“Whereupon Jason Ryberg Very Nearly Becomes Another Stupid Statistic (or, Tonight, On Cops!) (Sleight Redux)” by Jason Ryberg

Ever found yourself suddenly struck dumb, almost in that
old fashioned gothic horror novel sense of the term, say in
the middle of a conversation about the whole art / life /
truth and beauty thing with a beautiful nude girl (she hav-
ing just stepped Venus-on-the-half-shell-like, out of the
shower, all steamy and flowery-smelling, after some of that
nasty, early morning, barely-even-awake-type-fucking),
and, for some reason, you have a pair of those steel,
Chinese exercise balls in your hand (you know, cling-
clang) and maybe you were even thinking man, you could
probably dent a guy’s head-bone pretty good with one of
these things, if you really had to and almost precognitively,
you could say, because you’re now waiting for the reformed
skinhead who has just this instant walked into the room
(and completely out of nowhere and unexpectedly, in all
fairness to his stealth capabilities) to do … something, any-
thing but just stand there and stare (her fairly recent, on
again / off again ex-boyfriend, it’s safe to assume, so recent,
in fact, that he may have only just recently got the news)?
And CHRIST it’s only 10AM and it’s raining outside and
here we are locked in some kind of (almost) comical three-way
Mexican stand-off (wherein, did I mention, one of the
parties is stark naked, for the most part, except for a towel?)
in a fourth-floor apartment (with locked front door, by the
way, leaving the back fire-escape and fourth-floor balcony
as the only possible sources of (more than likely) forced
entry for this chowderhead, this (understandably close-to-
apoplectic but otherwise) sad sack chump with the classic,
Hollywood-esque duh / what the fuck look of the genuinely
dumbstruck; this yay-hoo, this nowheresville palooka with
muddy boots and knuckle tattoos, or, as that consummate
wise-guy hipster, Buggs Bunny (or was it Bugsy Seigel?),
used to say, what a maroon). And I’m watching him and
he’s watching me, then we both look at her, then back at
each other and she looks like maybe she’s thinking about
what she’s gonna wear today or what she’s gonna have for
breakfast later (the banana pancakes or the Belgian waffles?).
And he’s gotta be thinking something close to what I’m
thinking, which is actually something somewhere between
well, here’s how it ends for old J. Ryberg, I guess and some-
thing slightly more alpha like this motherfucker needs to
hurry the fuck up and get it over with and make a move or
turn the fuck around and get the fuck outta here now! And
she just calmly (I shit you not, absolute picture of), non-
chalantly says oh, hi Chad.


Jason Ryberg is the author of twelve books of poetry,
six screenplays, a few short stories, a box full of folders,
notebooks and scraps of paper that could one day be
(loosely) construed as a novel, and, a couple of angry
letters to various magazine and newspaper editors.
He is currently an artist-in-residence at both
The Prospero Institute of Disquieted P/o/e/t/i/c/s
and the Osage Arts Community, and is an editor
and designer at Spartan Books. His latest collections of poems
are Zeus-X-Mechanica (Spartan Press, 2017)
and A Secret History of the Nighttime World (39 West Press, 2017).
He lives part-time in Kansas City with a rooster named Little Red
and a billygoat named Giuseppe and part-time somewhere
in the Ozarks, near the Gasconade River, where there are also
many strange and wonderful woodland critters.

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