from MC Oroville's Answering Machine
by Mike Young

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Real Storms Take Someone

Here, take this. Save your psoriasis to show God. Don't trust the doctors or the verdict. Anyone who found you guilty was too stupid to avoid jury duty. Circle the Keg Room and egg on the smokers. Beg of any fist to open and pour because the lake has never been this low. Oh God, the rain. The PG&E crews have hunkered down in The Depot with cigars and predictions. All is snookered and half-sunk. Even the cliff swallows have ditched. We marshal in the bathhouse, hand-built out of local volcanic greenstone by the WPA. It or us? David dangles his legs off the Green Bridge's edge. Then a woman arrives to give up. All she wears is a windbreaker, an empty box of Sudafed in one pocket. We don't know how he talked her back. Buck up, kiddo is suggested on page 1907. We'll swell your cavities with limestone. If I put my hand here, the shaking will stop. If God lays his rain here, you'll just have to trust me. The lake has never trembled this hard. Roofs bail. Dams splinter. Levees overdose. Two hundred people duck hunt in the marshes. Almond groves uproot and roil and whack against the masonry, drop on SYSCO trucks and health insurance billboards. David won't say how he talked her back. All we do is feed the ticker, MC Oroville. You ever saved a life? Is this too emo for you? Rain and jumpers, river salutes. What David won't say is what we want to hear: if he would listen to us, if he would take of our arms the way he offered his. They say your beard shined, MC Oroville, in the down thrash. You dunked your face and roared up, leering, a salmon flip-flopped in your jaws, blood and silver and silver and blood, mostly the silver that's hard to see through.

Can You Record My Country Song into Your Cell Phone?

In the motels of the AM hours, our new tattoos keep us up. In the band room at Las Plumas, the gunman tells anyone scared to leave before they know what he feels like. In the Feather Falls Casino parking lot, the last car to leave is never the last car to leave. In Ryan's apartment—wait, before that. Welfare for a wheelchair and free movie tickets for a fist. Before that, the yokel sphere of community radio. Hello out there you awesome motherfucker of a night!  Let's win that police tape around the Inn. Dance with the other Ryan, the hospital security guard. Hand a mix tape to the third Ryan, the backhoe man at the quarry who blew his wrestling shot in Sacramento on cocaine. I'd never even seen that shit. It's not like glass. You're making serious money if you're into that shit, and I said Ryan, you awesome motherfucker, you're making serious money here. A series of more serious songs as the Keystones stack into the audacity of history: Sphinx of Keystone. Frank wants me to record his country song into my cell phone. He keeps these lyrics folded in his wallet and bounces at the Keg Room. I don't fight none of them; I talk 'em down, like they're women. In the motels of the AM hours, the hospital security guards and Keg Room bouncers take a fist to the throat from this weekend's girl. Who cares? We're running out of change for the concern machine. Right? They whisper the gurp gurp from MC's Oroville's Meth Till Death until all memory of hurt is just the um what was I saying? And the girl: not even present, yo, still back in Ryan's apartment—wait, no, before that: she dips her feet in the motel pool, kids and chlorine and sun, hers among those. There her face is wrung for the camera—I couldn't feel the needle, I couldn't feel it at all—angled to flatter the men who click Search.

Every Rock Star's Got a Heart Ping

Delbert shaves his chest hair to accommodate the heart machine. Thanks to MediCal he'll taste next summer's olives. Rock on. There's paperwork. He's already got a motorcycle license and another for the AK-47 he had to buy in Oregon—fucking Sac-town Democrats. Now he's got charts that tell him when to plug in, how to hotwire ventricles. Delbert hangs drywall and rents a studio at the Inn. You've never met the people he loves. There's a girl at the mattress factory who won't return his calls. No returns on much. Rock steady. For his heart walloping turn as Count Lonely at the Birdcage Community Theatre, they spell his name wrong. Instead of applause they throw scones. Muffler coupons. Deepfried action figures. Bad tacos from Grande Burger, inland lobster from The Depot. I'm just putting it out there. I'm not saying call me when you're lonely. Whose heart, hands up, is a wet brick? When you were just a boy, MC Oroville, full of goosebumps and frozen Snickers, I'm guessing someone told you rock on. Saddle your shit and ride her home. Rocktacular. Rockspastic. When a big flood yells hi, Delbert drywalls the whole town. He buys Buck's Lake. Delbert's Lake. Heart machine with his shirt off. There goes Delbert with his fucking rat-a-tat possum hunt. Never thought I'd see a happy man so loud. Hog parked outside the tattoo parlor, flossing ink. This one I got because it fucking rocks. This one I got because I'm fucking loaded, which is rock as fuck. Now every girl swiped at the Keg Room is due a new promise. Fuck your momma: you don't gotta stay there. You know the Inn? I'll buy you that shit licking Inn. Listen. No, listen to my mouth. That's just the thing in my chest, doll. It pings. That's how it works. I'm a rock star. I've got music up my ribs. No one can keep me quiet, not for long. No, baby. Don't even try.

Anyone Who's Not an Ocean Holds a History

Lead by ping. Delbert's got them troops in the woods. Kevin and Bryan and Travis, rousted from their Buck's Lake cabins in BVDs to tramp. Thwart these pines. Bristlecone and fire climax. I'm talking legacy. Bury me under that tree but cut it down so you know where you buried me. Okay, Del. You're the rock star here. Before the Keg Room, it was the Meat Barn, big red, cagefights and Coors tongues. Before the B-52 crash, it was the Mercury Register building. One Chinese woman hobbled out with a new subscription. Thwart these pines. Lacebark and spruce. Kevin gives Bryan a tattoo of a 49er with a twenty-three foot mustache. Travis tells the story of the mural painter's cave, but ghosts whore up the tabloids. Pines they hold the tune and carry it. Ponderosas hold the hashmarks of Ishi's archery contest. Table Mountain holds itself as Scotland's sister: born on the moon and kicked down by God for slutty predilections. Woods will always hold the unevacuated. Schwarzengger issued the heat warning and we hid under the lake. If I burn then gather me, a hamstring and an arm stump. Teach your cousin how to play tennis. Okay, Del. Before Concow burned, we held a flak jacket scrim. Before they sold the nurse masks in the hardware store, they sold these calendars of nurses, damn. MC Oroville showers to the tune of Every Breath You Take. All the fires in Butte County on the news abroad. You start to think they're out to get you. Okay, Del. All the boys in the woods lick tattoos of 49ers, but they're not that kind of tattoo. Once I saw a ghost mail a child support check. Once I saw a ghost blowtorch the YMCA pool's winter shell. Travis sapped the turpentine and me I stewed the cones, but Kevin drew a fire in Del's heart batteries and something fucked up, officer. We're all burning what we came with. I saw it coming and I said California! Anyone's who's not an ocean is a stowaway, and Del said Do you know what happened this week in 1850? 158 years ago? California became a state. The state had no electricity. The state had no money. Almost everyone spoke Spanish. There were gunfights in the streets. Woods and ridges burned. Yes, it was just like today, except the women had real breasts and the men didn't hold hands. Okay, Del. Now the woods they hold us, boys in BVDs with all the fire on the way. Before the pines? We were sleeping, officer.