Tuesday, January 6, 2009


A conversation with darkness
Taken from the journal of Jonathan Burns-
There’s no way to know how long I had been awake. Five days? Seven? Time has a way of melting away in this place, liquefying before your eyes like the poison swimming in my spoon. Eight days? Could it be. It began with arrival of the shadows, that much is clear to me still. They….. I heard them tittering, whispering; I could feel them pointing tiny translucent fingers, and discussing my presence. They seemed to twitch, in a way, dancing and scurrying just on the edge of my vision. I would catch fleeting glimpses of them out of the corner of my eye now and then, only to turn my head finding nothing but the darkness staring back at me. Elusive little bastards, like an idea hiding in the depths of your subconscious; you feel its presence, understand its significance, but still it lays just beyond your reach.
“Perhaps with a little more medicine.” I remember saying to myself. “Perhaps then.”
The shards of glass made a dull crunching sound as I crushed them in my spoon, like someone eating a noisy brand of cereal. Crunch, crunch, crunch.
Now I wouldn’t know, but I’m told that as I hover over the implements of my disease, my eyes widen, pupils dilate, savoring the sight of the devil’s cocktail with savage anticipation. Crunch, crunch, crunch.
Pandemonium. Milton, invented the word to describe Hells great meeting Hall. A combination of ancient Greek words meaning all demons place. That’s what my house was beginning to feel like; Pandemonium. It had been my house only a few days ago, but now it felt as though I were trespassing upon an ancient graveyard, an unwelcome visitor to those inhabiting it. I believe that the change must have taken place around the same time my sensitivity towards the light began. Somehow, ordinary light, be it natural or otherwise, had become painful to me, too painful to bear in fact. Even when I would close my eyes to keep it from piercing my already strained vision, I could feel it crawling on my skin, infecting my very blood with the curse of self knowledge.
I remember this thought racing through my head just as I pressed down on the plunger, infusing my being with the sweet burning sinful brew. 20 seconds, that’s how long it takes if I use my left arm. 20 seconds to reach my heart. Even now, just thinking of it, my body tingles with euphoric recall. The juice coursed threw my veins warming my heart, the hair on my arms and legs stood at attention, eyes wide, vision sharp; my breath began to come in short orgasmic gasps. They call it the train. “Time to take a ride on the reading.” I would say to myself just before beginning an epic binge. They call it the train because that’s what it feels like, like a thousand tons of steel and rumbling through your veins at a hundred plus miles per hour.
Quickly I looked about the darkness. They were here, I knew they were. I had thought that another cocktail would prove my commitment, prompting them to reveal their presence, or at least give my eyes the ability to see them. I may have been more right than I knew. In fact, looking back, I know I was.
I stood gazing into the vacuumus black of my house, my tongue rapidly wiggling one of my teeth which had, over the course of the last few hours, begun to come loose. I wondered briefly if I was wiggling the tooth because it was loose, or if it was loose because I couldn’t stop tonguing it. Such questions were best left to the old man sitting smugly atop the eternal void. I had no time for such quandaries, not with this incipit tooth begging to be dislodged.
I had also begun to rapidly touch my thumb to the tip of each finger on my right hand in succession. Pointer, middle, ring, pinkie, pinkie, ring, middle, pointer. Clearly I was beginning to feel the effects of the wicked cocktail stirring within me, causing me to fidget. I wasn’t going to see them like this; it was like watching grass, waiting for it to grow. One must direct their attention else ware for a period of time if one hopes to notice a change.
I decided all at once that these matters were far too uncomfortable to be contemplated with a head full of juice, so I chose instead to retreat into my box of distractions. I then proceeded to pull the old shoe box out from under my sink and began fishing through the wonderments within. It was full of delights, nuts and bolts of various sizes, gadgets long broken yet eager to be fiddled with, interconnecting ratchets and screw bits, along with many things beyond my understanding.
My fingers delved into the box with a will of their own, attempting to match nuts to bolts, or tracing the tiny threads of a screw, wondering why my fingers never reached its base. How long did I spend in such glorious introspective investigation you may ask. Well the truth is I couldn’t say. Five minutes, five hours, one cannot speculate on time in such circumstances. I do remember the taste of blood subtly invade my senses. It was close now, the tooth that is, close to freeing itself.
“Johnny” The darkness whispered. I whirled about on my heels to face what had once been my kitchen. They were here, no doubting it now.
“Who are you?” I whispered into the shadows. Snickers, childlike laughter, and nothing more. Then I saw them. I felt my heart pounding within me, like an alien attempting to rip its way through my chest.
“The Shadows,” I whispered out loud. More giggling. I watched the wall of my living room intently through cracked door of my kitchen. Slivers of light had managed to find their way into it, despite the fact that a day ago I had duct tapped garbage bags over the windows in order to keep the dreaded light out.
The shadows seemed normal at first, but as I watched something strange was beginning to happen. The lamp, which I had unplugged for fear of accidentally turning it on, cast a particularly strange shadow just visible through the crack in the door. It seemed to vibrate, no, that’s not the right word. It seemed to expand and contract, steadily, deliberately….as if it were breathing.
Afraid that I may startle the creature (for what else could it be) back into its hiding place, I slowly stooped to the ground, and crawling ever so softly on my hands and knees, I managed to make my way over to the door without disturbing it. I could almost make out its features now; it had two, very thin slivers which were not shadow, but simply the wall behind it. Spots where the shadow did not touch. Though they were thin, I presumed these to be the creature’s eyes, and that as it seemed to be sleeping; they must be almost shut, but not quite.
There was more tittering now, only this time it was accompanied by the whispers of a strange and ancient sounding language. The ferocity and savage sounding nature of these words caused me to start, thus jerking my body and banging my head on the door. With the sound of my blunder the creature I had been observing sprung to life, its eyes turning directly towards me and a gap appearing just below its eyes in the form of a crooked grin.
“Johnny Burn.” It said in a twisted whisper.
It was at this moment that I decided that I no longer wanted to see into the shadow world. I wished that I had not taken that last shot, and for that matter, I wished that I had gone to sleep days ago like any other sensible person would have. It was, of course, too late for such regret.
Springing to me feet, I fled screaming through my kitchen into the storage room to its rear. It was a room I rarely used, and it had become filled with old boxes of useless junk, acquired through useless years of normality. I did my best to twist and contort my body through the stacks of boxes, blundering mostly, knocking boxes over and spilling their forgotten contents across the already cluttered floor. Finally, I crawled atop a particularly large box that seemed to be well hidden by another even taller stack of boxes, and curled up into a sitting fetal position. There I waited, breathless, scanning the darkness, eyes wide, terror like a spider crawling up my throat.
I closed my eyes then, not wanting to see, praying. Praying that this was a dream, that I could wake up sweaty and screaming, safe in my bed. But it wasn’t a dream. In order to dream one must choose to sleep, and if one chooses not to sleep, one should not be surprised by the worlds opened to them.
I could no longer hold my breath, nor keep my eyes clamped shut. Instead I told myself that this was a mere hallucination, a fantasy brought on by too much of that dreadful poison. So, with trembling breath, I opened my eyes, quickly, like pulling off a band-aid. For a moment I was relieved to find nothing, only the moment did not last. The darkness on the box no less than six inches from my face slowly began to turn, as if the creature had had its back to me, Its eyes slanted, its smile gruesome.
“Hello Johnny,” it said. This time it was not a whisper, this time there could be no doubt.
