy with his head on his shouldersóan independent guy with self-confidence that was going somewhere. I mean, she forced me to lie. I had to take a shot with a girl like her, with a girl like her that liked the Ass Ponys. And I mean, Iím a nice guy, Iím nice to people. I donít bother nobody. And Iím going somewhere; I got my associates degree from Truman, thatís going somewhere. I scored way high on the GED, I aced it.

And I was careful, Chuck. We sent lots of emails. She told me she liked Catcher in the Rye. She told me she liked ďMystery Science Theater 3000.Ē She told me all the right things. I was making her laugh. All those LOLís. They meant she was laughing out loud. I asked for more pictures; she sent more. She sent cute ones, and then they started getting sexy. I told her lies. I told her about my business, you know, the one where I sell CDs on eBay. I mean, I figured one day Iíd be making money and it wouldnít even be a lie to tell her about all the cash I was making selling music and such.

She told me she was looking for a man who could make her feel safe, take care of her. I said I wanted to be that man (I sent her two pages, and I spell checked twice). I didnít tell her I live with my folks. I did tell her about the award I got for perfect attendance at the 7-Eleven. Except I didnít say 7-Eleven. I said Baxter Labs, this place I pass by on the train on the way to 7-Eleven. I said I was using my Baxter Labs money to build my eBay shop. And I was gonna buy a warehouse. If she ever asked to see the warehouse, I was gonna show her that big one on Archer and tell her it was mine. I had it worked out. I sent her links showing all the stuff I was selling on eBay. I was showing her my potential I had to start living up to. I started getting up extra earlier and working on my eBay store. You know, going through my CDs I didnít want anymore and sketching out what my website would look like (I can draw, Chuck). It was hard, but I forced myself to put in my Concrete Blonde CDóI put in anything I hadnít played in ten years, all those went on the sell list. You know them, Chuck? Concrete Blonde?

So she started to ask when we was gonna see each other, and I told her I like to take my time, not rush things, take it slow, so we could build something special. Her spelling wasnít so good, not that my spelling is good, but English is my subject, though. She stopped sending pictures. She stopped emailing me. I emailed her a couple times a day. Then I emailed her a picture of that LexusóMrs. Debraunís Lexus. And I told her I just bought it. And she emailed back and asked for a ride. So I asked Mrs. Debraun if I could borrow her car, and she closed the door on my face. So I emailed back and said why donít I just come by her place and chill, I didnít feel like driving, I spent all my time driving to work anyhow, I said.

So she wanted to see me that night, so I told her why not a week from Sunday. And she said OK. Just like that, thatís all the email said: OK. So I took my change jar down to the change counting machine at the Jewel, and it took like a dollar of my money just for counting, and it was a gyp, but I had twenty bucks in change (it was heavy). And then I sold some stuff I didnít wantósome CDsóto Larry at Disc-Go-Round, and he ripped me off, but I didnít want my Arrested Development CD anymore and that was the one I liked best in the whole box.. So now I had forty dollars, and I had five dollars before. So I figured we might go see a movie or something when I got there. And I used the rest of the time doing errands around the neighborhood for more money, but then I dropped a rack of Old El Paso salsa at the 7-Eleven, and I had to pay back Samesh, and that took up my chore money, and now it was already a week from Sunday, so all I had was the forty-five I told you about. So that night when I left work I asked Samesh if I could have one of the flowers he sold at the counter, and he said yes, so I took one. Then I asked if I could have some rubbers, but he said no.

So I walked up to her address, and it wasnít too good. You know, it was on the Westside near the UC. And I ainít never been to that side of town except once when I saw the Bulls, when Grandma bought me tickets. There was lots of black people around, and I ainít a racist or nothing, but I was feeling pretty scared, but I kept looking at a picture I printed of her, and though it wasnít good resolution, she was still pretty, and it gave me courage. And I hit the buzzer. And there she was, just like on the picture. She asked me if I wanted some tea, and I hate tea, but I said yes. So she brought me some tea, and I got my first good look at her. She was wearing one of those tight, you now, thoseÖspandex dresses and she was wearing nylons, black nylons, and I started to feel like I made a big mistake lying to her, but I was also feeling like I did the right thing because if nothing else I got to this point, got to see her in her dress and stockings. Then I noticed there wasnít much furniture, and the room needed painting, and it looked like someone just moved in or out or something, and the light was dim.

