mark s kuhar


shotgun blast on rye, no mayo

I'm haunted by thought fragments of Mica, five years after he vanished. Hazy green neon thought fragments. Huge blinking nightmares in the humid dark with moths flying around them. He doesn't come around anymore. I don't care.

     I'm thinking of surreal nights we sat at the bar at the Shiver-Me-Tibers Cafe on red-vinyl stools, all glassy eyed, drinking sweaty bottles of Rolling Rock and talking over the metallic rush of the jukebox, probably playing Aerosmith or the Rolling Stones or something pitiful like that. Talking about women. Talking about sports. Talking about poetry. Talking about porno. Talking about beer. Talking about this that and the other. He'd point at the picture of the Heineken girl on a beer poster and make outrageous comments about her tits. He claimed he dated the girl when he lived in Milwaukee. He told big lies, warped and fractured fairy tales that no one called him on.

     We'd play pool on a table with worn green felt and beer stains. He's break and scatter the balls in every direction and not drop a single one in the pocket. This game sucks, he'd scream. Then he'd run about seven in a row and say, this is a great game, man. We'd always play for beer and he'd always win.

     He'd laugh in that maniacal yodel and bitch about the cigarette smoke. I hate cigarettes he'd growl. We should take all the smokers and stuff their tobacco up their ass. When the bar closed at two-thirty he'd be out on the street with his T-shirt ripped at the collar, his old Chuck Taylor high-tops bobbing and weaving across the pavement. His long blond hair would be pulled back in a frizzy ponytail. Where's all the chicks! he would yell.

     We'd end up at some restaurant that served breakfast all night. Scrambled eggs and greasy bacon. Rye toast with yellowy butter. Black coffee. A waitress with crazy hair and scuffed shoes who was sick of being hit on by drunks in the late-night crowd. Let me take you away from all this, he would say softly. I got a condo in Florida. I drive a Cadillac. Wink. She'd scowl and poke her pencil behind her ear, and he'd laugh in that maniacal yodel.

     He'd be back out on the street at four in the morning, wide awake, buzz worn off, riffing on caffeine and cholesteral. Where can a guy go at this hour, he'd say. Where's the late parties? Where can I find video games? Where can I scam a hand of poker? Where can I find a gun?

     Mica lived in a one-room apartment and never paid the rent. He said he didn't sleep with the landlord, a divorced lady in her 40s with two kids. I've seen her at his place though. She wasn't bad looking. I guess her daughter was even better looking, to hear Mica tell it. I think he did them both. Neither of them knew about the other.

     Mica worked for a freight company on the shipping dock. And he worked in the mail room of a firm downtown. And he worked driving pizza delivery trucks. He hauled bricks around a construction site. He hung drywall for a subcontractor. He painted houses. He operated a fork lift at the lumber yard. I lost track of where he was working. He probably did too. But he always had a place to go and he always had money in his pocket.

     But Mica was bored. He hated routine. He hated getting up for work every day. He hated waiting on a paycheck. He hated the boredom of not being who Mica thought he should be, whomever that was.

     One day Mica just bailed on the boredom.

     Ah, Mica you asshole. You rammed a shotgun into your mouth. The mouth that would never shut up. The one that let out the maniacal laugh. You sat cross-legged on the floor and pulled the trigger, man. Buckshot for lunch. A gunpowder sandwich. Shotgun blast on rye, no mayo, no lettuce, no cheese, no time, no more, no nothing, no Mica, no explanation.

     Every Tueday is two-for-one night at the Shiver-Me-Timbers. Sometimes I go and play pool with who will play -- usually some idiot who trys to make small talk. I have other friends that I hang with. I don't need Mica.

     I've got a job at a bookstore now stocking shelves. It's my job to stuff book after book onto the racks. Lousy confessional novels. Bad biographies. Tepid poetry. Horrible cookbooks and monsterous ugly novels about explicit sex and death.

     One day I thought I saw Mica in the poetry aisle. He was reading a Bukowski collection, tapping his foot, flipping pages madly, sucking up every word on the page. Hey, I said. He looked up and was gone.

     At night, I stay over at my girlfriend's apartment. She's a nice girl. She cooks, runs on the treadmill, works hard and digs me like a lark. She says, no strings attached, so I don't have any. Sometimes, laying awake at night, wide awake while she sleeps soundly next to me, I hear a yodel-like laugh that pierces the curtains and crashes into the room. I don't bother to look out the window. What would be the point?

     I do my laundry at this place down on Elm St. You can throw your clothes in the washer, then go three doors up to this bar and have a beer. I watch the TV blinking furiously with the sound off and listen to the regulars tell bad jokes and cough. They all seem to cough. Phlemmy hacking, that makes me sick to my stomach.

     One time I left the bar and walked back up the street to the laundry and saw Mica. He was peering into the dryer watching my clothes go around. He smiled, and it looked like he was laughing, but there was no sound. Then he was gone.

     My days are pretty much the same. I get up, go to work, eat lunch, go home, watch TV, maybe read a little. On weekends I go to the bar and listen to the boring stories of people's lives and their stupid problems. It's all the same, man. It's all the same.

     The other day I was eating lunch, an overstuffed turkey sub, and as I squeezed the sloppy sandwich in my mouth, I thought of Mica. With the shotgun in his mouth. Odd, because I barely even think of Mica anymore. I don't even care about Mica, even if he was there behind the counter at the sub shop, slapping cold cuts on buns. Serving them up to people. Him, me, vanishing into deathly thin air.