Banana Peels and Toothpaste

Josh also told me that he thought he was gonna die the day that I sent him off with a joint of dried banana peels soaked in toothpaste. I told him that it was too harsh to hold in like weed, so he should smoke it as if it were a cigarette. This anecdote is only funny in retrospect, however, because it wasn’t meant as a trick. Money was always in short supply and I had always heard (wrongly) that dried banana peels would get you high.

 

The night before, I ate as many of my mom’s bananas as I could and dried the peels overnight in the oven. The dried peels were so hard that I had to use a knife to cut them into small strips before I could roll them in Joint papers. The peels were hard to get to keep lit and when they were lit they would curl out in a black and red end ripping the end of the paper as sad strands of smoke rose from the diffuse cherry (if you could call it that) making it look like a cigarette load had just blown off the end of your joint. The smoke you sucked out the end tasted bad and burned your throat badly. And to make matters worse, it would not get you high in the slightest. But I had made up a bunch of these bad boys and Josh and his buddy Javier had come over asking me if I had any weed.

 

I told them that all I had were these shitty banana peel joints, but I did know of a trick that actually had worked for me. One night recently when I had been hanging out with my other buddy Josh, we had stopped by Danny’s house and asked him if we could use some toothpaste. This was a gamble because we weren’t sure if Danny or any of the meth smoking adults he lived with even had toothpaste. Lord knows they never used it. But the toothpaste was a sure bet, because this Josh was a little older and he learned about smoking toothpaste when he spent a short stint in rehab. Danny came back out of his house with an unused tube of no name toothpaste. Josh squeezed it out across one side of a Marlboro cigarette making it look like making it look like a long white toothbrush ready for your nightly hygiene rituals. We sent Danny back in with the toothpaste and walked across the street to the dark of the schoolyard hoping that Danny wouldn’t see where we had gone and wouldn’t follow.

 

That toothpaste on that Marlboro had gotten me high as fuck even if I felt like I was going to puke my guts out. So for young Josh and Javier I went to my medicine cabinet and pulled out the Crest Gel and squeezed it across the banana peel joint. It wasn’t the same type of toothpaste but I figured it would work for them.

The Erector Set

My buddy, Josh tells me that I am an asshole. He is wrong. I just like to make jokes. At others’ expense. But he is still wrong.

 

He reminded me of the time that I had gone with him to Jimbo’s house with him. Jimbo had gotten permission from his parents to stay the night at Josh’s house, and we were stopping by to get his things. Jimbo wanted to take his Erector Set with him to Josh’s house, but his parents were strict with his toys (At least the ones they spent money on). So Jimbo scratched out a note on a piece of paper and stuck it onto the fridge with a cheap magnet (Probably a picture of a cat dangling from a rope with a caption saying hang in there).

 

He had written: Mom, I have my Erector set at Josh’s house. His handwriting looked a lot like mine, and Jimbo and Josh had gone into his bedroom to pack his clothes. So I decided to change what he had written, just a little bit. I flipped the paper over to the other side and wrote, trying my best to copy his hand: Mom, I have my erection set in Josh’s mouth.

 

I figured his mom would read it, be somewhat confused, flip the paper over, and read what he had really written. She would understand that it was a joke and that would be that. I know that Jimbo and Josh were such goody buddies that they already seemed goy, but I did not expect she would take this note as an official coming out letter. I was just saying that they were sucking each other’s dicks. There is a difference.

 

This joke would have been funny enough if this were the last I had ever heard of it, but I almost died laughing when Josh told me about Jimbo’s mom showing up at his front door with the note flapping in her hand. Josh learned what an erection was by Jimbo’s angry mother holding her hands apart saying: A big dick. An erection is a big dick.

January Rant: What is a story?

 

A story is when you ask someone how was their day. They say that they went to the store and the line was long and some ass decided to pay with a check.

 

 

 

That was a story. There was no buildup. There was no climax. There was no conclusion. They told you their story. It was true. You liked or you didn’t, but you were entertained.

 

 

 

But if you really need it to fit the format of a story. The buildup is that there is a person in front of you. The climax is that they are in front of you. And the conclusion is that there is still a person in front of you. You wanted to hear a story. You were told a story. It was a story.

