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issue 52: March - April 2006 

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R.D.T Byrd: Fooling GodFooling God
R.D.T. Byrd

 

I take the canteen my brother offers me and tilt my head back, drinking deep from it. The sun drops down on us hard. I don’t feel it anymore. My skin’s so brown I could pass for a Mexican these days. My brother’s pretty much the same.
      He’s staring at my tattoo again, the cross and the flames that take up most of my back. I turn away so he can’t see it, think about getting my shirt from the truck and putting it on. I’m not ashamed of it, it’s just that it’s private. I didn’t get it for him to look at or to comment on. I got it to remind me that even when there’s doubt, I got something on me etched in ink and blood that will not fade.
       Nick takes back the canteen and drinks. It’s so hot out here, hot enough to bake the noise right out of the day, hot enough to make those summer Illinois days when I was a kid with nothing to do but play in the shade of trees these desert people could never dream of seem like memories of things that never happened.
      On this end of the ranch it’s just him and me and the truck, both of us sitting on the tailgate that’s turned down. The dog, Pisser, a yellow Lab, crawls under our feet and under the truck, trying to find someplace the sun can’t get to.
      "Want to get back to it?" I say.
      "In a minute," Nick says. He calls these "stoppers," moments when it feels like time doesn’t work anymore. He takes them where he can get them; he says he needs them because of having been in jail. "Never was any stoppers in there," he told me once. "Not one second where you didn’t have to watch your back or listen to somebody getting fucked."
      Nick said he got raped in the shower once. I wish I could say there wasn’t some part of me that’s deeply satisfied that this happened to him.
      "You preaching tonight?" Nick says.
      "Yeah," I say, wiping my forehead with the bandanna. I feel the scar there, the one that I don’t like to touch.
      "What about?"
      "Don’t know. Never do. The Lord does the talking, I just open my mouth."
      Nick sniffs. "Never thought you’d end up here, talking God to bunch of retards."
      He doesn’t like the people who come to listen to me under the dying fig trees down by the horse pond. He calls them idjits and retards, and his eyes narrow up, but those are just shades of the Nick from when we were kids, the one that beat the shit out of me about every day––just shadows. Occasional clouds. More often than not he’s fine to be around now, and no matter what he says, he comes too, hanging back, listening, looking off in the distance like he doesn’t care. Mia comes with him, even though I’d like her not to. She makes it hard to think sometimes. Hard to hear God.
      Nick stretches and gets up. "Let’s go."
      Pisser gives us an interested look, but doesn’t get up from where he’s resting. We lift posts from the back of the truck and get to digging new holes for them, neither of us talking, both of us sweating, and everything fine in the moment.

*

We set our own hours, and I like that about the job. It’s another perk from the preaching, the being able to come and go as we please, because the ranch owner is a religious man. We don’t abuse the privilege; we keep to a regular schedule, usually up and at it by seven and done around four or five. Every once in a while we sleep in late. We share a fixed-up room in the back of the barn with a swamp cooler that works just well enough to beat the heat back to the door and makes everything so moist that all the pages of my books are turning up at the corners.
      Driving back, I make marks on the map Nick drew to show new places where the fence needs mending. It never ends; it’s the weather, the wind, the rabbits and sometimes wolves––they all tear it apart. It never stops. Things fall apart, and we fix them.
      "We’re thinking about going into town tonight," Nick says. He’s leaning back in his seat, hat pulled down nearly over his eyes, one hand over the wheel. Couldn’t look cooler if he tried. He means him and Mia. They’re not together, not in any kind of official way. They fuck a lot––I’ve seen her giving him head sometimes at night when they think I’m asleep, or maybe they don’t care. They sit together in the truck sometimes watching the sun go down, and sometimes go into Las Vegas to play the slot machines. She teaches tourists how to ride horses when they get tired of losing money and they come up the valley to see the real desert.
      "You want to come with?" he says.
      I shrug. "I don’t know."
      "You should. You haven’t left the ranch since you got here."
      I settle back and watch the posts go by, and the rocks and the sand and the cacti, and the patches of dusty grass that are struggling just to be alive. "I don’t know what I want to do," I say.
      "Ask God."
      I don’t say anything to that. I don’t want to tell him that even though God speaks through me, I don’t talk to Him. Truth is, I’m too afraid.
      I turn the radio up. Reba McIntire takes us home.

