July Poem 26: That Fucking Monopoly Game

Just my luck. A bank error in my favor.

More money than we could possibly have.

We went out for dinner and drinks before

The groceries and diapers. Wife ignored my

Mention the shorter line. God fucking damn!

Last minute cigarettes. The longest line

In Mississippi. The fucking tobacco line.

The “I ain’t got enough money to feed

My own kids, but I’m sure as hell going

To fill my lungs with tar” line. When the bank

Fucks up, they take back their money on their

Terms. Not yours. But that’s just it. Isn’t it?

Life is that fucking Monopoly game.

You just spend until were all fucking broke.

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September Poem 24: Dollar Bills as Rolling Papers

Driven health concerns designed to turn a

Profit. Like the wailing siren of the

Geedunk van stalking neighborhood streets in

Search of unsuspecting children. Luring

Them all. Fooling them with silly songs and

Nursery rhymes. Bright colors and cartoon

Pictures. To sell candy cigarettes. The

Chemicals that cure cancer. Far different

Than the chemicals of big tobacco.

The growth of humid Virginia fields. The

Natural panacea sent across

Oceans as a cure-all for royalty.

The wheezing cough and the dark shadowed mass

On your x-ray are just proof that it works.

August Poem 33: Words in White

It was bound to happen. And one night it

Did. The scratch, click, and thump of the hammers

Pulling nails. The excess holes. The drywall

Was pocked with them. However, this was an

Entertainment. The same cigarette. This

Anecdote. This pulling across and out

The utility knife to serpentine

Over the guide line. Know its purpose. Like

The poison smoke. We lift and snap hoping

For the line we had scored out without my

Other buddy. We had stopped. Wasn’t it

Word burn? And I push away my readers.

Even if I felt meaningless words out

A black and red end squeezed. Roll them in white.

Banana Peels and Toothpaste

Josh also told me that he thought he was gonna die the day that I sent him off with a joint of dried banana peels soaked in toothpaste. I told him that it was too harsh to hold in like weed, so he should smoke it as if it were a cigarette. This anecdote is only funny in retrospect, however, because it wasn’t meant as a trick. Money was always in short supply and I had always heard (wrongly) that dried banana peels would get you high.

 

The night before, I ate as many of my mom’s bananas as I could and dried the peels overnight in the oven. The dried peels were so hard that I had to use a knife to cut them into small strips before I could roll them in Joint papers. The peels were hard to get to keep lit and when they were lit they would curl out in a black and red end ripping the end of the paper as sad strands of smoke rose from the diffuse cherry (if you could call it that) making it look like a cigarette load had just blown off the end of your joint. The smoke you sucked out the end tasted bad and burned your throat badly. And to make matters worse, it would not get you high in the slightest. But I had made up a bunch of these bad boys and Josh and his buddy Javier had come over asking me if I had any weed.

 

I told them that all I had were these shitty banana peel joints, but I did know of a trick that actually had worked for me. One night recently when I had been hanging out with my other buddy Josh, we had stopped by Danny’s house and asked him if we could use some toothpaste. This was a gamble because we weren’t sure if Danny or any of the meth smoking adults he lived with even had toothpaste. Lord knows they never used it. But the toothpaste was a sure bet, because this Josh was a little older and he learned about smoking toothpaste when he spent a short stint in rehab. Danny came back out of his house with an unused tube of no name toothpaste. Josh squeezed it out across one side of a Marlboro cigarette making it look like making it look like a long white toothbrush ready for your nightly hygiene rituals. We sent Danny back in with the toothpaste and walked across the street to the dark of the schoolyard hoping that Danny wouldn’t see where we had gone and wouldn’t follow.

 

That toothpaste on that Marlboro had gotten me high as fuck even if I felt like I was going to puke my guts out. So for young Josh and Javier I went to my medicine cabinet and pulled out the Crest Gel and squeezed it across the banana peel joint. It wasn’t the same type of toothpaste but I figured it would work for them.

