November 29th, 2012
I woke up in a dither. The sound of a loud beating originally pulled me out of my trance, but I had already started coming to due to an uncomfortable heat on the back of my head where my desk lamp, which was left on throughout the night, had been needlessly illuminating my hair for the past six hours. I yawned, stretched, and shuffled to the kitchen while the stranger kept beating.
“I’m coming! I’m coming!” I said, waving my hands at nothing.
I was already starting my day with a migraine, so, before I went to the door, I poured myself a glass of tap water and took 3 OTC pain-killers. I left the water running while I drank the small glass; when I finished, I stuck my face close to the faucet and splashed the running water onto my heavy eyelids. The beating grew louder.
“Calm down, for Christ’s sake! I’ll be right there!” I yelled as I walked to the door.
I stuck my eye to the peep-hole and made out a few unmistakably female features before I pulled the door open.
“Hey-o, Thunder Cock.” said the woman, with a glowing smile. “Mind if I come in?”
Rebecca Randy stood with angelic posture in front of me. She wore a white, collarless blouse, which she tucked into high wasted, olive skinny jeans. Her hair hung loose; the wind blew a few auburn locks into her face as she stood, shifting in the cold. I took a few minutes to take her apart, inch by inch, before letting her inside.
“Thanks a lot, M. It’s cold as fuck out there!”
“Why weren’t you wearing my jacket?” I asked.
“I didn’t think you’d take so long to invite me in.” she said. She looked at me and winked, as if there was an alternate meaning to what she was saying, but I knew she was just teasing me.
The living room was still in disarray from the night before, and Rebecca called attention to it almost immediately.
“Jesus Christ, you really let the place go, didn’t you?” she asked.
“It’s a hell of a long story, but you could say that.”
She immediately attempted to help me by pushing the couch back to its original space on the floor, but she struggled against its weight.
“Did you get robbed, or what?” she asked, straining against the couch without making any progress. I moved to the front and helped her pull it to its original place.
“I wasn’t robbed. Like I said: long story.”
Her eyes fixed on the collapsed coffee table; I could visibly see her swallow her next question.
“I’m sure it is.” She said, instead. I scanned her face, looking, again, for any alternate meaning, but her attention was already miles away from the conversation. While she was distracting herself from my taciturn behavior, I seized the opportunity to make my living room actually livable. As I was finishing, her eyes fixed on a painting, which hung directly over the book shelf. I ducked under her gaze and walked to the kitchen.
“Do you want a drink?” I asked.
“Yeah. Scotch.” She said, still distracted by the painting.
Fenton’s pictures caught my eye again; they were now scattered across my counter-top. I hurried to collect them and threw them all in a random drawer before I took two glasses from the cabinet and poured our drinks. I eased toward Rebecca with the icy glass; she was still infatuated by the painting.
“This is complete shit.” She said. “Please tell me you did this, so I can make fun of you.”
There was happiness in her eyes. Her face was playfully smiling at me, struggling to mimic a disappointed parent, or a judge, I assume.
“I didn’t, actually.”
I held the drink in front of her; she ignored it and began an attempt to make her face look more extreme—she scrunched her nose and eyebrows in mock-anger; my heart beat sped up with her games.
“This painting,” I said, still holding her drink in front of her, “was painted by my neighbor from across the street—you remember, Luke Simmons. He thought he—“
“Yeah, yeah. I remember.” She said.
She cast a sardonic glance at me as she took the glass from my outstretched hands. She took her first sip from the glass without looking away from me; without losing the callous disappointment in her eyes—her version of a joke. I tried to change the subject.
“I have a job now,” I said.
“That’s great! Which gay bar?”
“Hemingway’s Hard-on. I’d invite you, but there’s a strict ‘no-assholes’ policy.”
“Don’t be a pussy.” She said, shoving me. There was a pause in her voice before she asked me, “Is it really a gay bar?”
“No, dick. I got a job at Daedalus’ Donuts.”
“Oh, fuck yeah! That’s Fenton’s place, right?” she asked.
I was immensely shocked by the fact that she had already known about this. I mentally stalled for a minute and missed the next beat in our usual conversational flow, but I picked up the next one.
“Yeah,” I said. “He’s being a real sport about it.”
“That’s good. I met him before I left. He told me I should try to talk you into submitting the application after I hounded him about a job for both of us.”
She trailed off for a minute about her meeting with Fenton, but I lost my focus; her voice faded out, but another whispered.