*

 I was in Tucson, drifting from place to place, working at a bar. And I got shot. I remember the man who robbed the bar. I remember the gun. I remember being dead.
      I opened my eyes months later and far away, and there was Nick, standing over me. He saw the scar, and he believed. When I see the scar, I have my doubts.
      "It feels like touching the other side of something," Mia said. Nick told her about me and she came to see. She told the rest of the women who worked on the ranch, the ones who cleaned the guest rooms and washed the sheets, and they told their men, the ones who cut the grass and walked the horses from one field to another, brushed them and sometimes raced them. They said they came just to introduce themselves, but really it was to pray.
      Nick said it was fever talk, the way I’d close my eyes and tell them to be strong and change their ways and turn away from sin. He said it was nothing but crazy words, and he didn’t like it at all. At first he chased them off, but they always came back, until finally there were just too many of them, coming hour after hour to sit by my bed, them and their families and their friends and friends of friends, so finally, still weak and hurting, leaning on Nick, we all went to the tree, where I opened my mouth and let the Lord come.
      "It was beautiful," Mia told me later. "The things you said. You almost convinced me that somebody’s up there."
      But I don’t remember anything that I said, and never have since. All I ever remember is this terrible feeling, like being shot all over again. It’s like that every time.

*

 She sits on the edge of the bed and smokes.
      "How was it?" Mia says, blowing out slowly. She smokes a lot. She’s older than Nick, though how old, she won’t say. She’s so skinny that you can see her ribs.
      "It was good," I say. I’m laying back on my bed, naked and sticky.
      "Better than men?" she says.
      "It was different," I say. "Fucking is different than getting fucked. How was I?"
      "You were very good," she says. She sighs. "I don’t like being with a guy who has had too many women. I get lost in the shuffle, and he starts thinking of himself as a big stud. No woman wants to be lost like that."
      She’s turned a little more towards me, holding the cigarette between her finger and her thumb. I wish that I smoked, or that I had something to do, anything, something appropriate. If I could draw, I suppose I would do that.
      "What’s going to happen?" She stares at me hard, dark eyes shining. "What’s coming next?"
      "How would I know?"
      She rolls her eyes. "Somebody like you, you got to know something, right?"
      "Somebody like me?"
      She makes a gun with her finger and puts it to her head. "Was God there when it happened? That’s all I want to know."
      "I don’t remember," I say, which is almost the truth. "You know, there have been cases of people being shot at point blank range, and the bullet just creases their skull, following the curve of the bone to come out the other side. It’s not always a miracle."
      "Is that what you think happened?"
      I watch her as she gathers up her clothes. She coughs violently, a sound I’m getting used to when she’s around. She says it’s her allergies.
      "What about Nick?" I say when she’s at the door, leaning on it to slide her shoes on.
      "We’re not married." She ties her hair up. "But he’s going to find out. People always find out. That’s just the way it is."
      And then she’s gone, leaving the door open, letting the heat roll into the room. I let it lay on me, just like she did, and wonder who I am now.

