Balls to the Rat
Up the street a piece and just around the corner a woman kicks beer cans
and boots aside snapped capsules. She lights a candle and places it, along
with a fistful of Snapdragons, inside a carbonized ring on the asphalt where
a spontaneous combustion of will and benzene stole the gem from one
of her sons.
She comes here at least once a week during the winter and spring months,
hoping that a similar occurrence will take her or even return her son
slightly modified, caramelized; or, take someone else’s child, someone she
could ask questions of, swap curses with; someone she could feel anger in.
She gave birth to 2 boys. And the other?
His street name is Rat. He’d spent time in Europe. He was sweaty and overly
talkative in the mornings; a can of Pabst in hand, leathers stuck to him like
wallpaper on a nervous surface. One was always waiting for his kernel to pop.
The old man had him committed once, after Rat had smacked his mother
and accused her of being a propaganda machine. The men in white came,
flushed him out from behind the couch, wrapped him tight and funnied him
But the old man caved. In tears came and took Rat out of the asylum on
conditional (no drinking, no proselytizing) probation. Two days later Rat
was in Prague, decked out with moldy leathers, swilling those fine lagers
that kept his tail slithering while working as a columnist for some now
defunct socialist ezine.
Years passed. His tail at ease and seemingly untraceable, the Rat plunged
3 floors off of a balcony during a party – roll your own still bright between his
lips – and awoke on a gurney, drugged and groggy, headed back to the States
and a padded, leather-less existence.
She gave birth to the 2 of us.
I forgot my comb
I stared at the expanse of a matchbook
like it was the prologue of my supine dramarama;
the “…no scraps, no additives, no Bull” gibberish
made tolerable only by the photo
of a denim jacket
. . . . . wrapped tightly
around a woman,
her lips locked on the filter
in a tight drag
suspended between time and
. . . . . . . . . . my meaty fingers.
The ropes of turgid swing rolled. Sweet trills
loped across the piano
and the snaky charm of the bass
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . sated my sulfurous stick.
A wrong turn, a possible mistake, lurked.
A rebound tucked among the wild pulse.
I sat glass high in a club
. . . . . . .– beat to the finish and salty to boot –
and that swing swelled into a dance-a-thon,
moving the throng of beaten animals
freaked with losses and 10% heartbreak.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .went my wingtip
whisking to that song,
the one we began our swing lessons to…
I hate that song.
Without you I savor the smoke,
the black and blue duds,
the cut-rugs, and humor at the expense
of pedestrian world views.
I stared out at waist high gyrations
and I sipped my drink. I almost danced,
felt almost 23 again,
and invested of criminally precise steps.
But that song – with its hoo locked into
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . my cranial beat box –
boom-chicka’ed again like a back door
echoes in the ears
when shut for the final time after
the last of one’s belongings – the martini glasses,
the vinyl collection (ooh the Esquivel)
the styling gel – have been
retrieved and dumped into gym bags
and the key dropped into her beautiful palm
in a handless return.
It’s not as though I demand attention.
I’m no Astaire on the floor
playing off Audrey
. . . . . . . . . . . . with a funny face on.
I sat as a presence absent of flair.
A present tense with perfect hair
. . . . . . – beat to the finish and salty to boot –
out of time in this hail of foot infection.
I’m wiser, older, and the music –
though lively, is too dong ding
for my anthemic leanings.
Yeah – I like the power chords.
These aren’t the voyeuristic musings of a flea
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . needling the thatch…
…no I just wish it were Saturday morning,
that my hair junk were sore
and I just mixed a Bloody Mary
for someone like you.
Sean J Mahoney lives with his wife, her parents, two Uglydolls, and three dogs in Santa Ana, California. He works in geophysics. Sean was out-boozed by Franciscan monks in Ireland and swam with Whale Sharks in Mexico. He believes that punk rock somehow miraculously survives, that Judas was a way better singer than Jesus, and that diatomaceous earth is a not well known enough gardening marvel. His work has appeared in print and online. He dabbles.
–Art by Ezra Letra