“She’s up to something,” Sandy whispered. “Don’t forget she’s poisonous. Don’t forget that I’m looking out for you.”
“Because, you’re my fucking fairy god-mother.”
I had, unintentionally, said that out loud. Rebecca had a quizzical and shocked look on her face.
“I am so sorry. I honestly started thinking about something else. I don’t know why I said that.”
She didn’t respond. Her face was completely taken over by shock. The conversation ended with my last punctuation.
I put my glass on the barely functioning coffee table and excused myself in order to look for my work schedule and a clean change of clothes. Fenton’s note was still on the kitchen counter top where he had left it the night before. I scanned it for information. “Thursday: 8-12” was scribbled, barely legibly, on the front of the small piece of paper. Fenton scratched out a note on the back.
“GILLESPIE WILL GIVE YOU THE REST OF YOUR SCHEDULE WHEN YOU SHOW UP FOR WORK. GOOD LUCK, M. SINCERELY, F.G.”
I still had hours before work, so I went upstairs to sleep before my shift. Rebecca was turning on Sketches of Spain when I closed my door. I passed out after the first five notes of “The Pan Piper”.
November 29th, 2012 7:30PM
I shot out of bed, frantically rubbing my face.
“Fuck! Fuck, fuck, fuck!” I shouted at nothing.
I threw on the closest thing I had to clean clothes and rushed down the stairs and out the door. Rebecca was asleep on the couch, her glass sitting in her lap.
I locked my front door and slid down my icy driveway toward the Pinto. After I slammed the door, I pulled down the passenger mirror to make sure there wasn’t anything on my face or in my teeth. As I opened it, a cigarette fell in my lap: a Sobranie Black Russian. For a split-second, my mind struggled with memories brought on by the cigarette. I struggled, but finally ignored them, lit a Newport, and sped down the road, folding the mirror closed; between it and the roof, I sandwiched that cigarette.
I pulled into the parking lot with 5 minutes to spare and ran to the front door. There was a note taped to the glass; the note was curt, the handwriting pristine.
“Back door. Come quickly. Gillespie”
I looked at my watch—a Timex with a chrome face and a brown, leather band. I still had five minutes to spare, so I lit another cigarette.
Sandy’s voice stabbed my thoughts while I smoked, but I ignored him. Whatever he was trying to communicate must not have been very important, because it took very little effort on my part to quieten his voice.
I stamped my cigarette out on the brick next to the back door before I walked in. There was a young man pouring mop water into a floor drain. He wore a baseball cap with a word I’d never seen before—it was a band name, I later found out; I don’t remember the word. The young man was tan, with short, blonde hair, and a patchy blonde beard. He held out his hand and introduced himself to me.
“Hiya. I’m Todd. You Miles?”
“Boss-man wants you in his office.”
He motioned over his shoulder to the office door.
Gillespie’s office was plain and grey. A single bookshelf, which spanned the entire back wall, hung over his head—the shelves were filled with literature ranging from authors like Hunter S. Thompson to Augustine. Gillespie was separating a fine white powder on the cover of his small, black appointment book.
“Hey, Rick James.” I said.
His head shot up from the powder.
“I’m Phillip Gillespie, bitch.” He said.
There were a few seconds of silence, followed by Gillespie’s laughter—he was his own favorite comedian. His face swelled and turned pink. His eyes were swollen shut. He leaned over his desk with a razor-blade in his left hand, wheezing in over-the-top laughter. Not one spec of the white powder was disturbed.
He sat up and straightened his tie. The stone-faced expression that he was accustomed to returned to his face after he cleared his throat. Gillespie was clearly keyed up. He didn’t laugh for the rest of the conversation.
“It’s about time you arrived Mr. Saffron.” He said.
Usually, Mr. Gillespie’s voice was fairly high pitched, but during the conversation he purposefully lowered his voice an octave; I assume he was trying to sound more imposing.
“I have your schedule printed off here. You will be doing prep-work for our midnight rushes. Do not stay a minute past 12. If your work is completely done feel free to leave. You don’t have to ask me. You will be paid for your scheduled hours, not for your actual hours. Keep your employment circumstances between me and you, and don’t talk to Todd. He’s a chatter-box. But, you should ask him about your responsibilities.”
As I walked out of the office—or was it an asylum?—I heard an unmistakable sniffing sound, followed by Gillespie shouting, “Close the fucking door!”
I approached Todd; he was leaned over a stainless steel counter that had dough spread across it. He wore latex gloves which were covered in a glossy liquid that had the same viscosity as oil, although it smelled sweet.
