Fiction   Essays   Poetry  The Ten On Baseball Chapbooks In Memory

John Yohe

Riding Dragons

A tattoo on the back of her neck. A chinese character. Hair short and dyed black. All her clothes black. Black shirt, black skirt, black tights, black combat boots. Black bra-strap showing occasionally when she danced in place in the crowd watching the band.

He started off standing behind her, then through the chaos theory of club crowds got moved to her left. She fell into him once and he held her to keep them both from falling. She laughed and yelled thanks. These guys rule, donít they?

He yelled back, Yeah! and stood with her arm rubbing against his.

The band did their last song, about William Shatner meeting aliens at the planetary convergence. Heavy drums and bass, guitar feedbacking out of control. A mosh pit. He stood at the edge, pushing back any guy that fell toward him. Tattoo Girl did the same, smiling and hitting sometimes more than pushing.

After the song, with everyone still standing around waiting to see if they band would do an encore, he leaned over and asked her what the tattoo meant.

She looked at him and smiled, mouth open, almost laughing, eyes glittering in the stage lights. Diarrhea!


Yeah! Isnít it cool?


I just like that it looks so cool, but itís like, diarrhea. Like, I like picturing somebody in China getting a tattoo with the word diarrhea, but like old english lettering so everyone there would think it was cool.


Plus like, the day I got it, I had the shits. Like flu. Like, I felt like I was shitting my intestines out. So when I went down to the tattoo shop with my girlfriend and saw this, I thought, why not?

Then she did laugh. He stared at her. The house lights came on and she turned away looking for the band. He walked away to the bar to get a last beer.

She found him later in the parking lot going to his car and came over. Hey, can I get a ride?

He hesitated, but said yes. They got in and he started the car. She turned her body, not putting on the seatbelt, toward him, smiling. Do I scare you?

He nodded slowly. Yes.


I donít know. Your tattoo....

You donít like tattoos?

I do. I think theyíre really sexy, actually.

Do you have any?


Why not?

Because...I guess Iíd rather spend the money on books or something.


Or...I think...I think thereís also the idea that tattoos are a form of self-mutilation.

Then why do you think theyíre sexy?

He shrugged. I donít know. I like bad girls.

Like me?


She leaned over and whispered in his ear. Want me to give you a blow job?

Her tongue in his ear.

He froze. She leaned over and unzipped his jeans.

Through the windshield, people still in the parking lot, walking through the cars, sitting on hoods smoking and talking. Cars coming on and leaving. Sometimes lights flashing right through at him. Inside, the sound of spit and breathing. He came and she coughed.

She sat up and wiped her chin. Can we go now?

He wiped some sweat from his forehead and zipped up his pants. Yeah, sure.

She directed him south into the student ghetto and had him park outside a big two-story brick house. Stay here, Iíll be back.

She opened the door. Oh, do you have twenty bucks I can have?

He got out his wallet and gave her a twenty. She took it and smiled. Iím not a whore or anything. I wouldíve asked you for this anyways.

Then she was gone into the house.

He waited. Ten minutes. He turned on the radio. An old Van Morrison song. Moondance. He checked the dash clock. Twenty minutes. Fuck. He put the car in drive. Just then she came running out and jumped in. Alright! Ready!

He pulled the car away. What was that all about?

Buying smack.

He braked in the middle of the street. What?

Duh. Like, you heard me.

With my money.

You gave it to me.

I could get arrested.

She rolled her eyes. Oh please. Now I know why you donít have a tattoo.


Cause youíre chickenshit.

Look, why donít we call it a night.

Donít you want to come back to my place?

I donít do heroin.

Did I ask?

Itís all for you?

No. I was going to ask, but not now.

No thank you

Did I ask?

Youíre crazy.

SŪ, soy loca. She raised her hands, curving her fingers to look like claws. Soy La Loca de Las Locas!

Eres la tonta de tontas.

She nodded. Eso tambiťn. She folded her hand in her lap. Please though? At least give me a ride home?

He stared at her a second, then nodded and kept driving. Alright.

They didnít say anything for a while, except her giving directions. She looked in the back seat. Papers. An empty ink cartridge. Do you have a girlfriend?

He looked at her quickly. No.

She stared at him. I knew it.

How did you know it?

She smiled. Then looked out the window. Turn right here. I just knew.

He turned right. I am capable of having girlfriends you know.

Left! Left!

They had been going south and then east away from campus. He parked in the parking lot. She asked him in. He went.

Her two roommates gone for the weekend. Shoes and coats on the floor. Ashtrays with cigarettes on the coffeetable. Melted candles. Wax rainbows. Magazines. Rolling Stone, The Mary Jane Times, Vogue. In the kitchen off the living room dishes stacked in the sink. Bread crumbs and jelly on the counter. Empty beer bottles with cigarettes in the dregs. Spaghetti sauce stains on the stove.

She lit some candles and turned off the lights. He sat on the couch and she sat next to him and lit a cigarette. I bet you donít even smoke, do you?


