Category Archives: Fiction

A brief fiction interlude…

I still remember my first cup of coffee.
I was running, as every Saturday morning, to the television.
I dashed around the house, trying to locate some toy gun and replace its almost-certainly dead C-cell, so that I would not miss one minute of J. Michael Stracynski’s Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, which I was sure was going to start making sense any minute now. I searched feverishly for batteries in all the junk drawers, desk drawers, catchalls, baskets, and bins which littered every room of our house. While racing across the linoleum in the kitchen, desperately trying to remember if there were any batteries out in the laundry room, a gold and black pack slapped down on the counter beside me. Startled, I gawp up at my smirking grandfather, sunlight tracing a thin perfect ribbon of smoke from the cigarette in his hand to the barely cracked window above. I hadn’t even sensed him there and before I could compose myself to reply, he turns back to the gently percolating coffee machine.
“Don’t be so anxious, Eli.”
He waves me over, the ribbon of smoke tumbles apart and he puts the butt in his mouth. He pulls two coffee cups down from the cabinet, one in either hand, handles over three fingers of each hand and sets them on the counter. I’ve seen him do this before, when grandma was alive, or sometimes when mom is up early for work and he makes her take a cup for the road. A practiced gesture, a routine; each movement set to some internal metronome.
I can hear it now, see it in my head, if my head is right.
The swish of the cabinet door, a quiet thump as they hit the cheap vinyl countertop, the right hand slowly closing the cabinet even as the left grabbed a grubby teaspoon we kept on top of the napkin holder Рit seemed a shame to wash it after just one cup of coffee Рthe two step reach into the fridge for the heavy cream Рnever half and half Рa one armed pluck producing a fresh white and pink carton while the other hand grabbed a box of eggs. He deviated from his normal return path and swept hooked a kitchen chair  with his ankle and slid it to the counter beside him, a nod at me and then to it. I stand on the chair and he wiggles his eyebrows and crosses his eyes. I grab the cigarette from his mouth and hold it like a dangerous and stinky bug. He ducks beneath, gasping comically for air and then clamps his lips around the butt once more.
He sets the eggs down on the middle of the stovetop, the cream carton dropped at an angle between the two cups. A single gesture where he takes one last drag from the cigarette and without apparently aiming, flicks the cigarette out the kitchen window. Mom hates this, and I wince.
“Bring that chair over here and look at this.”
While I pull the chair over to the mugs, he pours two steaming black slugs of coffee into them, fishes into his pocket for matches, puts the pot back on it’s hot plate and starts the biggest front burner with a match. After a brief root around in a drawer, he puts a little pan over it and dollops in a half stick of butter. Then he taps out a brown filter-end and holds it in his lips, pulls the last cigarette out of the foil, and then crumples it into a ball, which rolls aimlessly around the counter.
“Look at the cup.”
I look down into the steaming black murk, oil shimmering on the surface, and he doses out just enough cream to fill it to the brim. He stirs it and it turns cream colored. I am beginning to worry about missing Captain Power.
“Pretty boring right?”
“Yeah.”
“Now watch mine.”
He pours in a thin funnel of cream, wordlessly refusing the teaspoon I try to pull out of my cup, and in a moment… explosions of white break the surface. What I now know are fractal patterns, thermodynamic phenomena that we can neither accurately predict nor truly map the complexities of. My eyes widen. He dips the end of his cigarette into the blue fire of the burner and takes a drag. He grabs the boring cup of coffee and takes a tiny sip. He pushes the magic cup to me, the disturbance causing a new riot of cream flowing from the bottom. He ruffles my hair and nods back toward the family room.
“You don’t want to miss your show. Go, go.”
I carefully pick up the cup and carry it out, both hands clamped around the hot mug, fingers splashed with boiling overflow.
Through the corner of his mouth, around the cigarette. “If you are patient, and calm, Eli… every morning you can have fireworks.”
The coffee was terrible, but I drank it every time he made it for me.

Thunderous

Today, I want to make you my 1950’s dream.

I want you in that dress, and in that sweater.

