Monday, January 30, 2006
“Are you the one charging ten bucks to get in here?”
“Yep. If you’re 21, show me your ID and I’ll give you a wristband for the bar.”
He looked to the other three behind him. All of them were tall, hard-eyed, and… wearing bulletproof vests over hockey jerseys. Narcotics unit. Shit.
“Please stand back against this wall. Do you have a liquor license?”
I handed it over. The cadre of officers muttered into their squawkers and entered the former Victory Outreach Church, now just an empty shell of a building. Since four in the afternoon, I’d gotten a good workout hauling in speakers, amplifiers, turntables, beer kegs, and questionable decorations themed to coincide with the Chinese New Year. Paper lanters, dragons, and any other dodgy thing they sold in the Chinatown novelty shops. We even scattered Chinese takeout boxes full of fortune cookies on both floors. The party began at nine.
Now, at nearly midnight, about 300 patrons were inside drinking and dancing to obnoxiously loud house music, putting cigarettes out on the carpet, eating ecstasy, and getting their tarot cards read. I felt embarrassed. I’d just let a bunch of cops inside to shine flashlights into the eyes of drugged up children. Well, young adults. But still. What was I supposed to do? Slam the door on the police? I think not. That would be foolish.
I was just the door guy. Another friend, just the bar manager, sweet talked them and calmed them. I did the same. After thirty minutes of nervous anticipation, they decided to leave.
That is, until one drunk asshole yelled “Later, pigs!”
They fucked that guy up. He was hauled away. The burliest cops grabbed him, cuffed him, and lifted him off the ground by the shoulders. A full foot above the ground, his legs were trying to pedal an imaginary bicycle as they took him away. I actually thought it was pretty funny. He kept swearing. He came back to the party two hours later. They never charged him with anything.
Humboldt Park has a high population of blacks and hispanics, many of whom are gang members. The guy who rented the joint to us had a private office, and he and several tattooed gangbangers hid away there until the narcs left. When the police were gone, I went to talk to them.
“Yo, I’m Alvin. Five-Oh gone?”
"Yeah, they skipped out. They told me to keep things controlled and there’d be no problems. Seemed pretty nice actually.”
“They was narcs. They don’t give a shit about licensing, they’re just looking for dealers and shit.”
I was offered more insights into the intricacies of different police squads during the next few minutes. When the last guy introduced himself, I was struck by a realization.
“Wait a second.” I looked at all three. “You guys are Alvin, Simon, and Theodore? You’re shitting me, right?”
“They all looked at me hard, like I was about to read off their rap sheets. Violence flashed in their eyes. Not good. They didn’t get my lame little joke. Then one of their girlfriends busted up, and the rest joined in.
“Nobody’s ever pointed that out before? All you guys need now is a guy named David to play the piano.”
“Damn, dog, we tha three chipmunks. I ain’t never realized before.”
Just before three in the morning a different group of cops arrived. All seven had “Shakespeare” designations on their uniforms. Odd name for a unit. I made literary jokes. "Wherefore art mine licenses? To drink or not to drink, what a silly question!" They scowled.
Once they got inside and got the IDs of myself and the promoters, they stood around chatting about hunting trips and steakhouses. I loitered, waiting for instructions and information. At one point, I realized I had marijuana in my pocket. Oops. I almost never get it anymore, but I’d taken some of the door money to acquire a bag for the promoter. I knew he’d want it come sunrise. I had no out, so I decided staunch and stoic would win the day, and I stayed as near to the police as I could. You know, hide in plain sight? Worked perfectly. They never even gave me a ticket for lack of licenses. (They did set hearing dates for two others, but no formal charges yet.)
“So who’s got a hard-on for this place?”
The cops looked to each other. Nobody in particular seemed in the mood to abuse us poor children. Still, the question made me nervous. I interjected.
“Excuse me, but what does that mean?”
“We’re deciding how to handle this. See, thing is, Rich doesn’t want people without money to make money. Everything goes through him. You should know that. We’re shutting this down. You just stay quiet until we decide what to do with you.”
Good old Mayor Daley. If our only problem wasn't even big enough to warrant an immediate misdemeanor ticket or two, I felt pretty safe.
The cops were nice enough. Even bummed a few cigarettes from me. Nobody got arrested (apart from that idiot Paul during the first police visit) and we all went home happy. Tired, but happy.
