I didn’t believe in monsters until my sister brought one home. She called it “Rick.” Mom called it “Son!” I called in sick to work for a week and then a month. Ever since Dad had died in a golf cart accident my life had been punctuated by periods of desperation and despair, and Rick’s rapid and pernicious presence (his dog food franchise, slick-backed hair, and his alcoholic eyes) had precipitated in me a new era of agoraphobia. For months, I sat in the living room, hardly living on takeout and canned goods (and believe me there isn’t anything good about canned goods). I maxed out my credit and bottomed out on meds. Then it was Easter and Dad returned from the dead. “Son,” he said, “Favor.” He asked me to take him to the country club. There was something he’d been meaning to finish. Outside the Pro Shop, we ran into my sister who confessed, tearfully, that our mother had run away with Rick. Dad tensed up and sis passed out. “Who the hell is Rick?” Dad asked. “Rick,” I said, “is just some slick motherfucker.”
I Read the News Today
Convinced my parole officer was a Peeping Tom, I did what any concerned citizen (who just so happens to be an ex-middleman on house arrest) would do: I traded the last of my stash to my neighbor for a pair of night vision goggles and a crossbow pistol. The plan was to camp out on the screened-in porch and catch the freak in the act. And that night, catch him in the act I did. The only problem was he caught me, too, and first. Our respective night vision goggles nearly kissed through the screen, and, just before the flash, I saw his mouth all big and bent and wicked. The bullet burned a hole through my heart and buried itself into my spine. I got off a shot of my own, though, and, at close range, an arrow fired from a crossbow pistol acts like less like an arrow and more like an impact hammer. My P.O. died on my lawn, alone, his nose pressed into a patch of buttercups. Death found me flat on my back on the porch. At least that’s what the newspaper said and I believe it.
It was raining animals and we sweated nude in the glass-walled parlor of my attorney’s home in the hills. We counted and recounted my newly-acquired old money into thick stacks in the corner. I’d hit big on a Superfecta and then I’d hit on a small cocktail waitress and now we were celebrating with absinthe and LSD at my lawyer’s house. He was out of the country. I was out of my mind. We finished the bottle then finished counting the money. Half was in the fireplace. “Why are we burning this?” she said. “Seems like a waste.” “Nonsense,” I said. “This is the best money you’ll never spend. Not only are we repaying the debts of our ancestors, but we’re also taking out a little afterlife insurance. This money will wait for us in the next world.” “In that case,” she said, “we’d better burn it all, including our credit cards.”
In a coconut-themed conference room at the corporate cabana, you brought the pizza. I brought the dart gun. We were ready for the teambuilding exercises and the brainstorming sessions. My first idea was the best idea. I popped our supervisor, Walter, with a tranquilizer dart and said, “Okay, folks. You know the drill. What comes before Part B? Part A! That’s right, it’s party time.” You distributed the pepperoni and magic mushroom slices and said: “Get ‘em until you’re gone!” Ambrose from Accounts ripped open his Hawaiian shirt and said: “It’s on like Genghis Khan’s mom slobbering on John Holmes’ dong!” Jeanie, the office intern, produced a rum flask and passed it like a boss. Walter came to as soon as the shrooms boomed. He sat up and said, “Alright, I sure feel rested. I feel good. Calm. Focused. Now everyone grab a different color Sharpie and let’s see if we can’t get a good master list going.” I said, “I’m on it.” Then I tranqed him again. Everyone cheered. There was no stopping our time to shine. There was no retreating from this retreat. We were taking our talents to the streets. We’d save the company, one way or another. We were, after all, professionals.
Beat Too Long
The cult leader leaned into the microphone and said: “Welcome home, newbs! Some ground rules: 1.) Everybody have fun tonight. 2.) Everybody Wang Chung tonight.” You said: “I think we’re going to like it here!” I said: “Is that a pig-man?” You said: “Yeah!” I said: “Let’s fuck it!” You said: “What?” I said: “Yeah! Let’s fuck it!” You said: “Oh! That’s what I thought you said! I’m tired of porking!” I said: “Oh! Me, too!” It took me an extra beat to say anything though, which, as it turned out, was a beat too long. Now you were seated at the right hand of the leader, licking his toes, ankles, knees, thighs, and then his––and I knew right then that I needed to revise my idea of fun.
I was working as a personal assistant’s personal assistant. My job was to catch everything that fell through the cracks. I was commended after Chester Goldbaum’s tear-stained, Men’s room Devil confession. I quit after Susan Ortega’s baby chewed its way out of Susan Ortega and into my backpack. For fifteen bucks an hour there’s a finite number of supernatural cataclysms a mind can process and mine stopped at antichrist.
Mel Bosworth is the author of the novel Freight and the poetry chapbook Every Laundromat in the World. His work has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Tin House, Per Contra, New World Writing, Santa Monica Review, Melville House, and American Book Review, among others. A former series editor for the Wigleaf Top 50 (2015), he is the creator & curator of the Small Press Book Review. Camouflage Country, co-written with Ryan Ridge with illustrations by Jacob Heustis, is available now from Queen’s Ferry Press. Mel lives, breathes, writes, and works in Western Massachusetts.
Ryan Ridge is the author of the story collection Hunters & Gamblers, the poetry collection Ox, as well as the hybrid novel, American Homes. His new collection, Camouflage Country, co-written with Mel Bosworth, is out now from Queen’s Ferry Press. He is currently a visiting professor of creative writing at the University of Louisville.
Illustrations by Jacob Heustis