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Rusty Barnes

R ainierís luck had gone sour. The cards had not predicted this. All his ankhs and dream catchers and Green Men and crystals had not helped, nor the sacred beads and charms woven into his hair.. This womanĖwas her name Susan-- only a swatch of breast and thigh in the back of his mind from a late night at Pinkyís Karaoke a week or more ago, now manifesting herself like a spell at Samhain to stare cold-shouldered at him as he attempted to bungee-jump, to measure his life and his worth by a long strand of near-calcified rubber. He remembered her leather boots creaking as she mounted him. Her 10 year old cheerleading letter sweater. Her botched black dye job, how it was red at the roots under his lights. Her sudden jump off as she felt him going off. His cock throbbing in the open air. Her face in his car headlights as he half-heartedly tried to hit her; she, throwing gravel from her lacquered-nail hands at his new paint job. Her quick roll to the right as he gunned the car at her. Her derisive laugh when, drunk as a coot, heíd slammed into the fire hydrant by Pinkyís front door. Her sigh as he entered her, his sigh as he came.

How did these things turn sour, he wondered, as he pulled the harness over his thighs and shoulders. Love grown so strong at midnight, withering away like his erection in its lambskin sheath, hunched over her the first time around, love dead as he woke to the dawn light, her faded green jailhouse tattoo, and the ripples of fat on her ass.

"Rainier never goes out," his mother had said in a wreath of Captain Jackís Cherry Red pipe tobacco. "That kid. Jeeze."

"Rainier works too much." His sister Flora, picking at the blossoming scab in the crook of her elbow and tossing her flesh into the ashtray with the roaches.

Rainierís whey-faced smirk and shitty grades in his high school yearbook.

"Rainier you sumbitch, come fuck me. Or canít you get it up one more time." Rainierís penis limp in its nest of hair.

"Rainier, honey," his first wife had said, "your dick and balls look just like a little possum peeking out of its mommyís pouch. Itís so cute." She meant it as a bedroom nicety, a kindly after sex cuddle, cradling his tiny penis in her large farm girl hand, but he could only look away and swear to himself that never again would it be this way. Since then, always, he never lessened the dark for fear that they would laugh at him. Or call his penis a possum.

Rainier took one long step and jumped. The air gathered around his ears and flew by in a scream of hot breath snapping at his jacket. The ground approached in flashes of green, brown. The blue spruce forest upside down as in a reflection. Susan's upside down face in a scream, skin gone pasty, eyebrows permanently skewed; he touched the ground lightly, grabbed a twig and his bowels loosened as he realized ; a quick snap of back and neck, a bright knot of pain, high again, then low, moving sideward and up and down now, the rushing air just a remembered hum in the back of his mind.

Soon the rubber ceased its stretching and bouncing and still upside down, vertigo threatening to unload his stomach onto the crowd below, he reached into his jacket pocket for the cigarettes that were impossibly still lodged in the inner pocket, and mindful of his image, pulled one out and lit up, still swinging gently. Susanís face below him. He wanted to punch her as she stood there smug in her knowledge of his utter tediousness, but instead he retched a great gob of brown bile over the crowd, but kept the cigarette clenched in his teeth, as if that puke-wet cigarette might redeem him in the eyes of the crowd as they scattered; a moment of panic, crystals falling like seed beads from his neck-pouch, all those tiny shards of his sour luck dropping into the formless void as he bounced merrily, to and fro, savoring his moment of reflection, high above the ground.


Rusty Barnes lives and works in Boston MA, but grew up in Mosherville PA (pop. 250). His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Buzzwords, Columbia, Conversely,Dead Mule, In Posse Review, Literary Potpourri, among others.

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