Things to See in Uglahoma

Christian TeBordo


Where the sand meets the sea, that is Uglahoma.

Where the skin of the men glistens like the bottom of a still-hot frying pan and their hair is wavy and gleams with the Product; where the breasts and buttocks of the women are ghost-pale, crosshatched with a network of green-blue veins, while their shoulders and backs, bellies and thighs are the color of burnt butter, that is Uglahoma.

Where friends and families meet up from every part of the world except for Toughlahoma, the existence of which the Uglies refuse to acknowledge, the denial of whose existence the Uglies require of anyone who would apply for a Party Visa, that is, for any permission to enter Uglahoma, that is Uglahoma.

Where these friends and families who meet up participate in legendary orgies of beef and fried onions and outrageous sex, where the air fucking stinks of it, that is Uglahoma.

Where no Toughlahoman would ever want to go anyway, or be seen, because Toughlahomans hate being seen, and they don’t want to be anywhere but Toughlahoma,but especially and emphatically not Uglahoma, that is Uglahoma.

Where our priests say that the rain is the piss of the Great Teen Spirit because the inhabitants are not deserving of his delicious and nutritious and edifying tears, that is Uglahoma.

Where our prophets say the long-impacted bowels of the Great Teen Spirit will explode over the land at the end of days; where his blood, which is poisoned with the meat of our criminals, our outcasts, our scapegoats, will in turn poison their wells and their streams and kill their ocean when we finally decide to kill him, that is Uglahoma.

Where ships sail leisurely just off the coast, their passengers unintimidated by the enormous goldfish that occasionally surfaces from the depths and tries to glare at them menacingly; where the sailors take pictures of the goldfish and taunt it with their poles, that is the Uglahoma Sea, which is, according to international maritime law, Uglahoma.

Where the beachfront condominia seem to pierce the brightblue heavens until puffs of cloudstuffing billow toward the firmament at midday; where neon signs in languages that might be our own if we could read reflect off of an oilblack sky at night, that is Uglahoma.

Where needles, all tainted with the blood of Jesus, wash up on the shore by the thousands, as numerous as pieces of the One True Cross, whatever that might be, that is Uglahoma.

Where the Jesus de la Cruz and his friend Juan Henry the Baptist finally stopped pushing, because they were tired or because they had had enough, that is Uglahoma.

Where they built an altar and on it slew the Blue Ox Babe to sanctify the new land and as a sacrifice to the Great Teen Spirit and to feed the surviving remnant of the United Navy of Benetton, that is Uglahoma.

Where firebolts did not rain down from the clearblue ceiling of the world onto the carcass to ignite the offering, that is Uglahoma.

Where the ignorant and superstitious remnant cried out that this indicated the displeasure of the Great Teen Spirit, but where Jesus, in his ephemeral wisdom calmed their fears and explained to them that the Great Teen Spirit was merely a local deity, a small-time bully, and that they were too far from Toughlahoma to pick up the Great Teen Spirit’s signal and he theirs; where, as soon as Jesus said this, a patch of onions sprung up from under the altar and between the raw steaks of Babe and they all saw that it was good, that is Uglahoma.

Where Jesus invented fire, or told the remnant he did and was not contradicted by Juan Henry the Baptist, though they both had learned of fire in Toughlahoma, where fire was never invented because it had always been as plentiful and certain as kicks to the groin, that is Uglahoma.

Where, with the fire Jesus invented, they set the pyre ablaze, and the onions bloomed and the steaks grilled and they ate and fucked until their bellies were as full as the Great Teen Spirit’s and their groins were as sore as a Toughlahoman’s after a good kick, which is to say as sore as a Toughlahoman’s at anytime, that is Outback, which was the name they gave to the groin, which is to say the spiritual center, of Uglahoma, which is to say that, in essence, that is Uglahoma.

At Outback, when the fire died down and the pain subsided, Jesus and Juan Henry and the remnant all vowed that, from that day forward, that place would be known as Uglahoma and they would be known as Uglies, because there were no other words to describe the beauty of what had occurred there and what would occur there again and again, forever and ever ad aeturnum and nauseum.

At Outback, on the very spot, they began construction of a condominium tower that would house them, every one, so that they might be protected from the cold of the night and the piss of the Great Teen Spirit, which they called Michelob Ultra, believing themselves to be disconnected from the frequency of the Great Teen Spirit, and though their tongues were confused to begin with, communication was not a problem, because beef and fried onions and outrageous sex are a universal language.

At Outback they climbed the air, and Ugly men begat Ugly babies upon Ugly women, and the Ugly babies grew into strong, beef- and onion-fed Ugly men and women with slick skin the color of burnt butter, until there was no more room in the tower of Outback, and Uglahoma bloomed outward and upward like an onion, with evermore condominia, evermore sacred sites for the consumption of beef and onions, the soreness of sex.

At Outback, no one ever dies. When a man’s time has come, his spirit merely leaves his body and is captured in a glass tube that burns neon with the color of his true nature. Jesus was the one who taught them this. His spirit is smaller than you might think. It is a blue rectangle with the sacred mantra Michelob Ultra inside of it, the prophesy: All you can eat: $3.99 beneath.

What we are saying is, all of the good things to see are in Uglahoma.



Christian TeBordo has published three novels and a collection of short stories. “Things to See in Uglahoma” is an excerpt from a book called Toughlahoma, which will be published as part of Rescue Press’s Open Prose Series in the spring of 2015. He lives in Chicago where he is the director of the MFA program at Roosevelt University.