It was difficult having two whole kegs and several liters of leftover vodka all to ourselves come Sunday sunrise, but we did our best. Today I feel like a loose shit crumbing as it rolls down a steep hill. How glorious. 5:34 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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“I know its midnight, but I need you to go down to Woodridge. Mark can’t make the new technology work, so you gotta get the old stuff from the office and run it down there. You don’t mind, do you?”Monday, January 23, 2006
“Aw. Okay. I’ll do it.”
“I appreciate it. Take some time off tomorrow. You’ve already worked since eight this morning. Save me some overtime pay, wouldja?”
I had too much pride to ask for toll or gas money. I’d lost my debit card and was out of cash. I figured I’d just hit the grocery store and overwrite a check, pick up some snacks, and all would be well. Wrong. All three grocery stores nearby were closed, so I crossed my fingers and hopped on 355 to head down to Woodridge.
I’ve done this before. Last time, they gave me a little pink envelope at the tollbooth, and I sent in a check for eighty cents. No big deal. I might have a problem at the unmanned exit ramp booths, but there was certainly loose change floating in my car for those.
Wrong and wrong again. I got to the first at Army Trail and told the hag in the booth my situation. I requested an envelope.
“It doesn’t work like that anymore, hon. Its open tolling now.”
What the hell does “open tolling” mean? I didn’t ask.
“Okay, so what do I do? I can’t turn around here. Exit at the next ramp?”
“No. Jesus, another one. Nobody ever learns. Here’s the fix, kid. It’s a ticket now. I take down your plate number, send this to the sheriff’s department, and you send in this envelope with the fee.”
“How much is it? Twenty-five bucks?”
“Hah. Try eighty.”
I didn’t bother to stop at the booths after that. Illinois has an automated tolling system called iPass, which has several lanes at each booth dedicated to no-stop tolling. I blew through several of them. Six, to be exact. Or, in cash $480. Fuck a fucking duck and make it quack in agony.
I looked for grocery stores in Woodridge. My gas tank was running perilously low. I found a Jewel Osco, grabbed a bunch of grossly overpriced groceries, and went to the checkout.
“Sorry, but you’re unverified. We can only take a check in the exact amount, no overwrites.”
Of course. I got on the highway going the wrong way due to my preoccupation with the gas tank situation. I had to go five miles further south before I could exit and return to the northbound lanes. That’s how my blown toll count went from four to six.
I actually made it off the highway and within three miles of home before I ran out of gas. I had to call a friend for help. All of this is my fault, of course, for being hopelessly scatterbrained.
I’m such a dumb asshole.
One of my friends is having a much worse week. Her father just died. He was fifty-nine. She said “I had a bad feeling when I was there the night before. He was sick. I should’ve stayed. I could’ve helped him, prevented this.”
“You can’t go on blaming yourself. What would he say? Would he want you to feel this way?”
“No, he’d say ‘fuck the world and party on.’”
“There you go.”
“I’m angry right now, but I gotta write up a eulogy to deliver at the funeral. Will you help? I’m emotionally fucked up and I don’t want to write something too crazy.”
“Sure. I’ll stop by tomorrow after work.”
I am such a great guy.
More of the serial story next week. Sorry for the delay. I haven't been around much this week. 11:10 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Ink Inc. Part One
“Terry Sobaski, please step forward.”
Terry stepped up to the podium and looked up to the polished corporate review panel. All twelve sat motionless, faces stern, hands folded, dry, anal, and robotic. They reminded him of his parole board, only more uptight. These were people who didn’t cry when their pets died, for sure. They probably had the same expressions when they sat in church, or stood in line at the grocery store. Humorless fucks with immaculate homes. These people controlled Terry’s first big chance at easy money. Terry swallowed his resentment and tried to think positively.
A leathery crone with steel grey hair tied in a severe bun led the questioning. “Mr. Sobaski, please tell my why you would be an excellent spokesign, and why you should receive a ticket in the upcoming lottery drawing.”
