Entries Tagged 'The Loser Chronicles' ↓
June 3rd, 2009 — The Loser Chronicles
Angels and Dumpsters
By Earl Petty Jr.
(Part 2 of 2)
My feet ached. My canvas sneakers weren’t made for walking. They weren’t made for much of anything except to steal twenty bucks out of my pocket for 55 cents of rubber and cheap cloth. Paste my picture up high on the wall at the Sucker Hall of Fame.
As I rounded the corner, I saw the two cops were talking to a man in a ragged coat holding two plastic garbage bags. Behind the man was a tall iron gate with two angels mounted high on either side. The gate was ajar and inside it behind a short hedge was a pair of green dumpsters. The guy must have been diving for aluminum cans. The residents, fearing for their lives, called the authorities. Apparently the guardian angels on the gate were not enough security for the owners of the house.
As I got closer the cops pinned the man against the car, pulled his arms behind his back and handcuffed him. They recited his rights and stuck him in the back of the cruiser. As I walked by the car I heard the man screaming, “But what about my dog! You pricks, who’s gonna take care of my dog!” As they pulled away a skinny yellow dog trotted out of the bushes and followed the car for about half a block. Then it veered to the right, turned around and trotted toward me, tongue nearly dangling to the ground. The animal walked by my side for a few yards then smelled my ass. Apparently he got a whiff of something he didn’t like and started trotting in the other direction. Everyone’s a critic.
Toward the end of the neighborhood, I passed Jill Donaldson’s house, or at least where she spent her summers home from college. We saw each other for a couple months. While we were dating we spent almost all our time together doing whatever we wanted, and paid for the lark with her father’s credit card. It all came to a screeching halt when she said I drank too much. “I don’t think you drink enough,” I retorted. With wit like that, I thought, I should go on the road, maybe even get a sitcom. “You,” she insisted, “are a hopeless alcoholic. Maybe you should get some treatment. Lot’s of people have done it.”
“Sure,” I said. “And they replace the booze with something else to fill the bottomless holes in their souls. Some plug up the emptiness with religion, some with exercise, and others with money, sex or self-righteous rage. Or they just become boring. Anyway they become people I don’t want anything to do with.”
I walked to the liquor cabinet and poured myself a huge glass of what I knew was my last free liquor from that particular source. The following week she met up with a cokehead from Sacramento. Jill has been in treatment twice since we stopped seeing each other. I have yet to make that trip. I entered a working class neighborhood and immediately noticed a change. First of all there was noise, children playing in the yards, some screaming women and yelling men. Secondly, there was the smell of charcoal burning, people cooking their meals outdoors.
I turned the corner and started on the long straight drag to my place. I was soaked with sweat and I had worn holes in my shoes. And I still had 25 blocks to go. It was nearly dark when I reached my door. I was relieved to be home, and actually more relieved to be once again unemployed. Holding down a job is for losers, I thought. Jerks, assholes, flunkies… people too weak to buck the system, sissies who played the game because they had no imagination. I was dead tired, but I felt much more alive than I did before the Citation broke down.
I turned the knob on the door. It was locked. I checked my pockets for the key and remembered I threw it in the front seat when I abandoned the car. I went out to the bushes to look for a key I concealed for just such an event. All I found was a half-empty half-gallon of Old Thompson someone hid in the bushes. “Half-empty,” I muttered to myself. I unscrewed the cap and took a drink. It was still hot from a day in the summer heat. It was tough to swallow. “Hell, I’m an optimist,” I said. I took another drink. “If it was a fifth, my cup would runneth over,” I said. Nobody heard me. I didn’t bother to repeat the statement.
June 1st, 2009 — The Loser Chronicles
Angels and Dumpsters
By Earl Petty Jr.
(Part 1 of 2)
I had just reached the crest of the hill on Kiwanis Avenue when my baby-shit brown 1980 Chevy Citation finally gave up the ghost. It left this world quite disgracefully, sputtering violently and belching thick clouds of poisonous black smoke. I was ashamed to witness the machine’s pitiful death rattle. I had hoped it would end exploding in a fireball at the bottom of a cliff with me behind the wheel. I had hoped it would show a little class.
The car wasn’t just my transportation. It was my livelihood. There are not a lot of successful pizza delivery personnel in this town who do their job on foot. One prerequisite for my job was a dependable vehicle. Now all I had left was my winning personality. I leaned over to the glove compartment, pulled out the title, took a pen out of my pocket and wrote, “Abandoned. Help yourself,” and stuck the paper underneath the windshield wiper. I threw the keys on the floor, put on a pair of cheap sunglasses to cut down the glare of the hot sun and started the long walk home.
About three blocks into my trek I decided to take a shortcut through a neighborhood of large homes owned mainly by plastic surgeons, car dealers and divorce attorneys. I looked out of place in a t-shirt, baggy shorts and a pair of canvas sneakers, sweating like a butcher in the 100 degree heat.
When I was younger, the progeny of car salesman and shysters used to give good parties. While the parents went skiing at Aspen, their misguided children would open the doors to the rabble, and we came in droves to drain their liquor cabinets and smoke their dope. Now I couldn’t buy an invitation to one of those homes, not even if I had a firstborn for currency.
