The Short & Sweet
Name: Brett Auten
Life: married, two kids
Employment: Varied since the horse and buggy days of newspapers
Name: Brett Auten
Life: married, two kids
Employment: Varied since the horse and buggy days of newspapers
All this writing is making me soft.
Too many long hours of sitting.
The lines are starting to run into each other, hovering beneath the sounds, vibrating thru the pen.
I need to become strong again, train my body for combat, throw myself into existence.
I should get to work. Get in the proper mindset. Prepare for war. The war against the suburbs, against pizza and water slides, against the fears and wishes, harness the sexual power and the frightening potential of the youth.
I found this side of myself the other night and I don’t why, but it was there.
-Around 2:00 a.m. or something, back in college, after a really swell time with my friends and all our really cute girlfriends we all just hung out, you know, and drank lots of sody-pop and felt really cool, watched tons of TV and listened to a lot of real new music, stuff I never heard before. And then we ate pizza … pepperoni pizza and that was cool but we all got bored and the girls were getting tired and us boys were getting kinda horny but the girls just wanted to go to sleep but not us boys, we wanted – we needed – to do something. But the girls kept saying they were tired but us boys said no way and we kept them up, started kissing them with our mouths and pinched and pulled on those cute little skirts they had on, really sweet things, the ones they just got for Christmas. They started laughing and so then we showed them our things. We were all having fun, the girls asked us to make them big so we did and we really started to like it and really got into it. One boy was getting nervous and said he thought his dick was going to explode, but this one girl said that it was all right, he could blow it on her. –
Either through the pressure of wood on wood on the compilation of fonts flowing down the screen, a poem a day.
By the discipline and strength of knowledge, a poem a day.
With the help of nature and the details of industry or the hope of a child, a poem a day.
Because that is how you are supposed to live, a poem a day.
Where you can hone your rage, harness the fears, blow out perception, a poem a day.
Realizing that every minute of most hours throb with the potential of wonderment, a poem a day.
By coming to terms with the conscious and saddened by what’s wrong, a poem a day.
Turning pages yellowed and fragile, burying your nose in the spine of the work, a poem a day.
To change the path and alter the steps of the morning, a poem a day.
Because it is owed to the soul, the mind, and heart, a poem a day.
Like a shot in the vein, liquor in the belly, or smoke in the air, a poem a day.
Scribbled on napkins, painted on walls, or typed by madmen, a poem a day.
Through the air and the sun we breathe, the animals and vegetables we eat and the grass and dirt we stand, a poem a day.
Behind the walls we build, under the bridges of a lifetime, and the ceilings and roofs of protection, a poem a day.
Inside the eyes, between the ears, and on top of the spine, a poem a day.
As I watch him sleep, striped shirt breathing in the air, legs cramped with poverty feet dug into my cheap couch, his drunken corpse is funny to me.
How I know how he loves these platonic comas.
He moves occasionally. Soft turns and twitches. The magic of Big Pink crystallizes this moment. How I wish I was there.
But I am here. Exploding with my favorite instrument. My wandering and confused dream.
But then he rose with grace and arrogance, stumbling in cross-eyed form.
He’s looking right at me, right down my pupils. No mention of a moment, he throws himself on my linoleum that is soda and Kool-Aid stained.
Falling back into scene, returning from what I thought was a miserable stomach eruption but only resulted in a harmless shit.
He stumbles with feet crossing back to the couch, nestling himself like my infant nephew.
Now. One hour-and-a-half and a few beers later. I realize that the hunk of shit has puked all over my coffee table.
Hardened streams of potato chunks are placed sporadically with some on the Sega Genesis others on work boots.
What a shit hole, fucking mess I will have to clean up around noon.
Faye is standing behind the counter, leaning against a chair, spaced out and eating some chips from a small bag. Behind her the shelves are stocked with different sizes of liquor. A refrigerator is filled with soda and cartons of cigarettes hang in a shelf above the register.
While she stands, doing nothing, her expression is quirky, like she was remembering a funny moment from her past.
Johnni had just finished her purchase, a large bottle of wine from the wooden discount bin near the front of the store and some white-ended cigarettes that were in her jacket pocket. She meandered about the store, stopped by the newspaper rack and was flipping through the latest edition of the local paper. Her small, black jacket fit snug to her frame, accentuating her tiny features and chest. She flipped past the front page of the paper, past the third, scanned over the editorial page, looked at her horoscope, Libra, “Try to improve on communication at work.” She turned to back to the front and put it down on the rack. She hadn’t had a job in just over four years.
When he came in Tasky was more energized than usual, which isn’t really saying too much. He walked directly to the counter as Johnni watched him from the back of the store, glancing between two bottles of Bloody Mary mix.
“How’s it goin’?” he said to Faye. “A pint of black label DP, a pint of vodka and a forty of Miller.”
As Faye shuffled about gathering the items Tasky asked how she’s been and she said fine and told him about a new wine that they got in, which she thought was pretty good and not too sweet. She went on to say how she hadn’t seen “your buddy,” in the store in awhile and talked a little about the weather. He seemed interested in what she had to say which interested Johnni.
