MAX

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An anonymous post from a man who would like to be known as Voldemort.

MAX 

 

I’m standing outside the Thai place

When my Brother’s new girlfriend asks if I know Max

It takes a minute, then a big grin hits my face

 

We blitzkrieged bumper cars

Max’s broad freckled face bright red

Under his howling mop of hair

Sparks raining from the roof

Rock and roll blasting

Metal slamming

A pair of screaming girls with too much make-up

And too much hair

Busting into our cherry-red hotrod

Every chance they got

 

At sixteen Max bailed out on his drunken old man

and showed up on his brother’s doorstep

 

We were the new kids in town

He crushed cardboard behind the liquor store

I took the night shift at the burger joint

We’d work late, meet on the beach, get high

Eat beef jerky, talk about girls:

Max was in love with juicy-lips Yvonne

Who looked like Carly Simon

 

When his grades started sliding

His brother threatened to kick him back to his old man

Getting caught tossing Schlitz 40s in the liquor store dumpster

Got Max mailed all the way back to a ratty trailer

In a forgotten corner of Washington

 

I missed his howling happiness so much

I had holes in my heart

I draped around the high school halls like a ghost

When the first day of summer split the school open

Like a ripe pomegranate

I was the first red seed that hit the 101

With a pocketful of burger joint money

I hitchhiked up to see him

One youth-mad soul looking for another

 

Our third night

We were laughing like madmen

Gorging on chips and beer

When his old man

Face red as a taillight

Threw open the door

Called Max dog shit

Threatened to beat the hell out of him

And then told me to Get the fuck back under whatever rock it was

I’d crawled out from under

He kicked the dog

And passed out in the yard

 

When dawn bit the edges of the sky with ragged teeth

Max snagged his old man’s keys

We slipped past his snoring corpse

Tossed my ratty backpack in the truck bed

And careened down miles of two-lane roads

To the summer hotspot

A thick green lazy river

Where girls in cut-offs listened to Heart and The Boss

And whip-thin boys took a last puff, flicked their butts into the blue

And toppled from a soaring railroad trestle

Like they’d been shot

 

When the day dropped down to shadows

Max cranked up the truck

And dropped me on the dirty diesel edge of I-5

I got my pack out of the rusty bed

And the interstate roared by my shoes

A hot river of melted chrome and smashed tail lights

 

Max leaned out the window, hit my shoulder, looked at me hard, said,

“Fuck, man, I love you.”

Then he tipped his head back, yelled, “Fuck ‘em all!”

Wolf-howled out a last rebel yell

Hit the gas

And shot off down a two-lane hole

Of hope, dust and hot red twilight

 

…and far down the road, so far he was almost a ghost,

his fist shot out of the truck window

and he gave the world the finger

 

I’m outside the Thai place

Old and beat to shit by all the usual suspects

That plunder the starry vaults of youth

And my Brother’s new honey won’t leave it alone

I find out Max has been a plumber for twenty years

His kid’s on drugs

And then the girlfriend outdoes herself:

I’m afraid I have some really bad news

He’s paralyzed from a motorcycle accident

 

I’m stuck in the cement of the dirty parking lot

Like an old brush stuck in a can of drying paint

 

Way down under my dusty ribs

My heart stands up; kick starts the dirt bike of hurt

Hops on and goes hunting for Max

 

My brother sees my face

And drags his new honey away before she can do any more damage

 

I stand there a long time

 

I remember a gap-toothed kid

Who toppled off soaring railway trestles

into rivers so green

they hurt your eyes

 

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