FICTION: Men’s Room by Greg Ames
We are dancing to Shostakovich in a Taco Bell men’s room in Utica, New York.
Grabowski says, “I got a cache full of fire words and scads of time, rooster.” The acoustics of the men’s room are top notch and our man Shosty has never sounded more robust, but there is room for only two men in here at any given time. Tonight we are four and feeling the pinch. No one disagrees with Grabowski but Leach is laughing hard, too hard, in my opinion, for an uncomfortably long period of time.
Leach’s bio: love avoidant GED recipient, always picks Ratt’s “Round and Round” on Karaoke Nite, uses the term “comeuppance” with alarming frequency. I feel his hot breath on my ear lobe. I can’t escape the reach of his breath. We are too constricted here and he knows this, Leach does, and he uses it to his filthy advantage. “Grabowski ain’t got the gumption to glimmer newfangle,” he says in my ear. “You gonna need fibrocon consolation jacks to fortify that foundation, post haste.”
Cleaver’s been taking an origami night class at the community center. I’m watching him transform a wad of toilet paper into an African elephant. His hands are a blur, his tongue-tip clenched between his teeth. When he finishes, he grins and says, “Voilà.”
Door opens behind me, bangs into my back. A smirker in a bloodred Che T forces his way into our sanctuary. He wedges his body between Grabowski and Cleaver to get at the urinal. Now we are five and completely immobilized. And just when we thought it couldn’t get any warmer in here, another man — bearded, insolent, with sharp elbows — fights his way to the mirror, where he inspects the contours of his bristly face. He spits on his fingertip and runs his finger along the length of each eyebrow. Evidently they are ’brows that require not a little saliva to hold in place. Then he works a wooden toothpick between his lower teeth. I cannot look away.
“Dance party?” Grabowski says.
Me (shrugging): “Okay, sure. Why not?”
Cleaver: “Spank the torque out of my dingus maker. I’m fixing to canoodle with death.”
Eyebrows: “The fuck?”
Che: “Patria o Muerte!”
Leach, as always, colonizes the final word: “Stick dog wears a yellow beak and I’m fat fat fat. Hop to it, boys. The water’s fine.”
We start moving again and snapping our fingers. Cleaver ejects the Shostakovich cassette and inserts a Sibelius symphony, darker music with haunting modal implications, and Leach shoves the ’brow groomer into Che Guevara who uncorks a spray of fantastic profanity and Grabowski throws a left uppercut, misses, and the boomboombox slips off the sink and smashes on the dirty tile floor and Leach lets fly with a wild right hook that catches me in the mouth and the lights go out and when they come back on I am on the floor and Grabowski is standing on my abdomen. “Grabowski!” I say.
Cleaver has a tambourine.
. ¡ . ¡ < ∆ æ § æ ∆ > ¡ . ¡ .
Greg Ames is the author of Buffalo Lockjaw, a novel that won the Book of the Year Award from the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA).Buffalo Lockjaw was voted #1 in The Believer’s Reader Survey for 2010. His work has appeared in numerous literary journals, magazines and anthologies, including The Best American Nonrequired Reading, McSweeney’s, The Southern Review, Unsaid, The Sun,and failbetter.com. He is an assistant professor in the English department at Colgate University.
Photo by James Davies