I’d been watching prices on Car Guru for a few weeks. Waiting for used Fords to come down, waiting for dealers to put some up. Waiting and just looking at pictures of trucks while sitting on the toilet. That sort of thing. This was around when Linda called me and said her irrigation system wasn’t working. 

“All the plants are dying,” she told me over the phone. “The arbor vitae is crispy.”

Couple summers ago I rigged her this simple sprinkler setup that runs off her garden spigot. It snakes all around her yard with these tiny sprayers every five or so feet. Even hooked a battery timer to it so it’d run on its own. I told her she wouldn’t have to touch it. Ever. It’d just do its thing. Easy peasy.

Over the phone I asked her, “Is the system on?”

“Think so.” 

“Is the faucet handle turned all the way to the right or to the left?” 

“Oh I don’t know, let me go look.” She put the phone down and I heard her screen door slam. 

She was gone awhile. I got bored and started munching on some potato chips I didn’t know I had. Finally she came back and said “Left.” Some potato chips shards went down the wrong pipe and I started choking and coughing a bunch. I ran my mouth under the sink and took a big gulp of tap water.

“Are you dying?” Linda said. 

“Not yet.”

“Well, then get over here and fix my sprinklers.”

Budwulf

By Bud Smith

Short Story

Good Luck: Episode Fifty-Eight

translated from Old English by Frances B. Grummere & Bud Smith



LO, praise of the prowess of people-kings

of spear-armed New Jersey, in days long sped,

we have heard, and what honor the athelings won!

Oft Scyld the Scefing from squadroned foes,

from many a tribe, the mead-bench tore,

awing the earls. Since erst he lay

friendless, a foundling, fate repaid him:

for he waxed under welkin, in wealth he throve,

till before him the folk, both far and near,

who house by the whale-path, heard his mandate,

gave him gifts: a good king he!

To him an heir was afterward born,

a son in his halls, whom heaven sent

to favor the folk, feeling their woe

that erst they had lacked an earl for leader

so long a while; the Lord endowed him,

the Wielder of Wonder, with world’s renown.

Famed was this Bud Smith: far flew the boast of him,

son of Scyld, in the Scandian lands.

So becomes it a youth to quit him well

with his father’s friends, by fee and gift,

that to aid him, aged, in after days,

come warriors willing, should war draw nigh,

liegemen loyal: by lauded deeds

shall an earl have honor in every clan.

Arrows

By Bud Smith

Short Story

Good Luck: Episode Fifty-Seven

 

Now I will get to the battle part. I hope I tell it all right. I am not very good at writing action scenes. How are you at reading them?

Earlier this year, I was thinking about how I needed to try and write down this event in my life, and I was absolutely dreading it. I thought to read and study War and Peace to see how Tolstoy handled Napoleon and all his friends at Austerlitz, and the horses and the sabres and the cannon fire and all that, but I never got around to it. It’s probably fine. 

This battle had no horses, or sabres, or cannon fire. There was only one gun.

We had it. 

But we were outnumbered, ten to one. 

 

Will never forget the day dad talked over mom at a dinner party. That night she drugged him and split his tongue with a straight razor while my sister and I watched. “You see that, kids? Your father is a lizard now! You live in a terrarium!” 

 

When you give your mom a card and you watch her read it and well up and then the mist turns melancholic and severe as she looks through the table and into the past and assesses the present and you have to make a joke to break the spell. 

 

Hope Philip Roth’s mom is waiting for him, legs spread, in Heaven. 

 

I suggested to my mom that we do a family ayahuasca session for Christmas to which she replied, “My shit is together, isn’t it?” I said, “You are the master of your own shit. You tell me?” And she said, “Yeah, well it moves forward.”

 

When you die you go back into your mother and she goes back into her mother and so on until the nesting doll of existence repacks itself through primates and primordial goo all the way back up to the Big Bang.

 

Version 1 

 

This version of my husband moved out of his house and into me in the early 1990s. It was love at last sight. He was not the man I wanted but he was the man I got. 

