Avery Gregurich & Lucca Soria


Julia Bethan

America is

Avery Gregurich & Lucca Soria

          Winner of the 2021 Collaboration Contest

wild cut of wild grass, no baseball anymore. Something like a wall between us that I spray-painted onto my hands and now I can’t get off. Plaster of paris, we both keep pieces in our grandpa’s wallets. I can’t speak to the cashier at all. New York City dwells on before, the money a frequency as our frequently bloodied cousin calls and says Steinbrenner still has them come and cut the grass. The Bronx hides behind tractor trailers, but here in the hills, “trailerpark” equals “high-rise” equals “real estate.” Could it be my first lover tonight on the television, or is it another state’s bird?
          Her colors used to fade a brilliant shock. My fashion is forgetting. I watch the young librarian smoke and text through big glass windows before handling white mugs in coffee shops. I fall asleep during tea time and she wakes me. “We’re closing now. Tomorrow will be music, tonight there’s just the professors’ jazz band.” Please make me a dancer once again. Make me miss my mother. She is old and sure of dying. I believe I’ll have two Busch tallboys and more opiates for my friends here. You may recognize them from Mt Rushmore.
          So the barkeep says, “All will be provided upon proof of employment.” God damn these American cars. I can’t change a tire. I’ve never been stuck on the side of a highway sober. Once in Minnesota, a man in a suit pushed me out of the ditch, darkening his shoes with snow. As a twelve year old, I was taught this was the mark of a mensch, a laborer of deed. Have you forgotten about your piñatas, the plastic straws that we used to share? Golden hair, radioactive Russian wolves, pinstripe suits, Louis Armstrong’s weed habit, shaving cream in baseball mitts before the baseball season, my life’s supply of Golden Arch Dollars, and PBR before the kids got it.
          The mothers always did it to the father’s, and now they’re all out: divorced, trading in iPhones bi-annually, figuring out how to ask their children how to use Instagram. We are data limits, NSA Christmas cards, Sierra Mist Cranberry Twist. Thank You Pay ended two years ago. Who is your brother now? How predictable, held up by the checkout counter, gaslighting as diesel, gaslighting as progress, my father was a natural gas man, a real success, so I trailed him to the baseball card shop and watched him buy my birthday gift, never revealing to me much of himself.
          I put my wisdom teeth in a U-Haul south of Seattle. They are out there somewhere, still learning. Talk to me straight through my television. From this point forward, love lies ahead. Go. Nudge that bloke to vote, register folks for November while waiting for the grocery store bathroom. My racist cousin will call this another false flag. This rental townhouse keeps my mind warm, sitting in my house in my town with my wife and my sadness. Wife says, “Let’s go to Six flags in Texas this fall,” after the advertisement for it plays on the all-day radio.
          After shifts, American jest is the American bedroom. I couldn’t name a single tree in my backyard. We guess in addictive small talk, pressing olives between our teeth while we put the wine up in cases, unsure if we’ll be alive enough later to get drunk with each other. I ain’t never done nothing like that, just hit two wrenches together sometimes in the garage so she’d know I was working. “Bye bye baby, I’ll never know another” was found written on the bathroom wall. The blade is holding the burden and losing the key to the leaf green Dodge truck.
          I swear these brakes are goin’ bad, burning trash in the morning, and stealing sister’s cigarettes an inch too long. At least we can share our lipstick again. Daddy no longer threatened to take me there if, misbehaving, I couldn’t find somebody to call to do my chores. I used to look out the window in my slip saved for the stage where the one who plays is the loudest, learning to sing. Hard to know which way to go, truck tires moaning, teenage turns and starts. Now we’re staring beyond the waitress at the Baker’s Square who is staring beyond us.
          She can tell what we were when we walked in here, serving or saving us. She knows that she’s important. Luck’s cousin is twenty-two, text him and tell him to meet us on the sandbar with his music. He always knows what’s gonna happen next, takes his shirt off first. Crudely stated, everything is golden, we carry the sand home inside our skin, beach towels draped over our car seats. The state fair is just two weeks away. Will you be stage left where they keep the band from before? If everyone is a family friend, who will be the person who remembers?
          I’m still a learner by law, but I hope to test out soon enough, to be free by fall. Singing sometimes with strangers at parties, I wonder how they came to know that tune, too? Someone called it out, all rebel religion abandoned. Question gasoline jackets and island vacations. It’s fun to lust for now. I’ll keep this nudie poster on the outhouse door for posterity. When we sell the farm later, folks will find out about us before they blow it and burn out also. It won’t matter what we were then, remembering sand turning into glass, purple, then blue, then every red we ever tried to make.
          It’s hard to know how much I saw and didn’t say was only mine. My pocket mirror, my box of party favors, at least I’m not harassing the waitress. God save me if I lose my way. Spit out the cork, son and watch out for that boy’s slider. Luck is gonna be here soon. He’s been busy scouting for the big leagues.

Avery Gregurich is a writer living and working in Marengo, Iowa. He was raised next to the Mississippi River and has never strayed too far from it.

Lucca Soria  lives and writes in Madison, Tennessee.