Getting Blunted at the Family Barbecue
Hot urine stung my eyes as they pumped their Super Soakers. Bumblebees
buzzed through cold chlorine from the swimming pool where Grandma was doing
cannonballs. Fluorescent fuzz swarmed mesquite chicken and spicy sausage smoke sifting
from our barbecue grill. Grandpa was sunbathing on his inflatable zebra. His melanoma
was camouflaged in zinc oxide. Nostril hairs protruded proudly. Seven decades since he
Mom was sharpening the garden shears on the edge of a molcajete bowl. Dad was
swinging in the hammock, his sun burnt nuggets roasting; blunt smoke pluming from his
nostrils like a monster. I typed obscenities in the sun till my fingers were tweaking. My
runaway older brother emailed me a vintage photo of our great-grandmother. It was not
an innocuous shot. It was a nefarious action pose—void of underpants and everything.
I could smell the flesh on my forehead and nostrils burning. Kaleidoscopic
bloodshot sclarae orbiting cumulonimbus swarms of dragonflies. Indian chiefs sitting
on marshmallow summits. There was a dead cockroach floating in the margarita mix and
the inflatable raft was lodged into the shady corner of the swimming pool above the jets and
My baby sister clung to the neck of the giraffe—cocktail glass nothing beyond
tangerine melting lush—drunk and lobster sunburned. She was naked, wrinkled into a
prune. Dad was cooking shrimp and charcoal smoldered as Cajun juices dripped between
the rusty teeth of his grill.
Grandpa tied my sister’s tooth to the diving board with the string of his helium
balloon. With his broom, he corralled an angry rattlesnake from the desert toward the
wobbly incisor. The girl sprinted with spit glistening, an exploding strawberry. Dad stabbed
the rattler with his machete. He skinned it and flipped it onto the grill and closed the lid.
Smoke seeped from the holes in the top like a snoring dragon.
Aunt Lilly drove us to Walgreens for another beer run. My sister bled into the
leather. Lilly chain-smoked Marlboros and drove wearing her bikini. I watched her camel
toe. We swerved around strung-out Rabbis yanking rabbits from sombreros in front of
Chevron with fingers blistered and callused. They begged patrons with bloodshot flying
saucers, through sweaty braids. Illegal immigrants squatted behind the Dumpster in front of
Home Depot. Lumber and sawdust danced between splintered sunshine.
Lilly skidded into the driveway with a Corona bottle between amber incisors. I
climbed toward the tree house. High above the yard the smoke from my blunt drifted into
the canopy. Kids climbed the wooden ladder into the camouflage of branches and leaves.
They handed me sweaty twenties and fifties in exchange for baggies of dank weed. Fathers
swung from the rope with the inertial majesty of gorillas, gravity tucking the emerald
nuggets into their pockets like green bananas weeks before ripening. Mothers climbed the
wooden ladder with manicured nails, fingers full of splinters.
I stood high above it all, surveying my empire: two-hundred-feet above the
swimming pool. My tree house reeked of Christmas. I tied the noose around my neck, again
and again. The rope burned my thighs and inner arms and it smelled like fathers. I did a
cannonball into the leaves. Money was raining from my pockets—falling from the
branches. I swung till I was broke and my bones were bloodied by limbs and the blood
rushing into my brain made me dizzy. Bumblebees explored orifices. Fireflies formed a
golden glowing nest in my fledgling armpit hair. Dusk descended from the tree house and
an illuminated human swung from a rope, invisible to all except ethereal majesty.
Matthew Dexter is an American author living in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Like nomadic Pericú natives before him, he survives on a hunter-gatherer subsistence diet of shrimp tacos, smoked marlin, cold beer, and warm sunshine. His stories have been published in hundreds of literary journals and dozens of anthologies. He writes abhorrent freelance pieces for exorbitant amounts of pesos to pay the bills while drinking cervezas in paradise with tourists. He is the author of the novel, THE RITALIN ORGY (Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing 2013), among hundreds of short stories. Thousands of articles sold for fish tacos. He is the Lil Wayne of literature. He is memoir editor for Split Lip Magazine and reads for PANK.