 

 

 

Fiction stories work the same way. You want to hear a story. You are told a story. Whether or not it fits your expectations of a story. It was a story.

 

 

 

You wanted a story. You got a story. Because it existed, it is true. You liked it or you didn’t. You were entertained. It was a story. Freytag’s triangle can lick my balls. It was a god damned story. Fuck you!

 

Murder City Stories: NaNoWriMo Day 18 (Yes, This is All I’ve Gotten Done in the Last 10 Days.)

Steve walked into the market. The shelves were crammed so close together that Steve had to wait for other customers to leave the aisle before he entered because there was not enough room to pass without knocking the items off the shelves that were crammed full with various items. He walked down one aisle than another before the man behind the counter, Mr. Juang, walked up behind him.

Mr. Juang said, “Can I help you find?”

Just then, two guys in ski masks bust through the door. “Oh shit, where’s the cashier?” He motions with his gun. “Get back there see if you can open the register.”

The other robber goes around the counter and tries a few buttons and things begin to ring up on the register tape. “I don’t know these old style registers.”

Steve put a finger up to his mouth miming a shush, and he grabbed Mr. Jaung by the shoulder and walked to the back of the aisle where they couldn’t be seen. He checked around his waist then took a silent breath. He had forgotten to take his gun with him when he left the office. He said, “I guess I am stuck with you.”

An elderly man came from the refrigerated section in the back. He walked quietly to the door trying not to get the attention of the robbers. But the bells on the door jingled as he tried to open it. The first robber turns and points his gun. “Get the fuck on the ground.” The old man swung open the door and ran, but the robber fired two shots.

The robber behind the counter said, “Why did you shoot?”

“Ain’t nobody getting out of here until we get out money. Check in the back. Check in the cooler. Find the attendant and shoot his ass if he doesn’t give us the money.”

Steve said, “Mr. Juang, do you have a gun in this store.”

Mr. Juang nodded his head. “Under the register.”

Steve said, “I need you to get them out of the front of the store so I can get the gun. Tell them that you have a safe in the office. Lead them into the back. Back to the storage room, whatever. But take your time fumble with the keys, whatever. I need to get to that gun.”

Mr. Juang put his hands up and started walking to the front of the store, and Steve snuck around to another aisle where he wouldn’t be seen. Mr. Juang said, “You don’t shoot.” He nearly froze in place having given up his hiding spot.

The robber by the door stepped back a step and pointed his gun down one aisle then the next. He saw Mr. Juang. “I’ll blow your brains all over this store.” The other robber came out from around the counter with his gun at the ready.

Mr. Juang said, “This my store. You don’t shoot. I give you money. You leave.”

The second robber said, “How do you open this register?”

The first robber said, “No, no, no. The safe.” He motioned Mr. Juang to him with a sweep of his gun. “You are coming out here. You are opening the safe.”

Mr. Juang came walking slowly down the aisle to meet the men. When he came into the front of the store the first robber shoved the gun in his face. “You gonna be the next person to die? I’m itching to kill some more.”

Straining to face the man who was holding the gun under his chin, Mr. Juang said, “You don’t shoot. You follow. You get money. You leave.”

The robber lowered the gun and let Mr. Juang lead them toward the hallway to the bathroom. The robber said, “You get us that money. Then we will decide when we want to leave.”

            Steve walked backward slowly watching their reflections blur off the refrigerated case, and he bumped into the last bag of pork skins clipped to a plastic strip hanging from the top shelf of the aisle.

            The first robber said, “Who was that? Is there someone else in here?” He hit Mr. Juang with his gun and knocked him to the floor. He turned to the second robber. “Check the aisles. Get that motherfucker. If he don’t come with you, shoot his ass.”

The second robber checked down one aisle then the next. Steve made it down to the front of the aisle and peeked hid head out to look down the next aisle. He saw the robber’s shoe come into view and Steve broke into a sprint knocking cans of tuna off the shelf. The robber launched

himself into the aisle and squeezed off a shot. The robber smashed against the shelf knocking the shelves off the rack and their contents onto the floor.