“Um, yes, miss. I mean madam. I’m uh… I’m a good person, first of all. I’ve overcome lots of adversity. Why would I be a good spokesign? Well, I get around a lot. Right now I work in waste disposal. In a good neighborhood, in a good city. People tip me at Christmas and everything. So I’m seen a lot. I go to church each Sunday, so there’s that. Um… and I got a daughter! So I end up at the mall a lot, too. I guess what I’m sayin’ is that a lot of people would see me and the folks that did would like me. My sponsor would be happy to get me as their spokesign, absolutely.”
“Have you ever gotten a tattoo, Terry?”
“Yes, a couple, all of em tasteful. Did one myself, back when I was thinking of doin' tattoos for a living. I wasn't steady enough, though. Nope, I don't mind tattoos at all. Them I got didn’t hurt much neither, though I suppose that don’t matter. Spokesigns get put to sleep for their official logo tattoo anyways, right? Yeah, so I ain’t gotta problem with this idea, or I wouldn’t be standing before you right now!”
A pallid man with a receding hairline spoke next. Terry saw that his tie and collar were too tight. Neck fat hung over the lip of his suit all around his neck. It disturbed Terry.
“Oh, I’m sorry sir. Can you repeat the question please?”
“I suppose. According to your application, you spent time in prison for a felony. Certainly you can understand why that would be a concern for any potential sponsor you drew. Please explain your crime to the board.”
“Oh, that. Well, I was very young, see, and plain old dumb. I’ve learned and changed since that. What happened was... I... I stole a motorcycle. I was trying to impress a girl, and she was always going on about her boyfriend, and he rode a bike. So I figured I’d get a better one and she’d like me instead. It didn’t work, and the police caught me a couple days later. I never hurt anybody and I’d never do anything dumb like that ever again.”
After a few more questions Terry was dismissed.
“Excuse me, um, but can you tell me how my chances are?”
“Mr. Sobaski, we’re not allowed to comment on selections before they’re finalized. You’ll receive a telephone call by the end of the week informing you of your status. Thank you for your time this afternoon.”
Terry ambled back to his depressing apartment, hoping like hell he’d receive a ticket. The exclusive lottery was held to only 200 participants, and only 150 of those would actually get an advertisement tattooed on their foreheads. The lucky remaining 50 would simply walk away with their substantial cash awards. If Terry was lucky enough to get into the drawing, then hell, maybe he’d be lucky enough to get something good like Budweiser or Chevrolet. There was no shame in either of those, and he’d be set for life.
Terry decided he needed a good luck toast. He stopped off at the liquor store and bought a bottle of gin. 1:05 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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For those of you that missed this over at Super Badass, here it is. I don't see any archive section there, and I'm obsessive about preserving my output. So here it is, for my benefit.
I haven't written anything this week. New content soon, I imagine.
"We gotta get you a girlfriend, Steve. How long has it been?"
"Right. Years, I hear. So here's what I'm thinking. We'll spread some rumors. Say nice things about you. Imply you have a dick like a baseball bat. I'll have Jenny say something to Miranda. Miranda never stops talking."
"The best rumors are based in reality, so that's a good start."
"Shut up. Just shut up. If you ever, I repeat ever, say anything like that to a woman, then our efforts will be useless."
"Well, I guess we can leave out the great sense of humor part, unless that was your fault for failing to laugh at my half-hearted attempt at self inflation. That's not my kind of joke anyways. I'll stick to my usual eloquent broadsides of self-deprecation and sarcastic wit."
"Stop sounding so goddamn clinical, too. Your vocabulary is a disease that radiates off you like a cloud of gnats. It screams 'hifalutin intellectual' and that is a bad, bad thing. Women like smart, funny guys, but not if you sound like you're using Latin denomination."
"Hifalutin? Denomination? Not bad. I'm gonna start calling you Roget."
"Look, I don't need your help. You'd likely find me some diseased whorebag and pay her twenty bucks behind my back to suck me off in the bathroom of an all-night diner. Then you'll pat me on the back, all the while sniggering herpes jokes when I'm out of range. I'll do this on my own. I just gotta hit the town on Valentine's Day. You know, look for some depressed teary eyed cute little thing who's had one too many margaritas. I'll take her home, sleep with her, then takes things slowly after that."
"Wrong wrong wrong. A one-night stand is not the answer. Yes, you need to get laid, but the goal here is to find you a relationship with a longer lifespan than a quick tryst. I'm thinking three months sounds good. She'll get sick of you by then, but it's a good start. And besides, you flirt like a flopping fish stuck in mud. You couldn't land a one nighter if you tried. The one time you did, it didn't go too well. Don't try to deny it."
