In our hometown there were places––Real places: like the Taco Bell Burger King McDonald’s trifecta, where if we went late enough we could sometimes see the employees lighting up and smoking underage under parking lot streetlights; and the beat-up other Walgreens, where a big can of Arnold Palmer and a family size bag of those pretzels bites with the peanut butter inside only cost two seventy-nine in exact change; and the church/daycare parking lot where we used to play four-square and had our own ass handed to us again and again by merciless middle school boys who found puberty early and used it to cherry bomb that motherfucker so hard we didn’t have a cold chance in hell; and that secret bike trail that wasn’t really secret and is now an apartment complex haunted by the souls of Baja Blast-drinking sixteen-year-old jackasses pulling wheelies on their ghostly 12-speeds; and the old basketball court that stood next to the high school until orcish men wielding hard-hats and jackhammers came and tore it up to build a brick building with no windows and no doors, that black asphalt and triple-rimmed hoop now long, long gone—the faded white three-point arc and games of twenty-one existing only in memory like the taste of a root beer float; and let’s not forget the football bleachers so stereotypical I don’t need to remind you they had a specified section solely for the hopeless souls of pep band kids with braces and baritones, ADHD and saxophone reeds, converse kicks and splintery drumsticks, lonely oboes and sheet music with penciled-in quotes from Seneca, etc., etc.––those bleachers underneath which the virginities of many were (supposedly) lost, along with something else we didn’t even know we had but now we miss it like those Scooby-Doo fruit snacks that turned out to be too good for reality; and of course that hill behind the Honeywell smokestack, where once on an October midnight before the end of the world we licked cheap McDonald’s ice cream cones in the backseat of a beater, and for the first time saw our lives as bildungsromans building up to this exact moment, saw the honey-colored spirit egress not just with the smoke of Marlboros or blunts or bonfires, but with each new and frosting exhalation.
And now when we find ourselves back in our hometown, it’s just a town that used to be home.
Christian Ash was born and raised in suburban Minnesota, and currently attends Gustavus Adolphus College. In 2020, his fiction and poetry received awards as part of the Lawrence Owen Prizes in Creative Writing. Additionally, his work has been published in Kaleidzine Magazine and Firethorne Literary and Graphic Magazine.