The first in a series of parishes trying to court our belief bussed us out of town. The unmanumitted slum clanked away, mattress-covered windows flitting past as we jostled atop potholes, like a bounce house inflated by Christ’s mephitic breath. Trapped under that clatter, we realized you had to grope through stereotype after stereotype in order to select yours. A cluster of kids biked apace, palm-slapping windows. Street-hustling networks of suburban refugees, delinquent stepsons, took to safer streets because the trauma came more from their expeditiously divorcing homes than the environment. Gunplay kept city kids’ parents cozy in their fear, or if it didn’t, and the derangement became twofold, you could collect a variety of rancorous charges, guided by the street. My friend, drumming his middle finger on the glass, was bred by far worse adversities. He tied fireworks to pets.
We had attended miniscule seminary festivities where my friend lied to someone’s mother about being queasy on the rides we didn’t care to pay for, and would never be conquered by if we did, because he was really committed to the idea of having puked, and to coaxing this chaperone for one fabricated burble, consoled against the cosmos on her blouse, the tits with which his head might become a joint nutrient. She was anomalously bald with her hotdog-flavored benevolence, true motorboard goliath, Eight Mile stripper floss.
We repeated the ethnicities beneath our clothing like they were something that could wear off. Across the lot from a house facing the school tumbled a red-faced hubby, garroting the drink back from his bride. He choked her harder the more she kicked his dick, floppily presented as it was. We picked up new slurs—as if the entire candy store were free, but all our fingers had been broken. A troupe of Christian baseball players dressed as clowns appeared and proselytized to the disinterested four of us. The couple ecstatically inhaled the lot’s hot tar, possibly aroused. They seemed to be waiting for confirmation that Christians were either competent voyeurs, or harmless muggers. A clown threw a catcher’s mitt so the couple might despoil it, masking their wing-wangs, but the woman regained her strength and slapped the man. It was funny because she put her fist in the glove before hitting him.
One of the clowns was cute and being pulled in a red wagon. My friend put his boot up on the rim, knocking rust onto her. He asked what her name was and if she liked cotton candy, though she was clearly older. The Christians were confused, but invited us on a free camping weekend for the lord, featuring baseball and other inanities, most importantly, the girl.
The skyline no longer bared its teeth with buildings. Five minutes of agrarian monotony and we’d sworn oaths against nature. They put a urinal on an engine block and taught it roads. The peninsula bucked back with potholes. I went into a metallic closet that smelled like shit and befriended the tapeworm there, sneezing enough milk that it snaked up my arm, attempting reentry with a kiss. Fatly glittering cop lights were swooping: disco-beaked vultures drunk on profitable citizenry.
The tide rolled in like vomit on the end of a yoyo. A drunk bungeed through his sick, buxom amplitudes dispersing litter and fish, an aquatic toilet tagged below the horizon, begging to be flushed, jiggled handle of a cloud up above. Waves fucked back and forth like evolution was an early sport. The losers already crawled ashore. My friend tried setting a picnic table on fire to announce our arrival. He meant to send the girl lascivious smoke symbols. We erected an idea of a tent, shucking portions of it into someone else’s bonfire. Teasing each flame with our persons, a distracting backdraft, was not enough. We decided to defecate on poison ivy for an experiment. Bugs wove a black dildo pit-level from dirt to flesh, my ass a wall forcing against a force less circumvented than entered, an enema deluging backwards up my breath. Molecular ventures swarmed into a voice and the word was no. Shiny pink wings seared my alphabet, magnifying it grand. Teardrops edged, flagship, at either end, cheeks stained with bug spray, as if rewound through us, back inside the canister, DEET vomit recycling each syllable. A Salute Your Shorts counselor berated me about the goddamn ozone. I had colonies to encounter in hell.
We declared territory apart from camp, hid in bushes, eaten alive, peeping at the few girls there, in hopeful search of their use of the hot sand as a bathroom, that they might meet it with their bladders’ crispier heat, some tadpole of blood falling out and accomplishing buoyancy, blackening the sand where we’d dig ourselves rehydrated. A girl, probably our clown, unrecognizable without makeup, but sporting an appropriately feral demeanor, tugged at her crackling bikini. It was forty degrees in July. Unfamiliar with suntan lotion, we lost three layers of back watching her swim. The corner of beach we stayed near was reamed by a factory larger than the horizon. An arachnid component of the metropolis had stalked us on sabbatical. The water wore a red chemical skein baked into our spines. Prematurely liver-spotted, basking in cancer, we held up our infections and toasted the lake. Lifeless fish, discolored, malformed, stacked themselves beached. When the sun was done with me, I had an itch that wouldn’t leave for a month.
