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10 HIGH VOLTAGE STORIES
Published by digitalent Ltd PO Box 38 Wylam, Northumberland NE41 8YU Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Edited by Keith Jeffrey
"Anniversary" by Jason DeBoer first appeared in "Eleven Bulls".
Issue 1 £2.50 www.bulletmagazine.co.uk
Milky Wilberforce (Sunderland, UK)
The speed of events was making me buzz like Johnny Ramone's guitar. It was an electric intensity, bone deep. Thought was unnecessary, I was pure velocity and it forced me to action. The situation was clear and extreme, the options black or white. This is the way it should always be. I clicked shut my mobile, the news was good. I moved quickly into my office and cleared the papers from my desk, catapulting them to the floor. The desk phone, was inviting, beckoning me on, glamorously black with glowing green bulbs of light. I punched in the number. An electric tone, a voice and then me, staccato, spitting out terse, clear instructions. Twenty seconds and then on to the next call. This would take some time, the calls would start coming my way soon and I hadn’t got things in place. Whacked out on adrenaline I paced the room as I talked. Motion was necessary; it relieved the tension gnawing at my joints. As I spoke I looked through the small wired safety window in my office door. The staff were getting on with things, photocopying, making phone calls, it all seemed insignificant, unimportant. I was dealing with big stuff here but out there they were oblivious. Out there they got on with ordinary things, their small lives, worrying only about the pinhead jobs I gave them to justify their wages. They could never have this, they could never do this, they wouldn’t be able to cope. Half an hour later I'd spoken to everyone I needed to, things were in motion, all I could do now was sit back and wait for the storm to burst. I needed to calm down, my heart was pounding through my ribcage and I thought I was going to explode. I took five deep breaths and then sat in my fake leather executive armchair that framed me like a cheap overcoat. The office was second-hand and nasty, magnolia paper, marbled polystyrene suspended tiles, grey carpet and a Viking Direct desk that cost less than fifty quid. The sign of a business with its priorities right, money out there working, not tied up in fancy decor and expensive furniture. Things like that meant the backers had faith in me, they knew I did things right, I planned carefully, thought through every eventuality. I was a good risk. Solid. The time was now. The phone rang with a querulous tone that I'd always meant to change, banging through my thoughts with a jarring intensity. The voice confirmed the news. I rushed out of the office, door banging on the frame, face full of grim intent, Alison looked up startled as I spat the words at her like tracer bullets: "The Press will be on the phone any minute. Fob them off best you can." Alison’s face frowned like a puzzled baby: "The Press?" "I’ll tell you later - I’ll be back in an hour." Stockill’s had been a big employer but had been on the skids for as long as anybody could be bothered to remember. Over manning, crap product, no marketing, if you ain’t growing you’re dying. I’d had my eye on the place for years. They made wooden packing cases, not glamorous I know but this was a killer growth business. For a cheap price, I needed them desperate and ready to sell but I had to get in quick.
Ken Stockill, smelled and looked like his yard, dishevelled and ill kempt with the aroma of clean fresh pine wood acting like cheap cologne. Stockill’s had been the first into the Mount Talbot Business Park in the sixties. A big success story for a small town like ours. At their peak they’d employed 120 men in yards throughout the region but Ken had fucked it all up and now he was down to this one yard. I wanted that yard, for the clients, for the men but most of all the goodwill. He had a brand and the twat didn't know what it was worth. Ken was up to his neck in it. Manual workers liked to get paid, it was a basic, forget that and you ain’t got a business. He’d forgotten it. As I parked the car up opposite I could see Ken, grey balding hair, in a sea of angry pointing fingers, his hands held up in surrender trying to be reasonable, trying to be the voice of reason against thirty pissed off blokes: "I’m sorry lads, but I thought I would have had the money today but the bank has withdrawn our overdraft and the VAT man’s served a winding up order. I need a couple more days." "You fucking lying bastard, this is two weeks without pay." A middle aged man, grey hair greased back in a dying quiff grabbed Ken by the tie and pulled him up close to his face so that Ken could taste the Brown Ale on his breath. "If you don't pay us now, we’ll take our pay out of what’s left of this shithole and you can fuck your business." "Lads do anything rash and I’ll have the police on you." Ken was no Kissinger. Time to step in. "How about if I pay these lads off for you?" This startled everybody and they all turned to look at me, the brand new star of the show, the knight in shining armour. Ken looked at me with the disgust he reserved for war criminals: "I might have known a toe rag like you would be behind this." It was at times like this that my look of injured innocence came in handy. "Ken, Ken, I’m only trying to help, make sure these lads get the money they’re owed and keep the business going." The lads saw a glimmer of hope. "So who are you mate? Are you gonna buy the business or what like?" "Hang on, hang on. Ken knows that I have offered to put money into the business, I would like to buy but Ken won’t sell." The quiff: "Is this true?" "Look it’s not as simple as that, he'd make half of you redundant in a month or two, with me we've all got a chance." "Aye but he's got the money hasn't he?" I got the cheque book out: "Anytime you want Ken, I could do it now if you want." The crowd surged tightly around him. Past the grim faces Ken saw the VAT man arriving. He gave up, he had no chance. "OK, OK it’s yours, just see them right will you?" Ken walked back to the office. Like I said, it should always be like this.
