Angel Dust | Alex Behr

Gib holds his pee and doesn’t laugh when one kid stutters on the rug. He chews and tries to swallow mustard-flavored meat. Aiden calls him short. That is first grade.

Third grade. Gib comes home and cries about the bullying. Shrimp Little Dinky. He wants to kick things, but his sister Liza strokes his hair, says no. He spits on the bed through the sheets, drooling hate in the flavors of watermelon and peanut butter.


I pound on the cab’s steering wheel. Sarah digs a pencil into her leg. She wants to know me because she’s tasted me.


My sister Liza, now dead, never teased me for playing with a stick. Oak. Maple. Hickory. The stick had a name, transferred to others as they broke in snake or gopher holes, or were tossed off the overpass. Liza, the orange lollipop, knew the stick’s name.

How can I tell my girlfriend the secret name, her breath frosting the window, when she fears me?


Their father, a career NSA spy, slaps hellos. Belts goodbyes. Seven is too many. They start dying. Anorexia takes the first one, Liza. Six left.

This burger is the best comfort food. Radio off!

Gib’s girlfriend pays for cab repairs. Gib has a long tongue. He says he once gave a ride to Idi Amin. He sold drugs to hookers. He got robbed in Anacostia. He tells his girlfriend he knew the color of his boss’s sheets. Lies tumble from his mouth, now with all his teeth, then with fewer.


“I had to wipe my nose twenty times in each class. I sniffled a hundred more. I coughed a lot.”

“Does that mean you want to sleep with me?”

“My throat hurts.”

“Turn off the flashlight.”

“Look at the shadows.”

“It’s irritating my eyes.”

“Are there fairies in-between the slats of the blinds?”

“Sure. One of them is Liza, watching you.”


I unplug the TV but the sound keeps going: Leave the jokes to me, Chuckles.

I have pot sex with Sarah. The one who smells like my dead candy sister. And I have Dilaudid sex with him. We spatter blood on the aquarium and on the walls. Cockroaches descend into Pepsi bottles. Is this love?

Oh, another wrinkle cream with no urgency in making any change happen whatsoever.

I tie up my German shepherd outside the gay bathhouse on St. Mark’s Place.

It’s better to give than to receive.


Bodies falling. Drowning. Shot dead in the water. Soldiers stepping on uniformed corpses in the churning tide.

“Are you upset about the violence?” my remaining sister asks her son.

“It’s a movie.”

“Maybe not so good here.”

My nephew shuts off his iPad. I am the host. My skin yellowed by hep C. No one was supposed to know. My nephew sips a Frappuccino, tonguing sugary goo.

No one hands me a stick to caress as a guide toward death. Neither oak, nor maple, nor hickory.


The sand cools when the storm comes. Translucent insects flatten to survive. I hold bones of desiccated crabs pressed into tire tracks that course over me. I can’t express pain, but it is visible during lightning flares. Thunder follows, deafening. It opens a space between the water below—of salt, fish, and bone fragments from an anorexic—and the air tumid with water and wind. Ions shudder.

Alex Behr is a writer in Portland, Oregon. Her debut collection Planet Grim (7.13 Books) will be published in October, 2017. “Angel Dust” is excerpted from the collection.

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