by shane coffey, 2014
This Mexican song. This World Cup. This cigarette. This bar and that person who asked me questions. This lonely table and that one I left to come to the one they left: to compare and contrast. That old high school sorta nostalgia. That calm storm that comes with age. That thought of space and ultimate nothingness. We were all once plagued by that memory. Sitting in our parent’s house, jumping from beds of fear to confusion like an out of tune horn. Those words your mother spoke: “You are a genius.” It was all warm as your pulse, humidity drawing beads of sweat near your lips: licked to speak up and preach for Love during that decade of night. Them worms in coffins with their uninterrupted appetite for flesh and such and such and such. Such questions and that one pontificator’s answers. This barkeep and the bottles he’s cleaning up, unintentionally screaming with the playlist. They’re all singing in Spanish, off key but perfect for the colors surrounding his gelled skull. Purple, but I’m colorblind. He left the glass of stale wine (black, blue, and collecting fly carcasses), probably hours dirty, craving a sink. And that water was left too, home to a used up straw: shared by hims and hers, humans and bugs. It’s all melancholy, but our smiles stay, stretching our cheeks into scars. These surfaces: it’s all wet but drying, like everyone. It’s all perfect and the way the world willed it. But who knows? We’re good. I’m real good. But like all good things, there’s that torment. It’s important, this feeling. This anguish. It all lingers heavy from within my eyelids, still discovering dust only children articulate in dreams. Hold onto that, kids. We were meant to play in this thing. This something. This thing that is real and fake and focused on too much and not enough. This life. This beautiful life. These terrible clouds. This wonderful sense of Start. But press that button or die fishing. It’s like that table with three legs: happy, but waiting for support or too much weight. But that moment of Fall isn’t necessarily a bad moment. Think about it. The wind passes through your hair, into your mouth, around your eyes. You hit the ground and feel the gravel, the grass, the bed, the wood, the nothing. You have about 3 seconds of something beautiful and unexplainable. Like life. Let’s call it Living. Let’s call it Perfect.
by shane coffey, 2014
It was like a warm hood being poured over my eyes. In all the confusion, it took a couple seconds to realize I’d been hit and the hood was a red curtain of blood - my blood. Before I could see, I was hit again. This time in the mouth and I was crumpled out on the cement like a snubbed cigarette. When I woke up, things were black. Oh, great, this is what death is? Shit, where are those shiny gates I heard about? Where are the angels and late friends? Where’s Louie Armstrong? And what’s that noise? The road? Sounded like a dirt road. Sounded like dirt and rocks. I wasn’t dead after all. Much worse, in fact. Whoopee me, huh? I checked my pockets for the gold - nothing. I felt around the trunk, searching for something - anything. I guess, in my attempt to find my way around the trunk, I was much too loud for whoever was driving because the radio quickly put a blanket on whatever noise I was making. Mos Def filled my ears at first. Then a pop song. Once the driver was bored of that, an old country music station came on. Whoever the captain was, he had quite the eclectic ear for all kinds of music, I thought. That, or this was a stolen car - and he was fussing with the radio until his type of tune played. I forget what played exactly, but let’s be a little humorous and say it was Woody Guthrie’s Car Song. My stomach turned. I must have swallowed an ocean of blood and tongue before we finally came to a stop. The car turned off - this is when I probably pissed myself - at least, I hope that was my own urine I smelled. The stench, a cocktail of blood, busted lips, and shattered teeth - I wanted to puke, but I held it in. Holding it in made me puke. What the hell have I gotten myself into now? Where the hell am I? The smell was awful. The driver door shut and I heard footsteps - the ground sounded like boots on rocks. My kidnapper walked around perturbed a bit. I could tell he was a large man when he stepped onto the trunk of the car - then to the roof.
“Come on, come on, come on,” he repeated.
He was looking for a signal - for his phone, I gathered.
“My man?” He asked into his phone. “I think Trip bailed on me. He was following close for awhile before the darkness swallowed his headlights right up. No, wait…hold on…yeah, I see him now. No problem, boss-man, I’ll call you back.”
He hung up and hopped off the car. Another vehicle - sounded like a diesel truck - pulled up. This guy gets out of the truck - his gait seemed lighter. He must be a smaller man, wearing tennis shoes.
“I thought you got cold feet Trip.” my kidnapper said with some kind of disturbed simper.
“No,” said Trip, who spoke towards his feet - probably pigeon-toed.
“Where the hell did ya go?”
“You ready? He’s in there,”
“Sure? What’s that, sure?”
“I mean, yeah. I’m ready. Sure. Yes. Let’s do this.”
“You don’t get all the way out here to do a job and say, ‘sure, amigo, sure, sure.’”
“I’m here, aren’t I?”
“Sure, you’re here alright. Sure you are.”
There was some kind of exchange between them and I heard the jingling of keys.
“You can go now,” Trip told my kidnapper.
“Naw, Trip, my orders are to make sure you do this.”
“What? ‘fucks that suppose to mean?”
Things were heating up out there.
“What, you gotta stand over my shoulder and watch?” Trip asked.
“My orders are to witness the deed, report back, and you’re in the clear.”
“And here I thought I was comin’ out here to be killed.”
