Tag Archives: Short Story

The Mugging, a short story

mug

His breath smelled of fried rice and Budweiser, definitely not Bud Light, it was Budweiser. With his beer rice breath on my neck I could only look down and that’s when I knew I was fucked. The guy was wearing several pair of socks, one over another and so on, no shoes.

“Hey, you’re going to break one of my ribs”, I barely speak while trying to wiggle a little room between my side and his gun. I was thirty seconds into the mugging and quite honestly something needed to happen. He wasn’t demanding or trying to take my wallet he just had me in a headlock, gun jammed into my side, beer rice breath occasionally tickling my ear. My rib comment didn’t go over well; instead, he jammed it harder into my side. “You can have what I want.” He doesn’t budge. “I have cigarettes.” Immediately he pulls away the gun and backs off. I turn around and we stare at each other, he puts his gun into the back of his pants like Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop.

Ten minutes ago I was walking by the alley, trying to decide between Mexican and Italian for dinner. Italian is usually better, but often too filling especially if I go anything chicken parmigiana route. Mexican is tacos which rule. I was leaning toward tacos when I was grabbed and thrown into the alley, totally fucking up my dinner decision.

Now I’m in an alley that has old plastic crates littered throughout and am still hungry. He grabs a seat on a red-like colored crate and motions for me to do the same. I consider running, but there’s still the issue of the gun so I pull up an ocean blue colored crate. “Cigarette” He says so I give him one and pull one out for myself. They are Winstons’ which draws a look of disgust from beer rice breath as he stares at the pack while putting one into his mouth. I pull out a book of matches, he snatches them and lights his cigarette and throws away the match. I take the matchbook back and light another one for myself. In between drags beer rice breath keeps bending down as if he’s in pain. Each time he bends down I can see the gun stuck in the back of his pants. The next time he bends he says, “Messed Up.”

“Don’t worry about it, just let me go and I won’t say anything.” I say and he perks up, “No, shit-guy, not this”, he waves his hands, “Everything.” Why am I shit guy? He continues and says, “It was the shoes, the stinky shoes.”

I take a final drag off my cigarette, consider the risk of putting it out in his eye and instead throw it down and step on it. “What job?”

“Listen up shit-guy, you see over there –“ He points at a bowling alley across the street. “Sure, Rusty’s Bowl-O-Rama, what about it?”

“That was my job, I cleaned the shoes. I cleaned the shoes for 10 years and then they fired me. I have not worked since.” He bends down again, exposing the gun.

I move a little bit closer, pull out another cigarette and light it. “How long ago was that?” During one of his bends beer rice guy says, “Five years shit-guy.”

I take a drag, the next time beer rice breath bends forward I offer him a cigarette, when he reaches I step on his socks and go for the gun. It’s heavy, I don’t know how you can stick that in the back of your pants. Sure it looks fucking tits, but it’s just not very practical. Beer rice breath puts up no resistance and doesn’t even turn around. I think about what would happen if I shot him in the back of the head. It would probably be loud. As I contemplate the sound the gun actually falls apart, the handle falling to the ground. I throw down the other piece. Beer rice breath starts crying, mumbles something about shoes and slides forward off the crate that now appears more orange than red, maybe rust if that’s a color. Yeah, I’d go with rust. His crate was rust colored.

I decide on Chinese food, yeah, Chinese and a good cold beer.


White Christmas

Short Story Updated; Originally Published as Part of My Collection, Emotionless Souls

white

Uncle Jay took the last of my coke. Alright I said it, still doesn’t help me. Now how will I get through this holiday charade known as Christmas Eve? Uncle Jay is standing across the room staring at the over decorated tree with glazed eyes and a cocaine induced grin. I wish he would die this instant.

Three feet away is a speaker blaring Christmas music that sounds like Barry Manilow, but I’m not sure. To be safe I begin walking across the room toward Uncle Jay; balancing my Jack on the rocks in my right hand as I maneuver past an ill placed holiday basket containing ten thousand nut variations. I approach a small table where Jake and Pete are playing Black Jack. Every year another piercing appears on Jake’s face. This year it’s the left eye brow. It’s one of many family secrets in the open that no one talks about.