I want the wash of your dark hair falling across your eyes, hazy and unfocused, lost in thought. I come home and catch you sneaking a cigarette out the kitchen window. I watch in silence, the exhaled smoke catching the evening light, as a narrow bar of luminous dust dancing above the table. I clear my throat, and you start.

You look back, throwing the cigarette out the window. You’ve just had a hard day, you explain. You try to palm the pack. You’re scrabbling for excuses when my hand grabs your neck and pulls your face close to mine. Your fear makes me hesitate, just for a moment. You look surprised, in the short moment before my lips are on yours.

Teeth part, tension replaced by anticipation, and I can feel the heat as blood rushes into your cheeks. My tongue snakes between your teeth and meets yours, still smoky, tender. As our lips part, you look into my eyes with understanding. I stare back, the only sound our ragged breath, grinding my desire into you.

I unzip your dress, and then I step back: you look down, breaking eye contact, as the dress pools around your feet. You unfasten your bra, and let it slide down to join the skirt. You look at me asking if that is enough. It’s not enough, dear. It’s never enough. And you push your panties down, one bit at a time, until they hit your knees and slide to the floor. And now in the still, warm air of the kitchen, you are exposed. Vulnerable.

And when I pull you toward me again, there is no hesitation.

Meatball

Continued from Marblecake

The door to the house is neatly crossed corner to corner with yellow police tape, those five words “Police Line – Do Not Cross” explaining in no uncertain terms “this is where civilization failed”. The door is closed and locked, and the puddle of antifreeze out front is the only clue to what happened. Breaking into a crime scene isn’t a new thing for me, but I don’t like it. Besides the fact that if I get caught Ben may actually shoot me next time he sees me, a crime scene at the home of a guy I’m looking for is rarely good news. It means the guy I’m looking for is in jail, on the run from the cops, or in the morgue. All three of these things make it hard for me to get back to drinking beers in the park.

I decide against going in the front door. It’s too open, somebody is bound to see me, and I’m not particularly good at jimmying locks, so it’s gonna take some time. A sliding door around back, maybe. I listen quietly at the fence for the telltale sounds of a dog. Either Ricky wasn’t a canine lover, or there’s a perfectly trained attack dog waiting to jack me as soon as I get into the yard. I give a glance around, make sure nobody is looking, and vault the short fence into the back yard.

Somebody was a little housekeeper out here. The plants look neat as a pin, all the flowers in neat rows, the trees trimmed, the grass is green and thick as carpet. The fence is narrow pickets painted white, immaculate. The fully-made bed that’s under the tree in the corner is even immaculate looking, except for the few leaves that have fallen down onto the comforter.

Why can’t shit ever be normal?

Nobody with a dog has ever had a yard this nice looking. Nobody who was not batshit insane has ever had a bed on the ground under their tree. Thankfully the police tape PROBABLY means I’m not gonna walk in on a methed out drug mule scraping off his skin and trying to find some fingernail scissors to go trim the yard again, but I pull out my little pistol just in case.

I quietly, carefully step toward the door, the pistol held low. I’m staring through the sliding door, trying to figure out how hard it’s going to be to get inside. No bar in the door. I look over to see if there’s an alarm or anything. I don’t see anything. I don’t see any cameras, there’s no bars on the windows. This isn’t like any distribution hub I’ve ever seen, so apparently Ricky really lives here. I turn an eye back toward that crazy ass bed, in the yard, and imagine the black-and-white man in the pictures coming at me with a soldering iron and a beard of foamed spittle. I steel myself against it, and grab the door handle, to see how hard the lock is going to be to break.

As the door unexpectedly slides, effortlessly back, the hairs rise on the back of my neck. We’re there now, this is disturbing a crime scene. Even with Ben doing everything he can, if I get caught here, I’m going away for a while. No more beers in the park. No more breakfast for dinner. Adrenaline dumps and every nerve is on fire. I step forward onto the carpet, and before I can even get my body into the door, three sharp clacks sound off. I drop to the ground, pointing the gun right, left, right, and trying to figure out what I missed. What have I missed?

No noise. No voices. Nothing. The house is still. A warm, fetid smell roils out of the house, and I start to gag on the smell, backing out quickly to the patio, I kick something with my heel.

