Photograph by Nicolas Poynter
We call him Bonham because that is where he’s from, some small town in Texas. He doesn’t answer to anything else. And he doesn’t stop asking for a cigarette either. “Don’t give him one,” they told me. “He’ll just throw it on the ground and ask for another one.” Bonham is a fire hazard. Given enough cigarettes, he would burn down Chicago.
“Give me a cigarette,” he tells me, his face all lit up like a kid’s. Stained teeth. Snot crusting under his nose. “You alright,” he tells me. “I like you... Gim me a cigarette.” I give him one of my cigarettes and light it for him. He takes one puff, throws it down and then walks away quickly, twisting his body side-to-side like a chicken.
Bonham wrecked his motorcycle on the interstate. His brains spilled out of his skull a little bit and they kind of just pushed everything back in, and then sealed it all up.
His sister shows up and they have me take him to her. It’s just the three of us, him grinning like an idiot at her across the table, her looking at me for help.
“This is your sister, Bonham.”
“His name is George.”
“This is your sister, George.”
“Who the fuck is George?”
“This is your sister.”
“I ain’t got no sister.”
“Yes you do! Don’t you say that George. You do have a sister!”
She’s losing it and Bonham is turning into a chicken again. “Hey, you’re good looking,” he tells his sis. “You want to come back to my room and do it?” Bonham starts moving his hips back and forth for effect, in case she had not understood. Now she’s really gone. I get to her and put my hand on her shoulder, trying to comfort her. I guess some part of Bonham’s brain fires up again and he lands a punch right on my cheek. Then he jumps on my back like a linebacker and starts wailing on me. It is the umpteenth time I’ve been hit this year. I’m used to it. There is one old man that won’t take a bath unless he can slap me across the face first.
After lights out, I limp into the TV room, watch some show, but I can’t say which one. I have an ice pack to my face. I feel sick inside, like things are never going to get any better for me. Then I see Bonham whizzing back and forth in the hall way. I’m afraid somebody gave him a cup of coffee. He comes in and sits down next to me. He’s holding his hands together, like maybe he’s sorry, his knuckles swollen, rubbing them sad like. I see where there is still dried blood there. I give him one of my cigarettes, light it for him. He takes one puff, throws it down, then goes gyrating down the hall like a chicken.
About the author:
Nicolas is a recent graduate of the Red Earth MFA program at OKC University. During his two years in the program, his fiction has appeared in eight publications including North American Review. His story, "Loma Prieta Blues," won the Vuong Prize last year and has just been released in Florida English.