“He told you not to talk to me, eh?” he asked.
“Don’t pay any attention to him. He’s keyed up half the time; the other half, he’s just an aloof asshole. Do you know how to make Donuts, Miles?”
“Call me M. I have no idea.”
“Alright, M, you’re going to be doing raw work. What that means is that, mostly, you’ll just prepare the various types of dough needed. Everything you will need to know is in this ingredient book.”
Todd opened the book on the counter-top. Laminated pages outlined each ingredient, from the making of the dough, to the prep, and, finally, the cooking. His finger ran over lines on the first page.
“This line—line five—tells you how to make Daedalus’ signature brand of dough. It’s the same for virtually everything we make. What do we make, you ask? Well, everything is outlined here in this book. Familiarize yourself with it. Blah, blah, blah. You get the idea?”
“Good. Any questions, you ask me. Don’t bother the G-Man. He might shoot you.”
He didn’t laugh, but I assumed he was joking.
“By the way, your prep list is hanging on a nail by the oven. Before you get to work, take a minute to get to know your surroundings. Ideally, I’ll be able to say ‘get me the thing from over by the…uh…whatever appliance’ and you’ll be able to get it without asking what I’m talkin’ about. I’ll try to give you a break for the first few days so you can learn everything.”
Todd turned his head down towards the rows of dough that were stretched out across the table, which I took to mean that our conversation was over. I watched him cut and form simple doughnuts for a minute before starting my brief tour around the kitchen.
The back kitchen was very small and unkempt. While there was nothing outlandishly dirty about it, there was very little semblance of organization on the shelves that lined the walls. The sheet-rock was originally white—you could still see white spaces where a poster or clock had hung for years; time had turned it into a cracked, yellowish hue. The suspended ceiling was missing numerous tiles and, to the best of my knowledge, had no insulation. The remaining tiles were also stained around the corners, with slight mold growing in an almost-checkered pattern.
I found the ovens and stoves in a line on the back wall—next to the water heater I had practically walked into when I came through the emergency exit. The wall that concealed Gillespie’s office was nude.
After I grew accustomed to my surroundings, Todd showed me the various different ways to make each donut on our prep-list.
“We’re going to need 200 apple fritters by midnight, so that’s what I’ll have you do. They’re easy.”
The specifications, according to him, were precise. I strained to appear interested, but behind my façade of nods and affirmative sound effects I was barely paying attention. I preferred to entertain the pressing thoughts I had—which, unusually, were related to ballet and hip-hop. I watched Todd’s hands delicately twist the balls of dough into shapes and imagined “The Real Slim Shady” as his accompaniment. The only instructions I remember him giving had to do with Apple Fritters: he said to fold the apple concoction into the do in order to “incorporate the apples without mashing them into a bloody pulp.”
After hours of non-stop work, save for a few smoke breaks on my part, Todd and I finished the entire prep sheet, although I was constantly stopping him to ask for instructions on how to make various pastries. He sent me home at 11:48, and I was exhausted.
November 30th, 2012 12:20AM
My hands were freezing, making it difficult to turn the Sobranie around in my fingers. I stared at the gold wrapper and brought the cigarette under my nose to smell the fine tobacco. This was the last in a pack of cigarettes that Newt had sent me the week before my first encounter with Breathless.
“Try to ration these, because they’re expensive as fuck.” Newt had said over the phone.
He was in Texas at the time of the phone call and began telling me about southerners—as usual, it was replete with hyperbole, if not outright fabrication.
“Everyone carries around a fuckin’ double barrel, and they wear cowboy hats and spurs and shit.”
“I’ve been to Texas.” I told him, playing along with the joke.
My mind raced through all of my favorite memories with him; mostly, they are soaked in whiskey, gin, or rum. Rum was his poison. In our younger years, when we lived in the east, we spent a lot of our time in smoky bars drinking shot after shot of rum and ranting about pseudo-philosophical issues about gender and sexuality. He like to pretend to be a hateful person—though, he was the only one in on the joke. Night after night, Newt would always drink too much, and I would always carry him out to the curb and hail a Taxi.
We had a conversation one night, after we had finished countless martinis and shots of rum. We walked out of a bar—I don’t remember the name—and stood on the sidewalk smoking cigarettes. There was a metal bench, painted black, facing the street; it had a very simple spiral design on the back and the arm-rests, which Newt used to stabilize himself after nearly falling on his face during his brief walk from the bar door to the bench. He was wearing charcoal slacks and a white dress shirt; they were soaked in liquor. His red, plaid tie was completely undone and dangling over his sweaty shoulders. He pulled the makings of a cigarette out of his shirt pocket and fumbled with his cigarette paper. He must have wasted a pack’s-worth of tobacco before I offered him a half empty pack of Newport Reds.
