BY D G HARRIS
Dave handed Chuck a bottle of beer. Chuck took a pull.
"Shit, this ain't cold a bit."
"Yeah, well wadya want. You get to drink all you can here. There is that. Just ain't completely satisfying, that's all."
"The least they could do is put the air conditioning on around here."
"Yeah. Air conditioning," chuckled Dave.
"At least the fan. There's a fan right in the corner of the bar."
"Oh no. You don't want that on. Bartender farts something fierce. Fan just spreads that shit around. You can't believe the stink. That's why I sit down at this end."
"They got any smokes here," asked Chuck.
Dave pulled out a pack and gave one up. "Shipment comes in once a week. We run out, we suffer. But they do give out a free one when you first get here."
"I ain't got no free pack."
"Talk to the tender. He'll take care of it."
Dave lit chuck up.
"Listen," began Dave. "I just wanna say, I ain't pissed a bit that you killed me. I know it weren't malicious or anything. Bar fights can be like that. If anything I should thank you. Life just sucked and it was clear it weren't gonna get a bit better. Outa work. About to be evicted. And that damn crazy ass broad of mine. Always bitching about this or that. Giving it up to every guy in town except for me. Hell, if you wouldn't have killed me, she would've. She tried twice, you know."
"I remember something about it."
"Fuckin' aye. If I woulda knowed it was this good I woulda done it years ago myself. Even with this warm beer, hardly any smokes, and this constant hot-ass weather, I still figure I'm ahead of the game.
"Well hell, Dave, I appreciate that. I really didn't mean to bash you in the head with the foot of that bar stool. I was trying to flip it around so that you got the padded side. Guess I never did have no dexterity."
"Like I said, you got no complaints from me. By the way, it ain't been all that long since I got here. Why'd you come down so soon?"
"Firing squad. Seems the law didn't care none for my lack of dexterity either."
"Sorry to hear that. You'd think they'd give a guy half a chance for one little mistake."
"No chances these days unless you got the cash to pay for one."
"You said it brother."
Dave called the tender over. Got a coupla more beers.
"So, how is it that you ended up down here?" asked Chuck.
"All fornicators and drinkers end up down here. You see that guy playing the video game down at the far end?"
"Hell, he don't even drink, and ain't been laid outside of marriage."
"Why's he here?"
"Cusses like a teamster."
"Things is tight. I heard you used to be able to masturbate and still make it to the loft. Hell, man. You can't even do that anymore."
"What the hell do they do up there?"
"Read a lot I guess."
"Yeah, but you read folks like Dawson. They don't dig that up there."
"Well, screw them anyway."
"That's what I say."
Chuck finished his beer. "Say, they got any bourbon here?"
"Yeah. But they ain't got no ice. And it's the cheap house stuff. That shit can be hard to take with no ice."
"I know it is, but I think I'll get one anyway."
Chuck ordered up. It was the cheap house stuff. Brutally so.
"You know, this place ain't half bad," said Chuck. "Ain't felt this at peace in years. Nobody pulling on you all the time. No crazy women hacking at your balls."
"It's true," said Dave. "And the thing is, chicks give it up pretty easy here. They'll even be the one to buy the rounds sometimes. Sometimes they just wanna talk. Sometimes they only want to bone and not say all too much. It's really very nice."
"Boning and talking usually leads to trouble," said Chuck.
"One or the other," said Dave. "One or the other."
Guy sat down next to Chuck. He ordered a beer. "Ain't so much the boning or the talking," he said. "But women just can't seem to do both at the same time. I never could figure it out. And pardon me for jumping into the conversation."
"That's okay brother. I'm Dave, and this here is Chuck."
They all shook hands and had a long hard knock on the bottle.
"Why you down this way?" asked Chuck.
"I smoke and drink too much, and I like titty bars quite a bit…."
"No, man, I mean how'd it happen?"
"Oh, well, see, I met this chick a while back. Intelligent and good looking, but I thought about hanging my own self a coupla weeks later, just from her mean streak. Then, caught her with another guy. Threw her to the curb of course, but she kept coming back. Finally, dumb ass that I am, I took her in. a week later it was all over. Cyanide in the oatmeal. Seems she had a 250 grand policy out on me. She must be living pretty sweet about now. Godamned Dorothy."
"Dorothy huh," said Dave. "What did this Dorothy look like?"
"Tall. Red head. Used to be a model."
"Godamned," uttered Dave.
"Say, that sounds like your old lady," said Chuck.
"I always knew she had it in her," said Dave.
Dan brought out a smoke.
"That a new pack?" asked Chuck.