I sigh, and reach down to retrieve the tin magazine which fell from my pistol, and shove it hard and fast back up into the gun, smacking it with the butt of my hand angrily. I really should buy a good gun someday.

I breathe the now sweet-seeming air of the back yard, and turn back toward the screen door. I set my jaw, brace myself, and walk into the hot wet smell of something which has suffered long in the misery of decomposition.

Hypothetical faggots, if you will

A Toast to Two Gay Guys Who Are Getting Married, (Lesbians : we can edit this to work for you too)

(gesture at grooms – how do you pluralize that is it just the s? Or is it like moose where it’s just… groom. A pair of groom. No, that sounds wrong) Would you look at these two faggots? I mean seriously. Wow. Get a room.

Contrary to what the you guys may believe… (pointing around at the family) This (make a circle indicating the groom…ses..) is a common wedding. But because we have angry, bitter people and Fox motherfucking news, this must be a politicized event. And that is a shame. It is a shame that in this day and age, a wedding between two people with such a normal, common, average relationship can be forced to be a big deal. You two met, you had a relationship, you had ups, and downs, and aside from the specific details, your story is exactly like millions and billions of people through history. You are born, you live, you love, you fall, you hurt, and you die. Just like every other marriage going on today, this SHOULD not be a matter of national attention. But it is. You are just like everyone else, everyone in Wichita Kansas and everyone in (insert home state). Everyone in this room, for that matter. And I hope, with the progress we are making as a nation, and as a species, that one day it will NOT be something which newspapers must be written about.

Some smart motherfucker once said (I assume at this point in the wedding I’ll be pretty drunk) ‘We are not so different, you and I’. We’re all made out of mud, as they say, we’re all sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and it should only make sense that we can make that choice, to become husbands, and wives. To say to the world “Together we are better than apart” in ceremony. To share your love with the world. And I hope that we get there, soon. That in every state in the US a men and women can stand together regardless of gender and start making the world brighter with your bliss. That in every country of the world two people in love can touch each other on a street corner without fear or regret. That some day the term faggot can be reclaimed by those children, by all of us, really, for it’s original purpose, to define a small bundle of sticks, suitable for making a fire. And also to be yelled out of the car window on the freeway, at somebody who can’t find the mother fucking gas pedal. Seriously, people. I was behind this woman earlier and when she FINALLY let me pass her she just gave me this look of DISDAIN. I mean, part of it had to do with me screaming at her to eat my cunt but trust me everybody… she was plenty bitchy looking before that. Her dial starts at disdain and it just gets worse from there.

But this isn’t about that aging truckstop whore who couldn’t be bothered to turn off her right turn signal since 1987, this is about (Insert names of the groom..mes.?). May your relationship continue to be so typical. May your love only continue to grow and your lives become richer because of your commitment this day. Now if somebody could just validate my parking I can get back to hitting on the straighter looking chicks and the really girly looking guys (Indicate that one guy, you know the one, with the ‘call me’ sign). Cheers.

Marblecake

Doesn’t have a point of view.
Knows not where he’s going to.
Isn’t he a bit like you…
And me. – Beatles ‘Nowhere Man’

I decided to call up Earl at the pawn shop. He always knows low level players, but the rumor is he moves a little weight himself. The rumor isn’t true, well… it probably isn’t true, but he has held a few items he knew not to sell in the past.

“You carry that cheap little thing in your pants with the clip in and one day you are going to get a bad surprise young man.”

I rearrange my pocket so the butt of the pistol isn’t sticking out again and shrug off my windbreaker. It’s always too hot in here, too close. It smells like fried chicken and old farts. Earl shifts his fat body over the stool he’s been tormenting for the past two decades. I listen to the cheap metal creak and groan, and wait for him to settle. It’s like talking to a four hundred pound cat, if you start anything while he’s still up and around you’re just going to have to repeat it.

Once the creaks stop and there’s a beat where we’re both just waiting to see if the chair collapses, he looks at me appraisingly.

“Well I assume that from your demeanor and the tin courage in your pocket that this is not a social call. If you are planning to rob me you should know that you are on camera and I am not the sort of man who calls the authorities. Plus I know your auntie and she would just be devastated if they had to clean you up out of her basement. We go to church together, you know.”

