the museum of americana

a literary review

Makeshift Raft—Fiction by Matthew Guenette

A makeshift raft of desperate New Hampshirites attempts to enter
Vermont illegally via the Connecticut River near Bellows Falls. A sign
outside Bellows Falls has been vandalized: “Fellows Balls.”

At McDonald’s, with just his existential loneliness and $5, some kid
is being stood up (he doesn’t know it yet) by a Goth girl everyone
calls Glitterface. It’s Friday, third moon of the month, time of sacrifice.
Come Monday, half the kids at Donald Trump Jr. Junior High will fail
spectacularly a test on the Battle of Fort Phil Collins. Meanwhile,
straight from the plot of a B horror movie, vampires roam the woods.
Something wet secretes from a dumpster at the back of a medical waste
parking lot.

A hardcore argument breaks out in McDonald’s between a blowhard
father (Doug-Todd) and his blowhard son (Todd-Doug)—
“I know you are but what am I? I know YOU are but what am I?”—
back and forth for a good half hour. The desperate New Hampshirites
on their makeshift raft take a moment to gag on crappy tequila shots
then keep paddling as the river, beautiful and ego-less in the moonlight,
quiets them along.

Cut to: an unmarked van, speeding up the New Hampshire inter-
state toward the border with Vermont, filled with cops committing
the very serious offense of impersonating themselves. A biology teacher
from Donald Trump Jr. Junior High surveys a still, silent horseshoe
pond and wonders where all the frogs have gone.

I walk in to the walk-in clinic again, complaining of a headache that has
lasted thirty years. My doctor, long past trying to figure me out, orders
another round of incredibly expensive CT scans then heads to his
Ferrari. I overhear a hypnotist from an adjoining room tell a young
mother, “Yes, yes, a sublime, freeing experience of subtle insight
and healing is possible…It might even help you love your kids.”

Out in the woods the vampires dance around a bonfire, play beer-pong,
take turns fogging up the windows of a long-abandoned SUV, not thinking
twice about the terrible hangover arriving with the morning light.

The makeshift raft of desperate New Hampshirites approaches a remote
island in the Connecticut River untouched by the ruling oligarchy and
populated by a group of anarchist gamers who have left everything
behind in order to play Exile on Main Street, a multiplayer game inspired
by bioterrorism, android zombies, and the 1972 Rolling Stones album
of the same name.

That kid at McDonald’s grunts, realizes finally he’s been stood up.
On his walk home he sees a bonfire in the woods, goes to check it out…
A Greenpeace tugboat, captained by Glitterface, meets the makeshift raft
of desperate New Hampshirites near the banks of Fellows Balls, offers
the refugees Oreos and weed. The vampires in the woods wait, taking
their sweet time. The wet thing secreting from the dumpster starts to pulse,
starts to think. The most sensitive cop in that unmarked van says the thing
no one dares to say: “We are all guilty of pretending we can do whatever
we want.”

 

 

~~~

Matthew Guenette is the author of three poetry collections, including Vasectomania (2017) and American Busboy (2011), both from the University of Akron Press. His chapbook, Civil Disobedience (2017), won the Baltic Residency Prize and was published by Rabbit Catastrophe Press. He lives, works, and loses sleep in Madison, WI, where a 20 pound cat named Butternut freely roams his house.