when did you know
Somewhere back in the rear part of her consciousness, Anna has always known things between her and Charlie would end poorly. Her friends had warned her. He wasn’t the faithful type, wasn’t the safe type, wasn’t the type who would fall into a normal routine, work normal hours, drive back and forth to work from the suburbs. He wasn’t like her father or her friends’ husbands. The thing was, she didn’t want that normal type of guy. Charlie was strong, dark, complex, tender, and mysterious. She never hoped to tame him, but she had hoped that they might one day come to understand one another.
when you said the word
Johnnie found himself in the back seat of minibus in the parking lot of a hamburger joint in Spokane, having sex with a red-haired woman named Annie Lovelace who had a tribal tiger’s-eyes tattoo on her lower back, just above her marvelous rear end. She was a connection he met through a friend and they had just visited a marijuana farm together, and Johnnie was newly in possession of a quarter pound of freshly-cured skunk. He didn’t really understand the significance of the tattoo, and he wasn’t going to ask her. It was a kind of spontaneous coupling. After two double cheeseburgers and strawberry milkshakes, she just stripped off her clothes and rubbed back into him with a kind of purr and said take me. The bouncing eyes stared up at him and he wondered what she saw in him.
when a little thing may turn large
Neither Dave nor Jenny understood the importance that dress-up was beginning to play in their relationship. Some of their routines were more perverse than others. He just loved the way her rear end looked in a plaid schoolgirl skirt, and she evidently had some deeply-rooted unresolved issues with her junior high school vice-principal.
when did you get so mean
Roger drives some old art-school friends who’ve flown down from RISD to witness some of Texas’s finer site-specific art up to Amarillo for an afternoon at the Cadillac Ranch. They absolutely insisted. Roger himself has never cared much for the place, ten graffiti-festooned rear-ends of vintage Cadillacs angled up from a wheat field in the middle of nowhere. When they get there after hours and hours of empty road, Rogers says he hopes they feel like they got their fill of junkyard kitsch. He remarks that he finds it to be a work utterly without social significance, and Lanie, a sound sculptor with whom he once shared a Providence apartment, asks him when he got so stuck up that he could no longer appreciate good old-fashioned Americana.
when we want more than we need
Howard thinks of the security apparatus as a giant beast of a Rube Goldberg machine, a kind of feral robot monster with millions of box-cutter-sharp teeth which might, at any moment, rear up and turn back on its creators with a great vengeful ferocity.
when will we be through with this
Maybe more than any particular drug, what makes Johnnie weep and shake in the Burning Man tent is that this year, the Burning Man is a woman. She is reaching for the sky, a beautiful sculpture towering over the Playa, and when the time comes, they are going to burn her alive. Some circuit in his rear brain loops the phrase over and over again, and he can’t stop it. Burn her alive. Burn her alive. Burn her alive.
when will you end it
Anna is sane enough to recognize that suicide would not be a fitting tribute to her dead son. Nonetheless, she often feels like she is standing over Pandora’s box, and the box is completely empty. Her treasure is gone, and the dark places in the rear of her consciousness sometimes call her toward the medicine cabinet, toward the sleeping pills or straight razor.
when the time has come
Roger is explaining the significance of “Memories of Our Last Roads” to an audience of high school art students, his sense that whatever environmental battle it was we are fighting is already lost, that the age of American empire is over, that we can only hope to land on our rear ends, at best, and at worst, to fall off into nothingness. Their faces are bleak and distracted, and he wonders if most of them aren’t stoned.
when will you change
Johnnie was an impatient child. He rarely won at games. He certainly almost never beat Charlie, who was patient, and capable of being very calculating from an early age. Johnnie took foolish risks, chances that would rear up and bite him in the ass. Of course in the end Charlie looked out for his brother. After Johnnie lost all of his marbles playing keepsies, Charlie would catch up to the dejected boy, storming away from the other children, and casually pass him a handful, just enough to get back in the game.
when will I see you again
Sometimes you say goodbye believing that you will see your friend again, in a week or two, or a matter of months, or perhaps a few years. You rarely consider the farewell as a permanent break. Human relationships are built around the promise of renewal. Sometimes, however, you part ways knowing that this person, who you were acquainted with, or who you knew well, or even loved, perhaps still love, will dwindle off into the rear of the horizon, will float away from you, never to return again.