Jake and Pete are discussing what girl would cause the biggest stir if she were to appear on Bangbros.com. Pete quickly says “Britney Spears” and he is so proud of his answer he hits on eighteen, predictably busting in the process. Jerry seems content with the answer, but not very impressed as if he was anticipating Pete’s response. Jerry pauses for dramatic effect and then says “Jessica Simpson”, then adds “The shock value alone”. This response draws an agreeing nod from Pete.

His form of a concession speech.

I continue past, taking a drink in the process, resisting the urge to yell out the correct answer because this would cause quite a stir.

Uncle Jay is standing alone when he spots me moving toward him. He smiles smugly causing me to get angry and trip over Aunt Carol’s new Gucci bag.

I put my hand in my coat pocket and feel the empty cellophane bag. Nothing. Less than a hour ago Uncle Jay borrowed my coat to go smoke a Lucky Strike and now my coke is gone. Aunt Carol looks up at me as I continue balancing my drink, but she doesn’t seem to mind that I kicked her bag because this gives her a chance to show everyone her new bag, for the third time this evening. A fifteen hundred dollar purse with less than twenty dollars inside.

I watch this travesty as Aunt Carol tells the story of how she saw it and had to have it and then I turn my head because there’s movement across the room where little Todd, my three year old cousin, is pulling on the tree causing ornaments to fall off. Uncle Jay just stands there laughing.

My Aunt Joyce jumps out of her seat to announce that she’s making Bloody Mary’s. Not any ordinary drink, these are made with Aunt Joyce special ingredients she stores in a leather case, stowed in the trunk of her Corolla.

Aunt Carol’s display has started an accessories fashion show. Now Aunt Sharon has to sit up and display her bright red Marc Jacobs bag, smiling proudly as if it were a child. Tabitha, a friend of the family (so I’m told), giggles when everyone looks at her asking her to show them her bag. Although reluctant at first, a confidence beams out of her as she grabs her new gold Fendi bag. A hush falls over the room until Aunt Carol asks “Is it fake?” Tabitha quickly replies saying, “No, it’s real, isn’t it great?”, followed by Aunt Carol reiterating that “Well, it still could be a fake. You never know.”

Aunt Joyce returns with her Bloody Mary, sits, and takes a big drink.

I finish my Jack on the rocks. Aunt Joyce quickly notices my empty glass, stands up and runs to the kitchen to fetch me another one before I can say a word. I stand there waiting, my head spinning from the six drinks and two grams I’ve consumed today.

My cell phone is vibrating so I answer it and it’s Jackson, my friend who’s in town for the holidays and he wants to know what I’m doing tonight. I explain the family situation and the Barry Manilow and then he tells me I’m creeping him out so I stop. Jackson asks if I want to go out later and that sounds tempting, but then I find out he’s out of coke so we decide not do anything because it really wouldn’t be that fun.

I look back at Pete and Jerry, Pete is still trying to think of someone to top Jerry’s pick, but he’s at a loss for the obvious. Next to them my nieces Jill and Candy are playing with a scarf, throwing it high into the air and crashing into each other as it falls down. Aunt Joyce comes back with a fresh drink for me and a brandy chaser for herself. She has something white under her nose which makes me think she just did a line, but then notice it’s not powder, rather foam from egg nog she was probably drinking in the kitchen.

Continuing to walk toward Uncle Jay, I have a clear path until Carl, my brother in law, stops me and asks me what I’m driving. I tell him “Same Nissaan” which doesn’t matter because he’s not listening, but rather waiting to tell me about his truck, the new F150. He asks me if I want to see it, and I tell him I saw it last year and then he tells me that last year he was driving the F110, not the F150. A Lionel Ritchie song starts playing on the radio so immediately Aunt Sharon goes over to Grandma and starts rocking her back and forth. Little Todd is pulling on Grandma’s leg, Aunt Sharon continues to rock her back and forth and Grandma is shooting darts out of her eyes at anyone watching. This is enough of a distraction to walk past Carl.

Finally I approach Uncle Jay and I tell him “We need to talk.”

“Okay, but hey first can you see if you have any gum in your jacket? I think I may have left some in there when I borrowed your jacket.”

Gum. Right. I put my hand in my pocket and there’s nothing buy the empty bag.

“No, check the other one.” He says.

I put my hand in my left pocket, finding a half pack of gum and another bag, my bag of cocaine. I let out a visible sigh and hand over the gum.

“Are you okay?” Uncle Jay asks.

