We Spend a Night In

"Atom and His Package at the Fireside Bowl," Emmy says, flipping through the Reader. "But not until eleven. Crackwhore's at the Empty Bottle. Dead Milkmen, the Aluminum Bavariati, Crapfest--anything?"

She insists she only wants to see the show. "Fucked Monkey!" she giggles, bouncing lightly in my maroon overstuffed chair like some little kid, like she's getting a real kick out of these band names. "Gandhilicious! Honeyburn! Invisible Piss Test!" She stands up in the chair, still bouncing as she reads off names.

I want to tell her to go easy on the chair, or at least take off her Docs. But she's got energy, and I love that about her. I do.

"Monkey's Uncle?" she asks, cajoling. "New Bomb Turks, Lemony Discharge, The Twelve Caesars?" she pleads. My hesitance infuriates her, I can tell, and she starts really bouncing off the chair, out of spite now. She's getting tortuous squeals out of those old springs and keeps going, knowing I won't stop her. I hate when I feel challenged to be the voice of reason, the mature one. The facets of my flaring resentment are legion.

"Queer Steers," she spits, "Tribe 8, Murderhorn," between bounces. Soon the feathery ends of her blue-tipped hair will brush the ceiling. "TRS-80, Scrotopotamus, the Honeydrippers & Jimbo!" she gasps. "Ugly Stepchild, the Revolting Cocks, Atomic Bitch Wax! What more do you want?"

In the past, she's always won me over, and we've ducked down to some dark bar with a band, starting slowly on shots and PBR. But this has changed since we actually woke on a sidewalk. I couldn't believe it for a minute; it didn't compute. It was foggy as a film-noir stage set, and garbage trucks I couldn't see grumbled in and out of distant alleys. I felt cheated, abandoned, the victim of some practical joke. The fact that no one had taken my credit cards even though my wallet lay inside out, gutted like a fish on the concrete between us, only made me more skeptical at first. My feet felt warm and wet, and a fresh, still-creeping puddle surrounded my shoes; I swear a rangy yellow dog grinned back at me over his shoulder before loping around the corner and out of sight.

That sort of experience should be sobering, both literally and figuratively, I tell her now. Her eyes just flash in irritation at my clever pun, and she protests, "We'll stop before then."

I don't reply, and she knows I'm right. She must. She's losing momentum, no longer pounding the springs of my maroon chair quite so hard, now stopping altogether, sliding onto the floor where she collapses into a fetal position, sobbing gently.

"X-Ray Specs," she whimpers bravely, "we'll just hear the music"--and there's so little I can do but take her in my arms and rock her, letting her tears soak my favorite Ramones T-shirt.

"Sure," I say, "Zebediah, Cornhole, Cameltoe & the Pietasters," I whisper in her ear, my lips, as they work, polishing her stainless steel rings, her jewelries.

She brightens a little, and we both know who's won. I swear I can see that yellow cur already, smiling at me again, like he's been in on it all along.

About the author:

Dave Essinger teaches at the University of Findlay, in Ohio. His fiction has appeared in The Pinch (formerly River City), The Denver Quarterly, Folio and elsewhere. He's currently at work on a novel based on his exploits walking other people's dogs in Chicago.