When I was sixteen I got a job at a liquor store. I told my parents I got hired at Baskin-Robbins as an ice-cream scooper.
It was the type of place most descent people would only go into in an out-of-town/late-to-a-party emergency or to briefly slum it before dashing back to their cars, boop-beeping. I applied because I thought it would be exciting for me to work at such a shit-hole, figured I would get some crazy stories and could maybe cop some booze, impress girls, that type of thing.
Wearing an old t-shirt and my dead brother's jeans, I lied and told him that I lived two blocks away. Sick Tom hired me on the spot. I thought I was too young to sell liquor, but I guessed I wasn't. He started me right away, telling me to throw my schoolbag in the back. Sick Tom with his ridiculously congested voice and red hair plugs. He kept his arm just behind me as we walked through the chores, as if he thought I would turn and run at any moment. This was a very grimy place. Roaches patrolled, rats sidled, harshly dirty and often racist quotes lined the sheet rock of the stairs to the basement, always referring to someone who had once worked there; mostly referring to Harvey.
Sick Tom informed me of the long hours I would work and the shitty pay I would receive. Which was no big deal because I had lots of time and money meant nothing to me. It was seedy and vulgar and exactly where I wanted to work.
The isles were lined with old burgundy carpeting that felt like it was made from plastic. Here and there were organic patterns with feathered edges that looked like contour maps of mountains, a result of someone’s careless handling of a dark bottle. I made it a point to never step on them as I spent most of my days playing scoreless games inside of my head. They weren't exactly land mines but maybe puddles of poison or radioactivity.
The shelves high above the bottles were lined with statuettes of Jesus and Elvis. There were also model cars and Virgin Mary's and orange tabby cats and other odd arrangements all sharing the same desaturated color scheme and all featuring a secret plug that entranced an empty coated chamber. On the Jesus or Elvis ones, it was always the head that served as the cork. This was so old ladies could hide their booze, so no one would know, then when the coast was clear they would pull off Jesus' head and pour brandy out of his hollowed torso to blurrier the already blurry.
The smell upstairs was close to old socks forgotten inside a bag of nacho Doritos on a road trip. The smell in the basement was my grandfather's breath.
Strategically positioned throughout were big colorful half-shells of plastic or inflatable oversized novelties, shinny and goofy and out-dated, happy and splendid nonsense that had no business being there. This place was for the old and/or forgotten. The poor daydreamers you can see looking out of a window on their lunch brakes. They came here to buy forget-juice and angry-juice and sleepy-juice and change-anything-just-please-change-something-in-this-neverending-dissapopintment-no-one-planned-me-for-juice. These people were the walking dead and we sold them brains. At first I was scared of them, then kind of amused, then I felt sorry for them and then I became one of them. I even developed my own version of their slow speech. I hated what they hated and they came to love me. Some of them called me Slim.
There was Santa Claus who religiously purchased a bottle of Beefeater gin. Every day. Always exact change, quiet and polite. He looked like a hard workingman; red cracked skin, stubby catcher's mitt hands. He looked like my father when he was talking to a stranger. If I had to guess I would say he probably had a 23-year-old daughter that he never spoke to anymore. His wife left. He had been a splicer for New York Telephone for 23 years, he looked at Internet porn and slowly his dreams had been getting stranger, more disturbing. A friend of his gave him the number for a "safe" prostitute and it sat in his top drawer. On it the word "hooker" was actually featured because there was no danger of any one else reading it.
There was this other white guy who came in around 8:30 every Saturday night stinking of cheap cologne. He'd buy seven different liters of booze: whiskey, rum, gin, tequila, vodka, vodka, vodka. He was skinny and sunburned with thin glasses and rode a camouflage bicycle with a sealable metal bucket secured on the back with bungee cords to hold the booze. I always wanted to ask him what he needed that much liquor for so consistently but I was too afraid to listen. Harvey warned me to never ask them about their drinking, so I didn't. Probably a rotating swinger's parties where guys watch other guys with bigger dicks fuck their wives. Snapping pictures, Taping tapes, collecting debauchery. Snapping little mental pictures like in those old Cam Jansen books I was ashamed to read when we went to the library in grammar school, the one with the little girl detective with a photographic memory. He must be one of the big dicks because he's too poor looking to be one of the husbands.