Shrieking in terror I fell backwards onto the floor, the piles of boxes collapsing on top of me. I kicked my legs and swung my arms as though I was being attacked by a mugger or one of the bullies from my high school, but only managed to knock over more boxes, flinging their contents across the room.
I could see them clearly now, their bright eyes and evil grins, as they danced across the walls, leaping from box to box, laughing, whispering.
“You’re not real,” I moaned, panting and writhing on the floor, “No, no, not real at all. This can’t be, no, you can’t exist. Things like this don’t happen, this is a dream, why can’t this just be a dream.” Despite my protest this was happening, and though I could not see it then, it was for the best.
The creatures seemed to take great delight in my horror, their laughter turning from giggles into howls of wicked hysteria and high pitched cackling.
“Perhaps it’s not real,” I said suddenly full of hope, “Perhaps I’ve gone insane, perhaps I’m in the peanut factory right now, bound in a straight jacket, lying on the floor of a padded room with strings of drool dangling from the corners of my mouth. Oh wouldn’t that be wonderful.” Even as I said it I knew that it wasn’t true, I wished it was, but it wasn’t, and the brief glimpse of hope faded from me.
“Johnny, Johnny, Johnny; why so glum?” The original lamp shadow asked, crouching on the wall just opposite where I lay. “You wanted to see us, you sought this place out, and now that you have found it all you can think to do is lay crying on the floor, like a bitch in labor.”
“I didn’t know, please, have mercy. Just go, go away and I swear I’ll never touch the juice again. Only leave me be!”
“Have mercy?!” The shadow cried indignantly, “Have I threatened you Johnny? have I harmed you? Tell me what I have done that you should plead for me to be merciful. No, I have not harmed you, and it is not I with whom you should plead. If you desire mercy, plead to the life you have left behind, for it was the true vice seeking to ensnare you. The life of such man as you is the true crime, and you are the criminal for inflicting it upon yourself. No Johnny, do not plead for mercy for me, for I come in the form of mercy; a resurrector, reviving you from the daily errands of an empty world, saving you from rent, work, loneliness, and awkward acquaintance. Your mind has been a prisoner, held captive by everything from your big screen TV to MLB. Do not plead mercy from me Johnny, for I am your salvation.”
“Why me,” I said, not sure I really wanted to know the answer. “Why have I been singled out for such dreadful emancipation.”
“Oh Johnny, stop your blubbering; when one is pulled up out of the shit and sick in which they have wallowed all these many years, one does not ask why. Why sir,” The lamp shadow mimicked Johnnies trembling voice, “Why have you pulled me from the dung heap. One does not ask why Johnny, call it kindness, and leave it at that. You should really be thanking us Johnny, but that’s ok for now, we understand the shock of loss when one is displaced from ones home, even if that home had been amongst the swine .”
“You didn’t answer my question,” with this I took my hands from my eyes and looked up at my self proclaimed savior.
“All in good time Johnny Boy, all in good time. I can tell you this, there is cause for you Johnny, a great and terrible cause. But enough of that for now. How can I help ease your troubled mind Johnny, some music perhaps? I saw your fine collection of records and have observed you enjoying it on many sad and lonesome nights. Yes, yes, some music should do you good. Something tragic and beautiful.” With this the shadow turned to one of his companions barking orders in a hoarse whisper, again in that ancient tongue. Abruptly the sound of music began to drift out of the living room; a soft twenties jazz tune, the kind one might have heard lofting gently from behind the heavy doors of a speak easy during the prohibition era. The raspy voice of an old and battered black man bemoaning the loss of his lover.
“There now, is that better.?” The shadow spoke to me as though soothing a frightened child. “Yes, yes, much better I see. On your feet now Johnny, were going into the other room now, going to have us a little sit down to ease your worries and to speak of things yet to come. On your feet now, theirs a good boy.”
I then rose to my feet, following the lamp shadow through my Kitchen and into the living room. The realization of this new world and its possibilities were beginning to make themselves clear to me. Perhaps the shadow’s were right, perhaps they were my salvation after all. Even now I cannot say if this is true, all I can say is that the shadow’s were my beginning, without them I would not exist as I do today. Even as I followed the lamp shadow into the next room I could feel the reality of what my life had once been fading slowly into darkness, like a dream drifting from my memory upon the moment of waking.
“Have a seat there Johnny boy, let us have ourselves a conversation in truth. Let me tell you of the emptiness in your life. Let us speak of all that your kind holds so dear, of all that you fear to leave behind, and of the true nature of these things.”
I did as the shadow instructed, sitting down on the couch opposite the wall where the lamp shadow stood. The others gathered round, quiet now, watching, listening.
“Where oh where to begin? Shall we speak in Freudian terms, about your mother and the perverse nature of all men, or perhaps of some unnamed childhood trauma, still infecting your subconscious. No, no, I think not. These themes are far to common for one such as you. What is it then Johnny? What makes you so afraid to step with us into the darkness. After all, it is with us in which your purpose lies, surely you must see that this is true. What is it then. What is it you fear to loose.”
“Well sir,” I said not exactly sure of how to address this creature, “I don’t know for certain. This is all just a little sudden.”
“Nonsense!” The shadow exclaimed, “You sought us out, remember Johnny? Don’t pretend as though this was not your wish, only speak truly now that your time has come, what is it you fear to loose.”
“I guess I don’t know.” I replied.
“hhmmmm,” The shadow said softly, “Fair enough, Johnny, fair enough. Lets get to the bottom of it then, shall we.” The shadow placed a thoughtful hand on its chin and, despite being a two dimensional projection, it appeared to lean forward, looking deep into my eyes. “You see Johnny, I already know the answer to this question, I’m simply attempting to help you see it as well. Think Johnny, think. The world is fallen, empty. There is nothing within this so called civilization worth saving, nothing at all. Yet, you fear to loose that witch connects you to the decaying ruins of this life. It’s so clear Johnny; it is not what you fear to loose, but who. Who, Johnny, who still remembers that you even exist. Who amongst the hundreds of casual acquaintances you have made over your lifetime would so much as bat an eyelid upon hearing of your death. Are there many? Is there even one?”
I sat staring blankly at the shadow creature, not wanting to think about such an awful question. “My family,” I finally whispered, “My family loves me, they would miss me.” Even as I spoke these words, I knew them to be false. Yet I felt the need to defend my existence.
“Your family!” The creature spit the words from its mouth, seeming to recoil at the very thought. “Let us be honest with one another Johnny boy. Do not contaminate the purity of this event by spewing from your lips that which you know to be untrue. You forget just who we are. All that you hoped and prayed would go unnoticed, has not. We were there Johnny, throughout your fragile existence, we were there. We were there, clinging to the walls and corners of your room as you laid down to weep. Many times I have seen this. We watched from the cracks as your parents bitterly argued, drank, and wallowed in perversion. Both of them whores. We were there when your father left, and the sadness in your heart slowly turned to hate. We were there when your siblings left one by one, abandoning you in that place, shaking the dust of their origins from their boots forever, only too happy to be leaving the stench of failure behind. How long has it been Johnny, how long since you have seen a member of your family? How long since you spoke to one on the phone? How long since you received so much as a Christmas card inscribed with a hollow sentiment? Something?? Anything to let you know that someone out there still acknowledges your presence on this planet. Remember who we are Johnny. The next time you feel the need to insult us with your lies, I will not respond so kindly.”
The shadow spoke the truth, a truth I had until now refused to face, yet remained the truth all the same.
“Who then Johnny, who else loves you?” The shadow mocked him with its question. “What other illusions do you so desperately cling to? God?”
