FRESNO TIMES (chapter 6) by Matthew Carlson

It was autumn in the San Juaquin Valley with the usual dead, wet leaves of yellow, orange and brown on sidewalks. On the roads, in the gutters too. Sometimes on car roof tops. Leaves hung on for as long as they could, one last breath of the wind and a fluttering ballet to the ground. It was a reality show of Madame Butterfly. A morgue in the dirt, maybe some dog poo among dying blades of grass alongside shelter seeking insects. The fog had rolled in once again.

Outside on the road in front of 2036 Maple street, low beamed headlights appeared here and there swirling behind muffled blankets of grey. Joanie smoked her Saratoga Lights’ ciggarette while sitting at the dining table. It was nearly 7:00 a.m. Next to her a romantic novel ‘I Killed My Husband’ and an empty plate which had earlier housed 2 slices of darkly toasted bread with butter. She sighed thinking about the accounts payable and her other responsabilities at the Sheraton Inn and the stupid General Manager who was on a power trip. She was glad to think of her other collegues at work who were also her friends. She didn’t divide people up in categories, people were people whether she worked with them or not. She liked people to be real, not fake. She detested superficiality.

She coughed, straightened her skirt and decided it was time to finish putting her face on. As she did her eyes, lips and then her hair with a good dosing of hair spray, she continued to cough. It was not a light polite “excuse me” kind of cough either, it was a deep raking cough that racked her in the bowels, twisted her body into a bending position. It tore at the insides of her throat. Little did she realize that emphysema had already taken root in her once upon a time pink lungs.

From the bedroom, her four boys could hear her. Her coughing noises were like an alarm clock, something they had gotten used to hearing. Many conversations had been had over it. But Joanie would just get mad and reply that it was her choice to smoke.

Gelledge, her number three son was listening to her racking cough from his bed, but only wanted to sleep some more. He was so tired… and then he remembered the incident  in his bed yesterday. An incredible erection in his underwear and then without barely touching himself, an explosion of white cream. What a great feeling that had been. Once again it had been amazing. At eleven years of age, he had already known what it was, well pretty much, but certainly hadn’t understood the implications. Now at thirteen, that part of his life was a sailing ship on the high seas. The fact that once again he had been thinking of Danny King’s muscular build and tight butt didn’t seem to register yet. Neither the fact that his regular ventures to ‘borrow’ his brothers’ porn magazines hidden under his bed in the next room. Lots of titties and snatch shots of course…and the women were all beautiful too, but Gelledge knew instantly what he was searching for, and it wasn’t snatch.

When he discovered the series of photos named Box Car Bertha in OUI Magazine, it was too fantastic to believe! Some guy named Jan Michael Vincent naked: with blonde hair and a slender muscular build. It was masturbatory heaven in a skin magazine. And then there had been a second guy with dark hair too on another page in a train car next to Bertha, shirtless and in jeans, but then naked too.

it was “lust” at first sight and occasional visits became daily ones’ to his brothers’ room and those ‘hidden’ magazines….


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