Joel sidled up to the bar and flashed his horrible teeth at the biker chick working the taps. I can remember when she used to be cute. I bet if you cut her leathery skin open now, all that’d pour out is cigarette butts and crumpled IOUs dusted in colorless ash. Joel ordered us each a shot and a beer, and somehow I knew right then that I was going to get stuck with the bill. Sometimes life doesn’t care what you want. In fact, it never does. The shots came and we touched glasses, and just as the cheap well vodka touched my lips, Joel toasted to the good old days, and all at once I felt like throwing up.
Written last summer at the Hewnoaks Artists Colony and told in the now-adult voice of Coleman (the teenage narrator of Brand New Moon), “Poptimistic” can now be read in its entirety, for free, through New Haven’s own Stoneslide Corrective, whose editors describe it as “a story of sin and suffering in a life in which redemption may or may not be possible.”
“Poptimistic” is part of an ongoing series of stories, mostly written as missives to an unnamed ex-wife, charting Coleman’s life from the rural scrape of his destitute upbringing to an adulthood punctuated by drug-use, transience, pan-continental hitchhiking, and an eventual attempt to make himself clean.