Adult Language

Total Badass

Ages back, when I was but a wee and punkish youth, my friends and I took it upon ourselves to head to the local fly-by-night carnival that had set up in a dingy field on the edge of town. There was the usual assortment of pricey games for crappy prizes, and rides that rattled and moaned like they were inches away from shaking themselves to oblivion.

Dauntless, we chose to ride one, the Gravitron, one of those spinning deals where you get pressed against the wall. As the ride is loading, a couple enters with a very young daughter, whom the male of the couple decided to hold on his chest – this seemed like a very bad idea, but who were we to question? The ride continues to fill, and across the drum from that couple, a big, mean looking biker dude settles in to his spot. The ride operator, in a little booth in the middle of the ride, starts the gears in play, then puts on his headphones and starts reading a magazine (of the adult variety – does this tell you about the kind of carnival this was?) as the ride begins to spin.

Sure enough, about halfway through the ride, disaster strikes. The wee girl slips from the guys chest, and rolls to the side, her head slipping between the slats that everyone was pressed against…the slats that, when the ride stops, pinch closed. People start screaming, imagining what is going happen to the little girl. Some folks are trying to get the ride operator’s attention, but he is otherwise occupied, and their shouts can barely be heard above the din of the machine.

Suddenly, above the din, we hear a roar like a lion. Across the way, we watch the biker dude straining and roaring, as he pulls himself from the wall. He forces himself forward, his muscles straining, and reaching out, grabs a rail that is in front of him…and then slowly, carefully, fights the force of the Gravitron as he pulls himself around to the little girl all the way across the ride from him.

Placing his feet to either side of her, he continues to fight the tremendous force to lower himself down carefully. We could see every vein in his arms, his neck his head, straining against the motion of the ride. He reaches down, scoops the terrified little girl into his arms, and brings her to his chest, holding her tightly against the power of the spinning monstrosity.

Finally, the operator looks up, sees what is happening, and slows the ride. The biker guy hangs on as the ride slows enough that people can move again, then finally sets the girl down as the spinning stops. He looks as if he might collapse. He drops to a knee for but a moment, but then stands up, gives the girl’s (presumed) dad a stern, you’re-a-fucking-dumbass look, then turns his mighty, vengeful gaze on the ride operator. He leans over the rail, and in a deep, menacing tone, says “You need to pay more attention to your work, boy.”

And then he exited the ride, as the rest of us checked to see if our undies needed changing.

Sheer, utter, total badass.

The End of My Adventures in Pawnbroking…

What feels like a lifetime ago, I was an assistant manager at a pawn shop. It was a pretty stressful job, but nothing stressed me as bad as the day I had to call 911.

This sweet little old lady came in one afternoon, while I was the manager on duty. She was a bit frail looking, but dressed very nicely, a sweet smile, but eyes that looked far sadder than I had ever seen eyes look. She hesitantly came up to the counter, and I approached with an easy smile and calmly asked if I could help her. I expected she was there to find something that had been stolen – we had that happen far too often; grandkids would steal their grandmother’s jewelry and pawn it for a quick buck, and it was always hard to break the news to the grandmother that we’d have to get the police involved to get them back their things. Like I said, stressful job, so I was already mentally preparing myself for the speech I’d given a thousand times at least.

I asked her gently if I could help her. She smiled, and reached into her purse. She pulled out a collection of really beautiful looking jade jewelry.

“I was wondering if I could get a loan on my jewelry,” she said quietly, her eyes cast down, refusing to meet mine.

Fuck. This was worse than I was prepared for. The problem was, my shop, hell, most shops, won’t lend on jewelry that isn’t gold, silver, or diamonds. It’s too hard to verify that it’s real, and unlike Pawn Stars, we didn’t have a TV network flying in experts to verify something’s worth. As it was, I had already gotten in trouble that week for giving too much money to a young mother pawning a very cheap wedding ring set, in order to buy diapers and formula for her kids (yeah, I know, classic sob story, but her very hungry looking, smelly infant had me convinced there was a glimmer of truth to it).

I looked at the jewelry, and swallowed. I could probably give her $20 for it. That way, even if it was plastic and not actual jade, I wasn’t going to be out so much that I couldn’t cover it out of my own pocket if need be. But I didn’t want to insult her. I could tell be the tremble in her hands that this was breaking her pride, and I’d be damned if I contributed to that.

“How much are you trying to get?” I asked cautiously.

She sighed.

“I was hoping, maybe $300?”

Fuck. There was no way. No way at all, that I could get her that kind of money.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I really don’t think I can help you with this. We don’t have the ability to test jade, and we’re very limited in what we can offer you.”

