Ink – Ryan Bry
September 2, 2018
The rains slant in the sky. A single drop descends and gathers with other droplets near a crow’s heart and then: is flung downward towards Samantha’s silver KIA by its unsteady plumage. It taps on the unemotional windshield, still remembering the warmth of the birdheart, and is wiped away with other unwanted bits of heaven’s tears. It joins the tire spritz as our hero Samantha veers out of the highway lane—and the vehicle buzzes. She couldn’t have noticed the droplet that was specifically touched by birdlife, and “When Will I Be Loved” sung by Linda Ronstadt blares from her stereo. Samantha works for GEICO and loves her husband, who likes to skip stones in the creek and eat pie. She turns the radio down, contemplating whether or not she should call her friend Melissa who is getting a divorce, but then turns it back up and forgets about it. She wonders what her husband Ron is doing, who coaches an MLB team. She also wonders if she should paint her KIA another color, maybe one that would stand out more… like fuschia or peach, but no that’s not her… She decides she’s going to call someone, she’s got a long drive back home from the conference. Contacts: Aaron, Alex, Alice… Fred, George, Ginny… then she skips down to the bottom: Zoe. She calls Zoe.
Zoe has short blonde hair and writes reviews for roller coasters. Samantha has long brown hair and has never read any of Zoe’s reviews. “THE MOUNTAINS ARE GIVING OUT FREE GOLD,” Zoe says.
“What?” Samantha says.
“THE MOUNTAINS ARE GIVING OUT FREE GOLD,” Zoe says: “nevermind I just wanted to be mysterious. So what’s new, chicken?”
“God, the conference was so boring and they had this waterfall in the room which constantly made me need to pee no matter how many times I got up and went,” Samantha says.
“A waterfall? Damn girl that’s snazzy. You should see me now. Mud all over. Little Bill tripped into this mud puddle and I had to hold him to comfort him. Poor thing was crying like he never cried before, I wish we could take all the unpleasantness of life and turn it into a cute Disney movie, for our kids to watch. But it is kinda cute when they cry, you have to admit. You know what I’m saying? You’re being kinda quiet, what’s up?” Zoe says.
“Oh it’s nothing really, was just thinking about a song…” Samantha says.
“And you’re not gonna tell me what it is?”
“Whatever. If you really have to know it’s the Hymn of the Soviet Union sung by Paul Robeson.”
“That’s nothing really? Girl what is going on, tell me.”
“I was just listening to all these different national anthems and that one struck me as especially powerful and bittersweet, especially after the Soviet Union fell and everything went into chaos.”
“That was a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, why don’t you think about what you’re gonna make for dinner or something like that.”
“What if I never knew what dinner was?” Samantha muses.
“Um,” Zoe says.
“No really, what if I never knew what dinner was, never knew what a car was, never knew what an insurance plan was, or even what an accident was. And everyone should know what an accident is, since we are all just that. Accidents.”
“Look,” Zoe says, “if this is about your parents I just don’t care. Everyone cares about you, you will learn that.”
“It’s not about my parents it’s about God.”
“Great,” Zoe says and hangs up the phone.
Samantha is blank. For her whole life she’d been filled up with things, televisions, boyfriends, beachwalks, spaghetti dinners. Now she is blank. This page is blank. Jesus was blank when he died. Your food is blank, now it is back. Welcome back. Zoe calls back. Samantha has to pull over to answer.
“Sorry angel, not in a good mood plus I got this shit all over me. Can you make your point so I can go shower?”
“My point is that humans don’t know anything,” Samantha says.
“Well I know that men are creepy and will do anything to see a woman break down, unless it inconveniences them of course.” Zoe says, “That’s why I like Mark, he’s too dumb to hurt me. If there was anything in his brain he’d hate me for being confident but there’s not so whatever.”
Samantha gets out of her KIA and starts walking on the wet highway grass in the wet atmosphere in her wet bare feet, leaving her shoes by her car where someone could run over them. No, that would never happen. “You’re making me sick, Zoe,” Samantha says. “You ever think about how amazing it is that we can communicate at all and you say bullshit like that? Mark’s a genuine person and you love him.”
A hitchhiker appears and steals the phone out of Samantha’s hand. “iPhone 69,” he says and offers her a Watermelon Arizona Iced Tea from his backpack.
“Why’d you take my phone?” she asks.
“Need to call Bartholomew,” he says except he pronounces it burtolomoo.
“Your guardian angel. He wears the same hockey jersey to every family gathering because he won a bet or something. I’ve lost track, man.” He called Samantha man.
“Yeah I think I’ve lost track too… hey you wanna go get pizza?” she asks.
“Hmmm… could be… unwise. Let me consult with my guardian angel.” The hitchhiker commits seppuku with a katana a stranger threw out of a van. His guardian angel is one of those radishes with faces that Peach summons with her down-B in Super Smash Bros. Samantha tilts her head a little.
