Volume 14 • Number 2 • Fall-Winter 2022-2023

Jeff Klebauskas

Pain Catches Up

The seven Klonopin from the night before had Ivan feeling woozy, still tranquilized enough to be positive. He threw the blanket off to get a better view of the area that stung. His inner calf was red, spotted with tiny dots like folliculitis. India ink spelled out 'RESIS' in shaky lettering.

Ivan stood, wobbled, and dug out his tools. He held the flame of a Bic to a safety pin until the tip was sanitized, almost molten, and dipped it into the peroxide-filled bottle cap on his bed. It sizzled in the liquid.

Blood and clear fluid oozed from the poke holes as Ivan broke skin for the letter ‘T.’ He wiped the mess away with a paper towel and opened the bottom drawer of his dresser. He had a cigarette pack with two Klonopin in there, an eighth of dirt weed. He chopped a pill and popped one of the halves dry. His esophagus worked it down. The terrible taste gurgled up to the back of his throat and he swallowed again and again and again until it was gone like

Jon’s track marks.

He had toned up in jail, and was maintaining his workout regiment, his strict diet of mineral water and a single fast-food meal a day. A crumpled Burger King bag took up space in the small garbage can on the floor next to his light table. He detached the sheet of tracing paper he'd been drawing on and held it up. 'RESIST' went from stick letters to ghoulish bubbles. “What do you think?” He said.

"Looks good," Ivan said. "Do your thing."

At the letter ‘I’, Jon pulled back to inspect his work. “This looks like shit,” he said.

“Finish. It looks better than it did,” Ivan lied like

He and Jon did when they wrote songs together.

Jon, who, would sweat uncontrollably in the makeshift vocal booth—three mattresses stood upright—as he sailed through the lines of his verse, going, "Split this Eucharist/utilized shooter is/unknown, alone, somewhere lost in time…"

And now he was dead. Car accident. Some people said it served him right for driving after relapsing, including Ivan. He kept it deep inside where nobody would ever find it but something external needed to be done to offset his thought crime against his old friend.

Jim was doing tattoos, so Ivan went with him. He had a spot off Aramingo above a Member’s Only bar.

Ivan leaned back on the used massage table and lifted his shirt, exposing his chest, his heart.

Jim started at the beginning with the word ‘Split.’ He was new to the game, hadn't gained the touch with the needle yet, and was unrelenting on the breast plate.

Ivan took the pain like it was his job.

Jeff Klebauskas is a current MFA student at Temple University. His work has been published in RubberTop, Philadelphia Stories and Cleaver Magazine.