*

She’s right, he does find out.
      We’re driving out to the south part of the ranch, the side that tends to get the most destruction, when he brings it up. "Guess it makes sense," he says out of the blue. "She loves to fuck, and there’s not a lot of guys out here except the fucking Mexicans, and she don’t like their kind."
      "I’m sorry," I say. "We were talking about me being a virgin, and it just happened."
      He cocks an eye at me. "Was that all?" His expression breaks down the middle into a grin, and he laughs. "Well. Then that’s nothing to worry about."
      He reaches behind his seat and pulls out a bottle with the label torn off. He likes to drink in the afternoons, and likes to drink while he’s driving. He holds it out to me, and I take it. It’s hard to understand what I’m doing, or why I’m doing it. Everything feels like I’m swimming upstream.
      "I’m afraid of you," I say. I tip the bottle back, take a drink and gag. It tastes like it could be the stuff we use to wash the floor with.
      "Funny," he says. "I’m afraid of you, too."
      We follow the long curve of the outside road, the one that borders the entire ranch, filled with holes, rocking the old truck back and forth, shifting the dust on the dashboard and the weight of the wrappers and cans at our feet.
      "I’ve always been afraid of you," he says. "You’re like one of them birds that puts eggs in other birds’ nests. You know what I’m talking about?"
      "Cuckoos." I look at the door handle and wonder what it would be like to jump if I had to.
      Nick drinks deep from the bottle. "That guy I killed," he says. "I don’t feel guilty. I’m sorry it happened, but that’s it."
      He was hitching back home from a bar. Nobody knows why he stabbed the guy, and Nick never said, not even at his trial. They think it was robbery. I never thought he’d say anything about it.
      "What’s fucked is that it was easy," he says. "I mean, I killed somebody, and I’m still here, still eating and drinking and fucking and shitting, and that dude’s been dead for years now, and it don’t even matter. Not one little bit."
      We’re far out on the edge of the ranch now, to the parts that only we and the horses would ever come to, just the people that fix fences and the animals that go up to them, staring stupidly at the other side, not understanding that there’s another world out there, a different one.
      "Little brother," Nick says. "She’s mine. You don’t fuck her no more. Got it?"
      Driving. Silence. Sun. Fence.
      He holds out his hand.
      "Shake it," he says. "That’s what brothers do."
      I shake his hand. It really doesn’t make anything better.

*

Mia and I fuck every other night. I guess she fucks Nick on the nights when she’s not fucking me. I don’t know if he knows or not. We’ve reached something nice, finally, me and him, just working, just being together. Every once in awhile, for no reason, he gives me a fake punch in the arm, smiling, nicer than any apology.
      He doesn’t love her; he barely talks to her during the times when their paths cross on the ranch or during meals when we eat up at the big house with the Mexicans. I don’t think she loves him either. If she fucks him like she fucks me, she does it in a way that’s a little scary––she’s trying to fuck something away that she’s afraid of. Whatever it is, she hasn’t killed it yet; whatever it is, she’s losing.
      At night I walk out past the fences, up into the hills where I sit and watch the moon and the stars and the weird blue shine that the desert gets, and the Las Vegas lights in the distance, the little glitters that remind me of gold and are probably supposed to. I hear things in the dark and I’m very still, hoping they will show themselves. They don’t, most times, but I’m still content. I like being here at the ranch. I like seeing my brother. I like fucking Mia. I like the hot, endless days, and the sun that burns. I like repairing the fences. I like it all.
      You might even say that I love it. And that’s a word that has all the fear in the world wrapped around it.

