Howie Good is the author of THE DEATH ROW SHUFFLE, a poetry collection forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.
Chili Con Carnage
I wake up in bed alone, with drool and sweat and worse on my pillow. There are crumpled dollar bills and a couple of bucks in change on top of the dresser, enough for cigarettes and scratch-offs, maybe a bottle of Italian Red. History is dead. Scum is all that’s left. The sun keeps showing up regardless.
The train was crowded, dirty, excruciatingly slow. I had boarded with the idea of arriving that night in time to be a character in someone else’s dreams. It doesn’t have to make sense, but, for a while, the train ran parallel to an oily black river in which naked corpses floated. None of the passengers traveling with small children even attempted to shield the children’s eyes. And that was just fine with me. Growing up, I spent many hours watching TV alone in the basement in the dark.
Still sitting fully clothed on the exam table, I said to the doctor, “I’m dying.” He said, “How’s that my fault?” I’d been in agony for at least a month. The doctor said it was my body attacking itself. “It’ll scald you,” he said in the same cold, calm voice, “peel the skin and muscle right off your bones.” I wondered if this was a joke of some sort and decided it must be. When I opened the door to leave, a man with a bloody face, his hands bound behind his back, was just standing there waiting his turn.