Steve stumbled and smashed against the display case beside the register shattering the glass all over the reels of lottery scratchers. He propped his hands against the counter and used both his arms and legs to get back to his feet, but he tumbled back to the floor from the pain in his right thigh. He had felt the impact in his leg but the pain didn’t come until he fully understood that he had been shot. There was blood on his leg and pooling below him on the floor. He felt woozy and could see the gray on the outsides of his vision. He scrambled along the ground, grabbed the corner of the counter and pulled, pushed along the ground with his left leg and dragged a streak of blood along with his throbbing right leg. He looked down the aisle in time to see the robber in the back of the store.

Mr. Juang was trying to get to his feet. The robber put the gun to his head and fired a shot spattering blood and bits of bone on the dingy white of the wall. Steve grabbed the far side of Mr. Juangs counter and pulled. The other robber ran out of the aisle where Steve had been shot. He fired a shot through the popcorn maker atop the counter and popcorn spilled out over steve as he pulled himself around the counter. The robber’s foot slipped in the blood on the floor. He stumbled a couple of steps and tripped over the body of the old man that had tried to run out the door. He fired another shot as he fell and smashed his head on the newspaper rack by the door.

Steve pulled himself halfway to his knees and jammed his hand into the slot under the counter. He felt around until he pulled out an old .38 revolver. He popped open the cylinder praying that Mr. Juang had actually thought to load it. Another shot rang out and wood splinters broke out of the counter under the register. Steve dropped to the floor and the bullets bounced out of the cylinder and scattered onto the floor. He could see the room darkening again. He hoped that if he had been shot again he could still function well enough to save his life.

The robber had gotten up. A big gash showed through the eyehole of his mask blood was pouring into his eye and wicking into the cotton knit of the mask. He staggered two steps forward and reached out his hand to stabilize himself against the counter. His hand slipped and his arm draped over the counter just above Steve’s head.

He scooped two of the bullets off the ground and got one into the cylinder. He could see the man’s eyes through the cracked glass of the display case. The blood smearing off the mask and the steam of breath on the glass from the black cotton knit rise over his nose. The man was dazed but still moved his other arm over the counter doing his best to aim it at Steve.

Steve slammed the cylinder shut before he could load the next bulled. He heard the spinning of the chamber. His hand must have slipped. He aimed up through the glass case, thumbed back the hammer, and pulled the trigger. The hammer slammed down on an empty chamber. He thumbed the hammer back again. The cylinder advanced one chamber. He didn’t know how many times he could pull the trigger before the robber was able to finish him off.

Two more shots rang out from the back of the store. The robber looked toward the shots. Steve pulled the trigger again on another empty chamber. He thumbed the hammer back again. The room continued to darken.

Murder City Stories: NaNoWriMo Day 8

Marv walked Susan to the makeshift rooms in the back of the factory. The workers removing the sewing machines had tried their best to remove the metal studs that had held the machines to the concrete, but the floor was pockmarked by holes where the studs had been beaten out of the floor. Susan tripped over one of the studs that had simply been hammered close to the ground because it wouldn’t break loose. Marv held her well enough that she did not fall onto her face, but she did restart the blood flowing in one of the bad scrapes on her knees.

The sound of sex got louder the closer they made it to the shanty town. There was already a line of men coming in from a door in the back. From the way they were dressed they were probably being shuttled in from the docks. Big Nose was not wasting any time or money on his new project. Marv pulled the sheets to one side and laid Susan down on the small palette next to another woman who was trying to cover her eyes from the lights so she could get a little sleep between johns.

After a few hours the line of johns had been shuttled off. Word spread of the bloody woman who had been dumped in the bed next to Chinana while she was trying to get some rest, and some of the women came out of their tents to investigate the new arrival. One woman peaked her head in and saw the mess that had been made of Susan. She said, “Dear lord child. We need to get Rita down here. She used to be a nurse or something. She’ll get you fixed right up.”

A few minutes later, Rita came her tent with a couple rags and some warm water. She said, “Turn, face me. Does it hurt too much?” Susan croaked out a sound her lips were still too swollen to make proper words. “One of the guards had two Aspirin. You’re not allergic, are you?” Susan shook her head lightly. She had to wince against the pain.