"Just got it."
"Godamnit, I still ain't got mine."
"Tell the tender," said Dave.
Bartender sat an upside down shot glass in front of Dave. "Lady over there wants to buy you a drink."
Dave accepted, then retired to a dark corner table with a nice looking brown haired chick.
"I don't mind this," said Dan. "Seems like kind of a nice place."
"I agree," said Chuck.
They drank up. The place was open 24-7.
The beginning of something new
The town folks met in the parking lot of a strip mall. Some wielded hammers, a couple, knives, most had baseball or clubs of some sort. They didn't figure on needing any guns. They didn't expect too much of a fight put up against so many.
Little Haime pulled on his paps pant leg.
"Why must this be done?" he asked.
"Well son," began Pap Johnson, raising up a nine-iron. "It's like this- we're damn sick and tired of all the nonsense. All the countless ages of bullshit…"
"Honey please, your language," said the missus.
"Sorry, but see son, it's time for all this crap to end. We've had enough. Centuries of wasted emotion. We're doing this for you… and little Robby, and Annette, and all the other kids. It'll be better, much better. You'll see. You'll thank us eventually. Yeah you will."
"All right," announced Sanders. "He's staying at a warehouse over on Central. Let's do this thing, but we gotta be quiet on the way…"
Sunny Bibkin came running up all outa breath. Running hard from outa the darkness.
"Wait… I just heard, just found out from the street, he ain't at the warehouse no more. He's staying at a building over on Fifth, near Alameda!"
"There ain't a thing over that way except tenement buildings," said Pap Johnson.
"Make sense though," said Millhouse. "Times ain't what they used to be for him."
"You sure about this, Sunny?" asked Pap.
"I heard it from good sources."
"All right. All right then. We'll see. We'll just see."
They moved out. About twenty of 'em. Mainly men, and a few women, but no kids. To much violence coming for their innocent eyes and minds.
Hit Fifth in about 15 minutes and Alameda an about 5 more. It was a dark part of town. Very fucked up. Even the police avoided the area. It was not terribly uncommon to see groups swaggering down those streets swinging about clubs. But they never had been so well dressed before.
They reached the tenement building. The rats were big. Big as Dobermans. One trip face down and you were done. Those rats, they really knew how to live.
"He's on the 5th floor," said Sunny. "Room 501 I heard." But then Sunny bailed unnoticed. He really was a pussy at heart.
They staggered up the 10 flights of stairs. This took a toll on most of 'em, being flabby meat eaters. Only the beer drinkers and smokers made it without problem.
"This is it," said Sanders. "Let's break the door down!"
"Wait. We gotta make sure it's him first," said Buddy Wells.
"Right." Pap Johnson pounded on the door. "Hey in there. Open up. We got something to say to you."
There was a rustling inside, but no voice answered.
"All right, we tried. No break it down!"
Sanders bashed the door in with one kick. It splintered like cardwood.
They rushed in. He was standing near a window, thought real hard about jumping. But it was, after all, 5 stories up.
He cringed and cried out as he was grappled to the ground. He really was much more unattractive in his raw form than they had expected. As a matter of fact, depending upon the angle of the light, it was hard to tell if he were a man at all. But they had heard that part about him.
"Please, what is it you want from me?!!" he wailed.
Pap Johnson grabbed him about the throat. "I'll be honest with you, Love Boy, or Mister Love, or whatever the hell it is you call yourself…"
"Love. Just love," he gurgled.
"Well, Love, we're here to change things. Sorry, man, you got to go."
"You're going to kill me."
"Man, it's got to be done. Nothing personal." Love stopped squirming. He had a settled look. Nearly content. Even happy.
"Oh, I have waited for this day. Dreamt of it for a century. Happy, happy times have come!"
"What? You want us to kill you?"
"Hell yeah. It's my only way out. I just can't do it anymore. You people are animals. You don't know how to handle love. It's like poking needles in my eyes every day. I gave you the gift, and you contorted it, twisted it," as he made a grimace, "twisted it into a horrible mess. I'm tired. Would have ended it years ago myself, had that sort of thing not been forbidden in the contract…"
"What… you sayin'… you blaming us for all this?!"
"All I'm saying is that you don't need love. Why, just think of what you'll accomplish. I'll bet you'll have colonies on Venus in no time."
"Yeah we will, mother. And no jealousy. No bickering or arguing. No depression. No love related suicides or murders."
"For the record, all that stuff don't have a thing to do with me. But it don't matter. There's nothing I can do to make you folks happy. Just like trained monkeys with a remote. Instead up arts and entertainment, you always end up watching monster trucks or the porn channel."
