Stephen Langlois


We skip class. We bail. We ditch. Taller than our teachers, deeper-voiced, goateed, we smirk with secret knowledge we ourselves don‘t fully understand--and get the hell out of there. We hang out. We kill time. We loiter, a snickering band of cigarette-butt-flicking, loogie-hockers making the grocery shoppers, gas-pumpers and ATM line-waiters of the town nervous. Are we mocking them, these disciples of the afternoon errand? Probably we are, though the logic of it eludes even us.

Nights we go out in the woods behind the mall and smoke weed. We drink beer. We finish off the weed and settle again for cigarettes. We run into our cousins--our cousins are everywhere, our cousins are copious--who drive us around in beat-up hatchbacks. Not one among us doesn't dream of one day owning our own ride. Occasionally, we try to coax a girl or two into the car with us, but they’re all sad-eyed, stringy-haired and superior. Scorned, we do doughnuts in the Pizza Hut parking lot. Surely, there’s a metaphor in there somewhere. Us, speaking of metaphors?

We flunk. We fail. We drop out. We move out. We get kicked out. We drift from one cousin’s couch to another, a seemingly endless string of cigarette-burned cushions and makeshift pillows crafted out of ragged sweathshirts. Then one day our cousins have pregnant girlfriends, halfway decent jobs, a waning interest in playing video games all night, and we are forced to crash elsewhere.

Inevitably, we begin to smell. We reek. We stink. Showers are doled out to us stingily and we find ourselves clad, day after day, in the same black jeans, the same dirty windbreakers, the same promotional t-shirts from local fun-runs and softball tournaments neither ourselves nor anyone we know has participated in. We smirk infrequently. We still hock loogies, but with less panache. We huff a little paint. We pilfer Percocet. We’re grateful to the sour-faced, overweight girls who occasionally deign to sleep with us and we, tall, lanky men, follow them around from bar to bar meekly like a vaudevillian parody of devotion.

Yes, it’s true. We‘ve had our share of run-ins with the law: A box of shoplifted condoms, a hijacked snowmobile, a drunken brawl in front of Days Inn, a sober brawl out behind Wal-Mart, a handful of bogus B&E charges when all we were trying to do was take back what was rightfully ours. Over time, the cops have come to tolerate us, laughing along at our increasingly convoluted excuses. Often we are spotted in the street, elbows propped on the windows of cruisers, chatting with the officers inside like old friends exchanging comical vacation mishaps and home rennovation woes.

As for work, we slice meat, bus tables, wash dishes, round up shopping carts, shovel snow, mow lawns--that is, when we have work at all. Need a dilapidated garage cleared out, a flooded cellar cleaned up? We’ll do it, happily. We just empty our minds of thought, expel that little bit of want scratching at our souls like some midnight-raccoon at a trash can--we do raccoon removal, too--turn up 101.5 The Fox and the most demoralizing job is suddenly no more arduous than the act of breathing, than blinking, than simply existing.

Yes, that’s what we do most days: We exist. We are. We’re here, though many of our cousins have been lured upstate by Green Mountain Power's competitive wages and comprehensive benefits packages. We remain, like hubcaps strung along the shoulder, like staples on a utility pole clutching tattered bits of paper, like a cardboard TAKE ME sign when nothing is there to be taken. We’re around. We’re up for anything. Maybe we’ll stop by later. We'll bring a six-pack over. Still at the place on State Street? How's the Chevy running? Transmission's probably shot. We could take a look at it. Just come pick us up.

Stephen Langlois is a writer of short stories and pop culture ramblings. His work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Glimmer Train, Necessary Fiction, Weave Magazine, Burrow Press Review, Juked, and Gigantic Sequins, among other places. He lives in Brooklyn and toils in the dank, dimly lit world of the blogosphere at the Fifty Movie Pack Project.
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