He had Faye throw in pack of cigars, the thin kind with plastic tips on the end. After making change and thanking Faye, Tasky gathered his supplies for the afternoon and made his way towards the door. Another woman, this one wearing sunglasses, jeans and sweater, entered the store. She was tall with a thin waist and large, heavy breasts. Tasky stopped, stared and told the woman she had “nice tits”
The woman stopped with a shocked expression and Faye yelled, “Damn it, Tasky” as he opened the door and left.
He walked out into the sun and wind. Johnni gathered herself and quickly followed as Faye apologized to the woman. Tasky was opening the door on his old, dirty Lincoln Mark VIII when Johnni walked outside.
“Hey,” she said, not knowing why. “Where you going?”
“Home. Why?” Tasky said.
She didn’t say anything.
“What. You need a ride or something?” he said.
“Yeah,” she said, walking straight towards the passenger door, trying to open it and realizing it’s locked. “I need a ride.”
Tasky stared at her without a hint of recognition.
He got in and unlocked the doors with a lift of his fingers. He sat his bottles in the back seat and climbed in.She was already sitting in the passenger seat, turned in his direction, with an anxious, appealing look on her face. His frame consumed most of the car and this surprised her. He fired up the engine, which sounded as dirty as the car looked. Besides being sprayed with dust, the back seat was littered with fast food sacks, soda bottles, beer cans, and newspapers.
“Where do you need to go?” he said, like he was more curious than bothered.
“Nowhere really. Where you goin?” she said and then glanced in the back seat. “You goin’ to drink that booze on the road or are you goin’ somewhere?”
“I told you I was goin’ home.”
“Well that’s go there then,” she said. “I’m Johnni. What’s your name? I can’t believe you said that to that women in there.”
“What?” he said. “The one who just came into the store?”
“Well it was true. Did you see them? If you did you would have said it too.”
“I doubt that. I’ve never heard anyone say that to a complete stranger.”
“Is that why you want to go home with me?”
“Maybe. But you shouldn’t drink all that by yourself and I shouldn’t drink all this by myself,” Johnni said, holding up her brown-sacked wine bottle.
“I do it almost everyday,” Tasky said and as he did he wished he could have grabbed the letters as they fell out of his mouth and crammed them down his throat, where they belonged.
“No time now to bicker,” she said and smiled, teeth surprisingly white and lipstick aptly applied. “Let’s go.”
After driving for minutes in silence, she looked at him and studied his expression, which seemed to fade. He paid relatively little attention to her.
“So, is this what you do?” he finally said. “You hang out at the Swizzle Stick and jump into the cars of complete strangers?”
“I find it works better than bars,” Johnni said. “Plus, I’m an early riser, which makes it difficult to, as they say, love the night life.”
Tasky looked at her as if he couldn’t tell if she was serious or not. She gave him a wry smile and reminded him.
“You know, you are going to have to give me ride home later.”
There’s a hole about sixty steps south
Of the dog pen that’s filled
With the bones of father’s first wife.
They’re wrapped in burlap and
Tied with a nylon rope.
The hole was dug with a rusted spade,
Handle splintered so that you
Had to dig with one tired hand.
He said the hardest part was tearing her down
Separating bone from tendon.
He boiled the cartilage in a brass cooker
And mixed it with chicken innards in with the dog food.
She’d drink a lot and father said
Her womb was dry and wouldn’t
Fertile a weed.
That spring, when it rained for twelve days,
And the water loosed up the sod and the mud
Began to slide, one of the dogs went to dig her up.
He pulled and gnashed,
Spilling the soaked coffin on the driveway.
Remains lay scattered. The fragments
Rested in small, dirty puddles
That mother ran over in her Buick.
Though it wasn’t even midnight on a Friday night I was home for good because Saturday and Sunday would be mayhem, I hoped.
Dog and I, with half-a-beer en tow, went inside, flicked on the kitchen light, grabbed a sack of chips and turned on the evening’s sports highlights. I planted myself into the sofa, glanced at my answering machine which flickered thrice, got up and pushed the small, blue button.
The voice on the machine said I had three messages and went on to say that this was Message One:
“Hey….You there? Pick-up you cock sucker. I know you’re just sitting there. Pick up the fucking phone… Alright, later.”
Harris. I won’t call him back until tomorrow.
“Dude!!!Fuckin’ Dude!!!Where the fuck are you man? Haaaa. I thought you were fucking coming out?? Alright man, we’ll be here.”
Mikey. Shit faced up at the bar. It’d be fun but fuck it.
“Hi. This is a message for Brian. This is Hanna, Shane’s friend, and I, or we, are trying to get a hold of you to see what your plans were for the weekend. Shane said that we might all be able to get together or something. If you would, when you have the chance, can you call me at 618-555-4646. Thanks Brian.”
I sat and thought. Hanna? Shane? I didn’t know a Hanna or Shane. I went through my head like a rolo-dex and yet nowhere in the deepest corners could I find a Hanna or Shane. I thought about coincidence and the odds of some Hanna looking for some Brian and dialing this Brian’s phone number.