Ross Bradley (Notts, UK)
Fractured memories run through my memory like a discoloured blur. My sister falling, falling, repeating...ah my mind is fucked. For almost a year it has been, my entire life thus far is a blur, with the occasional clear patch. Land lord giving me shit about the rent today. The warm feeling is wearing off now, but my vision is still blurred, my throat is dry - it feels like it has been burnt and covered in salt. I see the vodka bottle, a quarter full, it's gonna hurt my throat but I really want a drink - I think downers will be best, I want to sleep although I don't want to dream. A nightmare about demons chasing me...Shit the vodka is a few metres from my chair, I can't reach it with my foot, and I don't want to move, but I really want a drink. My sister, my fuckin' sister, get out of my mind. Then I see on my lap, after all this time, a half smoked joint, that'll do, it’ll make my throat worse, but fuck it. I realise that I need a lighter. I feel like I'm gonna be sick. It's by my foot, yes the lighter is by my foot, and the floor around it is moving, wobbling, and the lighter is moving with it. I make a grab for it, light the joint and toke. Where's the smoke?!? I realise that its gone out and then so do I. I regain consciousness and my eyes are hot and dry, I crawl onto the floor and over to the Vodka. Now I have it, I drink half of what's left in one. Being beaten up in a bar by three men, my nose gushing blood, the taste of copper in my mouth. I lie on the floor and close my eyes, bright patterns of light swim in the darkness. And I drift into them. I awake desperate for water, I'm dehydrating. I drink some more vodka and my mouth burns, my throat burns and my chest burns. My sister's funeral. My head begins to ache intensely and I vomit violently. Then I vomit again, and again until I run dry, thick spit hanging from my lips. I wipe my sleeve across my face and fall back to sleep. The sun cuts cross the room and burns my eyes, and my mind feels like it's been ripped clean in two. It's morning and I feel something I haven't felt in years, I barely recognise the emotion, and it feels strange. Hope. My back is covered in sweat, I feel like shit, but I feel hope. There's something that I can do (something)...... But what? I want to get up, wash myself and do whatever it is that can save me. I pull myself to my feet and drag my self across my lounge/ bedroom/kitchen - where the fuck am I? It's my lounge and I walk into the bathroom. Sweat down the back of my legs and back, my eyes watery, my vision blurred and a foul taste in my mouth. I reach the bathroom and step into the bath. Warm blood splashing my face, something hard and sharp driving into my thigh. I turn on the shower, the cold water shocks me (cold, cold, fuckin' cold). Shattered glass all over me. The water warms up and I rub my face. My sister's dead body on the car bonnet, her left arm torn almost entirely from her body - her bloody face, her fucking bloody face. I sit down in the bath and let the water pound my back, I feel slightly better, but not much (not much). My mother screaming at me, endlessly screaming. Hot water covers me and self hate fills me. I need a drink, a strong straight drink and some pills, there are pills in the bathroom cabinet, I really want some pills. I stand up and am able to reach the cabinet without getting out of the bath, I grab 2 types of pills and swallow a hand full of each, they'll take effect soon, I hope. That word again - hope- is there hope? The funeral, my grandfather and the look that he gives me, he hates me, the old bastard, except I'm the bastard. That face haunts me. I turn the shower off and lie in the bath, before long I fall back to sleep. A tall black demon has my sister's mutilated corpse in his arms, he is laughing, and begins to dance with her corpse. I am watching and can't do anything, I can't move, I sit in a chair and watch as they dance like lovers (entwined). Her arm hangs limp by her side. She is like a broken puppet.
I arrive in the conscious world with a jolt, and the feeling that something immensely important must be done. And that this something is linked firmly with my feeling of hope. But the pills have taken effect and I am utterly confused, I can't hold a single thought. Newspaper reports about a missing child - 2 bodies found in a skip. I need to get a grip and do something. Hope. I lie in the bath for 5 minutes (maybe) and then, not really fully aware of what I am doing I get up, dozens of pains swim around my body, a head ache spreads across my cranium...pins and needles down my arms, I feel dizzy, begin to loose my balance, fall over. I can feel my face going red. I open my eyes and the room seems small, too small, closing in on me (too small). My breathing, my breathing, my breathing is irregular and the pins and needles spread across my chest. I stand and the walls seem to be moving, no bubbling, the room is alive. Or I am dead. For a split second an image fills my mind- me stabbing, stabbing my landlord (blood). I begin to wander aimlessly around the room, I almost lose my balance, again. I go over to a chest of draws, open one and rummage, as though I'm looking for something, even though I'm not, but am I? I feel sudden anger, pick up the TV , throw it at the wall. The screen shatters and the room seems a normal size again. I walk into my bedroom, over to my cupboard, open it and take out a small box (a shoe box), remove a gun (which I don't have a clue where I got) and check that it's loaded. Only half knowing where the hell I am going I leave the apartment, walk out a corridor and up some stairs. I'm hyped up, confused, and only vaguely aware that I will soon be responsible for the end of another life. Soon my mind is full of a thousand thoughts, but none of them make any sense at all. I am simply driven on by something to keep climbing the stairs. And the stairs are moving from side to side, like a rope bridge in a strong wind. Suddenly one image becomes crystal clear in my mind - my own face covered with blood. I’m at THE door, and now I feel a fresh emotion - fear. But this only kills my momentum for a moment, and then I raise the gun and shoot the door lock, then kick the door wide open. The apartment I enter smells of vomit and mould, newspaper clippings have been pasted all over the walls: CHILD SEX KILLER STRIKES AGAIN, KILLER CLAIMS TENTH VICTIM, SICK PERVERT FINALLY CAUGHT, PAEDOPHILE SHOT IN ARREST, KILLER FREED ON TECHNICALITY. FAMILIES OUTRAGED. Suddenly I know fully why I came here. A door at the other end of the room opens and a man comes in, his face fills with shock and fear. I point the gun at him when suddenly he seems to take the form of the black demon in my nightmares. Then he is just a man again then the demon then the man then the...My arms begin to shake and I feel dizzy, the entire room begins to spin around me, and I see my grandfather's hateful face, he stares at me and I stare back, we stare at each other and he looks away, the room becomes completely still and I see the man as simply a man. I pull the trigger. The man is knocked over. He whimpers in pain. Blood pours from his mouth and chest. His eyes bulge. I walk over to his dying body. Aim the gun at his face. Pull the trigger. His face explodes. Hot blood splashes my legs. I stare at the remains of his head for what seems like a lifetime. Then, as if suddenly deciding that I've seen enough, I close my eyes, put the cold gun against my sweaty temple, and pull the trigger... The gun clicks. I am Alive.
‘Lookin’ for work?’ I know the voice.
John Call (Queensland, Australia)
‘Yeah. Call you back.’ Hang up. We know there’s a wiretap, on his end or mine. From a large park ten minutes later: ‘What’s going down?’ ‘Gotta shift a body,’ says my controller. ‘When?’ ‘Before midnight.’ ‘Where?’ ‘Pick-up from the safe house and deliver to the harbour.’ ‘Ok.’ ‘They’re watching the safe house.’ ‘Well, how the hell…’ ‘You’ll figure something. We’ve gotta shift it tonight!’ ‘Who for, and when?’ ‘Ahab needs the cargo on board by midnight. Safe house expects you after dark.’ ‘Tell ‘em I’ll be there at twenty-two thirty hours. Tell ‘em, when the sirens start singing, to get the body out back ready to go over the fence.’ That’ll give me less than thirteen hours to do it. It’ll be tight. As I drive away, a white sedan follows at a distance. If that’s a tail, I don’t want them to know I’ve rumbled them, but I need some privacy. I pull into a railway station car park, park, and make my way to the platform. Standing at the ticket vending machine, I clock the passenger getting out of the white sedan. I read the body language of a professional, probably Police; a Special Ops grunt would not be made so easily. I go to the back of the rear carriage when the train pulls in. My personal crime-stopper sits halfway down the same carriage. At Central we get off. They’re on to me because I got tangled in their dragnet, but I’m just by-catch, small fry. The people I work for, and the people I shift, are definitely fruits-de-mer. As I walk into the Mall, ‘security’ cameras supplement Police tracking options. Knowledge of the cameras might mean my tail hangs a little loose. I hope so. I slip in through the Mall entry of a burger franchise. It’s crowded in here, as always. I move through the throng, out into the back street, hang a left down an alleyway, and up a fire escape. Moving fast without rushing. Down into the underground station. I’m away. ‘Hi Shahla.’ ‘Benny, what you been doing?’ ‘I need to see you tonight babe.’ ‘When and where lover?’ ‘Your place at eight.’ ‘Will you stay?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘See you at eight.’ Shahla is a member of my cell. The code within our conversation is, hopefully, indecipherable to the eavesdroppers. Yes, I will be visiting her tonight, and it will be a long arduous evening, but not for the reasons we want them to assume. My call alerts her that we have a mission and she will prepare for her part. At eight o’clock the snoops watch as I park my car outside the apartments where Shahla lives. They log me going in, carrying a bunch of flowers and a bottle of sparkling wine. Inside, Shahla makes all the right noises about the flowers, whilst arranging them in a vase. I set up a diversion by loading a specially prepared DVD into her home-theatre system. I smile, remembering the four hours of fun we had making this sound track. I’m confident it will distract the snoops listening in. I wait another five minutes, and quietly leave.
