This story was selected as a finalist for the 2021 MAYDAY Fiction Prize.
If anybody was ever gonna write the Book of Rusty which nobody was, nobody including not Rusty, but if they were they’d have to trace its origins all the way back to seventh grade.
Language Farts class with Mrs. Susan Schmidt.
As in: Rusty’s own mother, the failed-little-kids-books-writer-turned-teacher.
As in: If you can dream it, you can become it!
As in: A pencil and a dream can take you anywhere!
Her classroom wallpapered with all that touchy-feely crap. Most of them printed on these posters of double rainbows and soaring eagles and talking frogs.
Same posters she’d wallpapered Rusty’s room with from the day she birthed him into this world.
Crusty Rusty, her guinea pig and less-than-enthusiastic writing protégé.
Here’s inspirational for you, Ma! What Rusty imagines telling his ma the whole time he’s writing it—his first for real for real story for class sharing.
Rusty, automatically having to share first, setting the tone, inspiring his peers. What Rusty’s ma tells him for why he has to go first.
Just one of many the perks of being the teacher’s kid.
He calls it The Book of Ronny.
Explains that it’s kind of like that parable of the prodigal son story from the bible—like Amazing Grace, I was lost and then found, blind and now I see, all that crap.
Except in The Book of Ronny, it’s all about this guy Ronny and Ronny’s a burn-out ex-baller who gets kicked out of the NBA for starting too many fights. Throwing all these cheap-shot elbows, knees, and headbutts at every stupid seven-foot white guy loser he could find. And for getting hooked on crack cocaine to make him feel better about all the cheap shots he’d been giving to forget about all the stuff he didn’t want to think about, like how when Ronny was a kid his big brother Roy used to make fun of him for being such a fat little porker and a crybaby mama’s boy and how Roy’d always pin him to the bed after lights out and punch him in his little kid nuts and squeeze ’til they were about to pop and tell him he was gonna make a man out of him yet. Except then instead of making a man out of him, Roy’s experimenting only leads to Ronny getting more and more fatter and wussier and whinier until one day Roy gives up on making a man out of Ronny and blows his own brains out instead in the room next to Ronny’s, their beds maybe five feet away at most, Ronny probably sucking his thumb and pissing the bed and having whiny mama’s boy nightmares.
Real typical redemption story where Ronny ends up using the tragedy of his older brother’s blowing his brains out to inspire him to becoming a real man and most importantly a badass NBA baller/brawler with lots of cheerleader girlfriends. And then of course, how these types of stories go, Ronny eventually hits rock bottom, or more like rock and a hard place with rock being Ronny’s getting kicked out of the NBA and the hard place being Ronny’s not having the guts to just go ahead and blow his brains out like his big brother.
But then the twist, of course there has to be a twist, and with Ronny it’s that it turns out there’s actually a third way out. It’s called Ronny getting himself all overdosed doing all that hardcore crank without even actively trying to die. Real tear-jerker, the story Ronny, which was actually Rusty’s story, the one Rusty’d spent weeks writing up to share with the class to show them and his ma too how all dreams—basketball, etc.—were all a joke, one big pitiful, cliché of a joke.
And ha, ha, ha, ain’t this all so funny? The smirk that Rusty gives the class when he gets to the overdosing part.
It’s the same exact smirk that his dead big brother Ray used to give him when Rusty’d threaten to tattle to Mommy.
That’s funny, Ray used to tell Rusty. Frickin’ hilarious. Just try it, Crusty. I dare you. I can’t wait for old Mommy Dearest to come try to rescue you from me.
Just you come and try to rescue me now. What Rusty wants to explain to the rest of the class and to his ma too with that crooked smirk of his and his dead brother’s.
Pretty much the whole point of Rusty’s whole parable: about not getting rescued and not being able to rescue and not deserving either.
But he doesn’t explain any of that. He lets his story do the talking.
But it’s the pause in the action, the moment of smirking, that gives Rusty’s ma the wrong impression.
And then she’s getting up from behind her teaching desk to start clapping and tell Rusty how creative he is. Wasn’t that so creative class? So vivid, she tells the other students.
My oh my, where do you even come up with these ideas, Rusty? As if she’s not his own mother and doesn’t know good and well where he gets his ideas from.
But that’s not the end, Rusty says. Not even close to the end. He turns a page out of his spiral notebook, tosses it over his head for added drama.
We haven’t gotten to the angel yet.
Oh, his ma says, gives a look to the rest of the class like, Oh . . . I didn’t know there were angels.
