Pentagram • Bud Smith

People Holding Lighter 4 Comments

Sam doesn’t believe in Christmas.

She’s so against Christmas she wants to torch a toy store, reduce it to ash—or whatever plastic becomes when it melts.

“People already bought their junk,” I say. “Maybe next year. Plan early.”

“Steal me a calendar.”

We’re sitting on the frozen concrete, our backs against a brick wall behind DrugVille.

We don’t have prescriptions, but we have a desire for all of them.

The temperature is falling. It’s not too bad. The wind’s blocked by a dumpster.

My ass is asleep. My childhood friends are all dead, probably. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was a woman.

Real people die climbing up or down chimneys. Mostly burglars and jealous lovers. Mechanical asphyxiation. Their lungs can’t expand because they’re not magic elf lungs.

What happens is you’re led down corridors into a maze of baffling turns that drag you away from the you who sat on your daddy’s shoulders to get a closer look at the North Star.

Sam is from here. She didn’t have to leave home to fall flat on her glowing face.

“Let’s go to the mall and bleed on people,” she says.

“Not in the mood.”

Feathers fall out of her puffy coat, where she was stabbed. The wound is all healed, but the feathers keep coming out.

It’s Christmas Eve. I don’t want to bleed on anyone but I want to make Sam happy, and not just because I need her to keep me warm in the cardboard dumpster later.

For my birthday, she gave me a cat. He lived with us in Tent City, under the power lines.

When the cops raided Tent City, the cat ran into the woods.

Haven’t seen him since. Smart cat. Renegade cat. Power broker cat.

Cops caught the rest of us.

When I’m as high as I wanna be, I picture that cat finding himself a better life. A nice office job. A little herringbone suit. Convertible cat car. T-tops, maybe. He drives around blasting The Beach Boys. Hot cat wife and a beautiful litter in a house—a fucking house!

Here we are, so damn stupid we can’t help ourselves enough to walk west, find warmth on our filthy bodies.

Sam has an anarchy symbol tattooed on her left tit. She has an inverted cross on her right tit. It terminates at her inverted nipple.

“Let’s jack decorations off people’s lawns,” Sam says. “Pawn that shit.”

My jaw hurts. My left hand hurts. My knee, recently dislocated, swells.

“I’m not moving.” I pet her green hair. “Give me your lighter.”

She thinks I have something to smoke. I don’t.

I light our propane torch and put it between us so we’re warmer.

“How’s that?”

“I’m in love,” she says.

I keep my Christmas present for her in my pocket. A brass pentagram welded onto the tip of a screwdriver. The guy at the hardware shop made it for me in exchange for shoveling his walk.

The bells have stopped. There’d been a woman shaking bells all afternoon. She’d been asking for money, but now she’s gone. At least she wasn’t holiday music.

There’s always someone somewhere screaming, just on the edge of earshot. You can choose listen or you can ignore it.

When Sam isn’t looking I heat the pentagram in the propane flame until it turns white hot.

Sam nods off, twitching, caught in an edge of the tundra, hopeless, icy igloo of a dream.

“Give me your hand,” I say.

She opens her eyes, smiles when she sees the glowing pentagram.

“Oh, fucking-A, babe.”

Part of me hopes it will snow. Another part hopes it won’t.

Sam pulls off her glove and exposes her milky wrist.

Her veins are flat, almost invisible. But I can see every tooth in her mouth.

The hiss of singeing flesh whispering, “Hail Satan.”

She hugs me for a while.

The pentagram throbs pink. I press an empty bottle against her skin to cool it.

She says, “You’re so nice to me and I can’t understand why.”

I say, “I can’t figure out why you’re nice to me, either.”

“For revenge.”

“Revenge. Always. Big revenge.”

Sam leans into me. Also, she’s getting a rock out from under her butt. She flings it at the dumpster.

“Know what I want to give you, babe?” she says. “I wanna give you a world eradicated by nuclear war.” She wipes the snot from her nose. “Clean slate.”

The bells start up again. Distant. Constant.

“Imagine how nice it’d be if the whole world just died in a wild flash?” Sam says. “And it was just me and you, sitting here with nothing. Then we’d be standing up and peeking around the brick wall, looking down the street and seeing no traffic lights or cops, jobs, sea gulls, bells, taxes, or any other people for forever. Wouldn’t it be nice?”

I close my eyes. Picture that.

When Sam squeezes my hand, blood drips from hers.


bud smith author photoBud Smith wrote the novel F 250, among others. He works heavy construction in NJ, building and maintaining powerhouses and oil refineries. His writing has recently been at Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Word Riot, Smokelong, Big Lucks and Spork. He lives in NYC with wife, a textile artist.


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