In Shahla’s lock-up in the basement I change into my leathers and collect the pannier packs she’s prepared for me. Moments later my covert transport, a large black Yamaha, cruises quietly past the surveillance van parked in the street. Inside, the night shift logs, but otherwise ignores, the motorbike. They’re listening to the ‘hard-core porn’ soundtrack. I’m on my way. I coast down the street behind the safe house, scanning for observers. It’s clear. I turn around, cut the engine, and roll down the hill and onto the footpath outside the house behind my destination. Leaving the bike on the side stand, I tape the plates before taking out a chocolate bar and a flare. The chocolate is laced with sedative. In less than five minutes the overfed mongrel ‘guard’ dog is fast asleep. I pass quietly through the back yard, over the fence to the safe house. From behind the hedge in the front garden, I see a parked car across the street. The car windows are open slightly; a waft of steam curls out, backlit by the streetlight; ‘Coffee time eh boys’. Now I know where they are, I go back around the block to come up behind them. I arrange a pile of autumn leaves under a tinder dry hedge and insert the flare. It will burn hot for ninety seconds, long enough to get the hedge going a treat. By the time it catches, I am back in the shadows at the rear of the safe house. I call and report the fire. The sirens start wailing in the distance. Three people come out the back door. I step into the light and they all jump with fright. ‘Who’s riding?’ I ask. ‘Me,’ says the small one, a woman. ‘Right. You two get out the front! Gawk at that fire!’ I issue the command in a hushed voice, ‘and make sure you keep the surveillance plods talking.’ ‘Ok, we’re going over the fence, but before we do, you put this on.’ I tell the girl, as I hand over a leather riding-suit. Nobody hears the quiet Yamaha motor over the noise of the fire crew packing up hoses and stowing equipment. On the highway I open the bike up to well over the speed limit. With one hour to make a journey that legally takes nearly two, a motorbike, fast and agile, is the only way to do it. Some say I have a death wish, the way I ride in the dark. I just like the rush. We make good time using the fast route along the toll road. Late at night on a fast motorbike with obscured registration plates, there is no reason to pay toll. We arrive right on midnight and Ahab is waiting at the jetty gates. A few other boaties are about, getting ready to leave on the tide, but they pay little attention to us. My passenger strips off the leathers and helmet. She is sensibly dressed in runners, jeans, and a sweatshirt, just like many others about the dock at this hour. Nothing is said. Ahab leads her through the security gate and onto the jetty. I stow the riding gear in a pannier, peel the tape off the rego plates, and ride away. Forty-five minutes later Ahab throttles back his launch to match speed and course with his rendezvous, a Korean container ship – part of our network of ‘sympathizers’. A boarding stair is lowered from the massive ship as the launch approaches. The launch bobs like a cork in a washing machine, up and down, left and right. The space between it and the boarding platform fluctuates from inches to yards in a few heartbeats. Ahab concentrates on finding the rhythm, working the throttle and the helm with practiced hands. There is only one shot at a transfer like this. As the launch begins rising on the swell, Ahab eases the helm over to close the gap. At the top of the wave the launch passes within inches of the ladder platform and the girl steps decisively across the gap. Two beats later the launch drops down and Ahab swings the helm away, rolling on the power, carving a clean white crescent across the black sea. The container ship continues on its southerly heading and soon passes into international waters.
Ahab steers north to a reef off the coast where the fishing is excellent. He’s smiling – he’s got his catch – fishing is a very satisfying part of his work for the CIA.
Tony Lagosh (Cambridge, UK)
The park has a bench. I go there and sit on it. It is rusty red metal. My arse cheeks turn blue cold. It doesn’t matter. There is the railway track. I can see it in the blue moon light, cold and grey and metallic like Cabaret Voltaire. It rises maybe fifty feet in the air on a rubble embankment hidden by the trees of the park growing in front of it. When I was young, when we had bottles of cider, we pretended that the trains ran along the treetops. Fuck, the things we did for entertainment. There’s something about it. Standing there defiant like it’s expecting me to do something. I take the bait and walk towards it, thinking of trains, thinking of Elvis, thinking of Leslie Thompson playing there. Leslie Thompson who’d been cut in half, when he was four and I was five. Trains, trains, trains. Fuck ‘em. Let ‘em all come. Up the rubble embankment I scramble, hands scrabbling in the dirt. There is sticky black mud underneath and my feet keep slipping and sliding away behind me. I slide backwards, face dropping into the mud. Failing even at this. I fall on my back and stare up at the stars, two thousand light years they’ve travelled just to take the piss. I laugh. Nothing else but to. Let ‘em have their fun. I’d had mine. There is nothing left now, nothing. Today was the last time I could get at that magic moment. There’s only music now and that, quite frankly, is nowhere near enough. I pull the Walkman out of my anorak pocket and chuck it as far as I can into the trees around me. Some lucky fucker would find that in a hundred years time and have ninety minutes of the bestgoddamned music that had ever been made. I walk back through the park, through the silence, eerie in its completeness, clamber over the metal railings and fell on to the road. Middle of the road, knew I’d always end up here. I wait. An hour. Two. Nothing came. Far too late for traffic. Everyone in this town tucked up nicely in bed, dead to the world, dreaming of fluffy bunnies and pensions. Fuck ‘em. A car blasts past my eardrum. It swerves then bangs into the kerb in a screeching heavy black tyre stop. A bloke gets out. I refuse to look at him. I close my eyes. "My God! I nearly killed you! Are you all right?" I mouth the word. A hoarse whisper. "Fuck." I pause. I take a breath. "Off." Twat kicks me in the ribs. Feel nothing. I laugh again. An angel could dance on this pinhead. He fucks off. I find the answer. I get the explanation. If the only taste of life you can get is by listening to a crappy cassette full of thirty-year-old punk songs then you really are underneath the barrel licking at slime that grows in wet darkness. That was it. Answers everything. Makes the next step clear. Wish I’d known before I started making this unholy mess. But I had to find out, I had to do something. You can see that can’t you? And there was something there, but fuck, the price I had to pay. So I stand here, the water beneath me. The sky above me, bridge girder beneath my feet. Last chance to feel something. The water hit me. Coldness enveloped me. Wetness subsumed me. It washed nothing away. I sank down. Down, down, deeper and down. I tried to think of Mum. Thinking yeah maybe it was her fault, maybe she deserved it. But I knew I was faking it. Like Elvis, I was faking it. She didn’t deserve that. What I did. Nobody deserved that. I’m sorry Mum.
