Wha??? My essay "Pacific Blues," which appeared in Entropy, made the "Notable Essays and Literary Nonfiction of 2020" list in the back of The Best American Essays of 2021!!!!
Wednesday, December 15, 2021
Friday, December 10, 2021
Xstabeth by David Keenan
My review of David Keenan's experimental novel Xstabeth, now up at SPLICE TODAY, and on my birthday!
Tuesday, December 7, 2021
Tides by Sara Freeman
My review of Sara Freeman's novel Tides, out in January, now up at SPLICE TODAY:
Wednesday, December 1, 2021
Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz
My review of Natalie Diaz's book Postcolonial Love Poem now up at SPLICE TODAY!
Thursday, November 25, 2021
Bright Green Lies review
Tuesday, November 23, 2021
Fall In Empire
My short story "Fall In Empire" now up at EX PAT LIT! So happy this story found a home. Many years and many rejections. And revisions.
Wednesday, November 10, 2021
The new BEAR CREEK GAZETTE has dropped! In it, please find my flash fiction, "Blue Tits," along with a whole bunch of other weirdness!
Saturday, October 30, 2021
For A Lonely Wife
My micro-fiction "For A Lonely Wife" now out in the new VERSIFICATION/MISFIT MICROS, August 2021 issue, just coming out here at the end of October.
Friday, October 29, 2021
My punk poem "D Train" in the long-awaited August issue of VERSIFICATION!
Tuesday, October 26, 2021
Armadillos one-act play in Cowboy Jamboree!
My one-act play, Armadillos, adapted from my short story of the same name, is in the new COWBOY JAMBOREE, a tribute to Sam Shepard. Read and/or download here. I'm on page 61!
Wednesday, October 20, 2021
Two poems in Harpy Hybrid Review: Myth Issue
Friday, October 15, 2021
The Ghost of Ed Abbey
My essay, "The Ghost of Ed Abbey," now up at the new DEAD SKUNK MAG!
Monday, October 11, 2021
Cry Macho—movie review
Starring Clint Eastwood, Dwight Yoakam
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Before I get into some criticism of Clint Eastwood’s new movie, Cry Macho, I do want to say that I like what he’s doing these last fifteen years or so, especially when he’s old enough to contentedly retire. Instead, he’s taking the Woody Allen route: putting out relatively low-budget movies, which he (and Warner Brothers) know won’t be blockbusters (his last was Million Dollar Baby) but which will make back well more than what they cost. And I’d much rather see movies like this, with all their flaws, than most huge-budget action movies full of CGI effects and monsters and robots. For the cost of one Transformers movie, you could make one hundred of these.
That said, a lot of Cry Macho is surprisingly badly done, most significantly the acting by Eastwood and (who should be listed as co-star) Eduardo Minett. Also country star Dwight Yoakam, but we’ll give him a pass. Eastwood of course has never had much of a range, but he’s always used it well. Here though, he’s just too old for the character he’s playing, and all his (and most everybody’s) dialogue falls flat. That, and/or many of the supporting characters, like most all of who appear here as mexicans are over-acting. Given that the screenplay is also a little wooden, and maybe the editing is off (some scenes seem like the should be cut short by just a second, right when someone is done speaking, without the small silences, which are not profound, nor any kind of cowboy western irony. If anything, some of the scenes in Mexico look and sound like the cheap Mexican action movies churned out down there, and not in an ironic way.
Mike Milo (Eastwood) an old down-on-his-luck ranch hand, is asked by his boss, Howard Polk (Yoakam) to go down to Mexico to bring back Polk’s long lost son Rafo (Minett), who he had with a rich mexican woman, Leta (Fernanda Urrejola). Milo feels obliged, since Polk saved his life after Milo broke his back and ruined his rodeo-circuit life by an addiction to painkillers.
