Death has done wonders for Hank’s cratered face. His phantom eyes are clear. His diarrhea and bellyache, gone.
His ratty boudoir was upstairs with its view of the industrial harbor. Now it’s made over as a baby’s room. Dead Hank has no wish to rattle the mother and child inside.
Hank doesn’t miss drinking. Doesn’t miss writing. Or the women. Their flopped-open purses and chipped toenail polish. Their loud laughter. Those sad parties. Instead, he’s nostalgic for a working man’s pleasures. A porterhouse bleeding on the counter. A fat kid from next door heaving the push mower east to west. Hank scratches his ghostly balls and pictures a sweating pitcher of lemonade that he and the boy could share.
Dead Hank longs, in fact, for his old job at the Post Office. The Mails. A timeclock to cheat. A busted-up sidewalk and frenzied dogs behind cyclone fences. Inside: the rolling stool. The bank of letterboxes. The dragging clock. His jackass supervisor.
Something to rail against.
His acolytes leave bottles of rum at his grave. Their hero: the hard-drinking artist who chucked a government job.
The ghost of Charles Bukowski doesn’t miss freezing his balls off delivering mail, or feeling like shit in his morning bed, or those idiot followers knocking on his door.
He dreams, when he dreams, of those letters in his hands. A knife-straight part in his hair. A friendly barber with a stack of girly magazines. His view of Terminal Island across the harbor; halfway to the Port of Long Beach.
The ghost of Charles Bukowski floats from his lawn chair. He hopes the neighbors don’t come and complain about the shaggy lawn. The bell might wake the baby. Rouse the fatigued mama. But then again, fuck it. Let them bitch. Let the sleep deprived totter on the edge of hallucination.
His gravestone admonishes: “Don’t try.” Still, it features the image of a boxer, dukes up.
PATRICIA QUINTANA BIDAR — Patricia is a western writer from the Port of Los Angeles area. Her work has been featured in Wigleaf, SmokeLong Quarterly, The Pinch, Little Patuxent Review, Flash Fiction America (W.W. Norton), Best Small Fictions 2023 (Alternating Current), and Best Microfiction 2023 (Pelekinesis Press). Her book of short fiction, Pardon Me For Moonwalking, will be published by Unsolicited Press in 2025. She lives with her family and unusual dog outside of Oakland, CA. https://patriciaqbidar.com
Art by FRANCESCA LEADER — Francesca is a self-taught writer and artist whose fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Wigleaf, Fictive Dream, the J Journal, Leon Literary, CutBank, and elsewhere. Her artwork has appeared in publications such as Scapegoat and FERAL, and will be featured on the cover of the November 2022 issue of Adanna Literary Journal. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter at @moon.in.a.bucket/mooninabucket.