about the author

Joshua Bohnsack is the assistant managing editor for TriQuarterly, founding editor for Long Day Press, and received an MFA from Northwestern University. He is the author of Shift Drink (Spork Press, 2019) and his work has appeared in The Rumpus, Hobart, SAND, and others. He lives in Chicago where he works as a bookseller.

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What It’s Like 

Joshua Bohnsack

Two people live inside you, and one of them I really like hanging out with, but then it’s like we’re hanging out at a bar, having a good time, and your angry friend comes and she and I had never met before, but you go to the bathroom, like, right away, and her and I are sitting there and I say, “Oh, so what do you do?” and she’s like “I work for a graphic design company, but it’s terrible, I have this guy in the space next to me who clicks his pen, like I know that seems like a little thing, and it is, but, like it just grates on me, and he isn’t consistent, it’s like he’s taking the pen clicker part and holding it up to this microphone and he’s thinking he’s in the Pen Olympics or some shit, just in South Korea or wherever just crossing the finish line and there’s like this flash photo, because a Russian or whatever is right on his heels, like diving across the line and the guy who sits in the space next to me like glances at the Russian, and there’s the frontal shot and he’s like, ‘nooooo’ and fucking diving through that tape, and then it cuts to him and his wife being interviewed, like two years later, because she is a political activist or something, so he was even more proud to represent our country, especially because he beat that Russian, and she looks kind of dejected and distant for the interview, because while her husband was crossing that finish line, she was stuck at her job in the ‘peace corps’ helping ‘the nation’ if you know what I mean, and what I mean is, she was having sex with her congressman, partly because she found him partly handsome and partly because she really wanted sway to pass the ordinance to prohibit ATVs on the road in her cul-de-sac because Kathy Gates had to buy her boys an ATV for her twins’ birthday and now, and now Kathy Gates, just has to show off how well her husband does, but you know what, he has filed for bankruptcies four times, four times, and I know he can’t help but cheat the system, I mean his dad was the same way, I don’t know that that guy had ever had a place open longer that three months, I shit-you-not, three months, and they should have kept that place open, because the burgers were so good, like the one with the egg on it, because who would have thought to put an egg on a hamburger, right like I never could have imagined anything like that, but they had an egg, and sautéed mushrooms, and this garlic aio, aole, a- you know what I mean, like the mayo, yeah ay-o-lee, and they call it a breakfast burger, oh yeah, and there’s bacon on it too, so it’s really like every animal had to make it, like there’s just a factory in East Lansing, Michigan, and it’s this sorting factory where different companies bring in like a load of cows, and at this factory they’ll sort one cow into a box, then there’s this other truck that brings in the pigs, and it’s a bit of a smaller operation, so the farmer actually drives the truck, or he has his son do it, sometimes, but he technically shouldn’t, because he hasn’t gotten his CDL yet, because it’s really difficult to pass, and at the trucker’s DMV, you have to back up a load a hundred yards, a hundred fucking yards, can you believe that, like why would anyone need to back up the length of a football field, when you could do a way more effective three-point turnaround, but he’ll pass it one day, and his dad will finally get to retire, and move to somewhere warm, like Memphis, which is stupid, because Memphis is a shit town full of missed opportunities and lonely tourists who wished they were in Nashville, and the ribs here are disappointing, and I should have just went to Nashville and got some good, cowboy bar-b-que, and have gone to that six points bar, called 5 Spot, because they have five bands for five dollars, and I think that’s pretty clever and a great deal, and while the pig farmer is in Memphis, his son is in a factory in East Lansing, with a truck and a valid CDL, and he’s dropping off a load of pigs, and the guys at this factory take one pig, and put it in the box with one cow in it already, and then there’s a chicken guy who brings his chickens in, and the factory workers grab one chicken and grab it around the neck and squeeze toward the bottom like the way everyone should use a tube of toothpaste, and just pop an egg out of the chicken, but I’m kidding, that’s ridiculous, they leave the chicken in there and it pops out a couple eggs in the crate, and the cow might step on them on the way, but hopefully he won’t get many, and I don’t even know how often a chicken lays an egg, and it amazes me that people know about things like that, like how many overalled men are sitting in their wallpapered kitchen just retaining the knowledge of how long it takes a hen from getting fucked by a rooster to popping out an egg, which is pretty impressive considering ratio of animal to size of thing it pushes out of its chicken vagina, and these old farmers can just recall that time period at any given time, and so they have a chicken in the crate, along with the cow and pig, and somewhere a mushroom farmer or whatever comes in and dumps a load of mushrooms or whatever, I don’t know how they’re grown, but I heard you can find magic mushrooms under cow shit, they should come up with a better name than ‘magic’ mushrooms, you know, but maybe the cow could just shit in the crate, and then mushrooms will grow and cut off the need to have an extra guy come deliver mushrooms, because the cow’s on it, and when the crate reaches its location at this restaurant, the chef just gets a little bit from each animal or fungi and puts it onto the breakfast burger that Kathy Gates’s father-in-law owned, and the place should have stayed open, but they bankrupted and Kathy Gates thinks she’s hot shit, eating at the Red Lobster and I know you’re just thinking I’m saying it just because her name sounds like it, but