 

My name in this version of events is Geraldine. My husband’s name at this point was Rex. I have never forgiven my parents for this name and if names were objects, then this one was a punchbag which all my bullies and not-well-wishers hammered with their bony knuckles. 

 

I was working in a bar. It was a small town with small people, and everyone’s faces looked like raked mashed potato. The men in the bar all had violently large bellies and sometimes I wondered if they were going to give birth to something, jettison some still-born clod of flesh and blood and oily hair onto the beer-sticky floor. 

 

And then there was my husband to be, Rex. He was stick thin and dressed in rags. 

 

“Hey,” he said. “I haven’t eaten in a year. Do you have any food?”

 

“We’ve run out,” I said. 

 

“Too bad, too bad. I can do without for a little longer, I guess.” 

 

Things moved quickly. Every man in this town was a piece of shit and a failure. I had been on several dates and the men would always dissect me like a frog. I remember being in that restaurant, Giovanni’s, and over a plate of mussels and spaghetti, my date, a piece of lard shaped like a man called Roger, cut my torso open and played my ribs like a xylophone. He also sawed the top of my skull off and wore it like a cap and poked the parts of my brain that would give him the secrets of my mind.  He asked me what I liked to do in my spare time and I said masturbate and chase rats. It was true. I liked to follow rats in the streets and count them. One, two, three, four and that’d be a good day for me, counting rats. But Roger, like many men, could look past my idiosyncrasies. I could’ve been a racist or a paedophile and he still would have swallowed his pride and fucked me. He took me back to his house, then, and he swallowed me whole and spat me back out. I was covered in his goo.

Good Luck: Episode Fifty-Six

 

The sun slipped down over the treetops, I misjudged my step, fell into the river, was washed away. 

The trick was to cross farther up where the water was shallower, but I’d forgotten that. 

I crashed into a boulder in the center of the river, my wind knocked out. For a while I just hung onto that boulder for dear life. The white water thundered past, surged around me.

The way I got free was I let go again, pulled a hundred yards farther down the rapids, stopped by a fallen tree bridging both banks. I was able to climb up and scramble across, bleeding and laughing.

Up on the other bank, I thought I should turn back. I’d messed around enough with my memories. Electric shock therapy might be a better option. A partial lobotomy. No, it wasn’t right. I’d woken up that morning, not able to recall my mother’s name, again. I had to go solve the trouble at my house of memory. 

I took off my clothes, carried them forward, heavy and soaked. The forest was a maze I couldn’t navigate. I used to know the way. Thorns and bogs dead ends, and all the time the light getting worse.

Katherine

By Sam Fishman

Short Story

 

Katherine has these two glorious biceps—huge biceps—big biceps like two best friends who would tell you what she was really thinking when she wouldn’t. 

One time I drove to Katherine’s house and saw a ton of broken wine glasses in the middle of the street and a big cardboard box. I parked my car and Katherine pulled up and said “Hop in bucko,” and then:

“I just dropped a whole box of glasses in the street by accident.”

I wanted to ask her why she didn’t wait a minute and just ask me carry them, because that’s something I could have really kicked-ass at and that doesn’t happen all the time. 

Most of the time it’s more like “I could never kick ass at that,” or “I don’t know how to do that.”

So I looked at her face to see if she could see that I wanted to ask her, and I didn’t see anything about it there. So I looked at her biceps, and they told me this:

“That’s boyfriend stuff, and you are not my boyfriend. So don’t do boyfriend stuff and then say you don’t want to be my boyfriend.”

I said, “How about we just pretend you’re my girlfriend when I’m feeling lonely,” and the biceps flexed like “don’t even go there” and I said, “Yes, sirs,” and Katherine said, “What?”

And I said, “Sorry, yes ma’am,” and we went to have a coffee.

