Who has that kind of time?

He leaned out of the doorway toward me, just far enough for the reflected muddy glow of the streelight to hit his hands and up his chest, leaving everything above the cigarette in shadows. By the tilt of his hat, his gaze seemed off-as if he were looking over my head, off into the distance. Where there was more nothing but stacked higher.

“What can I do for you?” he asked, voice dry and dusty.

“I’d like to be high”, I told him.

“We got you. Lotta people in your shoes.”

“Yeah, but only for a half hour or so…”

“Wait. What?”

“I need to be high for a half hour.”

“Half hour. Like thirty minutes?”

“Maybe forty-five tops. Got some things to do that a buzz would definitely help with. I don’t need to tell you how long it’s been! But then, I’d like to be straight again.”

“Straight again.”

“Yeah I got shit to do later that would definitely require…a level of straightness. Like I have now.”

“Whyn’t you go do that shit now? Then come back?”

“Too early. And I doubt my ability to hold on till then without…”

“Getting high…”

“Being high.”

“Being high.”

“Yeah. I need it to hit me real fast.”

“Then, like that…”, he tries to snap his fingers, but instead his pointer finger snaps off at the top knuckle with a small pop. He pauses to follow the track of the top of his digit disappearing among the detritus along the curb. “…be straight again. That what you mean?”

“Yeah. Something that snaps on and off. Well not like….” I looked down to where his finger had fallen to watch the roiling under the rags and sodden papers as the vermin vied for the prize. Something must have won out as a skittering of tiny claws rattled away. “You got anything like that?” I asked, looking back up.  “With switches?”

“Switches.”

“On and off.”

“Neh, man. Our ride takes a while to get to cruising speed. And once there it lasts…a good long while. Then it takes some time to come back down. Four-hour minimum commitment. Results may vary.”

“Thought so.”

“Come back when you have a couple of seconds”, he said leaning back into the shadows. “A day…a weekend maybe. And I’ll fix you up.”

“Thanks”, I said hustling away. Who has that kind of time?

Georgie

Georgie was sitting behind the station drinking the cheapest quart that thin money could buy. His mask was flapping, hanging from a band over one ear and showed stains of paint overspray, tobacco, blood and probably snot if I got close enough to look. Betting he found it. He was leaning to the left, away from his bottle hand, because the bleached-to-pink red resin chair he was sitting on was dumpster salvage-tossed there with a broken leg. I tried to steer clear because Georgie was always good to bum a buck or two which was okay normally but not so right now. He saw me right enough, but all he wanted was an ear in passing. “They should drop an atom bomb on all of it”, he said, looking at me but not-as his eye tended to float and wander. “Wipe out all this sickness and disease at once.” “Georgie,” I said moving on, “That would take us out too.” “That’s what I mean”, he coughed. “Start again but get it right this time. Have god not make any animal that walks on two legs. Give us enough time, we’ll just fuck everything up!” I slowed, waiting to see if he was done. He didn’t seem sure.

“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.

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.

(Continuing…)