Last Ten



One time Danielle shot me in the chest with a Derringer pistol. So we broke up. I wasn’t mad. She must have thought I was somebody else. I let her down in some magic way. Danielle was a world class piano player, and she has a body someone would have made a statue of a long time ago. Now, statues aren’t as popular. Her bullet hit me in my passenger side tit, wedged to a hard stop at my scapula, oh god. I called a taxi cab and pretended I was on the way home from a costume party. My costume was: person bleeding to death from some lovely mistake. The most embarrassing part of the whole ordeal was when I got lucid again, in the shiny bowels of the hospital, I realized I was wearing flip flops. I hid both my feet from the staff. My health insurance was expired, so the doctor just sewed me up, leaving the hunk of ammunition inside me, apologizing the whole time for being rich, and apologizing for me being poor. I said, “How many hours a week do you work?” The doctor thought. “Hmmm. Three hundred hours.” I almost fell off the operating table. I said, “That’s not being rich!” He pulled out his prescription pad and kissed it. Then he tore the sheet off and gave it to me. I still have it. One of my finest trophies I ever got from a misunderstanding. After that he called the nurse in and pointed at my bloody feet. She came back with a pail of warm water and washed the blood off. Painted my toenails as green as Ireland looks on TV in that famous soap commercial. I went home. My other girlfriend was studying to be a surgeon. She was starting with horses for practice. She had all these books, and surgical supplies she’d gotten from a rancher who was put out of business by whatever puts a rancher out of business. Vegetables? Subway systems? Blue skies no longer being such a sexy fad? Kim is such a goddamn empath, she was weeping for me as she dug the bullet out. But I might as well have been dead. I didn’t care. And then she showed me the bullet. It was scrunched up funny, twisted like a cigarette butt with all the love sucked from it. The bullet had a name written on it but we didn’t even know the person, yet there they were, written on the offending slug of doom. So as the story goes, Kim took the bullet over to Danielle’s house. She was shaking with this fear of the worst not being over. I laughed at that, because comfort is just a thing you drink. Or a thing you pull off a shelf out of the dark and it tries to light you up but often fails and you stay dark forever. Or a thing that is leaving you, and you just involuntarily wave goodbye and you don’t even know you’re doing it. Train cresting a hill, and you’re shrinking back. And this vengeful horse surgeon, I joked, this vengeful horse surgeon, well she was the one who was so very brave and yelling on the porch in the thunder and the lightning, screaming at Danielle, “I’m bursting with love, don’t do that again! If you’re gonna shoot anyone, shoot me dead right here!” This kind of spectacle made Danielle take a step back into the mysterious house, but she came forward again, angry, screaming, “I wasn’t gonna shoot anybody else, but now you’ve inspired me!” There was some fumbling for the pistol and in this fumble, Kim burst through the screen door, splitting it, shredding it. She chopped off Danielle’s trigger finger with an equestrian scalpel. A small sword, really. Danielle lay there whimpering for her future. “There how you like that? You artless thing.” Kim took the finger and left. Back in the living room, I sat down and drank raspberry tea with gin, and the rain came down for me too. The stereo was playing a Ted Hawkins cassette. How many of you people tonight can testify that your baby taste like good gravy? I’d taken this opportunity to call Henry, who came over and changed my bandages. He’s so handsome. About as pretty as four of those doctors smashed into one person. And he hasn’t worked 300 hours in his whole life. He’s the laziest guy who isn’t in a cemetery. Henry peeled the bandages off me, greedily. He saved those bandages, because he’s weird like that. He’s got a collection of the fingerprints of whoever he’s ever been sweet on. He’ll take those fingerprints while somebody is just snoozing away. Wake up with inky hands and you don’t know why, but then you remember someone is sweet on you, and it’s alright, it’s worth it. So what if this life is hurtful? So what the bullet didn’t even have your name on it? So what the horses were laid off, and now walk along the dusty stretch of highway looking for a job? So what if all the taxi cab drivers are cursing and scrubbing dried blood from the backseats of the world they were tricked into carrying a fare through? All my friends and enemies are winded from chasing they don’t even know what, and maybe I’m leading the league in disappointment, disaffection, vibrant misery, and smiling ugliness. I can’t begin to weigh how many pounds of air I’ve had stolen from my lungs by people who love but don’t care to know why. Or hate and have the problem of understanding why. When Kim walked in the door, she was shaking Danielle’s finger in the air, all proud. No more concertos for that creature. But hey, lose yourself, transform into something else, that’s how I try to live. Henry took the finger from her and put it in his bleach-stinking work shirt pocket, said, “Thank you.” I was feeling weak. I said thank you, too. The next week I got an itemized bill from the hospital. Turns out they charge you over a grand to get an emergency pedicure. I’ve heard the sun makes the wild flowers and spiky weeds grow like a fat carpet on everything they can talk into it. I’ve heard the sun dries up the earth and turns it to a desert, or an exposed and bashful river bed. Fuck me. Fuck you. You’ve gotta try to love things, even if they just want to eat your heart while you sit there watching them do it, coerced, dying laughing.

One summer we sheet-rocked a garden shed

so bad the neighbor near the cow field

came by and whistled when he saw it


You’re supposed to belly-band it

he told us

and kicked at our chalky scraps


We brought a joint over later

during the stock car race

and smoked it listening to the wind

chimes clinking on the porch


There were mean dogs

all down that road


We heard trees fall

in the woods at night

and peed outside our tent


I bled inside that tent

reading Red Juice


We dragged a futon mattress into it

and had too-loud sex

during the Mother Mary gatherings


Later on

when it was all falling apart


we watched one of the old women

come out of the house and call for us in the dark


You zipped the flap of it up

so slowly


It was sexy


You had been practicing