Plague of Grackles
Jim Ruland

This afternoon in group, Sally told you not to touch yourself down there and everyone looked. It was like being on camera again, all those eyeballs aimed at your pussy. You kind of liked it. You looked for the red light. There was no red light.

Once, you were famous. The kind of fame that reaches into places like Nebraska and Tennessee. Where you have to tip twice as much as you would in L.A. or else they'll say you're a cheap bitch. Not that they'd be wrong.

You've been here thirty days. Tonight they gave you a stale cake. You joked about a file. Everyone jokes about a file. You have fifteen more days here. Daydream about snorting cocaine off a drowsy penis, and wish you could project the image on the wall for everyone to see. Who would laugh, who would close their eyes, who would whimper from the want.

Oh, how you want and want and want. They don't get that about you. If you don't get some action soon, you're going to have to ride your roommate's face again, and Sara isn't even a lesbo. That's what used-to-be-famous gets you in a place like this. You've always been a take-what-you-can-get kind of girl.

At bedtime, you read the prayers you haven't bothered to memorize off a greasy sheet of paper jacketed in laminate, and let it slip from your fingers when the lights go out. You pray for patience and gratitude and a weeklong party with clean bathrooms and locks on the stalls. Your prayers are like grackles scattering skyward, first one, then two, dissipating into a confusion of hues until the dark mass rises and with one voice cries: remember me.

Jim Ruland is the author of Big Lonesome and the host of Vermin on the Mount, an L.A.-based reading series.

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Detail of manipulated photo on main page courtesy of Roy Blumenthal.

Read more of JR's work in the archive.

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