Saturday, January 28, 2012

Long Lost Son

I’m at the Laundromat, just north of Greenway and 32nd street. I’ve loaded the clothes, it’s slow today.
Tired of the same old magazines on the counter, I’ve purchased a crisp copy of Motortrend to brush up on cars I can’t afford.

It’s just me in here, until I sense someone small beside me.

I ignore it, keeping to myself. Then the little person moves closer, I can smell him. He smells like Juicy Juice.

I glance over a moment, and see him studying the cover of my magazine. He’s small even for his age, maybe four years old. Big brown eyes, with thick dark hair, wearing light up shoes and a t-shirt with speeding cars all over it.

He smiles bashfully then hides behind my bench seat.
So I go back to reading about how the Volkswagen GTI’s interior compares to those inside the pricier Evolution and STI, when I smell him again.

I look up and he’s right in front of me this time.

“You want to read this to me?”

His eyes widen with a silly grin.

“Here go ahead. I’ll scoot over.”

He takes the magazine carefully in his tiny grip. Where normally a kid his age would tear the pages with careless sticky hands, this boy is different. He holds the Motortrend as if it were the Holy Grail, the only one on Earth.

“What’s that say?” I ask him, pointing to an Audi A7.

“This car is for mommies. Mommies like this car,” he says, following the article with his finger and translating it. His voice is thoughtful, he’s certain of every word he’s saying.

Satisfied with that, he slowly turns pages. He meticulously studies every picture on every page, pondering deeply about each one.
Then he stops on a big shot of a green Range Rover Evoque.

“This one is a fast car for daddies. Daddies like fast cars. If my daddy were still here... he would buy this,” he reads.

“Which car is for you?” I ask him.

He smiles at me, then hurriedly flips back a few pages.
“THIS one is for Anthonys. I’m a Anthony. This car is for me.”

“The Ferrari 458 Spyder, smart choice,” I tell him.

He keeps his big eyes on the bright red 458 for a while, taking in every detail.

“I’m gonna show mommy!”
“Okay, I’ll wait here.”

He puts the magazine down gingerly with the correct page open, climbs off the bench seat, then takes the magazine again. Anthony stares at the 458 a moment longer while he stands there. With a firm nod, he hops over to his mother, absolutely sure she’ll love it as much as he does.

She’s packing up the last of the folded clothes from the dryer.

“Mommy. Look. It’s a furry fourfitty ate!”

She ignores him.

“Mommy, lookit. It says here this car’s made just for me,” he’s turned the magazine spread up to her, and is desperate to show her the miracle he’s discovered.

Clothes ready to go, she finally looks down at him.
“Oh no, WHERE did you get that? It’s not yours!”

His eyes drop, his lip quivers a second but he’s trying to stay strong.
“I… I’m just… I’m just-”

She snatches the magazine from him and his little body flinches.

He looks much smaller now, without the Ferrari in his hands. He’s crumbling, like a part of him just died.

“I don’t have time for this shit,” she mutters, tossing my Motortrend on the dryer beside her.
I walk over to the Motortrend and pick it up.

“It’s all right. It’s for him. I don’t need it anymore,” I hold out the magazine to Anthony, who hesitates.

His eyes change between his mother and the magazine, unsure of which he loves more.

“No really, this is just for you, Anthony.”

“Fine, just stop bothering me about your cars all day,” Mommy says to Anthony.

He’s okay with those demands, taking the Ferrari in his tiny hands again.
“Come on we’re leaving!” Mommy says, grabbing the clothes basket, “What did I say about NEVER talking to strangers!”

He follows her, hugging the magazine tightly to his chest, and looking at the floor like he’s in trouble.

I watch her walk out the door, then see him stop a moment behind her. 
He gives a little wave to me, making sure Mommy doesn’t see, smiles again then hurries after her.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Scottsdale's Attempt at Road Rage


Day at the office comes to a close, it’s ripely 5pm Rush Hour. Luckily, I’m just making a quick stop at the gas station for a Monster or two.

