“How Far Gone” by Kyle Kirshbom

In the backyard of Mickey’s house I snorted 2 lines of cocaine cut with 20mg of Adderall through a duct-taped straw.

I could have gummed it. Dipped my finger in the baggie and rubbed in my mouth. My nostrils were crusty trellises of rocky mucus, but my septum hadn’t collapsed yet. I was leaning on a warped wooden fence watching Mickey bend his neck over the encyclopedia to take the last two hits.

Mickey and I met when he was a barback at Champion’s. While he worked and I drank we talked about chess and which books we liked. He had a tattoo of a snake inside his right ear, and would invite me to hang out at his place after the bar closed. He didn’t have a car, and while I was looking for a place to stay, he let me sleep on his couch if I drove him to work.

I watched the clouds split in twos, threes, and fours. I wiped my nose. It was cold outside. I forgot my lumberjack coat at home. Mickey and I sat in his plastic green patio chairs drinking and smoking unfiltered Lucky Strikes. We listened carefully to the birds violently fuck each other in the trees above us and grinned.

Sounds like they’re doing it doggie style, Mickey said.

What kind of birds you think they are?

Probably robins. Or it could be owls.

How are you feeling?

I’m feeling fine. I could be higher though.

Me too.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

I’ve smoked meth a few times.

He looked shocked.

His shock was shocking.

I assumed he’d done everything.

He asked if I could tell him the story and I told him it wasn’t worth talking about because it wasn’t that interesting.

He said, I don’t know why, but I respect meth.

I respect good meth.

He asked if I knew anyone holding.

I told him I knew someone.

While birds fucked their tiny brains out we walked inside and played dice for hours.
He won and I won and he won and I won until I said, Let’s go get some meth.

My car leaked oil and was prone to overheating. Backing out his driveway I caught a glimpse of the small puddle left on the pavement, and the dotted trail that would follow us.
Mickey sat in the passenger seat looking out the window not saying anything. Around his feet were crushed-up fast food bags, old french fries, ketchup packets, books, a red lighter, two water bottles, two smoked joints, and loose change that added up to around $1.50. He was uncomfortable.

I pulled into a gas station to fill up the tank, and Mickey went in to piss. I texted Torie we were on the way, and she replied to meet her in the back. I took the pump out of the tank, and Mickey came out carrying a bag of sunflower seeds.

We got in the car and he asked where he could spit his seeds.

I told him to use the dixie cup in the holder.

He was throwing in at least ten seeds at a time, and spitting them out in the little paper cup.
Down the road, when he was halfway through the bag, we passed a couple on the shoulder. They were arguing next to their broken down truck.

I asked Mickey, Isn’t that your neighbors?

He crouched in his seat so they wouldn’t see him.

Yeah, they’re friends with my parents.

She’s hot, I said.

I know.

Smoke was coming out their hood. Further away I looked in the mirror and saw a small flame where the couple had been. Mickey kept looking back at it, and I asked if he brought enough cash.

We drove to the bar Torie was working at and waited in the neighborhood near the back entrance. Torie walked towards us. She looked around the car. Behind her. She took out her hair net and got in the back seat. Mickey’s knuckle hair stood in dark rows while his hands shook in his lap. His face was pushing oils through his open pores.

Supp fags? Torie said as she leaned in between us. She smelled like hamburger grease.

Torie, this is my friend Mickey.

Hey Mickey. Any friend of Charlie’s is a friend of mine. She put her hand out for Mickey to shake.

Mickey hawked his seeds into the dixie cup, and put it in the center console to shake hands. Charlie said you sell meth? Where’d you get it from? Is it strong? He shifted in his seat, the trash at his feet sifted and rustled.

Slow down I just got off work. Torie pulled the pipe and a tinfoil ball out of her leather dope kit.

I said, Calm down Mickey. We’re going to smoke meth. It’s cool.

I put on my ambient playlist for Mickey.

Yeah. Meth is cool, Torie said.

Listen to these calm ocean sounds.

Turn that up, Torie said, Was that a fucking dolphin?

I’d fuck to this. This is some good shit.

Torie handed me the pipe and I held the flame underneath the bowl. Once the inside became opaque I inhaled and handed it to Mickey. He pressed the pipe to his lips, closed his eyes, and inhaled everything he had. The moment where the drugs are inseparable from the user. Twins at the pipe. His eyes closed. The meth entered his system. The pipe was holding him. He was entering its system. He handed the pipe back to Torie.

