Issue January 26, 2011

Literary LEO 2011

SHORT FICTION — FIRST

Sonnet To An Asshole

BY TYREL KESSINGER

Hell, you remember that time when you went kamikaze all over that joker at Cahoots? You paced around as calm as Walden Pond for awhile and we all thought you had made peace with the situation. But goddamn, if you didn’t light up out of nowhere, like you had a stout firecracker puckered up your ass, ready to blow. We knew you had him alright, me and the boys never doubted you. That big Kraut-looking mother didn’t have anything on you except a side-winding left hook that knocked you straight into a hospital bed. They took you to Jewish and I remember you woke up and said that it was a good thing you weren’t anti-Semitic.

Vivian was there that night, I know you remember that. Guzzling cigarettes, cradling Manhattans like the end of the world was nigh and they were her babies. If I didn’t know any better I might think you put on the show that night to make her look your way. I don’t blame you; she’s drop dead, even if she is crazy, and hell or high water can’t ever deny that. If you hadn’t gotten knuckled into next week I doubt I would have forgotten to retrieve my card from the bar and I would have never gone back for it, to find Viv still there. You know that part, too, because you got as pissy toward me as Danny’s wife after she found out he and Duncan had been sucking each other off for the better part of a year. Hell, we didn’t care if they were tiddly-winking around but I can’t say as I ever blamed her for going banana splits on his ass.

You probably could have had her. Viv, I mean, not Danny’s ex-wife. She was sitting at the bar, I recall, drunk off her cute little ass. I meant to be in and out but she stopped me and made me throw back a few tequila shots with her. It’s true that Viv is different than your regular girl but she still shares their god-given penchant for nasty, rotgut tequila and I don’t comprehend it. She looked like a drunken piece of kingdom come and I couldn’t refuse, me being of only fair-to-middling looks. You know how dark Cahoots is, and I’m mighty certain it helped my chances that night.

Now, something I didn’t ever tell you was that she asked about my good-looking friend who had his lights put out that night, by which she meant you. I was well and sauced by then so I ignored the question and wound up back at her place, tucked up in the sheets with her, like two sloppy dogs in heat. After that was when you got all huffy-puffy with me and I feel downright dirty that I never told you — as my friend — that Viv had eyeballed you first, even called you good-looking. I should have told you then and steered clear of Viv — as your pal — but you know guys like me and you. As horny as spring bulls and not likely to think twice about where we dip our peckers. But I knew you had seen her first and had practically called dibs by swatting that big bastard in the face that night, and I should have bowed out. Just thought you should know that.

And what about when we lived in St. Mathews? By god, I’ll never know what we were thinking. We’d get over to Bardstown Road, get as loaded as fine revolvers and not even worry about how we were gonna get home. I recall one time: We were stumbling around, our bellies screaming bloody hell from the greasy appetizer plate we had just devoured at The Back Door, when I asked you if we should call a cab. To hell with a cab, you said, tonight we have the king’s phaeton! Which, at the time, I didn’t know was an educated way of saying carriage. (It was hard work to keep up with your brain sometimes, I’ll admit, but you did the fine and friendly deed of not making it a public point, which I always appreciated.) Then, you being the crazy bastard that you are, took the keys to my hell-shot Cavalier, revved her up and plowed her ass end into a pole in the parking lot. We both screamed like little schoolgirls watching Friday the 13th for the first time and you jumped out of the car and took off, flying like you had demon wings.

Somehow, though who’s to say, I dislodged the car and managed to evade any entanglements with the law. I felt like punching you in the face after that but, quite likely, it was just because I was pole-axed by our treacherous friend Kentucky Tavern. You had made it all the way to the Eastern Parkway bus stop before I caught up to you, but there ain’t no way you can really remember any of this because when I got there I found you lights-out with a wilted cigarette hanging from your lips. I quit thinking about giving you five across the lip when I found your dumbass laid out as pretty as you please though. It was January then, and close to 4 a.m., and it was as cold as a well-digger’s ass, as my Dad likes to say, but you were sleeping like a coma. I’d say it’s fair to speculate that no one bothered you because they thought you were homeless, and I’ll admit, you played the part like a veteran thespian. I didn’t have the heart to demand any restitution for thrashing my Cavalier though, but to keep it square with you, it was probably because that car was a beat turd anyway.