He spun the flint on his lighter helplessly with the cigarette in his mouth. I finally confiscated the lighter and lit his cigarette.
“I fucked up.” He said, the glowing cigarette dangling out of his mouth. In a moment of stillness, a cloud of smoke rose from his parted lips after he had spoken.
“I fucked up!” he repeated.
That was his favorite saying, when knew he had too much to drink. I ignored him. His head bobbed and leaned over his chest before he said it again, now almost shouting.
“Goddammit, I fucked up, Miles!”
“I know, Newt. You had a little too much to drink, but me and you are getting out of here.” I put on a comforting voice while I looked around to see if we had embarrassed a passer-by. I was as drunk as he was, but I would be damned if I was going to embarrass myself in public. Newt kept talking.
“No…no, M, you don’t get it. I…fuh-“ The sound of a rolling belch came from his stomach. He burped and then, in a disgusting show of testosterone fueled asininity, he tasted his saliva. He smacked his lips together a few times before making a disgusted face and, finally, leaning his head over the arm-rest and spitting on the ground. He wiped the saliva from his lips with his already-soaked right sleeve and continued his drunken rambling.
“I think I could’ve slept with that red head at the bar, and here I am—drunk, and going home with you.”
I laughed at him. He joined in with a low, growling chuckle. His mood was dangerously unpredictable, so I tried to keep the conversation in friendly, non-harmful sphere. I asked him outlandish questions, like, “Why are we here?” and “What is the meaning of life.”
“Pussy and beer. That’s the meaning of life.” He thrust his cigarette at me to solidify his point.
“Let me paint a picture for you, M. There’s this guy—he’s a real fucking burnout. Barely able to glide through life; alcoholic; real difficult to get along with; the perfect example of an asshole. Then, you’ve got this other guy—he’s also an asshole; he’s a drunk; he’s a lot of things; but, he has one thing going for him.” He waited for me to ask what it was.
“Well, what is it, Newt?”
“He really gives a shit about people. Like, the folks around him are the most important.”
“Alright. What’s the point? Show me the finished painting.”
“Here’s your finished painting: the two guys really aren’t that much different at all, except for that one thing—it makes a helluva difference. You take away someone’s care for people, all you’re left with is an asshole, regardless of what else he does.”
“That’s the only difference?”
“Swear to God, M. Whether or not you care about people—it’s the only thing that matters.”
We sat for a minute and smoked cigarettes before I hailed a Taxi and went home for the night.
I put the gold filter in my mouth and lit it. The strong sound of inhalation was magnified throughout my body. My lungs stung momentarily, as a result of the cold. I leaned up against the cool steering wheel and clouded the windows with smoke.
A memory poured in, outside of my control. I saw Newt’s open chest cavity—blood was pouring out onto his shirt. His pupils were constricted to a microscopic point. I heard his faint, last breath and saw the last, weak beating of his exposed heart.
November 30th, 2012 1:15AM
When I closed my front door behind me, I could hear “Cyprus Avenue” was playing on the radio. With each step towards the living room, a faint sound, which was accompanying Van Morisson’s voice, grew louder; it was Rebecca’s high, sweet feminine voice.
“I may go crazy before that mansion on the hill, but my heart keeps beating faster, and my feet can’t stand still…”
She was drunk, and I know her voice didn’t compliment the music, but I stood and listened to her until the song finished.
Her white shirttail was hanging over her pale, naked thighs. Her bare feet dug into the carpet. She had her hair pulled back. In her right hand, she held a collection of stories by Philip K. Dick; she was reading “Second Variety”, one of my favorites. In her left hand, she swirled ice around in her glass of Scotch.
“You look like a renaissance painting, Rebecca.”
She jumped at the sound of my voice.
“Holy fuck. How long have you been standing there?”
“I listened to your entire rendition of ‘Cyprus Avenue’, but I assure you it wasn’t creepy.”
“Well, since you assure me.”
I worried, for a split second, that she was bothered by it, but she invited me to sit next to her on the couch, which calmed me down. She sat her book open face down on the rickety coffee table. There was a bookmark on the table, so I picked it up and put inside.
“What the fuck are you doing? I’m going to lose my place now!”
“Nonsense. Just skim those two pages until you see something that you don’t remember.”
