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.”