Rusty Barnes

2011/12/14 Comments Off on Rusty Barnes

two short stories on the theme of love
Test Pattern

Sarah’s white dressing gown is hanging on the nails driven into the window sash. She likes to hang it over the window by the TV at night, since there is no curtain. This way she can turn on the television and watch in peace without the intrusion of headlights or moonlight or any other light, no noise of anything moving or breathing, just her and the soft blinkering picture, the gentle hum of the various machines in her home. She mentally takes inventory, the things that hum and make noise in this room, all of them powered on for some reason, as if it’s the noise which comforts: Sharp 50 inch screen TV, which had taken three men to get it into place; Sony DVD player; Panasonic VHS player; Sony Playstation, Nintendo Gamecube; a Hewlett Packard stack with 160 gigs of memory, a gig of RAM, and a flat-screen monitor currently displaying moving pictures of fish, though the picture changes every time her mailer checks the mail, usually every two minutes; two digital clocks, one of them a clock radio that Corey uses when he doesn’t feel like coming in the room to sleep with her, so he can wake up to Howard Stern. He used to wake up to the feel of her against him. The remote feels warm in her hand from where it’s been lodged against her thigh. She’s gone through the channels and not found anything. She’s paged through the on-demand screens full of soft-core porn and other films and found nothing. Corey’s CDs are boxed in alphabetically ordered milk crates against the wall, but there’s nothing there to listen to. She remembers movies she seen that she liked, the one about the falling building with Steve McQueen, Towering Inferno, that’s it. She remembers how cute OJ was in that movie as some guy named Harry Jernigan, as if any black man has ever had that name. There was another one, a really freaky one, where the TV came alive, turned into a lurid pair of lips and talked someone into it, talked the man into getting naked, talked him into delivering himself naked into her cathode embrace, where he was promptly eaten or something. This reminds her of the cute little blonde girl from Poltergeist, which somehow brings her to Showgirls, row upon row of bare-boobed dancers being tweaked and ogled by some men who purportedly employed them, how Corey had come out with her afterward shaking his long head of hair, how they’d made love in the car after laughing at the silliness, all that bare flesh and awkward pool-fucking exciting the loins in spite of its awful putrid badness and gratuitous everything. She remembers watching some hard stuff with Corey, how his eyes had been following the actor performing the blowjob, how he’d asked her to get a boob job after. She knew it was wrong, but she liked the way these women looked, and she knew he did, so why not, as it wasn’t hurting anyone. She sits in her bra and panties, thinks of stripping down the rest of the way for Corey before he opens the door. The thought excites her, and she reaches behind her back and unclasps the hooks, and the TV goes out with a pop and the house is dark. Sarah curses, walks over to the wall and wiggles the cable connection. It seems slightly loose so she turns it a few times, her hard breasts pushed against the warm screen of the TV and that TV-eater-of-people movie comes to mind again and she moves back, fumbles for the remote on the sofa, raps it against her hands, presses first the TV button then the cable, but it simply won’t turn on. Time passes. She can’t tell how much, as she doesn’t own a watch and the sim-card in her cell-phone has gone hay-wire. Corey’s working late tonight, Sarah guesses. If she could just see a clock and know what time it is, she could guess if he was driving past the multiplex or down the street, past the video store and the KFC.  The wind stirs her dressing gown and for a moment it looks just like a person hanging there in the air, like a ghost maybe, from the Scooby-Doo movie. She moves the dressing gown aside and looks out at the completely dark, dead street. For once there are no oncoming cars. The Tom Cruise film War of the Worlds will be out soon. She wonders what’s happened. If she reaches heaven someday she wonders if she’ll realize she’s there.


The Feel of My Heart

The way Misty looks is like a rumor. How they begin as one thing and end up as another. We’re all mixed up. Couples fucking each other and no one’s supposed to know. She is dealing cards three at a time, then two, for euchre. Rick and Sandy, my partner for this game, are chasing their whisky with each other’s spit. I see something dart across the kitchen floor and Rick sees it too. He grabs his .22 and shoots it and Misty drops the last set of cards, a bead of blood showing on her outer arm. She slaps at it like a fly bite.

“Fuckhead.” she says. “You shot me.” She dabs at the blood with a bar napkin. “A little.”The rat is twitching in the middle of the floor, leaving a smear as it crawls for a hole.

“But I got the rat,” Rick says, and blows across the pistol barrel like a gunslinger, and Sandy kisses the side of his neck and tells him what a nice shot he is.

“Asshole.” I say it low, so he can’t hear me. Misty shakes her head at me quick-like.

“Something you want to say, Daniel?” Rick levels the .22 at my face, a warm black eye swimming in front of me. I shake my head and feel my guts go loose.

“Clubs are trump,” Misty says. “Yours to make.” She’s holding the napkin to her arm again. Her cards are down. Sandy looks at Rick before she says no.

“Clubs it is. I’ll go alone,” Rick says, and it’s my lead. I think of the sawed-off baseball bat under the front seat of my Crown Vic. I toss out the ace of spades. Misty’s not even paying attention; she’s hitting the pipe. I look around the table, it’s all slow motion now. I can see Rick’s fingers moving slightly, tapping the table, and there’s Misty large in my vision, her head tossed back, the tendons in her neck working.

Later that night I’ll be biting her, just a little, when Rick will knock the door down and demand I leave. It will end badly. Misty will get shot at again. There will be a struggle, and I’ll wake up with her washing my face of brain and gore from Rick.

Right now, though, it’s just the sound of my own breathing and Rick in the doorway, that tiny pistol waving in our faces, and Misty’s giggle, a current broken, a connection missed, the feel of my heart hard in my throat.

Author Biography

Rusty Barnes lives and writes in Revere MA. He co-founded Night Train  and oversees Fried Chicken and Coffee, a blogazine of rural and Appalachian interests. His latest collection of fiction is called Mostly Redneck. A recent collection of his poetry, Broke, can be found  here. 

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