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by Robert Vaughan


Try seeing this movie, or any show with “sex” in the title, with a stranger. It was another era, just before Desert Storm. We met Lauri in Chaco Canyon at the Sungazer Visitor Center. She traced a map for Bruce on his hand. An invite followed to stay at her Earthship, the three hundred pound earth-rammed tires jammed so tightly together. Her cats, Shanti and Shiva, greeted us at the door. She lived alone in her odd dome. After Bruce fell asleep, Lauri told me she’d left a young son in New Zealand. In the low lamplight, she looked away, whispered, “I deserted him.”


I wanted to stay there forever but we had to return Val’s car to Arcata. Road trips are like arriving with an incessant gap you have no words for. Bruce was legally blind, so I did all the driving. It’s a long way heading west toward San Diego through the Sandia Mountains. That desert looms forever. At night, lying on the hood, Bruce would point and say, “There — see … there? The Pleides?” He had memorized the entire skyscape as a young boy.


I was searching for a way to remember you. Not the sunrise summer you visited me and we giggled our way to orgasm. Not the way you said talk dirty to me, your vacant eyes already half closed. No room large enough to contain us both. Not the movie on endless loop: you alone in that final hotel room. Vignettes. And here now the crickets rub their legs whispering your name. Your empty track shoes on a hollow, slick highway. How we always have to live beneath the rub, this way.

Robert Vaughan teaches workshops in hybrid writing, poetry, and fiction at locations like Red Oak Writing, The Clearing, Synergia Ranch, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, and EarthRise at IONS. He leads roundtables in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was a finalist for the Gertrude Stein Award for Fiction (2013, 2014), and he was the head judge for the Bath International Flash Fiction Awards, 2016. His flash fiction, A Box, was selected for Best Small Fictions 2016 (Queen’s Ferry Press). He is the editor-in-chief at Bending Genres.

Vaughan is the author of five books: Microtones (Cervena Barva Press); Diptychs + Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits (Deadly Chaps); Addicts & Basements (CCM); RIFT, co-authored with Kathy Fish (Unknown Press); and FUNHOUSE (Unknown Press). His blog is at robert-vaughan.com.