Excerpt from Bud Smith’s Upcoming Collection, Calm Face



Bud Smith


On the way home from the oil refinery, I stop at Target. In the outdoor section, I can’t stop myself from picking up an inflatable hot tub and lifting the inflatable hot tub over my head.

I buy it and set it in the trunk of my car where the spare tire should be but there’s room because the spare tire has been on my car for 66 weeks.

I drive up the turnpike at 115 mph because that’s the only way that I can get through the toll­booth without the cameras catching my license plate. If I am going to live in New York City I cannot afford to pay the bridge toll every day.

I work in New Jersey.

I don’t have a barbecue grill.

I live on 173rd where I have no religion or cable TV.

I am surrounded by dust bunnies.

I set up the inflatable hot tub in the center of my living room.

But I need a hose.

That’s something I didn’t think of.

So first, I walk over to my next-door neighbor, the Screamer, who is surprised to see me. I have never encountered the Screamer, not eye to eye, just heard him through the wall.

“What can I do for you?”

“Do you have a hose?”

My neighbor closes his door very slowly.

I hear the deadbolt. “I’m sorry,” I hear him politely say through the door, muffled.

I can sense his eye looking through the peep­hole.

I slap the door where the peephole is. I walk away.

Edik is carrying garbage bags up from the gar­bage storage area.

It must be garbage day.

That is one of the ways I have survived in New York City.

I have not thought about garbage day in 12 years.

But, today I go down and give him a hand with the garbage.

I lug the last bag of trash to the street and he shakes my frozen garbage juice hand and says, “Good man, thank you.”

“Sure, sure… I could use some help, though.”

“What you need?” he says.

“A hose.”

“Sure. Hose is easy.”

He disappears for a minute and then comes back with a garden hose.

That was easy.

But then he says, “What do you need it for?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“Then keep it,” he says “I don’t want to ever see this hose again. I know nothing.”

I fill the inflatable hot tub with scolding water.

It is the best water in the country.

Everyone says that.

They say that my city tap water is a miracle.

They say that pizza everywhere else can suck my city’s pizza’s dick.

They say bagels anywhere else can eat my city’s bagel’s ass.

It’s all thanks to this water.

A friend of mine was arrested for swimming naked in the reservoir where this water comes from.

He says they pointed a machine gun at him.

He has a few stories where he has been naked and has had a machine gun pointed at him.

He has never been in a war but has had machine guns aimed at his nuts multiple times.

I think he should avoid war.

War would be no good for him.

I’m not going to war either. I’m just going in this hot tub.

My phone rings.

It’s my mom.

My mail still goes to my mom’s house in New Jersey.

It’s been 12 years. I get no mail here.

“Hey, have 1000 tickets for you here.”

“What kind of tickets? Lottery tickets?”

“You’ve been driving through a toll every day?”

“Yes, but very fast.”

“Okay.” She laughs. “Go faster.”

The doorbell rings.

“Hey, gotta go…”

It’s the lady downstairs. She’s got a new prob­lem.

She looks very upset.

“It’s raining in my apartment.”

I look at her.

I say, “You need an exorcist, probably.”

But she can see the water rushing down the hallway.

And she points.

“What is that?”

“Oh fuck, my hot tub…”

I close the door.

I shut off the hose.

I plug the hot tub in.

The water swirls like heaven.

Bubbling, like what the afterlife is supposed to be like.

And then there is more knocking on my door.

But I’m getting naked.

I’m climbing into the inflatable hot tub.

I’m submerging.

I’m going under like a frog.

I’m thinking that I will also fill the living room with beach sand and a charcoal grill.

I can get the sand.

I can get a grill.

Both are on sale. Saw them today.





Pre-order the new paperback edition of Bud Smith’s story collection, Calm Face, out February 1 from House of Vlad Productions



BUD SMITH runs Unknown Press, hosts The Unknown Show podcast, co-edits the literary journal Uno Kudo, and is the author of WORK, Dust Bunny City (with Rae Buleri), and F 250, among other books. His writing has appeared at Hobart, The Nervous Breakdown, Funhouse, jmww, Real Pants, PANK, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Monkeybicycle, Connotation Press, Wigleaf, Spork, Smokelong Quarterly, Talking Book, Potluck, decomP, Juked, and Barrelhouse, among other places. He works heavy construc­tion in New Jersey, build­ing and maintaining power plants and oil refin­eries.


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