 

Steve was refreshing the day’s coffee. He reached up into the cabinet and grabbed the tin of grounds. It lifted too easily and the grounds made a soft hiss as the remnants slid across the bottom of the tin. He didn’t even bother to open it up. Some ass-hat had used the last without writing it on the dry erase board. Normally, he brought the coffee in from home where he could buy in bulk, but he remembered that he had seen some at Juang’s market two blocks over.

Murder City Stories: NaNoWriMo Day 7 Argh I’m Running out of Steam

They pulled up to the front door an old sweatshop. Kingston and Marv lifted Susan out of the van, and the driver took it around to park in the back.

This building was a remnant from older days before worker’s rights and fire codes. The old factory was long and thin with pillars here and there holding up the weight or the rest of the building above the tall ceilings. A crew of men were swinging sledgehammers to tear out the old sewing machines where they had been bolted to the floor, and the front of the factory floor nest to the rolling doors of the loading dock was where they were piling the old sewing machines.

The back of the factory had already been cleared out and there was a growing shanty town of mix and match sheets and blankets hung from cables to separate one shanty from another. There was a feted smell on the air, a mix of sex, unwashed bodies, and strong perfume. Several portable toilets set up along one wall and one man had a can of air freshener that he was spraying over his head.

Marv had asked the guys at the front door if they had anything to clean Susan up with, and one of the men came back with a roll of paper towels. He ripped off a long section and handed it to Marv. He wadded it up and wiped what blood he could from Susan’s face. With the swelling and the dried blood she almost didn’t look human.

Susan was walking again on her own legs but she was being kept steady by Marv. He had an arm around her waist and she had her head rested on his shoulder with her arm hooked over his neck. They almost looked like a couple of lovers going for a stroll.

Kingston went over to the water cooler and filled a paper cone with water and poured it over the bite on his arm. He just let the red water fall to the concrete floor. He cussed as he rubbed the wound with his nails trying to wash out any germs he could.

Big Nose Tony sped over with his index finger in the air. He was short and thin and shivered even when it was warm. He tilted up his bifocals to focus on Susan. He said, “What the hell did you do to her?” He looked back and forth between Kingston and Marv. “She’s not gonna be able to work for days. And then they won’t pay full price.”

Kingston dropped the paper cup and took a step forward. He said, “You got a problem with the work we did for you?”

“Yes, I do. Mr. Contadina is going to hear about this.”

Kingston took two more steps forward and slapped him across the face. “Is he gonna hear about this too?” Big Nose took a step back eyes wide with surprise. Kingston stepped forward and slapped the other side of his face with the back of his hand. “You better tell him about this too.” Big Nose raised his hands to cover up his face. Kingston grabbed Big Nose’s arm and yanked it down and slapped him again. Big Nose was pulled forward with his arm and Kingston ended up hitting him in the back of the head. “You’re not gonna tell anyone anything, Tony. You’re not a man.”

Murder City Stories: NaNoWriMo Day 6

Chauncey motioned for Jenkins to get out his gun. A young man came out of the stairwell, saw their guns and ran back the way he came. Jenkins fidgeted. Chauncey said, “Focus. We are not here for him.”

Chauncey knocked at the door. He waited a couple seconds then he knocked a little harder. An old woman’s voice came through the door. Chauncey said, “Is Javier there? I’ve got a message for him from…” He looked at Jenkins and gave a wink. “Daniel Steel.” They heard whispering behind the door, creaking footsteps and a door closing.

The woman said, “I don’t think I know any Javier.” She unlocked the door and opened it just a crack to peek out. Chauncey kicked the door open. The woman fell to the floor. Chauncey walked through the door holding the shotgun at the woman’s face. Her nose trickled blood.

This woman had thin curly hair that had been dyed blond over and over. Telenovelas were playing quietly on the TV. It was a small studio apartment with no window. A sheet that was tacked to the ceiling separating two twin sized mattresses laying on the floor was pulled back. And there was only one door, the bathroom door. Jenkins was reminded of the evenings that he had spent with his own grandmother waiting for his mother to get off work.

Chauncey said, “Wake up Jenkins. Check the bathroom.

Jenkins opened the bathroom door and Javier was standing there in the dark. Jenkins said, “You missed your court date. You’re delinquent on your bond. I need you to come with us.”

