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"Hot Rod Hearts" • Robbie Dupree (by Ann Kammerer)

When Carrie and I got cut-off at Fitzpatrick’s she said we’d just go to Tony M’s, the place on the north side down from the airport where her friend Donny tended bar.

“Donny will serve me,” she said. “He always does.”

We slid off the bar stools and walked past the guys we beat at darts, the ones who bought us drinks when we were losing, then started swearing when we won.

“Get outta here.” One guy slammed down his beer.

“Yeah.” The other guy snubbed his smoke. “Dumb bitches.”

Carrie flipped them off. One guy shouted the ‘C’ word. The bartender told us not to come back, that he’d call the cops if we did.

“Don’t worry,” Carrie yelled. “Losers.”

She didn’t let up so I pulled her by the shirt, then shoved her. She tripped, knocking over a chair. We toppled out the door, catching ourselves as we spilled into a buzz of neon and tires spitting rain, ducking down an alley reeking with garbage and piss.

“Why don’t we just go here?” I pointed to a steel door, the words “AUGGIE’S TAVERN” and a cartooned gnome painted in red, black, and gold.

“I told you,” Carrie said. “We’re going to Donny’s.”

I lit a cigarette and passed it to Carrie. We laughed and walked sloppy to a vacant lot, rimmed by squat buildings with busted windows. Carrie’s car was there, parked crooked next to the dumpster.

Carrie fumbled, dropping her car keys in a puddle. I picked them up, bobbing and weaving, inserting the key and twisting, hearing the pop of the silver door lock.

“Good deal.” Swinging the car door open, Carrie sprawled belly down on the cracked vinyl seat. She reached to unlock my door

I pushed her up and got in. She pressed her forehead to the steering wheel and burped.

“OK,” she mumbled. “Let’s go see Donny.”

Carrie started the Olds, stripping the starter. The engine rumbled as the radio blared

“Hot Rod Hearts.”

“Ready?” I struggled  to fasten my seatbelt, giving up, then nodding. “All right. Let’s go.”

Carrie pulled forward. The massive flat hood of the Delta 88 swung over the film of iridescent slime and eroded yellow lines.

“Donny,” she said. “My friend Lisa, I mean, Lisa, she doesn't like him.”

I asked what she meant.

“Donny,” she said. “Like Lisa hates how he stares at her tits and shit. But he’s nice. He doesn’t mean nothing. Not like those assholes back there.” 

Carrie accelerated beneath a string of sulphur lights. I rolled down the window, watching the stream of sinking two-stories and weedy lots. Rain pinged on my face.

“Hey,” she said. “Get that.”

A bottle of Gallo rolled from under the seat. I picked up the wine and twisted off the cap, her pale hand drifting over as she asked for a sip.

Ann Kammerer lives in Oak Park, Illinois, having moved from her home state of Michigan. Her work has appeared Fictive Dream, One Art, Open Arts Forum, Bright Flash Literary Review, Thoughtful Dog, and Ekphrastic Review, among others, and she’s been anthologized by Crow Woods Publishing and Querencia Press. Her chapbooks of narrative poetry include “Yesterday’s Playlist” (Bottlecap Press 2023), “Beaut” (Kelsay Books, Coming Spring 2024), and “Friends Once There” (Impspired, Coming Summer 2024). You can find her here:


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