She smoked like a professional. Nothing sensational, but no less charming. She smoked like an athlete who never stumbles a play. Torie swayed her shoulders to the waves crashing, keeping time. I have a deep respect for people who do things with precision.

Torie laid back in the leather upholstery. Hit this real quick.

The nylon fell from the ceiling into the blue and green dixie cup filled with Mickey’s spit and sunflower seeds.

I hit it really quick. The waves kept crashing.

People walked out the bar with my lips still on the pipe. They walked towards the car, but couldn’t walk past. More people were around the car. Walking in place. Bumping into the car and into each other. At least 3 rows of people around the car walking in place like cadets. Beautiful, repulsive, vague, and blank. No one looked inside. We were invisible to them. I flashed my lights and they were gone.

Mickey, it was a real fucking pleasure. Torie said goodbye, hit him on the shoulder, and left.

Mickey was slumped so low in his seat his knees were in the trash. He looked at me, scrunched up with ketchup all over his jeans. I was too fucked up to drive, but not worried. We sat there awhile, riding with the dolphins. When it got darker, and I felt good to go, I turned the car on to take us home.

The music kept looping, pumping, but everything was still. Mickey sat up before we got to the burning truck we had passed before. He told me to slow down.

He said, I want to see what happened.

I parked next to what was left. Even with the windows up I could still smell the burnt tires and charred frame.

I’m getting out, Mickey said.

I stayed inside, watching Mickey walk towards the truck. He looked around, inspecting the remains. He put his fingers through every crack and crevice. While I watched him put his hands around the destroyed thing, I let the high and the ocean sounds take me to another place. I wondered if he could hear the music from my car, or if he was imagining what the fire sounded like before it went out.

He opened the door and got in the front seat. When he got out and walked back, he was holding onto something.

He got in and he showed me: it was a blank cd with nothing written on it.
I wanted something to remember, he said.

He put it in the player, and nothing came out of the speakers.

We drove home in silence.

We walked through the open door of his house. We sat on the couch facing his TV. The Simpsons played. Mickey stared at the screen.

My eyes shifted, then I fixated on a crack in a ceiling I hadn’t noticed before. A brown roach crawled out its side.

I got up to step outside, and Mickey looked at me and said I’m glad to be alive.
I nodded, and I sat on his front porch alone.

Far away, behind the houses across the street, the bright red tower crane lights bled in the soft blue twilight.


Kyle Kirshbom lives in America.

IG/Twitter: @kushbom420

“I Wanna Go Shooting” by Kyle Kirshbom


Tom Levy ran out his house waving his dad’s .45 in the air. On top of the hill, I was in my driveway scratching my belly and looking for a quarter I dropped. I looked around embarrassed someone was watching the ridiculous scene. At school last week Tom bragged how he knew the combination to his dad’s safe. Tom never took a math test he never failed, so the thought of him being able to memorize even 3 numbers was cute, at best. Yet, towards me he ran with the piece in hand—his stupid crooked smile shined brighter than the gun. 

As he ran I thought about a couple weeks ago when I was talking to Samantha outside school when Tom yelled, “Just fuck her already,” in front of everyone. Samantha walked away with red on her face. Tom flashed his crooked teeth and ran off. 

A month earlier Tom came over and handed me a bottle of amyl nitrate. 

Anal nitrate?” 

“No, Amyl nitrate, not anal. But it does loosen your asshole.” 

“Why would I want that?” 

“It’s for buttfucking.” 

“I’m never doing that…it’s gay…”

“Yeah it’s pretty fucking gay. Wanna do some?”

“What do you do?”

“Sniff it. Take a big whiff and you’ll feel like you’re flying.”

I put the bottle under my nose and sniffed like he told me to, passed it back and laid down on my bed; feeling lifted. Tom strongly inhaled and released a big sigh before cracking his neck like an actor playing a deranged person. He looked around my room he’s been in a hundred times as if it were his first, and then at me with the same vaguely menacing look. He jumped on top of me and began grabbing at my hips and pinning my body with his weight with his mouth pressed against my face. I pushed him off and said, “What the fuck Tom,” but Tom got up and ran away without saying anything.

A few years ago Tom slept over. We’d met at camp and got along okay. We joked about girls and liked the same death metal bands. After my parents went to sleep I flipped the channel to find the late night soft-core porn. We watched, then I asked if he minded if I jerked off a bit. He said, “Yeah I don’t care, but could I do it too?” I told him sure and grabbed a pillow. 