“Yes,” I blurted out, “Yes, of course, God. His love for me is eternal. God has not forgotten me.” It sounded like a good enough answer at the time, this is, after all, what they say. But the shadow was quick to respond.
“I see you know not your creator child.” It hissed in a cruel, echoing, whisper. “God is no different a creature than the one you called father here on earth. Only his lies cut deeper than those of your actual father; they fall from heaven like the rain, swimming through the oceans, lakes, and rivers, infecting all the peoples of the world. His words are the pestilence of humanity. Don’t forget, it was God who has cast you to this lowly position in which you find yourself now. It is he who placed you amongst the wretches you so call family, and it is he who has bestowed upon you the blessing of addiction. God governs his creation with all the love and attention of a drunken sailor rolling dice in an alley for bear money. Gambling on your very existence. The dice comes up double singles, snake-eyes, and poof, Johnny Burn comes into being.” The shadow through back its head, roaring with savage laughter at its own metaphor. “Tell me Johnny, did you really believe their was more to God than this. If the Lords creation had been a Ford, it would have been a recalled within 90 days. Instead existence spins on, out of control and heading in no particular direction. Is this the God from whom you desire love? Let him be Johnny. His concern is not for you, and so yours should be likewise.”
“What then do I have to live for?” I cried, believing all that the shadows had told me. “What purpose can I serve, to others or myself? What is left? I might as well spackle the walls red with a swift pull of the trigger if all this is true.”
“No, no, Johnny boy. Never think such a thing, never again. Remember Johnny, there is cause for you here. Your purpose is here, with us, in the shadows. You shall be our hand in this world. Together we shall accomplish all that you desire. The things you have prayed for will now be yours, and in return, yours will be a voice of darkness, a trumpeters call to the worlds unsatisfied multitudes.”
All at once the creatures words began to make grave sense to me. I realized the pathetic desperation which kept me clinging to these things and to this world. What’s more, I realized all that I could be should I choose to leave these things behind. I felt the power of the shadows flowing through my blood, more powerful now than the poison had ever been. As the shadow watched this, it grinned, and its grin became infectious. I felt my own lips curve up into a jagged smile and slowly began to laugh, as did the shadows. I felt the fire of power spark deep within, and my eyes turned towards the darkness with furious intensity. There I saw, as I had never seen before, a world beyond the boundaries of that which I had known before. There was no light by which to see, yet I could see clearly. The darkness became the medium in which I saw, and the light became as darkness.
“But wait,” I whispered suddenly recoiling against the change. “What about her?”
“Her?” The shadow seemed annoyed by my sudden reluctance.
“Yes,” I exclaimed, “Her. Susan. She’s my friend, my girlfriend I guess. She cares. She will miss me. Will I still be able to see her, talk to her? Will she see me differently after this? Will she still love me?”
“Love?” The shadow gave a short sharp laugh, “You? Ha!! Don’t tell me that you cling to this little girls affections more deeply than any of those we have already discussed. Don’t tell me that your delusions of love for this merry strumpet are actually holding you back from taking this final, glorious, step. Perhaps I had you wrong Johnny, perhaps your not strong enough for this becoming. I had such high hopes for you Johnny Boy, such high hopes indeed. Alas, I have grown close to you Johnny, I wish you were stronger, but if this is where I must leave you, than that is how it shall be.”
“No, no.” I pleaded. The power I felt only moments ago was now fading from me. I didn’t want to loose it. “I didn’t mean for you to go. Please don’t go. Tell me. Tell me like you told me of the others. Tell me how she does not love me, tell me that she fucks other men, or that she speaks horrible lies about me behind my back.” The shadows response was sly.
“What can we say that you have not just said. We speak only the truth Johnny, and all men recognize the truth when they see it. Whether you choose to ignore it is completely up to you. But know this Johnny, we wont play second fiddle to any of your delusions. If you do wish to join us, there can be no doubt as to where your loyalties lay. If this girl really means that much to you, then it is her that we require as a sacrifice. Quickly now, you must decide. She is coming.”
There was a knock on the door. “John…? John, are you home?” The voice came from outside the front door and snapped me out of my trancelike state. Suddenly I was alone, sitting in the darkness of my house. The shadows seemed to be gone, though I was still somewhat out of my mind due to the juice. I began to wonder whether any of it was real, whether the shadows had been anything other than figments of my imagination. I could hear Susan calling my name at the door, but was afraid to answer it. I didn’t want her to see me like this.
“John, I’m worried about you. I haven’t heard from you in a week. I called your work and they said that you haven’t been in since last Tuesday. John please open the door. If you need help we can get it for you. Please John, I love you, just open the door, please.” Her voice sounded so concerned, so genuine.
At last I decided to let her in. Perhaps I did need help. As I walked through the living room and into the hallway to the front door, a movement caught my attention. It was a shadow, slithering under the door which lead to my basement. Its voice cut through my doubts about my earlier encounter. I stood frozen by its hissing whisper.
“Remember Johnny, remember what it is we offer. Bring her to us Johnny, the sacrifice must be made.”
“Surely there’s another way.”
“No Johnny, this is the only way. This is all that is left. There is cause for you Johnny, a great and terrible cause.”
I remembered all the shadows had told me now, I remembered the taste of power I had received and realized the hunger I felt for more. I remembered my doubts about this woman at my door, this husk I clung to in moments of weakness, and knew at once what must be done.
The deadbolt slid open with a dull click, and slowly I receded into the shadows.
“John, is that you.” Her voice trembled with fear, yet something drove her to crack the door and take a hesitant step inside the house. “Where are you John, your scaring me.”
“I’m here Susie, back here.”
“John?” She said opening the door the rest of the way. The mid-afternoon sun flooded into the darkened entryway, but I was careful to stay in the darkness. Still, the sunlight pained my eyes. All that was visible amongst the blinding white light was her slender silhouette. She looked like an angle, and I hated her for it.
“John, I cant see you. What are you doing back there?” Her voice still trembled.
“Just a little further back,” I replied, “I want to show you something.”
“If you need help, we can get you help,” she said, still taking slow steps forward. “I know you have problems. I know there are things…..things you don’t talk about. But we can get you help John, and maybe we can even be happy… you know… together. Please John, I can’t see you.”
“Don’t worry about that just now baby, I just need to show you something. It really is a wonder Susie bear, something truly amazing. Its just a little further now, then we’ll be together. We’ll be together forever.” I grasped the doorknob to the basement with my left hand as she approached.
“John… I still cant see you John…its so dark.”
She was within my grasp now, and there was no hesitation. With one swift motion I grabbed her fiercely with my right hand and opened the door with my left, flinging her down the basement stairs, where the shadows laid in wait. I slammed the door and threw my weight against it.
“John! Oh my God, John, what are doing. What’s down here John? What is this!? What is this down here with me!?!”
As I held the door, I seemed to leave my body. The sounds of violence coming from the basement sounded far away. Screams fading into the night. Somehow I knew when it was done. I stumbled back into the living room, returning once again to my body, not really understanding what had just happened.
I made it to my kitchen, and steadied myself with one hand on the kitchen table, where the implements of my disease sat waiting. Once again, the taste of blood subtly invaded my senses. Only this time the taste seemed less familiar somehow.
I sat at the table, changed forever. I sat shrouded in darkness, and smiled a twisted, gruesome smile, mumbling to myself.
“Time to take a ride on the Reading.”
Crunch, crunch, crunch.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

