after Mark Morris
The cowboy necropolis is floodless; it extends night in long-dead, swing bands over an AM radio seeping deep into west Texas. A series of calls from payphones, blowjobs behind horse trailers. Quick! How many motel chains can you name in one breath? Count them out like playing cards. It’s a tired movie—strung on past four o’clock, the test patterns whistling you to sleep in a half-empty motel along a county highway. Your body whistles, too—but for corn chips and the channel that tunes in halfway through the dial, some documentary of cemeteries beaded along the highway you’ll travel the day after tomorrow. The list of payphone numbers buzzes in your shirt pocket. That buzz ignores every lick of jazz that’s ever been blown in the Territory. It trumpets a dead man’s breath. A dirge blown to revelry. You take off the carnation red shirt that a real cowboy wouldn’t be caught dead in. The apocalyptic numbers. You call them one by one—bars, whorehouses, broken phones outside 7-11’s. The inevitable answer, the man’s voice in love with the distance on the other end of the line. Dead talk. A voice that says it knows you. There’s snow in the panhandle—at least, so you’ve heard—and a dead man was buried in your best chaps. Wish him, “Good luck!” No empire has ended any other way.
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe