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Astronauts Can’t Be Leonards /// New Fiction by Chris McCartney

Ever sucker punch yourself because your ears wasn’t stuffed with cotton when you learnt the rest of your life was going to be a suckfest? I did. Broke two knuckles. If there was a way to rewind backwards to that bloody afternoon, I woulda chose to eyeball my step-Grammy’s Section 8 cooter rather than get told my family tree had a dumbass parked on practically every branch.

     Me and Grammy was hanging out, watching Little House on the Prairie reruns at her apartment. When you’re twenty-three, been rocking her ganj for hours and woofing popcorn tins like they was lobsters – you’re on top of the world and think there’s nothing that can’t go wrong. Her weed made you forget all them D.U.I.’s and restraining orders. You didn’t care you was unemployed or what month the calendar said it was. What you didn’t expect was to get knifed in the ribcage.

     Grammy’s ambush caught me totally unawares. If I wasn’t so stoned, maybe I coulda seen it coming. Karate chopped that wrinkly arm before she stuck me. I respected Grammy for how fast she moved, but the poor old lady just wasn’t strong enough to gash any vitals.

     Blood squirted out the knife hole, down the outside of my ribs and half-filled my pants pocket. Didn’t want to blow up and start a war because I love my Grammy, so I pretended I got into a scuffle with Little Joe. Figured if I made him look like a real tossbag, she wouldn’t feel bad about trying to kill her grandson.

     Bloodstains don’t come out of velour couches. I found that out when Grammy flipped me a ragged old doily and told me to plug up the hole with it or else I had to steal her something new to sit on. You never question anything she says you if you know what’s good for you. Like when she cooks something. Even if it tastes like lug nuts, I always eat it. If I don’t, she’s liable to pour hot oil down my back. By the way, the reason Grammy got pissed was because I mopped up some spilled bong water with her brown wig. BFD. When she wears that thing, it looks like a badger landed on her head.

     She refolded the switchblade. Slipped it back into her knickers. Said it was time I learnt about where I come from. I wanted to bolt because I was pretty sure babies came from vaginas and I was afraid she’d show me her flaps. You can probably imagine my relief when she kept them knees together and unrolled a sheet of yellowish paper.

     I didn’t get that pot boner fantasizing about my Grammy. I got excited because I anticipated she was going to tell me this was a treasure map. Told her to just show me the island and I’d be shovel ready. I hit the bong hard. Like a ancient pirate would do.

     She gave me a pathetic stare. Youda thought I spray painted her cat. Grammy sobbed and voodoo clucked while her crooked finger ouija’d all over that map. Was she playing me? Trying to throw me off by pointing to the wrong place? I blew up. Smacked her a good one to the side of her head. Pretty sure she seen stars.

     Grammy rolled up the map and looked right into my bloodshots. Said this wasn’t no buried treasure map. It was a chart of my family tree. I replied by saying she was full of crap. Grammy got one of them teacher looks on her face, which made me want to cheat. Said the chart had higher accuracy than a lie-detractor machine. It proved I resulted from generations of big-balled idiots on papa’s side knocking up wagonloads of boozy crackers on mama’s side.

     That last sentence hung in the air like she pooted a taco. Changed my life. When you get proof your body’s chock-full of stupid genes, your list of options grows to practically nothing. It means you can never be a astronaut. Or win a Mega Millions. No use taking another GED test. Demoralized me to where I wanted to guzzle kerosene.

     This may surprise you, but it blunted a secret fantasy of mine. At one time, I had a hankering to be a writer. Maybe land a job reporting on traffic accidents or advise people about what fork to use when they have company. Well – scratch all that. Them experts say you should write about what you know. Ever since I was a kid, I heard Grammy and every dirt-bag in town say, “That poor little Ardel Leonard. He don’t know shit.”

McCartney has been sacked by several powerful organizations for his inability to brown-nose and his goat-logic problem solving skills. His work has appeared in The Story Shack and Squawk Back.