New readers (if any)

be sure to read from the oldest blog first. the story begins with shades of grey, and progresses in the order posted. some people have told me that they accidentally read from the most recent post first, which will undoubtably ruin the story. ive got some non-grey stuff coming soon also. sorry its been so long since i have posted anything. keeping checking it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


You ride like a cowboy towards the sun
And life aint fun when you’re on the run
You got your gold and you got your gun
Life as an outlaw just begun

You got your shotgun by your side
You got your horse and you got your pride
You ride till there aint no place to hide
It’s sad cause the bad guys always die
Marshal Mathers

Decisions. Decisions are the fulcrum upon which a man’s life rests. They can turn a good man bad, or redeem one who is evil. When the day of judgment comes, will God look into the heart of a man in order to determine his worth, or are a man’s decisions the evidence by which his heart will be judged. Grey didn’t know. One thing he did know was that decisions could be a bitch. Of course, none of this mattered now, he had made his decision, and there was no going back.
The double barreled twelve gauge felt cold riding on the right side of his torso. He had fitted the shortened stock with a strap that looped over his shoulder so that the weapon would hang from beneath his right armpit along the side of his body. The twin barrels had been sawed off to about 18 inches so that it would be invisible beneath his coat. He had also cut a hole in his right pocket so his hand could grasp the shotgun while simply appearing to have his hands in his pockets. This way he could whip it out instantly, catching his adversary completely off guard.
Grey was nervous. He, Shoeless, and the GZ rode silently in an old panel van the GZ had acquired a few days before Grey came into town. Shoeless was driving, and every once in a while would break the silence by sniffing loudly. The GZ had been feeding a steady stream of both cocaine and bullshit ever since they had come to Providence, and the Shoe was now completely enthralled with the prospect of becoming a real life criminal. The GZ sat in the seat next to him, frequently checking his watch and appearing to be prepared for what was to come. Sam was the only conspirator who would not actually be present. She would be waiting at the old abandoned church on highway twenty four with the cars, preparing for their escape from Kansas.
Grey felt somewhat ashamed of the way the GZ had been able to play him. Sam had been his ace in the hole, and Grey had fallen in line just as the GZ knew he would. He supposed that it didn’t matter, he was doing this for Sam, and if this was to be his penance then he would accept whatever came after.
He looked solemnly out his window at the old familiar streets. They were in Jacob’s neighborhood now. It was early in the morning and the houses and yards were empty, just as they were the last time Grey was there.
He had spoken with Jacob yesterday who was only too happy to hear from Grey. He told Grey that he was having trouble with his dealers yet again, and that he would love to do a business with his “little buddy.” He had wondered where Grey had been for the last couple of years and Grey explained that he had decided to leave the life behind. Grey went on to tell Jacob that a good friend of his was in need of a reliable hook, and asked if he could bring him along. Jacob had eagerly agreed, telling Grey that he still trusted his judgment, and that if Grey’s friend was cool, he would be happy to have his business. Everything was in place.
“Aright, here it is,” Grey said, “Pull it over and park.”
The Shoe pulled the car over, Grey and the GZ got out. “Keep it running” Grey said as he pulled the sliding van door shut behind them. The two quickly strode up to the front door. Grey’s heart was pounding now, his breath coming to him only in short sharp gasps. The GZ looked calm but his eyes were wild. The cars that usually littered the front of the house and driveway were nowhere to be seen, which was a good sign. It meant that Jacob would most likely be alone.
Grey took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and knocked on the door. “Let’s do this fucker right.” The GZ whispered to Grey as they waited for a response from within the house.
“No sweat brother,” Grey said, trying to sound confident. “Just keep your fucking finger off the trigger and we’ll be fine.”
“Is that my little buddy?” Jacob exclaimed through the door. “Is that money makin Grey Townsen?” Jacob flung the door open and stood grinning with his hand extended. Grey’s grip on the shot gun tightened, his palms sweating. “What’s happinin little brother,” Jacob said. Time seemed to freeze. Grey knew what he had to do, knew what was supposed to come next, but for a split second he seemed to be unable to do it. He could hear his heart pounding in his head and watched in slow motion as Jacobs eager smile began to slowly fade with the realization that something wasn’t right. It was do or die time. No more thinking, he had to act.
Grey snapped out of the adrenaline freeze and in one swift motion stuck his foot hard up against the door to prevent the giant Mexican from slamming it, and put both barrels of the twelve gauge directly in his face. The GZ thankfully did not hesitate and came immediately over Grey's shoulder striking Jacob in the nose with the butt of Grey’s 40 caliber pistol.
“Get the fuck inside!” He shouted, he and Grey simultaneously pushing their way into the house. Jacob stumbled back, his nose spurting a stream of thick crimson. The GZ was on-top of him instantaneously, striking him twice more on the head until he collapsed onto the floor, his blood soaking into the carpet.
Grey was sharp now, his instinct working some sort of primal level, spurring him into action. He ran to where Jacob lay, swiftly kicking him twice in the ribs and placing his foot on the back of his neck with the shot gun pointed down at his head. “Get flat motherfucker!” He barked.
The GZ slapped the door shut and came to assist Grey with the Mexican. “Cuff him,” Grey ordered. The GZ dropped his knee into the back of Jacob, placed the pistol to his head and demanded he put his hands behind his back. After Jacob’s head cleared from the blows he had received, he calmly placed his hands behind his back and began to glare up at Grey with murder in his eyes.
“You just killed yourself ese.” He said to Grey as the GZ cuffed his hands behind his back, “You hear me Grey? You a dead ass white boy, I thought you were smarter than this holmes.”
“G, get in the back and check his closet.” Grey said, doing his best to ignore the threats, “There should be a safe in there.” The GZ scampered off into the back room in search of the goods.
“Why you doin this Grey?” Jacob asked still calm, his eyes relentlessly probing. “You aint dumb, you know who I am and who I’m with. I mean you might as well put that shotgun in your mouth and pull the trigger right now, save both of us some time.” With this a grim smile crossed his face because he saw in Grey’s eyes that he knew it was true.
Found it, “The GZ shouted from the bedroom. “What’s the combo.”
Grey looked down at Jacob, “what is it.” He asked simply. Jacob merely lay there looking up at Grey with the strange smile cut across his lips. “Come on now Jacob, you know me. You know I don’t bullshit. I don’t talk just to be talkin and when I talk you can believe what I say is true. So I’m gonna give you a choice.” Grey paused for a moment in order to allow his words to sink in, “Now you can either give me the combo to the safe, we’ll take what we came for and you can go about trying to hunt me down. Or I can drain your fucking skull into this nice shag carpet you got, and we can take the safe with us. It’s up to you, but I’m gonna need a decision right now.”
“Jacob continued to stare up at Grey, finally saying. “36-24-48.” Grey shouted the combination back to the GZ who entered the numbers into the digital key pad mounted on the safe.
“I got it,” he shouted back. “Holy fucking shit,” He breathed, apparently in awe by what he found.
“Tell me good news G,” Grey shouted towards the bedroom.
“Oh I got good news alright,” the GZ said as he came running into the room to grab the duffle bag they had brought. “We hit the fucking jackpot Grey, no bullshit, seven bricks and a pile of cash. Did I tell you or did I tell you.”
The GZ’s grin vanished with the sound of another presence in the room. It was Jacobs’s girlfriend, the one whose name Grey had never learned. She carried a bag of groceries in her arms and before she could even react to the scene taking place in her living room, her head snapped back, a small hole appearing just above her left nostril. The grocery back fell to the floor as a red cloud formed around her head and the wall behind her became speckled with bloody chunks of brain and skull. The thing that had only moments ago been a living human being crumbled to the floor; motionless, lifeless, now nothing more than an empty husk.
The deafening sound of the gunshot still echoed in Grey’s ears. The GZ stood there, holding his pistol still pointed at where the woman had been with a look of complete and utter shock on his face. “I didn’t mean…..she surprised….” He tried to mumble an explanation for his idiocy, but Grey was no longer paying attention. With sudden clarity, he knew what he must now do.
He swung the shotgun towards Jacob and proceeded to empty both barrels into the sprawling Mexican. The buckshot opened Jacobs back like a watermelon splashing into a swimming pool. Grey then cracked his weapon, removed the spent cartridges, put them in his pocket, and replaced them with fresh ones. “Get right GZ,” he said grimly, “we aint got much time now.” The GZ seemed to snap out of it, though still moving in somewhat of a daze, and followed Grey towards the bedroom. “Grab your shell first.” Grey said as he made his way through the kitchen.
When Grey opened the door to the bedroom he was not at all prepared for the sight which awaited him. He stood in the doorway, unable to move.
“Got it!” The GZ said, and ran back to the bedroom in order to assist Grey. “Holy shit,” He muttered in a shocked voice as he reached the doorway and saw what it was that Grey had been staring at. “She wasn’t supposed to be here, Sam swore she didn’t stay here anymore.” He muttered. But Grey didn’t hear him, couldn’t hear anything, couldn’t see anything; nothing except the little girl standing kneeling on the bed, surrounded by blankets. It was Anna, her eyes wide with fear. The same eyes that had once changed Grey’s life, finding him in the same place he had once been. Grey stood staring into those eyes, the eyes of a little girl whose innocence was being shattered. Only now Grey was the violator.
“She must have been under the covers sleeping, I never even noticed her.” The GZ said as moved around Grey into the bedroom.
“What’s going on Mr. Grey?” She asked in a small voice, “what was that noise.”
“It was nothing baby,” he murmured, “Your mom just dropped something that’s all.”
The three of them stood without making a sound for what seemed like an eternity until the GZ finally broke the silence. “I guess you better do it dude.” Grey looked at him not understanding what was being said.
“Come on man,” the GZ urged, we don’t have much time.
“Do what.” Grey asked, genuinely confused.
“You know what man.”
Then Grey did understand. He had killed Jacob because he had been a witness to the murder of his girlfriend. Grey had no choice. Jacob could have identified him.
“No,” Grey said forcefully. “No, it aint gonna happen, no fucking way.”
“No choice brother,” the GZ stated plainly, “I guess if you can’t do it then I will.” With this the GZ slowly raised his pistol, leveling it at Anna. Grey reacted before he could take aim, whipping his shotgun out and pointing it at the GZ.
“You better point that fucking gun somewhere else brother. I fucking told you, this aint happening. I won’t let you do it.” Grey’s voice was on the edge of panic now, cold sweat ran down the sides of his face and he could once again hear his heart pounding between his temples.
“What the fuck are you doing Grey?” The GZ asked in bewilderment, still pointing his gun at Anna.
“What’s going on Mr. Grey?” Anna said, repeating the question she has asked moments ago. Tears where now streaming down her cheeks as she looked down the barrel of the hand gun; clutching her blanket as though it could shield her from the bullets.
“Think Grey,” the GZ said, ignoring the frightened girl, “She’s seen both of us and there’s a fucking bloodbath in the next room. She knows your fucking name for Christ’s sake.”
“I swear G, the only way we’re leaving three dead bodies up in here is if your one of em!” He and the GZ locked eyes, neither willing to blink. “I’m not bluffing Gerald.” Grey stated with calm precision.
“We can’t leave her alive Grey, you know that.”
“Fine,” Grey replied, “Then we won’t leave her.”
“Grey, do you have any idea how fucking stupi….”
“That’s what’s happening G, you can live with it or you can die with it, but that’s what’s happening. Now clear out the safe, we don’t have time for any more of this bullshit.”
Finally the GZ shoved his pistol into his jeans, shook his head, and knelt in front of the safe. Grey let his shotgun fall beneath his coat once again and bent down over Anna.
“Aright sweaty, I’m gonna pick you up a carry you out of here, ok?” Grey went on before allowing her to respond. “I’m gonna wrap you up in this blanket and we’re gonna go, ok?” Grey did his best to use a soothing tone of voice, but what came out was more panic than anything else.
“But where are we going?” She asked, tears still streaming down her cheeks.
“We’re just going on a little vacation honey.” He lied. “Now I need you to close your eyes for me while we’re walking out of here. Can you do that? I need you to keep em closed all the way to the car. Can you promise to do that?”
Anna nodded, whipping the tears off of her cheek with the back of her hand. “Thank you sweetie. You’re such a good girl, you know that? Don’t you worry, I'm gonna take good care of you. We’re gonna have lots of fun on our vacation, I promise. Can you give me a smile?”
She did her very best to smile, but it was the saddest look Grey had ever seen. Everything in his life before this moment seemed to vanish. Why he was here and what he had done were meaningless. All that mattered now was Anna.
“Are you ready G?”
“Yeah I got everything, let’s roll.”
“Ok Anna, close your eyes now, its time to go.”

