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Fiction #513
(published November 18, 2010)
All the Rage in the World
by Andy Henion
The farmer's kid is doing just fine tonight. Blossoming, even. Watch the quarter bounce from his callused fingers and plop into the foamy beer. He'll identify the chosen one with a bent elbow, the way he's supposed to, and he won't say drink, drank or drunk, for that's not allowed. The other seniors, town kids with factory faded clothing and leather jewelry, will urge him on; they know of the farmer's kid, of course, but they've never had him at their table.

"Consume," the farmer's kid says, and he feels the hipness, understands what it means to be one of them, and he likes it. He envisions a future filled with decadent parties in coed dormitories and fraternity houses, a future that does not include that fucking farm.

Where they've seen him: Friday nights on the grassy battlefield, hurling his chiseled body with abandon. Team captain, leading tackler, name painted black and blue on paper banners: Todd Borowiak becoming Todd Borowhack! The downstate columnist calls him The Teenage Wrecking Ball, the hardest hitter he's seen in years. "Kid's got all the rage in the world," the coach says. "He just needs focus."

The farmer's kid sinks the quarter again and sends the beer to the subject of his daydreams. Little Lisa Finney. Perched on the couch back with tiny feet resting on the seat cushion, pint bottle in hand, chestnut eyes meeting his. He takes in the bare midriff and tight jeans and feels his heart fluttering up his windpipe, shortening his breath. He hasn't had much luck with intimacy, brief encounters at best, but in these drunken, wordless moments of foreplay he may as well be a stallion. His neck quivers with desire.

Lisa Finney knocks back the skunky brew, moves her tongue around her mouth and presents the quarter between front teeth. It's a quick, practiced act, and the farmer's kid knows she has done this dozens of times, maybe hundreds. As if on cue, a group of jocks chest-bumping by the front door begins to chant "Finney, Finney, Finney." At least two of them have a history with the little brunette, and there's even rumor of a group effort, but the farmer's kid doesn't believe it: locker room talk. Lisa Finney simply shakes her head and chases the beer with deep swallows of butterscotch schnapps.

Now the jocks are chanting Crazy Mae in preparation for a late-night trip into the old woman's neighboring pasture. Clayton Mills, the quarterback whose parents own the five-bedroom colonial, says from the front door, "Borowiak, come tippin' with us, man. You can show us how to do it." It's a slight dig, sure, but even so it's an invitation he can't refuse. Not from Clayton Mills. So he stands, woozy from ninety minutes of drink, and glances over to see Lisa Finney heading down the dim hallway. She casts a look over her shoulder and without another thought the farmer's kid follows.

"Borowhack, Borowhack, Borowhack," comes the breathy chorus, and he smiles to himself, slightly embarrassed that everyone knows his business but more so loving the attention of this choice gathering.

The bedroom is massive, as big as his father's living room and kitchen combined, with French doors that open onto the backyard. Yellow moonlight spills in, illuminating Lisa Finney's slight outline as she comes forward to take hold of a bulging forearm. "This from lifting weights?" she asks. The farmer's kid almost slips and says, "Pullin' teat," but instead reaches down and closes both hands around her ass. Lifts her easily and begins kissing her deeply, aggressively, tasting candy sweetness and alcohol. He's flush, engorged, although Lisa Finney is not responding as expected. She hasn't wrapped her legs around him; she isn't kneading his scalp with anxious hands; she barely offers any tongue. This is the wild passion he had hoped to invoke, the response he has seen in movies and reconstructed time and again in his hungry thoughts.

The farmer's kid lowers her to the floor, fearing he's gone to fast, but little Lisa Finney just stands there looking back with noncommittal eyes. In one motion he reaches under the baby tee and slides it over her head. She's not wearing a bra, and he bends down and takes her into his mouth, his hands nearly encircling her waist. Sucking furiously, heart hammering, he fights to keep his pelvis from working its own spastic rhythm. At times like this he knows to think of something gross or distressing, and he conjures up the running feud with his father. The old man harps about how college is a waste of time, how football will chew him up and spit him out, meanwhile the farm goes under with only one hand to run it. The farmer's kid tells the old man he's just jealous, that he's going to USC and become All-American, that he purposely chose California to get as far away from this shithole as possible.

"Teeth," says Lisa Finney, without touching him, and he realizes his saliva has turned metallic. Straightening, he sucks his front teeth and stares at the pinkish smear across her skin. He's not sure how to take this.

From the distance he hears the front door slam and the whoops and hollers as the cow tippers set out. The farmer's kid feels a part of something big and unruly. The night is alive with senior year freedom, the world is their servant, and anything goes. He hustles out if his clothes. Then he guides her to the bed and pushes her down. Tears after her jeans at a frantic pace, yanking them hard enough to nearly dump her on the floor. It's only when he tosses them aside that he notices Lisa Finney is wearing a thong. Black lace, narrow as a pinky finger. This, too, he has seen on the screen, in the mail order catalogues that still come for his mother. Dropping to his knees, he separates her cocked legs and discovers the material is partially buried inside her. He gets a finger under it and moves it aside—he's seeing black spots now, he's humping air, and he conjures up images of his cancer-riddled mother on her deathbed. Soupy bovine placentas. But it's too late. As he pulls her apart with his thumbs, as he tastes Lisa Finney's tartness, the farmer's kid lets loose, a thought-clearing gush of relief that ends any chance at greatness here tonight.

Moments of terrible stillness follow. He pants like a dog, spittle-flecked lips an inch from her musky center. He's suddenly revolted by her smell. By her easiness. By his ineptitude. When he stands, finally, he realizes the wetness is seeping through his jeans, darkening his crotch. He turns away. "No rubber," he says, but he knows Lisa Finney isn't buying it. Did he even grunt? Jesus Christ.

The farmer's kid decides the best thing to do is join the tippers. He heads for the French door and says, as flippantly as possible, "Rain check." Now he's in the warm spring night, jogging through Clayton Mills' backyard with bleach-smelling pants and a foggy brain. Drunk and spent, he wants just to curl up on his featherbed and shut down, wake up to another promise-filled day. Yet he runs, imaging Lisa Finney wiggling back into her jeans, heading out to the party, hooking up with someone who can meet her needs. To her friends she'll whisper, "Shot his pants."

With the full moon as his guide, he hurdles the fence and hits full stride. Twenty yards ahead he sees the four tippers moving swiftly in a horizontal line. Just beyond them is the hulking figure of a cow, a Holstein, maybe even pregnant. These rich kids won't know this, of course, they'll think it's a man-hating Brahma or some equally menacing creature. The farmer's kid hates that he knows this, hates that he isn't laying it to little Lisa Finney like there's no tomorrow. Sneering, arms pumping, he catches up to the silent pack and assumes the familiar position of a blitzing linebacker, setting his sights on the cow's ribcage. Focus, he tells himself. Focus. But there's only rage and the bitter thoughts that fuel it: life on the farm, insatiable town girls, his worthless cock.

The farmer's kid blasts the animal a moment before the others make contact but aims too low and his shoulder slides off the slick hide and his momentum carries him under the beast. He hesitates ever so slightly before scrambling to escape and knows he has made a horrible mistake. His eyes widen as the shadow washes over him, blotting out the moonlight like a vast black cloud. Fifteen-hundred pounds of Holstein crash down on his legs and pin him to the ground hard enough to dislocate a shoulder. He opens his mouth to scream and vomits a half-gallon of beer. It's an unbearable, come-to-Jesus pain, and he has no choice but to black out with the sudden knowledge that he has made his last run. That the beasts have gotten the best of him once and for all.

Andy Henion writes from Okemos, Michigan.

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