“Please,” she said, looking up with tears in her eyes, “I’ve tried every other shop. I need the money, please. They’ve raised my rent and I can’t afford to move. Please.”

F U C K.

I sighed. There was no way. But…

“Let me call my boss,” I said, “And see what we can do.”

I spent the next 15 minutes or so on the phone with my boss. He wasn’t a bad guy, but he didn’t want to take it in at all. We argued back and forth, and finally, we agreed that we could go as high as $75, but no higher.

I came back to her, and as gently as I could manage, I told her that the best I could manage would be $75.

Her face paled. Her mouth gaped. And then suddenly, she twitched, her eyes rolled back, and she fell over with a brief convulsion. I leaped over the counter and tried to get a response, but she didn’t seem to be breathing. I jumped back up, grabbed the phone, and called 911.

She was gone before they got there, I’m pretty sure. They still tried to resuscitate her, as they wheeled her out on the gurney and into the ambulance.

I was in a state of shock. It wasn’t until about a half hour later that I’d realized she’d left her jewelry on my counter, along with her ID. I contacted the police (non-emergency) and they sent an officer to gather her things.

I never found out if she made it or not.

Three weeks later, I turned in my resignation.

My Not-So-Bitchin’ Camaro

Today, my friends, I am going to tell you another story of my near escapes from Death. That winged reaper has danced a scintillating tango with me since I was a child, coming close, so close, but never quite touching. I’ve already written about one of these times, in my near miss through strep throat. Here’s another memory.

My 1979 Camaro Berlinetta was not my first car. That honor went to the 1943 Volkswagen Bug that I had used, abused, and ultimately, well, blew up. With the death of that little German War Machine (ah, to be a stupid punk teenager and not realize the implications and power of names), I had decided I wanted something newer, but still affordable for the shoestring budget of an odd-job working teenager. I also wanted something cooler, and as the Dead Milkmen would be happy to endorse, fewer things are cooler than a bitchin’ Camaro.

Alas, this Camaro was more rustin’ than bitchin’, but I didn’t care. I didn’t care that the power windows were broken. That the AC was broken. That the heater was stuck on permanent full blast. That the interior of the car was stripped of everything, including insulation, down to bare metal. That the tires were all bald as hell, and the whole care rust brown. From actual rust, not paint. No, what I cared about was speed – and boy, let me tell you, that Camaro could fly. Even if you did had to open the doors at every stoplight to keep from getting heatstroke in the summer. I drove that Camaro for a good year, despite its scrap-heapitude, and you know? It was fun. Fast and loud and broken, which fit my punker/thug reputation.

The second summer I had it, my best friend and I landed a shit job working at a tree farm in the mountains of Colorado. Our job was pretty simple – we arrived at the farm, and took the trees that were dug up already, wrapped their roots in burlap, and loaded them on a flatbed for delivery. We were usually the only ones on site – the migrant workers who dug up the trees did so early (to beat any heat of the day) and our boss usually showed up at the end of the week to verify the count of trees we’d bagged and give us cash for our paycheck. Anyway, it was late May, almost June. We got up to the tree farm around nine in the morning, and the weather was fucking gorgeous. T-shirts and shorts weather, the way a day in late May should be. We were a bit miserable to say the least – the work pretty much required jeans and flannel shirts, so we were hot and not happy about it. We got to work, bullshitting about this and that. Then around one in the afternoon, the temperature dropped a good 20-30 degrees in minutes.

This put me on edge, instantly. My car was not ready for winter conditions. Basically, a death trap sled in car form. I turned to my buddy and said, “Dude, if it starts snowing, I am off this fucking mountain.” He bitched because he wanted to wait for the boss to show up with our pay, and I told him he was welcome to wait in the snow, but I would be getting off that mountain. He agreed, reluctantly. We kept bagging for a half hour, when this big, fat snowflake came drifting down between us.

“Seeya!” I said, and got up and went to my car. My buddy followed, jumped in, and we made our way down the dirt road to the mountain highway that would take us back to the city at the base of the mountain.

It took us about five minutes to get to the road. In that time, around 4-5″ of snow had already fallen. It was crazy how hard it was coming down; the windshield wipers on the not-so-bitchin’ Camaro were almost worthless. Every time they’d swipe one direction, enough snow would fall that the back swing would build it up against the base of the windshield, and the wipers would become worthless in minutes. So every few hundred yards, I’d have to stop and get out, clear the snow from the backswing, and keep going. To make it even more fun, the roads were getting slicker and slicker, so that it was a bit like driving on the ice level of Mario cart. Except on a mountain, with no little helper in a balloon/cloud with a crane to help drag you back on track. To make it even more fun, the freakin’ heater? The one stuck permanently on that turned my car into an Easy Bake Berlinetta for the previous year? It gave out as soon as we hit the paved road.

