The elevator reeked of bacon, French toast, farts, and scrambled eggs drifted down the shaft. I held Homer by his leash and crop dusted. This was the last time those balls would be attached to that body. I pet behind his ears. Tears coated canker sores as we whimpered at his reflection in polished metal. Homer had a hard-on. I inhaled ether from a handkerchief in my pocket. An aftertaste of snot and mucus fused with euphoria and weightlessness. An ashamed man met my stare, hairy nostrils camouflaged by clenched fist.
“Ninety-nine problems—but a bitch ain’t one,” said a voice on the fourteenth floor as the doors opened.
A tween squeezed past Homer. Jay-Z blared from sticky headphones. Bastard tried to take over the elevator when Homer was dying. I crop dusted louder, snorting from my hanky. White kids are the worst. They’re taking over the apartment building. “Wiggers,” Grandma calls them. “They’re wack,” she says. “Wiggity-wiggity-wack.”
Sometimes they smoke pot in the elevator and stairwells. Staring at stars on the rooftop high on Molly, roaches from Siamese blunts.
“I got 99 problems—but a bitch ain’t one,” blared from the tween’s headphones.
Homer’s balls bounced in polished gold, elevated, reflected with the wisdom of mountain ranges on globes. The elevator stopped and sunlight illuminated infected pimples as the doors opened. The tween swaggered into the lobby and shuffled through a labyrinth of sweaty adolescents and discarded condom wrappers sticking to soggy marble.
“He’s got balls,” I said to Homer.
“How can I chop off my dog’s nuts?” I asked the fattest boy.
He stared as if counting stars in my eyeballs.
“You can’t,” said the boy.
Homer sniffed the boy’s crotch and asshole. It was a beautiful sight. The boy didn’t mind.
“They’ll wrap that lampshade-shaped thingy ’round his neck so he won’t lick the stiches in his junk,” the boy said.
He looked wise beyond his years. He massaged Homer’s head till Homer’s eyes rolled back and his tail whipped sunlit patches of swirling dust. Why he needed a hand job in the janitor’s closet behind the elevator shaft was a mystery. Perhaps we all need to believe in miracles—gemstones glimmering amid the slow rot—something to keep us going through the monotony of dying. This boy was mining for five fingers and Seven Minutes in Heaven. He’d crawled through Hell to get to this lobby.
“Homer has testicular cancer,” I said.
The boy grunted. He’d been thinking of Homer his whole life and all these Trojans beneath his paws were magic carpets.
“He’s gonna die anyway,” I said. “The disease spread to his liver. The nuts are the worst, though. The vet swears neutering Homer might give him another few months.”
“It’s not worth it,” said the boy.
A girl with florescent braces filled with chocolate and a splint on her thumb slid her palm into the fat boy’s jeans. He smiled as Homer whimpered, already dead to him. Nothing mattered to that boy but four fingers. His neck glistened with sweat.
“Can I help you?” asked one of the adolescent girls.
“You have a hundred bucks?” asked the girl next to her. “Seven Minutes in Heaven?”
“No, thanks,” I said.
I counted hickeys and quarters in my pocket, playing with myself on the sidewalk beneath the awning of Burger King. The veterinarian’s clinic loomed. Homer could smell it. Death sifted through rheumy whiskers. He clung to my leg, making love to my kneecap for the last thousandth time. I waited for my jeans to get wet, for Homer to give me that look of apology, except this time it didn’t come. Homer was too close to death.
“I’m not cutting them off,” I said to a woman walking out of Burger King.
She snorted in horror.
“I once got busy in a Burger King bathroom,” I said.
She huffed and puffed and the aroma of Granddaddy Purple seeped through the humid haze. A group of tweens swaggered toward us. One of them donned a lampshade on her skull. Homer humped my leg as if life depended on this escape—this gasping drowning sensation—this shaft of life—an empty stairwell filled with shadows and semen.
~ ~ ~
The Night Grandma Guzzled Bong Water
Grandma smoked weed every morning. Granddaddy Purple, Spicy White Devil, Blueberry, Triple Afghan Slam—the good stuff. She blew rings—rocked a turban and crotchless panties with Marge Simpson’s lips spilling over ancient edges. Grandma watched MacGyver when she puffed. She knew every episode, every line. She developed a deviated septum from cocaine binges during the Jimmy Carter era. Siamese blunts sculpted from the rolling machine, Grandma frosted gutted Phillies with honey then stacked them in the freezer.
“Who’s this flaming faggot?” Grandma asked.
We looked toward the television. Grandma tossed the blunt at the screen.
“I shaved my bikini forest for this?” Grandma asked.