Really, really sorry.
Being Dead. Much like being alive. Maybe that’s why I did it. Three o’clock. Wednesday afternoon. Middle of April. Easter egg wrappers covered the floor, covered her, covered everything. Shards of chocolate creamed into the carpet, melting into the twill. An unholy mess. I stood up, levering on the ancient wooden dining table. The linen tablecloth slipped and the curling sandwiches twitched like they were alive. I was going to get caught, I knew it. This time was the last time. I staggered to the TV clutching at the plastic top, steadying my legs, desperate not to collapse again. Then the vomit roared out of me like Concorde. Splattering and squelching the yellowing sixties floral wall paper with a mottled, lumpy pattern. Gravity dragged it down the wall like cheap curry. Blackness came over me again and I fell, giving in to the blank weakness that rose within. I woke. Pain was throbbing in my left cheek. It was easier to stand this time; I hauled myself upwards and touched her leg. I kicked it hard, out of the way so that I could get to the mirror. There I saw a blackening bruise, the size of a grape. Must have caught the table as I fell. Pain and tiredness and being fucking sick of it all. And of course her. That’s what was doing it I told myself. That was what was making me puke. I shook myself straight and made for the door. She was in the way so I trod on her yielding stomach, making her rise like a zombie then fall back with a rustle in her coffin of red and pink foil. Outside it was easier. That door behind me, solid, cutting off everything. I started to forget. Time to get out of this shithole. Time to run. Time to go before they came. I clipped on my headphones and pressed play. "Is she really going out with him?" I smiled. Drums, fast and urgent, guitars sidling into their riff. The Damned stupid, thick idiots but who’d had a brief glimpse into the meaning of life and captured it in a three-minute punk song. Bastards. It was there, right there in that second when Vanian went AH! Before the guitars hiked up the riff into overdrive. That was it, the moment only the great bands have. That was what I wanted, that little glimpse of Nirvana, that was all that I wanted. And I could get it, boy could I get it. The shit afterwards though, I was beginning to wonder if it was worth it. "New Rose" thrashed on, and something stirred. It brought her back, the music brought her back and then thank god it stopped, cut brutally in its prime. I looked down and saw it was my finger that had stopped it, the stop button was down hard in its slot. There was something moving, flickering inside. I pressed forward and found the fan that could turn it into a flame. "Lust for Life." I began to run, run like the bloke in Trainspotting, fat laughter rising up to the grey skies above me. Sirens. Blue lights behind me. Police cars and feds getting out. Noone saw me. I kept on running. 314 seconds I ran, then I stopped, the music stopped and my lungs were ballooning out of my rib cage, ready to burst. Fit, I wasn’t. That night. Late. Very fucking late. I sit in a park. The night is cold, the moon is full. I press play but nothing happens. Batteries gone. Flat. Dead. I need something. I feel in my pockets. No money, no keys, nothing. Where to go and what to do. Got to have a direction.
Death by Fermentation (Queensland, Australia)
It was early morning. I rolled over on my office couch, yawned, and choked on the cigarette butt still on my lips from the night before. Padding over to the bar, I opened my top desk drawer, poured myself a scotch on the rocks, and drank breakfast in a single gulp. Suddenly the door swung open and a blonde walked in. She was big, she was blonde and she was beautiful. Before I could speak she came up to me and grabbed my lapels. "You gotta help me, I’m in trouble," she said. "Then you’ve come to the right place" I told her. I looked her up and down. Her dress was so short you could plan a trip to the promised land and be back before the meter had run out. I whipped out my calling card, and with hardly a glance at my credentials she nodded. "I’m a dancer down at The Gentleman’s Relish," she whispered. "I go by the name of Tutti la Fruit. My brother works at the bar there. He’s in deep trouble with the owner. Please, we need your help." I knew the club. It was a bit too spicy for my taste. Even so I said, "Well, lady, if you’ve got the money, I’ve got the time. I usually check out at 100 bucks a day, but for you, I’ll do it for two fifties." My little joke went over her head. Instead, she said, "Thanks,I appreciate it." I watched her sway on her high heels, each curve going in a different direction. Outside, her white Mercedes was parked in a `No parking zone’. It was the only car there. We got in and by jumping a few red lights it took us five minutes to cover a twenty-minute ride. We finally cruised into an alley behind the club. Smoke and the sultry sound of a torch singer wafted up the stairs of The Gentleman’s Relish, and I found my nostrils flaring. When we got inside I could see why. A dame was singing, “Come on baby light my fire". She was igniting every man in the room.. Tutti sashayed her way to the dance floor and began to gyrate in time to the music. She pulled me towards her and held me close. Her hands were all over me and my knees went stiff at the joints. Suddenly she stopped dancing and made her way to the bar. She turned, and disappeared into a back room. Before I could follow she came out again, followed by a heavyweight who looked as if he was on sick leave. He appeared to have more tattoos than I.Q. "This is my brother, Duane," Tutti said. "Duane, meet Wannabe Bond." Duane’s toothless grin was like a Halloween lantern. "I’ve heard of you, Wannabe. I’ve heard you’re often shaken but rarely stirred." I ignored his jibe. "I understand you’ve got yourself into a spot of bother with Big Eddy," I said. "Not a bright move, buster. Adjusting her dress so that all the packaging was in the right place, Tutti said, "I’m just going in the back room, I’ll whistle if I need you." I was going to say that she could pucker up for me any time but changed my mind. Instead I turned to the human canvas and asked, "So what’s the trouble?" His face crumbled like an apple. "I owe Big Eddy a lot of dough," he said. I was about to tell him I thought owing dough to Big Eddy might be a bit sticky, but could see he was in no mood for humour. Instead I asked, "Where does he hang out?" Duane nodded behind him, "He’s having dinner in the back room. He’s a gold-card player. Only goes for top stakes." "Stay here," I told him. I turned towards the back room. Suddenly a shot rang out. I ran into the darkened room and immediately tensed as I heard the sounds of a scuffle over in the corner, behind a large room-divider. A dame’s muffled voice was crying out, "No, no, let me go. Let me go."