So we got to talking, and I said she looked pretty, and she said thank you. And then I laid down the flower on the couch and pulled out my copy of The Known Universe; she said she had all your guysí albums except TKU, Chuck. And I didnít tell her, but I had two TKUs, but one had a scratch and you couldnít hear ďCancer ShowĒ anymore, so I kept the bad one, and I gave her the good one. And then I noticed the flower, and I gave that, too. And she said thank you. And I asked her if she wanted to put it on, and I guess I meant the CD or the flower, but mostly the CD. And she said not right now. So I started to feel a little tense because who could resist putting on a CD like that? And so I sipped at my tea, and it tasted like hot water and nothing else. And I didnít want to drink it, but I had nothing to say, so I sipped at itókept sipping at it. And she smiled, but she seemed nervous, and I wanted to calm her down. And she asked when weíd be getting to take a ride together, and then I told her I didnít know cause it was in the shop, the Lexus, and then she said she thought it was new, and I said yeah, ainít that strange. And I wanted to tell her the truth. And I was about to tell her the truth. But we were so far away, she was all the way on the other couch, and the truth was something you wanted to say close by.

So she asked me where we were going, and I said a movie. And she said OK, where was I parked, and she got up, and she smoothed out the spandex over her butt, and I wanted to be there so much. Behind her, feeling her curves down there, her dirty blonde in my face. And I wanted to cry a little then. And I said I wasnít parked. I didnít come by car, I came by train. I hadnít really thought about how weíd get to the movie. There werenít any movies in this part of the town. Then she got mad, and I wanted to cry more, and I didnít think I could stop it. What the fuck kind of eBay businessman was I, come to her house on the Green Line? Then she started laughing; you ainít nothing but a mark-ass buster, she said. I listened to rap some, so I knew that wasnít a good thing to be called. And I told her I was sorry, but I never met no one that liked the Ass Ponys like I did, and wouldnít it be great if they went back on tour and we could see them together. And she said she wasnít going anywhere with me. And I said why. And she said cause I was a little trifliní ass loser, and she didnít waste her time with guys like me, and she needed a real man with the c-cheddar, someone that could treat her right, and I couldnít hold it anymore, and big hot tears come out like a tropical storm or something. And I was embarrassed, but for some reason I kept getting closer to her, I kept getting closer. And she got up off the couch, and told me to leave. And I said wait, wait, canít we just lie down a little. Just sit next to each other and listen to the CD. And she threw the CD and said she never even heard of the Ass Ponys, and she was sure they were shitósure yíall were shit. And the jewel case was busted. And I wanted to go pick it up, but I didnít. I kept moving closer to her, and I didnít look at her eyes. And I was still crying pretty bad. And I was looking at her dress, and her heels, and her stockings. And I asked her why she lied. And she said wasnít I the kettle. And I didnít understand what she meant at the time. And then I looked at her and we were almost next to the wall, and I got excited, but then she looked scared, and I was less excited, but I kept moving forward toward her, and my hands were at the side of my chest. And ďCalifornia BingoĒ came on in my head, and I stopped crying. And she yelled Tino! And I suppose it was Tino that threw me to the ground and took my wallet. And then two other guys with dirty blond hair just like hers came. And they hit me, mostly just slapped my face; they could have hit harder, I think. I kind of wanted them to hit me harder. I couldnít hear anything but your voice, Chuck. You telling me that youíre fucked. I guess it was like I was singing the song. And the next thing I know I was at the doorstep and they pushed me down it. And my face felt wet, but it wasnít blood. And my hips and stomach were pounding, like I could feel my heartbeat in them. It didnít really hurt till later, but it did hurt. And I said, canít I have enough money for the train. And they laughed and shut the door, and I thought I saw her leg in the stocking, and I thought I heard a girl laughing along with them, but maybe that was just my imagination.

So I started walking until I realized I was waking east. And I stopped walking. And this black dude with only a few teeth was smiling at me, and I dug in my pocket. And I wanted to go to him, but I didnít. And then I wanted to sit down on the sidewalk, but I didnít. I just kept walking. And I called Mom collect when I finally found a phone. And she made me soup. And when she left to go back to work I think she was crying. I put on ďCalifornia Bingo.Ē