Another all-star was Johnny-be-Good. To be fair it really was more of a double act. Johnny-be-Good's alter ego was Slow-Mo Jones. Johnny was a lot slower than Slow-Mo but I didn't name them. Johnny's left hand always hovered as if holding an invisible martini at a party; his eyes were only slits dividing bulbs, like Gizmo from Gremlins when he's tired. He wore an old slickster hat, brown with a black band and a pleather overcoat, also brown. Slow-Mo was dark and bald, tall with the frame of a former athlete who has been drinking and telling jokes for twenty years. He rocked teal sweatpants tucked into his mismatched sneakers. His tee shirt commemorated a New York Knicks championship that they didn't win. I'd say Johnny has killed at least four people despite being shy of five feet tall. Slow-Mo used to work in a high school as a security guard, but was dismissed for coercing a dim-witted chubby freshman to take a ride with him.
Big Mama drove a short school bus for a living. The tart-cart, if that’s one you used. She looked like a gorilla in almost every way. A mole hung off of her cheek like a marble attached with a dab of epoxy. She had the softest lightest most un-filtered voice I have ever heard. She never bought any booze. Her vice was the machine. The machine brought in more heads than the booze ever did, lines of the walking dead filling in circles with plastic half pencils. 50/50 box, strait for the week, please god give me a reason to keep pushing against this stone wall. Of all the lotto junkies Big Mama reigned supreme. She was there in the morning when I got there and she'd be there at night when I closed. She was allowed to run her own cards through the machine since before I was hired. Harvey with his cameras, giant fish eye mirrors and would often pat me down before I left at night, pretending to be kidding- he let her run her own Quickdraw tickets. They had some sort of unspoken arrangement. She spent all of her free time breaking even in a game were the dedicated never win. If she ever did hit it big I'd guess she would probably open her own store with eight Quickdraw machines and an octopus to run her numbers for her. She was almost certainly dying of some terrible disease.
Mrs. Robinson was my favorite. She had no business being on display at such a place. She was tan and not too thin, always wearing dress suits during the week and tight white tees during the weekends. Mid-thirties, dark brown hair tied back. Never wearing a bra, always pretending to not notice my stare as she twisted her hair. Her legs were longer than Johnny-be-Good's entire body. I remember thinking that I would step over my dying grandmother just to be able to run my hand up the inside of either lengthy leg. She wore fuck-me secretary glasses and had toothpaste commercial teeth. She called me cutie sometimes and as a result would send me walking awkwardly, all sideways, to the bathroom or basement to expel the demon. She controlled every action of every cell of my body. When she was around I studied angles and reflections, I dropped pens and climbed ladders. I snapped pictures like Cam Jansen. I memorized her voice and used it later. My eyes studied Mrs. Robinson like a lesbian explores her lover's vagina. Except her name wasn't Mrs. Robinson, but Mrs. Goldberg, she was my boss’s wife.
I'd like to tell you about the last day I ever worked at the County-Line Liquor store. It's the day I've come to reflect upon more than any other, even all these years later.
I was dusting the bottles because that was what you did when there was nothing to do. The bottles gradually got dustier going from bottom to top, all the way up to the fancy stuff that I didn't ever bother getting the ladder for. Behind a forgotten bottle of Crème de' Menthe the wall read, "LUCY GIVES GOOD HEAD".
The buzzer buzzed and a fat Spanish woman entered with her fat kids. I made my way behind the counter and asked her what she wanted already knowing exactly what it would be. She paid for her pint of light Bacardi with exact change and left. Then Harvey told me to come to his office. Inside, he barked me to the basement where I had forgotten to un-pack the J&B. Harvey didn't even look at me as he barked, he kept his bright grey eyes on the flickering colorless security monitors. He was watching two young black girls, probably under age, looking at a bottle of Alize'.
"Do you want me to ring them up first?"
