A Paradise Where Roses Bloom by Kenneth Pobo

I’m in The Hornacle again, my favorite bar. Let me correct that. It’s not a bar as much as it’s a dive and it’s not a dive as much as it’s a way of life. The jukebox is angelic. You can hear “Stardust” and right afterwards some bizarre garage band with no hits, before Patsy sings “Crazy”—by then I’ve had too many and I’m crazy hunting down stardust in an oil-stinky garage.

I’m looking for paradise. Isn’t everyone? I believed in Jesus. He promised paradise but I got distracted. That’s what my ex-wife told me. “Sam, you’re too easily distracted. You get an idea, you pop it like popcorn, and then you’re onto something else.” She has that right. I got distracted by a bunch of guys with their pants down. Instant paradise but brief. Stardust. Crazy. Cara went back to Moline to live with her sister Alice, the bumpy one who says she only answers to “Gaga” now.

I’ve pretty well fucked up my life—which means I’m in good company at the Hornacle where we turn success into poison cookies. The nice dope down on the end stool, Joe Litson, was a linen company CEO. He started coming here five years ago, ate our cookies. He jabbers to himself and shakes his head.

Some leave and we don’t see them again. They become rumors, innuendos.  Or news stories.

I was a new story once when I got arrested for killing an old man who lived three doors down from Cara and me. He goaded me about keeping my lawn mowed and painting the house. “It’s an eyesore,” he said, as if accusing me of puking on the Mona Lisa.

I threatened to kill him, wrap my bare hands around his scrawny throat, light him on fire like a rag doused in gasoline. My neighbor Scott overheard me. That made me look bad. I was the prime suspect until another neighbor, Billy Joe, found Jesus and confessed. He’s serving life now and so am I, in my way, here on stool number five.

I could have done it, easily. But as usual I got distracted.

Life and I have made a tenuous peace. I don’t bother it and it doesn’t bother me.

Mom says I’ll never amount to anything. She’s right. I haven’t yet and I’m not interested in amounting. Dad amounted to a lot, died leaving her two hundred grand, twenty grand to me because “he’ll just booze it away or worse.”

Paradise is harder to give up. My dreams are roses and hibiscuses. I’m often in a meadow and birds land on my head. Then I wake up and smell like sweat and Old Spice. I was too young to be a hippy back in the sixties, but I caught a whiff of utopia (or was it good pot?) and I’ve been chasing the scent ever since.

It’s not transcendence I’m after. I want an earthier paradise, feet in mud, life made of wood, like Lincoln Logs, not of cement and ass-fault.

Maybe this bar is as close as I’ll get. It tops my studio apartment with flesh-colored walls and moldy closets. I could do worse. Here there’s talk and despair never puts on a suit. We can scrap over politics or buy politics a drink and send it out into the dark.

Joe Litson, he’s God. No shit, he really is. When I die, I’m trusting that Joe will make everything OK. He’ll magic wand me into a meadow and I’ll be one more butterfly flexing on orange-colored blossoms. If he’s not God, that’s fine too. It does no good to worry about these things. I’ll order one more for the road—which is quite long, infinite, and crazy garage stardust follows wherever you go.

Kenneth Pobo has flash or short fiction in Flash Fiction Offensive, Word Riot, Verbsap, Alien Sloth Sex, Dogzplot, Bananafish, Short but Deadly and elsewhere.  Catch his radio show, Obscure Oldies, Saturdays from 6-830pm EST at wdnrfm.com.

10 comments:

David Barber said...

A great, atmospheric piece, Kenneth. Your words painted a very gritty picture of a bar that probably exists in every town and city around the world. Great writing!

Very well done!

Katherine Tomlinson said...

It's the details, the precision of language. Excellent story.

Bill Baber said...

that is an example of damn fine writing! Keep it up Kenneth....

Bruce Harris said...

Kenneth, You are a pro. I've admired your work on Short, Fast, and Deadly. This piece is terrific. I feel as though I am sitting at the bar with the narrator. Nice!

Doc said...

"I haven’t yet and I’m not interested in amounting." What a great line!

Like everyone else, I'm impressed with the flow and the language. It really drew me in and made me want to know about the character. I'm looking forward to more.

Doc

Glenn Gray said...

Well written, cool story.

Paul D. Brazill said...

Top writing.

Julie Lewthwaite said...

Superb, loved it!

Ben said...

Mood is a hard thing to convey, but this piece does it most excellently. It's a pleasure to read tone presented this well.

kurtnewton said...

Impressive writing. Off to check out more of Kenneth's work...