Rusty’s classmates squirming in their desks and hoping it’ll all be done soon, but also hoping none of them’ll have to read next.
Well go on then, she says. Bring on the angels.
So Rusty goes on.
There’s the naked angel lady that greets Ronny in the afterlife. Waves this little pale white finger at him and makes that mm-mm-mm sound, real high-pitched and snotty, then hits him with the uh-uh-uh sound to boot.
Uh-uh-uh, she tells Ronny, then lays it out for him, pulling no angel-punches.
What she hits him with is there ain’t no way in H-E-Double Hockey Sticks that Ronny can pull all that he’s pulled down there on earth and think God’s gonna turn the other cheek and let him strut his stuff on through those pearly gates to that big basketball arena in the sky.
Which Ronny knows he can’t say crap about crap. All he can do is play the play he’s been playing his whole life, the only play he has: the pity play. Putting his head down, starting in on the blubbering. I’m sorry, I know. I’m sorry, I know, I know, I know, I know . . . I just . . . I just . . . I don’t know, you know?
And obviously the angel knows darn well because she’s an angel, probably she knows everything like God knows everything but she’s playing dumb. Which really means: Uh-uh, oh no you don’t, she ain’t about to get suckered into taking pity on Ronny. Same as God ain’t gonna get suckered in for not taking pity on Ronny.
Mm-mm-mm . . . the naked angel lady says once again, her finger waving. Then: Uh-uh-uh . . .
Pity the self-pitier, she tells Ronny. For he knows not what devastation he reaps upon the souls of those who most belove him.
And by him, it’s clear she means Ronny but also not just Ronny. Roy too. How Roy’d tried to play the pity card himself with his whole taking the easy-way-out play. Oh, oh woe is me, the angel taunting, my miserable whittle whife on earth was so so hard I couldn’t take it anymore. Oh poopoo . . . and doodoo . . .
And we all know what happened to your brother, she says. Which she never actually tells Ronny what happened to his brother, but it’s pretty obvious what she means, even for someone with his head as far up his butthole as Ronny’s head is.
It’s Judgement Day for Ronny. What Rusty announces to his increasingly uncomfortable mother and squirming classmates.
Up in front of the class, how many ripped-out pages of his notebook already scattered at his feet.
But mostly he’s stalling.
This smartass Duane from the back of the classroom doesn’t even raise his hand. Declares to Mrs. Schmidt whether if they should be taking notes on this, like will there be a pop quiz later?
Rusty’s ma taking a deep breath, gathering herself, looks at Rusty then looks back at that little punk Duane, a few other kids giggling quietly around him, her telling him, all of them, that they should be taking notes, notes on how interesting and colorful Rusty’s story is.
She tells them they should all be taking notes on how interesting and colorful all their stories are.
And when Duane raises his hand again to say something else smartassed, she puts her finger to her lips, shushes him, and says to be patient, because Rusty’s almost done.
Isn’t he? she starts to say and then catches herself. I mean, aren’t you, Rusty?
Uh, yeah, he tells her. The big finale right around the corner, everything on the line, the big H’s, Heaven and Hell, the Book of Revelations, all that stuff.
Rusty waiting for someone to follow that up with dun-dun-dun . . . sounds, but nobody does, so he goes ahead and says it himself: dun-dun-dun . . .
And then he’s back in the heat of it, preachin’ his gospel, the Gospel of Ronny:
The naked angel lady shaking her head at all Ronny’s blubbering then letting go with this big sigh. Nevertheless, her big sigh says.
Then she says it too: Nevertheless, she says, then explains that the Big Man Upstairs recognizes that Ronny got a kind of bum deal on his childhood and since a lot of Ronny’s bum DEAL sinfulness as an adult was driven by the bummyness of his childhood, He has decided He’s not ready to give up on Ronny just yet.
One more shot, Ronny thinking to himself. All he needed. He’s already turned the ball over like eighty times in eighty different ways, but now here he’s got one big shot for redemption. Long-range, time running out, ball in his hands, five guys draped all over him. Everything on the line, yes, but a real no b.s. shot to go back in time and fix everything.
Don’t go getting cocky either, the naked angel lady saying with one last finger wave. Because the next time you won’t be talking to sweet little old naked angel me on your judgment day. You’ll be talking straight to Big You Know Who, and the Big You Know Who ain’t gonna want to hear about any more of your shoulda, coulda, wouldas. None of this crap about giving a hundred ten percent and trying your hardest. The Big You Know Who’s gonna want to see real results. Real redemption. You understand the play I’m calling for you, Mr. Big-Time Basketball Playa-Man?
