“A Fuck of a Night”

Art by Yoko Tanji

Art by Yoko Tanji

Sam was a small man even among regular folk. Out here, tonight, he felt like a bug. Still though, he was happy to step out of the darkness of the tree-lined avenue into the open square where the buzzing lights cast a monochrome silver tableau before him.

He was relieved for a moment to see what had to be a man in the far corner of the square, leaning one-legged against an old wooden telephone pole smoking. His other leg was crooked back behind him, foot on the pole, affecting the rakish, relaxed look of a model in an old cigarette ad.

Sam’s fingers weren’t sticking together anymore. The blood that was left had dried and would have to be washed off if there was water or scraped it there wasn’t. He shuffled toward the tall man, one shoe on, one missing, hesitating only when he realized how large the fellow really was. Up close, he looked less relaxed and more gaunt, like an anxious scarecrow.

For a moment Sam wondered if it really was it a man he was seeing before him or an apparition leaning against the pole. Standing before him he had to crane his neck back to see his face.

“Excuse me”, Sam said, looking up. “I’ve had a fuck of a night. Can I bum a cigarette?”

The head above him swiveled his way then pitched downward carefully, cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. “I don’t smoke”, he said in a flat guttural voice that betrayed no accent. A streetlight glinted in his dark eyes-the light glancing off the dead one like a skipped stone-the other flaring hot for an instant, then fading.

Sam backed into a shadow away from his gaze but the head had swiveled away.

“I wanted to see if he’d give you one.”

He turned and noticed the girl against the wall. She was even smaller than he was-but not a child. Just a girl in bare feet and torn back dress.  Nothing special-plain. In fact, in the light, she looked like a pencil sketch of what a plain girl should look like.

“He said he doesn’t smoke.”

“I know him. He doesn’t.”

He looked back once more at the cloud circling around the pole. She took his hand to lead him down an alley out of the openness of the square. At her touch he felt himself thickening.

“I’ve had a fuck of a night”, he said letting himself be led.

“I know. Come on.”

The apparition didn’t turn to watch them go. They mattered not a whit to him. He smoked in peace, scanning the sleeping world above their heads.

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Vodka and Melatonin-Part I

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He squinted through the match light to read the numbers scrawled on a wrinkled shred of brown paper that she must have torn off of an old grocery bag.  742, they said, which did him absolutely no good as the hovels and shitholes along this alley were not numbered in the back. He shook out the match and let it fall to the ground.

A little further along, toward the lone streetlight, something about the wire fence behind the blue dumpster seemed somehow familiar. He walked on carefully, avoiding the scattered guts of an overturned garbage can. A rat-it’s grazing interrupted-squeaked and skittered away. A few more paces and a garage materialized from the shadows-the twin doors boarded tightly over. This could be it, he thought, remembering when the doors would stand open by day allowing the ins and outs of the men who worked here. He recalled the rough whine of the impact wrenches and the impossibly loud crashing tires and brake drums and all manner of automotive detritus onto the grease-stained floor. Was that here?

A dim light glowed in one of the high windows of the apartment above. With a cautious familiarity he slipped into the inky shadows of the passage between the garage and the empty house sliding his hand along the cool brick wall as he had as a boy. He came out from between the buildings into an abandoned courtyard illuminated in a muted orange from the foundry glowing brightly across the field.

The fifteen wooden steps up to the simple porch were rickety but the platform itself was sound. The knob turned easily and the door opened into the kitchen-empty but for the appliances leaning forlornly with doors sagged open.  Instinctively he reached for the light switch to his right and snapped it on. Nothing. Thick shadows from the side room played against the wall opposite.

He moved through the void where the table and chairs had once been, into the glowing living room. Against the far wall was a high table draped with a tattered, nondescript cloth and covered with candles. The room was otherwise empty of furnishing but occupied by an enormous naked man posing in the center. The guttering yellow light of dozens of tiny flames reflected in the rivulets of sweat that ran down the man’s wide back and massive arms as he flowed-in a grace that belied his size-from pose to pose-freezing at the completion of each, then sliding into the next.

The massively round beach-ball shaped belly might have been his most remarkable feature had it not been for his balls. They hung heavily like a pendulum and swung lazily from side to side like the clapper on some awful church bell. From the doorway he somehow knew the particular form the behemoth was doing and knew that the coming sequence of movements would involve slow spins and high stately kicks which he in no way wanted to witness so he moved on down the hall.