Eastwood is 92 (!) and looks it. I haven’t read the book from which this movie is based, but Mike Milo feels like he should be maybe 50, tops. It gets almost ridiculous when Milo interacts with his love-interest, Marta (Natalia Traven) who seems about a reasonable 50. In fact, Traven is the best actor in the movie: every time Marta appears, there is warmth, and she seems to bring out better acting in both Eastwood and Minett.
I wondered if Cry Macho would go dark à la Cormac McCarthy (the movie takes place in 1980, the same year as No Country For Old Men, and the nascent cross-border drug trade does make a small appearance) and although there is some minor violence, it never quite gets that bad. What it does have is Eastwood’s old-school Republican values (which are common in most westerns of any time period) in which a young man is failed by his parents and saved and ‘made into a man’ by an older male mentor (see also for example Gran Torino), who instills an american capitalist work ethic (there are numerous shots of Milo and Rafo getting paid for doing work in the movie). And even when Milo realizes that Polk has not been entirely honest with him, he still claims to Rafo that Polk (remember that he’s Milo’s boss) is a good man.
I love that Eastwood is still making movies. I just wish that, like Allen, he would finally step aside and just direct. On the other hand, the crowd in the theatre in Vernal, Utah, ranch country where I saw Cry Macho—who were all mostly older than I—came to see him. He’s such an iconic actor that I too feel that, like, Go Eastwood! Go down to Mexico! Kick some ass and fall in love with a mexican señorita with a heart of gold! But these are also old-school Republican generalizations. McCarthy falls into this too: in Mexico there are either good people or bad people, and you can almost hear the echo of a George W. speech.
And yet, and yet, like in McCarthy’s Border Trilogy books, we feel the tug of wanting the good people from both countries to make connections, to find some kind of common ground in the Border Country. This is embodied in Rafo: half-mexican half-americano, fluent in spanish and english, clinging to his idea of “macho” or machismo as a form of bravery, even though it’s a form of pride, and seems to get him nothing but pain.
Milo has a sense of pride too, though centered in a work ethic. It’s an honor code, which annoys the rich people he meets on both borders, but endears him to the working class. Which is why I ultimately liked the movie, because even if Eastwood values the ‘working’ part of working class, he still recognizes that is a story about class. Milo’s place is not among the rich, and he’s more content for it. He’s modeling, or trying to model, this for Rafo, and the question of the movie is whether Rafo will realize this.
Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Tower Point Lookout—nonfiction
My essay "Tower Point Lookout" now up at the latest LAMMERGEIER MAG! They also chose to interview me as the 'featured' nonfiction/hybrid writer of the issue!
Tuesday, September 21, 2021
KATE movie review
My review of the movie KATE, a spy thriller in the style of Atomic Blonde and La Femme Nikita, now out on Netflix! Up at SPLICE TODAY!
Wednesday, September 1, 2021
On The Bus
My flash fiction, "On The Bus," now up at SLEDGEHAMMER!
Friday, July 16, 2021
Best of the Net Nominee!
I'm a Best of the Net nominee! The online equivalent to being nominated for a Pushcart or Best American Poetry. Doesn't mean I'll be a finalist, but I'm honored that Porcupine Lit nominated my poem, "The Writing Instructor Explains Why He Likes Heavy Metal." Here's the poem again.
Saturday, July 10, 2021
Three flash at Flash Boulevard!
Not one, but three flash fictions up at FLASH BOULEVARD!
Wednesday, June 30, 2021
My short story "Dominique" now up at HST! Fastest acceptance ever!
Saturday, June 19, 2021
Deep Wild 2021 now out!
The 2021 Deep Wild: Writing from the Backcountry is now out! Order here!
Thursday, June 17, 2021
The Writing Instructor Explains Why He Likes Heavy Metal
My poem "The Writing Instructor Explains Why He Likes Heavy Metal" now up in the latest Porcupine Lit!
Thursday, June 10, 2021
"This Is The Trip" in CAMAS!
The Summer 2021 issue of @CamasMag is out, with my #shortstory "This Is The Trip" included! The theme for this issue is 'Ramble.'