"It wasn't that bad."
"Oh yeah? Want me to recap the details, Romeo?"
"No. I don't wanna argue that one."
"Good. I'll skip past the broken bathroom scale and the tooth marks. Let's get back on track here."
"I'm listening, but I ain't heard anything useful yet. And since when are you a love guru? You loathe your girlfriend. You always whine that you never get laid, and the rare times she gets drunk enough to mount you, she usually passes out after ten good thrusts. You might as well be a corpsefucker."
"This is not about me. Don't try to change the subject. I'm trying to help you, asshole."
"I already told you I don't want any help. I'll just keep on going and one day some wonderful girl will happen along and life will be peachy keen. I'm an optimist, remember?"
"No, you're fucking clueless is what you are. I know where to start. Those awful clothes. You look like you do all your shopping at rock concerts and sports arenas. You need some style, not that generic slacker shit. What is that, a mustard stain?"
"It was soy sauce, but it faded. You can barely see it."
"I can see it just fine. You know what that says to a woman? It says you don't give a shit. It says you're not trying."
"Well, I'm not."
"You need a haircut, too. Shorten that mop. You look like Rob Thomas, and it doesn't work for you."
"That emo douchebag who sings for Matchbox Twenty. Nevermind. You're testing my patience here. If you keep reacting with such hostility we're never gonna sort you out and get you matched up."
"Really? In that case, go piss up a rope."
"Don't you care? At all?"
"Sure I do. But I'm not ready to undergo an extreme makeover here. I am not gonna to morph into some cookie cutter fashionable fuckface lathered in cologne and Ambercrombie just to score some emptyheaded Trixie overdosed on hairspray fumes and Cosmopolitan magazine. I'm perfectly content to masturbate alone and spend my life free from obligation. Unlike you, I don't have to negotiate before I watch football."
"Fine, fine. Remain a laughing stock. Even George, with his neverending parade of low self esteem fat girls, and his funky odor, even George! for Christ's sake, will have somebody to look down upon! Be a mockery. I'm done trying to help you out."
"Hey, you know what?"
"I could teach you something about love. Wanna hear it?"
"This oughta be good."
"I know you hate all that Valentine's Day crap. Tell Jenny this next February. Back during the Roman Empire, Claudius the Cruel banned all marriage and engagements. He thought love and domestic bullshit were fucking up his recruitment of legionnaires. A Roman priest named Valentine started performing secret marriages. That's the origin of the holiday. But here's the kicker: when Claudius found out, he had Valentine beaten to death with clubs and decapitated. Pretty romantic, huh? When she asks for her present, offer to let her beat you to death and chop of your head."
"I'm sorry, but how is that supposed to be useful?"
"I don't need help finding a girlfriend. You need help losing one. I'm only trying to help you."
"I've had enough of you today, Steve. I'm going home to fuck my girlfriend."
"Better bring a lot of vodka." 2:11 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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"Hey Steve, I know you're poor."
"Yeah, so, wanna make something of it?"
"I got an offer for you. There's a party tonight. They need some help. You get free admission and a few drink tickets if you help set up. Whatcha think?"
"Hmm. Okay, why not."
I got there at seven. I canvassed the joint. The top floor was brightly lit and clean, tile floors waxed, projector screens taut. Far classier than your average rave joint.
The basement was musty and dirty. The walls were undergoing slow disintegration. Concrete chunks and brick were loose where they hadn't already collapsed. Water seepage had softened the entire structure, which was now propped up with wooden supports. It looked unsafe. It looked like a nice place to harvest kidneys or torture animals.
With less than two hours until the doors opened, none of the speakers or lights had arrived. Nor had the liquor. I stood idle, awaiting command, when one of the promoter's cronies walked up to me with two spools of back plastic sheeting and a staplegun.
"We want a third of this room walled off with this stuff. Use the foundation beams to mount this sheeting. Start here, by the stairwell, wrap around to about here, then there, and leave a small doorway against that wall. You'll have to grab another volunteer to help you. Think you can handle it?"
"Sure, no problem. This gonna be the VIP room?"
