Prologue: Cowboy, by Robert Margolis

Somebody hurt my hand. I was walking in the damp grass. A man hurt my hand. He was walking. I followed his eyes. The long gray coat. I smelt the damp air. It was morning, the overcast sky of dead trees. I was walking in the damp grass. A man’s hand, he hit me. I lay in the tall grass, breathing the damp air. I was running. I felt the wind against my face, saw the lake below the dirt road. The water was warm like only in Vermont.
When I woke up I smelt death. I leaned over and touched the ground. The sky was overhead all bright shiny stars and my body ached. I wished I hadn’t had that dream. I was scared. I felt with my arms against the ache of my body all trembling in the morning cool. I was one being then; there were no one else there to hurt me. I held myself in the dark. Breathing. Across the lake I saw trees, in mist, a small white house sitting by the water. My feet felt sand. I got up and looked around. I remembered this camp.

I told Dr. H about the dream. I told her I remembered when I was there in Vermont. Someone hurt me, I said. But not there. Someone hurt me the other day. She was, she wasn’t listening. I moved on the couch. She was sitting behind me. I heard someone breathing. Dr. H was breathing. The razor sharp edges of her mind penetrated deep within. I felt her dense breathing as skin being torn away and me holding my breath in the dark room. “Times up for today,” she said.
As I left I saw the girl. I remembered her from before. Black hair and blue jeans. Squirming in her chair. I am walking down the long hallway. It’s a slow motion shot as I watch her big eyes watching me and I pass through the large wooden doors, down eight steps and into the street.
Now I run. The city is a vast concrete slab on its way to the morgue. I love the feel of the city when I leave Dr. H. I love the leaves changing colors against the dry rot stink of his face pressed against my body. I walk along 87th street and Columbus Avenue. I am a movie theatre projecting images on the faces of skimpy girls, short skirts and soft skin moving panty-like. Inexorable and dark, my wading through girls. When I was little I held daddy’s hand at the circus, red lights spinning in the pitch-black arena, crying out “Don’t!” I held daddy’s hand. I played in the park. I was sledding down the enormous hill in the old park, against the iron fence. The snow bends its fingers around my throat so cold, daddy, too. Daddy held me in the dark room.
When I get back to the apartment, daddy is in the kitchen. He is working on a project. He stops, looks up. He asks me where I’ve been.

“Nowhere,” I say.
“What’d you do?”
“Where’s your brother.”
“I don’t know.”
“You’re late.” He is watching me.
“Come over here.”

His eyes. Smell of sweat and aftershave. Scrape of kitchen chair. He puts down his wrench. It’s happening. I think Now is not the time.
“I said come here.”

He’s got that look. I back away slow, real slow, and move around the bend and down the long corridor. Past the bathroom. Past the blue hamper. Past one, two bedroom doors. Past mother’s photograph hanging on the green wall. Past mother in the windowless room. When I feel his breath against my back I start to run where dead factories spew filth into small children, canisters of nerve gas pressed against…..
“I’ll teach you about nothing,” he says. “Come here.”
I am running. Green banks and cool water. Me in the stern & Robbie in the bow. Racing down river. Whizzing along the rapids. Past stones in the flaccid water. Racing, saying “Yes!” Laughing too, our oars flashing white-hot against the sun. We reach the dense snow of the rapids along the breech of river made cool by our perfect symmetry, me and Robbie against a wall of stone-incarcerated water. Digging together in loops of glint edged oarsmanship, our bodies press wind, howling one note “Yes Yes Yes!” as we traverse the countryside and reach past
“Got ya,” he says. I’m at my room at the end of the hallway. I lean my body against the door, pressing. Daddy leans back.
“Not now. Go away.”
“I’ll teach you about nothing,” He whispers. “I’ll teach you about nothing.”
My body is against the white door. We are in the gravel walkway throwing stones. Three girls are walking up from the lake. Robbie is dragged out of the cabin onto the damp grass. The girls watch. I see his fat body quiver. The boys grab Robbie’s towel and now he is crying naked, lying on the grass, looking for his eyeglasses in the damp grass as Daddy’s body presses against the door. I’m thinking please do not please you you you please he is through and bursting the dry rot bubble of empty promises, his hands engulf my thin body.
“I’ll teach you about nothing,” he says.

Blackening loaves of fresh baked bread hang in the oven where mother lives. When I was a little boy, in our house. I am pressed against the bed. The orange lamp swings above my head.
“You run from me,” he says, “Is that right?”

Daddy’s hand against my face on the bed. The orange lamp shines. Mahogany slipcovers and plastic groans. Shadows fall on the white walls from the orange lamp. Daddy’s hand moves fingerlike with shadows against my white skin. Thwack says the hand. Thwack thwack thwack. My mouth says thwack, over and over. It dreams red. Mother’s lips encrusted with that garden where mother walked and didn’t even see, she was

I am lifted wraithlike motion above the bed. I am a bird. I soar. The air is clean here above the bed in Vermont when I swim in the lake and mommy watches. I am moving under the water going down down down touching silt she squeezes my body flailing below daddy’s hand covered in red.
“Get up.”

I touch against the swollen lip. I am kneeling on the hardwood floor.

“I said get the hell up you stupid fucking moron.”

I am dragged to my feet. I see daddy’s face. His right eye twitches against his short black hair. I am holding my lip.
“Now, I want to know where you’ve been.”
“I didn’t…” Thwack goes the hand.

Daddy is hurting me. He hurts me over and over on the bed below the orange lamp like in the movies when Gary Cooper is being hurt by the bad cowboys, only later Cooper comes back and guns them down & I am walking along Main Street now the sun beats against the brim of my black cowboy hat with the gold star. I walk slow, walk steady past the empty stores, the clack of my boots, all the scared townspeople hiding behind their shuttered windows counting on me. There is no one left but me. They’ve lived in fear for so long they don’t believe in nothing and nobody. I am their last hope but they so scared they cain’t even come out and help. So it jes me. Jes me and Him and his henchmen. Walkin’ the lone road on the sunstrewn street of the dead town Mainstreet, U.S.A., light glintin’ off our guns as we walk, posse not there nor sheriff nor no one, even the horses have fled, even the preacher he’s gone a hidin’ he so afeared ah this here Darth Vader man, this angel a darkness. I ken see em up ahead, waitin’ on me, hands touchin’ steel, Him and his evil ones emergin’ from behind storefronts, gunnin’ for me, and it looks real bad, looks like the ends a comin’. I lean up against the wall of the cabin in Vermont as they circle, my eyes half closed, their mouths tense with hate, a look a triumph in His eyes, and then without warning I draw: Blam!! Blam!! Blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam blam!!!! When I look again he’s still there, only now he’s smilin’, starin’ at me with a shit-eatin’ grin on his face, and that’s when I realize I’ve been hit. I slump to my knees and grab my stomach. I feel somethin’ warm and sticky and when I look down I see my hands all covered with blood. I’m thinkin’ “oh my god oh my god, please god save me.” The pain won’t stop, it radiates through my whole body until I’m swimming in it, and I try to get up but my legs buckle under me, my head hits the floor, my eyes see sky, and then, without another sound, I’m dead.


Robert Margolis, a co-editor of frankmatter, is a writer, filmmaker and actor. He co-directed the film “The Definition of Insanity,” and has been the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship. He currently lives in New York City.

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This entry was posted on June 30, 2016 by in story.


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