With a voice that maintains a gritty strength balanced with poetic vision, Barry Graham pushes all his chips to the center of the table in this collection of from-the-gut short stories that are as sentimental as they are cynical.
Set in America's underbelly-from dead-end small towns with their futile Virginity Pledges to larger than life Las Vegas with it's own brand of lust and deception-Graham populates his stories with a reoccurring cast of confused, helpless, hopeless, beautiful, dirty, optimistic, loveable down-and-outs trapped in lives and relationships they are unable to control.
I can’t remember if it was before or after I pis--d off the side of the Grand Canyon, but there was a man standing along the road holding a camera and the car in front of me swerved to avoid hitting a squirrel and ran over the man taking pictures of the sun setting behind the canyon. I did nothing until I got to Las Vegas where I stopped at a Del Taco for a spicy chicken burrito, then at the car wash to scrub the dried blood off the side of my car.
The Del Taco register girl was Mexican and her nose was pierced and she was wearing a blue shirt with the top two buttons unbuttoned. She rubbed her hand against her chest to wipe off the sweat then did the same to her forehead which would have been sexy if she wasn’t touching my food with her dirty hands.
It only took forty-eight seconds for the burrito to work its magic and there were muddy boot prints and random puddles of pissy water all over the floor in the bathroom stall, so I took my shorts and boxers off and set them in a dry spot on the floor before I sat down. The toilet was grimy and sat too close to the wall and flushed automatically every time I wiggled. It made my ass all wet and toilet paper doesn’t work on wet ass. I hobbled out of the stall to get some paper towels from the dispenser. I tore a piece off and ran it between my ass cheeks and the door opened up and a middle-aged man came in holding his toddler’s hand. He nodded his head then apologized, then walked back out the door. I stopped wiping and left a ripped off piece stuck between my cheeks, picked my pants up off the floor, put them back on, and headed out the door without washing my hands. I couldn’t find the man and his son so I had no chance to offer them a soda or invite them to lunch, so I bought another burrito from the sweaty register girl and made sure I touched her hand and wrist when I gave her the money because payback’s a bitch.
The handle was hot when I opened the car door and I put all the windows down. Tiny Dancer was playing on the radio and I saw the middle-aged man and his son walking out of the restaurant next door, so I honked the horn and waved before pulling away.
I drove past Binion’s, past Fremont St., past the wedding chapels, bail bonds, buffet specials, three for ten dollars t-shirt stands, and divorce attorneys. I drove right through town, where you’re better off walking or taking a bus and everybody smells different, except the locals who smell dead; past the homeless sitting along the sidewalk walls holding cardboard signs, past the street rappers hustling cd’s and the migrant workers handing out business cards for call girls. I kept driving through the strip, past the M&M store, past the Statue of Liberty, past all the signs promising a free fifty dollars in slot play if you sign up for a players card, past the largest bronze statue in the western hemisphere, towards my hotel on Paradise.