12/10/10

Robert J. Baumann

There Will Be Snacks

Gord said we wouldn’t stop walking till the leaves blocked the sun and the sound of the river was constant. He had a bedroll, a Playboy, and a flask full of water. I had a thing wrapped up we could have used as a tent. Past the edge of the town we walked slowly. There was all this dust me and Gord had to wade through.
           When we stopped, Gord whipped out the bedroll. It was narrow. We sat on it sort of back-to-back. Gord smelled pulsing and clean. He flipped through the Playboy. I had seen one before but when I looked at the figures of the women inside I couldn’t understand what was real and what wasn’t. Their bodies didn’t seem to make sense.
           “What’s it like to have tits?” Gord asked. It sounded like the river stopped, but I think I simply forgot that it had been making a noise in the first place.
           “I don’t really have them,” I said.
           Gord did not look away from the Playboy. “Practically do,” he said. “You’re getting to be sort of a tub-o.”
           He tipped the flask up and the stopper came out. Water spilled over his chin and neck. “Oh shit,” he said, and poured some on me. It felt ok, but we’d wasted our good water and now the bedroll was wet.
           “That oughtta grow them,” he said, pointing to my chest.

Gord came back—from the river I’m guessing—with his shirt off. He stood next to the bedroll and took off his pants. He lay down.
           “I ran river water through my shirt to keep out the silt.” He handed me the flask.
           “Thank you.” The water was cold.
           He sat up and sat Indian style. “Did you bring any snacks?” he asked. I hadn’t. “Jess,” he said. His face was just beginning to change. “What should we do?”
           “Oh Gord, let’s have sex,” I laughed. I put my pinky in the back of his waistband.
           “I’d rather have snacks but you left them at home.”

“How long was his hair then?” all the girls would ask later. Or, “What was his bulge like?” Or, “How long did you suck it?”
           “I sucked it so long it fell off,” I told one girl. “Then I kicked it.” Then me and the girl made out.
           “Was it a punt, or more like kicking a can down the road?” she asked, pinching her lip.
           “More of a drop kick. I used all my might.”
           She giggled: “I sure hope he retrieved it.”
           “Don’t forget snacks,” I said the month after, when I saw her with Gord.

And then Gord had a potluck eleven years later. He’d just moved back into town and had run into my mother at the grocer, had told her I should come.
           “I bought you some white wine and cheese to take with. Gord said it’s that kind of event. Drink some juice, now” my mother said. “Here’s a vitamin.”
           “Oh. What did he look like?”
           “Gord has that chin, you know? A jawline to end all jawlines. Like a movie star. Like Superman.”
           “Did it get any bigger?”
           “His jaw? You mean since when you were kids?”
           “Yeah, I guess.”
           “Well I would say so, yes. He’s a man now. He’s been living in the southwest for years.”
           “I know.” I was skimming my orange juice with a tea screen, thinking about snorting the pulp.

The party was in Gord’s backyard, his white t-shirts hung on the laundry line next to mismatching bed sheets. I sat near the flapping cotton; beyond it, the sound of something scraping and dry met with the sound of a crick.
           People talked about mosquitoes, how there should have been more of them this time of year. They talked about television I’d never seen. One of them proposed that we pie chart the era of Gord’s life we’d all come from, then asked me how I knew Gord.
           “We used to go camping together,” I pretty much lied. “We nearly fucked once, down by the river, those woods past the windmills in Arlington?” I nodded in a way I thought conveyed glee. “Getting that close, you know. Wow.”
                      
I holed up in Gord’s bathroom, sorted through a stack of New Yorkers, put them in order. I looked in the mirror. Fully clothed, I lay down in the tub, sniffed at the shampoo caps that lined the tub’s lip. I scratched at my armpit. I was bad at practical things, I realized. I guess I’d known for a while.
I stood up and mimicked a shower, bunching my hair up, pinching the back of my neck, tracing the space under my hipbones. At least I am strange, I thought. Look at me: playing house in a place I don’t know—as a twenty-six-year-old.
           Along with the cheese and the wine I’d brought an old Playboy rolled up inside of my coat; I placed it in the stack of New Yorkers.

Along with the cheese and the wine and the Playboy I’d brought a small gun. I know I’m being gauche. So I walked to Gord’s bedroom and lay on his bed. I shot a hole in the ceiling, left the gun on the dresser.

Towards the end of the night no one had drunk the wine that I’d brought, but someone had eaten some of the cheese that was meant to go with it. Then I remembered that that might have been me eating the cheese.
           I got up from my plasticky chaise lounge, wrapped myself in one of the sheets while it was still on the laundry line.
           “What should we do,” I said, but nobody looked.

Gord walked me through the house to the front door, out onto the porch.
           “You’re really living, Gord,” I said, not really knowing what made up a life.
           “Nah.” He waved his hand in front of his face; he handed me my bottle of wine.
           “Remember that time we camped out near the river?”
           “Sure. We were both sort of weepy that summer.”

“Yeah. I guess I still am.”
“You forgot the snacks and wanted to blow me.”
Somehow, that made me feel better.


Robert J. Baumann has never dated anyone his own age. While in Milwaukee, WI over the recent Thanksgiving holiday, his mother asked how old his girlfriend was. When Baumann answered, his mother said, "She's young. Maybe she will get tired of you and leave you soon, too." Baumann feels like he is an optimist. He lives in Lawrence, KS and is friends with many intelligent and tender people.

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