You’re in Big, Big Trouble, Mister
Making farty noises from his armpit, Thompson alighted from the bus to find the neighborhood blazing. From his own home he rescued a milk crate of LPs, a pepper shaker, another man’s portrait. Flames laid claim to his refrigerator magnet collection. Families of stiffs ate ash from cereal bowls. Oh, melancholia. It was enough to make him rip out his hair.
Bald and bloodied, Thompson apprehended the culprit in a charred copse of willows. Nothing funny about arson, he told her. Nothing funny he repeated and pinched her tush. Let’s say we take us a little trip?
Maybe that’ll happen, she agreed, but don’t let’s get our hopes up.
I saw a rifleman on the commuter rail once and nobody gave him any trouble. His breast pocket was filled with silver-tipped souvenir bullets for kids to suck on. I said to him, You must be a blackjack champion, someone’s personal savior, some kind of a bloodless ranchman cowboy.
He wasn’t. A lifelong city-slicker, he said, a municipal man through and through. He took offense at my assumptions and shot me clean through the left thigh, though to be fair he was spraying a lot of fire at everyone at that time.
The worst part of the wound was the cottonmouth it gave me, and I told him as much, spurting blood on the floor of the sleeper car. He scoffed, buffed the nail of his trigger finger. From somewhere he produced an ice-cold thinger of spring water, bottled at the source. They say if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated, he said. And you are thirsty, aren’t you.
Dan Piepenbring lives in Brooklyn. He is an assistant editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux. More of his poems appear in the Carolina Quarterly 62.1.