Lucas Till was grinning, shadows from artificial lighting oozed between porcelain veneers. I rose from the La-Z-Boy and snatched the blunt, stomping the carpet.
“All the razor burns and itching,” Grandma said. “For this?”
Mom stood, sobbing. I’d come from the hospital an hour earlier. Inoperable tumors spun round the room, orbiting eddies.
“Hit that, ya sissy,” Grandma said.
My mother lifted those crimson eyes. Amber plumes resonated around viscous eyelashes.
“Stage IV lung cancer,” Mom said. “Dr. Tucker says she’ll be dead by the end of summer.”
Mom collapsed onto the carpet. Grandma clucked her tongue.
“Those doctors don’t know shit,” Grandma said. “That Tucker has humongous ears ’cause his face got trapped in Lilly’s vagina.”
Mom wailed into the fibers. Grandma ashed the blunt onto her head.
“Who is this flaming homo?” Grandma asked.
Mom’s wife barged through the door and hugged me.
“I heard,” Rose said. “So sorry, baby, so sorry.”
Rose broke her arm somersaulting from the roof. Her cast rubbed my neck like a brick. We signed it when she returned from the emergency room with two broken axles. Grandma collaged Rose’s elbow with obscenities and homophobic diatribes.
“So sorry, sweet child,” Rose said.
I could feel her tears falling into my halter top, curling around my nipples, dripping down my breasts into my bellybutton.
“Get that piece of lint outta here,” Grandma said.
The old lady rose and karate kicked the television. Her foot wasn’t strong enough to crack the screen but Mr. Winkler jumped from the cat condo and clawed a chunk from Mom’s elbow.
“Damn, Mr. Winkler,” she said. “That stings.”
“This is the new series,” I said. “Richard Dean Anderson is different—this is the remake.”
Grandma grabbed her blood pressure cuff, a stethoscope, and an alarm clock.
“Prove it—you effin’ liar,” she said.
“It’s the truth, old lady,” Rose said. “It’s the serum for the youth.”
“I shaved my pussy for this?” Grandma asked.
Rose held Mom in her arms. Mr. Winkler purred atop my head. I cocked the hammer beneath the couch cushion. The room trembled, plumes unfurling, Grandma cursing the cast.
“You’ll be fine,” I said. “Nobody’s dying.”
Grandma held Blueberry in her lungs. Marge Simpson smiled from her robe. Judges behind the bench in a courtroom full of flies. Maggots feasted on eyeballs. I could smell the body odor melting into nothingness, shards of fallen angels singing through shallow wind.
~ ~ ~
My son has a secret drug closet—a crawlspace—nothing but nails and insulation illuminated by black lights. I crawl inside, squeezing crippled limbs through diminutive door. My wheelchair’s out of reach for the first time. I feel like flying, getting high as Joshua does, smoking trees with chums. A shark tooth necklace hangs from the bulb. I yank it—crawling into his warm womb. A glass bong glimmers in the corner beside an inflatable crocodile. I knuckle the black light. The crawlspace is packed with rubber women, humongous gaping mouths and illimitable holes. I creep into the crocodile. I guzzle bong water. My son was a normal kid before the accident. My husband drove drunk across the median. He’s being sodomized in Beckley Correctional Center as you read this. There’s no doubt in my mind. I bleached my anus the night before the accident. Now I can’t even look at it in the mirror—my body doesn’t jiggle like it used to. There are only so many angles a mirror can reflect. I gargle my son, resin of moonshine and dust. Angels chant from a baggie of mushrooms. This is his druggie lair. His friends come over and disappear, vanish with bud smoke. My daughter lost her virginity in this crawlspace with Granddaddy Purple in her lungs. I take off my granny panties and light my farts. Flatulence fills the crawlspace, fluorescent lighter: my magic carpet. Munching singed fur makes my skin crawl. I rope the noose around my neck. The rubber women stare. Stars fall from blackened ether—lost in his secret lair—termites gnawing hairy earlobes—Joshua holds me—our limbs unfurled. Insulation itching, the black light bounces into oblivion. Suffocation is a pearly wand. This is my son’s secret drug closet. When he came out to us the evening of the accident, my husband chugged a fifth of Smirnoff. I knew that rainbow-sherbet ice cream was the wisest method to stop Joshua from sobbing. We drove toward Baskin-Robbins as the moon hung orange over the freeway. I wiped my son’s tears, and he held my hand in the backseat. I wrap the crocodile around my nipples. This is the way it was meant to be. I’m naked in this clandestine room borne from mourning. In the afternoon, Joshua will discover my ballooning body, my blue face glowing beneath the black light, my nipples hard, yellow incisors glowing whiter than approaching headlights.