Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Zombies, Three Crime Dogs and a College Boy (Short Story)

It was one of those sixteen below January mornings when I, Gerald Fishburn, nearly made one of the gravest mistakes of my life. You see I met this guy over a couple pints two nights ago at the Crest Inn  who introduced himself as “ Stingray” . Not long after preliminaries the ray asked if I’d like to slide outside for a toke of this rare Tibetan herb. I’m not saying I fall a little short of willpower in these situations but the lure of serious bud certainly appeals to the artistic side of my brain.

 I sneak back of this dumpster just beyond the kitchen door where I see Ray rolling this nasty looking leaf in what seemed to be a subway transfer . Remember this was by invitation only so I watch him drop this long tongue to paper and smear a wad of lip residue up and down one side, sealing the joint with what looked be toxic paste dredged from the depths of Love Canal. Ray then takes a heaping draw, tightens his abdomen, chokes, coughs, then sneezes a pound of  nose biscuits all over the pavement then  passes along to me. Before inhaling, I inspect for water damage and happen to notice the time inscribed along one side of the transfer, 12:10.

“ Hey man, what the hell is this crap?” I ask after first whiff.

“ Only the finest, most primo bud north of Texas,” Ray proudly quips.
Being no stranger to high herbal tradition I recognize this leaf more akin to fungus than fruit.

“ This shit taste like it comes from the bottom of those Doc Martens you’re wearing. In fact, it tastes like you’ve been storing it up your ass .”

“ Yeah, yeah  asshole, I’ve heard this bull shit before. Punks like you look a gift horse in the mouth and piss in it.”
“ No, I was just jiving you. I’m grateful for the gesture but nothing alters the fact this shit’s so ancient I’ll have to soak my mouth with Pledge to keep the walls from cracking.”
 “ Listen joke boy, if you think you can do me something better here’s twenty. Meet me at that address tomorrow morning , ten o’clock and bring me a sample. You college boys are all a like, besides I’ve  got some friends I want you to meet. ”

“ Look, I’m not dissing your product.”

“ Man, you already stepped all over my high. Put your herb where your mouth is.”

I should have kept my mouth shut and commended Ray on the quality of his precious import but like an idiot I followed the directions scribbled back of the beer coaster and arrived at 652 River Drive
precisely at 10:00 a.m.

Now , if you no someone who gets high then you know this is not entirely out of character. Fools will drive a convertible into a blinding snowstorm, walk naked in six feet of ice water for a ten dollar high. Been there, done it. And you also understand white people will even walk the stairs to the bottom of the dankest, darkest rat infested basement to find out where that unexpected noise come from knowing full well Jeffery Dahmer once lived down there.

As I climbed top of the wooden stairs, I notice the front door cracked half open. Since the temperature was hovering in the low teens I decided to reach warmth by stretching my neck through the doorway,
“ Ray, you in there?” , I call out.

As soon as the words slip from my tongue this guy in a pastel windbreaker locks my arm under his, smiles and escorts me inside, then yells,  “ Ray, you in here,........... you’ve got a visitor.

Bang! Up against the wall, legs spread. There I was in the middle of a what I’d  soon realize a serious drug bust. Illness quickly consumed me like I was catching six different strains of Asian flu leaving my
 body to nearly collapse.

“ Keep your head straight, face the wall , spread your legs, and don’t move,” the escort in the light blue wind breaker instructs while crushing my nose against soot stained wallpaper.. I try my best to accommodate, but man, I had a bad case of shakes making standing in one place near impossible.
Besides, I ‘d never been associated with crime or in anyway trespass the law. 

Crime dog number one examines my frozen fingers then slides both hands inside my denim shirt. As his fingers pass below belt line the hands split then drift past my pants pockets before hitting pay dirt.
“ I’ve got one, I’ve got one,” he screams.

Suddenly, five of the meanest looking thugs come rolling down the hallway stairs like hyenas sniffing out three day old meat, circle, then smile with a cocky like glint in their eyes. The closer they shift under the table light, I notice the place starts to resemble a  polyester fashion show . Crime dog number one slides two fingers inside my right trouser pocket, splits the fingers , then clasps a small glass vial and slowly
withdraws then lifts near a lamp .

“ My, my,...... it looks like my friend’s been visiting his old buddy Pedro Escobar,” he says in a sickening tone.  I couldn’t let him get away with the remark so I speak through the
back of my head

“ Pedro who? I ask.

You ain’t that naive, come clean with me before I let everybody in the room search your skinny ass. When are you planning your next vacation to Peru?”  I was so screwed up I began quivering my words.
“ Perurururu…?....... You mean Colomomomombia , someplace like that don’t you?”
“ Of course  Colombia. Only a knowledgeable fellow like you wouldn’t confuse the two countries, right? Just tell me what’s in the vial before I show the boys.” I thought for a moment and decided to borrow from military experience. Two years of ROTC prepares you for this line of questioning.