*

They finally talk me into going into Vegas. We drive in silence, her in between us, watching the taillights of the other cars. Mia either holds Nick’s hand or twirls her hair around her fingers. She has something on her mind. I watch the road under the door go by, and think once again about what it would be like to jump.
      We go to the Riviera. Mia knows someone there and they give us a room for next to nothing. There are two huge beds in it, and a TV, and a giant bathtub, and a window that looks out over the old casinos. "Look at all the people," I say, pulling the curtains aside.
      "Assholes with too much money," Nick says, lighting a cigarette.
      "Oh, stop it," Mia says, laughing. It sounds forced. Nick shrugs.
      We walk downstairs and sit at slot machines, dropping nickels and quarters into them. Nick wins three hundred dollars and buys us bottles of beer. Mia drinks them fast, slamming them on counters and letting out loud whoops. She and Nick smoke cigars and cough. I don’t have any luck at all, not with the slots and not with the blackjack table where I lose forty dollars. We all get very drunk very fast.
      We circle the casino like ghosts, hovering through every aisle, drinking, cheering for others who win, falling over each other, swearing, telling dirty jokes. I barely even notice that I’ve started putting my arm around Mia when she’s not hanging on Nick, and she jumps back and forth between us, first him, then me. My brother and I look at each other, still grinning, but with shark eyes now.
      We fall into our room, all three of us, and Mia goes to the TV and turns it on, finds some station that’s playing music and turns it up loud. She dances around the room, twirling and twirling, her hair fanning out behind her. She’s beautiful.
      "Come here, you," Nick says. He grabs her and kisses her, hard. The two of them tear at each other. I know I should leave. He’s waiting for me to leave, but I can’t.
      Mia reaches down into Nick’s pants. Then she slides down, pulling them open, pulling it out, going down on him.
      The music is loud, but I can still hear the wet sounds and her grunting. When the moment hits, he loses it, throws his head back and howls, grabs her hair tight. He groans, looking at me, catching his breath. "Fucking queer," he says, yanking his pants up. He goes to the TV and turns it off.
      I weave unsteadily on my feet.
      Mia sweeps her hair out of the way and we see blood trailing freely out of her nose.
      "What the fuck?" Nick drops to his knee beside her. "Did I do that?"
      She wipes it away, and looks at her hand. She runs to the bathroom and I hear her crying, knocking things over in there, the thumping sound of the toilet paper roll as she pulls wads of it free. Nick goes to the door and I follow, standing behind him.
      She’s sitting on the floor, holding the paper to her face. It’s blooming red between her fingers.
      "I’m calling the ambulance," Nick says.
      "No," she says. "Don’t. It’ll stop. It always does. Just leave me alone."
      We do, taking seats on the end of either bed, passing a cigarette between us.
      "God damn it," Nick says, rubbing his eyes.
      I know how he feels.

*

The bleeding doesn’t stop, so we take her to the hospital.
      We both pace the halls, staying clear of each other, not allowed to see her yet, not being family. Eventually the nurse says she asked for Nick, and he winks at me when he walks by.
      He comes back ten minutes later, his face a lighter color. He tells me it’s my turn.
      She’s sitting up in bed, tubes in her nose and in her arms. "I have a tumor," she tells me. "I knew it. I was having headaches and nosebleeds, and trouble remembering things."
      She tries to cross her arms, but can’t because of the tubes.
      "Am I going to be okay?" she says.
      "Yeah," I say. "Of course."
      She looks at me for a long moment.
      "You’re just a fucking kid," she says. "Pray with me. You can do that, right? I mean, tell me something like you tell those assholes at the ranch, tell me I’ve got something better waiting for me."
      I should. I can feel God in my throat ready to come out, but I fight Him off and leave, back out to the waiting area where my brother is standing in front of the picture window, the tint of it holding back the sunrise that’s taking over the world.
      He turns. "She told you?"
      "Yeah," I say.
      He sighs, a long, drawn out noise as if he’s pushing all the air out of his body. He folds his hands between his legs and lets them hang there in the air, shaking slightly with the force of his pulse.
      "I don’t want to do this," he says. "Doc says it’s the kind that grows fast. They’re going to try to kill it, but he thinks a few months, tops. Said I should get ready ’cause it’s going to be bad. What do you think about that?"
      "I think you better do right for once," I say. "I think it’s your last chance."
      I’ve never talked to my brother like that before.
      "Is that what God thinks?" he says.
      "I don’t know," I say. "I do."
      He pulls a couple of dollars out of his pocket.
      "Go get us some cokes, Johnny," he says. "I’m thirsty."
      It’s a little brother kind of thing to do, and I’m happy to do it. She’s right, I am just a fucking kid, and right now I want to be one for as long as I can.

