Local News by Benjamin Schachtman
His John wore cowboy boots.
It might have been appropriate in the places people imagine this kind of thing happening: some truck stop motel, shellacked with grease and dusted with crushed gravel, Texas-sized queers in boots as big as all outdoors. Or, of course, that 70’s Hell’s Kitchen cowboy fantasy, tacky city fags who love to dress – and fuck – against type, like Oscar Wilde when he toured the Wild West saying: ‘Please don’t shoot the Piano Player, he’s doing his best.’ That joke killed in the real Kansas City, before there was a Max’s.
But this was the suburbs. Of Maryland. Flattest, dullest land on God’s green Earth. Paved over, painted beige: strip malls, chain restaurants and their parking lot moats, I-95 like a strip of off-white on top of that beige. Bored, boring and boringest. The kind of place that wouldn’t bother to correct you – ‘that’s most boring’ - ¬just happy to have the excitement of a neologism. Boringest. They should put it on license plates. The Boringest State.
This is what he was thinking, hands on the cold plastic faceplate of the air-conditioner, staring at the endless bland diorama outside. The hum of the air-conditioner would catch and stutter every now and then, make slightly wet, clicking noises, and hum some more. All the excitement you could stand in Maryland.
To keep from thinking about anything else, he thought about his reflection in the window, his face, the dark pools around his eyes, the long thin nose, brightly lit on one side in neon beige from the strip-mall lights. His hair hanging in front of one eye: the emo look. The hair, like the music it was once tangentially attached to, had only recently cracked the egg-shell walls of Maryland and started seeping in. Emo, thought by local residents to be a flightless bird, being so comically behind the times as to almost be on the next avant-garde cusp. He enjoyed the slow but steady dissociative trip that set in during abstract thinking. Cue a dissertation on fashion and –
“You wanna close that, I’m stripping down here.”
Still partially disembodied, he watched the word ‘bitch’ streak from his temporal lobe to the muscles of his throat but the flash faded, burned out and disappeared like a meteor. With a sigh he closed the blinds, turned on the television.
“You gonna watch TV?”
The John sat down on the one chair in the room. He had to try not to laugh at him, wearing a baggy pair of jeans and those boots.
“Nice boots, wanna fuck?”
The John gave him a blank look. Fags, he thought, like the blacks and the Jews, have been given up on by their gods, and so they need their sense of humor. Otherwise, even with showy beach-muscle, they’re still some kind of limbless, toothless animal, absurd, flabby lumps of prey. The John spit chewing tobacco into a trashcan in the corner. Another John Wayne simulacrum, as he should have guessed from the walk. He chuckled and decided to call the John ‘Marion’.
Marion glared, so he sat down on the edge of the bed and flipped through the channels. Local news. Local news. Local news. A wolf tearing out the throat of a sick, tired old buck Elk. Local news.
“I thought you wanted to shower.”
“After, boy, after.”
Marion made a face. Marion was from Jersey, had felt compelled to serve up that factoid twice, as if to separate the shame of a cheap motel fuck from the equal or greater shame of being from Maryland.
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