Normally flowing freely, Scottsdale road is clogged to a bewildering halt. There are people making desperate U-turns and near-collisions to avoid the ugly scene ahead. Horns honking, people screaming at their steering wheels.

I dodge into a side lot and make my way to the Shell. Afterwards, I turn towards the only available exit and am stuck behind two cars waiting to make a left into the hurricane of traffic on the main road.

Three cycles of green and red lights occur, no cars have moved. People are getting more upset. My left leg is tired from holding down the clutch, so I switch to neutral, turn off my headphones and listen to my surroundings.

I notice the driver ahead of me flinging his hands around inside his black Mercedes. His windows are up, so I can only imagine what he’s yelling at his windshield-
Until he opens his door and steps out.

“What in the FUCK are you waiting for?!” he’s tall and well dressed in a dark suit and tie. His voice is distinctly British. His arms are flapping all around, cursing in a way I almost can’t understand. He pounds on the driver’s window of the Suburban in front with his fist.


The Suburban driver, seeing how his left turn is impossible to make anyway, opens his door and reveals himself as well. He’s wearing a cut-off shirt, neon green, flaunting tight abs and gym shorts.

“Hey MISTER I can’t move okay JEEZ!” he waves his finger around, with his right hand fashionably at his waist.

British business man and buff gay guy both yell at the top of their lungs at each other for a few minutes. The rest of the cars stop honking and start watching the scene unfold instead.

Now the lights have gone through green and red cycles three more times. We’ve been stuck here at least twenty minutes.

The argument has since left the subject of the traffic situation, to plain insults.
“You DRIVE and TALK like a WOMAN!” British guy yells.
“Well your tie is SO WALMART!” gay guy retorts.

Should I? Oh why not.

So I step out too and walk up to them with a cigarette.

“Guys, guys. Relax. Get back in your cars.”

They both face me, and take turns
“WHUT! No YOU get back in YOUR CAH!”
“Stay out of this little man! You don’t WANT NONE!”

“Gentlemen. There’s a dozen cops a quarter mile from us. They’ll come over here and detain you bo-”

“Oh COME OFF IT! I’ll knock you BOTH out before that happens!” the Brit wipes back his hair.
Gay guy gasps.

I hulk up, take a deep breath, and thunder
“Oh yeah?! Well your accent sounds REALLY PLEASANT!”

“WELL Y- what, it does? Oh… why thank you,” he fixes his tie and chuckles, then realizes he’s supposed to be mad, “But this SILLY CUNT in his SILLY SHIRT is causing me quite the headache!” he points.

“You guys wanna beer? We should just split a sixer while we wait for this traffic to clear up.”

“Oh heck, I’ll have one. I’ve worked out all DAY I deserve it!” says buff neon shirt, raising his hand.

British guy looks around, nods at the ground for a moment, and after a heavy sigh “I guess we might as well. This is QUITE the pickle we’re in.”

We orchestrate ourselves in reverse, backing into the Shell station. I buy us a six pack of Blue Moon and we share them in the Suburban.

British says his wife has been cheating on him every time he goes on a business trip, he thinks, that’s why he was so upset. Gay guy says he felt scared despite his Superman body.

We joke further about how lousy American light beer is, and how British can’t wait to go back home where things (other than his wife) make sense. Halfway through our second beer each, the traffic eases up a bit. So we wish each other well after a few more laughs, and split ways.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Versus Cigarettes.

It’s been a long morning at the office. I’m in line at the overpriced Shell station across the street, eyeing the wall of sin behind the register.

My turn arrives “Hey I’ll take the Camel Lights,” I say, digging for my ID.

“No need, bud,” cashier puts a hand up, revealing a fresh pack with the other.

“Dang, over seven bucks now?” I cringe.

“Yeeeahhp. Harsh, huh?”

No matter. I’m in my truck now, the glossy pack of Camels fits perfectly in my palm. Inside are twenty little companions. Twenty little vacations.

