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Brian Boies

A House Well Furnished

Out the window she saw a field. It was small and only on one side of the tracks. There were clothes stretched out on the cut grass. At first she thought they had been abandoned like all the clothes on the streets of the Mission. Maybe she would go through them, but she realized they were laid out to dry. She imagined it was some Richmond version of them. Richmond-her had washed the clothes in a creek and then put them in the field while Richmond-him went out to get some money, get some booze. They slept in a tent under trees by the creek. They were happy.

He started walking and she kept up. He was no longer strutting, but walking with at least the confidence of someone who knew where he was going. She looked around.

The town was poor. Churches and cats were everywhere, like old ladies ran the town. All the churches had bars on their windows. She was pretty sure it was a weekday but everyone seemed to be home. People sat on the porch and fast music came from most of the faded, sagging houses.

They had to walk forever to get to the bar, it was at least thirty minutes, and she expected it after every corner. She stopped looking around and stared at the sidewalk with him. Thinking of the promised beer, she put herself in a timeless trance until it was served. Her mouth, her whole body, longed for it. It waited for her, too. She was glad he wasn’t talking.

The bar was a building made out of sheet metal. The jukebox stood against the wall and shook the whole building to make it a big, shitty speaker blaring out Motown. All these people, now dead or divorced, passionately singing things about love that no one in the bar believed but still felt they should hear. It hurt her head.

His head was still down even though everyone in the bar seemed to know him. They smiled and said hi. They looked at him, then they looked at her and stopped talking, even though it seemed they wanted to say more.

He ordered for them. He had the money; this was all his idea. The bartender came back with two beers and a shot of whiskey. She drank her beer and watched as he downed the shot. She looked at the bartender to see if he was going to bring her one, too. They always had before.

“Don’t I get a shot?” she asked.

“Not now, later. We got to be cool for now. Just drink your beer.”

She didn’t need to be told that. She held her tongue now, but her skepticism warmed. She was angry for a second, but it faded as the beer filled in her skin. At the first sip of beer her dream of the day vanished. She just wanted to get drunk and stay there, nothing else mattered.

They had another round, no shot for anyone this time. They looked at each other as they drained their second bottles. When they put them down he smiled and said to her, “That’s it. I’ve got no more money.”

“What are you going to do?” She kept herself from saying “we.”

He smiled a strange one and looked her up and down. “That’s what we’re here for.”

“Just tell me what’s going on.”

“Don’t worry, freaky, it’s no big deal.”

She realized this whole day had been some stupid plan of his and, somehow, it involved her. She looked around at the other men in the bar. Surely one of them would buy her drinks until she didn’t remember who he was, either. She could live the same blur she’d been living, just in Richmond now.

He put his hand on her naked arm and she remembered the morning. She had to follow the way she felt then. Maybe it could happen with him again. It beat out drinking, which nothing had in a long time. They walked out of the bar.

There was more sun and she lingered in what the two beers had done to her even as she felt it slipping away. This was the only thing she was paying attention to.

He stopped. “Here we are.”

She looked around. They were at a house, the same as all the others, maybe a little more kept up. “What is this place?”

“This is where I grew up.”

“What are we doing here?”

“We’re going to see my mom.”

She tried to remember his name. “Why am I here?”

“Why wouldn’t I bring you?”

“Why would you?”

“Baby, we’ve done everything together the past two weeks. I just thought you’d want to come along.”

“I’m not going to have to do anything am I?”

He smiled. “Just be yourself.” She could see that his beauty was something that he could turn on and off. This was what he had been living off, probably since he was two.

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