Matt Rafferty (fiction)


Oakland Travel Brochure

The bar was just my type, a calm pool with an inviting diving board of a nondescript sign; the Eighty-Sixth. I was propelled by an obligatory mandate; free birthday shots at all-day-bar-hop crash landed me in the rotating stool before a mustached and leathered bartender.

“What’ll it be, mark?”

“Ah, no, the name’s Mack, and pa’tron for me. Just put everyone on my tab!” The grizzled bar keep did not deem hundred dollar bills or eight dollar shots worthy of a lime. The tequila was smooth.

I was the fourth occupant. At either end of the bar sat fraternal twins, opposite sexed, but similarly dressed. Sweat pant leisure suits showed beer spill, fresh little pee stain pants and vomit fleck bibs; all day drinkers sitting behind stacks of single dollar bills and melted frost ringing mugs. She had long thin gray chin hairs; her patterned baldness matched his male-stratus cycle. I sat betwixt them, right next to the out of place blonde in the American flag dew rag.

We made quite a pair in the bar mirror. My cowboy hat and her stars and stripes were a collage of open range cut by Lucien B. Smith and wind whipped Betsy Ross hair. She held the shots I kept buying to her painted pursed lips and waited while I gagged.

“You come here often?” was more of an attempt to retract my stomach from a waterfalling throat than a desire for conversation.

“Yeah, this is my bar.” She slammed the honey colored shot and watched me in the mirror, her eyes were bisected by a pyramiding Midori bottle, hazeling her good blue eye. That was the extent of the conversation, and I preferred not knowing why the blonde continued looking over her shoulder, or where she had received that damned purple and green bruising swoll shut sliver of an oracle. Cyclops and I just drank, a battered outcast and a shipwrecked sailor with a pocket full of gold.

“What are you doing with My giRRRl?” I was snatched from the deserted island and transported at blurring speeds by a paw that ripped and spun me from the shoulder. Suddenly I was in the jungle, on trial before a band of black jacket iron pumping gorillas. The hair on their arms disappeared under the sleevelessness of patched 1%-errr. I was circled in red ink.

“My name’s Mack Garrady,” my left hand I proffered for a shake, I wiped with the right, a sweaty forehead, a feigned gesture that allowed an undusting for fingers to grip and lift a straw cowboy hat, “and it’s my Birth-Day!”

I frisbee’d that damn hat off his chin; pinballing it, torqueing from beard to beer to “duck, duck, goose mother-fucker!” I ran past the disheveled oogachooga’s, out the door and with a mighty thrust kick I dominoed the perfectly parked Harley’s. Half a block north I cut right, through a newspaper alley, flashing fishing boots and one block more I cut left to the next alley and heavy smoker lungs nearly drowned in phlegm, I bent double gasping, out of gas. From three blocks I heard the firing of profane street bikes.

The alley was any of a thousand. Back door brick buildings emptied into a four story slit of sunless trash dumpsters. The hairs on the back of my neck were brushed by an angel; I had to get out of sight. I picked a dumpster that must have belonged to a daycare; the open lid shit stench penetrated my tequila buzz. The minimum wage daycare employees hadn’t bothered to bag the damn diapers, they must have had an industrial sized shit can on wheels that they flung the disposable shit bags in after ripping them off the screaming asses of hot diarrhea hellions, a shit can that filled hourly. The diaper pile was mounded. I dug in deep, beneath the cheap glue of waistbands that broke. I wormed to the bottom of the pile, covered myself and tried to measure my breath as I heard a Harley enter the alley.

The low rumble of unmuffled idling. Gravel crunching under tires. A booted kickstand.

“What the fuck. Oh, fuckin’ shit that’s nasty.” The biker from the bar.

I held my breath and ignored the tickling of terd nose. Springs compressing. Kickstand heel hooked. Throttle squeezed. The pile moved again as I breathed baby shit and listened for three hours as a dozen Harley’s ran the blocks, again and again.


by Matt Rafferty

Return to Issue 46