Stomach full of frozen margaritas—naked—salt on my lips, I siphon gasoline from Mom’s Mazda Roadster with a garden hose wrapped around my neck—drooping from my shoulders with the ballooning bulk of a Boa constrictor. KFC buckets splashing soggy brims, I douse myself in the front yard as Owen Ovary gawks—groping his father’s rusty lawnmower.

Bleeding from broken eyeballs, a cathedral of cumulonimbus, Mom watches—riding dusk—frothing feverish from Mazatlán meth labs and Jalisco monasteries she crashes in agave fields and cranberry crops. Dad cuddles in my single bed—bricks below—fungus feet brushing nipples, double helix piercings, waxed earlobes shaped like altostratus obscured moons; toenails slicing dimples with the obstinate inertia of wayward darts seconds before a barroom brawl, drunker than darkness and dumber than death. Dad punches my ribcage every morning. I’m trapped, rabid, foaming from fat lips, cigarette burns between breasts no larger than mosquito bites.

I protect our pregnant belly.

Dad aims for my eyes, curses, filling the bedroom with KFC flatulence—all we ever eat. Dad works the register. Soon he’ll discover our fetus. Dad smuggles coleslaw, biscuits, gravy, and corn on the cob.

***

Mom drove Barkley home from the Vietnamese veterinarian in her rental Volvo after she crashed the Roadster and commiserated with us about liver cancer. My brother Charles carried Barkley to his bedroom and stroked behind broken ears, ink in golden elephantine-aged crumbs, fractured fingers entwined in mesh: severed from a neighbor’s basketball hoop. Ingestible thermometer in ulcerated stomach, drowning in depression and sadness, floating across fur with the inertia of a sailboat sinking into waning sunset, Charles moans.

Madness sweating from fluorescent yellow incisors, I listened to Mom weeping, Dad drunk, using Barkley’s prescription for a cocktail napkin, serenading the kitchen with a wild renditions of “You’re So Vain” and “America the Beautiful” with amber waves of grain, alcohol on his pimpled chin glinting with the wisdom of dying dragons swallowing in and tonic rhythms with rising blood pressure meds and moon flaming esophagus.

Currents curl through cold bricks, into hardened arteries.

I hovered, dazed, cradled by cobwebs and weak-veined limbs bashing oblong windows and beaches whiter than sand dollars and death, and ballooning—confined in cocoons, coffins, cribs, and castles—sneezing snot, crumbling—borne from months of worry, waves of urchins crashed on empty shores of cerebellum.

I swaggered into my brother’s bedroom and found Charles making love to Barkley. Charles was blindfolded and finished fast and Barkley reciprocated and I couldn’t peel my eyes from how vivacious the dying dog looked. My mother noticed and approached and that was the last time either of us saw Mom. She never picked up her Mazda Roadster from the body shop. Charles ran away and got hit by a trolley fulfilling his rush of hopscotching into traffic. Dad took me in his arms at the funeral and every waking moment is Dad dancing in my eyelids, asking me about things which have queen-sized alibis.

***

The waxing gibbous moon hangs sober over Adam. I shaved my obstinate bikini line for eternity. The elegy of incest moans in rhododendrons. Adam refuses to blink, chooses to absorb me and nothing else matters but my adolescent silhouette glistening, all his prayers answered. Metallica melts into sticky headphones. I do jumping jacks, just jumbling gravity—I’m the gleam of fire in every father’s scrotum.

Adam’s mouth wider than a million zits, Zippo in trembling fingers, tongue orbiting a constellation of ectopic sebaceous glands and pimples, the lawnmower drone engulfing crickets—ballooning acoustics of burning flesh. Fireflies floating between ether and elephantine flames, monkeys screaming, sprinting, slaloming between plastic flamingoes into Ugly Street, I forage fortune in the crumbling cookie.

I’m the tween on fire, the one you’ll read about in the news, the neighbor your parents will warn you about, the one your children are obsessed with. I’m the volunteer firefighter who somersaulted from the George Washington Bridge; pretty shadow haunting deaf children; whispering nightmares to dying grandparents; sheets soaked with sweat—pillows crusted with phlegm and rheum—spinning bedroom—reeking of monkey cages and stale urine. I’m the stain on the sidewalk of the cul-de-sac where cool kids come to gawk, scribbling initials in chalk, colorful hearts, greasy foreheads, prepubescent freckles, cherubic, uncircumcised, smoking Marlboro Reds, soon to spin bottles in creepy basements with camel toes and get fondled in pitch-black closets. Inhale fresh grass clippings, seven minutes in Heaven, hopscotch on gin and blotter acid, the groan of a perverted grandfather—moan of a monkey falling from fronds.

Toilets blacker than coffins, the earth blankets the monk inside me. The tangerine moon dangles by a frayed string. Listen to blood gushing through rusty pipes, puppets plotting funerals, foraging for melting wombs, mariachi of the lawnmower, memories of a daughter defying dusk.

Matthew Dexter is the author of The Ritalin Orgy (Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, 2013), among hundreds of stories. His second novel, Hero Custodian, will be published in 2019. Debut memoir, story collection forthcoming. He’s the Lil Wayne of literature.

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