Bud Smith lives in NYC, and works heavy construction in New Jersey, building and maintaining power plants and refineries. His books are the novels...read more Tollbooth and F-250, the short story collection Or Something Like That and the poetry collection Everything Neon.
THE BASEMENT WAS COLD. Carry sat on the edge of my bed, her head in her hands. I just stared at my bedroom wall which was covered in posters, Polaroid photos, random things from magazines. There wasn't a single inch of exposed wall. I stared at the Clockwork Orange poster and thought about the knife that Alex held. I imagined it being used to cut out the thing that might be inside her. That's all I saw whenever I looked anywhere. Things that related to our catastrophe. “Fifteen days,” she said. “I know.” “Fifteen days late.” She wasn't crying, but it was coming. It hadn't happened yet, but it would eventually. Some emotion would come. It worried me how made of stone she seemed. Stone cracks. Upstairs I could hear my parents walking around. A door closed, the TV turned up louder. They were watching the weeks X-files recorded on VHS. I could tell from the theme song. Beside us, my digital clock started to buzz. We'd programmed it to go off at 9:45 because her parents demanded she be home by 10 p.m. on a school night. Most of the time we lost track of time because we were fucking. Now she was sixteen, half a month late with her period. There was no way to lose track of time now. Each minute was accounted for, documented in a logbook, studied under a microscope for the slightest inference that blood would appear and save both our lives. “We have to go.” Her father was a firefighter. I could visualize it clearly. Him putting an ax through my abdomen. Then he would pour fuel over me. Light me up. They liked that, the firefighters. Firebugs they are, at heart. Her mother would be watching all of this, praying to the Lord to let me survive the fire, so that I could suffer forever, dunked into brine tanks. She'd do the dunking herself, all the while muttering prayers. My body one scar that would never touch let alone be touched by another girl again. My dad, when he found out, things would be even worse. He would set his can of beer down and he would high five me for hitting that pussy. It was his horrible fear that I was gay. My mother would bounce this baby on her knee, googooin' with loopy wonder. She always wanted to be a grandmother. Rocking back and forth. Singing lullabies. Knowing none of the words, singing anyway. No matter. Would any of them visit Carry's grave once she blew her brains out with her Uncle's hunting rifle? Would I?
...read more (2/3)Carry stood up. She put her puffy pink coat on, didn't say a word as we walked out the back door and across the frozen yard. The chain link gate had bonded to the ground and we could barely get it open. There was no heat in my car. I'd just gotten my license and I couldn't be picky. The thing had come out of the junkyard. A different engine transplanted inside. I was lucky I had anything at all to get back and forth to see her. We drove in silence even though the cassette deck in my car was the most important thing that we both had in the world. I'd put the tape deck in before I'd even transplanted the engine. I looked over at her side profile. A cheek of acne and long straight blonde hair striped with a patch of green dye. She smelled like baby powder. She had an earring with a fairy on it. Her favorite song was “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” She smoked cloves. She had mentioned that an abortion wasn't an option. That she would have to kill herself. I hadn't said anything. After that threat a silence crept through the telephone line as she held her breath. In the background I could hear her mother's beagle howling to be let outside to run around the yard. Now she shuddered in her heavy pink coat that wasn't warm enough. “Not too much farther.” I said. We crossed out of my town and into the one between ours. I liked dating girls that went to different high schools. perhaps it says something about my comfort with alienation. I didn't want anything to do with the kids in my class. Didn't want to talk to them. Didn't want to drink with them. Didn't even want to fuck them. Ahead in the road, there was something lying down. I didn't see it until I got too close. Too busy looking at the side of her face. She was completely numb. Borderline unresponsive. She was looking at the road, hypnotized, thinking about her fate and she suddenly yelled, “What's that?” It was too late. Just then, the head lifted up and I realized too late that it was deer. Little eyes reflecting. A small skull. Perhaps a baby deer. Someone had already hit it. It wasn't dead. Just wounded. Laying there twitching on the black asphalt. Then I ran it over. It was dead then. As we drove the rest of the way down the two lane road, she was heaving and crying and wailing and punching me. “You killed it! You killed it! You Fuck!” What could I have done? When we got to her driveway she opened the door and sprinted out across the frozen gravel. ...read more (3/3)I put the car in reverse, pulled out. By the time I got home the animal's remains reeked underneath the car. Melting on the bottom of the exhaust. The skin and hair and viscera cooking. Burning. It was the worst thing I've ever smelled in my life. Even though it was freezing, I drove with the window down, my teeth chattering. Coughing and gagging. In my driveway, I jacked the car up. Got a light from the garage and began to scrape the guts and chunks of animal off the undercarriage of the car. I felt sick to my stomach, thinking about how the doctor would scrape her, in her, up inside- and pull the animal out of her. I got a stick and pulled a chunk off, it slapped into the driveway. It started to sleet. I went inside and sat there with my sour stomach and my fear. Near dawn, the phone rang once. That was our cue. our way of communicating at our patents houses. No more than one ring and then I would call her back on her private line in her bedroom. “It happened.” She said. “Really?” “I got my period.” I was so happy I began to weep. I set down the phone. I ripped every single poster and photo off my wall. I burnt them in a pit in the backyard. Because that's how you start over. When everything is overbearing. You clear the wall and you leaf through new magazines. Searching. Always searching.