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By Kit Roane

Love hurts but not as much as a fist in your face. Just west of here, just west of anywhere that's somewhere, sits a mound of fire I call home. You call it Texas. Five generations lay here and when I was born the doctor said I was gonna be the sixth. His words stick like the black heat of Southeast Texas sweet crude.

The fist on this day might as well be up my ass for all the subtlety it contains, nameless like a teenage whore double-teamed in the back of a rusty pick-up that smells of manure. Here, fighting is sex, and both require a drink. The first time, frightened, you cramp up. You can't get it goin' and you get pummeled. After that the mind just clicks. Something happens. You develop a taste for your own blood and you don't run no more. The first conflict breeds the second and your mental taste just builds and builds to accommodate one more. The pleasure's in comin' out, sticky but alive.

I don't know this boy, this day, but I feel that feeling. It creeps over me like a fuckin' snake, my sphincter in lock-down. Draggin' ass, thinkin', reeling through the scenarios, I just can't get down. I guess I'm not in the mood.

It don't matter though, he's comin', I know it. I suck down another one and try to fantasize about fightin'. I'm drunk. That's what you do in Rodgers Park; it's why you go to fuckin' town and why you smoke reds... all to paint a bloody picture through a beer can.

I keep starin' at this pretty Latin girl swayin' to a beat and spoutin' shit. It's cold out but she's dressed like Tahiti. Something black. Something tight. Something not right. She's sayin' stuff about abortions and choice and I just lick it up. Hell, I'm fifteen.

Then BAM, this motherfucker comes outa nowhere, wrappin' around the side of my head, knocking loose a piece of bone just under the eye. Toothy smile hyped on crank, hand knotted by cheap gold, he's rockin' sockin'. I'm lunch. There's nothin' smooth about this dance.

You know, it's funny. I figured he was doin' her, but he's just caught up in that good old-time religion and a drug habit-the dichotomy that comes from living in a cracked earth swamp. Talkin' in tongues and twelve steps, he's lookin' for new converts, doesn't think suckin' embryos is God's will. Of course, beatin' the shit out of a stranger is something entirely different. Powder king is on a crusade. The speed just pumps his volume.

His beat's good. Caught square, my nose goes flat, sending squirts of blood into the crowd of dignified bobby socks and long-haired crackers. I can feel their squeals of delight through the corners of my eyes, red tears streaming from the tips, dripping to the puddle that falls limply from my chin.

I still feel tough but the reverse roundhouse kick was a bad fuckin' idea, hard soles on soft gravel a mistake. Bruce Lee I'm not. He punts my rag-doll head to the nearby tire of a El Camino-nice mags... shiny.

I don't feel conscious anymore. I just stare blankly at the white on black of the radial, think of blond girls waving on the Galveston ferry, and say "I love you" to the bloody shadow glistening off that nice mag.

Heavy metal guitar licks bend through the Camino's cracked window. Another shit-kicker, high-minded gutter smile gazing, no fondness or remorse, presses his pock-marked face to the window, impressed with the amount of blood a city boy can lose and still blink it out of the way. I squint and miss. He doesn't. Gotta remember to keep your eyes open when you're firin' off a rocket... .357 hollow points been known to blow the back of a brain clear off. I wish I had a piece.

The gravel tastes good, like sweet metallic tar or your girlfriend on a hot summer night, pleasant, warm, soft; and I can't get up.

There ain't nuthin' cool no more. Fuck abortion, fuck everything, I just want to go to sleep, but now I'm standin'. My trainer, some bearded man in a oil-stained work-shirt, asks if I am ready. It ain't no question.

He keeps jerkin' those lips so I pump it up and lurch toward the blur wavering in the distance throwing force against force against a receding mirage of ten-gallon felts and little girl ribbons hopin' our boys come back alive. I end up kissing denim, dripping blood down blue jeans and onto leather tipped pro-life conviction. Tony Lama, famous boots for over a century.

I figure when you're tired you can sleep anywhere-even under silver tips kickin' up dust. You don't really care about the two-step or the rage breaking over your face. You just kind of follow your blood, seep into the earth like you was in bed, too tired to move, too tired to open your eyes, just holdin' tight to that stone pillow and the warmth of your gravel quilt. But I am fearless, weathering a storm that will not cease. What if he does kill me?

Darkness slams again and again into my skull and I no longer feel anything. I think this is death, or Lou Gehrig's Disease, and I know I'm edging close to something. Just a head bobbing on black tar, teeth and broken glass refracting light off the Bud cans in puddles of burgundy, and the eternal silence of screaming, happy faces topped off by old-time religion and Stetsons.

Texas. It's only Sunday, just another Sunday, but the sky is clear blue and the honeysuckle licks the air. Monday morning I cut open my eyelids. Blood squirts across the sink and hits the shaving mirror like a full, fat white-head popped. At the bell, my eighth period teacher, an effeminate moustache in a lime-green polo, calls me Rocky; for four years he calls me Rocky.

I continue to memorize useless facts every fuckin' day for four years-my eyelids cut open every morning; I have to see the board.

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