But before Ronny can nod his head, the naked angel lady’s spreading her wings and soaring up into the clouds with her beautiful pale naked body until she disappears in a bright white flash.
Bravo, bravo, Rusty’s ma saying, nodding, walking towards Rusty again.
What an ending? Rusty’s ma saying this and putting her arm around Rusty, Rusty still turning pages. Did any of you kids see that coming? I know I didn’t.
And what a nice lesson for all of us, isn’t it kids?
Uh, what lesson is that, Mrs. Schmidt? Duane’s asking from the back. That we should all do a bunch of drugs and have lots of sex with professional cheerleaders?
Tssk, tssk, tssk, Rusty’s ma saying, arm around Rusty’s shlumpy shoulders, escorting him back to his desk while trying to make it look like she’s just being supportive and not actually escorting him back as punishment for sharing inappropriate stories for sharing time.
Forgiveness, Rusty’s ma saying. That’s the lesson, isn’t it Rusty? About Ronny learning to forgive his brother and Roy learning to forgive Ronny too and then God in turn forgiving both of them.
This is obviously not the lesson of Rusty’s story, not by a longshot.
The lesson is all about time travel and messing with the space-time continuum.
Which Rusty then informs the class. Nuh-uh, he says, refusing to let his ma to put her happy spin on things the way she’s always trying to put her happy spin on things.
The real lesson is all about . . . It’s all about how Ronny gets transported back in time to when he’s this ten-year-old pudgy little kid who plays G.I. Joe and collects basketball cards and doesn’t help out his family at all.
Yes, yes, that does sound interesting, Rusty’s ma now pushing Rusty into his desk ever so gently, not even a push really so much as a loving nudge in the right direction.
Rusty’s ma stuck in a real conundrum: not wanting to risk discouraging her young protégé’s dreams of growing up to be a writer like her, but also not wanting to show favoritism to Rusty and risk discouraging the writing dreams of the other students but also not wanting to traumatize Rusty any more than he already has been by now embarrassing him for having the courage to share his heavily autobiographical story about his dead brother with the class, but also not wanting to have the whole class think that she’d been such a terrible mother to have let all this happen in her own house.
But Ma . . . , Rusty whisper-mumbling through his teeth. I haven’t gotten to the lesson yet.
Rusty’s ma whisper-mumbling back to please take a seat, It’s time to let other students share their stories.
As if Rusty’s just another student and not her own son. As if she hadn’t been the one who’d encouraged him to write all his little-kid stories down to begin with.
As if she hadn’t been the one to make him get up there in front of class first and share his story before any of the other stupid kids had to go. Set the tone, Rusty’s ma saying. Be an inspiration for the other students to tell their own creative stories.
Maybe the single most humiliating thing his ma’d ever done to him, Rusty thinking to himself. And Rusty had more than his fair share of humiliating moments to pull from.
Worst of all off she starts choking up in front of the whole class before she can call on someone else, so now pretty much every kid in school will find out how weird and emotional his ma has to get about every little stupid thing.
Why don’t we give Rusty a big round of applause? she stammers out in between choking up.
A smattering of half-assed claps, mostly polite students wanting the awkwardness to be over. Except from Duane, that is.
Clapping, slow clapping, but not golf clapping. Real loud sarcastic clapping.
Bravo, bravo, he’s saying, giving Rusty a majorly sarcastic standing ovation from the back. Woo-hoo, he’s saying.
Rusty’s ma clearing her throat: Now who else wants to share? Duane is that a yes?
A resounding silence. Duane and every other bored nervous kid shifting in their seats so as to not make eye contact with Rusty’s ma.
Rusty staying after the bell to inform his ma on how she’s ruined everything.
I wasn’t even halfway done, Ma. He hasn’t even gotten his second chance.
Who? his ma says.
Who? Rusty says, then rolls his eyes. Ronny, that’s who.
Rusty’s ma already prepping for her next class. Erasing the board, getting ready to do the same song and dance for the next group of budding young authors.
What Rusty’s ma calls all her students: budding, authors.
Don’t you get it? Rusty says. To make right what once went wrong?
It’s a line from that one stupid time-traveling tv show that doesn’t ever even go into the future, but that’s what it is, the only way to properly explain it: to put right what once went wrong.
Rusty explaining all this to his ma while she tries to listen encouragingly in between passive-aggressively hinting that shouldn’t Rusty be getting to his next class and also she has other students to attend to too, that it’s not all always going to be about Rusty, the way it used to be mostly always about Rusty back before she started teaching.
