SmokeLong Quarterly

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Space Junk

Story by Tom DeBeauchamp (Read author interview) March 25, 2019

Art by Graham Stewart

We made a pretty party, us dozen at the quarry lip. Spliffs all around! Crank the tunes! Roscoe Gordon, Pinetop Perkins—that little bass figure filling up the night. You could dance with anybody. No snobs on the mountain.

Perfect, perfect, perfect. Everything was. Then that hunk of space junk tore across the heavens from a million plus miles away, lit up that fir canopy, branches falling everywhere. It spun like a buzz saw through all that could have stopped it right into Mary-Beth Del Marco McFarthy’s lovely Levi-ed hip. I saw the whole gory thing. Saw the impact toss her from the keg-line ten yards easy clear into the brush, pinecones scuffing her face raw, jetsam wagging in her body like a dog tail with all its unspent cosmic power.

She needed a hospital with good doctors, obviously. I was the least drunk, so I drew the short straw.

Get her in the T-Bird? Okay, if y’all say so.

She woke up while we loaded her in, saw her blood, and said, “Where y’all taking me? What’s happening?”

“We’re getting you an ice cream,” I said, a lie that still throbs in my guts.

There was a lot of blood on her blouse and her breathing was shallow. I drove the twists and turns of that late night on those late night mountains, and she stared at me in the dashboard glow.

Was she dead? The space junk was pretty big, like some kid’s idea of lightning.

“Hey Mary-Beth, you okay?”

Her breathing felt wet, like a busted A/C.

“Mary-Beth,” I said, “you gotta stay with me okay?”

In the ten years I’d known her, we’d talked about twelve times. Even so, we had friends in common. “Remember when Mervin Goward cut his thumb off in chem two? Sick, right?”

She shuddered. I changed the subject.

“You were the old lady in My Fair Lady and talked with that accent all year.

“You had a full ride scholarship out of state but couldn’t stand being away.

“We worked together at Blockbuster Video.”

Passing the silos and the shit-pit by the stockade, I recounted every event I knew she’d ever known. You did x, I said. You did y. You were with n, but everybody thought you should be with i. Remember?

I needed to wake her up. I was running out of options, but did I really talk about my dick?

My dick.

Well, listen.

I have loved Mary-Beth Del Marco McFarthy since the day she skated onto the rink at Atlantis Skate park in her shiny white quads with the Ewoks on their uppers. That’s why I didn’t date, I told her. I was waiting for her. We were meant to be together.

Her head hung down in a wrong position. Did I think desire would bring her back? A last chance opportunity? Stupid.

When I did it—described my dick—she panicked, and at the first stop-sign on Main Street, she threw herself into the road, the space junk burrowed deeper into the bone.

I tried lifting her back into the car, but could tell I was only hurting her more. “Mary Beth, I’m sorry!” I said.

She bled on my clothes. Her face changed. She saw something behind me way worse than I was. It made her hold on to me, and I held on to her right back.

And somewhere up in the woods quarry-side our friends were dancing and screwing and having a good time.

The cops came. An ambulance, finally. I spent some time in jail for my role. DUI.

I tell this story a lot now and everybody always asks the same questions, what was up with that space junk? Where did it come from? Outer space for real or what?

I don’t know.

I don’t care. I don’t care where that spike of metal came from or what was up with it. Fuck that. What’s up with me? That’s what I want to know. Where did I come from? And what by god did Mary Beth Del Marco McFarthy see that could have possibly been anything worse?

About the Author

Tom DeBeauchamp’s writing can be read at The Collagist, Hobart, Burrow Press Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

About the Artist

Graham Stewart lives in rural Ontario where he reads books, watches movies. records abstract music, and takes photographs.

This story appeared in Issue Sixty-Three of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Sixty-Three

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