Continued from Marzipan :
Ben extracts the clip and holsters the gun, makes some final mumblings into his radio, and sits down on the bench. Angry Mom number two is gone, the tense cloud of her confusion and anger has left the area.
“Did you seriously have to put bullets in that thing?” I stoop to pull the beers out of the bag.
He laughs, grabbing the bagged can out of my hand. “Force of habit, I don’t point it at somebody unless it’s ready to go. Plus it looked more authentic for the audience.”
“Right, sure. Now I’m terrified one of your fumble finger screwups is gonna kill me.”
He just shrugs. A crisp tear of aluminum follows and we sit in the park drinking. Every now and then the quiet is perforated by a machinegun burst of mumblespeak from Ben’s collarbone. Every time his ears perk up and he stiffens, but relaxes once he’s absorbed the communication. I can’t make out a word of it. I only know it’s language because of his reaction.
He breaks the silence. “You know what bugs me about shit like that?”
“The fact that you aimed a loaded gun at me?”
“No, you pussy. I was reading an article in the paper just the other day about gentrification.”
“What, like when a dude wears dresses?”
He chuckles. “I ain’t talking about your plans for the weekend. No, it’s like… You remember the Stop’n Go?”
“That’s gone now. Mr. Collins opened it after he got out of the Army. He ran it for forty years, good guy. Did right by a lot of people.”
“Well, they put in that Texaco across the street, and he was out of business in three months. Four decades of cutting people breaks on gas when they needed it, loaning people cash when they needed it. And they sold him out to save five cents on a Snickers bar.”
“Plus they sold cigarettes.”
“Yeah, well…” He looks angry now. His cheeks are flushing and it’s not just the evening cool. I shut up and drink my beer.
He starts again. “They wrote about it in the paper. The yuppies who moved in wrote a story about how sad it was in that fucking newspaper.” He points at a newspaper box for the neighborhood rag.
“Yeah, that was nice.”
“No, it wasn’t. It wasn’t honest and it wasn’t fucking nice. Those are the same people who put him out of business. They ate their cheap candy and smoked their cheap cigarettes and just ignored the Stop’n Go until it went out of business. Then they wrote a fucking newspaper article about it to show how concerned they were. A bunch of dumb rich holier-than-thou fuckers move into my neighborhood, they put my neighbor out of business, then they want to sell me a newspaper article about how sad it is that he’s gone. They come in and they call the cops on people who have lived here their whole lives and they tear down old businesses and put in Subways and then they wonder why the neighborhood changed.”
I wait a minute for him to calm down some. “So that’s gentrification?”
“Yeah. It’s when a bunch of assholes look back after years of squatting and grunting and wonder where all the shit came from.”
We sit in the radio-punctuated silence and finish the beers. After one false start trying to stand, I manage to pitch the empties, ignoring the hairy eyeball from Ben. The homeless guys can collect the deposits on these, the last thing I need is to be walking around with beer on my breath and empty cans in a bag – I might run into a real cop. I see the thoughts racing in Ben’s head, his gaze punching a hole in the bench where the bitchmoms held court. The walkie talkie squawks some gibberish, and he shakes it off. He speaks some of the secret codes into the noisebox. When he’s done, he puts on a fake grin, but I can still see the gears running behind his eyes. He stands without a waver, and pops some kind of intensely mint gum into his mouth.
“Stay out of trouble citizen.” He purposefully strides to the car, working the gum with his back teeth.
“Try not to crash into any parked cars, drunky.” I yell after him. “And don’t point loaded guns at me anymore.”
He just smiles and flips me off from the drivers seat, and backs out into the street without hesitating. The lights begin to whirl and he screeches out of the area east, headed into a maze of apartment complexes. Domestic dispute, more likely than not.
I head north out of the park towards where the nosy bitches left. I’m not surprised but still a little disappointed that mom number two isn’t still cowering in shell shock around the corner. It would have been pretty satisfying to belch at her. The streetlights are clicking audibly into life, the sodium lamps slowly warming from their cold mustard glow to something like daylight, as filtered through piss. By the time I get to the end of the block, it’s cold and dark, and the beer is making me feel slow and tense and oily. The envelope shifts in my pocket and the bottom drops out of my mood. Guess it’s time to figure out what this shit is all about. I crane my neck around and make sure I’m not being followed.
Nobody but me and the pools of dirty light.