*

Tests. She gets a million of them. Blood tests, piss tests, tests for the way she thinks. She comes and goes between the hospital and the ranch, and the more I see her, the more it’s like I can see through her, more pale every time. I don’t talk to her. I can’t convince myself that this isn’t my fault.
      Nick is always with her at the hospital or with her at the side of her bed, so I fix the fences by myself now. I still go to the tree, and they still gather to listen, and I still never remember a single thing that was said, even though they tell me it was wonderful. No, when God talks I go back to being dead, and I can’t tell if I’m being punished or rewarded for something. I guess it could be both.
      I try very hard not to think about why – why me, why I died, why she’s going to die, why she won’t wake up the same way that I did.
      Why can drive you crazy.

*

A month. Then two. People forget about Mia. She sleeps all day and night. I hardly ever see Nick. He sleeps next to her in the room the ranch owner is letting them have. Everyone’s trying to make up for something.
      I’m sitting on my bed, drawing circles on a pad of paper. My scar hurts something terrible tonight, like it always does when the weather’s about the change. My birthday is next week; it seems wrong to have a birthday when someone is dying nearby, to have your time counted out loud when theirs is running out so fast.
      It’s windy outside, and Nick is in our room for a change, sitting on the end of his bed, facing away from me, smoking. I’m glad for the company and for the pleasant scent of the smoke in the air. We don’t need the swamp cooler tonight––the wind is bringing in a chill from the desert night, and it feels good on the back of my neck.
      The door opens and Mia comes in. She looks like she crawled right out of the ground, like the nightmares I used to have about my mother after she died, that she would come into the house, skin and bones, reaching for me.
      But Nick, all he sees is love. He jumps to his feet and holds her up. "What the hell are you doing?" he says, helping her to his bed. She looks like walking hurts her, like everything hurts her. Some of her hair’s gone, right down to the skin, and the idea that I ever fucked her makes me want to throw up.
      She can’t speak for a moment, catching her breath. I wonder what it’s like to have something inside your own head that’s destroying you, making your body eat itself and sometimes yell crazy shit into the air, things we can all hear in the night when it’s really bad. No worse than a bullet, I guess.
      "Hi Johnny," she says, trying to smile. "How you doing?"
      "Good," I say. "How are you?"
      "Don’t be a dumb fuck," Nick says. He makes her lie down, putting a pillow behind her head so she can sit up. She’s wearing a dress, something white and simple that ties up the front, and her ribcage is plain as a side of beef at a butcher shop.
      "He’s just being friendly," Mia says. "I miss that, having people be friendly."
      She pats the side of the bed, and unable to resist, I come and sit next to her. Nick glares at me, stands at the foot of the bed, crossing and uncrossing his arms.
      "We should get you back into bed," he says. "I’ll carry you. Come on."
      "I’m not going back," she says. "There’s nothing there, anyway. You know Lupita? The one with the mole under her eye that you said looks like she sneezed and never cleaned it up? I gave her everything I had. I told her to sell it all."
      She laughs; it’s a broken sound.
      "Then I’ll get it back," Nick says. "Don’t worry about it."
      "God, Nick," she says. "Don’t you get it? I’m not going back to that room. I’m not going anywhere. This is the last place I’m ever going to go."