I think she looks like Kathy Bates, like she’s a redhead and doesn’t fit into her wedding dress, if you know what I mean, and her twins are ripping up and down the cul-du-sac and it’s like ‘fuck you Kathy Bates, you think you’re so good, but my fucking husband is going to be in the Olympics, and your stupid fucking twins are going to be stuck inside on a June morning watching my husband beat that Russian, because they won’t be able to ride their four-wheeled death machine around me or my family anymore,’ but the ordinance still hadn’t been passed, and she was fucking the congressman, because at the FUN-raiser he told her he was on the fence about the issue and she’s like, ‘maybe I can change your mind,’ and while she takes him back to her home to ‘change his mind,’ and it’s stupid anyway, because by the time of her husband’s race, she thought the ATVs would be off the streets, but she could hear them drive by while she was fucking the congressman, seriously, during fucking the congressman, and she’s not even thinking about her husband who is halfway across the world, thirteen time zones, beating that Russian with a slow motion click that she only saw in highlights and she felt terrible, but she cared so much about her family’s safety that it was a small price to pay to just fuck a congressman, but honestly, she wasn’t even sure if he could pass the ordinance or not, maybe she should have gone for the alderman or something, but I don’t know why her husband believed she would join the peace corps, because he knows her better than that, but she hadn’t told him the truth yet and it festered in her bubbling, bringing her down, and the reporter says something to her, and she’s like ‘what? oh, it was hard without him here, and harder that we couldn’t go there,’ and he’s just grinning and kind of patting her knee and the reporter follows up her question and asks, ‘oh, yeah, I imagine it was really hard, what was the hardest part, Megan?’ and she starts crying and blubbers, ‘I can’t do this, I can’t do this, I slept with the congressman, or a congressman, I’m not sure who he was,’ and he opens his mouth and slides his hand off her leg and you can tell the reporter is all about it, like thinking she’s about to get a fucking Caldecott award, or whatever, for this, and then there’s a bummer part for a while, then a montage of him getting better, like he finally calls that girl at the bank who gave him her card even before she knew he was training for the Olympics, but it wasn’t like she was hitting on him even, she was just eager to help give people great financial advice, but once he and Megan split and he ran into her at the village parade and he has his kids with him, and they’re unscathed by ATVs, because the ordinance passed and now there aren’t ATVs ripping up and down the cul-de-sac, just endangering his kids every time they’re outside, but at what cost, and the lady from the bank taps him on the shoulder and he’s almost a little embarrassed he has kids, because she’s so young, like late twenties, if that, and she’s just like, ‘I’m great with kids, watch,’ and pulls a sucker out of her purse for each of them and they’re a little too old for it, but they actually loved the fucking Dum-Dums, and the bank lady is just like, ‘told ya so,’ and you thought he might end up with the reporter, but no, that never happens, they’re mainly just used as vessels for characters to tell stories inside of stories, and it would be so hard to date a television reporter, especially if you’re jealous, because they work long, variant hours and meet all these fascinating people, and all these sexy cameramen, doing the elusive countdown thing they always do, and he marries the bank lady and they’re old and she asks him what his greatest moment in his life was, and he flashes back to a moment when he was twelve and hits a homer on the whiffle ball diamond he and his childhood friends had made, then to the birth of his children, and finally the Olympics where he’s crossing the line just barely ahead of the Russian, then zooms to the present and he looks into the now-ancient eyes of the bank lady and gives a soft smile and says, ‘this one right here, this is the moment I love most,’ and it fades out on their smiles and he’s just in my office adjusting his microphone, tampering with the levels and turns the mids all the way down and just cranks the bass and gives a slow, thorough click, then two fast ones in rapid succession and I’m in the space next door with my hair all blown to the side like I stood too close to the semi, or in cartoons when the roadrunner runs by real fast, and I’m just like, ‘could you stop clicking your pen, please,’ and he says, ‘whoa passive aggressive much,’ and I say, ‘you know what, Larry, no, no, it’s not passive aggressive, it’s very forward, I’m not leaving a note or anything like that, I’m telling you straight up, that it bothers me when you click your pen,’ then he convinces me he has Tourette syndrome and I don’t believe him, and he says his tic is clicking the pen, it’s like a reaction, you wouldn’t understand, and I was like, ‘oh I’m so sorry,’ but I still didn’t believe him, and then I asked, ‘how’s Megan’ and he says, ‘who’s Megan,’ and I’m like ‘oh, oh right, I forgot you didn’t marry Megan, because I invented her in my head to cheat on you with a congressman while you were in the pen clicking event of the Olympics,’ and he said, ‘that sounds pretty passive aggressive to me,’ and I’d explain how safe his kids are because of the sacrifices their mother made for them to not get hit by ATVs, and you’d be like, ‘at what cost,’ and then he was like, ‘that’s really messed up, I think I need to report you to HR,’ and I cover myself real smooth, like, ‘Larry I’m just joking with you, you know, like nobody seriously has thoughts like that,’ and he’s like, ‘my name is Kevin, I’m like your age, who do you know our age named Larry,’ and I said, ‘I know one,’ and he’s like, ‘my name’s Kevin,’ and I’m like, ‘oh, nevermind, I don’t know any, then,’ and then I had to talk with HR and working for a corporate firm sucks,” and I said, “uh huh” and “yeah, I bet” and “oh sure, yeah, mm hmm,” and wonder why it’s taking you so long in the restroom.

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