So there we are, slipping and sliding in my deathtrap Camaro down the mountain, and after a few wild fishtails I finally get the car to stop so I can clean off the windshield again. I was sick of getting out of the car, and had resolved to fuck with the heater controls to see if I could get it to work, so I told my buddy it was his turn to get out and clear the windshield while I did so. He obliged, opening his door and stepping out of the car. Except he didn’t get out. Instead, he slammed the door, and began scrambling over me as if he had opened the door to a prison shower scene and he was dressed in clothes with pedophile written all over them. He was screaming and in a blind panic, clawing at my door handle, and he opened it, causing us both to tumble out. I started yelling at him, asking what the fuck his problem was. He was whiter than the falling snow, catching his breath. Finally, he grabs my hand, and escorts me gingerly around to the front of the car.

Now, I know this is the internet and people are prone to exaggerate here, but I am telling you the honest-to-God truth:  my car had stopped a scant few inches from the edge of a 200+ foot drop into a gorge. When my buddy opened the door to step out, he literally put his foot into empty air, had looked down, and nearly passed out before scrambling over me, screaming like a little girl. I was instantly struck by a wave of dizziness myself. My buddy refused to get back in the car. He said he’d rather freeze to death. I wasn’t so anxious either, but I didn’t want to try to hike my way off a mountain during a freak blizzard. Thankfully, a big rig truck came down the highway as we were debating what to do, and the trucker gave us a lift down the mountain.

My dad and I went back up a week later, when the snow had cleared, to get the car. A plow had pushed it even closer to the edge, enough so that my dad didn’t even want to attempt to drive it, since it still had some ice underneath. We hooked a tow chain to the front, pulled it free, and I drove it home.

And traded it in that week on a newer, less death-trappy car.

“Be Careful What You Wish For” – Turn-A-Trope #6, #WOEGTTT

After a hell of a week, I have finally gotten a chance to write something. I tell ya, it’s a huge relief. I had not realized how much I’ve come to enjoy venting a little fiction into the blogosphere, and how much it would aggravate me when I miss getting to do it. Hopefully, this story, my late entry for last week’s Turn-A-Trope Tuesday challenge, Make A Wish, will get me back on track.

Be careful what you wish for.

I use to find myself wishing for something more. Something bigger, something better, something different than who I am. A real life Walter Mitty, I guess, lost in day dreams about what might have been had I been fitter, sexier, richer. Or born in another era, where my prodigious talents would have been truly appreciated for what they were. Or where I could show off my knowledge of ancient skills and histories and brilliant intelligence and have those things impress instead of finding scorn.

I would wish every night, upon the same star in the sky. Of course, it probably wasn’t a star. It was probably Venus, or hell, something even less sexy. A satellite. Star light, star bright, first star I see at night, probably a Sputnik in low orbit flight. Still, every night, I’d go up to the roof and lay on my back and stare at the cosmos above and just wish, more than anything, to be something different. And every day, I’d awake, the same, old, boring me. And most of all, alone.

It was the loneliness, I think, that made me look for the first time at the space between those sparkling points of light. That emptiness, that black and unchanging void that screamed as much in its solitude as did my soul in its own loneliness. When all was sparkling and bright around it, it was empty. Black. Wanting. I wanted, too. I stared into that void, and wished. No light, just night, nothing sparkling clean and bright, I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish…I suddenly felt very foolish. I think may actually have blushed at that moment, embarrassed by my own silliness. I sighed, hard, and for a moment had to fight back a welling wetness from within my eyes.

Fuck wishes. I think I said that aloud too. But seriously, fuck them. I’ve wished a million, billion things and never once have they come true. And the insidious thing about wishing is that the very act seems to drain you of ambition. I’d make a wish, and the part of me that wanted it was somehow a little more satisfied that at least I’d done something, right? And then I’d do nothing. Because I’d wished. Look at that star, or Venus, or Sputnik, and say “I wish I were in better shape” instead of just getting off my ass and going to the gym. And in my head, that part of me that was tired of being doughy and soft would smile at my effort, and the yearning would fade. I’d never get to the gym. I didn’t need to. I had wishes.

I swallowed the sadness that had lumped in my throat, wiped away the tears in my eyes. I got up off that dusty old roof, brushed my pants off, and started to walk back to the dormer window that brought me out to my nightly wishing spot. As I reached the window, I looked back, realizing that it was over. I was not ever going to do this again. I was done with wishes.

Almost.