“I’m going to create a barrier so we can do it without looking at each other.”

“Yeah, cool.”

Three women fondled each other in a bathtub. I couldn’t tell what Tom was seeing, if it was the same thing I saw.

A half hour later I limped up to use the bathroom. When I came back, Tom was asleep on the floor with his cock still out. I put a blanket over him, turned the tv off, and went to bed. I didn’t see Tom again until the end of summer when we both walked into the same middle school. We didn’t talk about what happened for the rest of our lives. 

Tom’s curly brown hair bounced as he ran up the grassy hill—his eyes barely open. I stood and watched as he got closer. Right before he reached the driveway he tripped on a rock, pulled the trigger and shot himself in the head. His skull landed on the pavement. Blood poured out from his curls, flowing down and around the quarter I thought I lost. I walked over and his eyes were already shut; I couldn’t reach him. 

An ambulance picked him up, the sky was black. Tom’s dad looked at me like I took his son and planted the gun. I wanted to yell what the fuck do you think is going on here? A game? Something passionate? Something psychotic? Like accidents don’t happen? That there’s a reason for this? He got into the ambulance with his son and I got in a police car with a couple cops.

I got questioned by police for a few hours. I told them what happened. They said I could be in trouble. They talked about cooperation, the truth. They asked if I was upset with Tom, or ever thought about hurting him. I knew by telling the truth they’d put pieces together that didn’t actually fit. So I told them he was my best friend. Told them he never mentioned the gun. Told them I never wanted to hurt him. I even cried a little bit out of self-preservation. They carefully studied me, and in my pocket I rubbed my fingers against the quarter with Tom’s blood while I lied through my teeth. 

After waiting in the room by myself they came back to say that judging by the placement of the bullet and the way he fell and where the gun in his hand fell that there was no way I could have planted the gun. A million in one chance. They let me go with my parents. We walked out of the police station, got in the car, and drove home—I never knew a night could be so silent.

I planned on skipping the shiva. Technically I wasn’t invited, but my mom said that Tom’s dad didn’t mind if I was there, which was a good enough message I immediately picked up on. But I still wanted to go to the burial. 

It was overcast, and a good sized crowd. I hadn’t realized all the people Tom knew. Family, friends of family, people from school and their families. So many people, an eventful mourning. I walked into the crowd from the back, making my way to the front. Tom’s dad was delivering his speech when he saw me, paused, and continued. I stared at him, then at the casket Tom was in. The rabbi said a few prayers, then Tom’s dad and the other pallbearers lowered Tom into the ground. The rabbi said a final prayer, and everyone threw bits of dry dirt into the grave. People left to sit shiva at Tom’s house and suddenly I was alone. It began to rain. I reached into my pocket and tossed the quarter to lay with Tom. I called heads, but couldn’t tell what it landed on. 

As I walked home in the rain, stepping on cracks in the sidewalk, I felt like a movie was being played in an order that didn’t make sense; I couldn’t shake it, but my life up to this point hadn’t felt the slightest bit linear (instantly I craved something to soothe me out, something that’ll focus everything on a fixed frame that has no backwards or forwards, just to exist without existing, be, but not continue) then my fucking phone started buzzing; it was mom, asking where I was. I told her I was going for a walk, that I didn’t know when I’d be back, she  said she put money in my bank if I got hungry, “ thanks,” I said and that I’d see her maybe later, and she told me she loved me and so I said it back, then all at once, after hanging up, I remembered Tom without a firm grasp on any single memory we may have shared together, and in the haze of this memory collapse I dropped my phone and felt the screen crack and shatter. I tried walking, but couldn’t lift my legs, I tried standing, just couldn’t, I tried bending over to reach for the broken phone, and couldn’t, so, and as the wind picked up and the acidic rain pelted my coat, blurred my vision, and all the street detritus carried off the ground, whipping itself in a gust away in the distance, finally, a sinking, I sunk to the ground, into the cracks of the sidewalk, my body melting and spreading itself into the seams of the broken concrete where everybody walked on or over, and suddenly felt everything I am and everything I’ve encountered becoming increasingly connected, and permanent. When the city paves me over with fresh crushed rock and sand mixed with water and cement I’ll drown into oblivion like every spider’s web that’s washed away by a storm that seems to never end. The end is a deletion, an edit. Cemented.

Kyle Kirshbom is an American writer. He recently broke down and published his entire manuscript onto its own instagram page @DogShitPoems. His writing has been featured in SCAB, Holler Presents, and Sybil Journal.