Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Hillbilly Bowling
By Karl Koweski

On top of Brindlee Mountain there was little else to do.  We parked our trucks near the airline at Conoco Gas Station, Friday night, and waited for something to happen.  I leaned against the side of Codeye’s ‘78 Ford, not so much because we were friends (I tolerated him) but because he brought a pint of Wild Turkey lifted from his daddy’s stash.

A sip of Wild Turkey practically induced seizures.  Hell, the gasoline smell of it bringing the pint to my lips gave me the shakes.  It amused the shit out of Codeye, Dookie and Gump.

“Gimme a hit a that, Shagadelic,” Gump said.  He flexed his muscles grabbing the pint from me.  He flexed his muscles taking a hit off the bottle.  He flexed his muscles trying to keep from reacting the same way I did.  He flexed his muscles just standing there waiting for something to happen.

The bottle made its rounds.  Cars passed by on route 231, going wherever people go.  Some cars stopped at the gas station.  People pumped gas; they bought bottles of soda, packs of off brand cigarettes.  We nodded to those we recognized which were most of them.  Dookie grumbled about having nothing to do,though tonight was no different from any other night.  Once summer scorched into Alabama there were keg parties to be found, fields usually, just outside of town.  For now, though, it was parking lots and furtive sips of stolen hooch.

There were no females around.  Females our age tended to flock to the Burger King parking lot and its conglomeration of rich boys driving Mustangs and BMWs. The girls seemed to prefer these rides over my old Dodge with the cracked windshield, busted shocks and rusted floorboards.

Still, I wore my good pair of pants; not the Tommy Hilfiger britches the Burger King kids were partial to, but not Wal-Mart brand, either.  My mom got the jeans on sale at the Mall, and they actually fit well in the waist and ass.  I concealed the pimples on my forehead with a good Auburn cap.  Even Crimson Tide fans rather see War Eagle than cystic acne.

We were all dressed alike to a certain extent.  Gump wore clean overalls. Dookie wore his good Dale Earnhardt Jr. T-shirt and Codeye wore camouflage britches and a piss yellow gimme shirt from some oil change place.

“What about it, fellas?”  This being Adam’s greeting.  He pulled up next to our encampment driving a sharp 2002 Chevy Silverado, the 20 inch rims shining like quicksilver.

We nodded and mumbled our own trademark salutations.  I mentioned the possibility of another wasted night and the lack of money or inclination to change this.

Adam motioned toward the bed of his Chevy.  “Take a look back there, fellas.”

We approached cautiously, strangling our excitement with a healthy dose of Brindlee Mountain cynicism.  It could have been anything back there.  A keg of Natural Ice.  A case of Natural Lite.  Or it may have just as easily have been a dead rattlesnake or a pile of shovels.

It was two steel wheels nursing flaccid rubber.  They looked as though they might have come off a tractor trailer.

Yeah, another typical night.

Dookie grinned like a madman.  “Ah, shit, you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“Hell, yeah,” Gump flexed.

"Hillbilly bowling,” Codeye nodded.

Hillbilly bowling?  Shit, even Codeye knew the score.  Codeye having knowledgeI was not privy to did not bode well.

Gump hopped in the back of the truck and lowered the first tire down to Dookie. He pigeon-toed the tire to the air pump.  The next one came at me, Codeye having conveniently followed Dookie to the pump.  I allowed the tire to fall to the ground rather than risk messing up my good pants.

“Grab the dag gum thing.”

I couldn’t quite get the words out in time.  Gump dropped down and muscled me aside.  He grabbed the tire one-handed and strolled to the pump where Dookie and Codeye were airing up the first tire.

I waited for Adam to turn off his truck.  I’d decided not to announce my ignorance by asking the boys to explain hillbilly bowling.  I’d yet to live down the time I inquired after “the man in the boat” the boys kept referring to in one of our many, many, many discussions centered on the ladies.