I looked to that spot, that void, and I made my final wish.

“I will not wish ever again,” I said, low but heavy with shame and anger, “I will not ever ask another thing, so these are my last. I wish, how I wish, that this wasn’t my life, that I were someone, anyone else, somewhere, anywhere else. I wish that wishing stars weren’t absolute bullshit, and that tomorrow I could wake up and be anyone but me. I wish…”

I paused, fighting back the tears, the lump in my throat, the wetness coming again to my eyes.
“I wish I wasn’t alone.”

And then…I swear, the patch had been empty, black. But I saw a twinkle there. Bright, dancing, sparkling in the night. I laughed, hollowly. My void had been nothing more than a cloud obscuring a star. A star just like all the other junk in space. Brilliant and wishless. I went inside, locked the window, and found my way to bed. Sleep came to me, heavy and burdened. Fitful. I tossed and turned all night, struggling with my self-conscious that didn’t want to accept a world without wishes.

And then I woke.

And I was not in my bed. I was not in my home. I was not in my clothes. All around me, a world of strange and alien sights, strange and alien smells, sounds. I leapt up to my feet, pinched myself. I looked to the sky, and saw darkness filled with points of light, all in patterns I’d never seen. Elation washed over me! My wish! Oh could it be? Had I gotten my wish?

And then, shock. Realization. Numbness, as I began to fully understand.

I was not smart, here. My talents were nothing, here. My knowledge, useless, here. It was like I was someone else entirely. Chills washed down my spine. God, what was I going to do?

And then…oh god, then. I heard it. Out there, far, but getting closer. A horrifying, shrieking sound that reminded my of the last part of my wish.

Because it’d come true. All of it. I wasn’t me here – the me of my world was gone. My world was gone. The stars weren’t bullshit. I had awaken someplace else, someone else.

The shriek was closer now, angry, hungry sounding.

I was not alone.

And the stars above me twinkled and laughed.

“Easy as a Spring Dress” – a Pinky Black prequel!

So I’ve been sitting on this one for several months. Submitted it to a flash fiction zine, but it didn’t get picked up. Since I have since taken the character I invented here and fleshed him into the noble savage that is Pinky Black, I thought some of you might like to see the very first aspect of our hard hitting friend of Jimmy the Gent.

Here’s “Easy as a Spring Dress.”

It was a quarter past one, and the heat of the sun beat down from a brilliant, clear sky with only slightly less fury then what my fists had just finished delivering to the poor sap on the ground in front of me. I nudged him with my foot. He groaned. Good.

Wasn’t dead.

Yet.

I bent down and looked at the bloody, broken mess that fifteen minutes before had been an asshole named Danny. He thought he was a tough one, I guess. Dressed like it. Walked like it. Talked like it. But when it came time to throw down, he’d merely gone down, like a sack full of cinder blocks and questionable evidence in a deep bay. I kicked him a bit harder, for good measure. He coughed up a bit of blood, and sobbed. I probably should have felt bad for that. I didn’t.

“Last chance, Danny,” I said, slightly louder than a whisper, but no more. He deserved having to strain to hear me. “I told you once before, if you ever touched her, I’d hurt you.”

I took a breath, looked over my shoulder at the girl cowering against the alley wall. Her face wore hurt and terror like a spring dress, loose and comfortable. That did make me feel bad. I hated that she’d run out here to see this, but you know? Maybe that was good, too.

“Believe it or not, Danny, I don’t like violence. I’m just good at it, see? I tried, I tried real hard, to let you off easy last time, but you didn’t listen. So you bought this, Danny.”

He groaned again. I sighed.

I didn’t make it a habit of being a hero. Wasn’t my gig. I was much better at being a low man, a hard man. And men like me, well, we don’t make good heroes. But there are some things I can’t abide, and one of them is beating on someone who couldn’t defend themselves. I guess I had a little streak of soft in me. Marbling in the meat, if you will.

“This is my last talk with you, Danny. I’ll be watching. I see another bruise on that girl, and you will never lay a hand on another living soul again. She so much as trips and skins her knee, and I’m going to assume it was you. No more warnings, no more beatings.”

I paused, leaned real close.

“No more Danny. You have my word,” I whispered.

He shook, and the sharp smell of piss confirmed that he’d gotten the message. I stood up, picked his jacket up from where he’d dropped it before the fight, and used it to wipe his blood off my fists. The girl stared at me the whole time, as I brushed off the dirt from my knees and cleaned his gore from my boot.

That’s when I saw it.