Ok, youíre really making me feel shitty now. Donít you do anything bad?

I donít know. I drink.

When was the last time you got drunk?

Like, really drunk?

Like puking on the floor drunk.

A while. Back in college.

How old are you?


Iím seventeen.

Oh. Great.

She laughed. Donít worry. I wonít report you.


She laughed again. Like I canít choose to have sex with an older guy. I didnít know you were thirty-two though. Thatís cool. What are you doing hanging out at a club on Friday night? Arenít you supposed to be home watching HBO or something?

I like that band. I still like music.

And looking at girls with tattoos.

I guess. Yeah.

Did you ever go out with someone like me when you were younger?

He shook his head. No.

Did you want to?


Girls like me scare you.


You didnít ask me if I had any other tattoos.

Ok, do you?

Yeah. She pulled up her shirt. A black spider on her stomach next to her naval. Itís a black widow. A female, cause itís got the violin head on the back.

Itís good.

Thanks. Iíve got another one. She sat up and turned around, still lifting her shirt. On her lower back two figures. A woman and a man.

Thatís a demon. Itís an original. I just told the guy I wanted a beautiful woman being raped by a demon. Isnít it cool?

Itís...very cool.

She turned back around and sat with her feet tucked under her. You should get a tattoo. Before itís too late.

You mean before I get married and buy a house and have kids and a dog?

Yeah. You should get your whole arm tattooed.

He shook his head again. Iíd lose my job.

What do you do?

Iím a copywriter for an ad agency.


She mashed out her cigarette and got out her little packet of heroin, making her claw gesture at him again. Time to ride the dragon. She raised her eyebrows and pursed her lips. Want some?

No. I should go.

Donít you want to watch? You can stay. I donít like to do it alone.


She winked. Then Iíd be an addict.

She stood up and lifted her skirt, reaching for the waistband of her tights and pulling them down. Black panties.

She pulled the tights off and sat down. Tossed them in his lap. Here.

He touched them. Soft. Still warm.

She reached under the couch and brought out a cigar box. Inside a needle and rubber hose. A spoon and lighter. She wrapped the hose around her left ankle. She saw the expression on his face and laughed. What, did you think Iíd do it in my arm?

You do it in your foot?

Duh, yeah.

He watched her heat the powder in the spoon, then suck the liquid up in the syringe. She smiled and held it out to him. Want to do it for me?

No way. I couldnít.



She laughed and put the needle between the toes of her left foot. She cringed and injected, then untied the hose and lay back on the couch. Oh fuck oh fuck. Her eyes half open. She looked at him. You can fuck me if you want. Donít come in my pussy. Iím...not....

She stared at the ceiling and relaxed.

He stared at her face, watching it soften. A smile. The syringe still hanging from her foot. A drop of blood. He pulled it out, holding it lightly, and put it on the coffee table.

He sat and stared at her. She breathed softly and sometimes almost whispered something. He took her tights and held them up to his face, smelling her scent, rubbing them against his skin.

He got up and went to the stereo. CDs of bands he mostly didnít know, though an old scratched jewel case of Miles Davis. He put it in, soft, and walked over to the window. The dark street lined with cars. All the lights off in other buildings.

He explored the two bedrooms. One with two beds. Posters on the walls. Bob Marley. Tapestries and beads. CDs. Horoscope books. Japanese manga graphic novels. Pictures on the dressers of girls. Her roommates. One with long pink hair, the other with blonde dredlocks.

In the next room two posters of Marilyn Manson and Johnny Cash. Drawings of demons in black ink on grey paper. The sheets from her futon thrown on the floor. He put them back on and sat on the mattress. He smelled her tights again and lay down and unzipped his jeans, touching himself using them and afterwards fell asleep, but woke when the CD ended.

He got up and walked back into the living room. She was sleeping. He got a Pepsi out of the refrigerator and looked out the window again.

Oh fuck! She got up and stumbled to the bathroom. Coughing and wet slime sound. She groaned when he walked in and turned on the light. She had missed, and half lay, half sat, holding her head on the toilet seat. He got some tissues, wet them down and wiped her chin. She kept her eyes closed.

He picked her up and carried her to her bed. She finally barely opened her eyes and looked at him. Thank you....

He pulled the cover over her. Goodbye.


He stood there. She closed her eyes and fell asleep. He looked at the space on the other side of the mattress. Then took her tights and left, locking himself out, going to his car.

He drove home, went inside, undressed, unbunched her tights and lay them on the pillow next to him and fell asleep staring at them.

©2010 by John Yohe

John Yohe holds an MFA in Poetry Writing from The New School for Social Research, and an MA in The Teaching of Writing from Eastern Michigan University. He teaches writing full-time at Jackson Community College. His first full-length collection of poetry, What Nothing Reveals, is available on Amazon. A complete list of his publications, and poetry, fiction, and non-fiction writing samples can be found at his website.

  Home Contributors Past Issues Search   Links  Guidelines About Us

Subscribe to the Slow Trains newsletter