“ Hashish sir! ” I shoot back with military precision. I say it loud enough so no one would confuse the substance with white cane.

“ Hashish?”

Suddenly, the group breaks into song and dance. “We got one, we got ourselves a big ass dope dealer.” At first I  couldn’t identify the melody but I knew from the celebratory strains, it sounded a lot like the Village People’s “ Y.M.C.A”

. “ Where’s the other ten pounds this came from? You must have hid it around here with your friends?”
By then, my neck was entertaining a grievous lump so thick and dry I could barely swallow let alone answer with clarity. Just when I was  about to ask for a glass of water crime dog speaks.

“ Since you’ve been such a useful boy, I want you to have a seat and relax at that table”. Nothing seemed more inviting at that time . The lax moment gave me an opportunity to scope  the room. Thankfully, dog’s attention diverted to other matters.
     Peering through the bleak, frozen air, I spot five emaciated figures, crammed shoulder to shoulder cradled on one tired looking couch. A coffee table below held crumbled bits of bread, hair and what appeared to be a patch of drying blood. I thought to myself, these people look like zombies at a picnic. In fact, it looked as if they’d already eaten or at least had been preparing a meal before we all arrived.
Whoever decorated the place sure loved flat black and olive green, not to mention shopping curbside for furniture. With all the activity, I still hadn’t spotted Ray.

Bang!, In my face again. “ What’d you do with the needle?” screams this over sized head sporting a full beard.

“ I swallowed it,” I say with a pinch of sarcasm.

“ Fuck me , we got ourselves a regular Rodney Dangerfield over here,  a real comedy dude. Maybe, he shits needles out his ass while doing stand up?.” All of the sudden the nasty five return and circle again. I ask myself, why such stupidity. What ever possessed me to make light of the situation.

“ What’d you do with the needle?”  crime dog two inquires.

“ Mr, I’ve never seen no needle, in fact the word needle itself, makes me want to faint,”

“ See  your playmates, they love the shit you sell them,” crime dog three says in a sweet voice.

”What? I don’t know those people, in fact , they look like grave robbers or something and I don’t sell shit to anyone or anything . That hash was personal.”

 From above a large hand arrives, slams a revolver centre of the table, jolting whatever minute debris tucked away in the cracks of the warped oak table..

“ Go ahead, pick it up,” crime dog two insists. I pause , then speak.

“ Sir, I don’t believe in guns, they scare the shit out of me.”

 Hear it? That was my military training at work again.

“ Pick up the damn gun,” he commands”.

“ Can’t do it sir. Like I say , guns are for killing , I’m for livin’.”

He then lifts the revolver and says, “ Give me your hand.”

“ I’m sorry sir, … can’t do it, I’ve never held a weapon in my life, and I’m certainly not beginning now.”
“ You’re an educated junkie aren’t you?” he asks in a condescending tone. “ College boy?”

I don’t have a clue where this line of questioning will lead so I blurt out, “ You should stop with that junkie talk. You’ve got the wrong person, look at my arms no marks or tattoos for that matter. ”
Crime dog two then places the gun between my elbows , an inch from the edge of the oak table. I lift both arms , slide my chair backwards out of reach of the weapon. Crime dog one lunges forward, forcefully rams me and the chair into table, causing the gun to spring , vault off my lap, and land on the floor next to my trembling ankles.

“ Pick it up? ” he commands.

“ I’m sorry, …. can’t do that sir.” I could sense the man was setting me up for something greater than the hashish infraction.

 “ What do you want from me, I don’t know anyone in this room, I’ve never been here before, not even in a past life. I just come  to meet Ray, so why you accusing me of all this phony shit?”

From above a large hand arrives striking my face with severe impact blackening out the glaring light. It was a calculated delivery , a painful message to the brain. I’d earned a concussion  in a football scrimmage from a legal tackle, but this was a professional hit causing my head and neck crash backward nearly severing them from  my spine. As the downed  lines in my brain lay in disrepair,  a familiar voice sounds off again, “ Pick up the damn gun asshole.”

Half dazed , I look away fixing my eyes on the five members of the ghostly jury huddled on the stained brocade couch. They hadn’t moved or uttered a sound. I couldn’t help but associate this cast with the ghouls who pried their way through the broken planks of a secluded farm house in Night of the Living Dead.

