by Jack Pendarvis
Two men, Harris and Burns, met for lunch.
Harris had a baby. He brought the baby to lunch.
Burns saw Harris getting out of his SUV. Harris had to put the baby on the ground for a moment, in its little car seat. Burns walked over to say hi. In the meantime, some people acted like they were in such a hurry to park that they didn't care if they ran over the baby.
A woman was driving. Her mouth was very wide open. Perhaps incorrectly, it seemed as if she were laughing at her own impatience, at how eager she seemed to run over the baby.
Harris picked up the baby in plenty of time.
Harris and Burns went inside and stood in line. It was a good taco place, where you had to stand in line to order.
The cashier asked if they were babysitting today.
Harris said that he babysat every day, by which he meant that this was his baby, and he took care of it every day.
Burns and Harris were not young men, say their average age was forty. One was a little older, one a little younger.
They didn't comport or groom themselves like men of that age. They wore t-shirts and acted casual. They were unemployed. One had brown hair and one's hair was somewhat lighter than brown. They were ugly.
They poured their own sweet tea from big zinc urns and sat down at a table and waited for their tacos. Harris balanced the little car seat in a chair. He had to turn the chair sideways to balance the baby in her car seat properly.
Burns said to Harris, in reference to the curious cashier, "I should have told her the baby has two daddies. That would have been funny."
The tacos came and the men began to eat the tacos.
The baby put her foot in her mouth.
"Look at that," said Burns. "Your baby thinks her foot is a taco."
Burns said to the baby, "Well, well, well. Do you think your foot is a taco? I'm going to call you Taco Foot."
Burns said to Harris, "From now on I'm going to call your baby Taco Foot. You should put a little soft taco shell on your baby's foot. Old Taco Foot. You should dress her up like a taco for Halloween. That would make a good costume. You should put some lettuce and tomato on her. Isn't that right, Taco Foot?"
"I'm getting sick of your fanciful attitude," said Harris.
"When you've wasted your life, part of you is like, 'Gosh, that's terrible.' And part of you is like, 'Oh well. I guess I should have thought of this sooner,'" said Burns.
"I'm sorry I snapped at you," said Harris.
"You had a baby," said Burns. "That's supposed to be a pretty good set-up by all accounts."
"It's not bad," said Harris.
"Let me be frank," said Burns. "I asked you to lunch today because I'm in love with your wife."
"When did this happen?" said Harris. "I ought to take this bottle of hot sauce and pour it in your eyes."
"Don't get me wrong," said Burns. "I'm not going to tell her. I'm never going to tell her. I'm going to walk around with a broken heart."
"Congratulations," said Harris.
"One time her tit popped out," said Burns. "She was nursing old Taco Foot at a party and I didn't even realize it. I was just standing there talking to her! Like normal! And then Taco Foot's head slid off of her mama's tit, didn't it, Taco Foot? It looked all red and ruddy, like it had been out in the sun."
"Marcie's tits are not red," said Harris.
"Healthful," said Burns. "They had a healthful look to them."
"I'm going to kill you," said Harris.
"Well, I'll see you later," said Burns. He wiped his mouth on a napkin. "Sorry to spring this on you. Now I feel awkward."
The tacos were small but filling. The men had already finished their tacos. Harris had ordered two fried chicken tacos and one special, which was a crispy pork taco. That whole taco had been deep-fried. Burns had ordered two fried chicken, one tilapia, and one crispy pork.
Burns was sitting at a red light when he noticed that Harris was behind him, bumping Burns's little car with his SUV, trying to push him into the oncoming traffic. He looked back and saw Harris's mad face but not Taco Foot because she was probably strapped safely into place. Burns's cell phone rang. He picked up.
"You twat," said Harris's voice. "This is what you get."
"We can't be punished for our thoughts," said Burns.
"Oh yes we can," said Harris.
All content in SmokeLong Quarterly copyright 2003-2014 by its authors.
Jack Pendarvis is the author of two books of short stories. His first novel, AWESOME, will be out in July. He is the visiting writer-in-residence at the University of Mississippi.
Read the interview.
|Issue Nineteen (December 15, 2007): The Off-Season by Jami Attenberg «» A Company Function by Grant Bailie «» Food Spectrum of the Rainbow Family by Melissa Bell «» Holiday Inn by Kim Chinquee «» Killer Pair by Trinie Dalton «» What Happened to My Purple Flip-Flops by Arwen Dewey «» Truth (ii) by Ben Ehrenreich «» How 9) Strange by Laird Hunt «» The Mess You Made in Us by C. Robin Madigan «» Red Brick by Darlin' Neal «» A Boy Not Born Yet by Tori Malcangio «» Taco Foot by Jack Pendarvis «» Boyandaquarter by Ben Stein «» Teec Nos Pos (Circle of Cottonwoods) by Beth Thomas «» Music from 1975 by Benjamin Weissman «» Interviews: Jami Attenberg «» Grant Bailie «» Melissa Bell «» Kim Chinquee «» Trinie Dalton «» Arwen Dewey «» Ben Ehrenreich «» Laird Hunt «» C. Robin Madigan «» Tori Malacangio «» Darlin' Neal «» Jack Pendarvis «» Jim Ruland «» Ben Stein «» Beth Thomas «» Benjamin Weissman «» Cover Art "Desire" by Marty D. Ison «» Letter From the Editor|