“To break death and face the Sun, all your time has bled out to this moment. You, shackled and chained and beaten to dust, the leaves that fail the limbs, the strength of soul in your blood. To fail the shores of summer with nothing inside but fear. To watch the moon risen over the midnight blue sea, warm milk of youth, your being waits cold in your skin. You were taught by the machine of them, made a slave by their scent, by their hours and days of garbage, raised by failures hiding each other from the same risen moon to beat the Sun to the leaves, the soul in their blood watered by each other, opaque by dumb design, by a line that follows a longer line, fear muting want, dull laughter, then no laughter. No language. Device, devise, compromise, antagonize, divide the shores of flesh, of moon, divide the plants growing from sweat, from blood. To feel your skin—”
“YOU! GET THE FUCK OUT OF THAT BATHROOM! NOW!”
I rounded the corner and laughed. She looked at me and her face washed with embarrassment, until a smile broke it, “You heard him, too?”
“I heard him. I put two and two together after my whole bottle of vodka was replaced with water. You’d think he’d fuckin’ learn after the last one.”
She started to yell again, but his voice bounced off the mirror in there, and blew through the door, past her mouth, straight into me:
“Yeah, FUCK YOU, Jack. You’re not my fucking father, you motherfucker!”
She covered her mouth to stop her laughter. I leaned onto the door, “That’s fair, Frankie, but it still doesn’t change the fact that you slammed all my liquor. You’re 20 years old, for fuck’s sake. Stop locking yourself in the bathroom like a little girl. Pussy.”
I shrugged at her, and she walked away, mouth covered, waving her hand goodbye because she couldn’t stand there any longer without losing it. Here’s the thing. I like Frankie. One could even say I love him, but only because I love his sister. Frankie’s obsessed with Bukowski, has been for a year straight. Here’s the other thing. Frankie’s not Bukowski ugly, but he’s not a bad writer for his age, despite the angry cheese, but he’s still young, but he’s not a natural. I knew Bukowski, like I knew all that crew, but I never told him that because I didn’t need him falling all over me with questions. Gabrielle, or Gabby, as I’ve gotten used to calling her, and even finding it grudgingly arousing, gives me credit for being humble by not dropping the names of my father’s old friends in front of Frankie, but the truth is I don’t want to have to spend time with the kid, not any more than I already am. He’d moved in with us just to stay for two months, a year ago. One solid year of Frankie. One year. Go to the dentist every night for a year. Get the same tooth pulled. One solid year. When I get disgusted with him, it sticks to my face like a mask, and Gabby laughs. She calls the look, “Raskolnikov.” Except Siberia would be a welcomed change. Especially on nights when Frankie’s autism is overridden and then enhanced by alcohol. I used to hide the liquor from him, but I realized he needed to either make himself sick, or get so addicted he had to go away to get help, which I would gladly, almost jump out of my skin to, pay the rehab bill. But as Gabby pointed out, we’d rather deal with an autistic drunk than an autistic 12-stepper pushing God and reform on the apartment.
The bathroom door opened, and he stood there looking at me. His eyes red with drink, his face frozen in the rehearsed, tough look he found in the bathroom. He nodded at me:
“Think I’m a pussy?”
“A big, swollen, hairy, stinky pussy.”
Gabby laughed from the kitchen. Frankie glanced down the hall then hit me again with the shit eye. I put my arm around him and hugged him into me, and we walked down the hall. I squeezed his shoulder, “Hungry, buddy?”
I sat him down on the kitchen stool, and Gabby pulled the plate of lasagna from the microwave. Frankie could put away a whole tin of that shit. It made him happy, so it made us happy. We left him there to eat. When he ate drunk it was a horrible thing to see. Gabby and I went to bed. Frankie would eat, then find the rest of the tin in the fridge, eat it all cold, then pass out in his room. In the morning we clean the kitchen and drink coffee, and have the place to ourselves until Frankie wakes up sometime after 5 in the afternoon, and starts bugging the shit out of me.
When I first saw Gabby in Long beach I knew she’d be the one to bury me. Not to sound like one of those assholes, but I just knew. I’d heard it before: …when I first saw wonder-pussy, I…—I’d heard it a lot, mostly from people who’d just met each other, a year or less away from the fuck-off phase. But even against the side of no-anticipation, I knew she was going to be my forever person. No, my forever girl. Not an equal fucking part, not my goddamn life partner, but my girl. My dream girl. My fuckin’ woman. Fuck every single bleeding cock and cunt out there. And the one thing about Frankie that keeps him anchored in my place is his overt disgust with liberals, conservatives, gays, television, all of it. Warms my heart, bottom line. And the fact that it makes Gabby love me even more to let Frankie stay with us, especially after all his bullshit, only makes me love the crazy little cocksucker more than he deserves. But who’s to say that? Put a man in his mid-life era behind a computer and listen to him finger his own asshole. Regardless, Frankie’s a fixture. And from the arms of him hang scales and I have to keep them even. Not for him, but for Gabby.
—Excerpt from “Frankie, Gabby, and me” from Breath Upon A Burn -coming out whenever…