Only a single bulb dangled from the ceiling, and I could see the shadows of a great big dude, throttling Tutti. In a single bound I threw the screen across the floor, grabbed him by his shoulder pads, and pulled him off her. With a much practiced Bruce Lee move, I gave him a left and a right. His body landed on the floor - and his brains in the waste paper basket. "What the hell is going on?" came from my lips as I rolled him over. From the hole in his head I could see he was dead. And would be the same tomorrow. Hearing a sound behind me I reached for my piece, but it wasn’t in my pocket. I turned and saw Duane come into the room from another door carrying a small box. I reached for my sock gun, but before I could get to it, I heard Tutti call out: "Cool it. I’ve got you covered." Not the way I’d planned lady, I thought as I straightened up. I turned to look at her. Duane had opened the box, and there was my gun carefully stashed on a clean white lace handkerchief. He had a grin on his face - like the cat that had left the bad cream to the dog. For a moment I was confused, then remembered the erotic dance sequence Tutti and I had consummated when we arrived. Now I realised what her hands had been after. I heard a siren as the police car made its way along the main street. Tutti gave a brittle laugh. She hadn’t been in any danger at all. There wasn’t a mark on her. I had been wrestling with a dead guy. She had staged the little charade just for my benefit, knowing I would go to her rescue. Big Eddy had obviously been slugged with my gun just before I came into the room "Bad luck, sucker," she sniggered. "Duane needed someone to get rid of Big Eddy for him. See, Eddy had a funny old-fashioned notion he could expect a few debts would be paid." I thought in four letter asterisks when I realised they’d set me up. "I suppose you’ve got an alibi?" I shouted to Duane, who was still hanging around like a bad smell. His mouth opened in a grin as big as the San Andreas fault. "Sure I have. I’ve bin with my date all evening," he said, nodding over towards Tutti. "I thought she was your sister," I said. "Yeah well she would have been if my mother had married her father. But as it was, they never had the pleasure of being introduced”. I looked at the dame. She shrugged apologetically. "Sorry, hunk. I’m just the girl who can’t say no. Especially to ten grand." she confessed. Just then two burly policemen bounded in. "O.K. who called the pigs?" one of them asked, brandishing his .38. "I did, officer" Tutti said demurely. "This broad was hassling me, and Big Eddy kindly came to my rescue." She looked at me as if I was a social disease. "Then, she took out her gun and shot him." I decided to play it cool. "O.K. officer, it’s a fair cop" I said quietly, and could see the look of triumph that passed between Tutti and Duane. "But not for me, for them." I said as I sprang over to the side of the room. "I’ve got something to show you." With that I began to tear off my shirt and was just going for my pants when one of the cops grabbed me. "O.K. ma’am. This ain’t no Show and Tell school. Don’t add exhibitionism to the rap," he said. "Far from it." I said. Then I unclasped the miniature cameras I had secured in my ornate gold tie pin and belt buckle, and the miniature tape recorder attached to my shades. "I’m not called Wannabe Bond for nothing," I shouted. "I think you’ll find all the evidence you need, officer. Ever since I walked into this dive, I bin recording this set-up on my techno digitally-mastered frequency detective kit." "I’ll get you, Bond. I’ll glue this rap on you if it’s the last thing I do." shouted Duane as the cops trussed him up like a turkey. Tutti’s face up to now as smooth as vintage wine was contorted with fermented rage. "Yes, Bond, consider yourself on borrowed time. You’ll never age," was her final threat. "Sure baby, I’ll drink to that," I said. I gave my own triumphant grin to the two crooks as they were marched out of the room, out of the bar and out of the story. The city has a million stories - and this has not been one of them.
East River Park
Jared Louche (London, UK)
the dragon so close to the dragon’s last meal. So we split back to my joint to kill the bottle and spin some vinyl. Settled into my cluttered, back-building, top floor apartment that looked out over the grit of Houston Street, we talked about the new ghosts as music drained off my record player. Trading and embroidering our street-tales, the booze and the buzz had us all fast-talking shit, except for Rodney. He just sat in the same chair he’d dropped into when we checked in. He hugged his knees to his chest and didn't say a thing all night, other than occasionally giving out with a stunned "wow", real hushed and glazed. I called the cops and told them about the stiffs, not from my apartment, dig, but from a box down on the corner. I'm real paranoid about pigs tracing calls, getting my number. The cops are pretty high-tech nowadays. They can’t be trusted to just be cool. Around dawn Rodney finally spoke, said he was taking off. Standing uncertainly in my tiny hallway with his hand tight-white on the doorknob, he mumbled, "I... I never seen any dead guys before... and there was two of them, man! What a blip! I never woulda featured that it'd fuck with my head so much, so hard. That shit was way too heavy. I'm out, baby. I’m out." Them dead junkies really messed him up bad. First time he checks a corpse and he gets two of them at once. That's gotta suck. Nasty, sulfur-smelling wake-up call. You could see in his eyes that he couldn’t stop hitting that rewind button and loop-tracking the clip over and over and over. Me, now, the whole scene didn't phase me too much. Dead junkies in the park. Whatever. I lifted a killer switchblade off one of them when I cruised their pockets for drugs and cash. I figured, what the hell, it's not like stealing or depriving them of anything they would be needing anytime soon. Besides, some other asshole would have gotten it, or worse, one of New York’s "Finest" when they carried the bodies off to the fridges. Fuck the cops getting it - it's got this stunning pearl handle. You don't see those too often. Twelve-inch stiletto too, real nice. Looks like it came straight out of Tijuana or some shit. And Rodney? Never saw him again after that night. Heard that he split out of his pops’ place up in Spanish Harlem one night without telling anyone. Cut everything loose and moved in with his aunt somewhere upstate. I guess he needed the silence of the countryside to scrub that loop-track out of his head, had to cut out to nowhere to save a piece of himself somehow. I know people like that. The City just gets to them. Gets to running too fast, gets too loud and frantic and suddenly one morning they wake up and every inch of it fits too tight. Snap. After that it’s just grass and trees all day long. Man, I’ll tell you what, I think that scene would lay me out faster than a speeding bus. All that open country and cow shit. My counsellor in high school once called me a "distinctly inner urban creature." Yeah, that’s me: rats, concrete and hustling subway trains. But Rodney, I guess it just didn’t work that way for him. And that was that. Everything switched, twitched into a new shape. Time clock punched us out of being young and tossed us into a whole new frame. That night down in East River Park saw the end of the barbecues … and the beginning of something much worse.
