STILL LIFE WITH CARBURETOR
by Christopher David Rosales
Inside the Piggly-Wiggly, picking out beans, P-Nut suppressed the headache brought on by the bruise on the back of his neck. He’d gotten the bruise from the can of beans that his wife chucked at him. It bounced off of him and clattered into the sewer. So he walked away to fetch them the dinner of the can of beans. Was it the same can of beans that she would then chuck at him? He was losing track. But he knew this: Van Camp’s was the right kind. Hormel was not the right kind. The red stamp and the dent said so. The register blinked .79. So, 79 cents was the cost of magic beans.
He walked along the tracks running through the town, the sign above and behind him burnt out to read iggly-iggly. The tracks beneath his brogans had once brought the Coca-Cola shipments into the factory that had employed him and his father before. The factory shut down some time ago. Not all the town was so ramshackle as this part. Some parts of town were still sweet-smelling and clean, with families living on plots of land and white-haired couples driving refurbished classic cars. This was the part of town with slouched couches on crushed porches, weeds growing through the gaps in the floorboards.
He remembered the last time his day had gone differently. She chucked the can of beans at the back of his neck as he walked off. And his coworker Bobby drove by shouting, then pulled the rumbling Ford from ’76 into a cloud of its own dust. P-Nut caught up with Bobby leaning through the driver-side window, smiling around a Pall Mall above the half-pint of Skol in his chest pocket. Bobby was on his way to work and asked if P-Nut might pick up a shift on account of Cecil was sick with the flu.
P-Nut said yes and all night long he checked the seals the machines put on the boxes. He bought a Payday candy bar from the vending machine for dinner. It was sticky, salty sweet. He put the boxes on pallets with half the Payday sticking out of his mouth. With the forklift he swung the pallets around to grace the truck. Finally, and this was his favorite part, he tugged on the truck’s gate handle and leapt down through the air, letting his momentum achieve the resounding crash that would signal to the driver it was time to pull the truck away, out over the tracks, onto State Route 149, through fields and past churches. He mapped it, that route, on the back of an unused Coca-Cola label spread on his knee while he used the toilet. He liked the music of that route. Three-nineteen, four-oh-four, seventy-five, twenty-four, fifty-seven, sixty-four, then seventy all the way west.
But today was the day the can of beans would be chucked at the back of his neck and leave a bruise in the shape of a plum pit, the shape of his journey home, before the can clattered into the sewer. He would then need to go to the store and buy the can of beans that would be chucked at the back of his neck and leave a bruise in the shape of a plum pit, the shape of his journey home, before the can clattered into the sewer. Not that it had to be a bad day. If he could just hold on for one more trip he knew he would get one more trip. And if he could just hold on for that one trip, he knew he would get one trip more.
Christopher David Rosales is the author of a novel, Silence the Bird, Silence the Keeper (Mixer Publishing, 2015), which won the McNamara Creative Arts Grant. Previously he won the Center of the American West’s award for fiction three years in a row. He is a PhD candidate at the University of Denver and incoming faculty at Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Rosales’ second novel, Gods on the Lam, is available from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing.
Image credit: Payday Candy, Wikipedia