Tyler Robert Sheldon : Fiction : February 2020


SOUTHERN LEGITIMACY STATEMENT I’ve lived in Louisiana for a handful of years, and I’m now working on a PhD in English (Rhetoric and Composition) at LSU. In my time here, I’ve tried many different gas stations’ boudin (they always have the BEST boudin. My favorite: Nonc Kev’s in Rayne); done too many shots during Mardi Gras in Lake Charles; learned how to peel crawfish the right way; and learned that going slow damn what other drivers think is the only way to survive the I-10 corridor. Biking is just as dangerous, though it makes for better exercise.


The look on the gas station attendant’s face is what started JD laughing. It’s not because the gas station attendant was ugly, or even because he was a gas station attendant. It’s because we had just walked clear across the parking lot from the college to the gas station to buy beer, and it was snowing like crazy, and goddamn near a foot of snow had already fallen, and this gas station attendant couldn’t believe we were going to walk all the way back with all this beer.
We had started in JD’s room, watching a horror movie and smoking JD’s pot which made the horror movie worse, when he decided we needed some beer. We both knew it was snowing outside, but didn’t really care. Maybe we thought the snow and cold air would help clear things up. Beyond that we didn’t really know what to think.
We left JD’s roommate in the dark with the pot smoke and headed outside onto the icy sidewalk. We had just gotten outside and stepped onto the concrete when JD slipped. He hit his face quickly on the sidewalk. By this I mean his nose went into that space between those wide concrete sidewalk blocks. He used one of his gloves to pinch his nose. The space right under JD’s eyes got a bit more purple-almost-black the further we walked toward the gas station. Which could also explain the look on the gas station attendant’s face.
JD was the only guy I knew at the college who really played guitar. Other guys on my floor had guitars in their rooms and sometimes we could hear them down the hall strumming Purple Haze or whatever, but JD was the only guy who made up his own riffs and tried to write some songs. These he came up with on an old archtop acoustic with f-holes like a violin and cracked finish, and the neck of this archtop guitar had a long crack in it that JD had fixed with wood glue. He told me he’d found this acoustic when he’d gotten out of the facility the last time. By the last time I mean that he’d definitely been there a time before that, and by facility I mean that JD was just a little crazy. Not scary-crazy, but the kind where he could write songs like Sid Barrett and you would be jealous until you remembered that to do the same you would have to be a little crazy too.
So as we were walking toward the gas station to buy beer after smoking in his room, JD started laughing about how his glove was getting bloody. He looked at me and he said, It’s a little like a horror movie. What if I never stop bleeding.
What do you mean, I said. How is that ever going to happen.
He said, What if I never stop bleeding and shrivel up like a prune.
You wouldn’t be able to play guitar very well, I said. He laughed. His laugh sounded like how hyenas sound on those nature shows on TV.
I hadn’t planned on leaving the dorms and hadn’t worn boots or anything smart like that. The snow was soaking into my canvas shoes. I didn’t even skate but I guess I thought canvas shoes were cool. They made my back hurt normally, but they didn’t then because we’d been smoking pot in JD’s room. Shoes like that let in every drop.
So when we got to the gas station we pulled open the door with its clanky cowbell letting everyone know here we were, and we walked in to get the beer. JD went straight for the shitty cooler, where they kept all the beer that people with worse taste than us drank, because it was cheap. He always picked out Heineken because he liked the commercials. To me this proved even further that JD was a little crazy, but at that moment I hated him for choosing beer that was such shit after we’d walked all the way from the college in the snow. He picked out the biggest thing of it the gas station had and hauled it up to the counter and slammed it down in front of the gas station attendant. By this I mean that the box of beer slammed because it was huge and heavy, not that JD was angry. JD was just crazy enough that if he would’ve gotten angry everyone might have got scared. I picked out a six pack of a Mexican dark beer that was still cheap, but made me feel better about JD’s taste, which was just shit.
About this time the gas station attendant saw JD’s face, which had a big grin on the lower half and a big bruise on the upper half, and he looked like he’d just had a drink thrown in his face. By he I mean the gas station attendant, not JD. He said, I saw you guys come in here on foot, and he said, Are you really going to carry all of that back with you.
The guy was a little bit older than us. He looked like he’d been there the whole day and the night before, and his own eyes had dark circles too. I saw him look behind me at the puddles my canvas shoes had made on the gas station floor. He probably had to mop the floor every day. I could’ve said, Sorry for the floor, let me take care of it. I could’ve said, I’ll get some paper towels. But I didn’t. I was just starting to get my head on straight again, and I didn’t care. Only later did I start to care. It wouldn’t have taken that long to clean up that floor.
JD started laughing like a hyena again and paid for his beer and went outside to chill with it in the snow while I bought my six pack. I went into my pockets to get my money, and when I pulled out a few bills change went all over the counter. I picked it up in front of the gas station attendant and put it back in my pockets. Then I paid for my beer and puddled to the door in my sopping shoes.
The snow fell a bit harder when I got outside. JD picked his beer up off the snow and started to walk back to the college, ahead of me. He said, Let me tell you about this new song I want to work on. He had to stop every few steps to adjust his grip on his complete shit beer.
I didn’t look back at the gas station attendant, though even at the edge of the parking lot I could’ve probably seen him through the glass and the snow. JD didn’t look back either.
Maybe that was because he was too busy trying to carry his beer box ahead of me across the road, or because the snow seemed to deepen as we walked. Maybe he’d walked in the snow too much when he was in the facility the last time. But maybe this was his first time trying to carry something in addition to himself. Gosh knows that was more than enough.
JD was just a little crazy.