Red Car in the Future

The whole afternoon we argued
in Frank’s parents’ basement
about what to call the band.

We’d all taken our shirts off
because it was August, the door
closed against Frank’s mom

and dad and sister screaming
above us. All of our songs
were just like their fights:

Frank’s double-pedal kick drum
his sister’s footsteps pounding
up and down the stairs,

each dirty chord a door
slamming closed, my bass
just glottal curses seeping

through the walls. But now
we needed a name for the band,
a name to put on the posters

and t-shirts and cassette tapes
we felt sure we would sell
at our sparsely attended shows.

Frank said “Fuck Nuggets,”
and I said “Aspartame.” He
countered with “Mood Ring,”

and I threw out “Fetch, Boy,
Fetch.” Nothing made anyone
happy. I think some chemical

was in the paint of that house,
some psychotropic mold
radiating from its bones,

something that made everyone
angry. Finally, Deshaun,
the guitar player, suggested

“Red Car in the Future,”
though by then Frank and I
were foaming, each ready to punch

a hole through the other’s
stubbornness. We broke up
the band over it, and I lugged

my bass and amp home
in a shopping cart, cursing
Frank, cursing the heat-blasted

sidewalks, cursing the hours
I’d spent in that basement
sweating over songs I knew

were no good. It was only
at home that I remembered
Deshaun’s suggestion. I was lying

in bed, the window box fan
struggling to cool my naked
body, and I closed my eyes

and imagined that red car
in the future, driving away
from Frank’s wasp nest

of a house, away from my
life too, all the ways I disappointed
myself daily. But when I looked

in that sleek convertible
coasting off into the sunset
I wasn’t anywhere in it.

Nick Lantz is the author of We Don’t Know We Don’t Know and The Lightning That Strikes the Neighbors’ House. A third book, How to Dance When You Do Not Know How to Dance, is due out from Graywolf Press in 2014. He currently teaches at Franklin & Marshall College and the Queens University Low-Residency MFA.