sporklet 9
Joshua Bohnsack

Whiskey Sour



I think Brian Wilson is telling me to kill myself.

“What good would living do me?” The sentiment seems pure enough, but hear me out.

I wasn’t always the best at loving you. You are doubting it now that the stars are light polluted and, I guess, I made you unsure.

What would I be without you? I always thought it was “do without you” and I don’t know the answer to either.

You’ve left me, other lives are going on (yours), I believe it, but I don’t see them (you) in my room between alleys. “What good would living do me?”

I meet all of his qualifications. I’m going to get a bottle of rye, swim in the lake, and go out like Dennis.

God doesn’t know a goddamn thing, but Brian Wilson seems to.

Some Alcohol



You hold the bottle in your hands, wipe the dust from the glass, and cradle it as you would your baby sister. You think you hear your mom coming down to the basement, but she is not. You swaddle it in your hoodie and hold it close to your chest. You think it looks natural, like you always wrap up your hoodie and hold it this way. You bring it up to your room and close the door behind you. You place the bottle at the bottom of your backpack so it won’t shift in transit.

The girl texts you, she’s heading to the park now. You type your reply, “kk.” You change your shirt to the baseball tee with the black sleeves. She didn’t see you at school today, it’s ok to change shirts. You’re not trying too hard. You check your hair in the bathroom mirror, down the hall. You straighten your back. You think you look buff. You grab your backpack, slouch, and race down the stairs.

Your mother calls to you, asks you where you’re going.

You rehearsed this.

- I’m going to Michael’s to skate.

- Is your homework done?

- Yes.

- Is it?

- Yes, all I had was some trig. I finished it in study hall.

- Are you coming home for dinner?

You have one foot outside the doorframe.

- I don’t think so, bye.

- Don’t forget your helmet.

You shut the door, grab your skateboard from the garage, and start walking to the park. You walk with traffic along the highway, entering town. Cars don’t slow down as people come home from work, so you move into the recently mowed ditch. You slap the “welcome to” sign for your suburb. Population: 5300. You don’t stop to wonder if they change the number whenever someone is born, or more likely whenever someone dies. You have other things on your mind.

You reach the center of town, where the houses are squeezed closer together. The deputy’s Charger drives by, slowing as he passes. You hold your breath, act natural. You glance in his window. It’s just Phil, your dad’s drinking buddy. You raise your hand in gesture only. Phil pulls the Charger to a stop and yells to you through his window. Calling you “boy” just as your dad, and all his friends do.

- Hey Boy, where are you off to?

- Hey Phil. Michael’s to skate.

No shit, he says and motions towards the board tucked under your left armpit. Well, be sure to wear a helmet.

He pulls away. You exhale, dizzy, for so many reasons.

How is your breath? You should have brushed your teeth. You hear the swish of the liquid from your bag. You backtrack two blocks to the gas station for a pack of Dentyne Ice Arctic Chill. Your driver’s permit falls out of your Velcro wallet when you hand the cashier two dollar bills.

Your chest tightens when she texts you again, “where are you?” In the store, you pop a couple pieces of gum in your mouth, “coming now,” the mint clears your sinuses.

Your dad is calling you. You walk outside the gas station and stare at the screen. Does he know you took his alcohol? Did Phil say something to him? Your dad’s never even opened this bottle. What does he care? You press the side button on your phone, ignoring the call. Remember what you’re doing.

She texts again, “chaser?” You walk back into the gas station, and stare at the selection of soda for what you think is a suspiciously long time. You saw her drink a Diet Coke last summer at BBQ Days, but you hate diet. Fiji Water, she loves Fiji Water. She brings one to lunch every day. You’re not about to pay three dollars for water.  A clerk walks by, excuses himself.

- Oh, sure, you say. Was it the right thing to say? You grab Dr. Pepper. The cashier makes a stupid joke, nice to see you again.

- Yeah, thanks.

You’re back at it, towards the park. Your phone vibrates, new voicemail from Dad. You check it on the way there.

- Hey, it’s Dad, have you seen my - you choke on your gum, just a little bit - Have you seen my Phillips screwdriver? The one with the nice handle? Mom says you’re skating, did you remember your helmet?

You arrive. There she is. Over the chain link fence, you see her on the swing. Her long, blond hair, you love that plaid shirt she’s wearing, those boots you kind of hate, but haven’t given much thought about until now.

- Hey, you say.

- Hey, she says.

- Do you like Dr. Pepper?

- Not really.

- Oh, sorry. You sit on the swing beside her. You want to stroke her hair. You reach your hand up.

- Don’t worry about it, she says. You draw your hand back. Let’s go by the picnic table, it’s closer to the woods. More hidden.

You both sit on the same side of the table, looking into the ravine. She holds her palm out. Your own hand is clammy, but you grab her palm and look into those emerald eyes of hers.

- Oh, I wanted the bottle.

You act like you knew that.

- Yeah, ha, here. You fish around in your backpack. She seems impatient. You pull out the bottle, wipe some dust off with your forearm, and hand it to her.