But I have to say there’s one time in particular that expands my heart to think of you. One time, of sober vividness, that endears you to me and is the definition of why you are my friend. You found me in the living room, it was late and I was sitting in the dark. I had probably smoked 47 cigarettes in 47 minutes by then, the crushed butts leaving discernible trails from the ashtray to every other spot I had been puffing. I was playing ‘Inoculated City’ by The Clash over and over, mindlessly slugging over to the record player every time the song ended. I should have thought about that before I chose such a short song, but if there’s one thing that can stifle a bad case of the blues it’s The Clash, even you know that. When I was on smoke number 48 you flipped on the lights and told me to turn that shit down, that you were trying to sleep. You said you were sorry when I told you that my Mom had cancer and you knew that she really liked you so I’m sure you felt bad too. Of course, then you dressed me down and told me to quit being a big pussy, which I didn’t have the right to mope around like some orphaned dog. Let your Mom navigate the enigma of dying, you said, and you just be there for her. (You always did have a way with words, and poetic commentary seemed to pour footloose and fancy free from that mouth of yours.) But you were right, my Mom was dying, not me. Being a sullen baby wasn’t doing anybody any good. And if your pal won’t tell you’re being a whiny squall-bag then I guess you’ll never get told.

What I mean to say is, thanks. Just another thing I never told you.

If you’re wondering what I’ve been up to lately, don’t bother. It ain’t been a hell of a lot. I still a hang out some with Danny and Duncan, and Josh and sometimes Lowell comes too. Mostly we just have a few beers and bitch about work. Danny and Duncan are having a ball together, if you catch my meaning, and they’d probably be married if Kentucky quit being so damn horse and buggies about it all. We all still get a bad case of shits and gigs when we talk about the time you told that self-righteous bitch who was holding that sign that read GOD KILLS QUEERS to ‘Sniff shit and die’ and stuck your hand that had just been up your ass in her face. The boys laugh and carry on like you only did it yesterday.

Oh, and I guess you should know me and Viv called it quits a few months back. She’s a real loose screw that one, so looks like you were always right that she had to be loony tunes to date a character like me. But, to be honest, I don’t want to dust up Viv, or all those years we were together. Sometimes it was cats and dogs and sometimes it was Romeo and Juliet, but I think the good outnumbered the bad. She’s a savage woman that Viv and I reckon I just wasn’t jungle enough for her. She told me I’d changed, that I was as boring as a Sunday school teacher, and I have to admit it was somewhat true. I would have been willing to work on it but then she went and blew the drummer from some goofy local band called Fat City, and I just couldn’t abide that. Or at least my heart couldn’t. I remember when we were at Western our freshman year and you were taking Introduction to Philosophy that you read me this quote that went something like this: The hottest love comes with the coldest end. You told me it was Socrates who said it and that I was a damn barbarian for being so unknowledgeable in the arena of early Western philosophical thought. But now I can tell you, from personal experience, that Socrates was a wise man.

Good god how times flown since then. And faster than it had a right to if you ask me. In all that time we wasted dicking around I don’t ever recall considering that it was all so fleeting or that I’d be here today jawing about the good old glory days. I guess Bruce Springsteen was right because they sure passed me by in a damn hurry. Our little arc of time together, it just waltzed by as quick as a pair of sexy legs and I feel like we never truly appreciated the precarious nature of our youth. Hell, I can’t even live in the here and now because I spend too much time thinking about the past, back when things like true love and a night full of stars actually meant something to me. Back when me and you still painted the town seven different shades of red.

Well, I’m fairly certain you’re tired of hearing me piss and moan. I have to go now anyhow, to see Mom. Fucking cancer came howling back in like a son-of-a-bitch, so she’s back in the hospital. She’s at Jewish too, just like you were. Of course, Mom could be anti-Semitic because I once heard her say that Jerry Seinfeld wasn’t very funny. The good news is that she’ll probably be seeing you soon, to keep an eye on you. She always liked you, you know, so don’t be giving her too hard a time you trouble-making bastard.

So it’s fare the well then I guess.

Goddamn, my friend.

I miss the hell out of you.