I arrange the pictures in a fan before dropping them on the counter with a small sigh. When I was twelve, this kind of talk amused me, when i was fifteen, it scared me. Now I just know that he’s a fat blowhard with a gambling problem and a tumbler which is more whiskey than coke sweating it out on a coaster near the register. The sort of melodramatic asshole who won’t even give you a break when you helped him get his niece out of a bad spot.

“Ahhh, it is to be an information gathering meeting. How delightful. How may I be of assistance?”

“Do you know this man?”

“The line goes ‘Do you know this boy?’. That film is certainly no Zhivago but if you are to make cinematic allusions in my shop I would appreciate some effort.”

“Listen, do you know this dude or not?”

“Don’t get your knickers in a twist, my dear boy. Of course I know him, he pawns a guitar case or a TV here from time to time.”

Which makes sense. You don’t want to have your stash all in one place, especially when you’re the delivery man. You’ve always got to have a few local places you can go and pick up a little extra if business is booming. Earl isn’t the sort of guy to hold out on that, he knows I’m no police, and I’m not out to steal anything, so he’s probably telling the truth. The whole truth? Probably not.

“You seen him lately?”

“Last Tuesday he was in here picking up a few items he had pawned a month or so ago. I seem to recall he was very much in a hurry, and chose to take all of his belongings back quite suddenly. He loaded it into his caravan and drove off into the sunset without so much as a thank you or a how-do-you-do.”

“So just about a week ago.”

“As it is now Wodin’s Day, yes, that would be accurate.”

I bite back a retort. I can’t give him that satisfaction, otherwise I’ll be in a bad mood all day. I gather up my pictures and stick them back in my pocket. I know that I’m only gonna get one question here, and the favor I’m cashing in is not that big. I have to use it like a chess piece.

“You know how I could get in touch with his boss?”

“That’s funny, Robert. Quite funny.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I’m losing my temper now. The gun won’t work this time, Earl will just pull the trigger on the sawed off under the case and before I can even get this gun out of my pocket, I’ll be trying to plug the buckshot holes in my legs and waiting for the ambulance while he quietly chuckles and drinks his soda.

“Why, his boss was just in here yesterday morning, bright and early, asking how a person could get in touch with you.”

“Wait, wait… What did this guy look like?”

“I am not at liberty to talk about my other business partners, but I will tell you that he told me to give you a message when I saw you next.”

And what was that message?

“‘You have one week.’ He seemed quite insistent. I will not go into details, but if you owe this man something you should pay it. He is not the type to extend credit nor renegotiate terms.”

A drop of sweat drips into my asscrack and I can feel the inverted triangle of sweat slicking my shirt to my shoulders. I start back toward the door, glaring at Earl’s beatific, gigantic baby face as he eyeballs me like a particularly interesting insect. I’m getting nothing out of this one, looks like.

“Is that not the answer you wanted to hear, Robert?” a chuckle and the groan of metal as he gets up to wander over to his drink.

I put my hand on the pushbar and turn around. Distracted.

“Your aunt is a good friend of mine, Robert. She is a good woman and she would be most despondent for some reason if you were to get yourself killed.”

“Thanks, yeah Earl, that’s great, that makes me feel much better.”

I punch the door and I’m halfway out the door when he clears his throat. I pause.

“You should go talk to her.”

“Thanks for the advice, fat man.”

“No, no, I honestly believe you should go talk to her about your situation.”

He must have sensed my anger peaking because I didn’t have to prompt him again.

“Ricky’s wife is in the choir at our church.”

The door is jingling behind me as I turn to head for the house, and I hear Earl say “And now YOU owe ME one, dear boy.”

Neurotoxin

Whats the use in tryin?
All you get is pain.
When I needed sunshine I got rain. – The Monkees “I’m a Believer”

Officer Ben is yelling something at me and I just don’t get what the problem is. I just don’t want him to see what a mess the garage is. It’s getting late and Ricky is going to be home soon and there’s a cop here and he hates the cops. Frankly, this whole breakfast for dinner thing has really lost some of its charm. I don’t understand where it all went wrong!

We joked on the ride from the grocery store, he told me his name, and we started to chat, he even let me sit in the front! He made them all feel OK and let me go and get more eggs and clean up the mess, and then we got in his big police car and we drove home. I sang along with the radio and he really seemed to like that. He was all smiles and then I opened the house door and suddenly he’s completely freaked out and I think I’m going to cry. He is asking about the smell that smell that smell for days and he’s got his hand on his gun and I just don’t know what to do. He pushes his way past me and goes into the garage and I think I heard him sick up, and I went to get some paper towels to clean it up. I am rooting around under the sink and I hear him come up behind me and I look back and see he has his gun out now, he’s got it pointed at me, and he’s not pretty anymore. Officer Ben’s not happy and there’s nothing smooth and I can just tell we’re never going to be friends. He’s saying something about where my hands are and telling me to get up and asking me if I have anything I want to talk about and I can feel this migraine starting right in the back of my right eye. I feel the cold heavy handle of a plumbers wrench under the sink cold, heavy, and I’m trying to concentrate on the questions he’s asking. He’s asking something about my husband and if there are any kids in the house, and I think about kids and then I see the wrench fly up and hit his hand. It made a horrible sound, like someone eating cereal and the gun makes a roar and I can just tell it hit my cabinets. Why would he shoot my cabinets? What kind of a person comes into your house and does that? The wrench is coming up again and I can see the fear in his eyes and it’s making him so ugly. He looks just like Ricky right now, he has that same anger inside him. He wasn’t ever nice, he wasn’t ever going to help me. He was going to bring me here and touch me. he was going to try to touch me He’s just the same as the rest, I can see that now.

And now the wrench is hitting the edge of his jaw and he and I will never be friends. I watch his head wrap around the wrench and see that look go out of his eyes, and get replaced with something… blank. His shoulder speaker is squawking something now and I just can’t make it out. I put down the wrench and grab those paper towels, it’s time to go clean his sick up in the garage. Boys will be boys, and sometimes that means cleaning up sick. I walk into the garage and there’s that smell again, and for just one second something glints in my eye and I look out next to the Bronco and there’s something there. Something bad. Something I should have taken care of. It’s like when you leave the house and you think you might have left the iron on? I can’t put my finger on what it is that is out of place. It has something to do with that stain, I think. Something to do with the light coming off the floor. Something. And then I see the car keys on the ground, and I hear the shoulder speaker on that mother fucker cop squeak again and I think maybe it’s time for me to leave. Ricky is just going to have to take care of his own dinner tonight and I hit the button to open the garage door, grab my jacket off the hook, because who knows if it’ll get rainy later, and I get into the Bronco.

I turn on the radio, and they’re playing Suspicious Minds, and I barely notice when I ram into the back of the cruiser that son of a bitch blocking me, trying to keep me here and I turn up the radio so I can hear it over the roar of the engine.

The papasan

She slumps back into the papasan with a giggle. I grunt as she lands on my hip, and there is a comic moment of rearranging while we make spoons. I yank the blanket back over us, and feel the her body hot against mine. Dead silence falls over the room while my body inevitably reacts. Her mouth is making silent words, testing them on her tongue while she tries to figure out how to react.

“Just ignore it,” I tell her “it’ll go away.”
She laughs again, and buries her face in her hands.
“I told you I was gay, right? We went over the… lesbian thing?” she laughs out into the darkness.
“Just… just ignore it.”

I try to position it so it’s not as noticeable. I can smell the Southern Comfort on her breath, and feel her chest expand and contract, expand and contract, noticing as it turns from laughs to giggles to the regular rhythm of sleep. Somewhere in noticing that, I fell asleep.

“You little pervy liar.”

She is hitting me in the arm and I can feel the wetness of a drool spot under my face. My shirt has wound itself around my chest and is choking me a little. I jerk to my feet, trying to figure out what she means. She’s laughing and pointing and I look down at my tented out fly. I choke out some embarassed noise and try to hide it behind my cupped hands while I rifle through the junk on the floor. She has fallen onto the beanbag in front of the TV and is wiping at the tears coming out of her eyes. The red faced embarassment has sent enough chemicals through my brain that I can feel it softening and I’m laughing a little too.

“You said it’d go away, you drunky perv.”
“I, uh… I thought that…”

The laughs are subsiding and coming in fits now. I wipe at my wet cheeks and pull my jacket on, meandering for the kitchen for a glass of water. I turn on the light and immediately regret it, turning it back off and feeling around for a glass.

“You underestimated it.”
“That’s the first time anybody has ever underestimated my cock.”

She smirks at me and grabs my glass of water, drinking it down in one desperate motion.

Manchego

Continued from Mayonnaise.

A dozen pictures, on real photo paper no less, of some two bit hood standing around on half a dozen streetcorners. So, he’s a drug dealer. I’ve maybe seen him before, I see lots of folks, but I don’t know his name, and I don’t know him well enough to pin down what crew he might have connections to, not even enough to say what drugs he might sell. But, if he’s like everybody else, it’s heroin and meth. I shuffle over to get a better look and the stupid gun pops out of my drawers and onto the bed, the plastic magazine spontaneously ejecting onto the floor. Fuck. I grab the damned thing and stick it back under the mattress. This is stupid. I can’t make any sense of it. The guy is obviously not swimming with the big fish, and people who have the sort of resources to tail me and the balls to casually fuck with me can usually find little fish all by themselves.

I go back to the sink and notice my toothbrush bounced from the bowl and ended up behind the toilet. I pull it up and stare for a minute at the curly hairs and fuzz stuck to the end. Fuck this, I’ll get a new one later. I turn on the shower and listen to the water heater groan into life, shuddering out a few sprays of ice cold water, then a trickle of brown, and finally glorious, steamy water. I dial it down to just below scalding and step in. I can feel it pulling the beer right through my pores, and stare down at the drain to watch it spiral away.

***

I’m back on the street, and it’s sunny as hell. This is the wrong side of 10am, regardless of how good that shower was. Plus I still have a coating on half my teeth. I’m making my way down to the corners to see if I can get some more ideas on Mr. Picture Guy. Still no clue who he is, if I don’t recognize him, he couldn’t be responsible for too much weight. If Leo doesn’t recognize him, he probably doesn’t even deal, which will leave me straight up a creek.

“Mother fucker.”

The yell doesn’t really startle me, around this place, you hear a lot of shouted expletives, but there’s a certain part of your brain which knows when a yell is directed at you.

“Hey, Leo”

“Mother fucker. You gotta lotta nerve.”

“You gotta lotta nerve mother fucking me first thing in the morning.”

“Haha, don’t trip, don’t trip. it’s all good. Y’all know I’m just playin’ with a nigga.”

Leo is tall, gangly, white. He learned how to speak street through synthesizing drug dealers from after school specials and the skit tracks on rap albums. He would come off as a regular wigger, if it weren’t for the fact that he’s missing most of his teeth. Everything he says has extra lip flap in it, and there’s an odd lisp and nasal resonance. He’s got no septum, it’s sort of distracting. He likes to say it’s from all the gak, but the rumor is he got sold a bag of dish detergent when he was a kid. Even though it didn’t do anything, and it burned like hell, he just kept snorting it until his mom took him to the hospital. He’d stuff pennies in his ass if he heard it would get you high.

“You know this guy?”

I shove a profile shot under his nose and he holds his hands up and starts to back away. I grab his belt and pull him close.

“Leo… Do you know this guy?”

“Shit, I don’t know nothing from nothing.”

There’s a phlegmy whistle when he inhales. I can tell he’s lying, because when he really doesn’t know somebody, he pretends he does, to try to get money from me. Sometimes it works. When he says he doesn’t know somebody, it means he’s afraid of them. That’s weird, this guy isn’t even on my radar. Why would Leo know him?

“You don’t know nothing, huh?”

I stick another picture in his face.

“Yeah, man, that guys like. I don’t know him. Never seen him.”

I flick a finger at his jacket, and he pulls back like I’m gonna punch him. Leo is many things, but skittish isn’t on the list.

“I come down here looking for info from you twice a month for the past three years and you have NEVER known nothing. Even when you actually don’t know anything, you run your mouth, so you come clean now, who is the guy in the pictures?”

“Nigga I told you. There’s nothing, he’s nothing. Nobody is nothing. I gotta bounce, dog. Holla.”

He turns away and starts to walk. I kick him in the back of the knee and he drops to the ground. I’m on him as he starts to scramble back up, the stupid little chinese 25 in the crook of his neck.

“Listen you little shit. I’m gonna go find your mom and tell her where your apartment is unless you get straight with me right fucking now.”

“Fine, shit, B, just fucking, shit, just… just let me up off the ground, just… is that a gun, you pull a gun on me over this?”

“Yes, I’d pull a gun on you, trying to lie to me and then walk away. Get the fuck up. You try to run again I’ll give you one in the ass to think about.”

There’s no way I could hit him in the ass with this thing unless he sat down on the gun, but he doesn’t know that. I shove him into one of the doorways to a burned out row house. I peek around the corner and we seem to be alone, just bird shit and trash.

He looks at one of the pictures, sighs. Starts to fidget. He lights a cigarette and I unconsciously finger my empty pocket again while he takes a drag.

“OK, B, OK. So. That guy moves a lot of weight. Like a lot.”

“Why have I never seen him before? He’s not a corner guy, and he sure as shit don’t look like he does home delivery.”

“No, like. Not like, moves weight. He moves weight. Like… in a car. From one place to another.”

“So he’s a courier. For who?”

“He’s more like THE courier. He’s working for folks above my pay grade. I just know not to fuck with him and that when people start asking, you start not knowing nothing or you end up dead.”

He’s leaving shit out, I can tell.

“And?”

“And nothing, he works for motherfuckers up on high and nobody talks to him unless he talks first. He knows when to bring weight in like the fucking junk fairy or some shit. You get big enough, he shows up and starts to talk volume with you. He don’t take credit, he don’t front, he don’t bring bad product, he don’t get fucked with by no police.”

“Who buys from him?”

“Who don’t buy from him? Everybody who can be selling his shit is selling his shit. Those who fuck up and fall off, they don’t get supplied anymore and they go out of business.”

“What’s his name?”

“I heard it was Ricky but I don’t know the motherfucker to say hello.”

“Yeah, well – you didn’t know nothing about him five minutes ago, but now you’ve got his fucking biography, so why don’t you think hard about what his name was.”

“Straight up, straight up. Ricky, that’s all I know. On the real.”

A pile of bird shit and trash starts to move, and a hand wipes across a face that just appeared.

“SHUT THE FUCK UP”

The junkie rolls back over and goes back to sleep. I’ve kept Leo long enough, and he’s got nothing else for me. I gesture him toward the door and stick the gun back in my pocket. Courier named Ricky, moves weight, everybody likes him, has some deal with the cops. More than I had before.

“Hey, Leo.”

“Bitch, what the fuck?”

“When’s the last time you saw Ricky around?”

“I don’t know, a week? Week and a half?”

“Is that normal?”

“Fuck no, they’re down to the fucking baking soda and baby formula right now. Nobody is getting proper high.”

“And you didn’t think that was pertinent to this discussion?”

“Nigga you need to speak fucking english.”

Leo walks out into the sunlight and the pile of bird shit and trash cuts a wet fart and begins to snore. I stuff the pictures back into the envelope. A missing person, or more accurately, some missing product and a missing person. Which favor to call in… which favor to call in.

NaNoWriMo Chapter 3

Ch 3.

Now that I’ve scored, tripped, and recovered, the really hard work begins. Interacting with the real world long enough to score again. It didn’t used to be this way. I used to have a job, I used to have insurance and benefits and a retirement plan. I used to have an estate. I used to think all that stuff mattered. I used to think TV was fun. I used to like food. Now it’s all just one big obstacle course, a series of rites and acts I have to perform to get high one more fucking time. All those skills I used to have, they’re all gone, they’re all worthless. The world has moved on and nobody wants a sysadmin anymore. They want something else, a wonderkid, a superman, they want someone who will do it all for them and lap up whatever money spills their way. I did that world once.

I’m done.

