By Luke Goebel
I was suspended from the first day of the last year of high-school—the neighbor’s baby was in the car seat, strapped backwards in the front seat—when I hit the neighbor while hitting something else—when I got out yelling and shouting—when I was the one who did the hitting of the neighbor—and he said I have a baby, you just hit me—I yelled some swear words, shouted at him and his baby—then went off to where I was sent to boarding school—goddamned Connecticut—foliage, stone, land of the birch trees outside a dorm-room. I hit dope through paper-towel rolls stuffed with Downy sheets—and those kids—those fuckers—they barricaded my door with trash every morning—put quarters in the door jams—so I couldn’t open my door—in my room doing things I was ashamed of—I should have decked those fuckers, at least one—I would have lost, but it would have been better than carrying it around—the shaming they gave me—those Ivy-league bound fuckers and me with my west coast hair and getting expelled—and my father I drank with— fingers poking, Dad’s face dark and drunk and shouting and hitting. Then I was—as I said—already back home from being sent home on a plane to Portland—in the cab toward the airport from the school I stopped at a gas station and took hits in a bathroom—stared at the sink in the public bathroom—a memory I will never forget—being sent home—something familiar about being sent away—two weeks and fist-fighting on that same neighborhood corner where I hit that neighbor—shouted at the neighbor’s baby—my baby neighbor—then it was night, and I was coming home all beat up, all beat to hell, bloody and pissed off and what was that kid’s name, anyways—maybe Brian—I decked him, whatever his name was—decked ‘em—my first time—decked all of them on that night, on that corner—Dad—everyone—for what, I don’t know—I decked him, and I got beat bad, got up and got beat again—fist to an already swollen eye or lip, then up again, and again, falling with my hands catching me by digging my palms into blacktop, road—only to be beaten back down again. I couldn’t hit right. I was too fucked up to make a fist. I could keep getting up though—could keep getting up. Walking home beneath that big moon, I remember still stumbling drunk, vision blurred, twelve years since I have had a drink and fifteen years since that night, my head I remember pointing towards the sky— black eyed and split lipped and tonguing the mouth wounds—feeling so goddamned sorry for myself, because I was a kid like that. And of course they were up, waiting and worried—mom and dad—always so worried and up and waiting and ‘No Mom’ I said, ‘I didn’t get in a fight—It’s just dirt. I’m just dirty.’ Ankle-rolled I stumbled down my stairs to bed—waking up bloody and hot—stuck to the sheets with my face and lip and limps healed to cotton, taking to cotton like stitches the choices I was making—and how many years later, I can’t undo a single count.
Luke B. Goebel’s first novel, FOURTEEN STORIES | NONE Of THEM ARE YOURS, will be released by FC2 this September (2014). F.S.N.O.T.A.Y is this year’s winner of the Ronald Sukenick Prize for Innovative Fiction. He is happy as hell to endorse THE LAUGHTER OF STRANGERS.