Harvey wiped at a glob of mayonnaise on of his chin, missing it completely, and brushed crumbs off of his protruding fake-tanned belly. He was wearing his usual tropical un-buttoned button-down showing off his gold medallion and grey fur. After a moment of realization he looked at me like I had just called his mother a whore.
"Do what the fuck I say and don't make me fuckin' repeat myself. Go downstairs and finish two hours ago's job and I will handle them."
Harvey only rang up under-age female customers, sometimes as young as fourteen, no ID, never a tussle. As an afterthought his voice dropped and he said, "Do a count on all of the opened pints and half-pints and bring me the sheet." He scanned me with those vulture eyes. Someone had been stealing half-pints. Everyone thought it was me, but I knew it was Sal. Sal was lazy and loud and consistently told the same lame jokes. I grew to despise him and his proud parents who brought him lunch nearly every day. I said, "Okay" and exited the office.
On my way down the stairs: "HARVEY BEATS OFF UNDER HIS DESK TO JILL'S FAT TITS." Next to it was a surprisingly accurate illustration.
Another one: "SAL IS A FAT FUCKING FAGGOT!"
"CARL IS A SMELLY HOUSE NIGGER." The word "nigger" was in taller thin letters.
"SICK TOM HAS SHIT BREATH."
"LUCY HAS HERPES."
Everyone has their defining characteristics and they would eventually end up on the wall. I hadn't ever written anything and I was starting to feel left out. I un-caped my sharpie that I used for marking boxes and wrote the first thing that came to me.
"I WANT TO FUCK HARVEY'S WIFE IN HER ASS."
I wrote it with my left hand in an attempt to disguise my handwriting. I thought my quote fit in with the hundreds of others both in simplicity and vulgarity. Then I capped my marker and continued into the dank to where we kept the scotch and whiskey, which was towards the back. Along the way I could here the door buzzer buzz a few times, so I figured I had time to hit a jay a few times at the least while Harvey and Tom were stuck behind the counter. I had it inside a disposable film case; a left over roach from my voluntary walk to school. I lit it with a match while crouching behind a stack of nine cases on Dewar's, hiding just incase Sal showed up early and Harvey made it back to his monitors. The joint crackled as I lit it because it had dried out in my pocket during the school day. I took in a long and skillful pull letting it resonate the inside of my mouth and lungs, yellowing my teeth, cancering my pink, slowing what wasn't moving fast at all. These were my second favorite moments.
"Kid, get up here right now," Harvey snapped at me through the intercom "Stop what you're doing"
My head hit the boxes behind me as I spasmed. The stack swayed then settled. I put out the joint on the sole of my shoe, briefly shaking my hand around in the air in front of me trying to mix my weed with that smell of whiskey and death.
Upstairs I saw that Sick Tom was helping an old white lady pick out a Sangria. The old woman was praising him for his vast knowledge of Sangrias. Sick Tom looked over at me saying, "I know what you've been doing", without saying it. Tom always knew what I was up to. Everybody else was too selfish to notice but Tom always knew every little thing that I did. I could see it in his dull, unimpressed eyes.
Inside the office again, Harvey told me that I had two deliveries one was in the Ville and the other was to Santa Claus. This was a bit strange because I'd only delivered to him once before, when he had the flu, but even then he usually came in for his gin. He seemed too proud to have someone else bring him his whatever-juice.
Harvey wrote out the order and carefully counted me out some bills incase they needed change, which I knew they wouldn't. Outside was sharply cold and already getting dark. Crunchy gray snow outlined the parking lot, frosted over and sparkling under the tall lights. On the way to my car I saw Jill- the one with the fat tits that Harvey beats off to under his desk- locking her car. We pretended not to see each other the way people do when they've shared a one-time embarrassing sexual encounter. I hoisted my box of liquor into my piece of shit Jeep and started it, deciding to let it warm up, more so for me than the car. On the radio a young Latin girl was telling me how much she'd like me to eat her pussy set to a generic club beat. I changed the station and was pleased to find some Simon and Garfunkel, telling me the importance of keeping a secret. Good traveling music. I wagered I would die within a year if I didn't get past the Burger King before the song was over.