Adam was safe.  He wasn’t really one of us, but he wasn’t exactly one of them, either.  He moved comfortably in most circles knowing enough cliches to speak the language of every clique in school.  I figured on asking him to explain this hillbilly bowling thing but the moment he was out of his truck, he darted right for Gump who had taken control of the air hose.

“You need to fill that tire slap up.”

“I know, Adam.”

“Bout a hundred pounds of pressure.”

“I know.”

“Til that tire feels hard as a rock and’s fixing to pop.”

Once the tire received the required air pressure, Gump could scarcely lift it up.  I had to help him at Adam’s insistence.

“Put it in the bed of your Dodge, Shagalicious.”

“Mine? Why mine?”

“You got more room.  Another thing, you got a virgin truck.  Those shitkickers know my truck as well as the ass end of their daughters.  They hear me coming six miles away; they’ll be waiting on their porches with their best deerrifles.”

"Where are we going?”

“Ain’t you never played hillbilly bowling?”  To say that Dookie grinned wouldbe to say that Dookie breathed.  His shit eating grin above all else earned him the nickname.

“No, I’ve never played.”

“I thought you was with us that time Gump knocked that trailer off its foundation?”

I shook my head.

“Was probably Studs with us,” Codeye said. “You don’t know what you’re missing, Shagaroni.”

“Well, he’s fixing to find out,” Adam said, hurrying us along.

The boys loaded the other tire.  Adam slid into the cab with me.  Gump, Codeye and Dookie reclined in the back among the tires.  They reclined as well as they could while still able to tip the Wild Turkey without spilling the precious juice.

“You ever been to Joppa?”  Adam asked.

I lived in Joppa.  Rather than admit this, I simply nodded.

“Know where Hogjaw Road is?”

Hogjaw Road represented the southern fried version of skid row, a sort of fairytale land where every negative southern cliche resided.  I knew this having lived there for two tour of duties when my Mom and Dad were having problems of the drug type. Each time I escaped, I considered myself fortunate not to have been seriously dogbit or spiraled away by the occasional passing tornado.

I claimed I didn’t know.  After giving me directions, Adam explained the ins and outs of hillbilly bowling.  “Scoring’s pretty much a judgement call. Usually you knock a car off its blocks or kick off someone’s electricity -– it’s a strike.  Cause a lot of racket or displace a pack of hounds, you get a spare. Gump swears up and down he knocked a trailer off its foundation, but he’s full of shit.  I did knock a porch off a trailer one time.  Probably crushed ten dogs.  Screwed up their Hibatchi.”

I drove slowly, keeping a careful eye for cops who monitored the area for crystal meth.

“Saw a water head, one time,” Adam continued. “The wheel bounced off the trailer hitch, shook the whole goddam place.  Made the lights flicker, everything.  Guy comes out and sees the wheel lying there.  So he picks it up and chucks it on top of the roof with all the other tires up there; keep the roof from blowing away in a strong wind.”

“Tire’s kinda heavy to be chucking anywhere?”

“Ah, it wasn’t no eighteen wheeler tire.  Think it was off an old Buick.  Guy was pretty big, too, and it took some doing.”

Hogjaw Road jagged off Route 67 into a sort of valley which could more accurately be described as a depression.  Heavy rains usually put the area under a foot of water.  Living here, you just learn to accept it.  Fifty feet down before Hogjaw Road descends the hill, a gravel road branched off and followed a ridge toward eight chicken houses that helped lend Joppa that distinctive smell of chickenshit mingled with Skoal and diesel fuel.  Both times I lived there, I never got use to that stench.

“Drive all the way down to the chicken houses and turn around, facing thestreet.  Leave the keys in the ignition.  We usually have to skin out quick.”

I did as I was told.  I scarcely had the Dodge in park before Gump and Dookie began unloading the tires.  Though high with excitement and Wild Turkey, they kept the chatter at a minimum, communicating with toothy grins and constant headnodding.

