John starts looking around the dash, and then gropes under the driver’s seat, searching for his tape player. The dash stereo is broken with a bad habit of eating tapes, but John has a tape player adapter for his portable CD player (which is also broken) plugged in to a walkman. They call it his ghetto stereo. He finds the walkman, hits play, and Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” washes like liquid valium through the car’s speakers. The music calms the beast of John’s driving, and the car hums with floating motion; the road grows a little longer.

David Gilmour asks, “So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell, blue skies from pain?”

“It’s not that bad, is it?” Travis says as he hopes it’s not.

But concentrating on the road, John’s light demeanor grows a tad heavier, with minor chords. He is key changing. He thinks about the difference between blue skies and pain in the dark of the morning. “It’s Rache,” he says, his teeth chopping her name off short.

“You’re not gonna’ break up or anything?”

John shrugs and keeps his eyes on the road, Rachel could be either a green field or a cold steel rail. She could be a smile or a veil and he couldn’t tell.

“C’mon. How bad could it be?”

“I’m pissed off,” John says angry and quiet, and speaking from a place where the matter was resolved. He has already solved this problem; not that he knows it.

Travis observes his friend for a moment—John’s light, brown eyes staring intensely at the road and seeing something else, street lights rhythmically revealing his face over and over again. “You really are pissed off.”

John shrugs again, keeps driving. And then tired, “I’m just sick of it.”

“So. Dump her.”

John’s eyes search Travis out across the velour interior. John is aware of the option—takes solace in it at times, as the sodium lights reveal his face in traversing beams; he despises it in the interim darkness. “So I should exchange cold comfort for change?”

“I know, I know,” Travis concedes. “I know.”

The car hums as the pair sit quietly.

“Well, you’re still having sex…”

“Very… angry… sex.” John tightens his bottom lip, jutting his chin out. It was how he let his friends know that what he was saying was a joke, no matter how angry he sounded, a deadpan mischief.

Travis laughs, sitting up in his seat for a moment. “Yeah?” he asked.

“I bang her like the whore she is.”

“Well… what do you want?—Sensitivity?” Travis pantomimes scarequotes around the last word.

John’s bottom lip tightens a little more and begins to tremble as he pretends to try to hold back tears. “I’m a very sensitive guy.”

“Sensitive my ass,” Travis scoffs. The joke must go on!

“You’re the lucky one…” John sniffs.

“Why? ‘Cause I’m an insensitive bastard?”


“Well, what then?”

“‘Cause you’re gay,” John points out, as though it were obvious.

“I’m not gay.”

“That’s not what The Fat Kid said!” Waving his finger, John shames Travis from the driver’s seat.

“What would Nick know? He’s gay.”

“He said he caught you in the bathroom with the plunger up your ass.”

Travis puts his face in his hands. The joke must stop! “Dude, that’s too much.”

John starts bouncing in his seat rhythmically. “Mr. Clean! Oh, Mr. Clean! Oh my God, you give it… so… good!”

“Dude, shut up!”

Suddenly very serious, John takes his eyes off the road for a moment to regard his friend.

“You… are a homosexual.”

“You’re fat.”

“At least I’m not banging guys in the shit shoot!” John declares, regaining his excitability, sitting up to the steering wheel. He’s glad to have a mental stick to poke Travis with. It keeps more serious matters off his mind.

“Shut up.”

Pulling up to the twenty-four hour grocery store down the street from their apartment complex, John drives the Thunderchicken across an almost entirely empty parking lot, directly into the first handicap spot he sees. Travis knows better than to engage in another argument that John is provoking for his own amusement. The answer to Travis’s protest would inevitably be something like: “Now those legless bastards can park in a regular spot like the rest of us. They wouldn’t be so crippled if they got up and walked every once in a while!” Really, there was no arguing about it anyway—John wasn’t going to move the car. Nonetheless, when they step out into the parking lot Travis has to prod, “What’re you gonna’ do if a cop shows up?”

“Kick his ass and take his money.”

Travis whines, “Why does getting smokes have to be so difficult?”

They approach electric doors, which grind open to release cool, dry air and a horribly plucky song—the theme song from B.J. and the Bear, weakly transmitted through the tinny grocery store intercom. Travis wonders how he knows the tune, never having watched the show. John performs a Devo dance and sings, “If you weren’t so—oh, oh—addicted—you’d be—oh, oh—less afflicted.”

“No, you don’t understand,” Travis explains patiently, “I have a rare disorder. If I don’t smoke cigarettes, I’ll die.”

“You’ll die if you smoke them.”

“No, I will die if I don’t smoke; that’s what I’m telling you. It’s a mutation of some sort—some kind of genetic adaptation to pollution.”

“You’re gonna’ die anyway.”

Travis smiles. Checkmate. “Exactly. I will die if I don’t smoke.”

“Very clever,” enter sarcasm, “You are a very clever man, Travis.” And then John just seems tired.