- Johnnie Walker. She inspects the blue label, asks, You’ve had it before?

- Yeah, you say, It’s pretty good stuff.

She smiles, puts her hand on your knee. You blush, you want more.

- My mom’s going to the casino tonight. We can head back to her house later.

You’d like that. You don’t want her to know how much you’d like that.

- We have HBO, she says. You watch a lot of TV?

- Sometimes, you say. You think that’s a vague question, so you follow it up with, I don’t have a TV in my room.

- How do you live? She asks, seriously.

- I mainly listen to music at home. My dad gave me his old record collection. He has some good stuff: The Smiths, Joy Division, The Cure, that kind of stuff.

- I don’t listen to old music, she tells you. You didn’t realize it was “old music.” She sweeps her hair back.

- Oh what kind of stuff do you listen to? You ask her, maybe too eagerly.

She thinks about it for a couple seconds and says, Whatever’s on the radio, I guess.

She cracks the top of the bottle. You wait for the fizz, like opening the Dr. Pepper, to no avail. She smells the contents and winces. - It’s like floor polish.
You laugh.
- It’s good, I promise. But you have no idea.
- You’d better be right. She eyes you. She takes the first sip, then coughs. You were wrong, she says. She swishes Dr. Pepper around her mouth and hands you the other bottle.
You spit your gum out in the woodchips and put the liquor to your lips. You gulp.
Everything stops in that instant. Your eyes water, your chest burns, your throat tightens. She watches you. You finish your swallow, shiver, and shrink.

She hands you the pop bottle.

- Maybe a little, you manage to say.

She giggles. It’s the best sound you’ve ever heard, even though it’s directed at you. She kisses your cheek. You want more. You want more of her, all the time. She smells so good. Her eyes make you hurt. You take all the pain you can.

You straighten your back. She smiles, takes another sip.

You put an arm around her. Did you put on extra deodorant? You idiot, you forgot. Good thing you didn’t actually try in gym today. You’re probably good.

She leans into the crevice where your arm meets torso.

You take a sip of the moment. You look down at her. She looks up at you. She sits up. You move in, your lips meet, and you are hollow.

This is the more you wanted, it’s not enough.

She wraps her thin arms around the back of your neck. You straighten up your back. She presses her chest into yours, and you feel the ambush of puberty. She wraps her legs around your waist and you can tell she feels it too. You put your hand on her neck, trace the roots of her hair with your fingers. She bites your bottom lip and smiles. You smirk. She pushes you back and takes another drink from the bottle.

You follow her lead. You think you are feeling it now.

- How come you never talk to me in school? She nudges you in the ribs.

- How come you never talk to me?

- I can’t talk to the skaters. She laughs and draws out her Os, That’s so uncool.

You hope she’s joking, but she says it with disdain. Your school is small, you didn’t realize there were these groups. You shrug it off and kiss her again.

- I’ve wanted this for a long time, you whisper.

She says, Yeah, she has, too. And you think now’s the time to ask.

- Do you want to go with me to the homecoming dance?

- I would, but I already promised Clayton that I’d go with him.

- Oh. Your heart continues burning, the way it did with the first drink. You think about Clayton, your best friend from elementary school. Clayton, the football star, since it’s fall. Clayton, the basketball star, come winter. Clayton, who used to catch crawdads with you in the creek behind your house. Clayton, who assured you that you would make the football team, but you said you didn’t care if you were cut. You didn’t understand the rules anyway. You should have known she’d go with Clayton.

- But that doesn’t mean we can’t hang out at the dance, she kisses your cheek. It’s not like we’re together. We’re just going in a group of friends.

- Oh sure. Or we can meet up after.

You aren’t planning on going to the dance, anymore.

- That sounds good to me. I think Shelby - do you know Shelby - I think Shelby is throwing a party. She smiles, those lips beckoning you, but she takes a drink instead. She says, Maybe you can bring some more of this and passes the bottle back to you.

You nod, but don’t agree.

Mid-pull, the whew of a siren makes you jump. You choke a little bit. Her eyes grow wide, in the waning sunlight the sirens cover her in reds and blues, she turns and runs.

You do the same, your foot getting caught on the bench of the picnic table. You pull the bottle in close as if you’re going for the game-winning touchdown.

- Hey, stop. You hear the deputy shout.

You make it seven paces to the sidewalk, before your ankles come out from under you. The bottle launches from your grip, you tuck your chin, and pull your arms in. The bottle hits first, glass shattering. Your knees hit second, followed by your palms, followed by your forehead, and finally, your chest.

- Fuck, shit, wake up, Boy, fuck, shit. Hey, oh Jesus, he’s awake.

You lift your head. A few people have gathered. Phil stands over you, blocking the sun. You start to use your baseball tee with the black sleeves to mop your body. You blink hard, trying to remember.

- What the hell were you doing?

You crane your neck and stare at the cop, stare at Phil. You remember him riding and breaking your Power Wheels Jeep when you were a kid. You turn your head the other way and see the shattered bottle. You take a deep breath and feel every open wound in your body.