The southern fried skid row sprawled below us.  From here it appeared as though a tornado had recently stomped through, though I knew it’d been almost a year and a half since the last one paid a visit.  There were no street lights here, the illumination provided by the sporadic porch light or bug zapper.  Moving shadows represented wandering mongrel dogs.  The trailers were mostly bought repossessed for a fraction of costs and looked it. I could see my aunt’s trailer, a ‘94 model with twenty five years left on the mortgage far outside tire range, from this vantage.

“Give one of them to Shagtastic,” Adam ordered, keeping his voice hushed.

Gump kept an iron grip on his tire.  Dookie begrudgingly stepped aside from the other tire.  I took his place, running a finger along the balding rubber, hard as a concrete block.

“Ok, on the count of three,” Adam said.  “One... two... three.”

Gump took a running start, his face smeared with rage.  He launched the tire down the embankment with all his strength.  I eased my tire to the embankment and let gravity take over.  I didn’t aim.  I didn’t not aim.  I just let it go.

Gump’s tire spun out of control almost from the start.  Bounding more than rolling, it skipped sideways, fell on the rim and slid another ten feet, stopping dead at the base of the ridge.

“Son of a bitch!” Gump hollered.

My tire gained momentum.  And I watched it roll with sickened fascination.  I wanted to turn my back, but I had to see the damage.  I couldn’t walk away without knowing what I’d done.

“Holy shit, that’s a good one,” Adam said.

Codeye and Dookie were already hopping in the back of the truck.  My eyes never left the tire.

It gained speed on the tired, wilted grass.  The impact reminded me of the days spent crushing cans with my father, trying to gather enough smashed aluminum to afford Dad a fifth of whiskey and a dollar store soldier toy for me.  A sledgehammer bashing a tall boy of Milwaukee’s Best.  The lights flickered.  The whole place shook as though it’d been hit by a rocket.

Adam and Gump broke for the Dodge.  I stood there.  The sudden silence following the explosive noise all consuming.  Then the sound came to me, the keening wail of an infant.  It lasted all of a second before being swallowed by the united braying of every mutt within a ten mile radius.

The screen door of the trailer banged open and the silhouette of a man appeared in the doorway.

“I’m calling the fucking cops,” the man screamed.  “I’m sick of this shit.”

Go ahead, I thought.  I could walk back to the gas station before dispatch decided to send an officer here.  Unless he mentioned he had a nice batch of meth cooking.

“The hell you doing, Shagamania?”

Adam pulled the truck alongside me.  Gump sat in the passenger seat.  Joy and disappointment wrestled for control over Gump’s fruitbat facial features. Dookie and Codeye sat in the bed of the truck.  They both wore grins the size of the truck’s grill.  I stomped Dookie’s ankle as hard as I could as I scrambled over.  He opened his mouth to holler but thought better of it.

The words Dookie spoke on the way back to the Conoco were swallowed by the wind.  I wasn’t listening, anyway.  I laid on the rubber bed liner.  I stared at the stars knowing it was always the rich and the elite who got to name them.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Big Jim & Rose
by Brian Fugett

A quarter past midnight. The motel room is in shambles. Empty beer bottles and fast-food wrappers litter the floor. Big Jim and Rose, half-naked and drunk, wrestle playfully over a pint of whiskey. They roll across the floor thumping into walls and laughing. Pretzel crumbs and cigarette butts cling to their sweaty bodies as they go.

“Knock that shit off!” someone shouts from the next room. Big Jim and Rose freeze, exchange startled looks, then break into a series of drunken snorts and giggles. They resume assailing each other with clumsy chokeholds until Big Jim finally succeeds in prying the whiskey from Rose’s fingers. Breathless and dazed, the two of them collapse among a heap of discarded pizza boxes.

“Well hell, Rose,” Big Jim says, voice heavy with something akin to an Appalachian drawl, “I reckon we musta’ pissed off the neighbors.” He belts a shot of whiskey and grins.

