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Fiction by Will Marsh

Barricade

This morning, God shows up at my parents’ house, and before I can even open the front door, he’s rattling off instructions: We cut strips from an old t-shirt—or a new one, I don’t give a shit. We go to a pharmacy and buy apple cider vinegar, then soak the cotton strips and arrive at the park with lung protection.”

I sip coffee under the chandelier. I haven’t seen God in two years, since the summer after college, when I mixed his synth parts out of my record. His sudden appearance in my liberal hometown—where I moved back to after losing a label deal and going broke—makes me curl into a ball, emotionally speaking. So I just say: How’d you know I live here?”

God brushes bleached hair from his forehead. His long-sleeve camo is spotted with sweat that looks like very pale silver. Where else you would you be living?”

It’s easier to tour out of a rent-free situation,” I explain.

I know,” he says.

Do you?” I say.

I can imagine,” he says.

God follows me through the library and into the kitchen. You should be drinking water. From what I’ve read on the antifa message board, this rally will get violent.”

I thought the whole point of counterprotesting was to stand against violence,” I say.

God laughs and rolls a joint on the marble counter.

Three rips of the joint later and we’re sitting on a bench outside the CVS downtown. I try on the pair of swimming goggles he bought to keep the pepper spray from damaging our eyes. Now protestors march down the middle of the street, tinted bluish green. They carry signs, baseball bats. Some have clubs. One kid reminds me of a toy soldier, the way he holds an assault rifle against his arm, trying desperately not to grin.

Go on without me,” I say, anxiously searching for Ami in the crowd. I might link up with this DSA activist-type girl who I’ve been seeing lately.”

Show me a pic,” God says, leaning over my shoulder. His brackish-smelling breath makes me nostalgic and angry all at once: one moonlit night, graduation weekend, God slept with my then-girlfriend while I was off pissing in a bush. He was speedy but not discreet. Still, I don’t want to project an air of insecurity, so I tap four zeros into my phone, revealing Ami’s picture on my home screen: sunburned neck, green eyes, floating down the river on our six-month anniversary trip.

Real airtight security,” God says.

If you’re constantly watching,” I say, why bother with passwords?”

I don’t watch,” God says.

Then what do you do?” I say.

God puts a finger to his narrow chin and reexamines the photo. I don’t entirely mind when he calls Ami cute. Not because I’m flattered, though maybe I am, but mostly because I feel close to Him again.

I’m sorry I muted all your tracks,” I say, lighting a cigarette. But you hurt me bad. You knew how much she meant to me, man. Didn’t you?”

Somewhere up the hill, a police siren blasts. God starts to walk as if I hadn’t said anything at all. I follow and don’t wait around for Ami, or even text to confirm her safety, because what I really want is not a new girlfriend but to somehow time-travel with God back to sophomore year, do acid by the lake, listen to Mac Demarco and fingerpaint and stare awestruck at owls hooting in the woods, be friends, not fuck each other over; but salad days are gone; and now he’s telling me, almost wheezing, quickening his pace, that extreme violence is the only righteous response to extreme injustice, and I’m half-nodding along like we’re on the set of a fucking podcast.

The park clamors with cicada trills and the indistinct noise of human distress. God and I join the leftist faction against a wooden barricade. On the other side of the grass, under a bronze statue of Robert E. Lee, Neo-Nazis wield clubs and shields and flags. State police lean in the shade beneath magnolia trees. I pray for darker sunglasses and a key bump of ketamine. God hands me a rock.

Will Marsh

Twitter: @goldconnectionz

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