As I’m catching a momentary reprieve, crime dog two grabs my right arm and twists it back of my neck. I collapse face down on the oak table with the cold steel barrel of a revolver puncturing my left nostril. One shake of the head and the weapon spins away. Dog then places it inches from my mouth.
“ This belongs to you asshole, now pick it up.” he implores. In a faint voice I plead, “I beg you officer, I’m not a criminal, nor would I ever own a gun. Why don’t you check the registration, there’s
surely a better match in this room. It’s got to belong to one of the members of team Zombie, over there.”
Just when I begin  envisioning my own blood splattered all over ghoul town, two uniform officers arrive and escort me down a filthy dim-lit hallway. As I’m directed into what seems a master bedroom, I notice a trail of blood leading to what looks to be a man curled in fetal position. A detective wearing latex gloves reaches down and twists the man’s face towards me, “Is this your friend?”

All of a sudden I feel this overpowering urge to blow a truckload of  recently digested breakfast Mac Sausage all over the crime scene. I stand in the moment transfixed, mystified by circumstance. Every thought questions the future, the abusive actions of my new found associates. I decide to be candid, up front and speak with confidence.

“ That’s part of the guy I met at the Crest last night who calls himself  “Stingray,” I yell. “He invited me to come by this morning. I brought him half a gram of hash . Nothing more, nothing less.”

Not a word was uttered. I was certain I was doomed. The yellow carpet soaked in blood harbored a positively gruesome spectacle. The right side of the head had a large hole that looked as if it had been
drilled like a tropical coconut  leaving the rest of the face partially mutilated.

I kept talking to myself.  This ain’t real, you’ve done nothing wrong, stay cool, this will all be over soon.
It seemed like an eternity before two uniform officers return. One puts an arm on my shoulder and escorts me from the room and says, “ Look, we may need to talk to you later so don’t go anywhere, in fact, have a seat with your friends.” I think to myself, I hope he doesn’t expect me to hang with this spunky gang of slumbering needle jockeys for long. Sorry,  that’s just what he planned. I no more than sit down and this freak looks over and says.“ Gotta a smoke?”

I really don’t want to encourage conversation so I ignore him.

“ How’s the hash?” he asks.
I just face ahead, and act like a mute.

“ You got a nice ripe ass.”

“ What ? Don’t fuck with me cadaver breath, I’ll waste what’s left of your dead ass.”

“ Did you hear what he called me? Cadaver breath?”

The five nod  heads and shoot me ten eyeballs of displeasure.
The zombie nearest me turns to brother “ blood mouth” and blows a gust of wind his direction.

“ Smell bad?”

“ Nope, smells like fresh lung.”

I  pause and consider what just transpired. Fresh lung? No way lung, fresh or spoiled ever bare the fragrance of certified mouthwash.
“ You know Ray?”

“ Not really.”
“ You drink?”

“ Alone.”
End of conversation.
A few minutes pass when I get brave enough to yell, “ What’s going on in there.” As soon as I ask, team zombie start giggling and rolling their eyes. At that  moment I hear a voice yell, “ Haney, write the boy out a ticket for the hash. He can pick the ounce up from Judge Lockhart.”

Hearing this, I waste no time sounding off..
“ Officer, there was less than a gram in that vial. No way your going to peg me with an ounce of hash.”

Haney ignores me and keeps on writing, pauses, then looks up at me, “ You almost screwed up kid. You know you should pick your friends more wisely.” I didn’t breathe a word.

While the officer continued writing the summons , I take one long glance around the room. The five ghostly figures catch my eye causing me to re-evaluate the situation, and realize things could have been much worse  without the cops.  Look, I could have been eating a five course spam dinner with five ghouls, or maybe they would have preferred dining on rib of Gerald.

As I’m leaving an officer stops me, “ You sure you don’t want to stay for supper?”

“ Yeah, right ”

“ Don’t you know who these characters are?” he inquires.

“ Seriously officer, I’ve said throughout, those freaks scare the shit out of me.”

“ Well, they should. You ever heard of a cult called Beggars at a Blood Feast ?” he asks.

“ No!”

“ Well, your friend Ray was about to be the main course. “ In fact, they drilled a hole in the back of his head and were downing Bloody Marys just minutes before we arrived.”  I nodded just like a seasoned vet and asked, “ which one was carrying the Tabasco sauce.”

“ You know, a fellow needs a good sense of humor dealing with this shit.”

 “ How the hell did you find them?”, I ask.

“People been complaining about the smell around here the past six months, so we set up surveillance. A few discarded limbs later, whamo, we pop them. You’re one lucky fellow . With a head the size of yours they could have sipped from it like a community party mug for the a full week, now get the fuck out of here before I arrest you for loitering.”

It took a month watching the Disney Channel to clear my head of  persistent reoccurring nightmares.. Ray kept sticking his mug in my face; dancing this bizarre hybrid Texas two-step and shimmy shake, weaving, occasionally laughing. Finally, after three weeks of bad cinema, the zombies  return,walk centre stage, bow and carry Ray off. Zap! It was all over. I sit up in a pool of perspiration and glance at the wall clock; time……

.12:10.  Now, ain’t that a freaky !