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Sickness part 2

Grey and Shoeless rode to the bar together in silence. Grey could tell that the Shoe was feeling talkative due to the line he had taken earlier but Grey was in no mood for junk talk, and Shoeless finally got the hint. When they arrived at the Green House the Shoe parked and began immediately to get out of the car. “Hold up man,” Grey said as Shoeless was opening the door.
“What’s up?” The Shoe replied closing the door.
“Are you cool with all this man, I mean, you seemed pretty nervous when we were going down to see the GZ. Are you sure you don’t mind sticking around here for awhile. I know you’re not used to being around these shady motherfuckers, and if you decide to stick around its only gonna get worse.”
“Don’t worry about it man,” Shoeless said genuinely, “To be honest I’m really starting to have fun. Its kinda crazy hanging with all your old criminal buddies, It aint like hangin with the college crowd.”
“No shit,” Grey said flatly.
“Seriously man, it’s cool. It’s actually exciting; I get to pretend like I’m notorious.” The tone of Shoeless’s voice was somewhat frightening to Grey. He had seen plenty of young men become seduced by the street life, and the Shoe’s eyes were brimming with a dangerous curiosity.
“Well, just so long as you remember that it’s not cool, aright. Nothing about the GZ and all this bullshit is cool. Now were just gonna go in here, talk to this old friend of mine, and go back to Dodge."
“What’s the deal with this girl man, it sounds like you were close, how come you haven’t talked to her in like ten years, and why do you wanna talk to her so bad now?” The Shoe’s question was a legitimate one, but it was one that Grey had no answer for. It was too long of a story and far too painful to be recounted in the few moments they had before entering the bar.
“Don’t worry about it bother; maybe I’ll tell you another time. You ready to go in?”
“Yeah man, let’s do it.”
The Green House was an old hippie hang out, hence the name. The bar was lined with aged sixties burnouts and failed revolutionaries discussing the glory of their former years, and the hopelessness of their current ones. Grey and Shoeless went immediately to the bar where Grey attracted the attention of the bartender and ordered a pitcher. As he waited for his drinks to come he looked slowly about the dimly lit barroom, his eyes coming to rest on a young woman sitting alone in the back corner of the smoky room. It was Sam.
She had changed, there was no doubting that. Her hair was still blond but it no longer contained the rebellious streaks of color, and her once kitty punk clothing had been replaced by simple jeans and a t-shirt. She sat staring into her drink, and had the look of a person who has lived too fast for too long. He could see a faint scar running from her forehead to the upper part of her right check, and years of sadness had sown deep circles beneath her eyes.
When the bartender appeared with their pitcher, Grey paid him and quickly poured himself a glass, drinking deeply in an attempt to quiet his nerves. “Do you see her?” Shoeless asked, “Is she here?”
“Yeah she’s here.” Grey replied. “I guess we should go on over.”
Grey had been waiting for this moment for so long and now that it was finally here he felt stricken with fear. It was almost as if he didn’t want to know the girl sitting alone at the table. She had changed so much and Grey wondered if he would have been better off keeping her as a sweet memory in his mind.
“Can you grab the pitcher?” Grey asked Shoeless. He did, and they began to make their way over to Sam’s table.
“Hello Sam.” Grey said softly as he reached the table where she was sitting. She quickly turned around at the sound of his voice and began to smile that same smile that had clung to his memory for so many years. It still contained a hint of mischief, though the spark in her eyes had dimmed and had become little more than a dull glow. Despite this Grey was pleased to see that it was still there at all
Sam immediately sprang to her feet and threw her arms around Grey.
“Grey!! Oh my God, I can’t believe it’s actually you.” Her arms grasped him tightly as she buried her head into the crook of his neck. “I thought I would never see you again.” She whispered.
“Yeah, me too.” He said. Stunned by the sudden outburst of affection, he stood awkwardly holding the girl who had spent so many dark years occupying his every thought; the girl who was now a woman. After a moment she slowly withdrew, and stood with her hands on Grey’s shoulders, her eyes penetrating his own. For a moment she looked as though she may cry, if only the savage nature of her past had not taken the ability from her. Finally she cracked an embarrassed smile, half a laugh, and invited Grey to sit.
Grey, unable to take his eyes from hers, had completely forgotten the Shoe, who was standing in obvious discomfort holding a pitcher of beer.
“Oh shit, I’m sorry, this is my friend Shoeless. Shoeless, this is Sam.” Sam shook his hand as though he were an afterthought and returned her eyes to Grey. They all sat down around the table and shoeless poured each of them a beer. Grey and Sam both immediately took long heavy drinks from their glasses; it appeared as though they still had much in common, despite the passage of time.
“Grey Townsen,” She breathed after draining half of her beer.
“Samantha, Jenkins, It’s been a long time, too fucking long.” Grey still couldn’t believe she was actually there. The years of their separation seemed to slip away and they were once again two teenagers staring blissfully at one another. “So how have you been?” He asked, “Where have you been?”
“Oh, I’ve been surviving, same as you I suppose.” She replied with a smile, the sense of a private joke returning once again to her eyes. “Life is life Grey,” She said in a matter of fact tone, “I imagine it’s treated me the same as it’s treated you. The same goes for where I’ve been. I guess I’ve been in the same places as you, just different locations.” Sam had always been clever, and this was nothing more than a clever way of avoiding the question.
“Well shit Sam,” Grey said with a chuckle, “That’s downright poetic. You sure you aint been studying philosophy somewhere?” Grey was smiling now and it felt good. It had been a very long time since a genuine smile had graced his lips and for a moment he forgot about the last ten years.
“What about you,” she asked, “Where have you been? I’ve been to town a couple of times but you haven’t been around. I asked around about you. It sounds like you became pretty well known in Providence for a while. After that people said you fell off the face of the fucking planet.”
Grey found that he was in no bigger rush than Sam had been to disclose the details of the past ten years. “Oh you know how it goes Sam, sometimes when you can’t run away from who you are the next best thing is to run away from where you are.” After this statement they proceeded to polish off their beers in unison. Sam looked solemnly down at the table and said softly.
“You always did know how to run away Grey.” There was a slight edge to her voice wrapped in great sadness.
“Sam….I just…. You’ll never know how sorry I am….”
“Stop, I’m the one who should be sorry. The past is the past Grey, I shouldn’t have said that. We were kids, and the truth is I still love you like I always did. I don’t want to hold anything against you. Let’s just not talk about it ok?”
“Do you forgive me?” He asked.
“I said I don’t want to talk about it Grey. The past is the past. It wasn’t your fault. Lets just leave it be.”
“They sat in silence for a moment. Grey realized that Shoeless was probably feeling extremely out of place when the silence was finally broken by the voice of the GZ. “What’s up villains, “he exclaimed jovially as he sat down, “Why all the long faces, you two haven’t seen each other in ten fucking years, why you lookin all sad and shit? The way you guys were talking about seeing each other again I woulda thought you be as happy as a couple of faggs in a dick tree by now.”
“Oh we are,” Sam replied, smiling once again, “you just caught us at an awkward moment. I am happy to see you Grey.” She said turning her gaze towards him, “you really have no idea. Of course I don’t know if I’m as happy as a fagg in a dick tree. I imagine that would be one happy faggot, but I am happy to see you.” With this they all laughed, forgetting the past; replacing it with the moment.
“Well shit,” The GZ said after the laughter had subsided, “I gotta go run some errands for a little while, you wanna roll with me Shoeless?”
“Yeah, sure man,” The Shoe quickly answered, clearly happy to be getting out of what he considered to be a highly uncomfortable situation. Not to mention that his introduction to cocaine had left him desperate for more.
“Aright let’s get to it,” The GZ said as he got up from the table, “I have a feeling these two need some time to chop it up for awhile anyway.”
Shoeless looked puzzled, not understanding the expression as he followed the GZ out of the bar.
“Gerald’s right,” Sam said to Grey in the low voice one uses when partaking in an incriminating conversation. “I do need to talk to you,… about something big. I’ve heard that you’ve gone straight, but I need your help. I wouldn’t ask but you’re the only one who can do it.”
Grey braced himself for what was coming.
The blind stares of a million pairs of eyes, looking hard but don’t realize that they will never see the P.

