Revenge by Benjamin Goulet
You come to in the desert, way out, in nothing but your boxer shorts. They didn’t even leave you shoes.
You reach behind and your hand gets slimed in a brown, sticky mess. You think you shit yourself, but realize they placed a Snickers bar between your butt cheeks and it melted in the heat. Funny fuckers.
Over two days, you stagger toward a shimmery form, the only beacon in the faraway. Avoiding cholla balls and cactus spines for a while, until the sun pummels down. You move faster, your bare feet pockmarked in bloody puncture wounds.
You end up at the Kelso Depot. Your heels leave a trail of blood on the rest stop bathroom floor. Tourists from Denmark find you collapsed. Then three days in a hospital bed; the nurses work in shifts, plucking the cactus prickers out of your feet. After release, you track him down and grab his neck and grind his fucking face into the sand until he blubbers an address. “We thought you were dead,” he says.
You know a guy and it’s just a .38, but it’ll work. The inside of your boots swimming in ointment and bandages, your body encrusted with burns. It’s 3:00 a.m. as you approach the cabin. There’s a song in your head, a refrain playing over and over.
A saloon in Barstow. Your father spins you in his arms to the music on the jukebox. He wobbles over to the bar, plops you down on a stool, and motions to the bartender. It’s only the three of you.
“You hear that?” your father says. “I taught John Prine these chords, back in Chicago.”
The bartender chuckles.
“Bullshit,” she says.
She slides over a small glass with a dark, brown liquid. Your father drinks it with a wrist quicker than a hummingbird’s wing.
“It’s true.” Sweet revenge, sweet revenge, without fail.
Arrows of dirty sunlight pierce the filthy windows. Your father sways unsteadily, and you realize it scares you. He leans in; his breath smells like vanilla and cigarettes.
“Revenge,” he says, slurring, “It’s sweeter than a Barstow bartender.”
He motions again. She walks slowly, cleaning a glass, studying you. The clopping of her heels sounds like a parade of sad horses. Maybe she’ll call someone.
Instead, she reaches under the bar and pulls out that bottle again. You stare at the door, the one that leads to somewhere else, and recite a quiet, private wish.
Benjamin Goulet writes for both local and national publications. A Rhode Island native, he lives with his wife Melissa in Twentynine Palms, CA.