"Why you!" said Rodriguez. He plowed a fist into the gut of love. Love vomited blood.
"Do it. Kill me. Make it fast. Make it hurt. I just don't care."
"So, you agree we'll be better off?" snarled Sanders.
"Yeah. Whatever you say, man. Whatever you say."
Pap Johnson snapped the bat down on Love's head. Love sighed, seemed to smile. The pounding came. Love died in a tenement in the industrial part near downtown L.A.
Pap Johnson sat in his living room recliner reading the morning paper. He had a cup of steaming coffee on a table at his side.
"Will ya look at that," he was saying to the missus. "Government says beatings and knifings is down 80 percent. Gosh, and what about this. Civilians being gunned down is even more."
"That's nice deer. How would you like your eggs this morning?"
"Sunny side up, of course." He flipped through the pages. "Ah, that's too bad."
"What's that, dear?"
"Says here that the last church closed in the city due to lack of interest. There's not but 2 left now in the whole country. Ah well, that doesn't seem to be too bad. And the government has got this new deal going on for all those poets out there. Seems they're all headed for civil service. They opened 'em up to jobs in the National Parks for a while, but since all those closed down they gotta find 'em something else to do. I think that's kinda nice if you ask me."
"Sure is, dear. You know, I was reading just yesterday how marriages are lasting these days. Just like ours. They just don't seem to have divorce any more. That's what I think is nice."
"Yep. Here it is. Big aerospace company says we should have colonies on Venus within a year. It's just amazing. Say, get me a beer, too."
The missus opened the refrigerator and pulled out a cold one. She gazed out the window. Flowers were blooming, the sky a brilliant steely unmarred blue. Birds chirped and danced through the tree. She looked back to the one sitting at the recliner. She used to really hate him. Now, there just didn't seem to be a point to that. A tear slipped down her chick. She wiped it away, never really knowing why it had come, and handed over the beer.
A typical lower class morning
The girl had no top. And she was leaning across the stage hanging those topless things on his head. She sighed as he placed a buck in her underwear. "You know," she said. "You're not like all the other Joe's that come into this shit hole. You're a real man, I can see that."
"You wanna come on over to my place when you get off and have a drink?" She smiled. "I thought you'd never ask."
Telephone rang. Porntip opened his eyes. Porntip Magrue. He didn't answer. He coughed and rolled over and got outa bed. He staggered into the bathroom, pulled down his boxers, and released a stream into the toilet. He noted the gut hanging out over the boxers in the mirror, went back to the bedroom and picked a t-shirt up off the floor to cover it up. He made it to the kitchen, swallowed 4 aspirin and put the coffee on. It was cold and dull and grey outside and he felt no too very dissimilar inside. He looked through the apartment for his pack of smokes. Looked everywhere for that damn pack. Finally, through the kitchen window he noted his cat, Roswell, sitting at the patio table, cigarette dangling from his mouth.
Porntip stepped through the back door. "Godamnit, I told you to get your own smokes." He lifted the pack from the table. Roswell gave him a look and kept puffing.
He sat at the kitchen table and poured himself a cup. Telephone rang again.
"Hey there, Porntip."
"Man, you were really something last night. Just unbelievable."
"Always glad to bring joy to my fellow man."
"How's your head there Porntip?"
"Don't feel so good. Head or anything else."
"It was really something when you fought that 300 pound gal. And the way you took her down- shit, she'd been beating on folks for 6 months at the bar. That's one mean woman. Maybe she'll think twice about messing with people from now on."
"Yeah, well, it had to be done."
"But later on, when you took the digger into the band, that's what really got me going. Broke that drum set all to hell!"
"Listen, Mickey, I got to go. Got things to do."
"Oh hell, things, that's all."
Porntip hung up and poured another cup.
There was a knock at the door. Porntip opened. It was the landlord, Mr. Simpkin.
"Mr. Magrue, we have to talk. I found vomit on my front stoop, again…"
"No. Anyway, I've been finding empty quart bottles of beer too. This is my last warning. We run a tight ship at this court. We don't want anybody breaking up the place."
"Look, it wasn't me, I swear."
"Mr. Magrue, you have drips of vomit on your own stoop right now!"
Porntip opened the door a little further.
"No, see, that's from my cat. He's been having problems lately…"
Simpkin looked to his left. Roswell was leaning against the side of the building. A cigarette hung from his mouth, the pack placed neatly under a front paw.
Landlord turned back to the one in the doorway. He was not amused.
"Uh, I didn't teach him that."
Simpkin pointed a finger. "I got my eye on you. You'd better believe that."