I take the shiny tab in my fingers, and unwrap her like a present that’s just for me. The lid pops open with the crispness of a spring morning, revealing her metallic undergarments. They too, slip off with ease.
Ah, the first cigarette. Smells good, rolled nice and tight. She cheers smoke into my lungs, I smile and together we head out.

I’ve tried to quit smoking so many times it’s not even funny. I’ve tried substituting with patches, cold electronic variants, gum, hell even chewed on toothpicks. All failures.

As my little damsel sits comfortably between my fingers, I let her spirit escape out the driver’s window.

“You know those’ll kill you.”
“They make you stink.”
 “They’re so expensive.”

We pull back into the office parking lot. I suck away the last of her, toss her corpse into the dumpster, and head back to work.

It’s stressful inside, even for me. The client’s demands are all wrong, what they want will look like crap. The time frame is laughably small, with expectations disproportionately huge.

A few hours pass. I get a call as I’m saving the final design saying we have to start over.
I want to take my laptop, throw it across the room, scream, punch whoever’s next to me, tear off my pants, scream again and run out.

But then I see the Camels on my desk. They sit, pleasantly waiting for another visit. It’s not cancer they want to offer me, just a moment’s peace.
I take cigarette #2 in my hand, exhale a deep breath and step outside with her.

In there, it’s pure anxiety. Out here, it’s just me and God’s green Earth. Birds, clouds, and the Sun.

“Welcome back,” I hear a tiny voice say.

“Yeah thanks. I was about to go insane.”

“I know Andrew, I know. Just smoke me. It’ll be all right.”

“You know you’re killing me right now?” I tell her, taking a drag.

“That office is killing you faster.”

“You know people don’t like me because we hang out,” I tell her.

“Who needs people.”

“You know I’m going to walk back in there, smelling like you, and everybody will think I stink.”

“Again, who needs ‘em. Didn’t I just save you from certain doom?”

“Yeah but I could always just come out here for a moment to relax without you,” I tell her.

“Sure you could. Try just standing out here in the parking lot. Not doing anything, just standing here for six minutes. You’ll look like a creeper. You’ll look like you’re waiting for drugs, or a rape victim or something.”

“But I won’t be stinky,” I counter.
Before she can argue back, I stomp on her face then toss her corpse in the dumpster too.

I’m feeling positive I can quit for a moment, that I don’t need those cigarettes anymore.
Then I walk back into the office.

“Shit man, they want a leaf with a guy in it in the logo but it has to look like the letter O somehow I don’t even know where to start with this can you do it we have like fifteen minutes!”

 I whip out a machine gun with a knife on it and tear my way up and down the halls. Blood sprays like rain, I’m eating people’s brains and cackling madly.

“Sure, don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.”

“Thanks Andrew!”

Back at my desk, my head pounds away. My fingers whip up multiple solutions. It’s not about being creative, it’s about getting it done. And that bothers me.

The Camels beckon, I do my best to ignore them.
It’s not just the nicotine that’s the hard part to stop. It’s all the little moments and details around that as well, that keeps you coming back.
It’s the jobs like mine where you opt for a six minute breakaway, rather than going Rambo on innocent coworkers. It’s the moments of peace that you just want to yourself. Without cigarettes, you lose those moments.

But you gain lung strength, stamina, stink less, spend less, and there’s less chance of cancer later on.

So risk explosive rage (but while in great health!) or keep smoking and keep subduing.

Wish me luck kids, I’m trying to quit again!

…Right after I smoke this final damsel.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fixing Peter the Drunk

The sun’s recently set. Night time has arrived a bit early, but there’s still a hint of the day’s warmth.

I’ve just picked up some last minute prints from Office Max to get a head start on tomorrow.
On the way back to the office, coming down Scottsdale Road I see a lone car up ahead. 
A dark blue Cavalier, swaying slowly in and out of the empty lanes.

Thunderbird approaches, my turn off. 
I should just go back to my little life. Go back to the office, finish this job, and be safe. Be normal. Blend in.

I watch Thunderbird get closer and closer… and let it pass me. For some reason, I decide to just keep watching and following behind the Cavalier.

