Soon you’ll be back in the city, with your buddies, back with a resolve to stay clean that lasts the half-hour it takes to score.

Today's Story



By Jon Mcgill

Officially that’s what this is: your rescue—your change of pace, your breath of fresh air, your much needed vacation and spring break and getaway cruise and all those other clichés. An intervention of love, purred Mom, smiling the words at you then from the driver’s side. She’d finally convinced you to give up Omaha, for the weekend at least, and come down to Lee’s Summit, to your sister’s place, where it’s safe. For most of the drive you tuned out. Earbuds on, head against the glass, a bored witness to the suicides of Iowa: the endless decimated fields, the forgotten farm equipment, the surrendered homes. Just a scene change in this B-movie you call your life, and it doesn’t change a thing. You’re still the problem here, the uncontrolled variable. Doesn’t matter how fast the miles speed away it’s still you in this car, you and your busted-up brain, your checkered forearms, the pushovers you call hands. Much as you want, you can’t just leave yourself behind. But hey maybe this’ll be different, maybe this’ll be the weekend to reminisce about years later—the weekend Johnny-boy finally got himself straight, didn’t relapse in his sister’s bathroom. Somewhere along the I-29 bore you glimpsed a plane out west, floating like a toy along the same pretend straight line. Maybe you believed a little, maybe you considered it a sign.

It’s Saturday now, sometime in the afternoon—a day after you and Mom arrived, bags in hand, like refugees. You’re sitting lazy in the sun, sipping a cherry lemonade, lobbing a ball into a brilliant green dream and watching the pup scamper after it. A couple minutes ago your nephew was out here gushing about everything Star Wars, but he’s gone now. You’re boring these days you’ve lost touch. You didn’t want to play Jedi. You didn’t want to play good versus evil. You wanted to tell him he’ll be ruined soon, like everybody gets.

During the car ride Mom had wanted some answers. By her tone you knew her interest was pure—the same charming What’s it like? curiosity all kids have. You mumbled that you never knew. That was always the default answer, but now it seems true: you never did know. The times you were on were escapes for the times when everything was off. You wanna know what heroin’s like, Mom, it’s a big beautiful nothing. The realest fullest nothing there is, Mom, and every day is a need to be there and be that nothing. But you didn’t say those words; instead you failed and kept quiet. The radio shushed you both into road-sleep and you returned to the window and listened for the heartbeats in the things you saw.

Outside in the sunny sweat your nephew blasts onto the patio where you’re lounging and lifts a pink bottle at your face, saying, “Wanna blow bubbles with me?”

“Only one bottle there, bud.”

“We can share.”

But no, that’s all right—“You keep it you go have fun”—and for a full twenty minutes, until the bottle’s dry, he blows fat and droopy and impossible wavy bubbles from that tiny pink wand. You know this is only temporary, this exile into normal. It’s never supposed to last. Soon you’ll be back in the city, with your buddies, back with a resolve to stay clean that lasts the half-hour it takes to score. Then it’s the bathroom, the bedroom, some creep’s couch, or cross-legged on the floor nodding yourself into yet another dream. You wish none of it were true but it is, you know it is because this kid’s telling you it’s true. His bubbles spreading rainbows over the sky and all you’re able to notice is how they always come down, how they’re never free, they never stay up, never float forever they always have to break.


Jon Mcgill writes from Omaha, Nebraska, where he is pursuing a degree in Radiology. His favorite letter is L.

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