Jane

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Twenty-Four

 

My friend, the vampire, wanted to go to the vampire dance club in Newark, New Jersey. I said sure, even though I was not a vampire and didn’t dance. Turns out I was driving, too. That’s fine. There was nothing else going on. September, in my bayside town, one hour south. We climbed in my silver Mercury Cougar and drove north.

 

I met Jane at that vampire dance club. She was not a vampire either.

Butterfly

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Negative One

 

In the beginning, I got born. The doctor handed me to my mother and said good luck. I was crying. My father came in the room with a handlebar mustache, and my mother said good luck to him. Out the windows, specks of dead stars were falling out of the sky, landing in the ocean, hissing. Grandma and grandpa came by and said hello, good luck. The other grandma and grandpa came by and said there was no such thing as luck, don’t be superstitious. Shortly thereafter, they died.

Fish Hook

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Twenty-Two

 

Your life is a house where you keep your memories. You built this house. Before you, and your memories, there was just a field here, with wild flowers and grass and bugs. You and your house and your memories displaced all of that, but it’s okay, when you die, the house will fall down and the rooms with your memories will collapse under the weight, and the wood that built the house will rot away and feed the ground, so grass and bugs and wild flowers return.

Rewrite

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Eighteen

 

It was raining. I couldn’t leave work. The flash flood too deep to drive through, and I knew better. Another work emergency. Five of us in rain gear, hoods up over our hardhats, rubber booties stretched over steel-toed boots. (I don’t write specifics about my coworkers anymore, no names, no record of what they say or think—this after I was told it is unethical to write about people without letting them see it first before it’s printed.) Nameless, faceless, Us, in the storm, ripping apart an elephantine machine. Gears and pulleys. Its metal guts. Black grease smeared our yellow. Thunderstorms spinning around.

I got home in darkness, with wet socks and a headache. My usual routine was to write for a couple hours after work, but that now felt impossible. I’d go to the couch and dream till dinnertime. I opened the PO box, and a flash of lightning dimmed the lights of my building. Among the bills was a response from a publisher I’d sent a story to a year before. A purple post-it note said they were sorry to pass, but to please consider them again, the story had reached the later editorial rounds. They felt the characters and their resolutions didn’t feel earned, or true to life.

Block

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Seventeen

 

This paragraph was written on a cellphone at my day job. With all the mess, and the noise, and the constant humming and slamming of million pound machines. I’ve run out of things to say, which is unacceptable. Usually this place sounds like angels singing, but now the demons have begun to shriek.

Salad

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Sixteen

 

Rae said something. I couldn’t hear. 7th was too loud. She looked back over her shoulder to hear my answer, so I just said, “Yeah.”

Her hair was getting long again, curled up at the neckline. Each boot step clicked in a nice musical way.

She motioned for us to cross. The sidewalk got wider and it was okay to walk side by side with her, people had all the room in the world here.

The bars were packed with people. The restaurants had full tables. The jails were at max capacity too. The bookstores and churches were empty.

Suicide in Bed

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Fifteen

 

We’re watching the movie The Apartment. Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. We’re watching it because I didn’t know what an apartment was. Didn’t I feel stupid when I found out I’d been living in one for 14 years.

Little Guy

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Fourteen

 

Mom is the little guy. The youngest. Then Jonathan is born and he becomes the little guy. Seven kids. Jonathan, Robin, Lee, Elaine, Billy, Jefferey, Sandy, all of them have their time as the little guy.

Dad is the little guy, too. And stays that way. He has two older brothers, Joe and Jimmy.

Everyone goes to school. Grows up. Watches black and white TV. And then watches color TV. Dad is not my dad yet, he’s skinny. Mom is not my mom yet, she’s skinny in bell-bottoms, and feathered hair.

Dad wears wire framed glasses, has a red beard, builds a muscle car, and meets my mother.

She’s a little bit country. He’s a little bit rock ’n’ roll. They split the difference, move to Brick Town.

They get fried seafood somewhere.

Art

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Thirteen

 

First I want to say, art is done in a small room to make it big. Then I want to say, you’re going to die, you’ll need a distraction. Then I want to also say, art eats a gigantic thing with its many rows of teeny tiny teeth.

Grasshopper

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Twelve

 

[What follows is a transcript of a talk by Bud Smith given at McNally Jackson Books in NYC on Saturday, January 19th, 2019]

 

I didn’t know what I was going to say here tonight. I thought maybe I would read something, a story. I don’t know. I usually have my shit together.

For a while there, I was a wild goose about it, got nervous, couldn’t sleep. So I got out of bed and walked into the living room, asked for advice.

Someone on Reddit suggested I read y’all “The Swimmer by John Cheever. A famous short story. I didn’t know it, and it wasn’t available online. So I killed time, looked outside, where the night slipped into morning, blackness shifting into shades of rose and tangerine. That old familiar blue of morning, blooming.

Rae got up, asked if I was all right. Her purple pajamas became a black dress. She went to work. I walked over to the public library. They had John Cheever’s Collected Stories. That big red book. So I sat down by the Pepsi machine and read “The Swimmer.” A sad story about a man who drinks his life away, develops psychosis in the suburbs. I figured nobody at this city folk reading would even know what the suburbs were. So nevermind, “The Swimmer.”

Bullfrog

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Eleven

 

Our cacti can’t stand on their own anymore. We’ve braced them with toothpicks. I was gifted a ceramic lemon and a resin flamingo leaning left. They’re here on my bamboo desk in the pink room. I live here. She lives here. Friends sometimes live here. Come live here.

Melissa

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Ten

Driving through the night. A dark road. Melissa was in the backseat, holding my friend’s hand. I was up in the passenger seat, newly low. She’d stopped fucking me, now they were fucking. I mean it was more than that. They were in love. Me and her were out of love. A song came on the radio. “My Best Friend’s Girl” by the Cars. The driver turned it up. I can’t quite remember who was driving. I just know it wasn’t me. Those two lovebirds in the back started laughing. The driver laughed. I laughed too. I’m still laughing.

You’re born absolutely helpless. And then you’re alive awhile and you don’t think about how helpless you are. Then you get old and you turn back into a baby.

Public Defender

By Corey Burns

Essay

Law school doesn’t prepare you for the day-to-day practice of law, especially if you’re a public defender. Realizing this was actually kind of a relief for me because I spent all of law school on academic probation and graduated last in my class.  I mean, all you read in criminal procedure classes are these cases where the cops forgot to read someone their rights or did an illegal search, so a lawyer got his client off. You develop an expectation that cops screw shit up a lot. The reality is, those cases are pretty rare, which is what makes them famous cases. The cops don’t make the same mistake twice. So, all the stuff I was supposed to have learned turned out to be kind of useless.

Dreams

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Nine

Just a quiet Sunday when you don’t care. Leave the bedroom, 8am. Go out to the couch, read for awhile. Two books, a novel, So Long, See You Tomorrow, William Maxwell, and a small blue book analyzing dreams. I can’t remember my last dream. In the novel, the narrator is an old man, and can’t quite recall what he is trying to say about Illinois, 1922. I put the paperback down and look out my window. Jersey City, 2019.

Blue Skies

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Eight

Two days before the end, it’s warm and the sky is deep blue and the clouds roll slowly by. My coworker climbs up on a flatbed truck and lies down and looks up at that blue sky and those clouds rolling by. “Hey Bud, you know what my resolution is going to be?”

“What’s it gonna be?”

“I’m resolving to look up at the clouds more often. When was the last time you did that?”

“That’s all I really do,” I say.

“Well, I guess you’re blessed.”