I stopped in front of the small house in the Ville and tossed an old sweatshirt over the box of booze after removing the Beefeater, which I left under my seat in a brown paper bag. What I was doing was technically illegal but I covered it more afraid of getting jacked than the police. On my way to the door someone in the not so distant distance yelled, "you know where you are white-boy?" After knocking while waiting for the door to crack someone of a deeper pitch yelled, "Your not in Kansas anymore." Despite that being an outright cliché the voice itself was enough to scare me shitless.
I could smell barbecue in the air. Two little girls were riding down the cracked sidewalk on their pink bicycles. I could hear Big L breaking down slang terms for me via boom box.
The door opened and a pitbull's head exploded out of the opening but got caught in the gap between the door and it's frame. Foaming at the mouth, it's eyes fixed on mine. It's coat colored mediocre marbled brown and black. Four feet above it's head a boy of probably seventeen stood still looking at me blankly. He wore a wooly hat with a Vanilla Dutch Master sticking out of the fold. His name was Rashad and we used to play basketball together in the PAL league a few years ago. He was our best player but rarely came to practice and sometimes missed games. I was the point guard and he was the three and together we led the yellow team to a championship. He was looking at me like he'd never seen me before. I didn't try to pretend we were friends and just held up the box. He scanned me up and down and yanked the dog's head back, then doing something else to make it yelp. Rashad unchained the chain then let me in and I was immediately hit with the familiar but forgotten feeling of a warm household. Warm in terms of decoration and overall feel not temperature; in fact it was freezing inside. Another kid sat on the couch grilling me with glowing eyes. He had ripped me off on weed at the park the previous summer. His name was McKnight. The pit was nowhere in sight but I was still looking for it. The room’s tension had a zooming out effect on me for a second. From the back a sing-songy voice floated into our standoff. It had a little foreign twang that I couldn't place.
"Rashad, is that my spirits?"
"Send him back in here, Rashad."
Rashad and his friend just stared at me and I took it apron myself to trace the Grandmom's voice back myself. As I moved further back I could here a beautifully voiced black girl telling me she knows a thing or two about love. The tune was catchy and it calmed me down a bit. I ran the pointer finger of my left hand along the grainy rice-paper walls of the hallway, needing to know how it felt for some reason.
It seemed strange to me at the time, when I came to an emptied kitchen with a octagon table as it's center surrounded by five very old black women playing something pokerish. Piles of pennies and nickels and dimes lay in stacks in front of each. Grandma was the first to notice me and she stood and walked over to me smiling with her hands out. She reached up and grabbed my cheeks looking at the others, who also looked pleased to see me, except for one very skinny woman with thick glasses and a puff of white hair, who I noted had the smallest stack of coins. The skin on Grandma's hands felt like the pads of an old cat’s paw.
"I told you he was a handsome one." The others mostly agreed. Grandma was rubbing her hands together and her eyes disappeared into a crossfire of competing wrinkles as she grinned at the box in my hands. I traded the three bottles of Meyer's Rum for her exact change.
One of them said, "You got a sweetheart sugar?"
"Uh, no Ma'am not right now I don't."
They laughed at/with me and I could tell they didn't want me to leave, all except for thick glasses who seemed eager to get back to the game. As pleasant as they might have been I was in a rush to get back because it was Thursday. I was sure Mrs. Robinson would probably come by soon. She would take inventory of the previous day's delivery and it would be just her and me. Her telling me to lift boxes and me pretending that they were full of feathers. Two Thursdays earlier she'd told me I had nice knees while i was up the ladder. I'd never heard of a woman complementing a man's legs before but it sent me sideways to the bathroom regardless. Her calling me cutie, sometimes winking seamlessly. I'd never experience attraction like that again not even with the woman who would become my wife. Upon remembering it was inventory night I teleported back to my car and shot over to the North Pole.
Santa's house was on a bend off of 110 and hidden behind a row of ridiculously tall pines. Cut off from the world. From the power lines and his bitter daughter and bitterer wife. I was only able to find it because I'd been here once before and that time it had took me an hour to find it. Harvey docked had me the hour, of course. This place was Santa Claus' hidden world. Either his sanctuary or his prison- probably prison. I grabbed the bagged bottle from under my seat and followed the flat rock path around the trees to his door.
