County Lines by Bob
He was putting on his socks, getting ready to go to detox, when
he saw a snake crawl out of a cake his wife had baked.
He looked at his socks. One green. The other blue. But even if
they matched, he could only find one shoe. He didn't know what to
Maybe he should call his sister Sue. Ask her what to do. But she
was at the store. Wouldn't be home until after four. And what about
the snake? Thinking about a snake cake made him shake.
He had to forget about the snake cake. Decide what to do about
covering his feet. Maybe he'd feel better if he got something to
eat. Nothing complicated. Keep it simple. Keep it neat. He pulled
out a knife that once belonged to an ex-wife and spread his favorite
jelly on a slice of bread.
He adored boysenberry more than any ordinary berry.
He was thinking about his plight, while chewing the final bite,
when his wife walked in, stinking of gin. He didn't bother asking
where she'd been.
Like cheap paint on previously owned cars, makeup conceals deep
scars of barroom queens, squirming under the satin cover of night.
Counterfeit beauty gone by dawn, like pleasant dreams erased by
Face to face on a pillow, inhaling his first whiff of her ferocious
halitosis. He should have run away. But no, he had to be stupid
and stay. Dumber than a log, he married her in a thick pill and
But then, she at least acted alive, fit into a size five. Now you
could hang her underwear from the corner of a door and they'd reach
A troop of Boy Scouts could comfortably camp in her underwear.
Maybe she had a spare pair to rent as a tent.
"I thought you were going to detox," she said.
He said, "The Queen of France doesn't wear underpants?"
"You're crazy," she replied.
"And lazy," he said.
"You're irritating me," she said.
"Better than irrigating you," he replied.
"What's wrong with you?" she asked.
He replied, "All the red tape and the mechanical rape of the
"If you want me to leave," she said, "just say
"So," he said.
"I'm not kidding," she said. "I'm leaving."
"Take that snake cake you baked with you," he replied.
Between imitation sobs, she said, "You're insane."
"And I get wet in the rain."
"I'm going now," she said.
He said, "Go. Blow. Split. Depart. Leave at your own chosen
speed. I'm not the one you want. I'm not the one you need. But before
you take off, bring me a beer here."
A can whizzed through the air. He reached out in space and caught
it before it reached his face. "I might be a drunk, a sluggard,
a fool. But my hands still move as fast as they did in school."
School, school, beautiful school. Why go to learn? The words aren't
That silly English teacher with a prune face. Made him do a report
on Faulkner when he knew Steinbeck was better. Made him read Emily
Dickinson when he knew Flannery O'Connor was far superior. Made
him read Flaubert when he knew Voltaire would always be the reigning
king of parody.
Played sax in a teenage rock and roll band until he switched instruments
after wising up to the facts: Drummers get the chicks, have the
Taking two dates to the Senior Prom was no easy task. But he played
the game well. Ran back and forth. Changing his expression like
a mask to get by. Only ended up with one black eye. Oh, how that
blonde could punch, how she could make him smile, at least for a
Almost stole his heart with her eyes, like pecan pies, cooling
on a window ledge above a hibiscus hedge.
He wondered what she was doing now. Probably wearing underwear
that could reach from the floor to the top of a door.
For some reason, he didn't know why, he thought of syllables and
rhyme and a stanza from a poem he wrote, called Trips in Seven-Four
Beauty born as summer nears
Spirit Child, awake now fly
Lifted up by hidden tide
Over moon in Neptune sky.
He thought of a stanza from a poem he wrote called Wasted Again
for the First Time:
All the miles I've come
All the miles I've gone
My dreams are leaving
A nightmare is coming on.
But he shouldn't be lost in rhyme, either in or out of time, not
now, not when he needed to go.
Perhaps he should put on pants, improve his chance of getting to
detox, in case he ever did find his missing shoe and a pair of matching
Overton County News
415 West Main Street
P.O. Box 479
Livingston, Tennessee 38570