Young Americans, August 1979
by Damian Dressick
Whirling across the spongy deck behind his parents’ singlewide, we slide from one rain-slick 2”x 4” to the next. Tuxedo shirt unbuttoned to my navel, prom gown ripped to accommodate his shoulders, we spin between the dripping rails. Twist. Feather step. Closed change. Freeze. Wrenching a hank of hair, I jerk him forward, force him down with the meat of my palm. On his knees he scores the paleness of my stomach with lipstick traces trailing toward the jock strap swollen with knotted panties. I offer nothing but a performative sneer. My fingers push across his cheekbone smearing pancake makeup into eyeliner. I revel in the chiaroscuro— my dark nails against his platinum wig in the streetlight haze. A mile down the tracks, our three-street town feels far as Mars. The saxophone flourishes echoing into the jack pines hold me like I’m holding him, like I’ve never been held before. This flashbulb moment is nothing less than transfiguration. We are being reimagined by these key changes, transformed by that snarky baritone. Its haunting melisma charges our molecules as we chassé in the drizzle. From here on, things will only get more haphazard, glossy. Our planes never streak into Iowa cornfields. Even our riots will reincarnate as history lessons.
Damian Dressick is the author of the novel 40 Patchtown (Bottom Dog Press: Appalachian Writing Series, 2020) and the forthcoming short story collection Fables of the Deconstruction (CLASH Books 2021). His creative work has appeared in more than fifty literary journals and anthologies, including W.W. Norton’s New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction, Cutbank, Post Road, New Orleans Review and Smokelong Quarterly. A Blue Mountain Residency Fellow, he is the winner of the Harriette Arnow Award and the Jesse Stuart Prize. He co-hosts WANA: LIVE, a (largely) virtual reading series that brings some of the best in Appalachian writing to the world. He teaches at Clarion University of Pennsylvania.