Javier said, “Oh shit. Tia, are you OK?”

Chauncey said, “You know this is what happens when you run.”

 

That night Susan was back out under her streetlight and an old van pulled to the curb. She had been waiting there, but Maggie and Fran had not shown up. She could understand Maggie being so closely involved with suck a grisly murder she would need years to come back to herself, but living is expensive and she would be back soon. Probably much sooner than she can handle, but she’ll be there to help her along. Susan and how to live in it.

But mostly Susan hoped that Maggie would not come back. She hoped that she could find some help. She hoped that Maggie had some family that could take her in and get her back on her feet. But that couldn’t happen now. Maggie won’t leave, can’t leave. She had looked into the eyes of the city and the city had looked into her. She was part of the city, just like the old buildings and the light posts, just like the darkness that seeps into everything. The darkness is there in the buildings, in the alleys, in the traffic, in the streets, in the cracks in the sidewalk, in the weeds that grow up out of those cracks where there is no soil but the darkness.

But it’s Fran staying gone that bothers her. Fran has been around long enough that she shouldn’t be scared off by a little murder no matter how bloody. Susan couldn’t keep waiting forever though. She had bills too, and she had already waved off more customers than she could afford. She was probably just worrying about the girls but something about this van just didn’t feel right.

Susan walked up to the opened passenger side window. She said, “Where’s the party?”

The driver said, “It’s at Tony’s, Bitch.” The side doors came opened and two men jumped out. “Get in the car.”

Susan turned to run. And the men chased her. She ran up to the door to the tenement building behind her. She yanked at the handle and luckily someone had wedged a wad of paper in the door latch and it swung wide open. One of the men grabbed her but she slipped out of his grasp. She started yelling for help and dodging the men’s grasps. She beat on the first door she came to. The taller man with the hair bulging from the open lapels of his shirt grabbed her hard on the shoulder and wrapped his other arm around her neck. She couldn’t stand how familiar his smell was baby powder deodorant and cigarettes. The man pulled his arm tighter around her neck, and she started to get light he started to get lightheaded. The heavyset man came barreling through, and knocked into the one holding Susan. The man behind her lost his balance and his arm loosened. She was able to slip her chin between his arm and her neck. She bit down hard. Her mouth flooded with the sticky taste of blood. The man cussed loudly and she slipped free. But no one opened their door. Now both of the men were blocking the hall to the interior of the building.

The only means of escape was back out onto the street and the driver had gotten out of the van and he was running toward the building. She ran out the door and cut a hard right but he tackled her hard to the ground. The man she had bit ran out the door and over to the man that was on top of her holding her down. He kicked her in the head hitting the driver in the shoulder with his shin. The driver said, “Watch it, you asshole.” The man kicked her again and the driver rolled out of the way. He said, “What the fuck is wrong with you?” The tall man held his hand over his bleeding arm and kicked her two more times.

The heavyset man came from the building and grabbed the taller man by the shoulders and pulled. The man dropped his hips and slipped his grip. He kicked her again. This time he grabbed him around the waist. He said, “How’s she supposed to work if you kill her?”

The taller man said, “I don’t give a fuck if that smalltime never makes another dime. This bitch bit the fuck out of me.” But by this time he was able to control himself and they dragged her limp body to the van and rolled her onto the floor. They hopped they wouldn’t have to dump her body because they had not lined the van with plastic and her blood was soaking into the carpet.

She had seen these goons around the streets before. Kingston was the tall one, the one who dressed like a narcissist who was stuck in the nineteen-seventies with his butterfly collars and vintage bellbottoms, and Marv was the heavyset man in a t-shirt and jeans. She was not sure who the driver was but they were gang enforcers. Big Nose must have called in a few favors. He must have made some promises, gotten some loans.

Susan’s head was pounding, her right eye had swollen shut, and her lips were so fat that she couldn’t close them without pain. Her head was lying in a puddle of blood and drool. She looked up from the floorboard to see the shapes of two men sitting in the back of the van but she couldn’t get her eyes to focus and she couldn’t remember what had just happened. She tried to sit up but one of the men shoved her back down with his foot. They were talking about something but her head was ringing so bad that she couldn’t make any sense of the conversation.