by Scott Bailey

                                         Published in Exquisite Corpse

I find my boyfriend, not in the future tense, but the one
I'm dating on a porn site, asking for private photos,
poppers and bondage sex, so I jump the gray dog to visit
Mama who's sure to console me with her casseroles  
and cakes, plus I'm a sucker for discipline and told-you-so's,
whatever it takes for me to write these experiences
up firsthand. I wish I were on that bus that overturned
on an exit ramp and slid into a field, killing three cows,
a deadbeat father and a penniless addict. According
to a survivor in a chat room, one paramedic,
remarking about the fast-food wrappers and lottery
tickets, said, “Chicken nuggets and gambling's a bad
combination.” But now, my fellow thrill-seeker, look at
this guy who's wearing a cap with bold letters: “My inner
child needs a spanking.” I wonder if he reads Wordsworth,
but before I ask, I'm interrupted.  “Don't talk to him,”
the Goth girl next to me in platform boots, whispers,
“I know you just got on, like, and I don't want to scare you,
like, but I've been on this bus all night, like, and it's like,
ahhh, like a mother-fucking, like, end-of-time movie.
And Roberta, like, behind us, like, is on her way to see
her aunt who believes we're already, like, dead.” I turn around,
expecting to see a woman bearing henna tattoos and sitting
in the lotus position, but she's pulling a french fry
from between her gorilla titties and humming “Wild Thing.”
But she's not as gassy as the horse-faced man in front of us,
quoting Cheech and Chong as if they're a part of God's plan.
When I thought he couldn't go on, he stands up and screams,
“I'm a paramedic,” after a woman with untidy, gray-streaked
hair collapses in the aisle, her hand clutching a photo
of a man wearing overalls and holding a Shih Tzu over
a birthday cake. It's clear that he doesn't have any training.  
Not the dog, but this man saying, “Work with me, work with me.”
I'm reminded of a church service when Brother Roy Ulmer
faints in the spirit, shits too, during a testimony. My cousin
Sybil, a real paramedic, and the only one to go to college
in my church, well, my entire family, says, “This ain't good.
He ain't breathing.” If you look up death and excretion,
and you get a page error, you need faster cable or you
have to reset your browser. Apparently, Brother Roy
Ulmer has a good connection. After God jumps into Sybil
and tells her to do what she's been trained to do—perform
CPR—he comes back to life only to live one week longer,
enough time to finish refurbishing the pine pews with velvet,
and to tell his daughter that she isn't his daughter. Luckily,
we're a few miles from the Mobile terminal. While watching
this lady's body carried off the bus, I smoke a cigarette.
A man walks up to me, shakes his head, and says, “What a shame.”
Surely is, but he's not talking about this lady: he's complaining
about the chicken basket he bought in the station deli.
“Shit, look at her,” he says, holding up a potato log, “Ain't this
the most droopiest thang you ever saw?”  Well, I say, I suppose
you don't know Tony, but before I finish, we're told to board.
An army cadet sits next to me, and says, “Hell, it's about to be
nuts to butts up in here.” Sounds terrible, I say, What's your name?
He's Sam from Arkansas, and he believes in destiny,
but also the choice to fuck it up. He tells me a bedtime story:
while watching Thriller at his friend's house, his friend told his dad
to pour his own whiskey, so his dad pulled down his friend's pants
and whipped his hairy butt with a clothes hanger. I'm shameful,
I think, for beating my ex-boyfriend like a dog, and telling him
that I could care less if he died, but I'm devastated after he throws
himself in front of an eighteen-wheeler. Years later, Sam visited
that old man being fed through a tube. “You're making the right
choice,” Sam says, patting my shoulder, when I throw my
cigarettes out the window, my only friends who don't talk back.