#4

A 43-year-old man in aluminum clothes antagonizes a mailbox with a series of “fuck!”s and “you!”s. “Who do you think you are?!” A cacophony of non-rhetorical questions. The mailbox does not answer. “Plead the Fifth, do you?!” Perhaps she or he or it is merely collecting thoughts, weighing the immensity of the thundering jackhammer inquisition as a dirt-nailed heretic, cowering before his indomitable sorcerer, might consider the ecclesiastical tribunal. “Speak!” The mailbox is a mute. “SPEAK!” Stillness. Silence begets an eagle’s claw. “SPEAK, MOTHERFUCKER. ANSWER ME.”

******

Almost a month ago, David Fronter would have binged on corn-fed slaughter cows, divvied up between milky-white buns, and, like juice from over-ripened apricot flesh, the meat would drip until it hit his lap, thighs dotted like painter’s cloth if ketchup were the medium. He would suckle the teat of Papa John if it meant free bread sticks. For David, food meant salvation. It meant undisturbed power, the pulse of supremacy, creme brûlée Jesus, divination via marbled flanks… For five to ten minutes, the time it would take for his gullet to pass pounds of lard. And in that time afterward: the dichotomy of prowess and spineless cowardice, the living and the dead. Now, a month later, after the juice, the serum, the healing light, the swan dive into pheromonic reactor sovereignty, David is Goliath. He is the banquet. The Holy Host. The Last Supper, rubbing elbows with ol’ Alpha and Omega and sipping the blood of his own majesty.

******

Dora Sandoval. Daughter to Thomas and Jenny Sandoval. Sister to Phila and Gregory Sandoval. Unwed. Mother of none. Her house resembles something like a middle-American, fast food battleground with chicken nugget carton ashtrays like wounded Armageddon warriors, counters lined with crumpled, grease-stained bags with rotting insides like withered pageant queens. Shag carpets. Blue-jean couch covers. Yellowing venetian blinds.

When Dora hangs up the phone with Margaret, she’s still maneuvering the small yellow paper between her fingers. Creasing it down the middle, then folding a rectangle, a square. She folds, unfolds, folds like a calculating launderer on chambray. Each time she unfolds, smoothing the creases until arriving at the original shape, she contemplates the ten numbers written in the center: a call-back number. “Hoax?” she thinks.

“Possibility?”

“Truth?”

“Deliverance?”

It seemed too familiar, too easy, like a random mid-afternoon phone scam offering cruise ship voyages to the Bahamas.

    GOOD AFTERNOON! You’ve qualified to enter into our GRAND CRUISE LOTTO! By staying on the line and completing a quick, five minute survey, your name will be automatically submitted into our LOTTO POOL! Win a trip to THE CARIBBEAN! All we need to secure your spot is a credit card number, expiration date, and security code.

But this time, no hidden fees. No credit card fraud. Only a glimmer of what could be. What is. A call-back number.

And what would she lose? Really? Her already depleted credit? Her 1984 Chevy Chevette burn-out carcass engine? Or, reeling back a couple weeks, lover at the time Travis Hans? His online persona supersedes that of the present, in person. Gaunt, tired, listless. Cyber role play mistresses in seventeen states. “Lucille Balls” in Oregon, who could swing back and forth like a gender pendulum. “Gussy Quake” in Mississippi, who surprisingly left little to the imagination, writing in long-winded sprints about cantaloupe orifices and honeydew melons. “Thelma Bulge” in Ohio. “Miss Vulgata” in Nebraska. It was exhausting, the amount of blow jobs in Times New Roman. Travis: the prolific virtual douche. Dora already lost that gem two weeks ago to a Walmart supervisor in New Mexico with dissociative personality disorder: the oligarchy of his loins. He called it “fate.” He called it “love.” He called it “sugartits.”

“Dora, I’m on my way out,” he said, clothes in a garbage bag thrown over his shoulder. “I’ve met the love of my life! Cupid’s arrow has struck me! He’s slashed me with his love stick!” She was debating whether to cry or pistol whip him in the corpus cavernosum, already half-erect from the mere mention of his Walmart sugartit. It was insensitive at best, but what can you really expect from a concave-chested polygamist?

That was the last time she saw him, two weeks before the intervention.

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