The following was performed live by Cassandra, a comedy collective that seamlessly weaves outrageous characters, storytelling, live lit, and music into one hilarious live show. Cassandra performs every last Tuesday of the month at Hopleaf in Chicago.

JOSH:
Hi. I’m Josh Zagoren, a writer and performer in Cassandra. We at Cassandra spend a lot of time exposing you to vile stories about noxious viscera and horrifically amoral people. We know that can be challenging and emotionally exhausting. I thought it was time we introduce a little palate cleanse, in the form of some fine literature. So welcome, everyone, to Josh’s Laxadasical Literature Corner.

BEN:
Oh, that’s really lovely.

JOSH:
Thank you Ben.

BEN:
What do you have for us tonight?

JOSH:
Well, I have a lovely piece of classic American literature by one of the twentieth centuries finest novelists, Carlton Pillows.

BEN:
I’ve never heard of him!

JOSH:
Well, Ben, he’s one of the foremost gritty realists of the post-midcentury period, beloved for his pastoral, yet spare descriptions of working people in the American west.

BEN:
Oh, so kind of a Neo-Hemingway Saul Bellows kinda fella?

JOSH:
He certainly is.

BEN:
Oh boy, the world sure hasn’t had enough American dude writers who talk about the prairie in a dry, declarative style!

JOSH:
We sure haven’t! The literary canon is sadly lacking in unemotive white guys in thrift store flannel who spent nine hours a day drinking bottom-shelf whiskey at the dining room table of more successful girlfriend’s house, writing 200 page novels about driving across Montana on a legal pad they stole from work!

BEN:
Is that what Carlton Pillows did?

JOSH:
He sure did, Ben. Born in 1972, Calrton Pillows began writing while enrolled at an expensive boarding school on the East Coast. Though he grew up in Cape Cod and had zero experience with horses, guns, pickup trucks, or cigarillos, his work immediately zeroed in on such topics. His first novel, Dust Bucket Visionaries, won the Man Booker Prize in 1992. Critics called it “grittily realistic” “grittily pastoral”, “pastorally epic, yet edgy” and “bad”.

BEN:
Wow, I can’t wait to hear an excerpt!

JOSH:
I can’t wait to share it with you, Ben. Okay, this is from the prologue of the book, entitled “Steer Boys, and the Sweat Between the Trashy Girl’s Thighs”.

Page 1. Me and my buddy raised steer.

Well, we tried to. Most of the calves escaped like greased up pigs through a hole in my war veteran grandaddy’s old whitewashed fence. We were poor folks, honest and salt of the earth, and our land was barren and devoid of the towering, phallic trees we imagined climbing in our boyhood dreams. We couldn’t patch that fence because of it.

So it sat there, in the blazing Montana heat, the hole gaping and fearsome and V-shaped, with a bit of underbrush growing beneath it. We hadn’t ever seen a vag before, but we reckoned it was something a lot like that fence. Massive and hungry and incapable of being plugged. And a thing that all the cows you bought would escape through.

My buddy and I scrounged up all the money we could, working our bodies raw at the stables. I still remember my buddy’s shoulders heaving in the sun. But, every calf that we purchased with that hard-earned money just crawled out the fence and escaped. Time and again we bought’m, time and again they fled. We never knew where’n they went. Seemed to be karma for trying to own’m and eat’m. Man can’t control nature like that.

One time we bought a mighty fine gelding from a racist old man up the road, who was probably a thinly veiled allegory for the post-war generation we otherwise idolized. His daughter watched us do our man’s business from the porch. She was barefoot and her hair was greasy and crumbs stuck to her soles when she walked around their elegantly derelict apartment, but, what can I say my dude, she was hot.

My buddy porked her a few times. I was jealous but I can’t say of who. Jk, jk, I’m straight of course. I wanted to pork that dirty girl with the Frito crumbs on her heels, not my buddo. No way did I wanna bang him. Nope’m.I just wanted more of his time…I wanted those days of flipping hay bales shirtless in the sun to never end. I loved the sight of manure smeared across his flank. I mean, his back.

Anyway on our last day of high school we sold that gelding for a mighty fine penny, so’s we bought a car. I got a hand job in that there vehicle right outside a Wendy’s, and my grandad died.

My friend stayed in town for the rest of his life and died of early onset alcoholism. He and that dirty-footed gal had about nineteen hundred dishwater-haired babies. I, of course, became a McArthur Genius Award-winning fiction writer. Fucking duh. But yeah I will never forget that summer when I became a man, the end.

BEN:
Wow Josh…that was a bad story!

ERIKA:
I KNOW RIGHT? That’s the literal plot of something I read in an award-winning short story collection this week.

JOSH:
Literature sucks. Back to poop jokes?

All:
Yeah, yup, sounds good.

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