“My guardian angel said to trust you, which I was gonna do anyway since I’m a hitchhiker and you have a ride.”
“lol, wait weren’t you dead? I wanna hear all about it.” Samantha says.
“I am a constant, there’s no such thing as not me. Everything’s all me, baby.”
“Groovy,” Samantha says as she realizes how not groovy the situation is.
Pizza. That’s one thing Americans can agree on. No wait, they argue inanely about the different styles of pizza constantly. Samantha likes New York style, and that’s only cause I like New York style. Who am I? The hitchhiker is everything, he’s done everything been everywhere, tried every kind of cheese. I’m just a slice of Kraft American that someone slapped on the floor cause they were feeling playful. It hurt, why does God allow people to do things like this? One day I’m gonna stop being cheese and write a story about a spy who kisses deodorant in St. Petersburg. They probably have a law against that. Sigh.
“So… where’s your destination?” Samantha asks.
“I’m going where there’s no weather.”
“No, the womb.”
“So—you wanna be born again?”
“Are you slow?”
“I’m 67 mph.”
They get pizza. It’s St. Louis style, which is strange since they aren’t in St. Louis and St. Louis style isn’t really a thing outside of St. Louis and you know what the strangest bug just landed on my computer screen it’s like something out of a Cronenberg film and why do I continue typing when I should kill the damn thing, okay okay okay. You don’t care. You care whether or not our hero used cutlery to eat her pizza. She did, of course. There’s a dog park nearby and people were walking their dogs by the shop window. Useless. Or pointless. Whatever. (weather changes).
“Say… have you ever like… had sex?” the hitchhiker asks.
“You mean like forgot I was living in a fictional nightmare dimension where the writer can just decide we both live on a dandelion if he wants to and blow us all away while wishing he could actually write characters with convincing motivations and strong convictions that generate discussion about the philosophy of some political topics in his small, marginalized online group of thinkers and use my body on a man’s penis? I have two babies, so yes.”
“Let’s go to a porno shop, you might have had sex but I doubt you’ve ever watched it. We can watch it in the car, your car has a DVD player I noticed.”
“Very observant,” Samantha says: “I’ll go if you drive, I like to be driven.” Samantha loves to be driven places. It makes her bond intimately with the driver because they both share a destination. They’ve come to a silent agreement that this place that we’re going is the best place to go. Yes, many arguments happen in the car and she hates arguments but they never leave the car. When you get out you decide to leave it behind you. And so Samantha fell in love with the hitchhiker. But, the hitchhiker is everything, so it’s more like she fell in love with everything and wants never to be left alone in the nothingness. Nothingness is for medicated people.
The porno shop is just called Kink, which Samantha thought was very unimaginative and the hitchhiker didn’t think a damn thing about it and went in and looked around like every “normal” “person” who goes into a porno shop. Samantha goes down the aisles… so much flesh, and they’re all enslaved to be fucking the same person over and over. Samantha fell and began to cry, her tears dropping on the carpet like bowling balls.
“There is so much death and it’s all around me and I wish I could just scream at it and make it go away or bake it some cookies so it’d leave me alone, but my entire life?! What does my entire life mean?! Who decides when it’s your turn to ride into the abyss on a retarded mule with not enough rations to last you however many lifetimes you need to last?! Leave me alone! If I could I would cover myself with bird feathers and flap flap flap until the sun explodes and the drooling oaf in the sky decides war isn’t funny anymore.”
Get this—Tim, the porno clerk swaggers over to Samantha in a red Hawaiian shirt with a dildo in his hand. The dildo has a phone number sharpied on it: 501-240-7952. “Remember pillows that dance like goofy Canadians, and slap a good cake!” he says.
Samantha gets home to her babies. She does the tea kettle. She puts on “Don’t Make Me Over” by Dionne Warwick. She feeds them. When they’ve had their fill she lays them in bed and goes into her room. Ron is at a day game. She closes the door thoughtfully and takes an earl grey dose—avoiding glancing at the dildo in her hand. She thinks about warm towels and domesticated flowers. What did he mean? She gets in bed and uses the dildo.
501-240-7952. ron’s hands but also the hitchhiker’s scruff but also a robot that smells good and even the taste of warm lobster and of course you are a flower in my thoughts you are all rainbow men teaching me how to breathe like a lady—
501-240-7952. orchard with ron he bruises me with a peach bruise on the peach bruise on her thigh thrown at me like a fastball what the fuck but it’s good i take a bite and smear it on him wet peachness on his lips be my peach lips 501-240-7952. 501-240-7952. oh god 501-240-7952.
501-240-7952 smeared all inside her and was wiped away like sand messages… and the trees outside bobbed like nuns ascending stairs.