Recon

Monday, April 19, 2010

Last Call, Last Stand - Part 13

Chapter 5 - Hand on the Pump

I don't remember the walk back or how I had ended up in bed. I don't even really remember falling asleep. Had I done a couple more lines or another addy or two I could have kept going easily-but everything that had happened already had sucked the life out of me. I remember leaving the bodega, and then I awakened to breath fogging cold and a foul taste in my mouth, in my bed, with a chopped 12 gauge sitting on the pillow next to me, the scarred wood stock inches from my face. I groaned and swallowed the sour taste in my mouth, staggering unsteadily to my feet.

I was wearing only my damp boxers and a fresh battle dressing over my wound, obvious from the lack of thick crusted blood. You would think that having no idea how I got that way would perturb me, but it happens a lot when you stay fucked up for long periods of time. My alarm clock was blank, a slack LCD face in the darkness, so I had no idea how long I had been out-but I was used to that too. My pants were a soggy denim puddle on the floor; I looked askance at them and somewhat gingerly fished out my cigarettes, lighter and cell phone.

It was only after I had sucked down most of a smooth that I bothered to actually check the time; 8:28pm. I had slept for awhile then. After a swift, superman like change of clothes, I gathered up the bare essentials (knife, shotgun, pistol, cigarettes, shoulder bag, and a fat joint from what would have been Cristobol's sack) and stepped out into the living room. It was graveyard quiet in there and Phebe was sitting on my couch playing solitaire in the green glow of one of those little chemical lightsticks. Her face was drawn and worried, and in the ghastly glow it looked eldritch and alien as well, some crazy H.P. Lovecraft shit. Beside her on the couch was a pink Nalgene bottle.

Triumphantly I tossed a packet of beef jerkey on the coffee table. She jumped a little as her cards scattered willy nilly across my floor. "Care for some jerky?" I said, perhaps too smugly. Immediately afterwards I felt my stomach wrench, thinking of how many dead motherfuckers that stupid packet of jerky represented. I really hoped I could eat it, or the whole fucking thing might have been in vain.

She looked down at it, and then up at me. Her eyes had lost some of their sparkle; whether it was emotional distress or that weird green light I didn't know. She sighed heavily, but tore into the packet of jerky and started chewing on a strip without pleasure. I have to admit, not the reaction I had been expecting-the part where she throws herself against me sobbing her thanks so I could feel her tits up against my chest and stroke her hair comfortingly. In retrospect, I suppose that is a bit unrealistic.

The silence was getting to me; I took a seat on the opposite end of the couch from her. "Sorry I fucked up your game."

"Your deck only has 41 cards," she said, and sighed heavily, her eyes fluttering shut. I didn't have the heart to tell her that I had mostly used the others to cut up lines on the very coffee table she had been playing on, and they tend to disappear after that. I'm not much of a cards guy.

I was on my second cigarette by then; the impending doom was starting to catch up with me. I looked around and pulled a dry hoodie from the pile on the chair next to the couch, shrugging it over my soulders. "When did the power go out again?"

"About an hour ago," she said, and gave me a single sideways glance, her eyes opening again. God, that green glow was killing me-combined with the comedown off coke and adderol it was conjuring unpleasant images of hell and retribution, nothing I wanted to think about right then. I could still feel that zit faced kid twitch when I scrambled his brains with the knife.

"Something's wrong, isn't it?" I volleyed blindly, and apparently struck a mark. She turned away, tried to make it casual-but it was too quick, and the sudden shake of her shoulders showed me exactly what it was. They were ragged breathed sobs, thick with frustration and exaustion and fear, and I could practically taste them in the air like incense, to the point where I could even take a stab at the flavor. Purple Haze. The depths of despair smelled like purple haze.

You might think, as you are reading this, that Jon Mackey doesn't understand women, given the way he has historically treated them like dogshit. I understand why you could think that, believe me-but it isn't true. Women are just like men, without that whole bullshit machismo ideal to try to live up to-instead they subscribe to a different set of (bullshit) social stigmas. In all other respects, our psychological makeup is the same-but the expectations are different.