This person isn’t texting, where there’s a slow floating to one side, then a quick jerk of a correction.

He’s drifting from the far left lane, to the far right lane, and back again in long gradual sweeps. I get just close enough to read his license plate. But I don’t call the police.

There’s minimal traffic coming from the other side, and with a divider between us and them. So I don’t feel too worried about Cavalier Driver hitting someone head on. As he lingers to the left, I cringe in anticipation of him nailing a tree, or rolling over the median and flipping.

The light ahead of us turns red. He slams on his brakes, way too early, coming to a screeching halt about 100 feet from where he should have.

I stop beside the Cavalier, and take a close look at the driver.
He’s got a college kid face. Curly brown hair, with a lousy goatee.
He has the windows down, seemingly using the cold winds in an attempt to keep awake. He’s leaning forward, almost nose to the steering wheel. His eyes close heavily for a moment, then force themselves open a few times.

I want to say something to him, but what?

The light ahead of us turns green. It takes him a moment to notice, but he does eventually, and we continue on.
I stay, very obviously, even with him, keeping an eye out for police. When he drifts into my lane, I move over a bit. He hasn’t glanced in my direction once. He has no idea I’m even here.

When you’re this drunk, everything and everyone you interact with isn’t fully real. Never entirely solid, your environment is more like a movie being played, where normal fears and consequences are so distant in your mind it’s almost as if they don’t exist at all.

I begin to see other cars off in the distance ahead. I’m running out of time.

Cactus turns red. Cavalier man stops, this time in the crosswalk.

I watch his face this time as well, knowing this is a longer light.

It’s quiet. I can overhear him talking to himself. “You… you can do this. I can… I can do… I can…” he holds his face in his hands, rubbing his cheeks and eyes.

Oh man.
I can’t yell at him for driving drunk. I don’t want to scare him, or make him angry. I don’t know what kind of drunk he is. Or why he’s drunk. There’s only one safe question to ask a stranger who’s clearly inebriated.

“Hey! You hungry?” I holler.

He looks to the left, then in his rearview mirror. His eyes are wide open, startled. Was he hearing things?

“Dude! Over here! We’re going to Jack in the Box! You comin?”

 He follows my voice with his drunk head and finally sees me.
“What… no one told me you were… you were goin’ there. Yeah… yeah I wanna.”

“Cool man! Follow the white truck! It’s going to make a U-turn.”
He nods as his eyes close again. The light turns green and I gas up a bit ahead of him.
I blinker to the left lane with him floating around behind me too closely.

I make a slow U-turn, watching him attempt the same. His back tire nudges the median curb.
We creep up to the Jack in the Box together, he follows me into the empty parking lot and parks sideways across three spaces.

I get out of my truck in a hurry and meet him outside his driver’s window.
The car sputtered and shut off abruptly. I glance inside and notice he’s asleep, face on the steering wheel, his right hand taking a nap on the shifter.

I pull up the door lock in the window sill, and open his door.
“Come on man! We’re starving!”

He jolts awake and reaches with both arms towards me in a panic, “Get me… get me out of here! I’m stuck!”
He’s not stuck. But I pull him out of his dead Cavalier anyway.

He leans on me, and puts his face within licking distance of my own. His breath is like gasoline, “Dude… dude… I’m p-… I’m Peter.”

“Right on Peter, I’m Andrew. Let’s roll.”

I half carry him into Jack in the Box while he slurs something about his dead buddy’s name being Andrew.

He starts leaning/falling towards the front counter, so I corral him into the nearest booth instead. He plops into it too hard and looks around apparently confused at his suddenly different surroundings.

“I’m gonna get one of those sirloin burgers with everything on it. You want one too?”

“Yeah… I… yeah, yeah gimme uh… gimme one a… one those things.”

I order two of the sirloin burgers. Not hungry myself, but this guy needs some time to sober up. I’m not sure why I’m doing this. I thought of the heroin kid at the office, and how I let him leave.