I look across the room. Aunt Carol is now holding Tabitha’s Fendi bag and shaking her head, Grandma is kicking at Todd in an attempt to get him to go away, and Pete has a perplexed look on his face.

“Yeah, I’m okay.” I say. “I guess.”

“So what did you want to talk about?” Asks Uncle Jay.

“Oh.” I pause and take a drink of Jack Daniels. “It was nothing. Merry Christmas.” I hold up my glass and then realize he doesn’t have a drink.

We both stare for a minute at the family and chaos ensuing.

“I’ve got some coke.” Says Uncle Jay.

“Oh?” I reply.

“Yeah. I’m just saying, if you want…”

“Cool.” I say.

Walking past Pete I lean down and whisper “Olsen Twins” into his ear. His face brightens as he hears the words, knowing that in a minute he will be able to show up his cousin, and once again be on top. Uncle Jay and I leave the room and head to the bathroom, humming a Lionel Ritchie Christmas song along the way.

 


A Miracle On Rivington Street

Happy Holidays everyone! Here’s some updated fiction to get you in the holiday spirit!

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The only thing colder than the weather outside is the Bud Light I’m drinking. You could say the same for the last five Bud Lights I’ve had in less than two hours. It’s not snowing, but the temperature is hovering just above freezing and there’s a frigid rain, cold as ice, followed by a brisk breeze straight from Canada. The weather alone is enough to kill you.

I had just finished work and was still wearing my Santa suit. The more drinks I consumed, the heavier my beard became. My red hat was resting on the bar. I looked back, through the windows onto Rivington Street, watching the hipsters walk by as non-holiday indie rock played in the background. Turning back I stared at the twelve inch decorated Christmas tree resting on the shelf above the register. Each season, the item is switched out. For Easter there was a bunny missing an eye, Halloween a smelly looking Jack o’ lantern. Thanksgiving, a straw weaved horn of plenty filled with wine corks. For those without calendars, it was a place to know what time of the year it was. That, and me sitting at the bar in my Santa Claus outfit, the same outfit I am supposed to wear for the next two weeks at Tom’s toy store on Ludlow Street. The same beard mixed with sweat, alcohol and tears.

Today the line was non-stop with children, mostly from New Jersey, telling me what they wanted and how they had been good children this year and deserve among other items: train sets, bicycles, cell phones, hunting rifles and underwear. I had three different flavors of juice spilled on me today (FYI cranberry is the worst), a woman tell me I was a bitter man (to be fair this was after I said her son stinks), and my beard pulled off by a girl named Laura who screamed I was a phony. My supervisor, a pale gentleman named Guy of all names was reducing my pay due to lack of business. It was two hours ago I decided I would not go back to this job, or any job for that matter. If you could get away with one action and not have repercussions I’m guessing most people would deeply consider murdering their boss. For many of us, this has been a tough year.

Six months ago I lost a lucrative construction job due a lawsuit my company lost. Then, my sister, my only family left passed away in a tragic chainsaw incident. Now, the holidays had arrived and I was miserable. I haven’t felt this bad since two years ago; again, it was around Christmas time. That year I wanted others to feel my pain; I started one of those Christmas letters to send out. I titled it, the Christmas Nightmare:

Well this year started with a bang, literally. I went into the corner deli for a sandwich and went to grab a pen that said Happy New Year’s when the man behind the counter, apparently thinking I was going to grab one of his priceless fifty cent lighters and run grabbed his gun and shot me in the arm. The next two months I was in and out of doctor’s offices, and my arm was in a sling. Once the weather warmed up I was as good as new. The first day it hit ninety I got sunburned, third degree burns. The next week I was back in the hospital.   Two months later the wounds were healed, but left scars that I attempted to cover up with a tattoo of my name; however, the tattoo parlor “artist” thought I wanted the name translated into German. So now I have a tattoo of my name in German, on my upper neck that looks more like a name of a beer than my name. For my birthday there was a surprise party planned, many came and it was a blast, so I’m told. I guess in all the excitement the organizer forgot to invite me. The next three months I went through identify theft, I was mugged for a plain grey tee shirt, and lost feeling in my penis. Thanksgiving consisted of Gatorade and barbeque flavored chips. At this point I’ve got nothing to lose. After the holidays, I’m going to Vegas to become a lounge singer. I understand I may spend years as an opening act, but the payout of someday maybe headlining is really the only thing keeping me alive. I worry my sunburn is turning into skin cancer.

