by Bryan Washington
Issue #230 • July 25th, 2017•Buy Now!
Mix found his chupacabra next to the bayou, under the bridge, and by the time he ran to fetch me it’d bled in the water and died.
For better or worse, this wasn’t the worst thing that’d happened. Mix and I were broke. We’d flunked out of the community college. My girl, Denise, was having someone else’s baby, and I’d been living down by Shepherd, out in the Heights, back with Gran. Her place sat behind what were basically cardboard houses, leaning against the wind like a baby’d scribbled them in, and Gran had started slipping the Navy pamphlets under my door, which Mix called unfortunate, and debilitating, but hilarious—like, picture my fat ass in somebody’s uniform, because you couldn’t even do it without the buttons pegging your nose.
That these things could keep happening and life could keep going were more mysterious to me than whatever the fuck he was showing me.
It was also hot as shit. Typical Houston.
The chupacabra was hairless and brown. Pale under the paws. I looked at the body with the gnats creeping around it, and then at Mix, and then the chupacabra again, and I thought about whether the stench was rigor mortis or just the sunburnt factories across the 10.
Bryan Washington is a writer from Houston. His first collection of stories, Lot, is forthcoming from Riverhead Books.
Patrick Ryan on Bayou
When I was ten years old, I saw a movie called The Mysterious Monsters. It was about Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and the Abominable Snowman, and it was filled with cheesy “reenactments” of personal testimonies about encounters with these mythical creatures. Because it was presented as a documentary, and because I was ten, I watched the reenactment footage in absolute horror, completely forgetting these were actors (including the guy in the Bigfoot costume). For the next year, I had a hard time falling asleep, convinced that Bigfoot was going to crash a hairy arm through my bedroom window. I also spotted Bigfoot any time I got near nature—at least a dozen sightings by the time I turned eleven.
The two friends in Bryan Washington’s short story “Bayou” aren’t boys; they’re young men. When they discover a strange creature near a bayou on the outskirts of Houston, it isn’t fear they feel so much as a burnt-out sense of wonder, and maybe a chance to make some money. I was immediately drawn to “Bayou” because it begins with a chupacabra, and while many people claim to have encountered chupacabras (and even filmed them), biologists refuse to confirm their existence. So I was hooked from the get-go. But what follows is more than a monster story. It’s a story about friendship, misunderstanding, and longing. Or, as the author puts it in our Q&A, it’s a story about intimacy. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and if it inspires your own sighting of a mysterious monster—so long as it’s not a Bigfoot—I look forward to the reenactment.
Q&A by Patrick Ryan
But you won’t find anything like our allegiance to myth anywhere else in the country. It’s why I’ll always loathe Texas, and why I’ll always probably always come back.
I think a lot of the things that really change us happen with a whisper. And I’m into the contrast of an entirely bombastic circumstance ending without an explosion.
(A friend told me that, in my stories, everyone’s falling in love with the wrong person. TeDarus is—begrudgingly, flailingly—in love with just about everyone. Mix is—begrudgingly, flailingly—in love with TeDarus. The chupacabra’s left alone, its family or whatever has left it behind, and these two guys are the only ones around to take it in. So the question I’m always interested in exploring is, What do we make of the people we’re surrounded with? Who do we allow to love us? Even if they weren’t who we’d envisioned in a thousand years? And how does that alter what we allow love to be?)