Margo August Woods

Downy. Smoke. Leather. And the smell of my brother’s room: semen.

Last assembly, I stared at him, tripping on his scent. A sleeve of his jacket kissed my knee. I memorized the holes of his Slayer t-shirt, and my hands itched to braid the hair that licked his shoulders. Before Mr. Halverton ousted him for laughing at Ellen Godfrey’s camel toe, I kyped a strand of his hair. I keep it under my pillow.

Chris Dowowski, I whisper. Chris hisses like a cig smacking water. Duh thrusts into Wow, a sigh after sex, and Ski ends like a question mark. Does he think about me like I think about him? Does he think of me ever?

During Reading, Chris slouched behind Jean with his crotch close. I always begged to use the can so I could amble past their classroom and wave to Jean. I spied on him. Chris sucked a lock of his hair. Blew it off his face. Picked his nails and smirked at Mrs. Findle’s sweat rings. I quit after Mrs. Norton asked if anything was wrong because I peed too much during her class.

I had Reading after Chris, and the warmth of his seat made me oozy. Chris carved his initials on the desk like the AC/DC logo. I traced the grooves, dreaming about his jeans. A comb jammed in one pocket; red box Marlboros in the other. He’s left behind tissues since he returned. I heard that when he ran away, he sold speed in New York until he got pneumonia. I could hear him hack on his way to Shop.

Tonight at the eighth-grade graduation dance, the popular boys competed in the air guitar contest. They stumbled through “Welcome to the Jungle,” strumming off-rhythm and bumbling on stage. Chris sprang up and pounded the air, snickering at his opponents. Beatle head shakes, Elvis thrusts—he did it all. We applauded, astonished at his talent. I was the loudest.

Now I hunch by the window in the girls’ can, cooling my sweat from the crowded cafeteria. Outside, Chris’s lighter illuminates his grin as he sits on the curb, rolling pebbles under his boots. I dig his scent for the last time; he’s learning how to fix cars at Vo-Tech next year. My heart feels chafed like raw elastic in an old bra.

Lexicon Devil

“We did this show so you new people could see what it was like when we were around. You’re not going to see it again,” Darby Crash said at the end of the Germs’ reunion show at Starwood. Now, five days later, I realize how true his statement was. Their last song was “Another One Bites the Dust.”

Michelle told me that he scored heroin with the money he made that night. He shot up, spread Christ-like on the floor, and died. He was twenty-two.

I remember a show at the Masque when he lay on stage, lifeless, his eyes closed. Earlier, he had let us scribble on him with a marker. I drew on his shoulder before he wriggled away. The graffiti on his chest looked like cords of dried blood.

Darby got high on everything he could find before he played. He lurched on stage, smashing bottles on himself and rolling in glass. Near the end, the Germs were banned from most clubs in Los Angeles.

I saw their first show at the Orpheum, opening for the Weirdos. The Germs were on stage for five minutes. Donna Rhia beat her drums; Pat Smear ground out feedback; Lorna Doom played her one-string bass and gulped champagne.

Darby, blonde and baby-faced, called himself Bobby Pyn then. He prowled the stage, wrapping himself in yards of scarlet licorice whips. He refused to sing into the mike and drowned it in a jar of Jif. He smeared us with peanut butter. Soon, the police kicked them off the stage and herded us out of the club.

At a Whisky show, Darby sang “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies and emptied bags of sugar on us. It mixed with our sweat, forming a sticky paste. After we got tossed out, we went to Licorice Pizza, gorging ourselves on free licorice and the newest issue of Flipside.

I got a Germs Burn that night from Dinky. His burn had healed well, a raised circle over the blue veins of his wrist. I extended my arm, chomping down on a licorice whip in anticipation of the pain. He burned a circle on my wrist with his cigarette. When it was finished, it glowed like it was still on fire.

Later, I gave a kid a Germs Burn in the parking lot of the Rainbow. Darby’s rules were that it had to be given by somebody who already had one, and it had to be on the left wrist. When it was over, the boy looked at me and laughed.

The burns and the logo Darby wore on an armband reminded me of his eyes. Dilated and vacant, the way they looked during a show. Eyes so blue it hurt to look at them. Darby was too shy to hold a stare anyway; he looked away from me when he talked, playing with the safety pins in his ear.

On the Germs’ 7-inches, the logo was off-center, just like dear, dead Darby.


I had gone forty-three hours without food. Only coffee, cigarettes, and orange juice. I wasn’t hungry at all. When I fast, I don’t need food. Only when I resume eating do I want more.

Forty-three hours.

Then, for supper: a bowl of salted pastina, a glass of milk, and a matzo, layered with peanut butter and margarine, on which my mother carved a heart with the edge of a butter knife.

She forced me. I returned to the habit from watching her circuit the kitchen, from chair to refrigerator to pantry to chair, rummaging with a hunger that had nothing to do with food.

Schik schik vulkas ateina, she said, which means shit, shit, the wolf is coming–her reprimand for dawdling. With anyone else, the phrase and its translation would be humorous, but my mother says it so often, with such force, that it has become a threat uniquely hers.

Matzos are a comfort food, a custom like that of the neighborhood boys who hang their old shoes on telephone wires. She fixes them for me when she knows I haven’t been eating, because she knows they remind me of when I was little. When she offers them to me, I can’t refuse them. I bit into the matzo, and it had a good and terrible taste at once.

I wasn’t hungry in the least but I ate it, and it sat like a stone in my stomach, weakening me. Soon afterwards I drank three cups of coffee and, like a tube of toothpaste, I was squeezed hollow again.

The coffee mug teemed with soap bubbles whenever I rinsed it. I watched the bones transform themselves as my wrist rotated with each deposit in the sink, making the froth crackle inside the cup.

I leaned over the sink and rubbed soap over the point of my nose, my cheekbones, my jaw and the flutter behind my lids and rinsed my face. Through my incipient bones, I felt I knew myself at last.

When it was time to sleep, I lay in my bed and listened. If I lived in the apartment across the hall, I would be diluted by the television, the clinking of bottles, ice cubes in glasses. I don’t mind the noise but the voices: rumbling, rising voices . . . . They were in the bedroom with me, a gargle as I straightened the sheets that popped off the corners of the bed. I gave up and lay instead on the plastic mattress cover that sparked green static if I moved. I settled into an anxious rest. Then, inexplicably, a laugh or shout. It made me jerk awake, as if being slapped in the face.

I crouched on one knee at the wall and listened, unable to match the voices to their speakers. I have exceptional hearing but not when I am scared. No, not with blood pounding in my ears.

This morning the cat pressed against me until I woke to peel open a tin of cat food for it. I didn’t notice the cut until a drop of blood splashed the rim of the cat’s bowl. Even then, when I studied my sliced thumb, I felt nothing.

Nothing. No hunger: today I must make it to forty-four.