I never sent this out, nor did I ever make it to Vegas. I have not had a dermatologist visit this year, so there’s still that…

Behind the bar, a row of liquor bottles lean against a mirror, I catch a glimpse of myself in my suit, half drunk. No place to go. A holiday cliché. I motion with my bottle to the bartender for another beer, lifting a glass for another shot of Jameson.

To my right is a table of aspiring authors. Years ago, I had sat down to write a novel about what Christmas meant to me as a child. Now, I couldn’t care less. The dream is dead. Is the dream of writing a novel, or the dream of Christmas dead? Yes.

One of the aspiring authors is discussing his blog on the war and product commercialization and the ruin of the true meaning of Christmas. I chuckle to myself, thinking I should hand him my Santa hat because he’ll need it in a few years.

Behind this group are two finance guys who probably read about this bar in Time Out and figure it’s a good place to unwind after a few lines of blow. I bend over and pull my bag closer to the bar stool, the gun inside makes a small clank as it hits the bottom of the bar.

At the end of the bar two girls drinking white wine and looking very cool (even for the Lower East Side) and giggle as they looked over at me. I notice and stare at both until it becomes uncomfortable, thinking which one may be the lucky one. In one motion I drink my shot of Jameson, and then chase it with a gulp of beer. Two of the aspiring authors place napkins on their drinks and go outside to smoke. As they leave, a woman wearing green tights walks in and sits next to me.

Two weeks ago, I was offered a job in Human Resources at EEG, a large finance company only to have the offer retracted after they performed a background check and found two misdemeanors from over ten years ago. It had been a week since I decided that would be the last interview. The last time I would be rejected.

After closer examination the woman in green tights was wearing an Elf costume. She had a sweatshirt over the top half and had clearly changed her shoes, but being in my current line of work I know Elf tights when I see them. Not to mention the tights accentuated her long legs, very flattering. I asked her where she was working, but she didn’t answer, only showing a card that read Jerry’s Appliance Store. I ask if I can buy her a drink, but she ignores me.

“Listen lady, the least you can do is say NO thanks.”, but she continues to say nothing, only looking forward. Out of frustration I kick my bag, the gun containing two bullets rattles against the leg of the barstool. The woman looks down at the bag, and then gives me a half smile and motions to the bartender for a tap of Brooklyn Lager.

“Good choice.” I Say.

No response from the woman. I bend down to grab my bag, but am interrupted when a group of eight walk in the door. The five guys are all wearing glasses with thick black rims, the three girls appear drunk. The all reek of freshly smoked weed.

“Eleven dollars”, the bartender says to me.

I dig out a ten and one and place it on the bar. The bartender, wearing a shirt that reads LES is MORE nods and shakes his head at the lack of tip. Looking back over at the woman in Elf tights I notice a bulge in her side that appears to be a gun. Great, I can read the headline now: A disgruntled Santa and Elf shoot-up a bar two weeks before Christmas. A holiday cliché.

She finishes her Brooklyn Lager and then quickly stands and reaches at her side to pull out her gun. I grab my bag, and begin to open it when I realize it’s not a gun, but rather a narrow leather journal. She writes down something, rips out the page and hands it to me, and leaves without saying a word.

I HAVE DECIDED NEVER TO BE REJECTED AGAIN SO PLEASE EXCUSE ME FOR NOT ENGAGING IN CONVERSATION WITH YOU. IF YOU WANT TO MEET ME COME TO MY APPARTMENT, 112 ESSEX STREET, #15A.

P.S. KEEP THE BEARD ON.

I grab my shot glass and motion for one more for the road, drink the Jameson down, and grab my bag.

On my way out the door I laugh. I’m a drunken Santa, walking in the rain, and carrying a bag with a loaded gun, on my way to see a girl. Such a holiday cliché.


[Fiction] Another Quiet Evening At Home, Part III

tenderloin

I’m working on a song about lost love, but bigger. Having trouble concentrating because Weekend At Bernies is on my mind, those bastards.

Knock, Knock

Sherri is back, she brought over a quart of vodka, good girl. She asks me if I want a drink, but before I can answer she’s in the kitchen and has two glasses out. She pours half vodka, half water from my faucet. “Did you know Colin is super rich?” She asks. I tell her no and she brings the glasses out to the couch where we sit. It takes five minutes of back and forth to realize she’s not talking about the same Colin.