In the spring, before the gutter-stenching heat of summer cloaked the air, barbecuing down in the close and friendly darkness of East River Park was one of our favorite ways to waste time, back in the days when we had time to toss away. Night used to sling itself over our heads during those crazy, electric-humming times. Hung low, that vast, dirty canvas sheltered us, its skin spattered with a spray of stars and distant jets. Listening to the slap of the river’s waves, watching the motorboats cruising back and forth, their engines humming a mechanical backdrop to our barking and strutting we cooked up feasts. Distant flashing police lights and sirens keened and streamed over the bridge into Brooklyn. Drinking bottles of cheap whiskey from a bodega, kicking back on a bench, tossing stones into the hungry dark of the rippling river, we were the street-kings of all we could see. But then, in those days, that was always true. Occasionally, dealers on bicycles taking a break from hustling on Avenue C would sweep through the shadows, sleek and silent and malevolent. They rarely bothered with kids getting fucked up in the shadows. It was when the furies of hoods on foot rolled through that you had to be ready to split post-haste. Once, a fist of wound-up wild boys appeared down by the far side of the bridge, juiced on each other and their 40-ounce Buds, rippling waves of threat in 360°. We snapdecided, it being the better part of valour, to cut out. They kicked over the 50 gallon drum we used as our barbecue, the embers rioting wildly into the dark. But they didn’t see us, didn’t even look for us. They just kept on gliding, their shouts dropping away into the night. No real hassle, just part of the deal being that close to the action. Otherwise, there was generally nobody down there, maybe the odd crusty, dragged-down wino passed out in the cool, damp grass, snoring a rip-tide of ripsaw. We always picked the same spot, near the Williamsburg Bridge, because from there we could see the cops in their cruisers long before they could see us. Sometimes, when we were just hanging out, we would climb up and hide in the trees and then whip dirt clods down at the couples strolling along the river. That last Spring, way back before Time really began for us, we were kicked back in the grass, after eating the hot dogs and burgers we’d heisted from Safeway, still passing the bottle around and flying high on a couple of dime bags. Then Rodney clocked a sneaker standing in the grass about 20 feet behind us. He tripped over there and didn’t come back. It took ten minutes for anyone to notice, and when I sang out to him, he just mumbled back something back that I didn't catch. So I walked over. He stood stock still, transfixed, staring strangely down at two junkies lying in the grass before him, stone dead. One of them didn't even get the spike out of his arm, just toppled right over onto his side, his right arm curled beneath him and his legs still crossed, a dead, dark-colored beetle. Eerily still, you know, the way dead folks almost always are. Even in the dark you could tell that they had been there for a few hours – their skin was already grey and waxy. All I could hear was Rodney breathing ragged and shallow. Vincent and Matt came over to check out the scene. We started talking about what to do. Matt didn't much care what we did, as long as there was still drink to be drunk. Vincent wasn't really down for getting involved in a big scene, maybe even getting locked up over a pair of stiffed addicts. Rodney never said a single word. In the end, it was just too much of a weird drag hanging there any longer, chasing
Dealing with Flaws
Allan Guthrie (Edinburgh, Scotland)
He meant he needed it badly and he was relying on me to make sure he got it. Just to make sure I understood, he said, "Don’t fuck up." It had started out okay. Breaking into the building was straightforward enough. For all his pill-popping, Tennant is unrivalled with a lockpick and tension wrench combo. Two minutes sixteen seconds (Flaws timed it) and we were inside. The police weren’t a problem. All I’d had to do was cut the phone lines and the alarm had nowhere to go. The safe was from Montenegro, Mack had warned me. "Tough fucker," he said. "Safe means exactly what it says on the tin," he said, "in Montenegran." I’d never heard of the place, let alone seen a safe that had been manufactured there. "Just another box," I said, dismissing Mack’s words with a bluff flick of the wrist. Mack stared at me. I didn’t budge. His head moved almost imperceptibly. A nod, an okay, a gesture that meant I’d be fifty grand richer by Monday. In theory. I looked at my watch again, wishing I’d paid attention at Sunday school. I had under two hours to perform a miracle. I started to pray. Seriously. I did. Hadn’t done that since the car crash. For all of a week I asked God to return my parents. He ignored me. After that, I resorted to calling Him a bastard whenever anything bad happened. Until now. I apologised, asked Him for help. I didn’t think I could cope with being blind. "You want to see eight inches?" Flaw’s had an oddly squeaky voice. Made me want to laugh. Luckily, I didn’t. Flaws pulled his knife out of its leather sheath. He let his jaw drop, pulled his skin tight and started scraping his cheek with the ridiculously sharp blade of his hunting knife. Tennant popped another couple of pills. He’d seen the performance before. If you’ve seen one eyeball slit, you’ve seen them all. He looked so bored I expected him to yawn. "You gonna get this open?" Flaws asked, tapping the knife against the door of the safe. "Just a matter of working out the right amount of explosive to use. Too much and we blow up all the cash inside. Nobody wants that. That was our trial run. Next time we’ll get it right." "We better," he said. I opened my bag, grabbed a slab of dusky orange plastic explosive and started pulling it apart in the middle. I huffed and strained and said to Flaws, "No good. Can I borrow your knife a minute?" "Sure," he said, flipping it over, holding it by the blade. I dropped the Semtex and my fingers curled around the handle of the knife. I leaped forward. The knife punched into Flaws’ stomach and his eyes widened. Never seen anyone look so surprised. I pulled the blade out and stuck it in again. When I pulled the blade out a second time, he fell to his knees. Now he looked sorry for himself. Tough shit. I didn’t want to leave the bastard alive. I plunged the blade into his neck. I heard a clatter behind me. Tennant had dropped his bottle of pills. It was rolling across the floor towards me. I stopped it with my foot and bent down. I switched the knife to my other hand, picked up the bottle. I noticed my hand was all bloody. "The fuck are these, anyway?" I said. Shame I never found out. Tennant doubled up and spewed. I dropped the bottle, switched the knife back to my right hand and gave him an uppercut. Well, I was smack on target and the mess was worse than the mess Flaws had made. It was a bitch getting the knife back out of Tennant’s throat. He rolled about on the floor for a while, mewling. I felt much better now. Tennant started to crawl towards the door. I walked over to him and stabbed him in the back. I kept stabbing him until he finally shut up. I wiped the blade on my sleeve and thought about Montenegro. See, I couldn’t hang around here. Mack was going to be pissed off when he heard about this. Hopefully not pissed off enough to go to Montenegro. Montenegro was beginning to sound attractive. Could I spend the rest of my life there? You bet. As long as I had my eye, I thought as I wiped my hands clean on my boiler suit. Yeah, that was the thing. Nothing else mattered. I took one last look at the safe. The money in there could have bought me a decent life. God was a bastard, wasn’t he?