Saturday, June 5, 2021
My micro-fiction "Ninja Dreams" appears in the Misfit Micros section of the June VERSIFICATION. Scroll allllll the way down to find it. Check out the other good poems and micros along the way!
Friday, June 4, 2021
Kiss The Witch
Glad my poem "Kiss The Witch" found a home at HST!
Warning: their header is NSFW, for some folks.
Tuesday, May 25, 2021
The Deep Wild Journal Shuffle
All 53 of the poems, essays, and stories from the backcountry that will shuffle their way into a beautiful, perfect-bound, portable journal, scheduled to hit the trail in June.
Tuesday, May 18, 2021
My new short story, "Mammoth," now up at THE HOPPER!
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
Deep Wild Bookshelf for our Fundraiser!
Put some books in your nooks from the Deep Wild Bookshelf, a collection of titles donated by over a dozen Deep Wild Journal editors and contributors, as part of our 2021 Spring Subscription/Fundraising Drive.
Tuesday, May 4, 2021
Hashtag Good Guy With A Gun by Jeff Chon
My review of Jeff Chon's novel Hashtag Good Guy With A Gun from Sagging Meniscus Press, now up at Splice Today!
Monday, April 19, 2021
Red Sonja #1
My totally unauthorized script for a once-planned six-issue run of Red Sonja. (Formatting a little off with transfer.)
PAGE 1 (SPLASH)
Interior of a large tavern. SONJA seated at a wood table, armed, gulping from a big tankard. She’s alone, with three empty tankards on the table, one tipped over with spilled grog: She’s been here a while, imbibing a while.
There are other people inside—barbarian types, and motley looking folks—mostly men, unless there’s a woman with a group of men. And a barmaid and a male bartender. Sonja’s the only solo woman.
if possible: show three old women (ie the Fates—maybe one younger) either looking in from the outside (maybe just their heads or backs of heads visible). Not looking at Sonja yet, just looking in general (as revealed later)
Also: show young DRONA lurking in the shadows/corner also scoping out the scene.
Name of tavern on a sign: THE WHITE CAMEL
Credits in old-world tavern sign style, like on wooden signs:
PAGE 2 (six panels)
Panel 1—Medium shot at floor level of Drona sneaking up behind Sonja. Only lower part of Sonja visible, waist down, with a coin purse hanging from her belt (Note: it’s a pretty empty coin purse). Drona is behind, reaching for the strings with a knife/dagger. Her expression is kind of excited actually, eyes wide and almost smiling.
Panel 2—Same shot, but Sonja’s hand has reached down and grabbed Drona’s wrist. Drona’s face has turned to surprise/shock/fear.
Panel 3—Medium long and wide of Sonja, now standing and holding Drona out at arm’s length. Drona’s feet don’t even touch the floor. Sonja is not quite angry, more like un-amused.
You’re wasting your time with my coin purse, thief.
Panel 4—From out of nowhere, Drona has produced another knife in her other hand, aimed at Sonja, but Sonja has reached down and grabbed that wrist as well.
I am not amused. What’s your name, thief?
Panel 5—Same angle/shot, but Sonja has turned Drona around, facing away from her, both wrists still held high. Drona is scared/alarmed.
Panel 6—Sonja drop-kicking Drona in the butt. Drona almost off panel.
Go play out in the street.
PAGE 3 (five panels)
Panel 1—Medium of Sonja sitting down again. Not a CU but close enough to see here eyes looking sideways to a table off-panel, hearing the convo below:
OLD TRADER (OP):
Looking for work, friends?
MERC 1 (OP):
If you’re looking for swords.
Panel 2—Medium shot of the Old Trader standing next to a table where two mercs, MERC #1 and #2, are seated. This is from Sonja’s POV. They’re long-haired, long-bearded guys leather studded armour, with swords hanging off their seat.
I’ve need of swords to get my caravan up the coast road to _____.
Two nights. Two silver for each. Payable on safe arrival.
To ___? Easy money.
