by Gil Fagiani
When a three-day bender
costs me my bank clerk's job,
my mother makes the sign of the cross
and calls me Good-Time Charlie.
I'm her last-born and she dotes on me,
so I laugh, wave her words away
tell her not to worry
I'll lay off the lush
and find another nine-to-five.
But work's a grind.
I'm into fun, high times
and along with Nicky De Vito,
start messing with crystal meth.
Our veins hum like high-voltage wires
moonlight melts into sunshine,
motion becomes our devotion.
At home I clean the upstairs crapper
the bowl blazing
the pine soap and ammonia scalding my lungs.
My mother says enough already
and swats me with a toilet brush
after I scrub out the grout between the floor tile.
At his house, Nicky sits by a basement workbench
polishing a new pair of shoes
until he wears through the soles,
breaks off heels,
hiding the ruined footwear from his father,
who dishes out bare-knuckled discipline.
Once at Nicky's place,
we mainline two hype sticks of meth,
guzzle all the guinea booze in the liquor cabinet:
Strega, Compari, Frangelico, Anisette, Grappa.
Nicky flips on the new Motorola TV
complains about snowy reception
and begins taking the TV apart,
swearing he can fix and reassemble it
before his folks return home.
We spread all the screws, springs,
wires, tubes, and knobs across the carpet floor,
the first thing his parents see
when they open the front door.
Bricklayer by profession,
his father can haul a hod of cement
like it's a foam cushion.
He flattens Nicky with one blow,
knocking over a lamp,
killing the light.
I rush the front door
weave between cars
until I reach my house,
my ticker feeling like it's going
to tear through my rib cage,
my mother throwing holy water on me
as I run up the stairs.
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