      There’s a loose board on the south side of the barn, one that whistles with the wind. I wish I could find it and kick the shit out of it just to make the sound stop.
      She slides her hand over mine. It’s like holding hands with a skeleton covered with warm tea bags. "The chemo’s not taking," she says. "That’s it then. The end."
      "Mia," Nick says, "come on, this is stupid."
      She kisses me. I don’t kiss her back; her dry lips are smashed into mine. My mind is full of white, waiting for Nick to do something, and he doesn’t disappoint. He hits me and I fall off the bed, flat on my back. He’s standing over me, pushing her away, back into the pillow. "Knock it off!"
      "No," she says. "I want him. I miss him. He’s a better fuck than you ever––"
      "Shut up!" he shouts.
      She shakes her head. I remember when she danced, how beautiful her hair was, how much there was of it.
      "I came to fuck him one last time," she pants. "I love having his big dick."
      He makes a lion roar and jumps on the bed, shaking her. I get up and hit him in the side of the head, once, and then again. He doesn’t even flinch, he’s shouting at her, screaming, calling her a whore, saying he can’t wait until she dies.
      And then he stops, like a switch being flipped. He lets her go, getting up.
      "Come on," she rasps, crying, trying to sit up. Her face is red; her shoulders have finger marks. "You’re not even a fucking man!"
      "Shut up," I say to her. "Nick, she doesn’t know what she’s saying."
      "Quiet, Johnny," Nick says, wiping his face on his arm. "She knows. Christ, she knows."
      He sits down on the floor, cross-legged. He’s shaking a little.
      "You have to help me," she says, still trying to pull her body up on the pillow. "I can’t do this. I’ll have to go back to the hospital. Surgery, they say. Small chances, they say. Fuck that. I’ve seen it, in my father, in his guts, the way you go out, screaming."
      "No," Nick says.
      "You got to help me," she gasps.
      I feel like I’m trying to read a book, and every other page is missing. Nick sees the wide-open expression on my face, and laughs.
      "Don’t you get it?" he says. "She wants me pissed off so I’ll kill her. That’s what I’m good for, right? Killing people. She figures she can check out the easy way if she gets me mad. You bitch. Why don’t you kill yourself?"
      She swallows, and claws at the air.
      "I can’t," she says, her nose running with blood. "It’s a sin. Please, I don’t want to die in the hospital. Please Nick, I love you, you have to help me."
      I back away from them until my legs hit my bed and I sit down with a thump.
      "No," Nick says, shaking his head, sweat flying from the end of his hair. "You ain’t using me like that."
      He looks over at me.
      "Now you’ve really been screwed by a woman," he says, grinning the worst grin I’ve ever seen, something that could be the keyhole to hell.
      She rolls to her side and gets to her feet. She comes at him with what strength she’s got, hitting him, calling him a faggot, but he just pushes her away and won’t look at her.
      The wind whistles, the tiles of the clock fall over, and all three of us breathing hard at the same time. She stumbles to the door and leans on the handle.
      "I love you," she says, and falls out into the night, not closing the door behind her. She’s a shadow, and then she’s gone, maybe back to her empty room, or maybe someplace else we don’t know. I think I’m going to cry, but I hold it down. Nick just sits there, rocking a little, staring at the spot on the floor between his legs.
      Finally, he gets up like a rocket, on his feet so fast it scares me.
      "Get your coat," he says.