Knock, Knock

The two guys that came over with Colin are back and they are holding a bag of meat. The one that got shot is still not wearing pants. They quickly move to the kitchen find a skillet and tell me they need to cook up steaks fast. I’m ready to throw them out when one of them offers me a beer. I pause and then one of them asks me if I have bloody Mary mix. Sherri walks up and pours them both vodkas and they are happy.

It’s around noon and the guys continue to fry steaks on my stove top. I don’t know how many they have and how many they plan to eat, but the smell is something awful and the vodka is almost gone. Sherri does one more check around the apartment, looking for stashed women and then leaves. The steaks continue to cook…

Knock, Knock

Colin is back and he brought his guitar, “I’ve got a song I want you to hear.” Colin hasn’t slept either and still isn’t wearing his shirt. He starts to play and then pauses, “You cooking steaks!”

Knock, Knock

It’s Sherri, she has another bottle and half of it is gone. She is screaming at me and starts running through the apartment, once again tossing everything I have, looking for something that’s not here. At least I don’t think it’s here, I’m having trouble keeping track right now. I grab another beer. It’s now early afternoon and I’m ready to kick everyone out and get some sleep.

Knock, Knock

Before I reach the door Sherri comes at me with a knife. Lucky for me, the guy that got shot is showing me a steak and is the one that gets stabbed in the arm. As he screams really loud Colin rushes over, removes the stabbed dude’s shirt and then puts his mouth on the wound. While he does this he removes his pants and makes a tourniquet.  Sherri looks at Colin and laughs because he’s definitely not a rich Colin and then tells me to fuck off and leaves.

Knock, Knock

Two guys with their noses pierced tell me they are ready. I ask for what and they tell me while drunk at a party two nights ago I agreed to go to a car race with them. I hate car races and tell them to get the hell out, but then I look around my apartment, hear Colin ask me if I want to hear his new song, hear the sirens getting close again and smell steak that now has a rancid reek and realize car racing sounds pretty damn good, so I leave…

 


[Fiction] Another Quiet Evening At Home, Part II

couch

Knock, Knock

Five beers later the cops are finally at the door. I say nothing, open the door and they walk in. There are two of them, wearing blue uniforms with guns and mustaches. They’re cops. The slightly taller one says something about this being the fourth time this month they have been to my place. I correct him and let him know that if he’s counting tonight, that would make it five. Both sit down and stare at the pair of pants on the floor. I’m about to explain when the shorter of the two asks if I’ve got anything to drink. We all laugh as I walk to the kitchen and make a couple of whiskeys.

I bring back the drinks; they are good drinkers, taking them down in two pulls. I explain the chicken dance guy and they know him, something about a rock star that played too many ballads. I get another round and when I return the taller cop is on the table doing the chicken dance while the shorter one is swinging his holster in the air. Well, if someone else gets shot at least they won’t have to call the cops.

Knock, Knock

Colin is at the door and walks in, pausing when he sees the cops and then continues. He has come back for the pants. Colin is still not wearing a shirt and grabs a seat on the couch, in between the cops. I go to the kitchen and get them all another round of whiskeys, grabbing myself another beer. When I return they are discussing the Hamptons, but judging from their stories I don’t think any of them have been; instead, rehashing the plotline of Weekend at Bernie’s.  This continues for a while…

Knock, Knock

Sherri is a girl that lived with me for two months. I haven’t seen her for three months. “Where the fuck is she!” she screams over and over, while she moves from room to room, tossing my apartment. Clearly intoxicated there is little I can do other than follow her and hope she doesn’t burn the place down. I step out back into the living room and the taller cop tells me I’d better cooperate, that works best in these situations. Also, don’t give her a gun. Good advice. Eventually she leaves. When I return to the living room all my guests are gone. The pants are still on the floor.

Through the shades I can see the morning light start to shine through. I notice the unfinished glass of red wine next to my chair. I head back to the refrigerator, might as well have one more beer. There’s a good chance someone is coming back for the pants.


Stories I Shouldn’t Tell: JAIL BAIT

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I caught him with my sight (corner of my eye), but it’s always too late. The tire iron he waved hit me in the side of the head. Luckily I woke from the nightmare shortly after… This has been my whole life; unfortunately he is not the boogeyman, or any figment of my imagination. He is someone very real, someone I brought into my world as a teenager. A day doesn’t go by when I see a familiar face, a reminder – he could be lurking in the next shadow.