When I knocked the door creaked open revealing to me a wide strip of his leaving room in which everything was dark wood and polished, it reminded me of an old TV show set. I could see a black piano with a picture of a little girl playing a black piano above it. It looked like it was being preserved. It smelled like spoiled milk.
"Hello? I got your delivery here, Sir."
I took a step inside, leading with my head. I could hear a steady drip of something spattering. I took another step and saw the hand.
It was all I could see edging out of the entrance to the kitchen, laying deadly still. A lifeless stubby catchers mitt. I closed the door behind me and walked into the kitchen to put the Beefeater on the kitchen table. I could clearly see that Santa had shot himself in the head. Apparently he had come to this decision over breakfast. An over turned bowl of cereal had been flipped onto the ground and milk was flowing past the cavity that used to be the back of his head. Where it mixed, the blood and milk made choppy red spirals within the white, rather than the pink I would have expected. The composition of it was beautiful.
He was wearing a stained wife-beater and too-ironic Christmas tree boxer shorts. His beard full-on white dipping into the mixture like an expensive paintbrush. His eyes were wide open and I noticed for the first time that they were green. Pale green, but still green. He had marshmallow clovers and a blue diamond stuck to his face. The room was absolutely silent as I took a seat at the table. I tried to capture this image of this man. I tried to Cam Jansen it, but just saying "click" wouldn't ensure I would be able recall it later. So there I sat trying to soak it up my eyes bouncing from one specific point to the next, wishing I could somehow see it all at once. I wanted to fill the room with some sort of expanding foam and then remove it in sectioned numbered divisions which I could then reassemble as a mold that I could fill with something else which I could then dry out and paint. I remember thinking that spending the rest of my life trying to get this scene just right would be a worthwhile aspiration.
Then I noticed the Luger at the other end of the room. I'd watched a special about the same Luger on the history channel the previous day. This particular model was one developed for the American government by its German creator. The government had rejected it and instead went with the far inferior Colt 45 as the standard issue. This one lay in the corner of the room ten feet away from his body. I figure it must have flown from his hand when it recoiled. I picked it up not worrying about fingerprints because I knew I would be taking it with me. It was perfectly designed for my hand as if that Nazi inventor had known I would eventually pick it up. I put it into my belt, in the back, like in the movies and made my way over to the sink, being careful not to step in anything that would leave a mark. The sink was splattered with watery red fluid and what appeared to be brain matter. I could see where the bullet entered the tiled wall directly behind where Santa's fallen chair once stood. I wondered how far into the wall it had gone. I stuck my pinky into the bullet hole but couldn't feel the end of it. Looking at the angles things began to change, I'd come to suspect someone had murdered Santa.
Then the phone rang, startling me. It was too loud, seeming to overwhelm the room. One of those really old phones without buttons and a real bell inside. I re-remembered that Mrs. Robinson was waiting for me and I grabbed the exact change Santa had left for me on the table. I took on more click at him, briefly pretending it was my dad to see if that would make me cry. It didn't.
Back in the car I stashed the Luger under my seat. Neil Young started telling me about how he shot his baby down by the river, but he's overcome by static before I can find out why. I headed back towards the store wrongly guessing that I would pass no more than 27 cars along the way and as a result giving myself some form of cancer.
Inside the store, I had to excuse myself through the lottery worshipers, all the time avoiding eye contact with Jill. Once in the back I walked up the three wooden stairs into the office. Harvey snatched his money, which he immediately verified, counting every penny. Then he told me his wife was waiting for me in the basement. I went into the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. I brushed my hair around and tried to make myself look careless and sexy, briefly practicing looks that made me laugh. I walked down the stairs slow, careful not to creak them, half-hoping to see something that I shouldn't.
I WARMED UN-SKINNY VINNIE'S BEER AT A KEG AT THE COBRA
SO DID I
HARVEY GIVES LITTLE GIRLS CANDY SO HE CAN GRAB THIER LITTLE TITS
KARL FUCKED HARVEY'S WIFE
"Is that you cutie pie?"