Rose smiles back then settles her head on Big Jim’s chest. She gazes down the vast expanse of his bulky 6’4” frame and begins staring at his wooden leg. Thick, brown and knobby, it has all the charm of an old weathered tree stump. Carved into it are the initials of every girl, woman, and puppy dog he’s ever loved. Rose reaches down and runs her finger along the list of names.

“There are so many,” she says, a bit distressed. “Did you really love them all?”


A cold breeze knifes the air. The curtains flutter, tap the wall like nervous fingers. Rose shivers.

“Big Jim?”

“Yes, Rose.”

“Do you still find me desirable?”

“Of course I do, Rose.”

“I mean do you still desire me? You know, like you did in the beginning?”

He nods. Opens a fresh beer. Takes a slug.

Rose continues running her finger down the list of initials. Most of the carvings have a clumsy, child-like quality to them that reminds her of graffiti on a park bench. She notices that many of the older initials are splintered, pockmarked and faded, some to the point of being illegible. For some reason that makes her sad. She doesn’t know why exactly; it just does. Eventually her finger comes to rest on the initials DF, the letters of which are done in an ornate gothic style. They have a fresh, artsy appearance that makes them stand out from the rest. Obviously much care and thought have been invested in this DF. Rose is a little more than intrigued.

“Wow, who was this one?” she asks, fingering the ornate little DF.

Big Jim glances down at his stump then stares off in the distance as if struck by a memory. “Well…I reckon that hadta’ been Darlene Fugate.”

“How come her initials are so much fancier than the rest?”

Big Jim shrugs.

“How long were you and this Darlene an item?”

“Don’t know exactly. Seven and a half years, maybe eight.”

“Was she pretty?”

“Well…yes…I suppose she was.”

“Prettier than me?”

He thinks about it for a second. “Nah.”

“Are you sure?” she says, her voice appealing for a word of encouragement or praise.

Jim sighs irritably. Burps.

There is a silence. Rose stands up. Paces drunkenly about the room. After a moment, she staggers to a halt. Fixes him with a stern gaze. Shafts of neon filter through the blinds, highlighting the mad tufts and strangled curls of her rooster red hair and a mouthful of smudged lipstick. From his vantage point, she looks menacing in a Ronald McDonald strung-out-on-Benzedrine-sort-of-way.

“You’ve just seemed so distant lately, Jim,” she whispers coldly. “When people get distant it usually means there is a secret. Are you harboring secrets, Jim?”

He polishes off his beer. Starts a fresh one. Looks at her with cool disinterest.

“God damn you! There you go again with that arrogant detachment of yours. That’s exactly what I’m talking about!” She looks down at her hands. They are trembling. “See what you’ve done,” she shrieks, holding out her hands. “See! Look at my little earthquakes! They got secrets too, you know! Secrets, Jim! Just like all them names on your leg!”

“Right,” he says. “Whatever.”

She resumes pacing the room, pausing every few steps to glance over at him. Then out of nowhere she blurts, “We’ve been together now for two years, seven months, and sixteen days! Right Jim? Am I right?”

“Yeah, so?”

“Well, why can’t you love me like that?”

“Like what?”

“Like that! Like that!” she shouts, pointing at the list of initials on his wooden leg.

Big Jim looks up, a bit annoyed, but manages a weak smile. “Like I told you before, honey, this leg is a memorial. If your initials are carved on it, then that means our relationship is a thing of the past. You understand? We’d be history. Done. Over. Do you hear me, Rose?”

A look of suspicion etches into her expression. “My astrologer said this would happen! She warned me! Damn it!” She punches the wall then shuffles into the bathroom and slams the door.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” he yells after her. “Huh, Rose? What?”

She says nothing.

Big Jim drains the last of his beer and stares at the ceiling. He tries to imagine what goes through that mind of hers during these paranoid episodes. Must be dark inside there, he thought. Pitch fucking black. His lids grow heavy. Within a matter of seconds, he drifts into a deep, alcohol induced sleep.