In her eyes, I saw a glimmer. The blossoming of something wicked, dark. I saw her picking a fight, saw him walking away. Saw her remembering my words, and acting on them. He didn’t have to hit her. She could bruise herself just as easy. But I’m a man of my word, if nothing more. Danny better hope he sees that glimmer too. Better hope he recognizes it, and doesn’t piss her off. Or else he’ll find out just how easily that sack full of cinder blocks goes down, with him as the questionable evidence.

I left him there. Her too. As I walked out of the alley, I saw her smile.

And that hurt, that terror? It fell off her, easy as a spring dress.

“Revenge Served Sweet” – Turn-A-Trope #5, #WOEGTTT

Better late than never! Here is my entry for Turn-A-Trope #5, Opposites Attract Revenge!

“Jack! What are you doing…”

Jack walked past her before she could finish, his palm raised in defiance against her words. He glared at Susan, his ex-girlfriend, then over to the guy he’d just caught her kissing. Doug Harlen, football star, athlete, and in general, complete jerk-ass to anyone who didn’t play sports or drive a really nice car.

Jack did neither. He wasn’t a jock at all; his skills were far more brainy. A computer whiz, a Grade A scholar, a musician. If you could call playing the tuba music. And his car? A beat up old pick-up truck he’d inherited from his mentally deranged uncle. He wasn’t the lamest kid in school, but he wasn’t far from the bottom, and guys like Doug couldn’t be more different.

He had to laugh. It was comical, really. When he and Susan had started dating, no one talked to her but him. She was in that awkward stage that some girls hit, a late bloomer who had yet to bud but desperately wanted to be with someone, anyone. Jack never let himself believe that he was her first choice, but he wasn’t bad looking, truthfully, and he was kind to her. And honestly, she hadn’t been his first choice either, but they’d been friends since the start of middle school and had always gotten along.

That is, they had until she’d finally blossomed.

They hadn’t seen much of each other, that summer. She was away on vacation for a month in the middle, he was in camps towards the end. When they finally got together, man, how she’d changed! How was it possible that in three short months, she could develop so quickly? Gone was the flat chested, doughy girl he’d been dating. In her place, a real stunner. Curvy, fit. Even her hair seemed wavier.

Of course, it became immediately apparent that she was no longer interested in a boy like him. She began flirting, heavily, with every guy she’d see, where she used to never make eye contact. She became rude, dismissive of him, where she used to be sweet and a little clingy. Yeah, she’d blossomed, alright.

Blossomed into a real asshole.

Not too long after that, she’d dumped him. First for a higher chair band geek, then working her way up to the penultimate opposite of all that was Jack. Doug Harlen. At first, Jack had been hurt. It wasn’t so much her dumping him that stung. Well, maybe a little. in truth, she really wasn’t his type, and he had been realizing that more and more every day. What stung, though, was her choice of guys. Doug freakin’ Harlen. He ached for justice. For revenge. So Jack went to ground. Started to plan. He was nothing if not a thinker, and a skilled one at that. And after a while, it became clear. Perfectly clear. A path to revenge so sweet, he could almost taste it.

It took work, of course. Revenge wasn’t going to be easy, not this one. He started working out, getting fit. Talked his mom into getting him to a good dermatologist. Got a haircut, some nicer clothes. Fixed up the beater truck, did some bodywork, gave it a paint job. Looked nice, real nice. And he did a lot of reading. A lot of research. A lot of investigating. Soon, Jack was turning heads himself. A slew of girls who never would have given him a second glance were all but throwing themselves at him, but he didn’t care. His focus was singular. Images of Susan and Doug swam before his eyes, and he refused to let that go.

Susan noticed. He could tell. Could see the way she started looking at him, that same look of desire and ambition that had bloomed in her eyes when she left him. Her glances towards him became longer, more flirtatious. She made sure to bend over near him, showing him her now ample cleavage, or the curvature of her feminine rear. He pretended not to notice, and that made her all the more flamboyant in her attempts to get his attention. Of course, it is no doubt what led to her being “accidently” discovered by Jack, in the back of the band room, with Doug. It was time for his revenge. Stalking past her, palm raised. He stared intently at Doug. He could see her face flush with desire, the thought of Jack ready to fight Doug for her affection. Doug got to his feet, his eyes narrowed, his hands clenching and unclenching. Jack walked right up to him, nose to nose. Breathing hard.

And then they kissed. Long, deep, passionate. Doug’s hands sunk into Jack’s hair, as his own found the football star’s impeccably tight end, and drew him closer. Susan let loose a confused gasp, stumbling back and falling to her ass on the band room bench. Doug and Jack broke their kiss, and turned to her.

