July 3, 2021. The eve of Independence Day. A solitary figure sits on the roof of a large house, sipping red wine and puffing to the stub end of a Black and Mild he discovered while searching the junk drawer in the kitchen for a rubber band to shoot two fat summer flies buzzing with shit-spit through the house. The smoke is now burning his eyes. He squints and litters the driveway below. Over it goes. The cigar lands and bursts into a display of fiery ashes upon the pavement.
A bright star in the southern sky is low enough to touch and is winking at him. He winks back at her with a toast of his glass, a nod, and a smile. He takes a deep cleansing breath. A syrupy-sweet magnolia overpowers the remnants of smoke in his nostrils.
The big show is tomorrow night. The thick tree line across the street resembles a black mountain ascending steeply into the horizon. Twenty-four hours from now, real fireworks will reveal what the daytime already knows: a tidy and tame forest just beyond perfectly manicured lawns, hiding and shading a cool clean stream straight out of Hawthorne’s Fanshawe. The dogs splash there on dangerously hot days when panting isn’t enough.
For now, the well-fed, pot-bellied American fathers of the neighborhood are grunting and bending over with sweaty, hairy plumber cracks to light the wicks of cheap firecrackers and smoke bombs and snakes resembling thin cancerous pencil turds. The product is more sound than sight, failing to live up to the retailer’s gap-toothed promise, but the children don’t mind. What is happening is popcorn, really, loud popcorn, pop, pop, popping and sometimes whistling. If your eyes are closed, he thinks, one can easily imagine canons booming, muskets firing, and min-balls whistling into the red yelping asses of the British. Bloody hell, that stings!
A very frightened German shepherd is bonking dangerously heavy against the glass pane behind him. The man, barefoot in his favorite Levi’s, ponders the grainy texture of the shingles scratching the soles of his feet. Carefully, and a smidgety-smudge tipsy, he stands and sets the empty wine glass safely in the rain gutter. He slides the window open. The dog nearly knocks him off the roof.
Hugging, petting, stroking, and reassuring the animal, he holds the adorable triangular face between the palms of his hands and says, “Easy, boy, easy. You pointy-eared sissy bastard. You try’n-ta kill me or what, dammit?” The lick of the dog is dry and his breath smells fishy and foul like trichomoniasis. “Whew, boy, you need a mint.”
German shepherds rarely stink but this odor comes from a parched fear. This dog is muscular and handsome and, under normal circumstance, as brave as a Roman centurion, countenance regal as a king, bushy tail waving high and proud as a feather plume, not to mention sporting a huge swinging ball sack that would make any man jealous. But his ears, those glorious ears are aiming true north, vacillating, his gigantic head cocking with a sense of hearing that is four times farther and twenty-five times sharper than any human being. Thunderstorms and fireworks give sheps the shakes and the shits. What this poor old pup needs is a big bowl of beer to calm his nerves.
The Brimley’s Chorus frogs aren’t bothered by the faux sounds of war. Their show must go on. Mating is important and enjoyable. Amphibian respirations pulse and swell deep within the silhouetted belly of the forest so that the vision of the black mountain rises and falls with signs of life. The white noise is as soothing as a Carolina porch wing creaking with the weight of two people holding hands, voices barely audible, watching fireflies and sipping apple pie moonshine. No, actually, it’s the sound of bed springs creaking beneath two lovers slow-fucking under the brilliant blinding mirror of an Upstate moon.
The elderly Italian woman who lives directly across from the man is as energetic and alert as a hummingbird. She notices him on the roof and says, “How’s it going, eh?” Fine, he says, and toasts his empty glass to her, longing for a refill of something stronger, faster, and more effective than wine. The nosey neighbor wants something more from him than he’s willing to give, something to talk about, something to pass on to the others, psst, psst, psst. For some reason, he likes her. She always offers him homemade pastries as if he were a stray cat (and perhaps he is) but her tasty treats come at an informative price (You give-a something to me and I give-a something to you, eh?). He’s careful not to bite. No poison apples tonight. His intoxicated mind remembers a childhood rhyme (Mama mia! Papa pee all over the kitchen floor), followed by the disturbing vision of the neighbor’s silver-haired husband peeing in prostate-swollen dribbles.
This man who is all alone climbs back inside of the window, allowing his nervous shep to go first. Downstairs, he pours himself two shots of gin, further fueling and warming his need for her, the one that he loves. Miles away, she’s out on the water, pretty head skyward, seductive mouth hanging wide open, a rainbow of fireworks exploding like multiple orgasms in the pure reflection of her blue iris eyes. She’s wearing a red bathing suit barely containing her breasts. If he were there, he would kiss her long and proper, yes, and taste the sea on her lips.
A third shot of gin on top of the wine. He walks over to a messy corner of the lonely house, where a yellow legal pad waits for him. It takes only a few minutes to scratch and immortalize a memory. Sheets of paper fall like autumn leaves to the floor, many of them crumpled. Hemingway’s famous line whispers in his ear, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” from The Sun Also Rises.
The Cock Also Rises. (Is that the title of your novel, eh? You give-a me something and I give-a you something.).
Yes, yes, yes, I’m officially drunk he says to himself in the bathroom mirror. But the writing goes well. A memory (no imagination necessary) of that time when he kayaked her sexy ass into the golden reflection of a summer moon on a lake whose water mixed with the bay, a liquid lunar highway running directly beneath the fireworks of a different fourth, and how he longed to take her to that mysterious, magical, romantic somewhere outside of reality and just shy of eternity.
Near to midnight, he locks the pups away. Two young female shepherds and a miniature pinscher. Sexy Lexi (full name Lexicon) is Navy Seal qualified and the real A dog out of the whole bunch who somehow remains humble, submissive, and exceptionally feminine. Dixie is Lexi’s sister and the prettiest face God ever put on a dog but also a floozy whore who’s gotten herself pregnant after having brazen trampoline sex with Max in the broad daylight (big brave Max, who’s still trembling from the neighborhood snaps, crackles, and pops). The miniature pinscher Brownie is a damn of a ham whose body gets bigger as his head gets smaller, reminiscent of Beatle Juice (thus earning himself the nickname Beads). When the man closes the door to the pet room, there is a happy crunching of biscuits and the pungent smell of a hot Beads fart behind him.
The big beautiful silent house is secure as he heads halfway up the stairs, stops, and turns around to think about it. Back at the refrigerator again, he retrieves the bottle of gin, unscrews the cap, and takes two burning gulps. That should do it, he thinks.
Before the bedroom lamp is extinguished, a final piss call and a sniff tour through the dirty laundry basket. He chooses one of her shirts, silky smooth and alive with deodorant and daisy perfume. He dresses the extra pillow, hugging it tight to his chest. He lays his spinning head on another pillow scented with the shampoo of blonde hair and perfect skin.
Max is pressing hard to the side of the bed, panting. “Goodnight, you fuzzy, loveable, annoying, sissy asshole.” The German shepherd gives another trich lick to his outstretched hand. Won’t be using that hand tonight, he thinks.
“Alexa, set an alarm for 5:30 a.m.”
Out goes the light. Falling, falling, free falling into the bottomless well of her wet dreamscape.