“It’s easy for you, Mr. Genius.”
“Whatever, dude. I am not a genius. That’s, like, bookmarks 101.”
There was a momentary lull in the conversation. Her eyes flew around the room, this time avoiding Luke’s hideous painting. Finally, she broke the uncomfortable silence.
“Do you want a sip of my drink?” she asked.
I remembered Ed’s shattered mug; it was her saliva, on the rim of that mug, which had dealt him a fatal dose of Cyanide before it slipped from his hands.
“No thank you.” I said.
“There’s something I want to ask you, Miles. I went to see my dad recently and things are going really well for him, so he gave me some extra money—around $3000. He told me I should use it to find a place to live and get a comfortable start, but I told him it’s not really enough. Then, I started thinking about the great times you and I have here. And, you know, $3000 could actually be a good start if I had a roommate. So, I was wondering if you’d be willing to let me move in with you.”
I paused and stood up; my face was, no doubt, blood red.
“Are you fucking crazy?” I shouted at her. “I already have one psychopath living under my roof! What the fuck makes you think you living here would be even remotely acceptable? You’re a fucking alcoholic child, and, for all I know, the poison that seeps from your tongue won’t wash off. I’ll probably have to throw away another glass! Do you know how many glasses I’ve thrown away since you started drinking with me? A lot. So, no you can’t fucking live here, Bitch! You’re just a fucking murdering tease just like the rest of the villains that keep crashing on my fucking couch, suffocating the life out of me anytime I walk downstairs for a glass of water. And, you think I haven’t noticed your advances? You’ve been eye banging me since the moment you walked in! I know exactly why! You’re trying to kiss me so you can kill me! Does that get you off, you perverted fucking bitch? I always thought that was Breathless’ thing, but maybe that’s the mantra of your whole fucked up gang!”
I breathed heavily and my ears started ringing. I started seeing spots. Lights faded in and out. Rebecca’s voice yelled through the fog.
The color started returning and the ringing stopped. She looked at me, confused.
“So, what’s your answer?”
She looked genuinely nonplussed by my outrage. I was astonished.
“What did I just say?” I asked.
“Nothing. You’ve been sitting there, staring into space for five minutes since I asked you. Are you alright?”
I’d been imagining the entire fucked up thing. I buried my hands in my palms; “Madame George” began playing on the radio.
“I’m sorry.” I said. “It was my first night at work. I’m exhausted.”
“Oh, it’s fine.” She said. “I understand if you need to think about it.”
“No, I don’t. Rebecca…a friend of mine once told me that the only thing that matters is how you treat other people. That’s probably a gross oversimplification of the meaning of life, but I think it merits some respect. The situation with you and your dad is fucked up, and the fact that you have nowhere to go makes me really sad. You can stay here for as long as you want.”
She sat up in her chair and cheered in excitement.
“Before you start going nuts, we need to set some—“
“ground-rules! I know! This should cover some of it.”
She pulled an envelope out from under her thigh.
“That’s all $3000. It’s not enough, but, it should cover some of my rent until I can find a job. Thank you so much, Miles. You have no idea how much it means to me. You’ve been so caring and kind. You’re generous and strong and…oh, I just want to fuck you so bad! Please, can I fuck you? I know it’s a little early, but surely you’ve noticed that I’m into you!”
A stuttering noise came out of my mouth—it was a jumble of noisy, guttural consonants that I’d let escape out of shock. Rebecca saw my discomfort and inched closer to me.
As the space between us shrunk, she placed one of her soft, thin hands on my upper thigh; she moved the other one up past my chest and onto my cheek. Her face was only a few feet from mine.
“I’ll be gentle.”
Her teeth glinted in the light; her eyes sparkled with joy; she laughed at herself. I was completely paralyzed with fear.
She brought our faces inches from each other and leaned over me. The first five buttons of her blouse were undone, and showed the glossy, pink bra that covered her small, pale breasts.
“I won’t do anything if you don’t say it’s ok.”
I could hear her breath grow heavier and heavier as she moved closer. The smell of Scotch was sweet on her breath; she was drunk, but I was too confused to care. I still sat, frozen, as she crawled on top of me. Her warm legs were wrapped around my hips. Now, the hand that had been on my thigh was pressing against my chest.
“Your heart’s racing.” She laughed again. “What’s it going to be, M boy?”
I could feel a faint, fluttering heartbeat against my face, in the palm of her hand. She inched closer still, and pressed my forehead to hers, before she whispered, “Please…”