"In a way, yes. The dominatrix requested it. She's right, too. I would know. Once an audience exceeds fifty people, I don't feel comfortable being bound and whipped. Besides, I think the smaller room size just makes it feel more intimate, regardless of how many people are gawking. This'll limit access and oughta hold the crowd down to thirty or so."
Two hours later the party was set to begin. I'd mounted laser lights, hauled kegs, even swept up concrete dust, though that particular effort was futile. It was time to relax and enjoy the party. People began to arrive.
My former roomie had brought a thirty pack of Pabst to fuel his muscles during the labor intensive party setup. He'd stashed it underneath the stairwell, which happened to be at the back of the kinky room. We lounged there, sipping beer, waiting for life to get exciting.
Captain Krack arrived with four women in tow. All were clad in shiny black PVC. Many were decorated with tattoos and piercings. The sexiest one was very skinny and wore black lipstick. She had an entire jewelry store slotted through her face. She could probably make a decent chain mail out of the hardware she was sporting. I was impressed. I later learned that she's engaged to a hippie.
The Captain donned black and red velvet. "Wow, gothic duds tonight, huh? I'm used to seeing you go as a clown, or Spiderman. This is quite a turn for you."
"That's cause I'm the dungeon master tonight!"
"Of course, of course. Duh."
I was drinking beer, relaxing, when he asked me to hold a candle. "Hold on to this, will you? I don't have much table space, and it's dark in here, so I'm afraid I'll lose it if I set it down." It was a large wide black cylindrical candle. "Do me a favor and find some scissors. I need to trim the wick in half before I light that."
I left with the candle and wandered upstairs. The crowd was thickening. It looked like a successful party lay ahead. I was smoking a cigarette, asking around for a sharp object, when I felt a familiar rumbling deep in my guts. It was number two, and it wanted out. Now.
The port-a-potties were still clean and fresh, having just been delivered an hour before. Unfortunately, the regular florescent lights upstairs had been turned off in favor of laser lights and projections. When I stepped up into the plastic poop station, I couldn't see a goddamn thing except for the occasional green or pink blip when the laser lights swept over the high set grille.
Fortunately, I had the candle. With soft romantic lighting, I saw the waste cavern below was full of water bottles and beer cups. No excrement, though I would remedy that.
It was kind of like bowling, but vertical. I scattered many "pins" with my hefty, well-targeted mud links. The candlelight was so pleasant I wanted to stay, maybe soak in a bubble bath, drink some wine, listen to classical. But there was no bath, so I had to forego the relaxing soak. I wiped, stood, fastened my pants, and blew out my candle.
I walked out with a big grin on my face. One of the dancing platform girls was standing outside the john. When she saw my smile and the smoking candle, she backed away slowly, furtively glancing in all directions for potential escape routes. I yelled over the music to her. "Great party, huh?"
I returned to the small area downstairs and found my former roomie tied up with leopardskin straps.
"I can't believe you're actually doing this!"
"You should try it, it's fun! This is my second time!"
"You just don't seem like the type..."
"Hey, can you feed me that beer? I can't move my arms right now. Ouch!"
They'd begun the whipping. A short, sexy, chubby blond girl held a strap in one hand and some sort of short tasseled whipping device in the other. She marked his exposed back with her weapons. Her exertions caused her tits to bounce. I fed my buddy beer, trying not to let the dominatrix's rack distract me. It did, but I never spilled any of the beer on my friend, or cut his lip with the can.
"Bottoms up, pal, you need this right now. Chug away!"
A few minutes later his session ended. We stood chatting while the three ladies lit candles, awaiting their next victim.
"You should try it, man! That was fun!"
"No way. Uh-uh. Not a fucking chance. Not my style. At all."
"C'mon, what are you afraid of? It's harmless fun. They'll stop if it hurts too much."
"You're just scared."
"I'll be back. Getting whipped makes me need to take a dump. If you decide to do it, make sure to poo first. Trust me."
A dominatrix came up to me. "Where's the big candle? You have it, right?" I produced the candle, which I'd stashed next to our hidden beer. "Here you go."
"Wanna get hot wax poured on your back?"
"Sure." What had I just said? Oh no. Oh shit.
"Off with your shirt! Siddown on the bench. Now, bitch!"