***

I was 16 years old when I had to take my Mom to jail to testify against a man we’ll call Sammy. Why a jail cell? Well you see, Sammy was on work release and was one strike away from having to do real time. The only person standing in the way of Sammy spending years in jail was me. I was the person who needed to detail our relationship, criminal activities and confirm stories of others. Sammy stared at me, not in a sympathetic “help me” manner; instead, it was straight up “I’m going to fuck you” type eyes, and not good “fuck you” eyes. He also stared at my Mom who was terrified and later confessed Sammy looked exactly as she pictured the devil. It was humiliating and scary, yet, you see, at this point I had no choice but to testify…

***

It was my friend who first showed me how to steal a car stereo. This was the early nineties, when people would pay $1,000 or more for a nice stereo, complete with amplifier and subwoofers a system could cost even more. If nickels didn’t bounce off the trunk of your car, you clearly hadn’t invested enough. These were the “rich kids” in High School. For the rest of us middle-class losers we had to make do, or find other ways to kill off boredom. Some turn to drugs, but that wasn’t us. Crime was more of a turn on. We didn’t have roulette as a teenager, this was our rush. Turns out all we needed was a screwdriver.

Here’s how it works – first, you look for an area not being watched, then locate a car with either a stereo or something else valuable, then you place the screwdriver between the bottom of driver’s side window and driver’s side door and push down and then out, or toward your body. With little to no sound the window spider webs, leaving an easy entry to any locked vehicle. Once you are in you simply jam the screwdriver under the stereo and wedge it out. Look around for other valuables and then leave. This was before most cars had alarms. The whole process should take 10-20 seconds depending on whether the stereo had external casing that needed to come as well. Those were best, fetching an extra $20 in the High School parking lot.

For several weeks we were the guys you came to “pimp your vehicle” before it was known as that. If you were in the market for a car stereo, speakers, radar detector, amplifier, CB radio or really anything stolen merchandise at a steep discount we were your contacts. It gave us a sense of purpose and also a few bucks to put toward cigarettes and underage drinking.

Everything we knew about stealing we learned from Sammy. We met Sammy late one night at a Burger King because all relationships made late night at Burger King end well. We got close, fast. Nights were spent drinking at his hole-in-the-wall hostel above a bowling alley where the lowlifes of the city lived. The allure for us was a quick buck and seeing how the other side lives. Sammy was much older, probably 35 years old and to a couple of teenagers, seemed wise to the underworld and a life of crime. Sammy always talked about “busting his nut” which was something we had no experience with, but wanted to hear about as we sipped whiskey and smoked cigarettes. This went on for a few weeks until one night, a Friday, when we took a road trip.

The trip was two hours south, to where Sammy grew up, in South Milwaukee. My friend let Sammy drive his car which was not wise given the speed and danger he put us in. He had this way of approaching a car just feet away on the freeway before moving to the passing lane. Somehow, we made it to Milwaukee and stopped off at his mother’s house. There were a lot of people (apparently relatives) in one house and many kids running around. His mother had not seen him for a very long time, but then started yelling after only one minute. Everything was in Spanish so we have no idea what they were saying, but I’m pretty sure it had something to do with us. We didn’t stay much longer, besides we had work to do.

Near the Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee is a very rich neighborhood where wealthy people park their luxury cars on the street and don’t think twice about crime on their block. That would never happen there. It was not a safe block this particular night when a 1986 black Monte Carlo pulled over and we all got out, screwdrivers in our back pockets. It didn’t take long, maybe 20 minutes before we’d hit most of the cars. We had a bag full of Alpine, Kenwood, JVC stereos, radar detectors, cash and more. It was the last car that was wired with an alarm that sent us running for the Monte Carlo. Again, the owners probably thought it was the wind. It wouldn’t be until the next morning they would awake to a block of broken glass and music-less sports cars.

The ride home was quick and we were back before sunrise. The next week we sold off the stereos in the school parking lot. A week later I left class to meet my friend and that’s when I saw the Detectives, emptying my friend’s car. Apparently, some dick who going down for something small decided to hand the cops my friend and I instead of just taking a little heat. He brought down the whole operation. Next, given the option of finishing school in Juvenile Detention or confessing, my friend had little choice, settling on handing the cops Sammy. By the time they rolled up to my parent’s house that evening it was over. They knew everything. I was given probation, community service and had to pay restitution provided I testified. If I didn’t, I was finishing my high school years in Juvenile Detention. Given, my friend had already given up Sammy there was nothing left to do.

