• Blue Roses and Orange Stars by Bud Smith



    The other night the sky got green and the wind ripped all the weeds out of the vacant lot by the liquor store. For once the lot looked nice. Lasted eight days before new weeds popped up, glory be.

    I stopped and picked up a bottle of wine. They give you a little card at that liquor store. Get ten holes punched you get a free bottle. So I got the free bottle. You don’t get to pick what kind, it’s whatever they want, but that’s how life works too.

    On the way home, the traffic light was malfunctioning but I was walking and it didn’t matter. Rumbles of thunder and there was a man in a wool cap and color block shirt smashing paintings into the wire mesh trash can the city puts there on the corner by our apartment. He looked sick and inconsolable. He looked typical of this world.

    I’d been fighting with my woman a lot because she said I care more about drinking than I do about anything else.

    So I interrupted the inconsolable man, asking if I could have the last canvases he was about to destroy in the city’s trash can. And you know what he did to me? The maggot, he spit on me, but it started to rain and I didn’t get as upset as I would have if it didn’t start to rain.

    He stepped back with his hands out like an airplane and when I reached down and grabbed the canvas, he shoved me and I fell over onto the concrete. Elbow scraped up and bleeding, but I laughed, I have’t bled like that since I was a child. It felt good in a way. He scooped up the bottle of wine, ran off with it, whatever variety and vineyard and grape it was.

    Inadvertently I used the canvas like an umbrella against the rainstorm that was slamming down on me. Inside the building, my wife was walking down the hallway with a towel wrapped just around her waist. “Should have seen me jump out of that shower when I saw that lightning … What’s that?”

    She meant the canvas, “It’s something some psychopath made.”

    I shook it and sheets of water slopped on the wall paper.

    She tilted her head and grinned. “It’s good …”

    I set the painting down in the hallway and kicked off my wet shoes and pulled my shirt over my head, kept going till all clothes were off, because we pay the mortgage and the electric and the gas and the telephone and I walked with my junk hanging out, to our living room.

    I liked the painting, and not just because she liked the painting. I’d like the painting if I was the only person on Earth. I’d been spit on for it. I’d had my blood spilled for it. I’d been robbed of the very juice that had started up civilization.

    It was abstract art. Blue roses tumbling into orange seven painted stars that were melting. I hung the abstract art in the center of the wall where the TV used to be until I threw away the TV because the shows kept getting better and we were supposedly in the golden age of TV and in the golden age of TV I wasn’t making any art of my own anymore. Neither was she.

    Our apartment is just eight feet above the street, and we don’t own blinds because if we wanted privacy we’d just live in the country and have cows understand? And outside the window, I heard screaming.

    I looked out the window and it was the man in the color block shirt who had been throwing out the painting. His hat was gone now.

    “I see your balls! And you’ve got it upside down!”

    “I’ve got what upside?”

    “The fucking painting, you fuck!” The empty wine bottle sailed through the window, destroying the screen, and the trajectory interrupted by the screen sent the bottle smashing on the hard wood floor.

    My wife rushed into the living room, and in the rush the towel had slipped away, so we were both there naked and she let out a curse as she stepped on some of the broken wine bottle and her foot opened up. Blood and broken glass on the living room floor.

    The man raved down the street, laughing and still inconsolable, but not on our street anymore. And my wife sat in the computer chair, wincing and looking at her cut foot. She pulled the calendar off the wall and used the calendar to stop the bleeding. Outside I saw the wind had ripped down a tree branch and it had fallen on a beautiful new car. Red. Shiny. Just waxed. Good! Fuck that car! Fuck that tree!

    I remember, the sky was bubblegum and there was an inexplicable rainbow I could see bending over the woman’s catholic university. This was all just an hour before nightfall. I pulled the glass out of her foot with tweezers. We drank bottles number nine and ten. Pinot noir grape, probably, this was just after that shitty movie about wine had come out and that was what the people at the liquor store were pushing.

    When the second thunderstorm came at 9pm, we were both done bleeding, and on the couch, according to our hindsight calculations, making our first daughter.

    I don’t know how we lived then.


    Bud Smith works heavy construction in New Jersey. His books are F250, Tollbooth, Calm Face and others.

    Street Artist unknown.
    Photo by Adam Lawrence.

    Mississippi native Dent May recently signed to Carpark Records, and last week he released his first single with the new label.