2012 Short Fiction: You’re the Boss

A man was pushed through the doorway; he was hunched and whimpering like a beaten dog. His left eye was swollen shut, and his mangled and protruding lower lip was reddened by a mix of blood and saliva. The smell of stale beer and dried urine followed him into the small office in the back room of the pool hall. He was guided in by a large man who had two big handfuls of the back of his blood-spattered jacket.

The dimly lit room was yellowed from years of cigarette smoke, and the desk was adorned with a large overfull ashtray. The grizzled old man behind the desk stubbed out his last butt and lit another. He still held the match to the end of the cigarette when he spoke.  “Tony, did you do this to him?” His words were a soft growl.

With a puzzled look on his face the large man began sheepishly, “Boss, you…”

“Shut up!” The force of the old man’s words sent a cloud of smoke across the room, and the obscenities that followed shook the room like artillery fire. Yet, the cigarette never moved from the corner of his mouth.

The old man regained his composure and faced the bloodied man. “Johnny, you are family, and I assure you that this was a terrible mix-up.” The blood drained from Tony’s face, and his skin matched the pale yellowed color of the wall like a chameleon trying to hide from a predator.

Johnny was emboldened by the mention of his name and his face became a grotesque caricature as he bared his cracked and bloody teeth in an attempted smile. His shoulders straightened as his lungs filled with air, and his mind swirled as he tried to come up with the perfect words to strike fear into the heart of the man who just beat him senseless.

The old man’s years loansharking had imparted a certain amount of understanding of the impulses of desperate people and he intervened. “Don’t say anything that you are going to regret, Johnny. Tony, here, was just doing what he does to all the deadbeats that refuse to repay their debts. He is a little thick in the head. Had he realized that you were married to my niece, I’m sure he would have treated you with much better care.” The old man flicked the growing ashes off the end of his cigarette into the ashtray and shot a withering glance at Tony. Tony knew that now is a great time to stay quiet and listen. “In fact,” the old man returned the cigarette to the right corner of his mouth and continued. ”I can’t help but feel responsible for this, so I’ll tell you what. I am going to forgive your debt. And to tell you just how sorry he is for what he’s done, Tony is going to give you a little something too.”

“Pull out your cash,” the old man commanded. Tony reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a wad of twenties. “What is that four, five hundred bucks? Johnny, that money is yours.” The old man’s breath caused the long ash to fall from the cigarette in his mouth. The ash crumbled upon impact. The old man slowly wiped at the ash and left a long grey smudge on his sweat-stained shirt. “If you need more money to get your teeth fixed, don’t hesitate to ask. Now, go wash up and go home. And if anybody asks, you tell them you fell down the stairs. I don’t need my niece being upset at me. Understand?”

Johnny nodded as he pocketed the money. “I understand, Mr. Contadino,” he said, and he shuffled out the door toward the restroom at the end of the hall.

“Lock the door and sit down,” the old man said to Tony. The old man’s cigarette now threatened to singe his lips.

“Did I screw up, Boss?”

The old man smashed out the butt and retrieved two more from the pack in his shirt pocket. He handed one to Tony, lit it for him, and then lit the one for himself. “Relax. You did just what I wanted.” He produced a bottle of Scotch and two glasses from the desk drawer. “Remember when I said I was going to teach you how to run this business yourself?”

“Yea, Boss.”

“Well,” the old man drawled, “consider this lesson one…”

NaPoWriMo Poem 26

Both open, two men in dark suits

Stood in the Holy Sepulcher.

Existence coincides out of his jacket pocket

And settled them burnt offerings,

Circumcision, prayer five times a day,

Back copies of Playboy, the top of my head,

Existence of things that don’t exist, can’t exist,

And states that you have to come with us.

 

But doesn’t it make sense that

God has been hounding me?

The pollution of the earth and the

Resulting catastrophes reveal

A slender cigarette held to her lips.

She let the smoke linger

Between the religious information.

 

She balanced feeble human mind

Neatly on the bridge of his nose.

Her long nails, bright red with being,

As if pulled by some unseen mark of man,

Did little to beautify a world,

The luscious red of her lips.