“After 2:00AM” by Joshua Hebburn

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Andre and him were going to get more beer at the gas station. It was after two in the morning and the gas station was the only place open all night that they could walk to from Andre’s apartment. They knew the gas station well from many other two in the mornings arrived at and passed through inside Andre’s apartment. 

They walked in the streets, through the diffuse circles of the streetlights. They talked shit about Andres roommate and how that loser had that girlfriend. They planned for Scott to be his roommate again. They talked shit about their mutual and absent friends. They talked about how everyone thought they were so much better than they were in highschool, but they were really just the same in nicer clothes. How much it sucked that nobody wanted to hang anymore. Everyone said they couldn’t. They talked about why they said it, how these things were variously lies. 

Then they were quiet for awhile except for the crunch of their sneakers. Yeah fuck em they said, one after the other. 

They came to the station. In the night it was luminescent and temporary seeming in its plastic and sheet metal exterior like a UFO toutching down for scouting in these suburbs. They walked into the gasoline smell. Scott liked the gasoline smell, and so did Andre. “Smells like teen spirit,” he said and Andre laughed. There was the old guy who sat with childlike eyes on the swivel stool in the cube plastic with the cash register and a wall of cigarettes. There were the candy and nut bags hanging from pegs or sloped in boxes, individually packaged. There was the wall of car gear. There were the three doorway coolers lit from their interiors with a white light that was slightly more blue than all the other light. Scott thought it was like an angel might be like encountered in heaven. 

Andre and him were going to get two of the tall cans each out of that cooler, but there was the boomerang. They stood next to one another by it and admitted it into their company.

The boomerang was made of light wood, like something you would get from Ikea. There were black racing stripes painted on each horn. It hung from a peg in the forest of tree shaped air fresheners. It was as if it had become errant and lodged there. 

“Hey,” Andre said, “Is this for sale?” Scott picked up the boomerang. It was not like something from Ikea: it was solid. It seemed like the real Australian deal. A koala killer. The way he held it made that clear to Andre.

The guy didn’t respond.

“Hey,” Andre said more loudly, “Hey, what about this.” 

The guy looked over. His eyes were vacant for a moment, like Andre’s hamster sitting in it’s cage. Then he was in them. He looked at Andre and Scott. He leaned up to the circle of perforations in his cube of plastic. He had such healthy skin. 

“Hey about this,” Scott said, wagging it.

“How much does it say on the peg?” The guy said. “It’s how much it says with its peg.”

Scott and Andre looked. They looked at one another’s eyes. It was decided. What else was there to choose but something other than more of the same?

Two hours later they would be sitting together in the emergency room, sober, blood coming through a towel pressed to Andre’s face. They would both smile like the idiots they knew they were when the young nurse turned her head, giving them the look. Scott was holding the boomerang. The boomerang was bloodied. It looked like a movie prop. 

Oh God, she would mouth at them. She couldn’t help it, what she would do next. The other nurse would tease. 

One day or night soon one of them would throw the boomerang again, and, of course, it wouldn’t come back. But it had that night, again and again, it had.

 

Joshua Hebburn’s fiction is previously in Back Patio, and has also been in X-R-A-Y, Hobart, and elsewhere. He tweets infrequently @joshuahebburn 

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