John Grochalski

by Horror Sleaze Trash on March 12, 2014

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John Grochalski is the author of The Noose Doesn’t Get Any Looser After You Punch Out (Six Gallery Press 2008), Glass City (Low Ghost Press, 2010), In The Year of Everything Dying (Camel Saloon, 2012), and the novel, The Librarian (Six Gallery Press 2013).  Grochalski currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, where he constantly worries about the high cost of everything.



 

on george rubio’s porch

 

calvin had this thing

about pissing on george rubio’s porch

we’d be at the bar or the strip club

and out of nowhere he’d turn to me and say

let’s go and take a piss on george rubio’s porch

it seemed a little nonsensical to me

especially when surrounded by beer and half-naked women

i wasn’t george rubio’s biggest fan

but i didn’t want to piss on his porch either

i didn’t know what it was for calvin

george rubio was his friend

i thought they were tight

but then there’d calvin go

some stripper’s ass in his face

his fifth or sixth bottle of beer half-finished

talking about pissing on george rubio’s porch

fuck george rubio he’d say

then he’d down his beer and shove another dollar

in the stripper’s g-string

she’d smile and shake her ass and walk away

and calvin would never know it

he was in the zone

maybe it was a macho thing

some way for calvin to get back at george

for always spiking his coffee with ketchup and salt

saturdays at the eat’n’park

man, if my girlfriend only knew what we were doing

the summer i turned twenty-one

she and i argued all of the time back then

she thought that i was cheating on her

i guess i was with beer and strippers

and dates to piss on george rubio’s porch

it was the kind of shit you did when you were drunk

and young and out of options

but there we’d go

neither of us in any shape to drive

crawling slowly up city streets

looking for george rubio’s house

calvin always had the bass in his car going too high

and i worried we’d get caught

but no one ever came out

soon enough there we’d be

standing on a dark porch long after midnight

on george rubio’s porch

filled with old bats and gloves

chairs that were used to save parking spots in the winter

a cooler george used for soda and beer when he went fishing

calvin would turn away from me

and i’d turn away from him

in no time came the hot hiss of urine on concrete

on all george’s stuff  and in the cooler too

then the quiet laughter of two idiots getting their last kicks

not worrying about jobs or money or girlfriends

or beer or strippers of the future

but handling the task at hand

pissing on george rubio’s porch

on a humid summer night in pittsburgh

when the age of twenty-one felt like it was going to last forever

and the rising sun was like a pause button

on all the new good times

we thought we were always going to have.

why not smile?

 

he used to pull me into that office

almost weekly

it always smelled of coffee and his bad breath

i would sit there thinking

that he should see a dentist

while he ran down this week’s list of my infractions

curt on the phone with customers

curt on the sales floor

five days without shaving

wine and food stains on my pants

and my eyes red from whatever i did when not there

then he’d tell me that i was lucky to have this job

this isn’t a bad job, he’d say

which was easy for him to say

because it had become his career

but for me it was the only job

that i could find in buffalo

i get it, he’d tell me

sometimes a job wears you down

sometimes the public does

but these customers put my kids through college

they put food on your table

which explained why i hadn’t enjoyed a meal

since i took this job

this job is a piece of cake, he’d say

but you, i don’t get you

you’re an enigma

you walk around this store like you hate everything

you don’t smile

you don’t talk to your co-workers

you show no emotion at all

then he would smile wide

and the room smelt worse than before

see? he’s say, pointing at his face

it’s easy

it’s easy to smile, john

why not smile

every once in a while?

then he’d dismiss me like we’d made real progress

he’d unleash me back onto the sales floor

where some lonely old woman

would start yelling at me

about why we were out of stock on sale white zinfandel

or some kid would knock over a whiskey display

and his mother would yell at me about lawsuits

and i’d start thinking about how

there were no other jobs in buffalo

how i was stuck in this place for nine hours a day

how i’d commit suicide rather than smile at this place

and i knew i’d be back in his office the next week

smelling his bad breath

the two of us hopeless

and worn out with each other

but doing that same song and dance.