“Boy, you got some head on those shoulders, Trip. Me? Kill you? I tell you what, get the job done and I’ll take you out for a beer. How’s that sound?”
“Sounds good, but, really, I’d rather do this alone, Marlon.”
Marlon, my kidnapper, calmly pressed his boots into a pile of rocks and calmly spoke, “Now, Trip. I need you to listen to me. I’ve been vouching for you from day one. I’ve trusted you from the beginning, dawg. But the brothers back there…they think you’re a spy of sorts.”
“I’m no spy, man.”
“That’s what I told ‘em. But your behavior as of late…well, I’m beginning to have doubts myself. So you listen to me…”
Marlon lit a cigarette and continued, “I’m gonna stand right over here. You’re gonna open that trunk and get the job done. That way, I won’t have my doubts anymore. That way, we all can sleep a little better.”
There was a long silence after that.
Then Trip asked, “Do I gotta see him?”
“How else would you know if you killed the bitch?”
“I mean…I brought a can of gas with me…from the station.”
“You sick motherfucker,” my kidnapper said, sounding like he was smiling from ear to ear.
“What’d this kid do anyway?”
“Nada, my man. But don’t you worry. No family, no friends. Just another junky from the streets. This bitch won’t be missed.”
“How do you know he’s a junky?”
“Found this in his pockets.”
I heard Marlon toss Trip something. My stash, most likely. It was starting to come back to me - my day, my night. I spent most of the morning waiting on my dealer - this punk rich kid who hated eye-contact. He goes by Gold and calls his favorite product by the same name. I was particularly anxious that morning - it must have been days since my last meal. I spent the rest of the day getting high in alleyways and sucking down the Red Stripes I had stashed in Marauder’s tent. Marauder is an 80-year-old schizophrenic Cuban dude who’d been on the streets since Plato. If anyone would miss me, I think Marauder might.
“Why him?” Trip asked.
“Don’t be stupid, goddamn it. This bitch saw the whole operation going down.”
What operation? I hadn’t the slightest clue what this hillbilly was talking about. Then again, I rarely know what people are talking about. Ever since Idaho - back when I did have a family - I was probably around 6 when that shit split - go-cart accident at the Miniature Golf place…ever since then, I’ve had problems with knowing what the fuck was going on - in general. See, my head was cracked like glass after that. I had my first taste of being fucked-up on barbituates and such on my 7th birthday, in ICU - a day after the go-cart mess.
“Are you sure he saw everything?” Trip asked.
“Well, he saw ME! And that means, he could finger me in a line-up! Now, boss-man and the rest of the crew - because of YOU - don’t really have the strongest faith in old Marlon anymore, ya dig, Trip? If this bitch in the trunk gets outta here alive, he could stumble over to the bulls, describe what happened, and I’d be arrested. Now, I know and you know that I wouldn’t rat out any one of us. But, the crew? They aren’t so sure about you…or me anymore. All signs are tellin’ me: if I get pinched, I’ll be swimming dead before I put the orange on. Once this trunk bitch’s lights are turned off, we earn our trust back. Are we clear? You kill him, I watch. That means, I know you’re not a bull yourself, and I trust you 100 percent. Then, I make the call to boss-man, maybe even text him a selfie of me and you with the corpse…then pow! He trusts me again. If he trusts me, he trusts you, and we go out for some fuckin’ beers. Do you understand? Jesus! You’re a dense motherfucker, Trip, I swear to my dead mother, rest in peace, God Almighty, boy oh boy! You ready, or what?”
“Hey. Asshole. Sure? You ready or what?”
“Sure, man. Sure. Sure. Yes!”
“Sure, you’re ready. Sure you are.”
“I’m fuckin’ with you Marlon. I’m ready. No problem.”
“That’s my man Trip.”
See, I didn’t really understand one word that was just said. What the fuck did I witness earlier? I didn’t see nothing going down! No operations! No Marlons! All I wanted to do was get the hell outta there. And maybe get my gold back. I worked the streets hard for that shit! See, I rap for green on the streets. My hip-hop name is Dublin.
The keys jingled.
“Hold up, Marlon, I gotta piss first.”
“Goddamn it, Trip, quit stallin’!”
“Sorry, I’ve been shooting coffee down my throat this whole drive. Haven’t you?”
“Alright, let’s be quick.”
I listened to the two of them piss on either side of the car. Marlon’s sounded like a flood, washing away ant homes and tearing the rocks apart. Trip peed more shyly - I bet he’s one of those dudes that tries to avoid the water in a toilet, hoping that the girl he brought home won’t be able to hear the stream. They zipped up their flies.
“Now, you’re ready, huh?” Marlon asked.
“Sure,” said Trip, all smiles. I think I heard Marlon smile too.
After a couple year-long seconds of silence, I heard the keys slide in and turn. This was it, I thought. For some reason, I remembered Christmas time in Idaho. My mom and dad were singing. See, they were a nutty pair - both Irish drunks who found joy in everything, I think. They were playing the piano - Fairytale Of New York by The Pogues - and singing the parts, accented and all. The funny thing was, I couldn’t see myself. Where the hell was I? By the tree? Was I happy? I had to be happy then, right?
The trunk opened.
…to be continued…