Directions

By Bud Smith

Short Story

Good Luck: Episode Fifty-Five

 

Trying

By Bud Smith

Short Story

Good Luck: Episode Fifty-Four

 

Yesterday, at work, my bald coworker told me about the worst haircut of his life. How he had known it was going to get fucked it up before it happened. As he walked towards the barbershop, he saw through the plate glass window. A lone blue-dressed woman, slumped over asleep. The barber. He opened the door and jangled the bell real loud, still she slept. So he went back outside, came back in, and really jangled the bell aggressively, shook the door. That didn’t work either. He stood in the center of the shop, between piles of other people’s hair. A yellow pile. A red pile. Two black piles. Where was the broom? He tried to will her awake. She began to snore. He thought to leave but had to get the haircut and there was no other place to go. He was in a wedding party that evening. He reached out and gently touched her blue shoulder. She gasped. “Oh my God. How did that happen?” She wiped drool from her mouth. She stood up, pointed to the chair. He sat down. She asked what kind of haircut he wanted. He told her number twos on the side, fade the top. She stood over him with the buzzer. “Honey, you need Rogaine.” He realized she was drunk. He said, “It’s not bad.” She said, “If you start now maybe you can save a little.” Then she put the buzzer into his head, cut a crooked ditch all the way to the scalp. There was nothing he could do but sit there through the worst haircut of his life. And he’d known it was coming. He’d known to turn back. He even tipped her. When his wife came home, she said, “What the hell happened to you?” She sat him down on the toilet lid, shaved his head clean.

Quiz

By Bud Smith

Short Story

Good Luck: Episode Fifty-Three

 

 

So I’m sitting here. Doing nothing. Waiting for the worst to happen. Actually, I’m lying on my back on my bed. Most comfortable position for me when I’m lying down. Though it’s not easy getting up from the bed when I’m on my back. Sitting up from that position, I mean, and then standing up beside the bed. Anyway, I don’t want to read anything. I don’t want to listen to anything. I just want to continue lying on my back and think about what happened to me today. About a half hour ago. What could have been the worst thing that ever happened to me. I surely thought I was lost. That’s why I went to my bed so soon after I got home and cleaned myself and changed my undershorts and sweatpants. To think about what happened to me before. And also, no doubt, to calm myself down after the experience. I had just mailed a couple of packages at the post office near my house. I’ve been giving away a lot of things lately and these were two of them: an ice bucket that was given to my wife and me for our wedding thirty-three years ago. To my niece in Connecticut, who entertains a lot and I thought would like having a silver ice bucket from Tiffany’s. It’s badly tarnished–hasn’t been cleaned for years–but that would be easy to remedy with silver polish. I even thought of buying some silver polish and putting it in the package with the bucket. But then I thought she might take some sort of offense at that–I don’t know what. And she also might think when she opens the package: Doesn’t he think I have an ice bucket, though I doubt she has one as good as this one and from Tiffany’s, and that she probably has silver polish at home? The other package was to my sister in California: a set of six VCR tapes of Sid Caesar television shows of the Fifties. My wife had ordered them online about ten years ago. Or maybe she got the phone number of the company that sold them and ordered them that way. She would, about once a month, when she felt she needed a good laugh, as she said, watch one or two of the tapes, and usually I’d join her, mostly to keep her company. When I told my sister I had these tapes and was going to give them to Purple Heart or MS Society or some organization like that when they called to say their truck was going to be in my neighborhood and did I have anything for them to pick up?–somehow this came up in our phone conversation–she said she was a big Sid Caesar fan and she also still had a working VCR player and would love to have the tapes. But about what happened to me less than an hour ago. I was in my car.

Rewilding

By Bud Smith

Short Story

Good Luck: Episode Fifty-Two



The man didn’t know. He didn’t know who he was. He didn’t know where he was. Or when it was. The room was dark. Someone was snoring on the other side of it. He lay there. Blankets covered him, but he had no words for what the blankets were, or the feelings they gave him, warmth, comfort. He couldn’t count that there were two blankets, or know they were made of a synthetic material. His mind was blank, his pillow thin.