Panel 4—CU of Old Trader, looking a little uneasy.
There’s word of bandits filtering south.
Panel 5—CU of Sonja, raising her hand in signal, and addressing the Trader off-panel.
I’ll sign with you as well.
PAGE 4 (five panels)
Panel 1—The three men, same shot as before, from her POV, heads turned to look at her, maybe slightly surprised.
Panel 2—Same shot, but the two mercs are laughing, and the old trader looking embarrassed.
Panel 3—CU on Merc #2, still laughing, looking at us/Sonja, off-panel.
Wench, are you mad?!
Panel 4—CU on Merc #1. Same, laughing and looking at us/Sonja.
If you want to come along, I can think of something you’d be useful for!
Panel 5—CU on Sonja’s face. She’s pissed. Note to colorist: Maker her cheeks/face slightly more red with anger/shame.
PAGE 5 (five panels)
Panel 1—CU of Old Trader, looking uncomfortable and maybe slightly apologetic. (Shrugging?)
Y’see missy, swordwork is men’s work.
Panel 2—Wider shot of Sonja, at least from her knees up, leaping up out of her chair, grabbing and half-unsheathing her sword, snarling and glaring, from the men’s POV.
I could take these two by myself!
Panel 3—CU of Merc #2. Laughing lecherously.
I bet you could! Har har!
Panel 4—Same shot, only now the tip of Sonja’s sword is a half-inch from his throat (or, in his beard, I guess). He’s surprised and scared, looking down at it cross-eyed.
Panel 5—Wide, across whole bottom of page: The bar, with the bartender and barmaid both holding and aiming crossbows at us/Sonja and men, looking stern and angry.
No fightin’ inside!
PAGE 6 (four panels)
Panel 1—Large and wide, outside of the tavern, in a wide, fairly busy street, with stalls and store on each side, people walking and riding horses, horses with carts. This city is Middle-Eastern-ish, in clothing and architecture. Maybe some of the nearer ones have their heads turned at the commotion of Sonja and three men, who have walked outside.
Merc 2 is turned to Sonja, pointing and glaring, etc.
Whore! I’ll cut your tits off!
Panel 2—CU of Sonja, looking strangely calm now: She’s in her element, and primed to kick some ass. Maybe slightly smiling, edges of her mouth curled up, fucking with him.
I’ll cut your balls off.
Panel 3—CU of the Old Trader, holding up his open hands, worried and trying to calm everyone down.
Now now! Calm down!
Panel 4: CU of Merc #2 pointing at us/Sonja (her POV)
Now, whore. On Your knees and beg for mercy!
PAGE 7 (four panels)
Panel 1—CU of Sonja, even more amused now. Arms crossed, waiting.
Panel 2—Wide of Merc #2 on left, facing right, at Sonja, who is facing left. He’s just slathering with rage, still pointing at her. She’s still calm, arms crossed, totally fucking with him.
Or I’ll knock your teetch out for a nice hole!
To think you had a mother.
Panel 3—CU of Merc 2 charging, bare-handed, livid.
Panel 4—Wide—Merc 2 on left, Sonja on right. Sonja in the middle of a reverse roundhouse kick. (note: if more panels needed for this, go for it)
PAGE 8 (six panels)
Panel 1—CU of Sonja’s boot heel connecting with Merc 2’s jaw.
Panen 2—Wide-ish, low/ground level, of Merc 2’s head hitting the ground, his eyes wide and stunned, with the Old Trader and Merc 1 in the background, shocked.
Panel 3—Close up (or CU as possible with three people) of three women, jaws dropped.
Panel 4—CU of Drona, equally stunned, eyes wide, but smiling.
Panel 5—CU of Merc 1, with still shocked Old Trader in background. Merc 1 drawing his sword and snarling.
Wench, you’ll pay for that!
Panel 6—Sonja drawing her sword, calmly, in her element.
Must you speak in clichés?
PAGE 9 (five panels)
Suggestion/idea: All these panels short and the width of the page?