I probably blushed. I probably offered a shy smile, rather then the sexy looks I had practiced.
"Yeah that's me." I said this coming slowly around the corner. She stood there with one leg up on the handcart lightly rolling it back and forth. Her skirt falling a little each time the cart rolled towards her. She caught me looking at her thigh.
"There you are, well look at you. Come on over here."
"Are we going to dig out the wine today?"
"No, not today we're not."
I wanted to say something but found myself speechless. I felt my dick lengthen slightly. She was looking at me differently than usual. Harder. I was still standing several feet away from her, starting to perspire a little.
"Come over here."
I walked over and stood next to her then she said, "That's better." She was definitely smiling right at me. I must have looked embarrassed based on the way she was looking at me.
"So what are we doing today Mrs. Goldberg?"
"Don't call me that. Well, let's see, what would you like to do down here in this awful basement? Anything in particular come to mind? No?"
She was talking slow, stretching out parts of words. Biting her fat lower lip. It was like the beginning of one of my daydreams except she was making me desperately uncomfortable. I wasn't stepping up and smiling and flirting like in the fantasies.
"I don't know. Whatever you want to do, I guess."
"Well wasn't it you who wrote they wanted to fuck me in my ass? Or should someone else be down here right now?"
I felt instant sweat. My brain vibrated and I felt shame like never before. I found myself looking back and forth not focusing on anything at all. I got choked up and was trying to steady myself. I said, "I didn't write that." I forced a false smile, feeling my cheeks hit the lower lids of my eyes. Blood rushed to the limits of my skin. My sweat felt cold.
"So then you don't want to fuck my ass?"
She took off her fuck-me secretary glasses, placing them on top of a stack of Johnny Walker red label.
She took my hand and placed it on her left breast. The tight shirt shifted like a second skin and I could feel her sharp nipple against my palm. I was now so erect that she noticed. I was confused and tried to kiss her but she grabbed my chin saying, "no kissing." Then she said, "Well look at you", and grabbed it much too hard. She wrapped up her hair and tied it. I thought she was going to go down on me right there. She grabbed both of my hands and forced them all over her body, roughly. She said, "Fuck me hard, you dirty little boy.” and bent over a short stack of boxes. She pulled up her skirt and she wasn't wearing panties. My hands were shaking and I couldn't catch my breath, I was caught off guard and things were moving so fast. She said, "Fuck me.” this time louder, almost annoyed, like an order. I felt her ass; it was a bit chicken-skinned from the chilly basement like a basketball. She told me to slap it and I did. She told my to slap it harder, but I couldn’t. She reached back and grabbed my dick without looking and pulled me towards her. She spit on her other hand and rubbed it onto me. This was the craziest sensation I had ever felt, having never gotten that far before. I sucked in a sharp breath and came onto her skirt, almost immediately. She looked back at me over her shoulder and said, "You've got to be fucking kidding me." Before this day I'd never even heard her curse. I felt a warming shame swarm throughout my entire body. It hit my fingertips. She touched the material of her skirt and shot a look at me. She was shaking her head. I was sweating onto my sneakers. I hadn't felt anything like this since I was caught stealing candy from my father's friend's store when I was I child. She straightened herself out, replaced her glasses, and gave me one more disappointed glance on her way back up the stairs, muttering something like: "Where's Karl when I need him?" I quickly pulled up my pants and sat down on the ground, buckling my belt. I covered my mouth and stared at the wall for a very long time. I recalled meeting her children. I was dirty now and so was she and I didn't like it. I held my breath trying to make myself pass out, trying to escape. I counted the towering boxes to distract myself long enough to forget about breathing. Then Harvey from over the intercom, "Get your ass up here, right now! Now!"
