The arthritic bagger does not let the interminable smell of plastic foil his dreams. When he leaves the grocery store he drives to the far end of town and climbs the water tower, sucks nitrous from a balloon at the top after every shift. His Toyota can barely make it up the hill. It maneuvers along the dirt and the empty whipped cream cans rattle in the back as the man summons himself forward, sputtering and spewing exhaust into the nests where owls watch teenagers being raped.
This time he has a boy with his hands tied to his ankles with plastic bags in the space beneath the passenger seat. He only wants to teach the degenerate a lesson after catching the youth in the process of expelling a steaming dump on his hood. The engine roars, scattering crows. They work together at Walmart. The heater smells like raw eggs and the windshield is frosted over and the boy is blowing into his fingers. They haven’t spoken since their shift ended, when they got into a fistfight in the parking lot over who would help a young woman lift her grocery bags into her trunk.
The bagger did pushups in the handicapped bathroom stall before changing into street clothes, yet this time after chewing a fistful of Cialis stolen from the pharmacy and getting his eye blackened by a juvenile delinquent. He returned to the store to arm-wrestle a stuffed crocodile in the toy aisle and then discovered the boy, blue apron around his ankles, melting the snow on his hood.
“Where do you come from?” asks the man.
The man has a fetish for midgets, handicapped co-eds, and black women who pump iron. The boy does not appeal to his type. The man sucks from the balloon and offers it to the degenerate. The youth inhales. Balloon after balloon, they waste hours waiting for one of them to die. Snow covers the windows and windshield.
“You went to war back in the day?” asks the boy.
The man has whipped cream on his beard.
“Was it worth it to kill all those people?” asks the boy.
The man fills his damaged lungs with nitrous. He turns the ignition and uses the wipers, but there is too much snow. The man stares at this new recruit who will be dead within the decade. The bagger does not want to let this happen. He wishes to hit the accelerator and make violent love to the guardrail. His erection is grinding into the steering wheel. The boy watches the relentless appendage, but it does not seem to bother him.
“You do what your country needs,” says the man.
His Army metals are in the glove box with the edible condoms. There are some things that you simply cannot explain to morons who have not seen the throbbing veins of a man through the warm scope of a riffle. The bagger is threatening to leave an impression on the steering wheel. How can he explain the abhorrence of combat? The scum-of-the-earth customers should be the target of their assault. The man is tempted to show the youth the two camouflaged holes he has drilled into his trunk for sniping. But he has no time. The car gives way on the ice and they inhale all the whiteness in the world for one last dance with gravity.
Like the nomadic Pericú natives before him, Matthew Dexter survives on a hunter-gatherer subsistence diet of shrimp tacos, smoked marlin, cold beer, and warm sunshine. He lives in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.