It was my birthday, and Sunny Dee drank with me in the park. She and I cracked Mad Dogs in four unwholesome colors, camouflaged the industrial-grade wine in a Big Gulp cup, and stashed the empties under the oak by Waller Creek. We had kissed once, alone at a middle-of-the-night bus stop. “Wanna make out?” she’d asked, and while bread trucks and rubbernecking taxis crawled by, we sampled each other like cooks slurping spoonfuls of sauce. That was after her old man had sprinted into the alley with a psychotic yelp, disappearing with my backpack and the last four beers, so I credited our indiscretion to justifiable, friend-on-friend revenge. I wanted him at my party that Mad Dog afternoon, and we looked, but couldn’t find him. Back in jail, we figured, and the drinking commenced, just the two of us. Sunny Dee didn’t ask to make out. We didn’t slurp, or slither, or cop a quick feel. We sat, sipped from the same straw, and didn’t talk much except to wonder at the heat and puzzle over why the wine wouldn’t get us drunk, why nothing was strong enough anymore. I bought us one more bottle and that was it for the cash. “Happy birthday,” Sunny Dee said, and I gave her the last blue swallow.
Barry Maxwell is a 56-year-old native of Austin, Texas, and a student at UT. His work has appeared in venues including Split Lip Magazine, Crack the Spine, the Mud Season Review, and Pithead Chapel. Barry gave up Mad Dog and homelessness a few years back, though he still celebrates birthdays on Facebook with Sunny Dee and her old man, and has since founded the Street Lit Authors Club, providing books and creative writing workshops to Austin’s homeless community. (Visit streetlit.org or barrymaxwell.net for info.)