*

"Preach to me," Nick says. "Tell me something that God wants me to hear."
      He’s got both hands on the wheel, hunched over a little bit, teeth grit as he scans the way before us. We left the fences behind fifteen minutes ago, and driving as fast as he is, taking lefts and rights at random, bouncing up and down so much that we’re in a sort of freefall, I don’t know if we’re on any road at all anymore.
      "You know it doesn’t work that way," I say, holding on to my seat.
      "So make it," Nick says. "You going to let God push you around?"
      "Nick," I say. "In the morning, she won’t mean any of it. She loves you."
      "She tried to trick me," he says. "You must’ve thought there was some part of her that actually liked you. How’s it feel to know she didn’t mean a word of it?"
      It hurt like hell, to tell the truth.
      "Tell me little brother. Can you fool God?"
      Cacti are whizzing by us. Brush plants in front of us are mowed down by the truck. No, we’re not on a road now. I look over my shoulder and see nothing but dark behind us. Not the lights of Vegas and not the lights of the ranch, either.
      "Maybe in your heart," I say. "Maybe He can’t see if you hide it down far enough."
      He swallows. "I tried being good for her. Fuck, for you, too. But here we are, same exact place as if I’d shot you myself."
      He slams on the brakes and we skid to a halt, dust billowing around us until it’s just me and him in the cab, and gray outside the windows.
      "What are you doing, Nick?" I say. Sweat is trickling down my side.
      "Get out," he says. "I’m leaving you here. You got your fucking head blown off and God made that all right, so I guess He can handle this well enough."
      "Nick, don’t," I say. "Please."
      He squeezes his eyes closed, tight as he can.
      "You better get," he says.
      I start to beg him, but before I can talk there’s that lightning bolt of pain in my scar, the same that always comes when God is there.
      "Water is wet both because we expect it to be, and because it is," I say. "But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s water, and that in small doses, it’s necessary, and that in large doses, it drowns us. That’s the world. Yelling at water wouldn’t change any of it."
      He opens his eyes, staring at me, licking his lips. "Shit," he says. "I thought it was an act. I really did."
      "What?" I’m blinking stupidly. "What did He say?"
      Nick winces, the leather around the wheel creaking as he chokes it. "Get out, Johnny. Get out or I’ll kill you."
      The door moans open; the wind is strong and cold. It’s so black that I can’t see more than a couple of feet away from the headlights. Nick reaches across the cab and yanks the door shut, and then he’s spinning out in the dust, tearing the truck around and roaring back the way he came, the red of the taillights hovering in the air, bouncing around like some monster retreating backward.
      I look around me. My eyes are trying to adjust, but it’s so dusty.
      I take a few steps, trying to see the tire tracks. Before long I’ve lost them to the wind, which is shifting everything in snaky lines at my feet, blowing the trail home into pieces.
      I take a step and get stabbed in the ankles by needles.
      There’s nothing in that direction except night. Nothing in that one either, or that one, or that one over there. But it’s not that far to the city, or to the highway, or to the ranch. It can’t be far.
      I strain to hear a car, a plane, something that will tell me what way to go, but the wind howls over everything. I strain to hear God Himself, but nothing from that direction either.
      "FUCK!" I shout at the top of my lungs, listening for something to come back.
      Wind.
      I jam my hands in my pockets and start walking, head down, stumbling in the dark, falling a few times, getting stuck with thorns and brambles until I’m bleeding and pissed and scared. He’s my brother, and he will come back for me when he calms down. He has to. Things are different now.
      But he doesn’t come back for me. And time passes, how long I don’t know, until the sky purples and then blues, and when there’s enough light to see around me I don’t recognize anything, and there’s nothing but miles of scrub and dusty hills, no planes, no sounds of a road, and the sun is creeping in my direction, and I have no water and no shade and I have lived near the desert long enough now to know what those things mean.
      My skin prickles as the sun creeps over it, bringing the heat.
      It’s one or the other, I think. Either the bullet went around or all the way through.
      Scared to death, I start walking. I’m slowly climbing up a rise, nearing the top. I don’t know what I’m going to see once I get there. A road? Nothing but flat plains for miles? I’m praying that I’ll find my way, but I think I know the truth in my heart, that I will not, because I don’t know why any of this happened: why I’m here, why I woke up, why I fucked her. I don’t know if I deserve this, or if words like sin and salvation really mean anything, or if they’re just fancy jumped-up ways for us to talk about how we can’t help fucking each other over. I don’t know. I don’t know what God wants. I don’t know if that’s really Him talking with my mouth, or just some part of me that thinks it’s Him.
      I don’t know who’s fooling who. I just don’t fucking know.
      

R.D.T. Byrd  2006

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issue 52: March - April 2006 

f i c t i o n

Kit Reed: Grand Opening
R.D.T Byrd: Fooling God
Terry DeHart: Chasing Angela
Steven Gullion: Old Maids
Patrick Cole: California Stop


    
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Adam Haslett The Beginnings of Grief
Neil LaBute Time Share

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American Lit and Culture of the 1960s
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