But what about redemption? Rusty wants to know. What about Ronny? Roy? Don’t you even want to know how everyone lives happily ever after?
Yes, but . . . she says, flustered, her frustration with Rusty starting to show through her veneer of Oh-honey-I-could-never-get-tired-of listening-to-your-little-stories bs.
The bell having wrung, the next class squirming now too, murmuring, giving Rusty looks.
But I think it’s time to move on, don’t you? she says.
Move on? He doesn’t say it, but his eyes do. Specifically his eyes saying: Move on?
Move on to your next class before you get in trouble.
Move on, Rusty mumbling to himself. Yah sure, Ma, I’ll move on alright. Rusty ready to move right on to never ever writing another stupid story again to share with anybody least of all his ma or ma’s stupid language farts class. All Rusty’s classmates ready to tease him out of ever wanting to show his face in his ma’s class ever again.
Fine, he mutters under his breath. I’ll move on.
What’s even the frickin’ point? Rusty thinking to himself as he mopes back to ma’s classroom at the end of the day.
Rusty’s ma having made him make up this big creative story, let his imagination run wild, all that crap, and then when he does it, all of a sudden, she won’t even let him share the funniest parts.
As if it wasn’t her fault all along. What a joke, making Rusty an example of anything other than what not to do, that being the joke. Not funny ha-ha, but pretty frickin’ hilarious just the same.
Rusty with all his quiet laughing and whining and sniffling and maybe a little crying, Rusty ready to throw open his ma’s classroom door, burst in, and let her have a piece of his mind. Really let her know just how unfair it all is.
Then he sees the note:
Down in Mr. Mueller’s room, Rusty. Come get me when you’re ready. Love, Ma.
It’s a trap!
What Rusty should’ve been thinking, but isn’t.
Mr. Mueller, as in Mr. Guidance Counselor Mueller. The alarm bells that should be going off in Rusty’s head but aren’t.
So it both completely catches Rusty off-guard and immediately makes all the sense in the world—the miserable world that it is—when Rusty knock-knock-knocks only to have Mr. Mueller open the door to reveal Rusty’s ma all teary-eyed and holding Rusty’s notebook and crying even more when she sees Rusty.
I was just telling Mr. Mueller about how imaginative and beautiful your story was, his ma’s saying. But . . ., she says, because there always has to be a but with Rusty’s ma, but also how sad it seems to her and how maybe he might be able to help you work on coming up with happier stories that might make you feel better about things.
What’d ya say, Crusty? Mr. Mueller saying. You wanna share your story with me?
It’s a trap! What Rusty should’ve been thinking. And: She’s betrayed you! You’re compromised! And by your own mother!
Dun . . . dun . . . dun . . .
But he’s not.
Rusty’s ma abandoning him to deal with Mr. Mueller and all his oh-so-sorries. Oh so sorry to hear about Rusty’s big brother. Or he had been the year before when it happened. And still is now.
Oh so sorry too to hear how Rusty’s having such a hard time coping with it all. Especially sorry because it seems as if Rusty’s blaming himself when it really wasn’t his fault at all. It’s just a tough thing, he keeps saying. Really no one to blame in a situation like this.
But Rusty’s ma’s told him all about his story, and he and Rusty’s ma are both very very worried that all the guilt Rusty’s feeling—though completely misplaced, but also completely natural—it might be eating away at Rusty a bit. That he might be having some unhealthy thoughts about love and violence.
Which is why Rusty’s mother’d gone and asked if him talk to him about this. Because she loves him so much and is so proud of him, but . . . , Mr. Mueller is saying then pausing.
But that powerful powerful story you wrote, he says. She’s oh so proud of it, it’s so good, but she’s also . . .
It’s not my fault. All Rusty can blurt out before the sniffles and crying kick in.
Oh, he says. Then: Of course, it isn’t, Rusty. Mr. Mueller wants him to know. Gives Rusty a pat on the shoulder, offers a Kleenex and reassures him that it’s nobody’s fault.
Which is a big load of bull crap. Rusty’s big brother goes and kills himself over wrecking his bike over Rusty having a tantrum over a stupid Twinkie and somehow it’s nobody’s fault.
The reassuring lies followed by the well-intentioned questions. Questions about whether Rusty’s had any thoughts about hurting himself or others? Whether or not he’s ever had nightmares or flashbacks about that night that it’d happened? If he’s ever thought back to Ray and had any complicated thoughts or fantasies that he might want to share with them?
