Fiction: Seven Oaks and the Alcoholic Lifestyle

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Someone said Jim lived in Seven Oaks. Now, to some people that might sound like a compliment or, at least, a nice comment on account of the fact that some pretty nice places are named Seven Oaks, but Seven Oaks, Texas isn’t one of them, and Jim didn’t own or rent any kind of home in Seven Oaks.

Jim lived in Livingston, Texas, which was a few miles south and happened to be the county seat of Polk County, which was a dry county, meaning you couldn’t buy a drink of alcohol in Livingston come hell or high water. If you liked to imbibe a drop or two of spirits, wine, or beer, you’d have to drive north or south on highway 59 until you got out of Polk County.

If you drove north on 59, you’d cross the county line and be greeted by a sign saying, “Welcome to Seven Oaks.” If you drove a tiny bit further, you’d see the Seven Oaks bar. I don’t think it is there anymore, but you’ll still find a liquor store there.

Anyway, that Seven Oaks bar didn’t exactly have a concealed parking lot, so your car would just be sitting there for God and all the world to see.

So if any of your nosy neighbors or family saw your car there more than once in a week, they might start gabbing around about how you lived up there or something. It was a not so nice way of saying you were a drunk.

I don’t remember anyone ever saying he was an alcoholic, though. In fact, his sister insisted that he most certainly was not an alcoholic, though she did concede that he made a habit of being drunk, so she was willing to say he was a habitual drunk, but he never got the DTs if he didn’t have a drink for a few hours or anything like that.

And he could clean up and get through a Sunday sermon all right if push came to shove, and alcoholics can’t really pull that off, so he just stayed drunk because he wanted to—not because he had to.

And I guess that’s all that matters sometimes, you know? We’re all just trying to do good enough to pacify the family and the neighbors. If you can keep that up, you might just have a pretty good life. And who knows, someday you might hit it big with one of those scratch-offs you keep buying at the Seven Oaks bar.

R Horton

Someone Identified the Masculine Voice (#poem)

person holding black pump shotgun
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The male poet overcompensates
With poems of unbridled bravado,
Giving unwanted details of
Disemboweling a deer with
Bare handed desperation.

He counts his sexual conquests
With disquiet and undue clarity,
Each sweaty fumble declared
Victory over inadequacy and
Untold performance anxiety.

Somebody once called him queer
And set him on a course of
Toxic masculinity, but the
Voice that haunted him most—
That he couldn’t escape—was poetry.

R Horton

Whispers of Dongpo in Bamboo Sway (#poem)

woman standing beside bamboo
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The knocking of the bamboo
In the wind
Restores my awareness.

Su Dongpo said he could live
Without meat but not without bamboo.
Bamboo brings life, of course,
As meat destroys it, but
Dongpo had a different
Understanding (he loved eating meat),

Yet his words weave
Through the leaves
With warning and assurance
Of life whose end has not
Arrived so long as bamboo
Sways her promise to us.

 

I’ve Seen You With Other Lovers (#poem)

man and woman kissing near green plants
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I’ve seen you enveloped in passion
Entranced and wandering aimlessly
In all consuming lust as you fold
Into taut skin stretched over
A well-tuned bicep shimmering
With the sweat of ones who
Would possess you,
Confiscate your love,
Loyalty, lust, passion, devotion,
Breasts, lips, thighs,
And even your new mountain bike.

I’ve seen you capitulate to complete
Sexual abandon and forget
Your past, your future, and your
Unpaid mortgage. On some
Occasions, you switched from
Lover to lover in your bed
Like a child trying different
Ice creams at the shop with
So many flavours.

I’ve seen you soak the sheets,
Draw blood with your nails,
And shriek till the rafters shook.
You took it all in,
You put it all out.
You forgot who you were.
You looked through me,
Past me, beyond me.

You forgot I existed,
And when you remembered,
You laughed.

You laughed.
Then you shouted.
I had no business blocking
Your way to paradise.
I had no reason to be in your way.

But as you stroke my back,
I open my eyes,
And remember why I came.

A Collision of Amphetamines and Insomnia (#fiction)

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Jan hadn’t slept much. Like, for the past three days she hadn’t slept, but she was about to crash. Like hitting a wall or something. She was coming down because the speed was just about done, and she was sort of looking forward to the crash. How could you blame her? This is how she planned her weeks, you know. Speed on test days. Pot on weekends. Beer for dancing, mostly. Or just because boys like it.

The problem was that Bobby was sort of revved up, because that’s just how he is. He just gets all this nervous energy and then just talks and talks and talks. Philosophy, politics, music, love and loss. Bobby wasn’t into drugs and really had no clue about drug etiquette or even just the parameters around what drug users might be going through. Some people found him rather inconsiderate.