Panel 1—Wide. Again, Merc 1 on left, Sonja on right, swords drawn and facing off. both holding swords two-handed.
Panel 2—Same shot, Merc 1 charging. sword overhead.
Panel 3—Merc 1 bringing his sword down, Sonja raising hers to meet it. Swords meeting.
Panel 4—Sonja using his strength and sword weight to guide it down to her left (towards us) and into the ground, her sword on top.
Panel 5—Keeping her left hand on her sword hilt, she reaches up with her right hand in a fist, backhanding Merc 1 in the jaw.
PAGE 10 (five panels)
Panel 1—CU of Sonja, POV of Merc 1 (so, facing us/him) as she winds up her right hand, glaring.
Panel 2—CU of Merc 1, POV of Sonja (so, facing us). His eyes wide, stunned from the hit he just got (and maybe his jaw dislocated or something) but aware that she’s about to smash him in the face. He can see it coming.
Panel 3—Medium-wide-ish side shot of Sonja smashing Merc 1 in the nose.
Panel 4—CU of Old Trader, looking at Sonja/us, from her POV.
Panel 5—Either a CU of Sonja, or maybe a bigger shot of her standing over Merc 1’s body, but in either case, wiping her mouth with the back of her right hand.
I didn’t kill them.
You might still need more swords-for-hire than me.
PAGE 11 (five panels)
Panel 1—CU of Trader, deer-in-headlights look.
I can’t hire a woman. I’m sorry.
Panel 2—CU of Sonja, surprised/incredulous.
You can’t hire a woman?
After what I’ve just done?
Are you insane?
Panel 3—Wide, whole width of page maybe, showing Trader on left, facing Sonja on right (in a similar shot as when she was facing off with Merc 1). Trader is flustered and apologetic, maybe holding out his hands/arms in a shrug. Sonja now looking angry (thus, maybe his flustered-ness_
Miss, it’s just...well...
It’s just not done. I’d be a laughingstock.
Panel 4—CU of Sonja, side shot. She’s now more stone-faced, realizing she’s being rejected, no matter what.
Panel 5—Same shot/angle. Sonja turning away. trying to snub him, to keep her respect.
This is crazy.
PAGE 12 (six panels)
Panel—Back inside the tavern. Sonja back at her table, another tankard of grog in her right hand, gulping it down.
Panel 2—CU (again, as much as possible with three people—maybe width of 2/3s page of Maiden , Mother, and Crone. All smiling, like they’re found the answer to all of their problems, and it’s Sonja, and they know she’ll say yes automatically.
We’ll hire you.
Panel 3—CU of Sonja, arms crossed, annoyed and grumpy.
For what? As a scarecrow in your garden?
Panel 4—CU of Maiden.
They just judged you because you’re a woman.
Panel 5—CU of Mother.
Now you judge us because we’re women?
Panel 6—CU of Crone.
Or is it because we’re old?
PAGE 13 (five panels)
Panel 1—CU of Sonja, surprised and chastened.
Panel 2—CU of Mother, smiling and winking.
It’s ok, dearie. You were magnificent!
Panel 3—Super wide—of all four, all smiling, with Drona lurking in the background shadows somewhere.
We need you.
To protect our village.
Panel 4—CU of Sonja.
Panel 5—CU of Crone.
You can help us find more swords.
PAGE 14 (three panels)
Panel 1—CU of Sonja, looking skeptical.
Panel 2—Wide-ish CU of three older people. Averting eyes and otherwise acting sheepishly.
That’s the problem.
Panel 3—Either same-ish shot, or individual CUs if you want.
The drought this summer was bad.
We barely have enough to live on this winter.
It’s bad everywhere.
Which is why there’s bandits.
PAGE 15 (five panels)
Panel 1—CUish of Sonja, with Drona in the background, looking up at her and obviously listening in.
Where are your warriors? Every village has fighters.
Panel 2—CU of Maiden.
Gone. Conscripted into the king’s army.
