Mel Bosworth & Ryan Ridge


I reached for a cigarette. You were having a seizure but I didn’t know it yet. It was Christmas Eve and everything was quiet for once at the halfway house. The others were out caroling and although my emphysema prohibited me from singing it didn’t stop me from smoking. I stepped onto the porch, torched a menthol, and found you seizing in the snow. Afterward, out of breath, I helped you to your feet and said: “Your seizure almost gave me a heart attack.” You lied and said it wasn’t a seizure. You said you were making an angel in the snow. I scrutinized the wild pattern and said, “That looks more like a snow demon to me.” “Yes, sir,” you said. “That there is the one and only Snow Angel of Death and it’s coming for us all someday, but this is my time now and I’ll have to go it alone.” In the distance, I could hear the men singing White Christmas and I noticed you were turning blue.


I’m nude, because I’m not wearing any clothes. They were stripped off me, after work, by a marauding pack of strippers. Now I’m free, though not because I’m not wearing any clothes, but because I’ve figured out the formula, and somewhere in that damn laboratory, or perhaps it was some time—some swirling, quantum toilet—something dawned, a morning, or a morning on a night, a night filled with full moons and laughter and convertibles, a tripped-out black-light erasure on a basement wall, something by Bill Blake maybe, all the kids sitting cross-legged on the indoor/outdoor carpet, arms locked, fingers interlocked, heads knocked back, and all of them all knowing, and nude, like me, because yes, they were, for certain, not wearing any clothes at all. Such was my beginning, long before my funding for Antarctica, long before those strippers grazed my sagging skin with their chests, breasts, and hearts. I told them, “This is happening now,” and since their painted lips were splashed between worlds they could not think to otherwise mutter, or spark.


He’d never tried to swim. Until now. The ocean visibly cringed at the sight of his airborne cannonball. He was borne through generations of whiskey and elongated bone. He was borne through miles of kite running and speed walking and jobs stopping. He squeezed his knees to his small chest. There was an impact. As the water wall rose, the world tucked and turned, one eye open, hidden grin.


He fought depression. He beat his wife’s boyfriend.


We took a wrong turn and ended up hooked on heroin. Then we took another wrong turn and ended up on the freeway. It turned into a dried up riverbed that was longer than a holiday weekend. The conversation we had was so far beneath us. We were high as balsa wood flyers. You searched the stations for a better song. I searched the riverbed for answers and a means of egress. Nothing. We were going somewhere once. Children. A mortgage. Tuscaloosa. It seemed that now we were just waiting for the dam to crack in the rearview and the riverbed to fill. The icy surge would surely overtake us and the mangy H we rode in on.

It’s Not Easy Being Green Cheese

I’d been measuring the months in unpaid bills and prepaid calling cards (although no one answered the phone anymore when I called), existing in an endless interval between upstart shutdowns and Powerball winners. This morning I skipped the mirror and went out into the world. The world had decided to skip me, I realized, when my foot fell into a puddle of dark matter and kept on falling. I ended up eating lunch on the dark side of the moon, mooning nosy satellites and tossing bread crusts to less finicky and more likeable cosmic cowgirls. I longed for longer relationships, a sense of balance, the perfect cup of coffee. What I got instead was a spectacular view of galaxies slow-motion salsa dancing and I guess I can think of worse ways to spend a few lifetimes.

Comprised of twelve constellations containing twelve epic miniatures each, Mel Bosworth and Ryan Ridge's Camouflage Country is one hundred forty four starbursts of American dreaming further fueled by thirty six original images. Excerpts have appeared or are forthcoming in Santa Monica Review, Sleeping Fish, Unmanned Press, McSweeney’s Small Chair, Hobart, Tin House, Sundog Lit, and elsewhere.
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