The Unbearably Penultimate of Parable, poetry by Dennis Mahagin

I drove over the fat rope thing
that made the bells ding and
ling and then this grease mon­key appeared
at my open win­dow, wear­ing braid­ed ponytail
with his Speed Rac­er eyes, brandishing
a tat­tered broach rag thing he whipped
about like … *what?* about twenty
watts of dirty lar­i­at– surely
a dervish with a nascent
"Fill her up?" he asked.

"Nah," I said "sev­en bucks of unleaded." …

"Sev­en bucks?"

This was a spot in Cougar, Wash­ing­ton where they still
did Full Ser­vice; in fact, if you tried to pump your own
a plac­ard said they're just as like to call the law. Before
the days of video pok­er machines, or vir­tu­al speed balls,
a stand­ing ad in the Thrifties main­tained somebody
could come over (even, or espe­cial­ly, in the middle
of the night) to buy your car for scrap,
you sign over the title, oh, it never
seemed right.

"Check that oil?" said the kid.

"Sure," I said, as if late
for a pic­nic, Christ, need­ing a shave, and some
hitch­hik­er with brown Gand­hi face and bomber
jack­et, just to come sham­bling up the medium
island, change the direction
of my life.
Now the kid was going
great guns, Quixot­ic with squeegee
and copi­ous ammo­nia bug juice in the middle
of my pane. Only 9 years prior,
Mt. St. Helens had blown

the cap off that whole face, and I knew
I should have been some­place, by then:
a feel­ing it, in my bones, yet you could get
plum dis­com­bob­u­lat­ed dri­ving those winding
roads, up around Cougar. The sun
shin­ing, like to break your freaking
heart; this kid had a tat­too of a miniature
anchor, inch­es away from his carotid
artery swing­ing like clapper
inside a bell. All of it, added
up just as well to a feeling

of being recounted
lat­er: in a week, I'd lose
my ride to those cage crush­ers out of Gre­sham, fat
Sopra­nos with pom­padors, that hideous run­ning ad
inside a Thrifty. Lit­tle black snowflake smudgies
and a sil­ver ball of steel, no bigger
than any pic­nic basket.

"Check that tire pres­sure?" said the kid, wiping
his fore­head you haven't seen skin­ny until this
sweat, and then hiss, what I'd be telling you

about … "Nah," I said "lis­ten how I get back
to Portland?"

He point­ed south with left
hook, or claw I hadn't noticed
till now, sun glint on chrome, lumi­nous moon
cuti­cle drilling down to the no thumb, no thumb,
no bone at all sir so piteous young and full of
jones. "Here," I said hand­ing out my last

ten­ner, open win­dow, scent of black tar
and choke cher­ries, fresh baked bread
infused by 3 in 1, I'd just turned thirty
two, up in Cougar some­times smoking
rub­ber, and I hard­ly ever used
the rear view.

dennismahaginDen­nis Maha­gin is the author of the chap­book, "Fare,"
avail­able from Red­neck Press, and the print collection,
"Grand Mal," pub­lished by Rebel Satori Press

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