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The International Writers Magazine: Freefall Stories

Hash Browns and Tattoos
Joshua M. Cisneros
Christmas sucks, that’s not poetic, but neither is Christmas or New Years, in the future I’ll plan a festival, where drinking and present debauchery only plays a small part in the party.  Like the sad 6 year old child stuck playing the lonely part of the “horse” sat on by the future prom king in the elementary Christmas play, our fates are set that young. 


I believe strongly, more then the fact that what runs through my body is blood, that when reached a certain point of maturity we gain, like gods, control, choosing to either fumble and go insane, or grab tight and pull with fiery crazed hands, leading yourself through the dreams once dreamt of as a child.

I have to believe that, it is what’s gotten me this far, for our life is constant proof of our own personal philosophy, and we all have different views, like an object sitting in the middle of the room, we sit in circles of it, all seeing a different shadow casting itself on the same existence of this object, each one of us whispering in the next one’s ear our views, but some yell obnoxiously and loud.

 I love with steady hands where I’m at; I hope I have the courage to make the next great leap when I feel it thick in the air…. My old welding teacher used to say, “hope in one hand, shit in the other, see which one fills up first,” even then, a strong supporter of hope, said “I’d rather hope.”  Now when I say I’m a strong believer of hope, I should mention that it caddy corners my other strong belief and principal of “Action”. Words are great, I think it was Burroughs who, I’ll paraphrase, said “If I was a great enough writer, I could make you kill yourself.”  I think he was talking about the ability to tell perspective well enough to the point where it draws you in, describing the steps of insanity, using analogies you yourself could relate to, and when you approach those scripts with an open mind, it sinks in like a seed, plants itself, and you start to see, usually unknowingly, through tainted eyes that spur sprouts of paranoia and weighing death that holds you earthed. 

Anyone who’s ever read Bukowski knows that desire to drink, and do nothing, but drink, and do nothing, and sink into couches, to drink and do nothing….and be completely satisfied with it.  That was never my purpose, not usually, although I will admit when writing does flow so beautifully, even of terrible things, it’s a sin to dam that stream, and restrict it from leaving your head, but I would rather write of beautiful things, timid creatures reaching heights never seen, women singing through slited sheets, playing this bed like an accordion that we pump together.  For those are the things I wake up to see, and this life has granted me the ability to feel grateful, for I was not like Bukowski whose father beat him till he felt the world was ugly, just like his dad, and I’m not like Dostoyevsky who felt the terrible weight of hopelessness.

Write what you know, and I know of passion and great strength, willed grandfathers who built homes for his family, sweet grandmothers who loved their children till death and fate swept her like dust to blow through the winds and bushes for eternity, I know of love…but sometimes your semi-stuck at a 24 hour diner, famous for there steaks and hash browns, so they call themselves, “The original house of steak and hash browns” I’m sitting here like a, would be, bum, and surely be kicked out if I didn’t chat and make all the help here smile and laugh. I didn’t even want to write tonight, or this morning, but there’s no internet, so I’m forced, it’s that or solitaire, and I’ve had enough of that, losing to that fucking game 15 times to just win twice… but hey, it was twice in a row.  So now I’m sitting, thinking of women, lonely ones by themselves, how they dream of me, and I wish for them, and for the other lonely ones, with other men who sleep like ghosts by them, they shift and turn in cold sombre sheets, unfulfilled, dreaming for me, and I again for them.

Thinking of other things, but not really. It’s these nights that really pull the shots from my belly, the ache from my days, surrounded by so many people, all with their conversations, and me just that guy, how many nights I’ve seen him when I was with my friends, I’d wave and smile, and he’d just sit, with his book or pad, writing whatever, thinking of things, and stuff, life and death, contemplating future orgasms and shady break ups. It’s these nights that really stick the black part of the white circle down my throat, and I say, with a sinking feeling in my stomach, that I enjoy it, but that could be that caffeine sting causing the boil in my tummy.  A story… hah, that’d be great….no it wouldn’t I don’t feel like it.  I’ve really enjoyed this piece of writing so far, but because it lacks some sort of direction I feel scared that I won’t have any use for it, I can’t file something without a name, and this is lacking one. A point should be made…let’s sit and think. 

 Looking at my skin, I have enough scars, that tell enough stories, that represent more about me then any tattoo I could ever have printed on my skin.  Countless burns on both arms, always stating a scripture of my incapability to slow down for people, I will speed so fast in the kitchen when I worked, for customers who are picky, their patience for dinner like hogs.  I’m unable to slow, afraid to let my fellow man and women down, and I have all the scares to remind me of how I equal their impatience. Cigarette burns, one for every ambered love turn to ash on the drying scabs on my mind, thank god I never fall too hard too often, but just enough to remind me to watch my step next time.  A scar on my knee, I tried to impress my friend on our walk home, stealing this little basketball from a kid, at least 3 years younger than me, I dunked it on the curbside basketball hoop, a bolt protruded, and it, that fucking bastard, snagged my skinned knee, like a hook through a fishes lip, on the way down, all my weight tore a chunk of skin, size compared to a rolled die. It bled, and pulsed bright red like a stabbed can of paint, slopping down my leg, making a slippery mess in my sock, I remember hurrying home, and my old friend, John Purdy, wasn’t suppose to be walking home with me, and his dad drove by, he flipped out and ran, his dad was yelling out the window, and I was left walking by myself, bleeding scared. After telling my dad the story, he told me to go back and find the skin, they needed to stitch it to me. I was stone afraid to see that chunk of meat, I puke almost now, just thinking about it’s stale tofu like texture, dense in the middle with flexible outside edges.