She looked at us like neighborhoods no longer existed. We had to hobble closer to hear her whisper: That factory is the dinosaur that impregnates me. It swallowed my entire family, piece by idiot uncle. Smell them in my sheen? We took turns trying. There were pink Band-Aids over the gaps in her tarp-thick tent. She withdrew into her sleeping bag, poking back out to mention how, barring the apprenticeship of our virginities, we were at an opportune time to copulate, because our bodies couldn’t produce certain resultant fluids. You’re the perfect amount young not to knock me up, she slurred, drunk on something she wasn’t sharing. I could inseminate your hair gel with my pinkie finger right now, I moaned, on purpose. She leaned back, patting her arenaceous tummy at the thought. My friend pulled me aside: we shouldn’t let someone this cool dominate us with her wit. Her boredom is a type of torture for everyone involved, he insisted. Bet you whichever of us doesn’t bother the hardest will wind up the constructer of this fuck. No one gets me, she kept telling the flannel shirt balled into a pillow. Shut up, we retorted, distantly.
Pooling drool on nonflammable canvas, watching her pretend to sleep, I was shushed by an auburn toe. Shh, she withdrew, breaching the hatch. Her camisole waded out beyond the tree line and was left floating on a branch. You are a husky obstruction, my friend interrupted, between me and the pigtail I must go pull. Yards through the brush, a fanny pack snug around her torso, the girl removed a shard of broken glass and flicked it off her lips, tapping drops of blood like she was ashing a cigar, scattering a path of glinting crumbs—injuries to look forward to, a maiming anyone could track back to camp.
Cadaverous pretzel kaleidoscopically ET-ing the moon, she wedged herself along a ridge. We shimmied, heels to the rim, displacing each other. There was a pond twenty feet below into which she plopped with no splash. We followed suit, tumbling awkwardly, smashing headlong into greenish-black. Columns of frozen glop snapped forth. It’s like we’re all buttfucked by the chatter, she hissed, floating submerged up to her nose, teasing that she might stand at any moment. The pond underwent her. My friend flicked silt through his fist, demanding she rise.
The snake in the Garden of Eden was really a sperm Adam bit in half, ‘cause I was Satan in the first place, she whispered, torso shown with a plié. A sheet of leeches clung to her iridescent figure. She let us pluck them off, slow, touting the envious trajectory of their suck. You’re going to have to follow me around with an all-purpose ‘do not resuscitate sign’, she purred. Hang it off my tone-deaf insides. Ow, did your mommies sprinkle fairy dust, instead of reading a bedtime story? Gepetto dropped a couple nuggets of fertilizer into an outfit. I will coax a thrappled colt to carry me right to heaven, she informed her impressive body, basted as it was, leaking in concert. Will you marry me, I managed. My nose began bleeding, perhaps in sympathy. She said I had my answer.
Guess what about mermaids, she continued, pissing on her thighs. By request, a holster for my face, but she disbursed the groupies, hitched to our permutable fugue, depositing woefully articulated discs, AOL, like pancake makeup in one’s duct. Bobbing low, fitted into a membrane of formaldehyde, she mentioned a boyfriend. I kept reiterating how they were going to scrape him out of his own torched vehicle. She sunk out of sight, failing to return after a couple minutes. I miss fucking my toys, my friend cried.
We dragged the pond all night. No one noted her absence when we stumbled back. Had she just happened upon our camp site? Her camisole still hung from the tree. We split it down the lotion-stank middle so each of us could contribute to its safekeeping. How could we return to a bed? I heralded her memory on the bus ride home, assuming she was probably underneath the vehicle, smoking a cigarette. We passed barnyard hay bales, some of which had viscera webbed about the midriff, like a serpent flaying itself inside a jellyroll. I turned to my friend, whose eyes were squeezed shut. Trotting beside the bus, a pony, mad and snapping at the bloody human footprints strewn along its flank, paused to share a grin with me, before its erection made it trip beneath the wheels. They went spraying round and round.
Noah Cicero Interview
by Matt Lee
... We are like 99% the same, if we weren’t, nothing would work, we are like pine needles, leaves of grass, drops of water in the ocean, corn in a field. It is the 1% that we blow up in our minds, out of proportion to what is real ...
by Laura Marello
... Kelp wrapped / floating / in silvery glare / waiting / unable to sleep ...