The "THERAPIST" Issue


Kegger in Primordial Woods

     by Matthew Dexter

Soon as we buried Mom, Dad jerked a new iPhone from his tighty-whities and made me pinky promise to call him whenever I got too drunk to drive.

“Promise to pick you up—anytime, anywhere—no questions asked,” Dad said. Dad’s callused pinky winking, we sprinkled dust on Mom’s coffin. Nine months since her cirrhosis diagnosis. I could smell Mom through the dirt. The way her waffles and

pancakes reeked of stale Natty Light and middle-aged M.I.L.F. sweat. Her scrambled eggs, bacon, and French toast haunted hallways.

“One drink at your weight will catapult your blood-alcohol over the limit,” Dad said.

Dad reeked of whisky. Bulimics develop a potent sense of smell. Sometimes visceral aroma from miserable organs creeps up my ruptured esophagus. Every tween in our neighborhood wanted “to bang” Mom. Juvenile delinquents with Ricky Martin faces carved her name into the bark of American yellowwoods for miles. Eleven-year-olds camouflaged behind rhododendrons in praying mantis position, praying to catch Mom doing the crip walk in her granny panties—sipping sizzurp and puffing a canoeing spliff of bubonic chronic.

“That’s all it takes,” Dad said. “One Zima or Jell-O shot.”

“I promise,” I said.

“She’s at peace now,” Dad said.  


Mom’s liver, a labyrinth of jigsaw pieces. Dad reads his New York Times.

Alcoholism, nothing more than blood washed through the toilet.

“Don’t get behind the wheel,” Carla said. “You’re lit.”

I swaggered toward my blurry Ford Focus. We’d been eyeballing shots of Don Julio and chugging Natty Light. It was midnight. Roman candles arched above our heads into Dead Woman’s Woods where weather-beaten kegs coruscated, illuminated by bonfires. Corona bottle rockets whistled through the night and we shielded bloodshot eyeballs ‘cause Nancy Wilson lost her vision last summer and we’ll never forget Nancy howling and hobbling around that bonfire barefoot and half-naked through burning charcoal, sparks shooting from both nostrils.

“We’re lit,” I said.

A pothead swore we were “one keg stand from a broken skull.”

Giggles, explosions, and convivial revelry oozed from the woods. Carla fingered my iPhone from my pocket and dialed Dad.

“Hello,” Dad said.

“I’ve been drinking,” I said.

I expected a grunt—some subtle sign of aggravation or disappointment—but there was nothing other than Dad asking, “Where are you?”

“Dead Woman’s Woods,” I said.

“Be there in twenty minutes,” Dad said. “Wait for me.”

“Thanks, Dad,” I said.

“Thank you,” Dad said. “I love you.”

“Love you too,” I said.

I could smell Mom through the holes in my iPhone. Carla kicked soggy dirt. Drunken teens guzzled tall boys of Natty Light behind steering wheels, revving engines, tires spinning through puddles of vomit. We lay on our backs and watched the moon as Roman candles danced across the sky. Carla puked into a mound of fire ants. The world grew smaller, full of dust and cirrhosis, as if we could hold Mom within headlight beams. Shards of Corona bottles glimmered in moonlit patches as if breadcrumb trails from feeble children blinded by bottle rockets—innocence nothing but reflections in nimble shadows—Dead Woman’s Woods spun faster.

“Your dad sounds really cool,” Carla said.

“He is,” I said.

“Will he be pissed?”


            “Can I still stay at your house?”  

“Of course.”  

We watched headlights rising and falling. An SUV approaching as dyslexic students blasted G-Unit. Fourteen-year-olds became special victims, wolfing dicks of drivers racing backwards and doing donuts, lawless across a million cigarette butts. Dad coasted toward the kegger, hunched over the wheel, smirking, bloodshot, ghost riding the whip, crucifix catching moonshine.

“Here he comes,” I said.

Carla drowned fire ants in a vomit splash. Dad skid through a puddle of piss and puke as a bottle rocket bounced off his windshield. He stuck his head out the window to catch a glimpse of Roman candles dancing through the debauchery of night.

“Thanks for coming,” I said.

“Thanks for calling,” Dad said.

“Thanks,” said Carla.

“No sweat,” Dad said. “You girls made the right decision.”

Dad looked funny in the rearview, lobster sunburned, shitfaced. We could smell the vodka from the backseat. Dad bathed in Smirnoff before swaggering into his Ford Explorer. I watched my Ford Focus vanish into fog as the woods sunk further into oblivion.

“Dead Woman’s Woods, huh?” Dad asked.

“Ah-huh,” we said.

Dad drove slower than usual on the freeway. He bitched about shipwrecks, the weather, the fog, whether or not we had another set of clean sheets for Carla. The siren screamed. Nobody said anything. Dad pulled onto the gravel shoulder and opened the glove box with callused pinkies.

“Sir, can I see your license and registration?” asked the cop.

The officer looked at us and nodded. Dad provided his documentation.  

“Can you step out of the vehicle, sir?” the cop asked.

Dad complied. Guzzling stardust was the least of our family’s quandaries. We watched Dad walking that white line. He seemed to be doing fine. Roman candles rose with wyvern inertia from the fog. Dad got cocky and crip walked and collapsed. The cop picked him up and Dad bounced on one foot with his hand on his nose, knee bent with the poise of a flamingo, hobbling as if his foot was on fire before tumbling and rolling across the shoulder toward the graffiti-gutted guardrail.  

“Oh shit,” I said.

The cop handcuffed Dad and shoved his bloody head into the backseat of the cruiser. Carla grabbed my hand. She nibbled my earlobe and licked my neck where fresh hickies from the bonfire glistened beneath kaleidoscopic strobe lights.

“You’ll never forget this,” Carla said.