Black ants crawl all over my fingers and across the middle of the crabapple tree. I don’t know what crabapples are or why a crab might want an apple but I suppose that everyone likes fruit now and then. I eat lots a things though cause I get nervous and then I can’t stop. Sometimes I eat ants. They bite down on the parts in between my fingers cause I’m rustling em up and I squeeze em with my lips and my tongue and they bite the little parts between my teeth and I almost cry but I can take it.
I go next door to Hayley’s house cause she’s my best friend and I pull on the screen door and I sneak in cause I know her momma ain’t home. My mouth is hurting bad but I push em around with my tongue until I can bite em hard until they crunch and I swallow all of them and they taste like salt. I think Hayley’s asleep so I go in the frigerator and I eat some ice cubes cause my mouth is burning from them ants. The ice is so cold it hurts and I think about a dream I had about my daddy hollering at me cause I took some a his pills an ate em when he wasn’t looking and he was hollering that they cost so much. I remember crying and sleeping and having a dream where I saw God and he crawled out from under a flat rock.
Hayley’s dog ain’t got a name cause she just found him looking for frogs down by the crick where we find lotsa things like balloons and cans. That dog keeps licking my bare feet so I give him an ice cube and pat him on the head and he smiles the only way a dog can smile. I go in Hayley’s room where everything is pink and nice and sometimes I wish I just slept here with Hayley all the time. She’s lying on top a all her covers and still wearing all her clothes and she smells like beer. Hey Hayley you wanna get up now cause I’m here? Hey Hayley you gonna wake up? Hey Hayley you wanna go down to the crick now? You want me to fry you some bacon? She just moans and kicks at me and she don’t say nothing back, just sleeps. I tickle her feet some and she kicks again and that dog comes in still smiling and starts licking her feet. Hey Hayley I’m ready to go to the crick now you said you would go you promised. She wakes up and tells me to stop licking her feet and I say I wasn’t.
Well I hope you wasn’t cause I didn’t clean em last night.
Well I wasn’t.
Well now you gonna get a disease, she says and I sit on the edge of her bed and I stare at all the toys she don’t use no more cause she’s grown now with a baby.
Don’t you ever sleep Rabus Willer?
I have too much dreams if I sleep.
Well I was dreaming about Archer and the baby and you ruined it.
Archer smells like coal and he’s got a big mustache. What you want him kissing you for?
We gonna get married, Rabus.
Well don’t you ever dream about me kissing you?
My momma don’t even like you in the house, Rabus Willer. She said you ate some a the dog food when you was here last.
Me and Hayley walk down to the crick and that dog comes too but he got his nerves damaged from the baby crib getting stuck on his paw so he walks real slow and we have to keep stopping for him. Hayley didn’t even change her clothes and I keep looking at her skirt and I eat a crabapple outta my pocket so I stop looking so much. It tastes real bad, nothing like a real apple but not as bad as wood chips or chalk and Hayley sees me chewing and gets mad.
Rabus, why you always eating things offa the ground? You gonna get a disease.
Well it helps me keep from thinking too much.
What the hell you thinking about?
What you wanna do that for? You cain’t even drive a car.
Can I help you make another baby?
They cut me up last time, so I ain’t making no more babies. I gotta go down to Jasper and take care a the one I already got.
Well I love you, I tell her. I say it and I mean it cause she loves everything I love like pink stuff and dolls and swimming.
She walks around the bank of the crick and her feet sink down in the clay like dinosaur prints and I wanna eat the clay so I stop talking so much. She’s got a bottle a whiskey in her bag and she sits on the bank and curls her legs up like a spider and hands the bottle to me.
Ain’t you ever gonna stop drinking? I ask, but I don’t like much either. I like to eat lots a things but I don’t like any whiskey and I don’t want her to think I ain’t a man like Archer is a man.
Sometimes there ain’t no way to fix it but with more whiskey.
I’d miss you if I was your baby in Jasper.
When Hayley ain’t looking I rub some clay on my teeth and try not to talk until I can get it all down my throat. We sit with the water from the crick cooling on our toes and Hayley lies back on bank and closes her eyes. I lie back too and stare up and the sun leaves black spots on my eyes. I think if the world was gonna end now I’d be alright. I mean I’d worry about that baby in Jasper but we’d go get it and we’d ride off past Birmingham and maybe all the way to the ocean.
The clay sticks in my throat and makes me wish I had more ice. I watch Hayley for a little while and start to think she’s sleeping again so I look in her bag for some gum or some candy cause I’m starting to think too much and get sad. I don’t see nothing good but I find a bottle a pills and they look real small and they don’t taste any better than that clay. I chew another one and I keep watching the black spots like copies of the sun and I start feeling real strange and everything starts spinning. There’re so many black spots that I can find Hayley no more and I jump in the crick and I hit my head real hard on a flat rock and I bite my tongue and everything is just one big black spot. The water goes up my nose and the water goes in my mouth and I lie on my back with the clay in my hair and from outta no where a frog jumps up and looks me in the eye.
Jason Cook is an MFA student in fiction at Goddard College. When not lost in the throes of academic work he splits his creative focus between two novels centered on transgressive tendencies in a nameless suburb of Middle America and short stories revolving around his discontented characters in Walker County, Alabama.