Several minutes pass. A creepy stillness has settled upon the room. The bathroom door creaks open. A much calmer, subdued Rose emerges. She makes her way across the room and finds Big Jim passed out among the empty pizza boxes. Except for the steady rise and fall of his chest, he is a motionless heap.

“How typical,” she mutters. And just then she knows what has to be done. She snatches Big Jim’s trousers from the bed and fishes out his pocketknife. She kneels next to that huge wooden leg of his. Damn that leg, she thought. That hideous thing had been a constant source of resentment and jealousy since the first day they had met. Something of a smile tugs at her lips as she turns the knife thoughtfully between her fingers. Very carefully, she pulls out the blade and presses it against the leg. She looks at all the other initials. For a brief moment, she is seized with the overwhelming urge to scratch them out. Every last damn one of them. But she doesn’t. Instead, she carves her own initials, a fairly plain yet healthy looking “RW” just to the right of that fancy DF. She puts on her blouse and slacks then collects her purse from the dresser.

It’s best this way, she thought. No tearful goodbyes. No last dramatic kiss. No final embrace. Just a clean break. She slips out of the room and quietly closes the door behind her.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Some Literate Film Alternatives To Mindless Blockbusters Of Summer 2004

By J. D. Finch

Well, it seems that -- for better or worse -- postmodernism is the taste du jour in Hollywood. And now that "Lord Of The Rings" has given us its final chapter and Spiderman is making so much money that it's in a league of its own, it's time to see if the pen is mightier than the sword and sorcery. Will the works of ink stained scribes past and present continue to be box office boffo (The Hours, Adaptation), or will the hix nix lit flix? One thing's for sure, if you don't like the folks from McStoney's, cute lit mag for the sensitive and seriously ironic, you might want to stay away from theaters this summer, because they're on celluloid like ticks on a mangy hound.


MFA Spring Break: (Direct to Disc After School Special) The Traveling Writers In Transit (TWIT) kids go to a New England estate to “get it on, postmodern litly speaking”. When they go into town (Lowell Massachusetts) they are appalled when they visit a local writer’s museum and find that it is devoted to Jack Kerouac. “Ewww,” says Muffy. “He was that creepy guy who rode on old trains, drank cheap wine, took ‘uppers’ and wrote about ‘life’. And I think he typed his manuscripts on rolls of toilet paper! And without any irony. Eeeeewwwwwwwwww.”


YBABAME: (Epic) Well known literary irritant who goes by the faux moniker “McStoney’s Guy” (MG) turns out an adaptation of his influential pomo book “Your Brickbats Are Butterflies Against My Ego” that had the lit world buzzing a few years ago. Can he make the same splash in the world of film? His adaptation includes the story of his struggles in getting his book made into a film and his battles with the Wrebel Writers, the group of lit iconoclasts who dogged his every step. Cinema verite aspect was enhanced when Robby “Buddy” Taylor (who played MG’s uncle Jib, who notably died in the book) actually died on the set. It is rumored that the WW will mount a protest demonstration at the premier of the film: The MG has reportedly already filmed a scene of them doing just that.


A Trip Downriver (Original Title “A Couple Of Jerks Now”): (Docudrama/Adventure) A character known only as “The Journalist” looks for missing ex-McStoney’s writer Nihil Podunk, who had some sort of bizarre unexplained falling out with the McStoney’s Guy. His journey takes him down the frightening and barbaric Amazon (Customer Reviews) River. Docudrama also has appearances by the McStoney’s Guy who plays a Jim Jones cult-like figure. F. F. Coppola, originally set to take the directorial reins was forced to back out after he fell into a vat of his own wine: he is expected to remain “faced” until sometime in 2006.


