Ryan Mattern

Chute Dogging

           Strange, but I don’t recall anything about that day. Not the dip before the Hidden Valley offramp that made me flounce every time I drove over it. Or the mini-blimp for Hickory Joe’s rope-tied to the unmoved pickup truck in the gravel parking lot. The thing used to scare me as a kid, the way it lit up at night like something from a movie about space invaders. Did I roll the windows up at I drove past the egg ranch, or had I let its stink linger in the cab? I know exactly how it smells, I could trace the arc of its intensity with my finger the farther you got down Pedley Road. Not from today, but from all-time.
I don’t remember if I parked in the driveway or on the street, if I remembered to stay on the walk or if I trampled the August-ruined lawn Gina had been trying to reinvigorate. I don’t remember making eye-contact with the photos in the hallway; the one with my parents after their Thoroughbred, Admiral Cooney took first at Fresno, my father in aviators snaring the reigns, Cooney wreathed with succulents, my mother looking away, an impression of a cigarette in the way her hand is bent up at her side. Another, me on the top bar of the corral resting my boot heels on my grandfather’s shoulders after my first chute dogging. The wedding, Gina all teeth as usual. Me too, smiling like a man who doesn’t know anything.
I could see all of those things. No, not with my eyes. They came one after another, polaroidic and yellow in my memory. Lying down on the floor beside the bed, I waited for Gina to come home. I wondered if I’d tell her how it went, about the CT of the brain and how it looked like a wad of used chewing gum. On the left side, a shadow like two snails fighting that the doctor said would kill me.  Or would I tell her about the first bull I took down when I was seven, dig out the old buckle and shine it up nice?

Ryan Mattern is an M.A. student in the Creative Writing Program at the University of California, Davis where he also co-runs Fig & Axle, the graduate student reading series. He earned his B.A. in Creative Writing from California State University, San Bernardino, where he won the Felix Valdez Award for short fiction. His work has appeared in The Red Wheelbarrow, Superstition Review, Black Heart Magazine, and Poetry Quarterly, among others. He is a member of poetrIE, a reading series dedicated to showcasing the literary voices of California’s Inland Empire.