BONDO by Harris Lahti

That summer I started working at Lexington Home for minimum wage. I spent shifts convincing residents to swallow pills brimming from paper cups. It was a powerful position. Or at least that’s what I told friends. I told them I could’ve swallowed every pill if I wanted. But the only question anyone ever asked was: “What happened to you?” I was permanently limping. My hips, shins, elbow were riddled with lumps and eggs. The city of Albany was full of cracks that stopped skateboard wheels dead and, it seemed, I’d found every one. I discovered the pink goo of car Bondo worked best for patching. In minutes it formed a hard, smooth layer. At night I dreamt of a seamless world where one could roll forever. Back then, friends were everywhere, too plentiful. It got so the nerves inside my face ached from laughing. I decided skateboarding was a legend factory. One night, we branded our legs with a hot iron then went dancing until the blood filled our socks. On the way home, we stole things from the park. Our best find was a billboard-sized Christmas sign depicting a happy Santa tossing presents that we stole from an unlocked shed. We plugged it in and blew the fuse of the apartment before he could toss any presents though. A week later someone went to the hospital with a staph infection while my own self-inflicted wounds healed nicely. The small miracle made me feel powerful. Other times I thought I might die I was so fragile. I called out of work constantly. But they refused to fire me. I hit another crack and separated my shoulder. It healed all wrong and began hanging awkwardly from my bones, straining the muscle over my heart. For a short time afterward I became convinced I was having a heart attack and admitted myself to the hospital. When the ER nurse asked me if I’d had any drugs, I lied and said, “No, never.” She brought me pills brimming a paper cup and told me I was okay to go. I tossed them back, showed her my tongue but she wasn’t looking. On my way home, I kicked over garbage cans, thinking I’d run into someone. I didn’t know where anyone was anymore, it seemed. I tried remembering if I’d called out of work already, if I should go in. Behind one can, I discovered a painting of Black Jesus rimmed in heavenly light. I carried it home and scrubbed the glass with Windex to give my new savior a brighter domain. Why had I started working at Lexington Home in the first place? I wondered. Black Jesus didn’t know either. Was it an ad in the paper? Sometimes I thought I just showed up at Lexington Home without invitation and slipped in among the residents, all seamless. Other times it was even less deliberate. Regardless, as I limped the halls that day, a happy Santa tossing out pills, electricity surged through my cracked bones as the residents shivered and rolled out their tongues.

Harris Lahti's work is forthcoming or appeared in Bomb, New York Tyrant, Sleepingfish, Hobart, and elsewhere. He edits fiction for Fence and Post Road and paints houses in New York's Hudson Valley. Recently, he finished his first novel, The Foreclosure Gothics. Read more:

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