Johnson County


by Jules Archer


 

Turkish Gold cigarettes in your glove box. Beside you, me. Sixteen, we cruised the Main Street strip every Saturday night. I was a glammed up rodeo queen with a hair-do like Slash. You, you had hands like a rope and every Monday, after a Sunday spent apart at church, you lassoed me back to you. Under the bleachers, behind the cafeteria tables, as my mother slept with a bottle of Jim Beam in our trailer’s kitchenette. I never got whiplash, only rope burn.

A Parliament between your fingers. We screamed at each other beneath the burning bright lights of the football field. You told me to go to college. I told you to go to hell. You crossed your arms, trying to look mean in your graduation gown, but I knew better. You picked up glass in parking lots, kissed your mother like it mattered. I shuffled toward you, cowpoke slow. For you, I said, I stay. Then, your lean arms roped me. I went wild, I knew what it meant. The house under the overpass was ours.

Lucky Strike cigarettes on your breath. It was a baby the size of a fist. I curled up in the bathtub, bled it out like rain. You paced hard boot steps. Sweat broke a bead on your brow. It was Texas, it was hot as hell, but it was also you and me, and you were worried, calling out my name. Susanna. I had never heard your voice sound like that before. A storm cloud. One that rumbled. Right before it broke.

A patch on your right bicep. My arm looped around your waist. The Harley burning up interstate blacktop. Vegas. We’re gonna maul a buffet, renew our vows, make love beneath neon light. I’ll bust you up and then some, your lip between my teeth, my hands on your chest, calling out your name in spades. Townes. Man, we used to drive around thinking about how we were the rodeo king and queen of Johnson County, but this. This. We never had a clue how good this all got.

 


 

Jules Archer is the author of the chapbook, All the Ghosts We’ve Always Had (Thirty West Publishing, 2018) and the short story collection, Little Feasts (Thirty West Publishing, 2020). Her writing has appeared in various journals, including SmokeLong Quarterly, PANK, Okay Donkey, New World Writing, Maudlin House, and elsewhere. Her story “From the Slumbarave Hotel on Broadway” appeared in Best Microfiction 2020.