 

The sun began to light the earth and the dark room took shape. He heard the click of footsteps outside the door, passing voices. A white curtain appeared around him. On the bedside table was a telephone with a blinking amber light. He had a message but he didn’t know what a telephone was or what a message was. He couldn’t receive the message.

 

A cloud passed in front of the low hanging sun and the room was momentarily shaded. He closed his eyes. He had already learned two things, darkness and light. He choose darkness. In darkness he wouldn’t have to try to name things.

 

The curtain moved. The nurse had come with an IV. She touched his arm, he jumped. She yipped in surprise, fell backwards. The IV tipped over. She hurried out of the room, came back with two more nurses. “Do you know who you are?” “Do you know who the president is?” “How many fingers am I holding up?” It didn’t matter what they asked, he didn’t know how to speak. He was like a baby. Drooling. They wiped his chin. The doctor ran in, bewildered and panting. The doctor told him the bad news, he had awoken in the worst hospital in America.

Eviction

By Bud Smith

Short Story

Good Luck: Episode Fifty-One

 

 

My psychiatrist was dressed as a sad clown. 

 

Rainbow wig. Greasepaint. 

 

Bells on his shoes. He answered the door and asked me what I was supposed to be. “Stanley Kowalski. But I don’t have my costume on.” I told him my real name, I wasn’t a trick ‘r treater. 

 

He removed his silk glove. I shook his hand. The appointment had not been written in the log. His office was full of green fog. 

 

A record was spinning, Now That’s What I Call Halloween Vol. 666. He lifted the needle. The moaning and chain rattle calmed. 

 

The couch was covered in artificial cobwebs. He motioned to it. 

 

I could see out the window: werewolf children walked by, witch children, Star Wars children, grim reaper children, a laughing mother dressed as a mother, a father with a flashlight. 

 

It was just after dusk. I sat down. 

 

“How are you feeling?”

 

I looked at his red rubber nose. Behind him I could see his certificate on the wall. He’d graduated from Johns Hopkins University. 

 

“I’m not feeling good,” I said. 

 

“Why?” 

 

“I can’t remember.”

Preorder Comaville from Clash Books. 

 

Josh Husk awoke in a bed that had once belonged to him. The sun peered through the nearby window, gently stroking his face. He lay there for a brief moment, feeling the textures enveloping him. The bed was much too small for him, his legs dangling over the side at mid-shin. He sat up, confused and alert as if he had just left a nightmare behind. He took in the room. It was foreign, yet familiar.

The floor was a sprawling, orange, shag carpet; a disgusting sea of burnt pumpkin. Sparse blotches of brown were mixed in, which seemed more like accidents than artistic choices. The length of the shag bordered on experimental, reaching almost two inches in height. 

A dial television set sat on the floor, surrounded by an old gaming console. The controllers sat amongst the shag, their wires tangled in unsolvable knots, snaking through the carpet. Action figures were scattered about like the bodies of fallen soldiers. The walls were blanketed with posters from Saturday morning cartoons and beloved video game characters. 

It became apparent to Josh, at that moment, that this was his childhood bedroom.

Red Skies

By Bud Smith

Short Story

Good Luck: Episode Fifty

 

A day before the end, I forget. It’s warm and the sky is deep red and the clouds roll slowly by. My coworker climbs up on a flatbed truck and lies down and looks up at that red sky and those clouds rolling by. “Hey Bud, you know what my dream is? I forget.” 

 •

I don’t suppose I’m blessed. And I hear someone singing, “Red skies smilin’ at me. Nothin’ but red skies do I see. Redbirds singin’ a song. Nothin’ but red skies from now on.”

 •

I woke up hungover and put on the radio.  Someone was singing about red skies. Rae opened her eyes, said it was such a nice song. Could I play it again? I reached over and the radio was gone and so was the music. A year goes so fast.

 •

Here is a part I forgot.