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I wake up. grunting as I throw my legs over the side of the bed. I rub my eyes and try to focus on the clock. after squinting and blinking several times, I finally can see the red numbers. slowly I stand up, my knees crack and my back pops sedning conflicting feelings of pain and pleasure through me. I lean back, placing a hand in the middle of my spine trying to stretch it out. my shoulder aches as I walk to the kitchen and put on a pot of coffee. I sit down heavily at the kitchen table, looking up at ceiling. "listen," I say to it like it can hear me, "I thought we had a deal? time, God, and me,all of us had a deal. you weren't gonna let me get old. what happened? I was supposed to die young, but here I am in this cramped apartment, all alone. look at me. I'm old! now I can't get up from a chair without grunting! every move I make comes with a pop and crack! dammit! this isn't how it was supposed to be!" with a groan, I stand up and go take a shower. once properly groomed, I head for the kitchen flipping on the stereo as I pass it. the coffee has overflowed its pot, snapping on the burner filling the air with a putred odor. yep, it's gonna be one of those days I sigh. the phone rings. I stare at it, debating on whether to answer it or not. what the hell, might as well answer. the voice on the other end is crying, half hysterical sobbing so hard I can hardly make out what she's saying. "calm down. I can't understand you." I tell her. she does. it's Valerie. "come over quick," she says, "Frank's losing it." "ok. be there in a minute. just hang tight." I find my shoes, grab my keys and run out the door. Frank has a history, goes crazyfrom time to time. I race over there, taking the back roads to avoid any traffic jams that might block my way this time of morning. as I pull into the driveway I spot Valerie standing on the porch. she's still in her pajamas, her hairs a mess, looks like she's had a rough start of the day. she meets me at the car, her eyes all puffy and red from crying. "he's really gone this time! said he was gonna kill me and the kids! I didn't know what else to do!" she sobbed as she fell into my arms. "where are the kids?" "they're safe," she said suddenly calming down. "the neighbors have em." "good." I pull out a hankerchief and use it to wipe the tears from her cheeks then give it to her. "the cops coming?" I ask. "I don't know...." she says as she looks down the street. "I didn't call em." "alright. don't worry hon, I got this." I assure her even though I really wasn't that certain
I could do anything. I head for the house, then stop and ask her, "is he using again?" she nods dramatically. "great. this should be fun then." I stand there listening at the door. no sound though. carefully I push it open a crack and peek inside. I can't see him so I slide the door open all the way and wait, for what I'm not sure. last time I had to "help" he came at me with a baseball bat, so I guess that's why I was a little leary of going in. still got a lump on my head from it. I go in cautiously looking around. a light is coming from the kitchen. I take a deep breath and walk up to the doorframe, standing just outside of it when I see him. a saturday night special sits on the white porcelain table directly in front of him, within easy reach. yesterday's blue plate special sits in the center of the table untouched. he stares at it, waiting for it to move or something. right next to his left hand is a glass pipe with a yellowish white substance on a piece of tin foil beside it. meth. perfect. mustering up all the courage I have, and some I don't, I stroll over to the table and sit down,not taking my eyes off him for a second. "hey Frank. what's going on?" I ask him. after a second passes which feels more like an hour he looks at me. his brown eyes are glazed and calm, not a good sign. I'd prefer it if they were big, wide and crazy. in my experience in dealing with crazy people, which is more than I care to admit, it's never a good thing when crazy turns calm. it means they've made a descision, and there's no coming back from that. "hey Carl." he said eeriely calmly. "what brings you by?" "ahhh you know, thought I'd stop by. hadn't seen you in awhile." "uh huh." he said as he looked back down at the plate. "I hate pot roast." he says somberly. "every Thursday she gives me pot roast." "could be worse," I tell him trying to jar him back to reality. "she could serve ya spam." he doesn't bite. hell, "what's so bad about pot roast?" I ask, thinking if I can keep him talking, maybe we'll get throught this okay. "look at it," he says with a snarl. "just laying there, all brown and slimy. I hate pot roast. she knows I hate it, but she brings to me every fucking Thursday." his voice grows slowly louder as he speaks. "why does she do it! I can't stand fucking pot roast!" he's yelling now. "stupid bitch!" "Frank." I say trying to get his attention. "Frank." he doesn't look up though, so I scream at him, "Frank!" finally he tears his eyes off the plate and glares at me with such anger that my knees begin to quake. "what!" he says. "Frank," I say as calmly as possible with a fake smile on my face,"it's Sunday." "huh?" he looks at me, confused for a moment. "Sunday?" he repeats searching for the meaning behind my statement. "yeah. Sunday, not Thursday." "oh." he says slowly as he gets my drift. "feels like a Thursday, doesn't it?" an
uncertain look flashes over his pale, drawn face. "sure does. but you know me, I never can tell what day it is." he gaves me a quick tiny grin and I think ok, here's my chance. "hey man," I say, "do me a favor?" he looks at me blankly, cooly and says nothing, just nods a "what" to me. "let me hold that gun for a minute." he glances down at the gun, starts to reach for it, then stops. "can't do that." he says. "I need it." damn! so close! "hey man," he says with a silly grin, "remember the woods?" "woods?" I ask. "what woods?" his shoulders slump slightly as he continues. "you know, OUR woods. the ones we used to go to when we were kids? we'd steal some booze from the folks and go out there to drink it. remember?" "of course I remember." I tell him just to keep him talking. "isn't that where you got your first kiss? what was her name again?" "Charolette." he said flatly. "her name was Charolette." "right!" I laugh despite myself at the memory. "god dude! she was ugly!" "yeah, she was." with that he looked back down at the plate, then glanced towards the gun. "what'd you ask about the woods for?" "huh?" he said as if coming out of fog. "the woods. you were talking about the woods." "oh yeah. remember that birthday, I think we were 12 or 13 when my dad got me that BB gun?" "yeah, I sure do. it was Daisy wasn't it?" he laughed and said "yeah. a pump action with a scope. man I thought I was the shit! but that damn thing," he shook his head, laughing, "you had to pump it like 30 times before it'd do anything!" I lit a cigarette and smiled widely. "can I get one of those?" he asked. "sure, but I thought you quit?" I teased him. "I did." he said as he took one out of the pack and stuck it behind his ear and continued his story. "we got pretty good with that thing. got to where we could hit a coke bottle at a hundred feet." "yep. took us a lot of practising to get there though." "then we decided that if we were gonna be "real" hunters we had to shot something living. as I recall, we looked all around for something to kill. we were about to give up when this big ole robin landed on a branch not far from us." his trailed off for a moment so I prodded him on, just keep him talking, I thought to myself.