And Jan kept telling him she was really tired, but he really didn’t feel like being alone at that particular moment, and he didn’t want to stop talking. She thought sex might have done the trick, because guys notoriously fall asleep right after, but Bobby was a hard-core insomniac, even if sex was calming, it wasn’t enough to settle his nerves.

So this went on awhile—until she passed out, and Bobby was left staring through the screen on the window and counting the moths on the outside. He was thinking of Carson McCullers and Frankie in “Member of the Wedding.”

Somehow Bobby related to Frankie, though it would seem unlikely that he would. He just liked the way this little butch girl looked out the window and pondered the “irony of fate” for the insects out there. And he thought a lot about the irony of fate, and sometimes he felt like a little butch girl stuck out in the country just wanting to fit in at a wedding or something.

Jan was dead to the world, but Bobby checked to be sure she was alive in her drug-enforced slumber before he stepped out into the steaming evening air. After a moment of regret for forgetting mosquito spray, he set off toward Old Main, hoping Mary might be up there again, because she never slept well either.

Randall Horton

No One Will Be There But Jesus (#poem)

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As friends solemnly told him to call
On them if ever he needed anything,
Only his pastor was candid enough
To tell him Jesus alone would stay.

And so it was as it had always been,
Walking alone on the beach, in town,
Along the highway, and in the upstairs
Hallway with no memory of being carried.

He supposed Jesus was a faithful companion,
But a bit quiet, and not much help when
A flat needs fixing. He’s someone you can
Always talk to, but feedback is lacking.

And why should Jesus be different from the
Others? Why would the Son of God care
That he was lonely? Why would he look
For Divinity in the deep pools of loss?

Randall Horton

Leggett, Texas (#poem #lyrics)

Screenshot 2019-07-05 at 11.18.56You’ve been all over the world,
But you’ll never know where I’ve been.
The lonely street in this lonely town
Took me to hell and back again

If you’re lost in Legget, Texas
You must be broke down
Cause there’s only one road
In this ol’ one-horse town

You’ve seen more things than I will ever know.
And you’ve done things I’ve only dreamt about.
But my heart’s a path well trod.
The things I’ve seen make me want to black out.

You can find my family if you look
In the cemetery behind the church.
But you don’t want a complete history,
So I think you should just end this search

This town always had a story
That most are too afraid to tell.
Don’t ask too many questions
Or you might meet me in Hell.

If you’re lost in Legget, Texas
You must be broke down
Cause there’s only one road
In this ol’ one-horse town

Randall Horton

Poetry is Regional (#poem)

IMG_20190622_115659You may think it’s blank—
Or even free—
Verse, but you may be
Unfamiliar with the voice,
The accent, the dialect
Of the author.

You don’t see the rhyme
If you pronounce things
Differently. And you may miss
The meter, if you speak with
A different cadence.

Randall Horton

Deaf and Dirty in Public (#fiction)

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XII

Being deaf isolates you from people. From hearing people, anyway. That’s true, obviously, but sometimes deaf people forget they aren’t actually alone. A deaf couple was chatting amiably, well, maybe amorously is the better term, as Doug was eating lunch in a Luby’s Restaurant.

If you’ve ever eaten in a Luby’s, you’d be surprised to learn of anyone feeling amorous or frisky there, because it just isn’t that kind of place. Something about standing in line and holding a tray with a bunch of retirees quells any rising sap, if you know what I mean.

Still this couple was chatting away and working up a bit of lather. Sometimes even a Luby’s can’t dampen the heat of young love, or lust or whatever. So these two were talking about each other’s bodies and what they planned to do with various body parts when then got home or maybe even to the car.

To be perfectly honest, many sexual signs in American Sign Language (ASL) are graphic enough that even most hearing folks can make them out with a little effort, but Doug didn’t need to make any effort. He was deaf and quite fluent in both sexuality and ASL. He was alone and bored in a Luby’s, so watching an erotic conversation a couple of tables away didn’t seem like too bad a way to spend a few minutes.

Now, hearing people tend to stare at deaf people in public. Some are being rude. Some are being judgmental. Some are trying to see if they can understand any signs. Some are just confused. And some probably don’t even realize they are staring. Anyway, this deaf couple wasn’t surprised to see someone watching them talk.

They decided to check it out and signed a couple of questions to Doug to see if he understood anything. For his part, he thought the prudent thing to do would be to pretend to be hearing. When they signed to him, he just looked confused and shrugged his shoulders. Feeling relieved, they sort of waved him off and went back to their conversation. He gave them the hearing sign for “OK,” and all seemed well.

And it would have been fine, too, except a hearing acquaintance of Doug’s happened in at about that time. It wasn’t an amazing coincidence or anything—this acquaintance just worked across the street. Anyway, he knew that he and Doug would be at an event later in the week and signed, “Hey, how are you? I’ll see you Thursday, right?”

Doug blushed. The couple blushed. And for reasons he didn’t understand, the acquaintance blushed.

Randall Horton