NASTY HABITS, by Adam Moorad

Adam Moorad is a writer, sales­man, and moun­taineer. His work has appeared­ widely in print and online. He lives in Brook­lyn. Visit him here.

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Julie #2 ran off with the Sheppard. She took my Durango. Left me with her teenage daughter. She calls me by my first name. Her mother got her a drum set for her birthday. She spends all her time smashing the cymbals. My duplex vibrates. The bulbs break. The ceilings cave. I take a clown job at a corral.

“You look scared shitless,” one of the cowboys says to me on my first night. “But your makeup looks good.”

“Thanks,” I say. “This is all sorta new to me.”

He throws his arms around me and says, “I’ve been at this since ’93.” He stretches his quad and his braced knee clicks like it shouldn’t. ”Haven’t looked back since.”

He mounts a bull rattling in the stall beside us. It’s been spray-painted with the stars and stripes. Its nutsack looks like a punching bag. The cowboy scrubs his fingers on the bull’s neck and talks a little shit. There are families in boots and hats walking to their cars. A few Hispanics stick around. The stall flies open and the bull charges out bucking in spirals. The cowboy bounces off his coccyx and lands in the mud. The bull hops the fence into the bleachers. It’s total chaos. There’s nothing I can do.

Julie #2 is back at the duplex in the middle of the night. The Sheppard is sleeping in bed in between us and lets one rip. Julie #2 doesn’t wake up. The Sheppard spoons me and drool runs down my neck. I can’t take it. I get up. I drive the Durango down to Geronimo’s and crack a Kronenburg.

“You shoulda seen this one,” I tell him. “Nuts like a punching bag.”

Geronimo had a car accident in high school and has trouble paying attention.

“Seriously,” he says. “What’s with the makeup?”

I take the Durango for a cruise to clear my head. The horizon is a twist of neon. I sing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” through the sunroof. Just Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! over and over. A truss bridge runs across a dry riverbed into hills stretched out in an alien way. I see the yellow neck of a Waffle House in the distance. The little bit of moon is a rednecked god. The land below is an albino waitress, rippled and minted. A soda can rolls across the road, picking up dust in the fading taillight.

The morning is an empty magnum. I make my way to the Lay-Z-Boy, but the Sheppard has beaten me to it, reclined and tongue bathing. I can hear Julie #2’s daughter lashing at her snare but Julie #2 is nowhere to be found. It all sets my head awhirl. I run outside and puke off the stoop. I sit on the steps wiping the gruel from my mouth. Then I feel a paw on my shoulder. It’s the old cougar from the next duplex down. She purrs and licks the makeup from my cheek. I watch her eyes dilate and fangs flare. I disappear inside her whiskers. She murmurs something sexy as if to say, “I like the smell of you, big boy. I bet you taste good.”

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