"I remember." "you were too much of a pussy to shot him. so I took aim, set my sights right on him, the crosshairs in the middle of his brown puffy chest and squeezed the trigger. it was a great shot. hit me first try." he said proudly. "knocked him right off the limb. I'll never forget it." he started to drift off again. "it was a hell of a shot." I helped him along, trying to get him to stay with me. "yeah. went over to check out the kill. remember? and that bird, that damn bird. it wasn't dead. fucking gun wasn't powerful enough, just wounded him. he hopped around squaking, crying with pain and confusion. I'm not sure if it was the shot or the fall but his wing was broken, couldn't use it. he'd hop a couple of times and then fall on his face, his one good wing still flapping, going nowhere." he paused there, caught up in the memory. "I know." I said quietly. "I remember." he looked at me then, with eyes I'd never seen before, full of pain and anguish as if they could break at any second. "that's how I feel now, all the time man." I just looked at him, didn't know what to say. then I regained my composure and asked "what do you mean?" "I'm broken, bleeding, going in circles......so confused and hurting......I can't take it anymore man....." he looked at the gun again and my nerves stood up, warning me against impending doom. "come on bro," I said. "you and me, we been through it all dude. hell we been friends for how long?" I asked trying to draw him out of this funk, but he didn't answer. "since kindergarden, right?" still no response. "right?" "yeah," he said without looking up. "kindergarden." "we'll get through this. you and me bro. you and me." he looked at me again and nodded, saying "yeah. thanks for coming by bro." he spoke with a calm certainity that made my skin crawl. "it's always good to see you. now it's time for you to go." "nah man, I came over to hang with you. I ain't ready to leave yet." he looked at me stone faced, completely emotionless and said "go home." "dude...." I started to say but he grabbed the gun and pointed it right at my chest. "GO.....THE FUCK.......HOME!.....NOW!" he screamed as he waved the gun. "whoa! whoa! Whoa!" I said as I jumped to my feet knocking the chair over in my haste. "it's me man! Carl!" "I know who the fuck you are!" he yelled."that's why I'm telling you to get the fuck out!" he pulled the hammer back and I knew there was no more talking to him. "alright man! alright! I'm going! just calm down!" and I back peddled for the door, being careful not to turn my back on him. once outside I yelled for Valerie. she came out of the neighbors house at a full run. "call the cops!" I screamed.
"what? why? what happened? she asked. "god dammit! call the fucking cops now!" I screamed but it was too late. a few seconds later there came a bang from inside the house. I stood there numb, in total disbelief. Valerie grabbed me screaming "oh my god! what just happened?" and she started for the house. I grabbed her arm, pulling her back, keeping her outside. she fought me like a tiger, pushing and hitting me, but I wouldn't let go. finally a neighbor came out. I told him to keep her there. don't let her go inside. then I went in. his head was on the table, blood poured out from the side. my heart sank into my feet. I walked around the table to see if was still alive. his eyes were wide open, staring at the wall. there was no life left in them. I threw up all over the floor, all over my shoes. as I stood there doubled over, wiping the vomit from my mouth, I noticed something in his hand. carefully I worked it free from his grip. it was an old photo of me and him when we were in second grade. he was dressed in a cowboy hat and vest, clutching a plastic pistol in his hand. I was wearing feathers and held a toy tomahawk in the air. we were in the woods. we were trying to look fierce, but inside we were smiling. we were happy...... everything that happened after that is nothing but a blur. there were cops and questions, crying and neighbors gathered, gawking and murmuring amongst themselves. it wasn't until later on in the day, I was at home cleaning the puke from my shoes, drinking cheap whiskey, that I came to with no idea of how I got there or what happened inbetween then and now. I reached in my shirt pocket for a smoke when I found it. the picture of us. I stared at it for a long time, then reached over and gently stroked his face, caressing his frozen memory. then the anger came raging through me and I tossed the photo onto the coffee table. it flittered through the air, landing upside down. on the back was some scribbling, his handwriting. I knew it well. I stood over it, not wanting to touch it again and read the words he had written there. it said "me and my best friend. you and me forever." I broke down and started to cry. I wept, heavy sobs for hours. you and me, forever........damn you!
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