Panel 3—CU of Mother
For the so-called defense of the country
For the wars in the south.
Panel 4—CU of Crone.
Even the boys.
Panel 5—CU of Sonja, one side of her mouth curled up, amused.
A village of no men?
Sounds like paradise.
PAGE 16 (five panels)
Panel 1—CU of Mother.
Please, dearie. We have food and board.
A warm hearth for winter.
Panel 2—Wide side shot of Sonja looking glum in the middle, arms crossed facign left, with the three elders on the left, and Drona lurking off in the shadows to the right, spying curiously.
You can’t pay. You want me to find more swords that you also can’t pay.
To defend a defenseless village.
Why should I do this?
Panel 3—The three elders know they’ve ‘hooked’ her, so they are smiling.
For the challenge!
Because we know you’re not just a sword!
You’re a leader! you can teach us to help ourselves!
Panel 4—CU of SONJA, looking resigned (though the praise is working, she loves feeling appreciated).
Panel 5—All three Elders (or three separate CUs if desired). All smiling, triumphant, like they’ve won the battle already. Crone should be holding up one finger, like he’s telling a truism or something.
Now how shall we find other swords?
PAGE 17 (three panels)
Panel 1—Back outside in the street. A larger, bird’s eye, view, with Sonja in foreground, the three elders, and Drona hiding/tagging along, in the background.
You have no money. The only swords you’ll get will be freaks and losers.
Make way! Make way!
Panel 2. Even larger (most of page?) Soldiers surround a horse-drawn cart with a wooden cage. In the cage is Belit, the Black Pirate Queen, in rags that might be still pirate-ish. She has long dreadlocks, her hands gripping the wooden bars on one side, glaring out at people. She’s beaten, but no broken.
If possible, have Sonja and the three elders in the background, turning to watch.
Belit the Pirate Queen is captured!
Panel 3—CU of Sonja, maybe in a little ‘corner’ triangle panel in lower right, turning to us/elders, pointing her thumb behind her at Belit.
Let’s get her.
Cher Vincent: Letters to Van Gogh
My epistolary essay, "Cher Vincent: Letters to Van Gogh," now out in the new LIT QUARTERLY! Canadian print journal. Buy here.
Thursday, April 15, 2021
Book review of Kim Addonizio's Now We're Getting Somewhere
My review of Kim Addonizio's Now We're Getting Somewhere now up at SPLICE TODAY!
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
Review of the movie and book Nomadland
My review of the movie Nomadland (with the always amazing Frances McDormand) and the book by Jessica Bruder now up at Splice Today:
Friday, April 9, 2021
Rim Liquor—short story
Appeared August 2018 in MOJAVE HEART REVIEW, which is alas no longer with us.
Matt threw his cards down. —That’s it. I’m out. I’m done.
Ryan pulled in the money, smiling, cigarette hanging out of the side of his mouth. —Mi amigo, you quit too soon. The night is joven.
Ryan’s trailer, in Verde Estates, north of Payson. Matt, Ryan, Johnnie, Anthony, Karl. And Jamie.
Matt stood up and grabbed his hat, putting it on. —I’m gonna grab a smoke outside. Anyone?
Ryan shook his head, collecting the cards and shuffling. —We’re not stopping now. Not when I got my game on. The rest of you vatos ready to lose your dinero too?
Matt walked past Jamie reading People on the couch and went outside onto the porch, lighting up and blowing the smoke up into the sky. Stars everywhere. Crickets. A television from one of the other trailers. Professional wrestling.
He looked back through the screen. —Yo.
—Why don’t you go make a beer run?
—I want to go too!
Jamie’s voice. —I’m bored.
Matt turned away from the screen, took a last drag and dropped the cigarette and ground it out. Ryan yelled out, —Hey Matt, you want to take Jamie?
The screen door flew open and Jamie came out. She had put on her boots, though was still in shorts and a halter top. She had her purse, checking inside for something. —Let’s go.
They got in his pick up, and he turned on the cd player.