free drinks

 

i don’t know why she chose us

we weren’t the best looking ones in the bar

far from it

colby had a beer belly from college

and i’d had one since birth

maybe we were easy targets

buy me a drink, she came over and said

i told her it doesn’t work like that

how does it work? she said

a little conversation

a little quality time

she said, i don’t have time for that shit

buy me a drink and buy my friends a drink

beer? colby said

no, she said, something expensive

only the top shelf, she said

i asked her where she went to school

it’s not your business, she said

what do you do for fun? i asked

i get free drinks, she said

all i’ll buy you is a beer, colby said

then he went to get her a draft

while the girl and i stood there taking up time

she asked me for a cigarette and i gave her one

this isn’t what i wanted, she said

when colby came back with the beer

it’s what i told you

you were getting, colby said

only top shelf, asshole, she said

a little more time, i said

a little bit more conversation, baby

show some tit and you can have the world

well, fuck it, colby said

he had a long pull on the draft

when he put it back down she threw her cigarette in it

the three of us watched the butt

turn gray and swim around in the beer

before colby took the pint and dumped it over her head

up until then

i’d never heard a woman scream the way she did

we tore out of the bar

running past all of the men

she could’ve caged better drinks off of

those attractive little punk rock boys

drinking top shelf liquor on their parents dime

we were half way up the block

before we stopped running and started laughing

we knew we wouldn’t be going back

to that bar for a while

well, she wanted a free drink, colby said

just as the bar doors opened

and she came out sopping from beer

with all of her thirsty friends

with at least half a dozen punk rock men

shouting, there they are

as we took off again in the humid night

there go those cheap bastards.

portrait of the artist

as a bloated borderline alcoholic

 

i always think

that i look better than i do in pictures

younger and healthier

my hair is always looking decent

on the street when women look at me

i like to think, yeah, they’re onto something good

but then someone takes a picture of me

my wife or a family member or someone else

and the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming

the quasimodo hunchback

the face bloated from alcohol

the stomach like a barrel from beer and too much pizza

the hair flat and ugly blonde

the beard gone gray and white and wiry

when i see photos like these i think

christ, is this really what the rest of the world sees

when they look in my direction

i think this walking abomination can’t be me

but he is

i start making those terrible plans

kick the booze and kick the pizza

start up jogging again or log more miles on the walk to work

avoid sugar salts and fats

the problem is my memory is short

it must be all of the lost brain cells

and some days are just too long and hard

to forgo a stiff drink or three

sometimes pizza is my sole joy of the week

and i always thought that jogging was for assholes

i forgive and forget myself

allow for that vain amnesia to settle in again

i start to think

hey, i’m young and i’m healthy

i’ll bet my hair is looking pretty good too

i think i’m a golden god lost on the streets of brooklyn

and when i pass a woman in the street

when she stares a little bit too long in my direction

i think to myself

take a picture baby because it’ll last longer

just don’t send it my way, sweetheart

because my ego can drop like flies

at the blast of the flash

at the click of the shutter and snap.

 

swimming pool blues

 

i had been in the shallow end

splashing around alone

when they walked in

a pack of girls from my seventh grade class

maybe there were four or five of them

a good assortment of blondes and brunettes

even a few that i had secret crushes on

trying to be discrete

i swam further toward the end of the pool

to watch them strip out of their tops and shorts

then they were all in bikinis

showing more flesh than i knew they’d had

those tight asses and wonderful little breasts

that us boys had just started talking about at lunch

if i were anyone else

this would’ve been a boon for me

but i was me, one of the class fat kids

growing more and more self-conscious by the day

i was only in this pool because my mother

had paid for our membership

then spent weeks bitching because no one would use it

she had forced me into the water

because she’d grown tired of watching me

spend the summer wrapped in a towel

to shield myself from people and the hot and humid sun

it soon hit me that i was stuck

especially when the girls all came to the edge of the pool

to dip their feet in the water

and have an epic conversation about who knew what

i couldn’t go over to the girls

and with my white whale’s flesh

i’d be too exposed to attempt an escape

so i stayed treading water in the deep end

for what seemed to be an hour or more

my scalp was burning hot

my arms were tired and my legs felt numb

when i pulled my hands out of the water

the fingers were pruned and almost translucent

i had to take a piss

but those girls just sat there

and sunned themselves as if the worried life were nothing

quietly i begged for them to get up and go

as they put sprinkles of cold, chlorinated water

on their tanned flesh

and giggled about

whatever seventh grade girls giggled about

i was sure that if i got out

they’d laugh at me too

so i continued wading in that son-of-a-bitching pool

like a haggard shipwreck survivor

stranded for no matter how long it took

as the girls put lotion on each other

and other kids laughed and played away their summer

my poor dumb ass clinging to life

waiting on a rescue

that i knew would never come.

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