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September 12, 2016 | Fiction

Jared Machetes the Porch

Austin Hayden

Jared Machetes the Porch photo

Jared punches like dang. Gouges, arm-bars. Breaks windows at theme parties. Shows chops, hocks loogies, finger bashes. He ouiji boards bombed. Talks with ghosts.

Jared doesn’t care. Slurs around all types, yells crazy out car windows. Shreds drums, Strats, blunts. Starts bands to quit them.

I’ve seen him nail a kid’s teddy to a towering oak. Fling bird eggs at street signs. Grind the handrails out front First Baptist. He harasses clergy. Berates and belittles. Hails Satan.

Jared packs smokes. Mighty claps. 

I had a thing with Natalie, but then she wasn’t into it. Jared gives the idea better. She rides his jeans in the gazebo at the park after dusk. He texts her from my phone, broken screen spider web shattered. 

Jared’s handprints are all over the walls. His ashes on armrests. He tumbles off a second-story balcony and hobbles back inside. Barely staggering. Cracks his back. Torso torque.

Jared elbows my ribs no matter what. I’d catch a diving shoulder if he had ropes from which to fly. He growls, jeers, wreaks havoc. Someone ransacked his bedroom while he was gone. Jared retaliated against the world. Mangled the spokes of an ornate handrail. Half-pound of canned tuna in the A/C unit. Toe nails in open brews for months.

Bows to no one. Welcomes adversity. No. Welcomes nothing nor nobody.

He hates Chapstick, so his lips are scabbed. His fingernails have dark spots. Squares. Bruises. Mane’s ponied down his neck. Neck’s a stick scarred but sturdy.

Music? Jared digs anything he can crush a bowl to. Equips his green room with two-dollar vinyl. Used bin treasures. Jared bumps oldies.

He pukes. Barks. Ralphs. Chugs and spews. I’m sure sees more blood than most. Jared throats smoke. Waits on the exhale. Never quivers like me. I park and we box. I choke. I cough. I hand Jared my phone.

“This place,” he says, “is pulling my hair out.”

Jared I figure floated into town down the White River in a diaper bag when he was a baby. Rattled a rattler through coos and caws. 

He scraps. Runs his mouth. Hounds other crews. Hunts and kills.

Jared knuckles pretty grills to raw beef and putty. Pile of gunk and teeth.

Jared dicks with playlists. Hi-jacks iPods. He’s grabbing another can. Snags me one. If a song crams in between Jared and me, he does a sound like a whining dog to the tune.

Some guys leave to do who’s texting them. Sometimes Jared stays.

He dumpster dives. Shanghais to survive. Swipes tips from tables. Pirates on campus Wi-Fi. Hoists his flag high against the common way.

Between giggles Jared sniffs markers. Tire glue. Jared finds mirrors and chucks rocks. Licks hand wounds. Tongues his own deep cuts. 

Jared hurdles over the back of the couch boots-first. Sets his hand palm-up on my thigh. “Phone me.” It slides from my pocket.

If the beers in the fridge aren’t cold, I move a couple to the freezer.

Water soaks through the futon outside my front door. Rain last night. Jared jumps and lands heavy, listening for the porch to give out.

Whacks at the back of my head for a hovering bug.

“The low cost of living,” he says, hunkering down next to me.

The river is one long muddy slosh. I hear it from my house. Jared has something cooped up in his heart hissing. I hear that, too. 

Jared crosses the alley. 

I’ve watched Jared tank through the wall of a wooden shed. Witnessed Jared at most rowdy. He won’t fake or flinch. Shiver? No way. Wallow? Never ever.

He’ll set your sofa on fire with you in it.

From a neighbor’s trash-heap, Jared wrenches a long blade. Lifts it proudly. Returning slowly, he approaches our house, stopping square to take aim. In a stance like a macho batter. 

Jared machetes the porch. Swing after swing. I don’t stop him. Hacks the corner beam. I don’t stop him. He could heave toward a Senator. I still wouldn’t stop him. He’ll bring the thing down.

It’s like I just said. Jared’s nuts. Walking talking psycho. Always about to burst. 

At night in bed alone I think about the world where I’m Jared and he’s me. Like it’s me about to smash an end table with a golf club. Like it’s me who’s flooding some basement with a garden hose. A world where I’m not me, I’m him. Where when I jump I don’t simply come down. No, if I’m Jared and I jump, gravity lugs the planet up to meet me.

image: Aaron Burch


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