Gone With The Wind In Sixty Seconds In Cancun: (Reality-Docudrama/Semi-Verite Indy Romance) Yasmine Bleeth stars in this 21st century adaptation of the venerable Margaret Mitchell classic as Bunny O'Hara, who loses control of her kite on the beach in the titular resort getaway and in her plight meets professional surfer and scoundrel Red Rutler (Lornezo Llamas), who -- with a Corvette and a Thermos ® full of Margaritas -- takes Bunny on a whirlwind chase after the kite. Sensitivity is on display in the bar scene:

Bunny: Another Margarita Red?
Red: Frankly Bunny, I could dig a banana daiquiri.

And in the bent, but unbroken Bunny's vow after the kite flies hopelessly out to sea:

Bunny: Tomorrow's another day, Red. I may be hung over, but I know I can buy another kite!

Halfway through flick Bunny gets rid of Red when she inexplicably falls for more cerebral Don Feggman (playing himself) from the “actual” reality show ReaLib where a bunch of Gen X slacker librarians live together in a library for six months.

The limits of Bunny’s affections are tested when she sees the episode where Feggman brings a blow-up sex doll into the house.

Trashing him she says: “It was a reality show you dork, what the hell were you doing with a blow-up? What, you didn’t have my number?”

Shown in theaters with Gone With The Wind...Cancun will be a documentary short based on Feggman's latest memoir "I Shall Learn Her PSI" about his affair with the blowup doll and what happened after the rest of the ReaLib had a meeting and told him he must either deflate the thing or leave the library.

(The latest buzz in the Hollywood trades is that the always ingenious and inventive Feggman says he plans to outfit the doll with Chatbot software, and take her along on a book tour so “she” can answer questions and do readings in his place while he is out in his van getting it on with his groupies.

"It's one of the perks of having a blow-up for a girlfriend," enthuses Feggman. "'She' couldn't care less what I do or who I do it with."

Feggman plans to call it "The Full Of Hot Air Tour".)


Hammer Of The Zinesters: (Indy-DIY) Kinkos Culture comes under the cinematic microscope when directors the Con Bothers (Lowering Nevada, Largo) follow a Kinkos employee through his day. “It’s basically ‘Clerks’ in a Kinkos,” said one of the confusingly similar brothers. “Even clever guys like us eventually run out of ideas and have to rip off somebody.” Publishing tie-in; “Makin’ Zine”, an adaptation of the movie by the Wrebel Writers, done in their favorite media, a twenty-four page photocopied zine, that will only cost one third of what the damn movie ticket costs. And last forever.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Poems by new ULAer Marissa Ranello

Five Hour Booty Call

I will make you feel my sand dollared tongue.
As it enters your mouth, I will spoon the sloppy syllables
that fall from your lips like baby words,
gravitate them back to you.
That can become a grin, if you let it
I can not communicate my feelings.
I'm an anti-social socialist with agoraphobia
your five hours away
I'm an anti-social socialist with
your five hours
I'm an anti-social socialist
your five
I'm an anti-social
five hour booty call with agoraphobia

Shaolin Mexicano Mainfesto

they sell fortune cookies
in the mexican joint on port richmond ave.
all i wanted was a taco
no make taco
there were times when ed koch ate here
i bet he got a taco
instead i get a pint of pork fried rice
with a surprise inside
clothespin in the middle of my rice
Juan has been using a clothespin
to keep his hair tied back every day since '98
and now a small part of him
is in the center of my pork fried rice
Lucky numbers: 21 43 16 28 14 05

Unraveling Blue Afghan

But the sky won't last forever;
radio active isotopes
will shoot down
once again
when spring shoots up
between my tits:
we'll bask in all
my glory,
we'll sing
for my next coming.
Oh, we'll sing!
No, the sky won't
last forever;
unraveling blue afghan.
Never were you comforting.
Found you,
itchy stainless steel
rubbed raw,
mirror of dermatitis,
subsequent crying,
prescription Zoloft,
the bouncing ball
that did me in.

Sardonic Broken Angel

Tired wings unfold
reveal feathers
strategically bound together
by piano wire.
Out of tune,
he mocks
the hands
that play
the notes
of impenetrable silence.