Jacques J. Rancourt
this is not, but it’s not far from it—
Here you can still buy a pair of rolls
for six bucks at the Lobster Claw
which is half as much as any
lobster shacks up the road, which is half
as much as any up the coast.
Even the beach here smells cheaper—
musk-rank of salt-kelp and plastic
melting in cardboard cupholders.
Off a double and slicked by
French-fry steam from the vats boiling
darker, when I step outside,
the mid-July sun pooling black droplets
on the pavement and melting the horizon,
it feels cool. Soon, I tell K. in the cab
of my Buick Century, When I leave
for college I’ll be far from here.
K. leans over the shifter and signs
her name in the grease that coats
my forehead, and we drive.
Some days you just needed to get
away from those people: Eileen,
who tells me while chopping lettuce
she’d like to be a history teacher
someday. Debra, the manager, who—
after I temped the chili oil
at two hundred degrees, then slipped,
the oil pouring down my crotch,
the skin on my penis bubbling up
red and angry—hands me
her crumpled tube of aloe vera gel.
And Jared, who’s hardly older
than me, whose girlfriend is five-months
pregnant, who tells me when I drive
him home after closing that he gave
Timmy head in the walk-in freezer
just to know what it tasted like,
and the spot the oil licked burned brighter.
K. and I find the gulls gathered
in flocks by the hundreds
in the Market Basket parking lot
where they peck and pick through trash
the tourists leave behind. We want
to ride through them. We want to see
them lift up off the pavement
and over my car like a bedsheet.
We want something to change. I spin
my Buick Century around
the perimeter of the lot,
then floor the pedal. The needle pushes
forty, pushes fifty, pushes sixty,
but the gulls don’t move—
their bodies’ bulbs rumble
under my tires, which can’t grip
the pavement, and burst
into feathers over my windshield.
K. screams until the car finally
shudders to a stop,
the engine overheated. Only then
does the rest of the flock fly off. Only then
do we start to laugh. We are seventeen.
Everything done up until now
could be undone. The world
had held no consequences
we could name. Behind us:
feathers and flattened pulp.
Don’t look back, I tell K.,
but we both do.
Jacques J. Rancourt reads “Vacationland”
Jacques J. Rancourt is the author of two poetry collections Brocken Spectre (Alice James Books) and Novena (Pleiades Press), as well as a chapbook In the Time of PrEP (Beloit Poetry Journal). Raised in Maine, he lives in San Francisco.