My broken nose hasn’t gotten better, always fighting the only challenge I ever found in boxing, I had many fights, and a lot of good street fighters, but few who were as patient as I was. Logan McQueen, a Scott olive skinned Wop, pretty playboy face, defined chin and squinty eyes, looked easily like Sicilian Royalty. Because he stood so manly and stout, I always loved him as a challenge, he nearly cracked a disk in my neck during wrestling, the story told to his Frat brothers so many times when I’m around.  When we boxed in high school I’d beat him often, usually because of my toned stamina, plus he did smoke.  The most recent occurred, like many nights with him, when we were drinking at his Fraternity House.  Whiskey started early around 4pm, beer till around 1, and we needed to get more, I stopped boxing out of High school once I realized my left arm was loosing it’s snap, my shoulder couplet started popping when I’d whip it, but I was drunk, and didn’t care, I was boasting and yelling, making heavy bets and countless threats. Finally I said one that sounded half reasonable, one they’d take me up on. I said I would box three brothers in a row, and knock them all out, and if I did, they would buy the beer, but if not, I would loose double, and pay for all the booze instead. So we began, I boxed a man with similar taste in the arts of food as I, and I don’t doubt his cooking skills, but if I was his brother, I’d never let him touch gloves… but, I don’t look like much, so I understand their lack of concern. We hit mits, and within the first minute he hits the sand, I spun him right, he was only dazed, the drunk didn’t help him here, or me in the next fight…. the problem with this deal is I’m fighting on the wrong turf, not saying it would of made the difference to decide my fate, but it didn’t help.  His brothers cheer him on again, yelling encouragements through drunken lisps, and wild curses. I’m still feeling golden, bouncing around, heel to toe, heel to toe, “just like the jump rope Josh”, heel to toe, and within another few punches he’s down again, red in the face, and done, I feel terrible because he’s such a nice guy, and it should of never happen. I was prepared to fight the next man, and I felt like I had him, I saw him, and although he was bigger than me, I’d already fought bigger than him, that was a man who’d benched 350 our senior year, he was an unstoppable tank, he’d walk slowly at me, like a pacing meteor towards our earth, the only reason I won was because I hit his arm in mid air, later finding out I dislocated his shoulder.  So this other guy, another brother, steps up, but my friend Logan, so excited to take me on for the third time, grabbed the gloves instead, he held a smile that made me hit him that much harder, but it wasn’t enough.  We knocked each other around, me more then him, for a good bit, I was winded, tired, spitting bloody muscus between every breath I had to spare, kneeling on my leg twice, a third only because cops drove by, god bless’em, we hid behind a structure, but he should of drove slower, because there we were again, throwing unconscious fists, he caught me twice with terribly illegal backhands, which he’s been doing since we started this charade in High school, but it’s no excuse, I finally quit, noticing he was not breathing as much as I, and he lacked the blood spitting that I, by then, was so fond of.

  I start hyperventilating, not being able to breath, I walk towards the back, and I tell my good friend to help me, I could barely walk, and see even less, my body was numb, and I felt shock crawling through all crevasses, we made it up stairs, and I sat in the sink, spitting, coughing, not stopping, telling him I might die tonight, and I don’t blame him, it was my fault, I was crying, sure of my death, I was breathing to hard to breath, not being able to catch a breath, I felt I needed one pumped in me. I made it to his couch, told him to check on me whenever he could, I thought I had internal bleeding, but the worst of all pain didn’t actually reach me till the morning. I woke up, had work at 3, it was 2pm. I go to move, and the nerve in my left shoulder shocked through the base of my side, 3rd to worst pain, 2nd to throwing my back out, and 1st to of which I pulled a nerve from my finger.  I role over in depression and fear, only glad because I’m not spiting up blood. I get to work, and lie, I feel bad now if my old boss ever reads this, but he already was paranoid of me becoming and alcoholic, due to some reflection of his own life I think, and I couldn’t let him think this was due to alcohol, and how could I explain to him my real hidden desire to fight and wage war against a foe with mad slaughter and strength, nowadays that type of behavior is no excuse.  So I tell him I tried to prevent my friend from getting in a fight, and instead I got roughed up by 3 or 4 assholes, as my friend ran away.  I was still a bit spiteful for my friend making me look like a pansy, so I made him look like one to my boss, sometimes even a little satisfaction can ease the pain of a day like that.  The most shitty thing of all was when my friends asked me, most hung out at Naked lounge, and I was terrified that it’d get back to him some how, so I lied to them as well, for downtown Chico is the place of drama and feud, the ones who say they hate it the most, generally love it the worst.  My shoulder still clicks in the cold, reminding me of all those lies, afraid to loose my job, or worse, have a boss who so resembled my dad, in his younger mentality and mental state, be upset with my incapability and irresponsibility.  Yes, these tattoos on my skin came with much more pain than just a needle and some blood, but I resemble the masses by getting those tattoos due to my ignorance, and immatureness, searching through this maze of trials and tribulations, searching for myself, for an identity that fits, and I could say at least I didn’t walk in and pay for them, but I did.
© Joshua Bantum Jan 3rd 2011

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