“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 

“Dispatch from L.A Public Transit” by Joshua Hebburn

46153009445_eaa6e9efaa_o.jpg Valentines day. Down below Union Station a subway car has released people. There is a subway in Los Angeles. It undergrounds from D.T.L.A to Hollywood and Westwood. Connectors, buses and a couple other light rail lines, attach and lead into many other counties of this city. 

I will take either train down below a couple of stops today to no Valentines special, just a scheduled meal downtown and some chatter. It happened to fall on this discrete day. Neither of us thought.

The concoursing of people out-from and in-to the shopping area, down and up the stairs to the Red and Purple lines, is disrupted. I have taken trains and buses for years, I have acquired a feel. It’s in how people are different in density, grouped less tightly, having been pulled back by something. It’s in their attitude, how they look backwards, or occasionally are making remarks to one another as clear strangers, a violation of good conduct under normal circumstances. Privacy is the sovereign value on the metro. 

I take the first de-escalator, down, anticipating.

This is one of the few places and times in Los Angeles you see a flow of people, rather than a gleaming bump or glimmering swish of cars. It is always a sight, populated like Los Angeles the city, by all human variation. Here all the people are again, today. There is the disruption, excitement backwards to it, but there is also Valentine’s day in the crowd. It can’t have been too bad, whatever it is. People are mostly calm. I look around more.

My heart rises in my chest. I am in an instant love sliding down the escalator and looking. It’s not with somebody, but with all these people in love with somebody, or at least in affection. Young and old, dark brown skin, tan skin, pale pinkish and whitish skin, holding hands, pecking rapid kisses, grasping boxes and bags and big bright bouquets, roses but also some sunflowers, a bunch of lillies, a bunch of tulips, one ridiculous orchid up-sticking, and people laughing. It is abundant. The focused or gently disturbed faces of regular commuters only sharpens the contrast like sand that a bar of gold is laid on. 

There is a landing between the escalators and the underground true, the tunnels. The disruption is on the landing, and approaches me as I approach. There are the chest-high yellow cones, tight pyramids, separating with their yellow yell. They have caution tape wound around them at the top to prohibit a zone. The darker yellow of the tape, the blocky san-serif lettering, holds a hand up. People move around, looking in.
A policeman stands off to one side, fat blueblack, with no definite aim other than his authority. The altercation is over. The cleaning crew is arriving off to another side, orange vests on baby blue metro shirts.

Inside the cones and tape is an almost empty space. On the tile are rose petals and thick drops of blood. Somebody has really gotten the thorns. 

I get on another de-escalator. There is an unpleasant humid wind in this open underground part of the station. It is caused by the displacement of air when another train arrives. I get on a train. That, I think, is the best fuck you I’ve ever seen. And what a day.

 


Joshua Hebburn lives in Los Angeles. His fiction is in Lazy Susan, X-R-A-Y’s Boneyard Issue, Maudlin House, and Hobart.

Twitter: @joshuahebburn