I didn't know if he knew what I'd done, because he was always furious. My eyes opened wide and I looked at the ceiling, remembering the cameras. Somehow I'd forgotten about the cameras. The lights buzzed above my head and I thought I was going to black out even though I was breathing again. All of the tiny hairs on my body were raised and sensitive. Panic overcame me. I shot to my feet and made a break for the emergency door which I booted open setting off the alarm. Now I was in the back parking lot running for my life. Around the corner I bumped into the Sajo's deli crew, who were a smoking a dip. I muttered something and resumed my escape. One of them burst out laughing. I stepped in a deep pothole that was brimming with street-water and fell onto my chest, bouncing my chin off of the ground. Before I realized it I was back on my feet and almost to my Jeep. Sick Tom came out of the front glaring at me with no surprise in his face. He told me he knew exactly what I'd done with those dull average eyes. Inside the Jeep I frantically attempted to start the engine but I wasn't getting any power. The notion that my battery had died flooded my mind. I could see that I hadn't left my lights on. Sick Tom was approaching in a fast walk, carrying out Harvey's command, prepped to drag me inside so Harvey could duct tape me to a chair and cut me up, Margarita mix on my wounds; all the while making sure my eyes stayed fixed on the looping colorless tape of me awkwardly coming onto his wife's skirt.
Johnny-be-good and Slow-Mo were in the corner of Compare foods and the liquor store intently observing a garbage tornado. Out of nowhere I remembered what the problem was. I'd flipped the emergency cut off switch that was underneath the dash. I almost never used it and I have no clue why I was compelled to that day. Sick Tom was now only a few feet from me and gaining speed. His face held that look that I'd come to attach to his ever-growing awareness of his own quiet omnipotence. He took off his watch; I assume he was anticipating a struggle. The engine came to life and I screamed out of the lot, hopping a divider and not once looking back. They never even knew my real name.
Walking through the glass front door, my dog Freddie jumped at my face, eager to piss me off. I removed my shoes and filled the empty spot on the mat next to everyone else's shoes. I walked across our white carpet, following the plastic trail, and caught a look at myself in one of our many mirrored walls. My chin was bleeding, from my fall in the parking lot. I briskly walked back to my room and stashed the Luger up in my closet, behind a Reservoir Dogs poster that covered a hole which I'd punched in order to hide drugs and pornos. I slipped into the gray sweat pants and my Bruce Lee T-shirt. I washed my face and penis in the smaller bathroom and then tended to my chin, thinking about Santa's last breakfast. As I was staring at myself, bouncing from one eye to the other, my mother called out that dinner was ready in her shrilly, lingering voice. I was curious to find out what Maria, our maid, had made for us tonight. I was the last one to arrive at the table. My father was looking over his shoulder at the huge TV he had just bought for the living room to replace the older huge TV that was now in the den next to boxes of promotional material from some prescription drug company. Maria brought out the platters and I could smell Italian, which was always good. My mother was staring at herself inside of her little turquoise compact. Kristen was on her cell phone with her latest boy and I silently bet my balls that she wasn't going to eat anything. Mom looked up from herself and said, "So how was work today?” her eyelids fluttering as she attempted to pull a mascara glob from her lashes.
I looked around to try to figure out if she was talking to me and then said, "You know, same. We ran out of Rum Raisin, but besides that it was pretty quiet tonight. Just a regular Thur-"
Father screamed at Patrick Ewing for his lack of hustle. Mother informed Maria that she was required on Friday night, because the new Christian Slater was coming out and she was not going to miss it. Kristen said, "Christian Slater" out loud and then resumed talking in codes to her scumbag boyfriend.
Reaching for the garlic bread I offered, "I saw a dead man today and then I nutted on my bosses wife in the basement of a liquor store, which is where I've actually been working for the past six months." I did this all the time.
"Are you serious?" Mom's head darted up from the table setting and she shrilled, "What have I said about using these forks. The silver set with the beveled edges is for when we have guests. Maria, do you even listen to me when I speak to you?"
Monica, my wife, claps her hands once and says, "Do you listen to me when I speak?"
She says, "Birthday boy and his friends are leaving."
They all babble some nothings, heading for the door with hidden hands. Off to the Monorail with stuffed pockets, still pulling their stupid little jokes, randy with the possibilities. Off to the big city to grind up and snort the filth out of the gutters and lick the walls of the great ivory towers.
I say, "Have fun at the mall fellas'" as the door swings shut.