Oh, it’s all completely natural, of course, he keeps on reassuring Rusty. But it’s also unhealthy to try to keep that all bottled up inside. And especially at Rusty’s age, and with all he’s been through already.
But it’s not supposed to be sad, Rusty stammers. It’s supposed to be happy.
Oh? Mr. Mueller says.
The ending. My story.
Oh, he says, pauses, goes on. That’s nice, he says. But your mother . . .
She wouldn’t let me finish.
Oh, Mr. Mueller says. I’m sure she . . .
Don’t you even want to hear how it ends?
Oh, Mr. Mueller saying, Yeah, uh . . .
And Rusty whipping his notebook out of his bookbag before Mr. Mueller can say oh . . . no . . . that’s oh-kay.
How The Book of Ronny ends:
What happens is this guy Ronny, he gets his second second chance to go back in time and make right what once was wrong, that whole thing. So there he goes, back in time to before that fateful night of Roy eating the last Twinkie, the one with Ronny’s name on it, the one Ronny was going to put in his lunch the next day so he could stuff it in his fat little spoiled crybaby face. Except this time around, little time-traveling Ronny has to not throw a hissy fit over Roy’s eating the last Twinkie, not cry to mommy about how he’d written his name on that Twinkie to save it so he could put it in his G.I. Joe lunch box and each it for lunch because all the other kids got Twinkies in their lunches and now he’s going to be the only kid at lunch who doesn’t have a Twinkie to eat and all the other guys are going to make fun of him for it.
Instead, what Ronny has to do is get that last Twinkie with his name on it and cross it out and put Roy’s name on it. Bring that one out to Roy in the shed where he’s working on his motorcycle that he’s just cashed in all his college savings on and ask Roy if maybe he would like the last Twinkie instead. And probably Roy won’t even take the Twinkie after all that. Roy being so bowled over by Ronny’s grand gesture of offering the last Twinkie to him that Roy’ll probably say, No, little buddy, you keep it. I think you need it a little more than I do. You got more growing to do than me. And little Ronny’ll look up with his big blonde mop of hair and watery blue eyes, and say, Really Roy? Can I have it really? And probably Roy’ll go and mess up Ronny’s blond mop. Say, But don’t forget to go out there and keep shooting those buckets, too, little buddy. Or don’t you wanna grow up all big and strong and awesome at basketball one day? And Ronny’ll say, You betcha, Roy, then run off to stuff that last Twinkie down his throat without even chewing or thinking about what he’ll eat for lunch next day at school.
So what do you think of that? Rusty says.
Oh, Mr. Mueller says. Well, he says, that does sound—
But that’s not even the happiest part, Rusty says.
Oh, Mr. Mueller says. Okay.
No, Rusty says, the happiest part always comes after the sad part which always comes after the part where you think it’s going to be happy, but then things can’t stop there. They have to go on.
Oh, Mr. Mueller says. Sure, he says. Yes, I guess so.
To which Rusty explains:
If only it weren’t for the time-space continuum. Ronny screwing that all up big time. The consequences and repercussions. Even for the noblest of reasons. Even with God Himself commanding Ronny to do it. The real actual lesson of Rusty’s story, the big catch 22 of time travel: As if you go and fix a leaky tire and you fix the one hole, the big hole, but by fixing the one hole you end up shifting all the rest of the pressure to another weak spot that you hadn’t even realized was a weak spot, so then lo and behold, you get another leak that ends up springing up, sometimes even a worse leak than the first one. Rusty calling it the Leaky Tire Paradox of the space-time continuum.
So, sure, Ronny saves Roy and Roy goes on to live out his life and starts himself his own machine shop, fixes up just about any kind of vehicle or machinery you might have, old cars, new cars, motorcycles, tractors, combines, lawnmowers, et cetera, et cetera. You name it and Roy can fix it up for you, good as new and for cheap. Blah blah blah happily ever after. Except then there’d still be that bulging spare tire threatening a major blowout, AKA Ronny. Because whereas Roy learns to survive mountains and molehills, Ronny is so relieved to have that off his conscience that he almost immediately forgets it’s his second chance too.
