Sunday Literary Series: Raul Clement



Overpass photograph by David Friedman.

Exit Ramp Cowboys and Overpass Indians

by Raul Clement

When I went to Billy’s trailer, his Dad was in the living room watching some game show on TV. It wasn’t really a living room, just a couch separated from the bedroom by a curtain. Billy lifted this curtain and told me he’d be out. On the TV, a fat woman in a Hawaiian skirt was dancing and singing screechy-like.

In a minute, Billy came out with a backpack.

“Me and Dave are going,” he said.

Billy’s dad leaned forward and yelled at the TV. His gut jiggled a little. “Give that bitch the gong!”

We left him still yelling and walked across the trailer park. At the edge of the weedy lot, we squeezed through a hole in the fence and crawled down a concrete embankment covered with graffiti. The highway had been under construction for the last year or so and there was no traffic.  Billy unzipped his backpack and took out the arrows. They were real shiny and looked expensive.

“Won’t your dad be pissed?” I asked.

“Screw him,” Billy said, wiping his mouth. “You bring what I told you?”

I gave him the rifle. We took our stations behind all kinds of equipment—machines for painting lines, spotlights, and big orange traffic barrels. Mine was at the curved mouth of an exit ramp. I slipped on my headdress and streaked the black across my cheeks. I could see Billy on the overpass shouldering the rifle. Exit Ramp Indians and Overpass Cowboys—we’d been playing it all this summer. For some reason, I was always the Indian. My knees hurt in my crouched position, but I told myself, Wait. You’ll be a Cowboy real soon.

Billy lifted his gun. The sky went dark and cold and electric behind him and a funnel came down like a black knotty rope trying to choke him. I stood up, not caring if I blew my cover. I pointed and said real quiet, or maybe it was my imagination, “Look.”

About Okla Elliott

I am currently an assistant professor at Misericordia University in northeast Pennsylvania. I hold a PhD in comparative literature from the University of Illinois, an MFA in creative writing from Ohio State University, and a legal studies certificate from Purdue University. My work has appeared in Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, The Hill, Huffington Post, Indiana Review, The Literary Review, New Letters, Prairie Schooner, A Public Space, and Subtropics, as well as being listed as a "notable essay" in Best American Essays 2015. My books include From the Crooked Timber (short fiction), The Cartographer’s Ink (poetry), The Doors You Mark Are Your Own (a coauthored novel), Blackbirds in September: Selected Shorter Poems of Jürgen Becker (translation), and Bernie Sanders: The Essential Guide (nonfiction).
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