They poured lots and lots of wax on me. They whipped me. Hard. They put clothespins on my tongue, my nipples, and my ears. I tried to say "I was born on a pirate ship" with the pin on my tongue, but I don't think anyone got the joke. I squirmed and wriggled a lot. Laughed, too. Although most of it is a blur in my mind now, I remember seeing people's mouths open in shock during one particularly vicious melee of whippings. They got me good.
It took a while for them to scrape off all the wax afterwards. I was leaning forward and most of it went into my underpants. I was kinda squeaky when I walked around after that. Many strangers gave me high fives and congratulations. This lasted all night.
The best/worst part of all this was the cameras. I'm told my friends have very incriminating pictures. One of them had people doubled over in laughter for several minutes, to the point where they were in pain from laughing so hard. I'm just thankful the punishment crew didn't bring a ball gag.
1:28 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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From Friday night.
I’m all alone right now. I usually am. I like it.
I daydream a lot. Always have. The dreams have changed, however. Years ago, in my mind, I saved the world every day. I was a hero. It went something like this: I was in a bar, singing karaoke. Usually it was “Where The Streets Have No Name” by U2, my favorite song. I sounded just like Bono. (In reality the only song I can sing with any semblance of respectability is “Blue Moon” by The Marcels. Yes, really.)
Then, thunder strikes so loud everybody in the bar catches their breath and looks to the front windows, shocked and terrified by the apocalyptic boom. The music is killed, and the staff turn up the volume on the emergency news report playing on the television. Rapt drunken faces all turn in unison to watch the grim television reporter, her hair perfect, her eyes both steely and despairing at the same time.
The earth is in peril. Maybe it’s an asteroid, maybe a launched nuke. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter, really. What matters is me.
Suddenly my mind is filled with destiny. No rationale is given, no reason provided. I just know. Calmly I stride out through the front entrance. I am placid, my expression blank. I know what must happen. I know what I will do. I am Superman.
Into the dark parking lot I walk. Then I stop, and my gaze seeks the sky. I feel doomed and joyous simultaneously. I raise my arms above me, and the brightest column of light you ever saw shines down from above, dead center on me, and I smile. Then, I float. I rise. I ascend to the sky, up and up, and with arms and hands of magic I seize the hammer of the world’s end, and I fly away into to space with it, saving humanity. I die.
Check that. I changed it. I don’t die. I chuck the doom object away, and I fall like a comet to earth, permanently damaged. I land in a puddle of mud, my divine energy spent. I am just a normal guy again. Now I am humble, but worshipped. My ego is gratified. Life is sweet, and I want for nothing, ever again.
Pretty silly, right? Even in that old fantasy I’m disconnected from humanity. I’m recognized and appreciated, but still isolated. I guess that’s just me. Or maybe it’s just what I know, what I’m used to. Loner central.
My daydreams now are a bit more grounded. Now I dream about thiings that could actually happen. I write. It’s what I love. It’s what Ido. If I work hard and challenge myself, there’s a 1% chance I could make some money at it. Live off it. But it ain’t likely. If I was smart I’d choose something surefire. But I can’t help myself. I always was a dreamer. So I write.
Whoa. Heavy. Break time.
I did it again. Ye olde cocaine. I can’t afford it. It’s gonna fuck me up financially. I know that. It was only forty bucks, but… Dumb. Gotta be honest with myself.
I gave my dealer a ride somewhere a couple weeks ago. I told him something.
“Remember when I called you at two in the morning and you told me to fuck off?”
“Yeah, what about it, dog?”
“Well, thanks for that. I shouldn’t have been calling for a second fix up. I’m glad you did that. I was jacked beyond belief, drank a shitload of booze, and it was a really dumb self-destructive idea. So thanks for telling me no. You probably saved my ass that night.”
“Yeah, okay, sure.`”
I already told you I got some today, right? I just tried calling for a nasal sequel a few minutes ago. My provider sounded hesitant. Told me he’d call me right back. He did. Here’s what he said.
“Sorry I got off the phone so quick, dog. I was about to tell you to come by, but I was dealing with my dog. See, I’d just walked into my room when you called. I was grabbing the last eightball for another deal. But it was gone. When my homies came by, I put my two dogs in my room so they wouldn’t bother my friends. When I went back in, my shit was scattered all over the floor, and the baggie wasn’t sitting next to the basketball where I left it. My dogs ate all my shit. That was my last bag, so I can’t do nothing for ya. Sorry dog.”