He stepped back down the walkway. Roswell seemed to be winking. Landlord was shaking his head and then was gone.
Porntip retrieved the smokes. "Godamned cat." Then he realized they were lights. Porntip never smoked lights. He tossed the pack back down. "All right. You stay outa mine, I'll stay outa yours."
Roswell smacked his lips, scratched his ass, and blew out some smoke. Porntip was closing the door. "And keep away from beer too."
"Oh hell. What now?"
He answered. It was Pauline.
"I thought you said you was gonna do some writing last night?" she started in with.
"I heard you was fighting again. I heard you fought big Rosetta…"
"It was her fault. She encouraged me."
"Porntip, I've had enough. There was a band at the bar last night. You didn't do no writing at all. You lied to me."
"Baby, I got a few pages out before the band started. Nice stuff too. Then Rosetta started poking me with that big greasy finger of hers. You know how she gets. What was I supposed to do?"
"Porntip. I just don't wanna hear it no more. You ain't good for nothing but drinking and messing around."
"Hell baby, what are you talking about? That's two things right there I'm good at."
"Ha ha, that's a good one. You just funnied yourself outa the best woman west of the Rockies."
"Ah, baby, c'mon…"
Porntip heard the phone slam down at the other end. He poured a jigger of bourbon into the coffee, had a hit.
"West of the Rockies?" he was saying. "You ain't even the best woman west of Huntington Beach."
Roswell walked up, sat at the kitchen counter and looked at the human. Porntip never could figure out how he got in and out of the place when the doors were closed. "All right," he said. He poured a cup and pushed it in front of the cat. Roswell waited. He looked annoyed.
"Oh Christ…" He poured a jigger into the cup. Roswell sniffed it and took a swill. He sighed.
Porntip sat at his beat up recliner and turned the TV on with the remote. There was some talk show about a medium that could speak with the dead. He was going on about reincarnation. He shut the TV off. "I ain't coming back this way again unless they make me come back." Roswell was shaking his head and the phone rang. It was his former agent- Rudward Hayes.
"How ya doing Porntip? Making any headway?"
"Well, I gotta short comin' out in Reflections."
"Hmm. Reflections. Never heard of it."
"It's on the internet."
"You have a computer?" asked Rudward with just a tad disbelief.
"Well, it's a friends. She lets me use it every now and again." Then he realized, with the previous phone call, that he might not be using that computer again for a while.
"Listen, Porntip, I been thinking. I'd like to work with you again. I been shopping around that anthology and the novel on my own these last few months. Still ain't got no takers on the novel, but I think I got a small press that wants to pick up the anthology."
"Yeah man. They're west coast and they want west coast writers. I told 'em all about you. They're very interested."
"You ain't shitting me are you? I don't have to put up any cash, do I?"
"What? Of course not! Don't you trust me?"
"Porntip, I am injured to the core by your words. Don't forget the history we've had."
"I haven't. That's why I said it."
"Hell, Porntip, I'm just trying to make a little cash for the both of us. I think I can have a deal drawn up in the next couple of weeks. In the mean time, I'll keep pushing the novel. Is that fair?"
"Sure, Rudward. Give me a call when you hear something."
"Sure thing, buddy."
Porntip hung up the phone. He felt like he'd just given a 2-dollar blowjob. Well, at least it wasn't for a buck, and that was nice. Things were looking up. He pulled the pack of smokes from his pocket. Empty. Then laid his head back in the recliner.
He was sitting at the bar, writing. A beautiful young woman approached. He had seen her before. She had commented once on how attractive it is for a man to put words down in a place like a bar. Very sexy. He moved forward and they kissed. She said that she had something to show him. They left the bar, but just outside was a cliff. He began to fall. Jagged rocks were coming up fast. He held out his arms, and at the last second swooped over to an endless field of heather and clover. A nice leather bound book lay open on the ground. He opened it up. It was his writing…
Phone rang. "Shit.. god.. hello?"
"I just wanted to say I was sorry. I didn't mean all those things I said. Let's just pretend it never happened."
"Porntip? Wont you come over tonight? We can have a little make up fun."
"Sure. Can I use your computer?"
"Of course you can."
He laid the phone down, then took it off the hook. He stepped to the refrigerator and opened it.
"Good god all mighty," he uttered. You see, he had no beer.
He turned and noted a brand new 12 pack placed on the dining room table. Roswell sat close, an open beer before him. He watched over to Porntip and nodded.
Porntip reached for one, cracked it, and swallowed a fair amount.
"You're okay," he said. "Can I have a smoke?"