King of the Pit by Kevin Maloney

By three o’clock the dirt field in front of the main stage is the world’s largest convection oven. Nobody’s had water in over an hour. Joe says, “Are we dying?” I can barely hear him. My face is pasted against the lower back of a guy wearing his t-shirt like a turban. The tattoo on his shoulder is of a scorpion with a can of Coors in one of its pincers. Everyone is pushing forward, but there is no forward. Security guards in blue shirts lift girls in hemp halter-tops over the rail. Their faces are red, their limbs floppy and useless. I’m so thirsty I consider licking the sweat off the back of the scorpion man. Alice in Chains hasn’t even taken the stage yet. Everything smells like marijuana. Joe can’t take it. He climbs onto the shoulders of the guy in front of him, is immediately flung into the air. He extends his arms. For a few seconds he is Christ floating on a river of hands. They deposit him to the security guards, who give him bottled water and send him to the First Aid tent. I think one of my ribs is broken.

The guy to my right hands me a glass pipe and a cigarette lighter. The lighter has a Punisher skull on it. I take a hit and pass it to my left. The pot is strong. The arteries running through my neck are fat snakes with fangs digging into my brain. My tongue is a wad of cotton candy.

There’s a roar near the stage. The sound swells, gets passed like a rumor to the people in back who can’t see anything. Sean Kinney takes the stage followed by Jerry Cantrell. Everyone surges forward. The people in front surge back. A hole opens up and a guy on synthetic drugs steps into the middle and punches anyone in the dick who comes near him. In this way he declares himself King of the Pit.

Layne Staley takes the stage. A guitar explodes so loud I hear ringing in my ears louder than the guitar. I can’t feel my left hand. Someone’s Doc Marten clocks me in the head. I think Alice in Chains is playing “Them Bones.” A teenager gets hoisted in the air, is thrown violently towards the security guards. They don’t catch him in time. They lift him up. His head looks broken. That’s a lot of blood. They give him bottled water and send him to the First Aid tent.

Someone pushes me into the mosh pit. The King of the Pit sees me, thinks, Who is this hippie? Should I make blood come out of his: NOSE _ MOUTH_ EARS _? He punches me in the throat and pushes me back into the crowd.

Am I having a seizure? I reach out to grab something and find a tit. I look up. There’s a biker chick in a bikini and a biker boyfriend with a teardrop tattoo under his eye. I make a motion to indicate “accident,” but my gesture looks more like, “does anybody have a beach ball?”

I get ready to die. The biker smiles and pats me on the shoulder. He forgives me. He hands me a glass pipe and a cigarette lighter. The lighter has a dead dog on it. I take a hit. His pot tastes like chlorine. My heart hits me from the inside like it wants out. I hand the pipe back. I’ve never had this much energy. I want to break something’s neck, possibly drink blood? This is a feeling I’ve never had before. What the Jesus is happening?

I think Alice in Chains is playing “Down in a Hole.” I don’t think that was pot. The music has helicopters in it. Is that possible? YES _ NO _. There’s a 50% chance I’m high on meth. 50% crack. Last night my mom saw the cover of my Incesticide CD and started crying. Dad says I can either have long hair or celebrate Christmas with them. Not both.

I think I need to go to the First Aid tent. I locate a giant. He has a goatee. His tshirt says, “I shit bigger than you.” This seems true. I make a gesture that I hope means up. He nods, laces his fingers together, makes a stirrup. I step into the stirrup and he flings me into the air. I am closer to the sun now. Too close? I think I am on fire. Luckily human beings are under me, passing me to safety and bottles of water.

I am ~20 feet from the men in blue shirts when a hole opens up. I fall into it. Someone helps me up. I say thank you, but it’s the King of the Pit. As soon as I’m on my feet, he punches me in the balls, which makes my kidneys feel like balloons that somebody just popped. I start crying, but then I realize I’m probably on the same synthetic drug he is.

Is this an opportunity to fulfill my recent desire to break something’s neck, possibly drink blood?  

It is.

I reach my arm back as far as it will go and punch the King of the Pit. Punching someone while high on meth/crack is like having sex with Heather Locklear while clutched in the talons of a soaring eagle. The former King of the Pit knows this as much as I do. He stands up and punches me back. We take turns punching each other. Every punch lands. Neither of us makes the slightest effort to dodge anything.

Blood tastes like metal.

Metal tastes like the sky.

I am flying under an eagle having sex with Heather Locklear.

Jerry Cantrell’s guitar is a helicopter flying through the jungles of Vietnam. Is that war still happening?

Why doesn’t either of us fall down? We’re hitting each other so hard. I lift my arm, but it doesn’t work anymore. Neither does his. He smiles. Some of his teeth are missing. I smile back. Some of my teeth are missing. We hug each other. Where did Heather Locklear go?

Alice in Chains is playing “Rooster.” My nose is bleeding down the back of my throat. I’m not thirsty anymore. This song is really fucking good.

I don’t think I’m going to cut my hair. Will this meth addict invite me over for Christmas? He is my drug brother.

Now we are holding hands. No one comes near us. People are being crushed to death, but the King of the Pit and I have enough room we could open lawn chairs.

He hands me a cigarette.

I stick it through a hole where a tooth used to be.

He lights it for me.

There is a naked woman on the lighter. I look closer. It’s Heather Locklear.

I have found my soul mate at Lollapalooza.

He makes a gesture with his hands. He wants to know if anybody has a beach ball.

God I wish.

No, wait. He’s saying, “This song is so good I forgive my mom and dad for being terrible parents.”

I make a sign indicating, “Me too.”

It occurs to me that this song will never end. We may as well get used to it. The King of the Pit and I sit down in our circle. Helicopters fly over us. Our skin burns and peels off our bodies. I’m eighteen years old. I want more biker drugs. What’s it like to get old? Should I kill myself first? I miss Heather Locklear, but my arms are too tired to punch anyone. I don’t think I’ll ever feel like this again. When does Primus come on? I’m thirsty. I think I stopped bleeding. Joe is missing everything, but he has water. This song is so fucking good. Am I still on fire? How do you snuff a Rooster? 

Kevin Maloney is the author of Cult of Loretta (Lazy Fascist Press, 2015). His writing has appeared in Hobart, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, PANK, and Monkeybicycle. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his girlfriend and daughter.