If Flaws slits your eyeball with his Stanley knife, it’s all over. That’s what I kept telling myself as I tried to find a way into the safe. I was running out of ideas. I nestled my brow in the crook of my arm and wiped the sweat on the sleeve of my orange boiler suit. I looked up. Tennant faced me. His hand dipped into his pocked and excavated a bottle of pills. He shook the bottle, took the cap off. I shifted my gaze. I didn’t want to know. That junky bastard wasn’t my concern. Flaws stood next to him, not saying much. He was staying in character. Making me sweat. Last Tuesday Flaws had messed somebody up. What happened was this. Some buttfuck called Bryant owed Mack (Flaws’s boss, the guy who hired me) a decent whack. The exact amount is neither here nor there. Fact is, Bryant hadn’t stumped up the readies when he was supposed to. He’d been given a twenty-four hour extension and still hadn’t produced the dosh. Mack didn’t think twice. He sent Tennant and Flaws along. Bryant offered to hand over the money, so Tennant told me. On his hands and knees, the poor bastard was. Begging. Flaws said "Okay", which was quite a speech for him. Bryant thanked the Lord, crawled to his safe and withdrew a wad of notes. Flaws flicked through the bundle, nodded, whipped his knife out. Casual-like. As if he was about to slice an apple. Bryant said, "But I gave you the money." Indignant. As if he expected justice. Flaws shrugged. Tennant said Bryant’s scream made him shiver. Must have been some scream to get through to Tennant. Flaws wasn’t all bad, though. He left Bryant an eye-patch. Flaws was standing next to Tennant when he told me the story. "He screamed?" I said and forced a laugh. I had a thing about my eye. You do when you’ve only got one. I lost the other in a car crash when I was twelve. Along with my parents. Careless, huh? "Fucking blouse," I said. Flaws said, "It wasn’t like that." And that was the most I’d heard him say. I breathed slowly through my nose and concentrated on the safe. No matter which way I examined my current plight, I kept reaching the same conclusion. I was well and truly fucked. I’d tried everything. Nothing had worked. And once you’ve tried everything, there’s only one thing left. Resort to violence. Blow the bitch up. That always works, right? Wrong. I used as much Semtex as I dared. Plastered it on, like I knew what I was doing. Truth was, I’d never had to use the stuff before. Just took it on jobs and mentioned it often. A defensive thing. Much more effective than a gun. Nobody wants to mess with somebody who has explosives in their bag. Apart from Flaws, maybe. That would appeal to him. Anyway, I half expected I was going to blow us all up. I used two thirds of what I had in the bag. And did I get a result? There I was, praying I wasn’t going to blow us all sky high and when I opened my eyes I saw that the explosion had caused no more than a slight blistering of the safe’s metal skin. That’s all. The bitch was inviolate, impregnable as God’s masterplan, and that was the moment my hands started shaking. They hadn’t stopped since. I promised I’d do it. I told Mack…I dunno…no sweat, I think I said. Well, that wasn’t true. Sweat was dripping off me. It was raining sweat. Hallelujah. We’d been here for three hours. We were running out of time and I’d tried everything I could think of. Mack had asked if I could do it. He hadn’t told me. He’d asked. I could have said no. But did I? Yeah, I told him. The safe hasn’t been built that I can’t crack. Mack said okay, was I sure? Sure. Course I was sure. He told me the plan. Was I in? Yeah, I said. No sweat. Mack told me not to let him down. This was important, he said. The money was, like, already spent, if I knew what he meant.
A Prayer for the Prey
Laird Long (Winnipeg, Canada)
Summer madness. Steamy landscape fades to black. It’s night fever in the city, where neon-washed figures slip into the shadowed dark. Where the sins of the city fathers are visited nightly upon the city children. Where a man from the cool, wide-open spaces of the tall-grass country is easy prey for the humid perversion of the sweat-soaked city. Such a man stumbles down the garbage-strewn sidewalk of the city’s skid row. His name is Conrad. He staggers against a grime-caked wall and the ooze stains his Sunday suit. He gathers his breath. It gets away. He gazes forlornly up at the night sky for guidance - but there are no stars. The glare from the skyscrapers has put out the stars. He sobs with frustration. He pushes himself up and forward. "Mary!" he cries out, again. This time, someone whispers back at him, mockingly: "Mary." Conrad stiffens, pivots toward the sound, and lumbers forward. He’s a bird-dog with the scent of fresh game now, and he points a righteous and accusing finger at the bum he finds sprawled out in the alley. "You’ve seen Mary!?" he thunders. The bum’s face and clothing are the same dead-dirt shade of grey as the putrid alley. He’s what’s left of a man after ten years in a concrete coffin. He wears the darkness. Only his white, watery eyes are visible in the dim light from the street. The bum plays along. "Mary," he whispers again. He giggles. He nurses a chug from a paper-sacked bottle of inspiration. Conrad grabs the bum by the lapels of his tattered, greasy overcoat and hauls him vertical. He slams him against the wall. The bum’s thoughts are as dull as beat cop’s badge, but he manages to think about banging Conrad in the head with his sack of juice. Then his priorities straighten out and he slips the jug into his coat pocket. The smell of urine is pungent in the damp, sticky air. "Where did you see Mary!?" Conrad bellows. His leathery face twitches uncontrollably with anger, and hunger. The bum recognizes someone as whacked as himself. "Mary," he teases. He winks knowingly. His eyelashes are crusted with filth. Conrad picks up the joke, and throws it back. Hard. He crushes the bum’s face with a huge right hand. He beats on the bum’s head and body with the slow, methodical, unstoppable destructive power of a pile-driver laying the foundations of a building. An abattoir. The bum bleeds one hundred proof and crumbles to the pavement in pieces. Animal - slaughtered. Conrad staggers away. Towards the jacked-up neon lights of the city’s sex district. The pounding lights guide him on his mission of mercy. The young girl undulates to the beat of the rap-ripped-off song. Awkwardly, amateurishly. She’s slim, dark-haired, and young, with long legs, a narrow waist, and full, natural breasts. The crowd cheers drunkenly when the song finally grinds to an end, and then grabs, strokes, and tries to penetrate her as she hunts the floor for a lap dance.
A man in the back holds up a twenty dollar bill like a battle flag. She takes the bait. The building vibrates with the thumping music, the ultra-violet strobelighting makes the air pulsate. The customers are in a feeding frenzy. They want flesh. The girl rubs her warm, naked body seductively against the man, first backwards, then forward. The man in the cowboy hat and sunglasses smiles. Tears stream down his creviced face. He rubs her heavy breasts with his callused hands. He squeezes her nipples. The girl giggles. The pills are going straight to her head again, making her dizzy. Soon the drugs will be as necessary to her ‘career’ as the garish costumes she slides off her body every night. "No touching, Mister," she squeals. The man smiles on. His teeth are like the evenly spaced staves of a picket fence, and they blaze white in the shattered light. "Not even for Father?" he asks. Mary screams and falls over backwards, away from Conrad’s grasping hands. Conrad puts a boot on her stomach, pinning her to the ground. "Why’d you run away, Mary?" he asks. His question is lost in the violent noise. Tables overturn and bottles shatter as suddenly deflated and frightened men back away from the confrontation. It’s none of their business. The music thuds to a halt and a thick-headed bouncer with a beer-swollen gut and a dangerously inflated opinion of himself swings a metal baseball bat at Conrad’s head. Conrad ducks the crowd-pleaser, and the bat whistles harmlessly by. The bouncer staggers with the follow-through, almost spins completely around. Conrad slams a left hand into his blubbery gut, and the bouncer slowly sinks to the floor like a stricken ocean-liner. Mary squirms on the buttstrewn floor but can’t break loose. A woman races from the washroom, across the floor, and into Conrad’s face. "You bastard!" she screams. "Leave us alone!" She claws at Conrad, but he pushes her aside like a passing thought. He stares down at Mary struggling on the floor. "Father’s taking you home," he says quietly. "Mother makes you do bad things." He licks his parched lips. "No!" Mary cries desperately. Conrad scoops her up in his thick arms and strides toward the exit. The fear of the beer-soaked patrons clears a way for him and his cargo. Suddenly an explosion rocks the building. Men scream, dive to the floor. A rose-colored hole blossoms on Conrad’s broad back. He drops Mary. He slowly turns and faces his wife. The gun he gave her as a wedding present so many years ago jumps around in her hands like a live animal. "You’re both going to end up in the gutter," Conrad mutters in a strangled voice. Blood pours into his lungs. "You showed us the way," his wife responds in a frightened whisper.