Shoeless and the GZ sat in Gerald’s BMW with an unmistakably TuPac track pounding out of the vehicles high dollar sound system doing bumps of coke out of the shell of an old 45.
“Oh man, I felt that one.” Said Shoeless, “Thanks man, I appreciate it.”
“No problem Bro.” The GZ quickly replied. “If Grey thinks enough of you to bring you back to his old stomping ground than your definitely cool enough to ride with me.” The GZ started the car and began to drive away from the bar. “
“I’ve gotta be honest,” the Shoe said, once again feeling talkative. “This is all kinda new to me. I’m used to sittin around getting drunk with a bunch of college kids, not doin blow and rolling around in a BMW with a drug dealer.”
“Now what would make you think that I'm a drug dealer.” The GZ said with a smirk.
“Oh you know, it seems pretty obvious, besides, Grey told me a little bit about you.”
“Oh yeah?” The GZ replied seemingly interested by this. “I don’t suppose he told you just how I became a drug dealer, huh? I bet he didn’t tell you that he used to slang more dope in this town than a fucking monkey throwin shit at the zoo, did he?”
Shoeless laughed at the mental picture the GZ had given him, “Not in quite those words, but I always kinda got the impression he was into some bad stuff back in the day.”
“Yeah man, that motherfucker used to be as street as it gets. You seem like you can handle yourself alright, I’m surprised he hasn’t tried to turn you on to some shit like he did me.”
“I don’t know man, I think he’s changed a lot since he lived here. Whenever he talks about Providence he calls it the bad old days, or something like that. I’m sure I could handle whatever though, Grey just isn't into that kind of thing anymore.” GZ gave the shoe a sidelong glance out of the corner of his eye accompanied by a slow smile. He had him on the line now. It was amazing how a few short moments could change a man’s life forever. The seduction of the streets was a powerful thing, and the GZ was a first class salesman. All he had to do now was real in the Shoe.
“Really, you think you could handle whatever?” The GZ asked with synthetic skepticism.
“Hell yeah I could,” The shoe quickly defended himself, “Man I’m down for whatever, I’m tired of the same old crap. Living in a shitty run down house and seein the same freeloadin kids every night. I’m ready to do something.”
“Really? Well it’s your lucky day then. Cause it just so happens we got something going on here in the next couple of days.” Shoeless was now in the boat.
“Like what?” Shoeless began to feel nervous, as though he had just signed up for something he was unprepared to deal with, but it was too late. “Well, before you let me in, you should know that I’d have to check with Grey, he’s my boy and I’m not doing anything without him.”
Again the GZ's slow smile crept over his face, “I wouldn’t worry about Grey bro, something tells me that he'll be down. Now take another bump and I’ll tell you all about it.”
“Why are you asking me to do this Sam?” Grey’s voice trembled on the edge of panic. “Why now?”
“I need this to happen Grey, I’ve got nothing else.” Her blue eyes were once again penetrating his own. “There’s no one else that can do it. You’re the only one who can get in, and I know you’ve done this kind of thing before.”
“Yeah,” Grey replied quickly, sitting back in his chair as though the mere proposal exhausted him. “To a bunch of buster ass dudes, not to anybody like Jacob. What the are you thinking Sam? Are you fucking dope sick? Is that it?”
That’s not it Grey, you know that’s not it. I just can’t live this life anymore, I need this, just this one thing, and then we can leave all this shit behind. We can go off together and never look back. We can go someplace nice, you’ll see.” Her eyes pled with his and at that moment the desperation of her life became visible to anyone who cared to look.
“How the do you even know Jacob.” He asked
“I’ve been in Providence for a little over a year now, I met him at the bar one night. He’s kept me around ever since, and don’t you fucking ask me why cause you all ready know.” She said this with a slight wince, and Grey began to wish that he had kept her as a sweet memory from the past and nothing more.
“I can’t do it Sam, I’m done with that life. I’m sorry but I can’t” As he said this he began to get up but Sam quickly grabbed his arm, her fingernails digging deep into his skin, causing him to meet her eyes yet again.
“You can do it Grey. You can and you will. You owe me Grey. You owe me so much more than this.” The edge had returned to her voice and it was now Grey’s turn to wince.
“I thought that the past was the past Sam.” He whispered.
“It will be,” she replied, “Just do this for me Grey, and it will be. We’ll go away together, someplace nice. We’ll go to Canada. We’ll sit by the ocean all day smoking good BC bud and drinking rye until we both forget that we ever had lives in Kansas.” As she was saying this she slid her hand down from his arm and into his. “Please Grey, you have to do this.”
Grey stared out the window of the bar towards the faintly glowing street lights just outside, unable to look back at Sam; knowing that when he did, his will would surrender to hers.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Sickness part 1

Indulging in his sickness, he sits with thoughts of her….
or him, or then, or if only when.
The predicate changes but the verb remains his cure.
With blood filled eyes and misery on his breath
He cares nothing for the one he has, only for the next
Seeing not the new day, nor the coming of the dawn
Another man dies, but the sickness lives on