- Are you ok, Boy? Say something.

You sit up, receiving the full blows from a migraine. You look at Phil, furrow your brow.

- Look me in the eyes. Ok, good, they don’t look dilated.

- Oh good, you manage to cough. You tackled me, you say in disbelief.

- You dipshit. I didn’t trip you, you just fell. Are you ok?

You scan your body again. Say, I’m fine.

The small crowd dissipates.

- Good, good. Just tell me what happened. What were you doing with that scotch? He asks like he sincerely doesn’t know. Where did that girl go?

- That was there when I got here, you say hesitantly. You don’t see the girl anywhere, so you choose to ignore Phil’s question about her.

Phil takes off his police hat and scratches his head.

- There’s no skateboarding in this park, the township doesn’t have it insured. How about you were skateboarding over here and ran away when I pulled up. You tripped and this bottle was already broken on the ground. I’m not looking to arrest you, because your mom would kill us both. I just need some information, and as long as you’re ok, you can go get yourself cleaned up.

- You tell him you were skating over here and ran away when he pulled up. He gives you a verbal warning. He asks you again if you’re ok and makes you promise to tell your folks, and threatens that he will, if you don’t. He asks if you want a ride back home, but you decline. He puts his hat back on, places his hand on your shoulder, and thanks you, for some reason. Phil gets in his squad car and vanishes around the block.

You exhale and stumble to the park bathroom. There are no mirrors, so you use the reflection of the metallic paper towel dispenser to wipe the blood and dirt from your temples. Is this what getting drunk feels like?

You call the girl, she answers.

- What’s up?

You give her the gist of it. Ask if she wants to meet up.

- My mom’s boyfriend is here. I don’t think they’re going to the casino anymore. She says sorry and she’ll see you at school tomorrow. You don’t want to see her, though.

You almost throw the phone, but you call Michael instead. You ask him to pick you up and bring you a shirt.

Clayton texts you for the first time since your birthday, “were you with my girl and didn’t invite me?” You type back, “It’s not like that man.” She said they were going with friends.

He texts you, “wft” and you just don’t know what the fuck to tell him, nor do you want to worry about it. Your wounds are drying up.

You wait for Michael for what feels like too long. He arrives, you get in the car, put on the shirt he hands you, stuff your baseball tee under his seat. He asks what happened, you say alcohol, cop, you’ll tell him later.

- Do you want to chill at my place for a while? His arm is around the passenger seat.

- Naw, that’s ok, you say. He’s a grade older than you, one of the few skaters at school. You try to shake that word, ‘skaters,’ thinking it sounds stupid to call yourself that.

- Well I’m glad you’re all right. Michael’s car smells like weed and you know why it took him so long to pick you up.

- Can you just take me home, man?

He drives you to your house. Asks if you’re sure you’re ok. You nod. You get out of the car. You throw up in the flowerbed, then wander into the garage. The skeleton of your dad’s motorcycle is uncovered for the first time since last fall. The bike’s carburetor sits on his workbench, Philips screws still tightly in place. You push the carburetor over and take a seat on the workbench going over the evening’s events in your head.

Your dad comes out.

- Did you get my voicemail? Holy shit, Boy, what happened to you?

You’re too tired to lie, you sigh, you come clean, about everything.

He’s angry, fuming until you say you met up with the girl. He’s interested, proud, angry, confused, angry, accepting. He puts his arm on your back, you slouch. He asks if you have a homecoming date.

- Sorta, you say.

He tells you he was saving the scotch for your twenty-first birthday.

You tell him that’s too bad, because you’re never drinking again.

He thinks you’re joking.

- Dinner is almost ready, he says. He tells you, if you do something that stupid again you’re never leaving your room. He runs his hand over the seat of the motorcycle as you follow him in the house, waiting for your mom to yell at you.

Your little sister is watching a cartoon in the living room. The animals are nasally singing and your mom hums along with them in the kitchen. She’s still in her business suit from work,  browning a skillet of hamburger meat. When you walk in with your dad, she looks you up and down.

- My Gawd, what happened?

You start to speak, but your dad interrupts.

- Skateboarding, he says. The boy took a spill.

She gasps.

- Were you wearing your helmet? I told you to wear your helmet.

- I’m sorry, you say. I will wear it from now on, you say.

- You better. Now go clean yourself up for dinner. There’s peroxide in our bathroom cabinet.
You make your way up the stairs to the bathroom. You cuff your hands over the porcelain of the sink and focus on the mirror. The wound on your temple has broken open, and a thin stream of blood runs the length of your face, before dripping onto your knuckles.

The peroxide burns and you spill some on the shirt Michael lent you. You go to your room and put Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures on your turntable and set the needle just as your dad taught you to do. You swear this is the last time you go out of your way to impress a girl.

Joshua Bohnsack’s work has appeared in The Rumpus, Hobart, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, and others. He is an MFA student at Northwestern University, the founding editor of Long Day Press, and is the author of the chapbook Burnt Sienna (Throwback Books 2017). He ran an ice cream shop in rural Illinois until he moved to Chicago.