Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler


premature fiction

Slow, Muddy, Sleepy Swirls

His mother’s car smelled of potpourri. He turned the key on and put down all the windows to let the smell dissipate. William rarely drove the well-traveled (170,000+ miles) maroon Nissan Sentra. He drove it down to the store, out to the lake a couple of times, and once all the way to Berkeley for a badly needed trip to a place with some Goddamned culture and a decent bookstore or two. Today, it needed gas and oil if he was going to make it to Fresno, but first…

William drove to the banks of the narrow Brenlee Irrigation District (B.I.D.) canal on the edge of town bordered on one side by the sun bleached wooden fence and dangling tree limbs of a small housing development built in the 80s and on the other side by an ancient looking walnut orchard. A large wooden sign posted on the edge of the orchard so it could be seen on the way into or out of town advertised the sale of 47.7 acres of land – Brenlee sewer and electrical connections, surveyed for subdivision, interested parties should contact the seller, Kenneth Sneed at his local phone number listed on the sign. As he parked the car and prepared to mask the biting scent of potpourri with the sweet mellowness of his morning joint, William wondered how they would deal with this canal once it no longer ran near any farms or orchards. How long would it last?

He took a deep drag on the joint and as he waited to release it, felt the seat under him grow softer, more comfortable. He sighed and exhaled into the car vent – no more lavendar or the cloying sweetness of dried rosebuds soaked in some sickening oil. Ten minutes later the car reeked of pot and William was on the verge of napping. He got out of the car and sat on the canal bank. The low water moved in slow, muddy, sleepy swirls. In the distance it reflected the yellow, grey haze of the sky. William had never seen smog here as a boy. His first memory of smog was on a visit to Disneyland with his family. He remembered feeling the sky clear as they drove north towards home. Now the entire midlands between the coastal mountain range and the Sierra Nevadas hid under a blanket of exhaust and smoke. It felt disgusting.

The butt of his joint sailed from his fingers, caught some tiny updraft and then drifted with no splash onto the surface of the water. It wasn’t far from here that he and Luke found Tommy’s body 20 years ago, maybe a half a mile, but it felt further away because he still made out the distances of this town as he did as a boy – gauged by the peddles of his small BMX bike and how far outside he roamed from the area his parents allowed him to play. A shake of his head couldn’t erase the thought of Tommy, so he returned to his car and headed to the Speedy Stop for gas and breakfast.

Now, as the Nissan Sentra sits poised to make the left turn that will take him out of town, William wonders if he should call Tamra. Maybe from the road. Then he double checks things: sickeningly sweet coffee cake – check; package of small chocolate covered donuts – check; coffee in the cupholder – check; Teriyaki beef jerky – check; and directions printed from the Internet with two possible addresses – check. “Okay Mr. Bergoyan,” he says to the windshield, “I sure hope you’re still alive.”