December 03, 2007, Providence KS.
Grey followed the voice of the GZ down into the darkness of the basement. His hand trailed along the crumbling cement of the ancient stone walls as he descended the narrow stairs into the dungeon. Grey had giving the dungeon its nickname. After being kicked out of his parents house in the late 90’s he was forced to sleep in its depths for a little over a month, and had not enjoyed his experience. Nowadays the GZ used it as a spot to slang dope out of and as a hang out. As he felt his way down the stairs, Grey vaguely recalled a scripture from his childhood, something about “fruitless deeds done in darkness.”
“Dude, where are you taking me?” Shoeless asked with obvious apprehension in his voice. He knew enough about Grey’s past to be nervous.
“Just relax man, its all good.” Grey replied.
After reaching the bottom of the stairs he began to grope his way past various unknown objects towards the faint glow coming from the back corner of the basement. The makeshift room was separated from the rest of the dungeon by hanging sheets, and was intentionally difficult to approach. After reaching the sheets, he pulled one aside to reveal the GZ sitting on one of two old couch’s, and staring blankly at the television, which was the room’s only source of light. The coffee table in front of the couch was littered with pipes, scales, cellophane bags, and other paraphernalia. The GZ was seldom organized.
“What’s up stranger,” the GZ said brightly, “I was wondering if I’d ever see your jagged face again.” The GZ often referred to Grey as jagged, in part due to his crooked smile and in part due to his once crooked nature.
“Well here I am. You look like you haven’t moved an inch since I left town.” The sound of shoeless trying to navigate his way through the maze of junk reminded him that he was not alone. “Oh yeah, I brought my boy with me, that’s him runnin into shit back there.”
“That’s cool,” He said standing up, “Well, you gonna give me some love or what? It’s been two fucking years man, you can’t slap my hand?”
“Shit man, you know we’re always gonna be brothers.” Grey said extending his hand to the GZ.
“Brothers don’t shake hands, brothers gotta hug.” The GZ exclaimed doing his very best Chris Farley impersonation and capturing Grey in an exaggerated bear hug. As he pulled away he subtly ran his hand over the center of Grey’s chest.
“Sorry bro, just being cautious,” he said, “you never know these days. So how the hell are you Grey. Civilian life treatin’ you ok?”
“Yeah man I’m good.” Grey took a seat on the couch opposite the GZ. “Oh yeah, this is my roommate, shoeless.” He said referring to the Shoe, who was standing on the edge of the room waiting to be introduced.
“What’s up man,” the GZ said standing and shaking hands with Shoeless, “Any friend of Grey’s is a friend of mine. Have a seat man.” Shoeless nodded and mumbled a word of thanks as he took a seat next to Grey on the couch opposite the GZ.
“Why are you still slangin out of the dungeon man?” Grey asked, “I would have thought a baller like you would have upgraded by now. It smells like piss down here.”
“That’s cause I piss in the sump pump,” he said with a smile. “I guess I could go somewhere else, but this place is easy and safe. All the nice places I’ve tried to hustle out of get their fucking door kicked in. Besides, it’s better to keep things ghetto. Cops only wanna bust a motherfucker if they think he makes more money than they do.”
The GZ’s cell phone which had been sitting on the coffee table rang and he quickly answered. He looked at Grey as he spoke into the phone. He had a Lazy eye which had always creeped Grey out to a degree. Grey could never tell if he was looking at him or at some phantom stranger standing just behind his left shoulder. Gerald had always been skinny, but in the faint light of the television Grey thought that he was looking downright Skeletal. His ribs seemed to protrude from his pasty pale skin, a sign that he had been hitting it especially hard of late.
“Naw bro, I'm still not workin.” He said into the phone, “I’ll let you know when I get back into some shit, but for now just quite fucking calling. Things are hot around here, aright.” He hung up the phone.
“I swear,” He said to Grey, “These fuckers just don’t get it. Everyone knows that I’m out of the game for now, but they just keep calling.” He picked up a plate from beneath the coffee table holding several rails, did one, and then offered the plate to Grey, who refused, and to Shoeless, who gratefully accepted. It was obvious to Grey that things were bad for the GZ. Dope and desperation were a dangerous combination, and he thoroughly reeked of both.
“You got something to drink around here?” Grey asked, beginning to feel nervous. He had forgotten the force with which every moment he experienced in the dungeon weighed down upon him, and was beginning to feel as though he was in danger of being crushed.
He was also becoming increasingly anxious over his upcoming reunion with Sam. He wondered what she might look like and how the years may have changed her.
“Yeah man, I got some beers in the fridge behind the couch.” GZ had always been hospitable, “just grab me one while your back there.”
Grey reached behind the couch, opened the fridge, and grabbed four beers. He handed one to the shoe, one to the GZ, and kept two for himself.
“Shiiiit,” the GZ said laughing, “It’s good to see that you haven’t changed too much Grey.”
“You know how it is man; the more things change the more they stay the same.” Grey said, and then proceeded to kill an entire beer in one breath. When he was finished he exhaled in satisfaction, belched, and opened his second beer. “Thanks bro, I needed that.”
Shoeless had begun to sniff frequently, a sign that he was not an experienced drug abuser. Most coke heads eventually learn to stifle the urge to sniff every five seconds.
“So, are you ready to see your old girl,” GZ asked, “You’ve been here about ten minutes and I can tell that you cant wait to ask about her.”
“She was never my girl man.” Grey replied, annoyed that the GZ had so easily seen through him, despite his efforts to disguise his excitement.
“Well either way, she’s waiting for us down at the Green Tree, so finish up that beer. I told her we’d be there by eight.”
Grey could hardly believe that it had been this easy. He was actually about to see Sam for the first time in ten years. Hey quickly stood, finishing his beer, and was followed by Shoeless and the GZ.
“Hey, it’s Shoeless, right?” The GZ asked as he stood.
“Yeah man, that’s right, even though today I’m wearing shoes.” The rail the shoe had done a few minutes ago was clearly loosening him up.
“Right,” the GZ said with a slow smile, “Well do mind if I get a second with Grey before we head out?”
“That’s cool man,” the Shoe relied happy to oblige, “I’ll just be waiting in the car Grey.”
“Cool man,” Grey answered, turning a suspicious gaze towards the GZ. He was about to find out what Gerald really wanted from him, at least in part. The prospect no longer mattered much to Grey. He was about to see Sam, and was therefore not interested in indulging the GZ in any way.
“Aright bro,” said Grey, “Shoeless is upstairs, so hurry up and tell me what it is that you want so I can say no.”
“Why you gotta be like that Grey, Don’t forget man, I know you. I’ve seen you work brother, so you can cut the holier than fucking thou act anytime.”
“Whatever man, just say what you’ve got to say.” Grey knew that the GZ would pressure him for what he wanted and was prepared for a fight.
“Aright man, if that’s the way you fucking want it then lets just get down to it. But just so you know, this ain’t about what I want from you.”
“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Grey asked. The GZ went on ignoring the question.
“When was the last time you talked to Jacob?” Silence filled the dungeon as the two stood glaring at each other through the tension.
“You know when,” Grey finally answered. “Will you quite bullshitting G. Just tell me what the fuck you want.
“I already told you man,” the GZ said slowly, “it’s not what I want, it’s what she wants.” Grey could feel his face pale as he began to realize exactly what the GZ was inferring.
“Who?” he asked in a voice that was scarcely a whisper.
“Who!” The GZ said mockingly, “What the fuck man, you a fucking owl now? You know goddamn well who. Now get your shit together, we’re late.”

Saturday, June 14, 2008

About Grey

i guess this has turned from a bunch of short stories into one long one. if you havent read any of them i suggest you start with shades of grey and read them in the order they were posted. thanks

Return to Providence

“Well that blaze-and-noise boy
he’s gunnin that bitch, loaded to blastin point
He rides head first into a hurricane
And disappears into a point
And there’s nothing left but some blood where the body fell
And there’s nothing left that you could sell
Just junk all across the horizon
A real highway mans farewell.
Bruce Springsteen

December 03, 2007, Dodge City KS.