Neil Campbell (Manchester, England)
I've got twenty pence in the bank that I am saving for a rainy day, but this is Manchester, where it never rains, except in the minds of those who don't live here. Politics, schmolitics, gap years that band-aid problems and remain as a standby for conscience. Coffee shops, endless coffee shops selling burnt coffee in paper cups and bookshops that sell the same books, bookshops where you go in with a shopping trolley and pay at the checkout and nobody reads books there because would you if you had to work there as well? Everybody is crying on T.V Everyone who wins an award is jumping up and down and awards are given for the best . trophies and winners are just pale forgotten shadows of the dignity of real winners, real talents, depth of ability, sustainability. It's a one-note joke getting narrower and narrower and nobody shows their heart without the agenda of engendered sympathy, no one tells it how it is except unknowns, the increasingly marginalized cosmopolitan, the colonial dishrags. We are all riding glass elevators waiting to shatter looking at and buying things that we don't need so that time will pass. On a Friday night in the shadow world of the local scene I saw a band called Ivan and Otto. They took to the stage and rampaged through a set that left me sweating and shaking. I'd come in the back door with a rucksack full of Red Stripe and drunk six cans in the half hour they were on stage. When they finished I stopped jumping around and rushed out the back door to vomit into the street. I was on my haunches in the dirt of the gutter blinking into neon when Ivan and Otto came out carrying amps. 'You alright there mate?' said Otto. 'Yeah no worries..hey I fuckin' loved that gig!' 'Nice one. We haven't really played before.' said Ivan. 'You're joking. That was fuckin' fantastic man...you wanna' lift with the amps?' 'Yeah okay' they said. I picked up the heaviest amp I could find and shoved it into the back of their beaten up Golf, splintering bodywork for fun. I dug a couple of cans out of my bag and offered them to Ivan and Otto. We stood around and chatted shit for a while then Ivan mentioned another gig they were going to that night. We got in the Golf and flew through the night before jumping out and into this seedy little place where the stage collided with the bar and the punters squashed between. The air was thick with sweat and smoke and sex and this band called the Solar Panels took the fucking roof off the place. It was pissing down and lightning crackled off the amps and the guitars smoked and I thought I was gonna die I was so exhausted and I couldn't take any more excitement and the road of excess seemed to be leading to the road of excess and now I'm not wishing to labour the analogy but that led to the motorway of speed and pulled into terminal two of hedonism and the next flight departing was Palace airways flying to the city of wisdom. Give me a Mark E. Blake break. I woke up to a horizontal world of ashen pizzas and righted myself with mozzarella dripping from my face. In a pile of cds on the floor I saw Zuma by Neil Young and played Dangerbird over and over fifteen times until I felt like I felt like I felt like I was flying across the city like a shadow on the sky. Ivan walked in and kicked a beer can into my face. ‘Fuck! I think I've broken my fucking foot!' he inferred as I flexed my jaw and ran my hands through my beer sodden mane. 'You are a cunt, and you're coming to New York with us. What's your name anyway?' 'Ur..Alias.' ''Alias, what kind of fucking name is that!' 'What the fuck kind of name is Ivan!' 'Hey what's this shit!' shouted Otto. 'WHAT THE FUCK KIND OF NAME IS OTTO!' Ivan and I shouted. 'He's coming to New York with us Otto. That's it. No discussion. Hunter S. Ratso Alias Fucking Ti Jean Ballbag is coming with us! And I'll tell you something else-if we are going there we don't need this or this or this!'
And with that he took the coffee table and t.v. out onto his balcony and threw them into the morning air seven floors high. Then after a moment of conjecture he also tossed a video into the abyss. Brushing through white cloud into blue I looked from my window as the plane blew a right angle curve past the leaping buildings of the Manhattan Skyline and down into Newark airport. We got on the bus and drove into the fucking huge apple and craned our necks out through the windows. We parked up at the hostel and went walking around the city for hours and hours and hours tripping over pavements getting run over by cars and bouncing off bonnets into bars and galleries and clubs and into dives and hives. We came back to the hostel with our burgers and beers and dragged the bus kicking and screaming to the gig. We piled out of the bus and smashed the amps through the narrow doorways and rattled them up onto the stage. I watched as they fucked around through a sound check, played covers by Destination Angels and the Tsuji Blades and got into a sweat over getting into a sweat and the yank said 'No sweat!' as if from the movies. We left the gig to walk around Greenwich Village in the dark. Standing on the corner of McDougall and Bleeker gulping espressos outside Cafe Figaro before going in the Bitter End and downing White Russians and Remy’s and falling out with the owners and fighting for the fuck of it and bouncing off the walls. We go to the gig and I leave them to it hoping they don't fluff their lines down their fronts. I schmooze with the blues and the three kings Freddie, Albert and Riley until the lights go down further and Ivan and Otto come flying out and explode in the U.S. faces crashing off the walls, bouncing amps like balls and sweating all across the front row. I'm jumping up and down like a madman bummer Indian in the summer and bumping and grinding into me is a black haired brown-eyed girl with freckles up and down her arms. She's going crazy and we head bang together until I can feel my ears bleeding and my head expanding and my trousers tightening. Ivan and Otto played our speed junkie overture and finished the gig by smashing their axes together, turning over the amps and frisbeeing cymbals into the gig where poetic justice decreed that the heads of negative voices came off and rolled into the apple core night. I left with the freckle girl and got the subway to Central Park, and, remembering I hadn't kissed a girl for two years, we got down on the Imagine circle and got down to it and lay back afterwards cloud busting and giving peace every chance we could ever give it and we knew then that we had all that we ever needed.
Jason DeBoer (Wisconsin, US)
She was a bitch. I told her this. She responded in kind, so I ducked and the plate hit Simon instead. He swore and fell to his knees, dumbfounded at the blood and spit slopping out as if his face had unwillingly given birth. Simon later said he thought he lost a tooth, but he was a liar and was always losing things, so I didn’t pay any attention. She grabbed at a knife from the dish rack, but in her haste ended up with a wire whisk. It still hurt like hell, but she looked so ridiculous, brandishing it over her head like some manic chef, that I was laughing as I knocked her down. The dog was going nuts, jumping, tearing at my arm. She shouted encouragement: "Get him, Puddles! Get him!" Christ, those two were a pain. I noticed she was in one of her nice outfits, as if she expected French dinner and candles. Simon, who now looked halfway sober beneath the blood, had staggered to his feet and was mumbling something about getting out of there. He had his own angry wife waiting at home. I glared at mine and she looked somewhat triumphant as she grabbed the phone and started to dial. I dug through her purse and took seven dollars. I threw her make-up around the room. "I’m taking the dog." She was horrified. "Like hell you are. Come back here!" I already had the little mutt by the collar. She was still on the porch yelling when we backed out of the driveway. The siren grew nearer, the dog howled louder, but they couldn’t drown her out. Ten years and nothing had changed.
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