Carlo Thomas - "Backfire"


I only contacted Ian for company on the drive. He knew it too but agreed to come anyways. Most likely he was bored as fuck.

“Pot brownies sound good right now,” I said as Ian hopped inside my dad’s gray Toyota pickup, the one he finally got around to giving a jumpstart. A loud pop came from behind us like a runner’s pistol - and they’re off! We both jumped though I knew it was coming.

“What the hell was that?” Ian asked.

“The backfire,” I said. “This truck’s a piece of shit.”

Ian shrugged his shoulders and pulled his brown hair into a ponytail.

One week isn’t long to be home, but it can be with nothing to get a buzz or high from. My parents hadn’t kept alcohol in the house since my brother started going to NA last year. They didn’t consider alcohol to be a drug. They also didn’t want Tommy to trade one bad habit for another.

“What happened to G-Rock Radio?” I asked while scrolling through the truck’s presets.

“It’s now a Top 40 station,” Ian said.

Miley Cyrus sang to us as we pulled up to Sean’s.


“I saw the craziest shit yesterday,” Sean said as we walked into his kitchen. The fluorescent light shone against the faded yellow wallpaper and made my eyes hurt.

“I’m leaving ShopRite with stuff for these brownies when I hear a woman scream from the parking lot.” He pulled a glass tray from the fridge and placed it on the counter. “A bunch of us ran over and saw her beating the shit out of this dude with a loaf of bread.”

“How does that happen?” I asked.

Sean pulled a steak knife from the drawer underneath and cut off a corner of brownie. “The bread was frozen.”

“His plan backfired,” Ian said.

Sean pulled the piece apart and held the halves out. Ian and I popped them in our mouths like gumdrops.

“Pure body high,” Sean said. “This stuff will only mess with your head if you’re in a really bad place. If your mind’s really asking for it.” He picked up the knife and started cutting the brownies into squares. His arms were tattooed up and down like murals.

“So you’re back to see Tommy,” he said.

“That’s right,” I said.

“About time. I saw him in rehab every weekend until they moved him. So did Ian.”

Ian nodded, modestly accepting the compliment.

“I needed to save up money to come home,” I said as the brownie’s moist texture stuck to the roof of my mouth. The weed’s earthy taste went well with the chocolaty sweetness.

“Tommy says you’re some big shot in Denver. What have you been doing with all your money?”

“Lay off, man,” Ian said.

Sean laughed, opened the cabinet and pulled out a Ziploc bag. “Why should I? Maybe he isn’t as well off as Tommy wants us to think.”

“I’ll buy the whole tray,” I said.

“See? Now we know he’s fine,” Sean said before his elbow knocked the knife off the counter. Before he fell to the floor, screaming.

“Get it out!” Sean screamed, pointing to the knife in his foot.

I grabbed the towel hanging over the oven handle and the wooden spoon on the counter.

“Call 9-1-1,” I said to Ian as I dropped to the floor and wrapped the towel around Sean’s ankle. Blood soaked through his sneaker and dripped onto the white linoleum. Sean whimpered with his eyes shut. I stuck the wooden spoon through the knot and twisted. And twisted.


The weather report ran on the television fixed in the corner of the waiting room. The night’s low was fifty – unusually warm for Jersey in February. That afternoon I found a t-shirt I hadn’t worn since senior year.

“She’s so hot,” Ian said, looking down at an Esquire magazine with Scarlett Johansson on the cover.

The meteorologist – a balding man wearing a gray shirt and red tie – moved his hands around the tristate area as if kneading dough.

“That woman beat the shit out of a guy with a loaf of frozen bread,” I said, laughing.

Ian looked up and started laughing too. We started to feel that sample Sean gave us. And the pieces we stole as we followed the ambulance through the fog.

“What about the towel you used to wrap Sean’s ankle?” Ian asked. “It had ducks on it.”

“Quack, quack!” I said, imitating a duck’s bill with my hand, which had started to tingle. I jumped up, stuck my hands under my armpits and started quacking.

“That’s a chicken, you idiot,” Ian said.

“That’s because I am a chicken!”

The room started to move around me like a funhouse. I saw a woman a few seats down shake her head, not that I gave a shit. I turned back to the TV and saw the weather report had changed to a commercial. A mother pulling a plate of snacks from the microwave. She then set it on the counter where four teenage boys attacked like it was the end of the world.

“That was us!” I said.

“Yeah, man,” Ian said.

“That was us!” I yelled to the man across the room with his head in a paperback. He didn’t look up.

I turned back to the TV but something had changed, as if my brain had blown a fuse. The mother’s voice slowed and deepened. The snacks looked repulsive and I felt nauseous.

“Sean will be alright,” Ian said. I jumped because he was now at my side.

“And so will Tommy,” I said.

Ian nodded. “Which floor is he on?”


The commercial ended and the news resumed. Something about a heroin bust near the shore. My ears throbbed. I turned around to ask whoever had the remote to please please please please change the channel.

Carlo Thomas is a freelance copywriter and marketer originally from Manchester Township, New Jersey. When not writing for work or pleasure, Carlo enjoys concerts, bike riding, and breweries. He lives in Denver, Colorado. You can follow Carlo on Twitter @lifeofdude or contact him at