—Is this Shania Twain?
—You listen to Shania Twain?
—Is it because she’s hot?
—Does Ryan know you listen to Shania Twain?
—I bet he don’t.
—Why does it matter?
She shrugged. —I don’t know.
—Then why did you ask?
—I don’t know.
He looked at her a second, then backed out of the driveway and headed up the hill out of the valley.
—What was that look for?
—The whole look-at-me-out-of-the-corner-of-your-eyes-like-I-done-something-stupid look.
—Oh that one.
—Are you mocking me?
—Mock? What does that mean?
—You know what it means Matt Wattley.
They got to 87 and he stopped at the sign. The Mogollon Rim off to the north. Dark cliffs. Storm clouds, up on top. A flash of lightning. He turned right, heading south down to Payson. The windows were down, and the cool air blew in. She rolled up her window. —Jeezuz fucking christ! I’m fucking cold!
He rolled his up, leaving a little space so the air still blew on his face. —Why didn’t you wear a jacket?
—I didn’t think of it, ok?
They got to the Payson city limits, then through the traffic circle in front of Wal-Mart.
—Why do you have a Toyota?
—What do you mean why do I have a Toyota?
—I mean why do you have such a small truck?
—What do you mean why do I have a small truck?
—Jeezuz fucking shit Matt, I’m just conversating!
—Yeah, you know what conversating is?
—You mean talking?
They passed the turn off to the airport on the right and were in town.
She crossed her arms. —Ryan’s got a diesel.
—Yeah, I fucking know Ryan’s got a diesel.
—Well, don’t get mad at me. I’m just saying.
—You’re saying what?
—I’m just saying. Shit, what’s up your ass?
—You know how much diesel costs now?
—Well ok then.
They got to the 260 intersection. He drove straight, still going south.
—Ain’t you going to the Beverage House?
—I want to go to Rim Liquor.
—I don’t know. I like the name.
—Cause it’s funny.
He looked at her quickly. —Cause. Like the same reason it’s funny there’s a store up in Flag called Beaver Liquor.
She thought about it a second. —Oh.
They passed the Post Office on the right and he turned left into the Rim Liquor parking lot.
He parked and turned off the truck. He looked at her. —You don’t get it, do you?
She looked at him. —What?
—Yeah. Kinda. I get the beaver one. Is it like the other side?
He kept a straight face. —Of what?
She smiled. —Of the beaver.
He smiled. —Yeah.
—Matt Wattley, you are the most perverted motherfucker I’ve ever known.
—I doubt that.
They got out and went in the store. Bottles and bottles lined up along both aisles. He nodded to the cashier as they walked to the coolers on the far back wall. He stood looking at the beer. She hugged herself. —Fuck it’s freezing in here!
—Like I said.
She smiled. —Fuck you! Hey, do you remember back in high school?
He shrugged. —Do I remember what?
—Like how we all used to get at keg and go up to Milk Ranch Point and have parties?
He nodded. —Yeah.
—What ever happened to Teresa?
—You know. She went to ASU.
—I know, but like, with you and her?
He opened a cooler door and grabbed two cases of Bud, one in each hand. —Nothing. She left and it was over. She said she liked Phoenix.
—How could anybody like Phoenix?
—Well, there’s jobs. I guess.
He looked at her. —Last she said, she’s going to get a masters.
—A masters? Really?
He nodded. —Yep.
He started walking up front. When they got to the counter she asked for a fifth of Jim Beam and a pack Marlboros, and put them with the beer. Matt stared at her. She added a pack of gum. —Don’t worry. Ryan’ll pay you back.
They left. He put the beer in the back of the truck and they got in. He started the truck and pulled out back onto 87, heading north.
She opened the Jim Beam and took a swallow.
—Nothing, I guess.
—Hell, I’ve seen you puking your guts out, so don’t get all superior on me.
They stopped for a red light at the 260 intersection. The clouds had come down off the Rim. More lightning. Rain drops starting to fall on the windshield. He started the wiper. The light changed and he drove.