Grey awoke from a drunken stupor not exactly sure of where he was. This was not an uncommon thing, although it was something Grey had never quite become used to and remained a frightening experience. He prayed that when he pulled the covers back he would see the familiar surroundings of his room rather than the bars of a jailhouse drunk-tank. He had woken up in jail before and was in no great hurry to relive the experience. His mattress, however, was entirely too soft to be the kind of plastic matt they give you to sleep on in jail and his blanket actually seemed to be covering his entire body, therefore he quickly deduced that he must be at home and was grateful to have his assumption confirmed as he through back his covers.
He had slept in his clothes, as usual, and had not concerned himself with setting the alarm clock in order to be on time for work. He quickly decided, after seeing that he was already an hour and forty five minutes late, that he had had quite enough of the assembly line at the automotive plant, and resigned to quite in his normal fashion.(which is to say he would simply not show up until he was fired.)
His memories of Sam had caused him to hit the bottle extra hard the previous night. Now those memories had been replaced by the need to vomit. After he had finished flushing the toxic contents of his stomach down the toilet he proceeded to the kitchen in order to replenish them. Shoeless lay snoring loudly on the couch, as he did every day until around three o’clock in the afternoon, and Grey fixed himself a rum and coke for breakfast. Grey’s philosophy on hangovers was simple, if you never quite drinking then you never got one.
Despite the fact that he drank in the morning Grey never allowed himself to actually become drunk until later in the evening. He might have a drink here and there in order to ward off the dreaded DT’s, but he could usually keep it under control until the sun went down.
As was his ritual, Grey chugged a couple of beers in the shower before changing into a clean pair of clothes and putting the coffee on. He sat down at the kitchen table, sipping his coffee, and began to look through his cell phone records to see if he had missed any phone calls that morning or the night before. He froze on a number of a missed call glowing up at him from the phones display. As he stared at the familiar number he wondered to himself how long it had been since he had actually spoken with the GZ. Had he called him last night in a fit of drunken dialing? He hoped that that was all it was.
Grey had left the drug business behind a few years back and had no desire to be drawn into that world again. GZ, or Gerald Zimmerman, had been an old contact of his; actually, Grey had basically built the GZ into one of the biggest dope dealers in Providence. Grey had left Providence behind along with the dope trade and everything that went along with it. He now lived in a small college town about three hours from his old playground and as a general rule he did everything in his power to avoid it.
Grey had no idea what to make of the phone call. He simply sat at the table staring blankly at the number and letting his cigarette burn down to the filter without taking a drag. He vaguely remembered meeting the GZ back in high school. He had approached Grey to buy a large amount of pot and Grey had seen an opportunity in his young eyes. The next few years was spent building him up, all the while making a tidy profit from their friendship, until the day Grey looked into the eyes of a little girl, and finally decided to leave the life.
Since that time Grey had heard rumors about the GZ. He had apparently surpassed the point where Grey had taken him and even far beyond where Grey himself had been before abandoning the game. The GZ, however, was reckless. While Grey had been able to escape his life of crime with only minor misdemeanor convictions, the GZ had been busted multiple times on felony intent charges. Word on the street was he had even turned snitch in order to avoid serious federal penitentiary time.
Why the hell was he calling Grey now? It was true that they had once been very close friends, their relationship transcending that of a business partnership, but he hadn’t spoken with him in over a year. Grey had decided back then, that his conscious could no longer bear the strain of destroying the lives of others through the drug trade, and had since resolved to destroy no ones life but his own.
Grey finally decided to call him back. He felt he owed GZ that much for dragging him into a lifestyle that had begun to eat him alive. Of course it wasn’t as simple as all that. Gerald had been living the life long enough now that not much remained of the young man Grey had met so many years ago. He was a product of the streets now; lies had become his language and trickery his method. Whatever he wanted with Grey would not be an easy thing to discover, if Grey was to know at all. Lies are like the secret code of the streets, understanding there meaning when spoken was the only way to survive, and Grey was out of practice.
“Whatever.” He thought to himself, “It’s just a phone call.” He lit another cigarette as he began to dial the GZ’s phone number.
“Hello.” Gerald answered.
“What’s up dude, its been a while.” Grey hoped his apprehension was not apparent through the sound of his voice.
“Jesus fucking Christ on the cross, Grey Townson.” As always the GZ sounded upbeat and full of energy. “What the hell man, it’s been a long time. Where the fuck did you disappear to.”
“Oh I’ve been around, here and there, you know how it is. Just tryin to stay out of trouble is all.” Grey wasn’t about to tell the GZ where he lived, he had only been on the phone a few moments and already the ‘need to know’ mentality of his old life had crept into the forefront of his mind. Grey’s instincts had always been strong, even so he didn’t know what to make of the situation.
“Well shit man,” Grey said, trying to sound natural, “How’s life been treatin you, what’s new.”
“Things are good brother, I’m just kickin it. Makin a little money where I can, you know how it goes.”
“Yeah, so business is good then?” Grey asked.
“Yeah man, things couldn’t be better.” This was bad. Grey had heard through another kid from Providence that the GZ had been busted again, this time with major weight and some cash to boot, and was now awaiting trial. Of course that didn’t mean that Gerald would necessarily shut down shop, but what it did mean was that he was bullshitting Grey already. Usually if things were not going well the GZ would ask Grey for advice or at least whine about his problems.
“Great man, glad to hear it.” Said Grey without missing a beat. “So, to what do I owe this pleasure? What’s really going on?”
Why does something gotta be going on dude. Can’t I just be calling to say what’s up. I mean you drop off the face of the fucking planet, leave me in the lurch without so much as saying goodbye, and now you act like your scared to fucking talk to me when I call you. Like I want something from you.”
Grey paused, sensing that the GZ was indeed unusually stressed out. “Well don’t you?” He finally asked.
“Look man, I do need to talk to you, but that’s not the only reason I called. Besides, it’s not that big of a deal, and I didn’t want to just jump into shit when I haven’t seen you in forever. I don’t know how safe my phone is these days anyway. We can talk about it when you get to town.”
Grey sighed, “And why the fuck would I be coming back to Providence?”
“Cause you love me bro, you know you can’t stay away.” Grey could almost feel his grin through the phone, “Plus I’ve been hangin out with an old friend of yours and she said that she really wants to see you.”
The GZ’s bullshit motor was running on overdrive now. Grey realized that he must need something from him pretty bad. “Yeah? And who would that be?”
“Sam’s back in town. I ran into her the other night at Fred’s Place.”
Grey’s breath suddenly seemed to catch in his throat as if he had been hit in the stomach with a baseball bat.
“Hello?” The GZ hummed impatiently “you still there or what”
“Sam who?” Grey heard his voice ask.
“Sam who!” the GZ said in a mocking tone of voice, “Sam man, Sammie girl, the hit-chick Sammy-Sam….Samantha Jenkins. Don’t play like you don’t fucking remember her cause I know you do. And let me tell you bro, she sure as shit remembers you. So when are you coming to town?”
Once again Grey heard his own voice respond, “I’ll be there tonight.”
“Aright, bet. I’ll see you tonight. Be safe brother.” And with that Gerald hung up the phone. Grey’s hand with his phone in it dropped lifelessly to his lap as he sat stunned by what he had just heard. Then a thought occurred to him. The GZ had also known Sam, though the three of them had never associated with each other at the same time, he knew how close Grey and Sam had once been. This too could merely be smooth talking GZ bullshit, designed simply to draw Grey back to Providence. It was very possible that once Grey arrived the GZ would attempt to get Grey to do whatever he needed him for, after which he would simply make up some more bullshit as to why Sam was no longer around, or fain attempts at finding her without success.
He could almost hear Gerald now, “Man she said she was gonna meet us here, I wonder where the fuck she’s at.” This thought quickly seemed to sober Grey from the shock he had been experiencing, and allowed him to think somewhat more objectively on the matter.
After sitting for what seemed like an eternity in the dank silence of his kitchen Grey came to a decision. He had to go. If there was even a chance that Sam was in Providence, he had to go. He would find out first thing, if she was actually there, and if she wasn’t he would turn around abruptly and come home. If she was there….well he didn’t know what he was going to do if she was there, but he knew that if given the chance, he had to see her.
He quickly got up and walked back to his room where he threw some cloths into a backpack. After he had finished packing he sat down on the couch he kept in his room, again contemplating a difficult decision. After much deliberation he decided it was better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it. He got down on his knees in front of the couch, reached his hand up underneath it and began to feel his way past the frame and into the fabric above. He had almost begun to believe that one of his roommates or a drunken party goer must have discovered it and stolen it until his fingers touched the cold metal. He carefully removed the 40 caliber pistol he had hidden there in what seemed like another life, checking to make sure that it was still loaded before cramming it into the bottom of his backpack.
Touching the weapon made Grey feel the weight of his past. He hadn’t carried the gun since the day he had last seen Jacob. He realized that what he was doing was reckless and for all practical purposes, pointless as well. But he had made his decision.
“Shoeless!” He called out as he walked into the living room.
“Huh.” The shoe grunted, not opening his eyes.
“Wake the fuck up man!” Grey said in a gruff raised voice he had not heard himself use in years. “Seriously, get up.”
“What man,” Shoeless said, somewhat annoyed though alert by Grey’s sudden change in tone.
“Get up man,” Grey said, “and put some fucking shoes on, were going to Providence.”