There was a part of me that, all these years later, still really wanted to read her the riot act, to give her the old what for and inform her that the faded lavender bandana she gave me back then (to remember her by, I guess, or as some kind of bullshit consolation prize, maybe, for not qualifying, hell, for not even being considered a contender or even a valid, bona fide practitioner of the sport, that same bandana that had, so often, tweaked me, existentially, from time to time, over the years, whenever it would randomly resurface to remind me how much she had hooked me and how I had barely registered with her), well, it was hanging from the rear-view mirror of my buddy’s primer-gray pick-up truck and he and it were halfway to Denver by now. But what would the damn point of such a petty little gesture even be? We hadn’t spoken in close to twenty years. She wouldn’t know what I was talking about because there never had been a me and her. Just me—carrying around the fallen baby bird of a wounded ego and the whole what might have been syndrome all this time, thinking that somehow, somewhere down the line we’d run into each other again. Hell, she probably wouldn’t even remember my name.
Still-Life of Pocket Knife, Carpenter’s Pencil and Black Velvet Elvis
There was a wadded-up brown paper bag (with a few phone numbers and some directions hastily scrawled upon it), a brass candle-holder shaped like a chess piece (a king or queen, maybe, but the wax of many multi-colored candles had melted down over it, over the years, rendering it mostly gender-neutral, by now) and a set of keys that looked as if they unlocked massive doors and gates and gothic trunks and chests best left unopened, all arranged on an ancient card table (the kind you always got stuck at every goddamn Thanksgiving as far back as you can remember), a man, snoring, steadily, in a kicked-back La-Z-Boy chair in front of a Red Wings / Black Hawks game, a coffee mug of Diet Coke and bourbon, balanced precariously, on his slowly rising / slowly falling / slowly rising / slowly falling belly, (bloated with what appears to be most of an Imo’s meat lover’s pizza), a pocket-knife covered in red sauce and cheese, and the stub of a carpenter’s pencil permanently fixed behind his left ear. A black velvet Elvis wearing gold wrap-around shades watches over it all and keeps him safe.
Jason Ryberg is the author of thirteen books of poetry, six screenplays, a few short stories, a box full of folders, notebooks and scraps of paper that could one day be (loosely) construed as a novel, and, a couple of angry letters to various magazine and newspaper editors. He is currently an artist-in-residence at both The Prospero Institute of Disquieted P/o/e/t/i/c/s and the Osage Arts Community, and is an editor and designer at Spartan Books. His latest collection of poems is Standing at the Intersection of Critical Mass and Event Horizon (Luchador Press, 2019). He lives part-time in Salina, KS with a rooster named Little Red and a billygoat named Giuseppe and part-time somewhere in the Ozarks, near the Gasconade River, where there are also many strange and wonderful woodland critters.