“Van” by Vivian Chen

He didn’t know if he had followed a path
outside his imagining, whether there was
really spoor, secret signs and broken

branches, but he ran across the older boys’
cache, damp from the soil beneath a sheet
of plywood, hidden in the woods behind

the struggling party store: seven recent
Playboys, half a pack of Newports sealed
with a pink lighter in a Zip-Loc bag, Skoal,

most of a pint of Rumple Minze schnapps.
Remembering grandpas and cowboys,
he packs his lip full of too large a wad

of wintergreen smokeless manhood, starts
to chew, swallows his spit and coughs.
And coughs. Jesus. He drools and retches

into the leaves, washes his mouth out
with liqueur—more success there. Use it
like Scope, yes. His head feels light.

Am I high? Time to head back before he’s
found there by others, stolen stash tucked
in his canvas newspaper bag, not a place

anyone checks, a safe spot for now. Time
to wobble home, feeling ill, squeezed by
his yellow Schwinn’s rusted banana seat,

wiping his still-blond lip, sweating like
he’s done some adult work. One day, he
decides, he’ll dig his own pit for posterity.

By John F. Buckley