***

Both Detective Bamberger and Detective Maiden were in the cell I was testifying in. They were also the two cops that came to my parent’s house to tell me I was fucked. Given we were at times drinking with Sammy; Detective Bamberger questioned whether or not I was an alcoholic. He was a recovering alcoholic that was unable to get out of bed without having a six pack. Detective Maiden was more old-school cop, meaning mustache and an Irish look. I’m pretty certain he just kept his drinking problem to himself. The lecture from Bamberger was over ten minutes and excrutiating.

The testimony itself was a lot of staring and me answering “Yes” to questions as well as telling the Milwaukee road trip story. During the road trip we had stopped for pizza and for some reason Sammy’s attorney asked me if I had eaten any the following morning. I answered “no”, but in hindsight I can’t believe that’s true. I rarely pass up cold pizza for breakfast.

My community service was spent at the public library going through books and for my probation I met with a social worker who tried to get me to open up. I mean, I was just a bored middle-class loser looking for fun. There wasn’t any more to it than that. The experience was amazing, but I would never want to put my Mother or others through it again. I definitely don’t ever want to hear Detective Bamberger’s six-pack in the morning lecture again either.

***

Twenty years later I still see Sammy out of the corner of my eye. Upon closer examination it has never been him, but that doesn’t stop me thinking. I mean, wouldn’t you want revenge on the middle-class loser punk that put you away?


Tech Junkie

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Tonight was different. Every other night was the same, me, working late in an old office building in the sketchy side of Cleveland. I work for New Dreams Accounting, a software company that goes by NDA. This confuses potential clients who immediately think Non-Disclosure Agreement. The company isn’t doing very well, hence the lean IT support team that has been weaned down to me and guy named Jayson with a y and refused to be called Jay for short. Jayson refused to work after 6pm, leaving me mostly alone except for a security guard who was usually sleeping or masturbating in the executive bathroom. There were rumors of messy run-ins regarding the latter.

Most nights I handled 30 to 50 tech support calls related to application performance, incorrect passwords, random Java script errors and more performance issues. Performance issues were always the worst and most frustrating for the end users. After three years, I gauge my customers’ dissatisfaction by the number of “fucks” during our call. Performance issues typically resulted in three or more “fucks.”

It was sometime after 9pm when he showed up, crashing through the unlocked door, staggering toward me. Dirty hair, baseball cap, non-funny zombie eyes and a grey short sleeve tee. He was waving a small pocket knife and had strings hanging from his arms which after closer review were tracks from shooting heroin, or something strong used to forget. He yelled something about being sick and needing a couple bucks. I had no cash on me. He started yelling louder as he approached my desk. The eyes were unfunny from a distance and were now frightening as they appeared to be full of blood. I looked around for anything of value wondering if the security guard was near climax in the john. I grabbed my laptop and slid it over to him, “take it” I told him. He looked down and stopped yelling, inspecting the laptop “Is that Windows XP?” I nodded. He put away the knife, “what the hell am I gonna do with that old thing? I can’t get 2 bucks for that man.” I put my hands up, “I have nothing, sorry.”

“Pills, do you have any pills?” I didn’t but it did trigger a thought. I asked him to sit for a second. I didn’t ask him to sit still because he was in heavy withdrawal and there was no way he was going to be still for anything. I go to the kitchen area, just steps away and open the refrigerator. I reach into the far back corner and pull out a bottle of champagne, left from a celebration over a year ago, the last time we signed a new client. On my way back I grab two coffee mugs. At my desk my guest is watching me and then looks back at my laptop, “you should upgrade man.” I pop the top, pour two cups of champagne and we both drink them down. He asks me what I do and about the company. I explain and his response is “Like Non-Disclosure Agreements?” The phone is ringing non-stop when I pour a second round. He proposes a toast, “to NDA and burritos smothered in cheese.” Sometime during our second drink the security guard shows up and takes my new friend away.

I shut off my computer and fill up my cup, emptying the bottle. Maybe tomorrow I will ask for an upgrade. I take a drink and leave the phone ringing.