“Your coke got ate by your dog?”
“Shit. Alright. Thanks anyways, man.”
I’m really not sure, but I think he was full of shit. Lying. I think that’s why he got off the phone so fast and called me back five minutes later. I think he was experiencing a genuine moral quandry. My coke dealer. He was thinking back to my Chistmas thanks. He decided once was enough for me today. He was looking out for me.
Believe that? Unlikely, I know. But true. He was. Even though I’m jonesing right now, I know he was right. And I’m grateful. No more for Steve tonight. So here I am, jumpy and thinking abut my dreams, guilty about my best efforts to sabotage them.
I hope I can write something decent one day. Fuck that. Something GREAT. Is it there? I don’t know. Probably. I’m cocky enough to think so. But I have a lot to fix about myself if I even want a shot at it. I know that. I’m honest with myself. Hell, sometimes I’m even honest with you.
I’ll keep dreaming. We’ll see. 9:33 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Sodapop Sizzle Skin
"I heard Clyde died."
"That's horrible, Gina. How could you say that?"
"Well, he was an asshole. In 7th grade he always made fun of me. Whenever he saw me in the hallways he'd yell 'Hey itty bitty titty! Wanna come over and play today?' I hated him. He'd always grab my ass, too. Hard. It hurt. I hated that guy."
"That was just his special way of showing how much he liked you. He probably had a huge crush on you."
"Yeah, well, whatever. How'd he croak?"
"He had some strange disease. I didn't hear all the details, but the little I did hear was gruesome. He melted to death."
"Hold it, Barry. I don't buy it. Melted to death? How does that work?"
"Okay, check this out. He had allergies, right? According to what I heard, and I don't know if it's true, can't vouch for it or anything, but he uh... he had a weird reaction to Diet Coke.
Yeah, Diet Coke. You know all the little bubbles?"
"Carbonation. Makes it fizzy."
"Yeah. Anyhow, when he digested the soda, the bubbles didn't pop. He had an ulcer, and his ulcer medication mixed with the sugar to change the consistency of the drink. The fortified bubbles couldn't be digested, and they snuck out through his ulcer hole into dark wet places between his internal organs. Little explorer bubbles, wandering around his guts. Eventually they got into his bloodstream and wreaked havoc all throughout his body. Most of them kept rising, just like in a can of pop. They went up to his shoulders, causing his flesh to blister and bubble. That was the first symptom. Not long after he drank it, he got a rash. Pimples, open sores, you name it. He started itching at them. He scraped off most of his shoulder skin, all the time hollering about pink cheese. I guess there was a lot of bloody pus and scum welling up, and when he attacked his swollen skin, the bubbles popped, splashing and leaking, like little wet volcanoes."
"That's bullshit. I don't believe it. Sounds like an urban legend. And it still doesn't sound bad enough to kill, just disfigure."
"Hey, like I said, I dunno if it's true. I'm just passing it along. Anyway, they got into his brain not long after that. Still, he didn't die right away, just lost control of his body. They found him naked on his living room floor. He was having a seizure, pissing on the carpet, shaking on top a pile of his own shit. His tongue was severed, lying on the carpet next to him, and as he whipped his head back and forth involuntarily, wet strands of blood would sling out of his mouth. The guy was a real mess. He must've died gurgling."
"I can believe that Clyde died like a mad dog, but the Diet Coke thing? No way. There must've been some other reason. Maybe somebody tested chemical weapons on him, or he took some bad heroin, or got electrocuted. Could be anything. But Diet Coke? No fucking way. Speaking of which, let's go hit the cafeteria. Got change for a five? I'm thirsty." 10:46 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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There's nothing that screams "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas!" more than a small mirror striped with big fat rails of cocaine. Or, in my case, a cracked CD case piled with an ivory powder mountain. It isn't often that I get to hang out with my brother, seeing as he fucked off to Michigan a while back to lay hardwood floors and gamble away his meager earnings in cut-rate casinos.
We each gave Mom a kiss and lied our way out the door, claiming marijuana and beer. The truth was less wholesome but equally illegal. With poker chips in hand, we set off upon slush girdled streets on a southeasterly course.