“You wanna Coke?” I holler back at Peter.
His head is down on the table, sleeping again.

So I buy us each a Coke, too. Maybe the food and caffeine will help him.

I stand by the counter, waiting for our burgers, letting him sleep a moment. When the burgers arrive, I hear him groan into the table, so I take them both and sit with him quickly.

“Here you go, eat up, Peter.”

His head pops up, there’s slobber connecting from his mouth to the table. He doesn’t notice it. Peter just stares at the burger wide-eyed.

I push his burger towards him, then begin opening my own.

He takes his sirloin burger out of its box, and starts biting into the entire thing, without removing the paper wrapping first.
“Ohh… mmff… mmm oh man. Oh man thank you.”

At least he’s eating. That paper can’t be any worse than the booze he drank.
He eats, and eats. Every bite seems to send a beach vacation down his spine. He loves that burger way too much.
Peter licks his fingers, slams down the entire soda in a gulp then leans back on his side of the booth, overcome with satisfaction. His eyes, though still very glazed, stay open now. He’s looking up at the ceiling, as if imagining the stars beyond it.

“Feeling better?” I ask him.

“Yeah, thank you. What was your name again?”


“Yeah, yeah that’s right. How did we get here?”
I laugh at him, and he smiles, embarrassed.

“We lucked out, that’s all,” I tell him, “So what’s the deal? Pretty early to be this drunk on a Wednesday? Where’s the party?”

He looks at his hands, pondering whether he should tell me.

“Are you drinking to remember, or drinking to forget?”

He crumples in his seat.

“To… to forget.”

I know that look. Too well.

“What did she do to you?”

He puts a hand over his face, it muffles his sad response.
“She… she cheated on me. Like right in my face, too.”

“Did you try to fix it?”

“Yeah but she dumped me anyway. Says I’m a… she said I'm a loser.”

“How long were you with her?”

“Since high school.”

“Oh wow.”

He tries to sip from his straw, finds the drink empty, then falls back into his seat disappointed.

“Yeah I know. And you know what else? It’s gonna sound really, really lame.”

“Try me,” I say, sipping my own soda.

“She was the only girl I ever had, man. She was really something special.”

“That doesn’t sound lame at all.”

A smile appears then vanishes just as quickly from his mouth.

“So why the driving drunk?”

“Oh I don’t know. I just… I guess I just do it to see what’ll happen.”

“If you want to kill yourself, just use a gun,” I tell the table.

He chuckles at me, “Yeah that does sound pretty stupid, when I say it out loud, huh?”

“It’s okay Peter. It’s okay to be depressed for a while, it just shows how much you loved her. Just be depressed in the living room, not on the street.”

“You’re not gonna tell me to like, ‘go find other chicks, she was a bitch,’ and bullshit like that?”

“I’m sure she was a great girl at one point. And you’ll find another one when you’re ready. Just don’t think of her as your only reason for living.”

He nods, thinking about it. His gaze bounces between me and his hands for a moment, then he asks

“Ok, Andrew. You’re… you’re really nice. Are you from AA or something?”

“Hell no.”
He laughs, relieved, so I do too.

Peter seems to have taken those bits to heart. His demeanor lightens up and we talk about what he’s doing at ASU, and where he wants to work.

We go outside, he offers me a cigarette which I decline in favor of my own. He tells me his phone number, says we should hang out. I put it in my phone and call it, but don’t save the number.

We chat for a bit longer, I observe him closely to make sure he’s sobered up enough before I let him get back in his Cavalier. Eventually, after we both laugh at his terrible park job, he shakes my hand and opens the car door.

“Hey, thanks man. Thank you,” he says from his driver’s seat.

“Don’t worry Peter, you’ll do great. Just keep your head up, okay? You’re worth it. Just go home and sleep.”

“Thank you, I will. I’m right down the street from here. Thank you!” he starts his Cavalier, and waves at me as he pulls into the street.

I watch him drive away, staying perfectly in the lines.

Here’s hoping Peter made it home safely.