Winter 2009

Table of Contents - Vol. V, No. 4


Poetry    Translations    Non-Fiction    Fiction    Reviews   

Ron Riekki


The Tonight Show

Guys would get off the B-52s and go straight to the chow hall, causing lines that stretched out the building onto the perfect British paved streets of Diego Garcia. It took almost an hour of waiting in line for me to get a Cornish hen, a square of green beans, a rectangle of lemon pie, a kindergarten size dehydrated milk, and some ice water without ice. The guy across from me was an E-4, the faded crow on his sleeve needing stitching, and he kept looking at his plate like he didn’t have a friend in the southern hemisphere, so I asked who he was stationed with. He said nobody and he looked just like Jay Leno. I said you have to be stationed with something, and thought, Jesus Christ, if Jay Leno was in the U.S. Navy he would be right here in front of me, that big chin pointing straight down, straight at pie, straight to hell. He said he was a photojournalist, just back from Kuwait. He said he took a great photo of an oil rig burning and said fire has every color in it and he could play with the shot and make those rainbows come out and he might have something big, real Bravo Zulu material. He put his head back down to soup up his lemon pie and spoon green beans. There was too much clanking silence in that loud room full of hushed crew cut Air Force officer fucks and scroungey dungareed Seabees and needle-nosed MPs and dumb-ass CTs.
But I couldn’t let it go. So I said it, told him who he was identical twins with.
Jay Leno looked up from his beans and his watery lemonade and then his plate levitated, and he crashed it down, a one second food fight, specks on everyone near our table. Only one glass broke. Filipino janitors and E-2s could clean that up. He walked off, the boring disappearance of another human, most of the tables taking about as much notice as if he’d yawned, loudly farted, excused himself.
I finished everything on my plate. I had another thirteen hour night watch less than forty minutes away. I was going to do it off two hours sleep.



I like courts with no nets, just a bent rim and gravel, a court businessmen couldn’t even find on the map, courts with graffiti tags on walls and swing sets where girls never seem to come. I like to be alone when I shoot around, for it to just be me and God and my imagination, pretending it’s game seven in the finals and I’m some unknown sixth man coming in to replace Rasheed or Tayshaun, and the dead tennis court in the distance is filled with fans. I like to feel raindrops when I shoot threes, prehistoric clouds on the horizon, when weather has some threat and I know nobody else will show, just me and a 75 cent thrift store Rawlings. I like how my hands get callused from dribbling for hours on end. You don’t need any money for basketball. You don’t need equipment or friends or good weather. I like to shoot around during the first snow when your fingers hurt if you dunk and it’s hard to get a foothold because of the ice and the town lights come on to save you from the dark, the rim barely made out, shooting at where you think the rim is but you’re not sure, hoping moonlight will grace the ground. I like to play hard by myself after finding out Jon got shot in the lower back in a driveby in west side Flint on La Grange where he shouldn’t have been. I don’t care if he was visiting his cousin. Idiot. I like the pain in my side. And being the only white guy for miles. And how pigeons never come down from the sky to rest here. I like being rescued from the unhappiness of life for a few hours every day, an addiction. If I was a millionaire, I’d have a court in my backyard, but I’d be amazed if I ever managed to somehow make more than $12,000 in a year, which I haven’t been able to do and I’m 35. I’d get a gym membership and see what it’s like to play everyday on polished wooden floors with the echoes on the walls and scoreboards, but I have a feeling the novelty would wear off and I’d return here with the sidewalk over to the left and the barbed wire wall to the right and in the middle this place where any time I want I’m invisible.


© Ron Riekki



Poetry    Translations    Non-Fiction    Fiction    Reviews   

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