Across The Wire

Love Taps

By Michael McSweeney

The game started at the intersection in South Montford, the place where drunkenness and fire melted away James Rainville three months before. We called it Love Taps and the goal was to hit the car ahead of you with your bumper but not cause any damage. I drove the swamp-green shit-box sedan my sister smashed to hell before my parents gave me the keys. G sat beside me smoking the last of our junk weed out of a crushed and pocked cola can. P’s straw-blonde hair sprouted in the window of the truck ahead of us and the wind rocked the stoplight above the intersection. Zack Sweeney, you coward, G said. Tap that bastard’s bumper. Give it a love tap. I shoved deep the lingering anxiety of my father and his father, now mine, and nudged the accelerator. The shit-box scampered half a foot. Then G shouted, Just fucking do it. I hated the smell of the junk weed and I hated G for wasting our money on it. Then I kicked the gas pedal and the shit-box lurched and we banged against P’s rear. P twisted and I saw his foul fury face and then the light glared green and the school bus behind us bellowed and we raged up the long blight nightmare of old proud Montford Main. When we reached the baseball field, the only place that didn’t demand your money for a welcome, P was ready to rough me up until G calmed him down and explained the game. P’s scowl bloomed into a grin and that night we chased our tails north and south through Montford’s endless house-pimpled mazes. G’s girlfriend C got in on it, too. C was born for it, a hot holy maniac who’d banshee her dad’s busted-up minivan into the oncoming lane and hum a $15 throwaway cell phone across your hood. Those nights we built towering bonfires in the old construction yard and cackled when the cops failed to uproot us. My mind boiled and I never slept before dawn. C and I fucked atop the brick-and-mortar bones of the ruined middle school on the hottest night of summer, the night G’s appendix tore itself apart. Three weeks later G’s parents sold their house and he was gone, right before the market burst. Dissipation, everyone. I called the number C gave me but each time a confused woman asked if my name was Tom. I pushed the shit-box harder each night, 85 mile-per-hour demon runs down Montford Main. This has to be a record, I shouted, it has to be. I wanted to wrench the wheel leftward, one last love tap for the last driver alive. I wanted the difference between the machine and me to dissolve at the place where stop signs demanded my silence, far from the highway crossing that split my town like a crucifix, me just a foot and a final drop of gas, handbrake as busted as a young friend’s promise, dashboard lights too dim to be understood.


Michael McSweeney is a writer and editor from Massachusetts. His first novel, Heroman, is forthcoming from Expat Press.