A man is expected (and can, if pressed) to slaughter hordes of enemies and never cry; a woman can do so just as well (well, better than me) and is allowed to cry, but she has to look good the whole time.

In truth I was just as uncomfortable with the recent spate of killing than she was, though at the time I could never admit it to myself or her. Perhaps I was still in shock...but my hands felt hot whenever I thought of all those soggy corpses bloating in front of the bodega just down the road from me, and I felt like I was being garroted whenever I thought of Cristobol lying still and cold under the Crispy Creme donut cart cover...and yet all I could think to do, my own greed hammering it's message out loud and clear in my crotch, was slide over on the couch and put my arm around her.

Her warmth was like smoking H until just before you want to puke-it filled me and I found suddenly that all the other things I cared about were a million miles away, with a blazing summer sun between me and everything that mattered. I drew her in closer, and she didn't resist, her shoulders quivering as she sobbed again louder. It was toxic, or intoxicating, and though the demon snarled in my (very blue) balls all of a sudden I was arthur pulling the sword from the stone, Conan throwing the evil priest into the sacrificial fire...someone entirely different from Jon Mackey at least.

In retrospect it possibly wasn't even her touch that was making these potent warm waves flood my tattered nerve endings; it might have just been the sensation of being the good guy for once. I had held many crying women over the years, but it was usually part of the ol "Why You Make Me Do That Baby" conversation, and the crying was almost always my fault. This was different. It brought to mind a baby bird that I had held many years ago. Before she was invincible, but now she was fragile, and I could sense an undercurrent of breakage threatening the hard assed, practical facade she had been making this whole time.

"Jesus, Jon, I can't get ahold of my family at all. All the phone towers are out and the landlines are all busy." She curled into me, throwing both of her legs across my lap. Too late I noticed that she had changed into a pair of my boxers. Her legs were very pale and a little rough, but then, I couldn't exactly expect her to be shaving them in the rain.

It had an immediate effect on the blood flow to my brain versus the one to my dick; I think my response was "Gurfluzze su wonka wonka." I don't think my eyes did the cartoon gaga thing where they lept from my skull to a loud horn blat, but then, I wasn't really paying attention to them either.

She went on, not heeding my gibberish-and thank god for that. Tears rolled down her face, framing her mouth in little crystalline tracks that glistened in the ghastly glow of the lightstick. "I called and I called...they are in Fishers, and if anyone is safe it's him, but...I needed to talk about it Jon. I killed those guys...that one guy, the one I shot in the back..." Here her petite body was wracked with a shiver that translated to mine as well. I wondered how she would feel about me altering all of that guy's dentistry for a few packets of jerky.

"Hey," I said, while the monster in my lap snarled through the bars of my zipper, "listen-you did what you had to do." I leaned in closer to her, close enough that I could smell her breath. It was less enchanting than I expected-I think she had been eating something with onions. "None of those fucks had the moral high ground over us, you understand? They take the food, we starve. We get in their way, they fuck us to death with axe handles. It was do or die, babe, and don't you ever forget that." Her lips were quivering as she looked over at me, but the shine in her 12.5mg blue eyes told me I was hitting home. It would have been the perfect time to kiss her...but somehow I didn't. And then something terrible happened-I couldn't think of anything to say. It was like the weight of the dramatic moment was giving me performance anxiety, and I just sat there, posed by her face like a statue, my brain trying to conjure up a witticism. The awkward moment dragged on.

"Fuck those motherfuckers." It took me a moment to realize that she had said it and not me. After a shocked second, we both laughed-a long catharitic machine gun burst of laughter. It swelled up, filled the room, bounced off the walls, and god knows it probably gave whatever neighbors we had left a level 9 case of the willies. Even then, I remember thinking that the Joker and Harley Quinn probably laughed like that a lot.

Not that it made the situation any less funny to me.

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