“You see, Susan…you weren’t my first choice, either. Doug was. He always was. So when you dumped me for him? I felt terrible. Decided to try out this dating app…for guys. Who like guys. And who should I see there? Turns out, Doug’s been tired of living a lie for a long time. And I’m just his type.”

Doug blushed, and shrugged bashfully. Jack leaned in to him, pulling him close.

“You may have dumped me for the football star,” Jack said, as they walked to the door, “But you? You got dumped for the band geek.”

Brutal

Few things can match the sheer brutality of a breezeless summer day in Georgia. The sun beats down with unrelenting fury, merciless in its quest to see us mortals wilt, and neath the wicked lash of its rays all surfaces become ruthless irons beneath the feet. The air, sodden with moisture too oppressed by the sun to feel inspired enough to fall, and too laden to drink the heavy sweat that beads upon the brow of man. The sweat lingers, then, a shining, shimmering second skin, unable to cool, and thus it turns it’s frustration to making it’s wearer share in it.

This is not a world for modern man, whose body yearns for the chilling breath of an air conditioned coolness, a frosty respite from the harsh reality of a summer’s heat. How, I wonder, did we last so long as a species beneath this and wickeder climes? How did the men who walked this land even a hundred years past endure this oppression? And more importantly, the question I ask above all others?

Where the fuck is my A/C repairman?

The One Where I Almost Died…

Strep throat was the nemesis of my youth. I’d never get it less than twice a year, and sometimes, as many as four times. If someone with even the slightest inkling that they might have strep passed within a yard or two of me, it was pretty much a guarantee that I, too, would be stricken by that beast. I was pumped so full of antibiotics through those years that I became deathly allergic to many. Penicillin? Allergic. Amoxicillan? Allergic. Sulfa drugs? Allergic. Having strep was no new thing to me, so when I came down with it again at the age of 23, it was just par for the course.

The big difference this time, though, was my doctor. What a piece of work this guy was. He was the perfect cliche of the disinterested doctor. His office, covered in golf stuff. He literally practiced his swings as he was “diagnosing” me, barely looking at me. That stuff he left to his staff, who constantly rotated out so that there were new faces every time I visited. Apparently, he was hell to work for. But at the time, I had shitty insurance, with a limited number of doctors to choose from. So I figured he was better than nothing. Besides, it was strep. I’d had it dozens of times. I probably could have treated myself, right?

So I get the antibiotics. The first time around, he gave me something in the “cillan” family, and I had a terrible allergic reaction. He took me off of that, put me on something else – I don’t recall what. I do remember that damned, it was taking forever to clear up. By the end of two weeks, I’m still feeling miserable. I call up his office. He prescribes me another round over the phone. Which he called in from the golf course. Because of course he wasn’t in the office to see me.

Week three passes, week four, and then into week five, and I am still really fucking sick. At the time, I was working in a call center as tier three tech support. I was on the phone with a client, feeling miserable…and then I was on the floor, with a half dozen reps surrounding me, panicked. I’d passed out in a fever. Thank god my buddy Glen was there. He convinced the rest of the crew not to call an ambulance, knowing I couldn’t afford that copay, and offered to drive me home in my own car. One of our other friends drove him back. Before he left, he made me promise to call the doc and get in for an appointment. So I did, for later that afternoon, at 3:45PM (I worked early morning shifts, so Glen had me home by 8:00AM).

And of course, my doctor was…can you guess? Golfing! I arranged instead to see his new nurse practitioner, his third or fourth since I had been seeing him. I laid down, passed out. I woke up around 2:00PM, feeling a bit better, and since my then wife was working and I didn’t want to bother anyone, decided I was able to drive myself to the doc. Yeah, yeah, I know. I blame the fever, don’t judge me! Besides, I made it there safe. Got in, waited for the nurse practitioner. She was running behind, so about 4:15PM she got in the room, and started asking questions. When I mentioned that I’d had strep at that point for over a month, she didn’t believe me. She checked my charts. Looked at my throat, and recoiled. Asked me to wait for a moment, and then hurried out of the room.

A few moments later, she came back in.

“Listen, I’m not supposed to do this without the doctor’s permission, but I really think you need a specialist. I called an ENT I know across town – they said they’d squeeze you in if you can get there before five. Can you do that?”

Sure I could. She handed me a hastily scribbled note, and sent me on my way. I made it to the ENT’s office maybe ten minutes before closing. It was clear that it had been a long day, and everyone was ready to go home…and in walks *this* asshole, with a case of strep throat. The nurse took the note, gave it a glance, handed it to another nurse and told her to call the nurse practitioner, and took me back to a waiting room. About ten minutes later, the ENT walked in.