I sat for a moment. Hit the little blue button on the machine again, deleted the first two messages and listened. I grabbed a pen and wrote down 618-678-4646. Same area code but a different prefix. I looked in the phone book and 678 was a prefix for Maxie, a small town near here.
I swigged down the last of the beer and threw it aimlessly towards the waste can in the kitchen. I punched in the numbers and brought the cordless phone to my ear. It rang three times before it picked up. At first I couldn’t make out what I was hearing.
“Hello?” I said.
But nothing. And then it became quite clear. There were moans. Several of them in the background.
“Hello,” I said again to nothing
I listened and what I heard sounded like sex.
“Is there anybody there?” I said.
No one answered so I just sat and listened. It sounded like porno sex not real sex. There were two different pitches of female groans combined with the occasional moan of a man. I listened and listened and then finally hung up.
I sat, looked at Dog, turned off the television, and pressed the re-dial button.
The phone numbers sounded off and it started to ring. My heart raced a little and I felt my throat tighten. It rang three times and again it picked up with no answer just the moans, which were increasing in volume. I didn’t say anything and listened. As a woman began to yelp and yelp like she was about to pop, I turned the phone off, sprung from the couch and went into the kitchen. I threw open the refrigerator door, opened the vegetable drawer, snuffed out a beer, opened it and left it on the stove as I went to the bathroom. I took off my T-shirt, splashed some cool water on my face and dried with a hand towel. I went back into the kitchen, grabbed the beer and picked up the phone. As I paced back into the kitchen I hit re-dial and took a swig.
On the third ring no one picked up. On the fifth, no one picked up. I let it ring eight times before I hung up. Bullshit, I thought.
I sat the phone down, cracked my neck and drank on my beer. I finished it and threw it away, grabbed the phone and hit re-dial, again.
After eight rings I clicked it off, grabbed a joint from a small yellow cigar box that had a faded Indian in a headdress looking at me with one good eye. The flip-lid box was nearly filled with others just like it and I sat on the couch to try and figure it out.
I was halfway finished with the joint when it hit me that those fucking assholes were fucking with me with their caller ID and shit. They saw my number come up, pressed play on some porno flick. Probably laughing their asses off right now. Thinking, we won’t pick-up now. That’ll really fuck with him.”
I was convinced that friends of mine were behind this and that the woman’s voice on the machine was just some chick at a bar who was more than willing to leave a simple message on some stranger’s answering machine for a shot of Jagermeister.
I fed the roach to Dog and went to bed.
Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold” was pumping out of my 15-year-old speakers as I drove recklessly over the gravel roads that led to home. My house was four miles off the highway and I turned the volume up as loud as the speakers could take. I pulled in the driveway, put the car in park, and got out in one fluid motion.
I hadn’t been in this good of mood in a long time. Maybe it was knowing that I had a three-day weekend or the fact that Candice was finally out of my life for good; shit packed, carted off, new boyfriend and everything.
I opened up my door and like a bruising fullback my dog, who’s named Dog and is a Heinz 57 with a lot of Beagle and Labrador, plowed through the opening and took off in order to do his business.
I don’t live in town but I don’t really live in the country either. My neighbors are close but I only know a few.
As Dog was sniffing about the weeds and house corners of the neighborhood, I went back to my car, reached in and pulled the last beer of a six pack out of a brown paper sack. The sack was filled with two empty cans, which I drank on the way home from Steve’s, and the sack’s bottom was wet and thin. I cracked open the beer, threw my head back and swigged down a large portion. I set the can on top of my car, which at the time was a 1984 dark blue El Camino. I walked after Dog, whistling a little and clapping my hands.
After a few yards down the road, a sudden urgency to mark my territory as well swelled.
I looked around. It was dark, 10:30 pm or so, and without hesitation I unzipped the fly to my jeans and proceeded to saturate the soil. It was a nice fall night and the fresh air and slight breeze felt nice down there. I tilted my head back a little and really felt what I was doing.
“How’s it going?” a voice said from the house that I was standing in front of.
I snapped my head forward, tucked everything in felt warm beads on my thigh and buttoned my jeans but didn’t zip up.
The man who lives two houses down from me was walking down the steps the lead to his driveway. I wasn’t sure if he knew I was urinating a mere six feet from his Chevy truck or not so I just said, “Hey.”
He walked toward his truck and had a little cooler with him.
“Great night, isn’t it?” he said.
“Yeah,” I pointed toward the cooler. “You going out?”
“I wish,” he said. “Gotta work.”
“I was just going after the dog,” I said and thought about walking away.
He put his cooler in the back of the truck and with his long legs stepped up into cab and started the engine.
“He ain’t behind me is he?” he said, louder than the bubbling engine.
“Naw,” I called out.
He put the truck in reverse and backed out of his driveway, over my urine, and onto the road. I just stood still and watched his taillights twist around the bin. Dog came trotting up with a sneaker, somebody’s Nike, in her mouth.
I didn’t know his name, he or someone had told it to me one time but I’d forgot. He was nice guy, around my age I’d guess, which would mean he wasn’t 30. He lived alone in a big house that was weathered and in need of a paint job. He always waved when I passed him on the road and I really hope he didn’t see me pissing in his front yard.