I start off at the day labor site. Nobody ever shows up looking for help, but sometimes there’s a guy with a line on some N. It’s always a good idea to be thinking one step ahead. Oddly today there’s someone there looking for a few guys to set up chairs at the convention center. He asks me if I speak spanish, and I say no. He asks me if I speak chinese and I say no. He stares at me like I’m something he flossed out of his molars for a minute, and looks around at the rest of the people there. He asks me if I do drugs and I say no. This is a litany, it’s a rosary prayer. No, I don’t do drugs. No, I don’t have any warrants. No, I don’t have any convictions. No, nobody is gonna come looking for me in the middle of the job. Yes, I will work for ten an hour, yes I will work for ten hours a day, no, I won’t report shit to the government. The guy appraises me one more time and thumbs me toward his truck. I walk to the tailgate and clamber over into the bed. A few minutes later, two other guys get up in the bed with me, one guy I know, Kevin or Peter or some jerkoff name like that. The other guy I’ve seen, but don’t know what kind of jerkoff name he might have. The truck lurches and we all fall off the bench, the whine of the electric motor giving way to a gentle cyclic thud. Hydraulic electric hybrid or something ridiculous like that. Only in America.

Kevinorpeter looks over and asks me if I know what the job is. I shrug. We turn to number three. The other jerkoff shrugs. This whole gig is starting to feel kind of weird. Normally if you don’t speak chinese, the cold call guys won’t take you because they have plenty of people who _can’t_ sell in China. If you can’t speak spanish, the manufacturing guys won’t take you, because you won’t be able to understand the management staff. If you can’t speak either you’re pretty much left to mucking out toilets or delivering take out, because just about everything else is cheaper to do with a couple bots. After all, why have five guys you pay nine thousand bucks a year landscape your property when you can pay fifty thousand for a Malaysian knock off of a Japanese landscaping bot which will last for ten years. The bot never gets hungry, never has a bad fight with a girlfriend and fucks up a hedge, it never breaks into the offices to steal all the TVs and laptops it can find.

We’re stuck with it now, I guess. We all kind of tune out of our shared confusion and feel the cold soak into our bones. Hopefully we’re gonna go hang posters on streetposts somewhere they haven’t standardized enough to automate, or something. I dig my hands into my armpits and shiver to pass the time.

NaNoWriMo Chapter 2

Ch 2.

It’s ending now. Words work again. My brain is capable of doing something other than radiating concentrated joy. It’s bittersweet, but sometimes this is the best part of the trip. I’ve had my fun and now because I can actually articulate stuff, I can enjoy it too. Everything is just fanstastic! I feel like I’m waking up from the best nap in the world, but multiplied by a thousand. There’s no aches in my body, no pains, I can feel each beautiful ray of light as hit hits my skin. I can feel the photons racing to hit my retina from every object in the world. Life is pretty good.

And then it’s over. The aches are there, the place in my knee that pops when it’s cold out, the disk in my spine that’s not quite as elastic as it used to be, the cavity I have been pretending doesn’t exist. Then the smells hit. My armpits, the unknowable horrors that are inside the fridge, the urine, the overfull catbox in the corner, the cold turd which has curled up around my sack. When you can’t move for ten hours, things happen. You get used to it. I waddle like an overgrown toddler to the bathroom and start the shower warming up. I peel down my pants and assess the damage. I barely recognize the person that looks back at me from the mirror. I’ve lost sixty pounds. My hair is a stringy greasy tangle. My penis sags between angular, grotesque hip bones, my balls look huge against my skinny shit stained thighs. Hey there, handsome, what’s your name? It was… a line from a movie, I think. Or a book. I can’t remember anymore. Nano gives and Nano taketh away.

The good news is I haven’t gotten any bedsores yet, that’s when you know N has you down for the count. I check my back and my ass. In really high end N joints, they have beds that massage you, that roll you around so you don’t get any settling. I once saw some Japanese hotel that had a special hyperbaric chamber just for junkies. That would be the life. Instead, I’m scraping some preowned beans and rice off in the yellow orange spray of my shower. Smearing it with my toe to make sure it doesn’t clog the drain. I wonder if they catheterize you when you go in the massage bed. I bet they do. I think idly about what I could use as a catheter around here, but I don’t think it would be safe to stuff anything I have around here into my body. Maybe I should just get a tarp for the chair instead.