I could tell instantly that he was not in a good mood.  His shoulders sagged, his eyes had dark rings beneath them, and he heaved a heavy sigh and raised a doubtful eyebrow as he came in. He snatched up the clipboard the nurse had handed him, looked it over.

“You’ve had strep for over a month?”

I nodded.

“Been taking your meds?”

I nodded again. I’d brought my empty bottles with me. He sighed again.

“Alright then, let’s have a look.”

I opened wide, he dug out a pen light, and looked.

Let me tell you right now – there are few things I have ever experienced as terrifying as seeing a doctor’s face go pale. He literally only looked down my throat for a second. He glanced at his watch, then at me. His brow furrowed.

“You drive yourself here?”

I nodded again.

“Fuck.”

At this point in my life, I’d never heard a doctor cuss before. I was getting more and more scared by the moment.

“Ok, fine. I’ll have one of the receptionists stay late with your keys. Call someone to come get your car. I’ll be right back.”

What. The. Fuck. I did as I was told, and my in-laws promised to come get the car. As soon as I hung up the phone, the doc walked in, pulling on his jacket.

“You’re coming with me.”

We rushed out to his car, a nice sports car, though having never been a car guy, I couldn’t tell you what kind. Foreign, though. Leather seats. Real leather.

“You’re a lucky man, Mr. Baron,” he said as we sped through the streets, “I’m taking you to the hospital. You’re going to be there for at least 24 hours. By this time tomorrow, you should be a lot better. If you hadn’t caught me this afternoon, by this time tomorrow, you would probably be dead.”

He explained to me that the strep had abscessed, that it was the worse case he’d ever seen. That strep, when it abscesses, can shoot straight to the brain. He got me to the hospital, all but dragged me into ICU, whom he’d called ahead on his car phone to have waiting for me. I was hooked up to tons of machines, a feed of pure oxygen, and an IV drip of super heavy duty antibiotics.

The kicker, though, was this. Every hour, on the hour, that ENT came back in the room to check on me. He stayed at the hospital all night, until, roughly thirteen hours later, it was clear that I had made it past the danger zone. My fever finally vanished. My throat began to clear. The doc went home, got a few hours rest, and then came back to check on me before I was discharged. He came in, still clearly tired, and handed me an envelope.

“Two things,” he said. “One, I can’t legally do so till you’ve been clear of infection for a month, but when a month is over, we’re removing your fucking tonsils. It’s god-damned ridiculous that no other doctor has demanded this, so I will. Two, you’re changing doctors. I looked into your insurance. This envelope is a letter of recommendation to a friend of mine. He hasn’t been seeing new patients, but he’ll make an exception.”

Sure enough, a month later, I had a new doctor and was less two tonsils. I haven’t gotten strep since. The ENT, from what I heard, got my old doctor’s license pulled.

And I didn’t die of step. How’s that for a happy ending?

 

“Bad Parents” – Chuck Wendig’s Weekly Flash Fiction Challenge. TRIGGER WARNING

Just in under the deadline, here is my story for Chuck Wendig’s challenge from this past week. A story about “Bad Parents”, 1000 words or less.

This is not the story I originally intended to tell. That one I wrote, rewrote, rewrote again, and then finally deleted. I’m not ready to tell that one yet.

This one is dark, very dark. I give you fair warning now that it is about child abuse, murder, and such like things. If this is the kind of thing that upsets you, skip this one.

No one ever tells you about the smell. The movies, the shows, they make it look almost…glamorous, when you shoot someone. A bang, a puff of smoke, a bright light, a splatter of pretty crimson that paints the wall like that abstract painter guy…Jackson-something. Mom always liked his stuff. I didn’t get it. The smell is terrible. Like copper and shit and sewage. Maybe it’s different if you shoot them somewhere other than the balls and lower stomach?

Christ. I can hear him still. I wish he’d die but I don’t have the stomach or the will to shoot him again. And maybe…maybe I kind of want him to suffer, even if each groan that escapes his lips makes me feel like vomiting. Even through the door, I can hear him dragging himself across the floor croaking a strange, strangled, gurgling noise like some sort of sick frog. Disgusting. Bleeding and shitting all over the floor, no doubt. Mom is going to be so pissed off.

After all, he is…was…her husband.

I look down at the gun in my hand and I wonder how many bullets I have left. I never really learned about them. I mean, I knew the basics, but I didn’t even know how to load or reload or whatever you are supposed to do with them. I do know you point the dangerous end and you flip the safety thing and you pull the trigger. And not the button that makes the bullet-thingy fall out. I guess TV is good for something after all, huh? There’s always that ditzy girl who points the gun and presses the wrong button. Or gets reminded the safety is on. Dumb!

