Taste supper, the remnants of bologna and ketchup can still be found in the trenches of your teeth. Taste the short cigar you hold between your first and second finger, a lingering of vanilla on your lips as you inhale. Taste the oversized bottle of liquor being passed around the car. Taste the malted barley. Taste the fermented corn and rice. Taste it in one swill, all at once and don’t taste each ingredient by itself but taste five-point-five percent malt beverage. It tastes like the cobra on the label might—bitter and like poison.
Smell the cigar you smoke. Smell the sweetness as it clouds the car’s interior and, when it’s done and you’ve thrown the plastic tip out onto the street, smell the blunt being passed between friends. Smell the spicy herb, its pungent aroma not unlike that of a skunk. Smell the liquor. Smell it and consider it before putting the plastic bottle to your lips. Smell the yeast and fermentation. Smell grease and cheap food—cheeseburgers and fries that have stained the bag you now hold—the bag no longer containing food. Smell the stench of summer, embedded in your thick hair.
Hear the bass thumping through and radiating from the car. Hear, somewhere lost beneath the beat, the lyricist at work. Hear the Mobb comes equipped for warfare, beware. Hear, from the driver’s and passenger’s seats, a conversation. Hear that Tony’s girl is fucking a gangbanger on 85th street, has been for months. Hear, from the seat next to you, a voice ask: are you ready? Hear, beneath the beat again, that there ain’t no such thing as halfway crooks. Hear the beating of your own heart. Hear the beating of that soft organ. Hear the pumping of blood through veins.
See only what the streetlight’s glow reveals. See homeless men and women sleeping on broken down pieces of cardboard. See, in the distance, the flash of red and blue. See the liquor bottle being lowered. See time slow down as Tony passes the police cruiser. See the officer consider the four black boys driving by. See the street-sign indicating 85th. See Tony look back at you. See Tony turn the steering wheel. See the fast-food bag in your lap. See your hand reach in and see the shadow that it pulls out. See a glint of streetlight on the steel barrel.
Feel the weight of the gun. Just feel it. It’s heavier than you imagined it would be. It’s small with a snub-nosed barrel but with the weight of a cannon. Feel the pistol’s grip, plastic and cross-hatched. Feel your heart, still pounding, and the music too. Feel the circular knob, feel the tension in your hand as you spin the knob and roll down the window. Feel the car come to a stop. Feel your body bounce forward and back again. Feel your hands shake. Feel the pistol shake as your hands rise. Feel the dryness in your throat. Feel your finger squeeze.
Daniel Miller lives in Central Missouri. His work is forthcoming or has been published in Southword Literary Journal, Tempo Magazine, and Go Read Your Lunch among other publications.