—Matt, do you still like me?
He looked at her quickly. —Oh shit. What do you mean? We’ve known each other forever.
—I know. But you don’t ever talk to me anymore.
—Well, we’re out of school now.
—So we got jobs and shit. And you’re Ryan’s girlfriend. Shit, I don’t talk to a lot of people no more.
She took another swallow. —I know. Me either. Hey! Turn here!
—Just do it, ok?
He turned left on Airport Road. —Where we going?
—Up to the airport. Trust me.
They started up the steep part, and when they got up on top of the mesa she had him turn left onto the road up to the water tower. —Turn in here to the parking lot!
He did, facing the truck north, towards the east side of the airport and the Rim, though it was almost hidden, until a flash of lightning lit up the whole area.
—Wow, did you see that?
—Kinda hard to miss.
He kept the wipers going and lit a cigarette, offering it to her. She took it and rolled down her window a crack. He lit another for himself. Another flash of lighting. The rotating green light next to the runway.
She exhaled. —Have you ever been up here?
He shook his head. —No. It’s nice.
—Yeah. My dad used to take us up here, like on nights like this. Or like when the monsoons come in the afternoons, you know, like in July. Or like, when they get fires. You can see the smoke and there’s helicopters taking off and stuff. You’ve really never been here?
—No I’ve seen the fires though. Remember that one out on Promontory? You could see it glowing at night.
They sat for a while. More lightning.
—Matt, how come you never asked me out?
—Just, why the hell are you asking that?
—I’m just asking. I just wondered.
—Well, I mean, you’re Ryan’s girlfriend.
—Yeah I know that already. I mean, before. After Teresa left.
—Well, maybe I wasn’t in the mood then.
—Oh. I thought maybe it was because I wasn’t Mexican or something.
—Jeezuz Jamie, what kind of stupid thing is that to say?
She tossed her cigarette out and rolled up the window. —I don’t know. Ryan’s all into mexican girls. Doesn’t he talk about them to you?
—I mean, we just talk about girls, period.
—Oh. So do you still like me?
She laughed. —What?!
He tossed out his cigarette. —We better be getting back.
He started the truck and turned out back on Airport Road and down the hill. She took another drink of Jim Beam. They got to 87 and he turned left, heading north. The rain lighter, but steady.
She crossed her arms again. —I mean, like when we’re doing it, he likes to talk about us having a threesome, and he always wants it to be with a mexican girl.
—Oh shit. Too much information.
—Oh I’m sure, Matt Wattley. You’re the one that likes butt-licking.
—I never said that.
—You implied it.
She laughed. —Yeah! Implied!
—Oh shit. You going to go to college using all those fancy words?
—Oh horseshit Matt Wattley. Besides, I could’ve. I took classes at Gila Community College.
—And I have to work, just like you.
Neither of them said anything for a while. She looked at him. —But seriously, doesn’t he ever talk to you about that?
—About being with two girls and stuff.
—He doesn’t ever talk about me?
—No. Not like that.
—Well like what then?
—I don’t know. Like not about sex.
—Do you ever think about being with two girls?
—Just lay off, ok?
He turned left back down into Verde Valley Estates. Another flash of lightning. He pulled into the driveway behind all the other trucks. After he turned off the truck he leaned over and kissed her.
She jerked back and pushed him away. —Matt! What he hell are you doing?!
She picked up her purse and put the bottle in it. He leaned back and turned and looked out the side window. —I thought that’s what you wanted.
—What the hell made you think that?!
He looked at her. —Are you serious?
She stared at him, holding her purse to her chest. —What?!
He didn’t say anything. She moved to open the door, but stopped and looked at him again. —What?!
He grabbed his hat and put it on. —Nevermind.
—Why are you mad at me?
—What do you want me to do?
They sat there a second, then she opened the door and got out.
He opened his door and got out. She was already running for the door, covering her head with her purse. He grabbed the two cases of beer and followed after her.