I wonder if I should shoot her too. Mom, I mean. Part of me screams at the idea, revolts. Another…not so much.

She let it happen, after all. She had to have known. No…she did know. I can’t make excuses for her. She knew. I told her. I told her what he was doing, how he was touching me…there. I feel sick again, just thinking about it. Have to force myself to stop. She knew, but she didn’t do anything about it. He was husband number three, after all, and she wasn’t getting any younger. She said that all the time.

So she put up with the shit. The laziness. The yelling. The name calling. The slaps, the punches, the bruises. The way he looked at me, her daughter. She listened when he lied and when he locked himself in my room she bought that the door must have “accidently” locked itself. When I would find any excuse I could to be with her, she said I was just too clingy. Seperation Anxiety? Really Mom?

I didn’t tell her at first. I was scared. Scared that he’d hurt me worse, hurt her worse. He threatened that he would. Said that if I told he would beat the shit out of her, break her, make sure no other man would ever want to be with her again. Did I want that? Huh, sweetie? You want your mom to have to earn her living lying on her back for ten dollars a pop, cause she sure as hell wouldn’t make more than that when he got finished with her.

But then one day she found me. Crying. Rocking. She took me in her arms and she rocked with me and she asked me.

“Cass, sweety? Is there something wrong?”
And I felt warm. Safe. I told her.

I still feel the sting of her hand. The bruises have faded but I still feel each punch. My hair still hurts when it remembers her dragging me through the hall, screaming and calling me a liar, a whore, a filthy little tempter. It was my fault, see. I shouldn’t dress like such a slut. She burned my makeup and my music and most of my heart that day.

“Casssss.”

What’s left of my heart plummets. He moans out again.

“Casssssss…c…c…call…..9…”

He stops, coughing. I hear something thick and wet splatter against the wood floor, and something in me snaps.

I open the door.

He’s right there. The smell is even worse now. The floor doesn’t look like a pretty painting. It looks horrible. Dark. Brownish. I gag. He looks up at me. Kind of looks like one of those monsters, zombies. I don’t know…I don’t like those shows. Too gory. He reaches out his hand.

“Cass…sw…sweetie…”

There is a pop, a shockingly loud pop and a ringing in my ears before I even realize I’ve shot him. There is a strange, gurgling rattle, and then he’s quiet. The only sound is the ringing in my ears.

I close the door. I cry. I can’t help it. God, what am I going to do? I sit there, at the door. I sit there for a long time.

And then I hear it. Keys in the lock. Mom is home. I look down. How many bullets are left?

I don’t know.

Maybe just one.

My hands tremble. I am so fucked. So, so fucked. The door begins to open. For a moment, it really is just like the movies. Everything is slow, deliberate. I look at the gun and I think, yes, maybe there’s just one more bullet left.

I raise my arm. The gun is so, so heavy. Heavier than I thought it would be. The door swings wider. I sit straighter. Proper. Ladylike. She walks in all fake smiles and empty cheer and an arm full of crap. She looks at me.

“Cass, sweetie? Is there something wrong?”

I smile. I press the gun beneath my chin, and I wonder.

Will she believe me now?

The Axle Grease Tastes Fine

So, I put in another late night at work last night. Late enough that I didn’t even have to come to work today in order to make up the hours that I’ve already put in. But here I am, working another full day, though I swear I am not going to stay over today. Much.

*sighs*

The problem is, I work in a cutthroat industry. What’s that I say? Defense contractors are backstabbing assholes? That *NEVER* happens! I know, right? Yet here I am, treading soft through the viper’s den. Yesterday, a contractor who has fallen behind in their promised production schedule attempted to blame it all on me. It’s convenient for them, because I work for a totally different contractor and no one, save for myself and a very small handful of people in the country, know how difficult and time consuming my job is.

But here’s the kicker. With a few small exceptions, I haven’t missed a single publication date. I have had my portion done, headaches notwithstanding, and pushed out my product before it was due. The fact that they came to me late already is something I have no control over. And more, the fact that the only reason I have to do this part of the job, instead of doing the actual job I was hired for, is that the assholes sending it to me didn’t do their jobs properly in the first place!

So I spent two hours yesterday being grilled by great big government types and trying to justify my job. Which I did, professionally and expertly. With documentation. But it still sucks.

And now, I’ve been trying to ensure that my queue is completely clear, which means long hours. And that makes me a touch grumpy. Thank Og I have this place to stem the boredom of watching a compiler run…

And my, but the underside of this bus is pleasant. The axle grease is so tasty…

 

On the plus side, Camp NaNoWriMo starts today. And I’ve a “Supernatural Sexy” novel brewing in my skull…