Since he never has his brother’s suicide to motivate him to become a big-time baller, he gets lazy. Starts guzzling Twinkies until he eats himself into a human Michelin man of spare tires. Gets so fat and disgusting that his ma has to retire from teaching so she can feed, bathe, and wipe his ass in bed because he can’t even wipe his own ass—both mentally and physically. Ronny literally becoming one big asswipe for his ma to take care of five times a day seven days a week, whatever weeks a year, and on and on. Until Ronny finally turns eighteen himself, nearly eight years after Roy’s supposed to’ve killed himself. Ronny now this five-hundred-pound leaky Michelin not-quite man, he gives up pretty easy. Gulps down his mega-bottle of diet pills. Chases them with a two-liter of Mountain Dew, says his goodbyes to no one in particular and turns face down to smother his last miserable tears in his extra-extra-cushioned memory foam pillows for fat kids with snoring problems. And waits for his heart to explode. Which then everybody else except Ronny lives happily ever after what with Ronny’s fatass leaking spare tire no longer there to take care of.
So, Mr. Mueller, that’s the happy ending, Rusty says.
To which, Mr. Mueller says, Oh? But his face gives off more of an oh . . . which was pretty much the worst.
As in: Oh . . . no . . .
As in: Oh . . . Geez . . . I’m so . . . so . . . sorry . . .
As in: Oh . . . Rusty . . . That’s so . . . so . . . sad . . .
The same crap from Rusty’s ma and everybody else since Rusty’s big brother Ray’d blown his brains out.
As if Rusty and Ray’d been best friends or something. Oh geez, oh geez, Rusty thinking to himself, not my bestest friend in the world, not my big brother who loved me so much, who would’ve done anything to’ve made me happy and me for him. Not Ray. What a great guy Ray’d been to Rusty his whole life.
No, you don’t get it, Rusty wanting to shout to his ma, Mr. Mueller, everybody else who thought they knew the first thing about how Rusty and Ray’d gotten along.
Rusty wanting to be able to stop breaking down every time everybody said oh . . . To stop himself from sniffling and hiccupping long enough to shout, That was the whole point of everything! Him and Ray hadn’t been close at all, they’d probably been the furthest from close that you could possibly be and still be from the same family and live in the same house.
Rusty again with the blubbering now, this time in front of Mr. Mueller, old stupid Mr. Touchy-Feely, and here’s Rusty once again not able to spit words out to explain how dumb Mr. Mueller was and how dumb it was that his ma’d tricked Rusty into coming down there.
Crusty, Rusty, whittle crybaby. What Ray used to say when Rusty’d get like this. The blubbering, the inability to not be such a little mama’s boy about everything.
Never again, Rusty vowing to himself after this latest episode. No more touchy-feely oh’s, no more crying on command.
Never again, Rusty vowing to himself again, more serious this time, vowing to instead one day write a new and improved story about people blowing their brains out and other people who just take the wimpy way out and swallow a bottle of sleeping pills. Make it even funnier.
So funny that even touchy-feely people like Mr. Mueller’d have to laugh at it, laugh their asses off at it so hard that they’d have to stop feeling sorry for Rusty all together. Stop with all their oh’s and stupid questions about Ray and trying to get Rusty to cry his eyes out just because his brother blew his brains out.
Stop staring at Rusty with those pursed-lips awkward pauses and then eventually shrugging and shaking their heads and saying they were so sorry for him and if there was anything they could do.
Oh, they were all so sorry. For Rusty. But then always asking their questions, questions, questions that Rusty could never really answer at least without breaking down and crying again like the little crybaby he was.
No, Rusty telling himself that one day he’d write the funniest frickin’ story about suicide ever and show everybody how stupid it was to feel sorry for him.
Feel sorry for Ray and his blown-out brains. Feel sorry for Rusty’s ma who’d start crying at the slightest mention of her oldest son’s brains splattered all over the wall of his room. Feel sorry for them, goddarn it.
Don’t feel sorry for stupid little Rusty who’d gone and made his brother kill himself over a stupid Twinkie.
No, Rusty tells himself, what you do for that little pudgy crybaby mama’s boy is you laugh your sorry asses off at how funny things can be. Suicide, Twinkies, Time-travelling. Heaven and Hell and straight ballin’. Nothin’ but ballin’ and ballin’.
That’d be Rusty’s little pun, his double meaning, his inside joke. Ballin’ and ballin’.
Now that’s frickin’ hilarious.
BENJAMIN DREVLOW is the author of Bend with the Knees and Other Love Advice from My Father (New Rivers Press, 2008), which won the 2006 Many Voices Project, Ina-Baby: A Love Story in Reverse (Cowboy Jamboree, 2019) and A Good Ram is Hard to Find (forthcoming from Cowboy Jamboree 2021). He serves as the Managing Editor of BULL Magazine, and is a lecturer at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia.