by Brett Milam

Goddamn sirens. How could he even see us? We floated through the air, drifted among the clouds, like sorcerers. The red and blue hues danced as menacing creatures in the night, twirling and moving in and out. Or maybe that was just the LSD. I had popped acid-laced Smarties three hours ago. I was fucking peaked. Had to be, that’s what the new john requested. Said he’d pay well. 

I pulled the car up along the dirt shoulder. I’d been trippin’ long before Tate tripped out of my vagina. Driving was no problem, if I looked ahead. If I looked to the left or right, it was like driving on one of Saturn’s rings, endless roads and colors. 

Tate was in the backseat with his school history book opened to some shit about Teddy Roosevelt and a giant duck or a flamingo or fuck if I knew. He had his scrawny legs tucked under his chin. Cute kid, if you’re into that sorta thing.

Roosevelt felt tingly on my tongue. Roosevelt. Rooooosevelt. Roooooooooosevelt. 

“Tate, for fuck’s sake, put your seat belt on,” I said. 

“We’re stopped, mom,” he said. 

“We’re floating, floating, floating, okay, Jesus, alright, just, put it on, but don’t eat the pretty colors. Okay, only the purple one—blue is good, too,” I said. 

He turned the page with mechanical, surgical precision. 

“You know what to do, like last time, just do it right, okay,” I said. 

I think he nodded. I’d need to see it again, in instant replay, slow-motion with hand-drawings and analytical points of intersection and perhaps a pie chart or two or 18, with purple and blue. 

There was a flock of the most obnoxious fucking woodpeckers pecking away on the Golden Arches across the street. It reverberated in my head back and forth from ear to ear and around. Or maybe they were construction workers with their jackhammers, but then how did they get on top of the arches? Could they float, too? 

In the rearview mirror, I could see the officer getting out of his cruiser, a gaunt man, a flappy skeleton with a badge. He came my way and I cranked the window down for him. He shone his flaming torch into the car. The beam passed around the console, the glove box, and then Tate before it briefly sexed me up. 

“Ma’am, you rolled through that stop sign back there going a bit too fast. I clocked you at 43 mph in a 35 mph zone. Not the worst I’ve seen, but along with rolling through a stop sign, I had to stop you. License and registration, please,” he said. 

His voice drawled with Southern hospitality or maybe it was Scandinavian. I never could tell these things. 

My ankles had gone numb and my left hand had a slight tremor to it. I put it under my thigh, hot to the touch, and it seared my flesh. I handed the officer my license with a portrait of clear eyes. If I looked closely, I could see the shadows behind them, nearing. 

“Hadley, is that your boy in the back?” 

That was his cue. If I talked, I’d have a Taser prong raping my colon faster than I could say Roooooooooosevelt. 

Tate cranked down his window and stuck his head out. 

“Sir, I fainted earlier this evening. My mom freaked out; she thinks I have epilepsy. We’re just on the way to the hospital to make sure everything is on the up and up. If she had it her way, I’d be guzzling Tegretol. Anyhow, sorry about this,” Tate said. 

My god, my boy sounded fucking stately. With his talented mouth, he took after me, surely. 

“Goodness, I’m sorry to hear that. Why didn’t you say so, ma’am? I’d have let you go on about getting there. Get behind me and I’ll get you there faster,” he said. Now his voice sounded more Polish or Yiddish or what did Eskimos sound like? Goddamn woodpecker or jackhammer was still going and it made parsing the officer’s dialect difficult. 

He handed me back my license, which I took with a tremor; he didn’t seem to notice. Flappy Officer returned to his cruiser, turned on the sirens, which just created a cacophony with the woodpecker and peeled out in front of me. 

I eased off the shoulder and followed. My head swirled along with the sirens, a synced-in matrix. 

At the hospital, they brought Tate into a room, checked his blood pressure and then hooked him up to an IV and gave me a clipboard. Allergies this and family history of heart attacks that. A doodle of a giraffe on a magic carpet seemed more fun instead. I added horns to his head because horns are fucking cool. 

They checked around his head for any obvious signs of a contusion or bleeding from the “fainting” itself. They found nothing, but they still worried about the cause. The nurse talked x-rays, CT scans, an EKG, the whole gambit. I didn’t realize it’d be such a goddamn Red Cross affair. 

We were alone in the room. Tate brought his book in with him and scoured it, even though I’m sure had had read it multiple times already. The heart monitor beeped at me and I beeped back. 

“Tegretol was a nice touch, Tater Tot, even better than last time,” I said. “I love you” rose like Smarties-filled bile in my throat. I swallowed it down. 

I turned on the radio in my head to the classical music station. Vivaldi’s elegance soared, as I added bellowing flames to the giraffe’s horns. 

The john, fuck, okay, gotta run. 

“Tate, come on.” I helped pull the IV off his wrist and then we half-walked, half-jogged down the hallway. 

“Ms. Hadley, but—,” the nurse tried to object. I ignored her. 

We pulled up to the Motel 6. Hour late, oh well. Tate stayed in the car, like always.


Brett Milam is an avid ping-pong player and obsessive coffee drinker. When he’s not Gumping, he enjoys wrestling with his dog, Dallas.
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