After a brief visit with a merchant of casual self-destruction, I wheedled and cajoled. "Drink with me! Come on!" My brother rarely drinks, if ever. After growing up watching our father sleep naked on the back porch, muttering and scratching as insects feasted upon his hairy ass, he was not inclined to imbibe the spirits of garrulous shitfacery. He's a stoner, plain and simple, not a boozer. He declined.
I implied he had female genitals. "Why not just drink appletinis and take scissors to your manhood? Show me your strength, little brother. I demand you do shots with me. You want to share in my cocaine frenzy? Then you gotta down a few glasses of the see-through poison, too. Deal?"
We settled on vodka and 7-Up. I bought the cheapest fifth available, Fleischmann's, for $6.99. We got back to my apartment, cranked up some music (I'm still in a Wilco phase) and mixed a couple cocktails.
Two hours later, I was kicking his ass in Texas Hold-Em. I was on my fifth drink. He was half finished with his first. We were both jacked on generous helpings of Christmas snow.
Another two hours later, the bottle was empty and the pile was gone, snorted away in gleeful rushes. We were both mouthbreathing, and by now he was kicking my ass in poker. I was probably very drunk, but the opposing substances balanced each other, preventing me from stumbling, bumbling, or word jumbling. All I had was an overriding feeling of numbness. Eventually we ran out of energy and went to sleep. I slept poorly.
When I rose shortly after noon on the 26th, my stomach lining felt like it had melted and been sucked down into my intestines. I felt queasy and weak. I vomited twice before showering. I drank water and water again. We hopped in the car and made for Mom's place, from where my brother would depart back to Ypsilanti or Kalamazoo or wherever the fuck he stays in that barren winterbound state.
I only made it two blocks before I had to pull over and yark again. I did. Again and again and again. After the water, it was just dry chucks. Unpleasant. At the end, maybe the thirteenth or fourteenth heave, my tummy found something new to eject. Good old-fashioned crimson blood. This was a new experience for me. It swirled and spread atop the puddle of water and digestive acids I'd started with. It tasted of pennies.
I collapsed back into the car, digging through my pockets for candy canes and starlight mints. Anything to mask that thick ugly taste.
My brother spoke. "And you wanted me to drink that shit? Daaammmnnn. That was blood, right?"
"Still wanna talk shit about me not drinking?"
When I drank beer a few days later, I threw up after three. I couldn't handle alcohol. Still can't. I think something is broken. 3:27 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Busy Fizz Hippo
"Naw, gimme a sec. I'm feelin sour. Gotta breathe."
"Fuck that! You have a duty to your peers. Pound that syrupy bastard. Jager's good for you. Lotsa vitamins and minerals."
"I really don't-"
"Now! Chug it! No excuses!"
Don't sumbit to peer pressure. Consider yourself a leader, a rock, an impenetrable wall of stubborn willpower. Don't allow yourself to be swept away by the tides of idiocy. Leave those duties to your associates. Instead, choose unique, iconoclastic forms of idiocy that you conjure yourself.
"Chug it yourself, you swollen prick."
Don't provoke tall swarthy drunken louts. Travel the path of least resistance, swerving past obstacles and confrontations like an oiled snake. Why start yelling and shoving? Why discuss somebody's mother when you've never met her before? Such a course of action is bound to end in blood and shattered teeth.
"Did you just call me a prick?"
Break your rules every once in a while. Spice up your life, as a fast food commerical might say. Let impulse and nihlism light the sky. Damn the torpedoes.
"I did, but I didn't mean it. What I meant to call you was a boorish, bumbling, bloated sack of liquid hyena shit. You can take that Jagermeister and wipe your mother clean with it. Lord knows she needs sanitization. Now fuck off."
My jaw still feels sore today, and I think one of my ribs is dangling loose, scraping a kidney when I walk. I hope I inflicted some permanant damage before I lost consciousness. I woke up on the sidewalk with cigarette butts rammed up my nose and hard liqour splashed all over me. I thought for a moment that I was a Vietnam vet and my methadone must've run out, but then I saw my car and remembered I'm too young for that. My darling amnesia deserted me again.
Drink lots of water. It's good for you. Flushes you out. Go on, chug it. 2:11 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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