I walked past Joe Cole’s parent’s house. His dad was a coroner of some kind. At one of his parties Billy Stevens passed out after guzzling 20 shots of Southern Comfort. While he was under, some prankster shoved an empty pony bottle up his ass. After two weeks without a bowel movement, Billy went to the doctor. It only took a routine exam to determine there was an unnatural obstruction and it took a battery of lubrication, prying and laxatives to dislodge the bottle. Rumor had it that the pressure was so great behind the bottle it shot across the room, over the doctor’s shoulder and shattered against the wall.
Following the launch of the projectile, Billy proceeded to throw his hat in the ring for most copious bowel movement in Western history. The nurse in attendance, apparently new to the job, lost her lunch right on the spot. She tried to escape the stench but slipped in Billy’s mess and fell on some broken glass. After a few stitches and a tetanus shot, she quit nursing for good. The following weekend, Billy found out who pulled the prank and tried to return the favor, except he used a 40 oz. Colt .45 bottle. While trying to insert the object, his victim woke up and beat him so badly that to this day one of his eyes is a little crossed. I guess the guy didn’t even remember violating Billy with the bottle, and didn’t believe it when people insisted he was the culprit. Last I heard Billy was working in his own mobile maid service. He makes 15 dollars an hour cleaning other people’s homes.
As I approached the next block a police cruiser passed me slowly. The cop in the passenger’s seat took a long look at me, but they didn’t stop. Suddenly the prowl car accelerated and disappeared behind around the curve.
May 18th, 2009 — The Loser Chronicles
A DOG AND A BILLY CLUB
Earl Petty Jr.
(Part2 of 2)
Beth went to the kitchen and grabbed a box of dog biscuits. She sat down in front of G. Gordon and commanded him lay down. He didn’t do it. Beth said, “roll over.” Nothing happened. “Speak!” she ordered.
“Why don’t you tell him to screw something,” I offered.
“Screw you,” Beth said. The dog stood at attention. I about shit my pants.
“G. Gordon, sit!” Beth said. G. Gordon sat.
“Janet lit a cigarette. “At least he knows one command,” she said, “otherwise if someone breaks in he can always sex him to death.”
“Whatever,” I said. “Can I use the bathroom? Does it work?”
“Yes,” Janet said, “the landlord had somebody fix it earlier. But don’t pee on the seat. I hate that.”
I waved her off, entered the john and shut the door. I lifted the lid and took a leak. I put the seat back down and washed my hands. Then I flicked a few drops of water on the seat and laughed to myself. I was getting ready to leave the can when I heard the neighbors through the wall. It sounded like a couple going at it. The woman was screaming, “Oh! Mike! Oh! Mike!” in an increasingly higher tone and volume.
I walked back into the living room. “What the hell is that next door?”
“Oh yeah,” Beth said. “They are constantly fucking, all day, every day.”
“The neighbor girl is seeing Mike Handison,” Janet said.
“The college football player?” I asked.
“One in the same,” Beth said.
“They call him ‘The Handyman,’” Janet said. “Because of the size of his tool,” she nodded.
Beth raised her eyebrows. “It’s rumored his pecker’s the size of a church bell clapper. I hear he has a temper too.”
“I know,” Janet said. “He stomped the shit out of James Cole for looking at his girlfriend funny.”
“He’s only five-eight,” I said. “That shrimp couldn’t take anyone. That’s why the pros won’t even take a look at him.”
“I hear he’s trying out for the Jets next season,” Beth said.
I grabbed one of Janet’s cigarettes and lit up. “With the Jets’ performance the last few seasons, I’m surprised I haven’t got a call,” I said.
I took the last swallow of my beer. “Well I know one thing, I don’t want to listen to his shit.” I stood up and walked into the bathroom. The woman was reaching a crescendo, again. I gave the wall a few firm raps.
“Hey, Handyman,” I yelled. “Why don’t you holster that thing for a while. We’re trying to have a conversation in here.”
I took a drag off my cigarette and put my ear up to the wall. I shouldn’t have. The Handyman started pounding and kicking the wall. “I’m gonna kill you! You son of a bitch!” he screamed.
“Hey shorty,” I yelled back, “Why don’t you use that slab of yours to knock down the wall. I bet you could hit harder with your pecker than you could in full pads on the football field, you pussy.”
I left him pounding on the wall and I went back to the kitchen for another beer. The girls followed me in. G. Gordon watched.
“You moron,” Janet said, “he’s gonna come over here and we are gonna have to take his shit. I hope you’re happy”
“Don’t worry,” I said popping the tab, “I’ll answer the door.”
“Well,” Janet said, “let him kick your ass in the hall so you don’t get blood on the carpet.”
I took a long drink. “In addition to the beer, urine and cigarette butts already there?” I asked.
Just then Handyman started violently beating on the door. “Come out you piece of shit!” he screamed. I went to open the door. G. Gordon just sat there. “Some guard dog,” I muttered.
I opened the door. Handison was standing there balls naked. I looked down. The rumors were true. It was like a billy club dangling on a string. The rest of him was beet red and breathing like a bull.
“Hey,” I said holding out a beer. “You look like you could use a cold one.”
His chest heaved with deep breaths. His nostrils flared. “I’m gonna rip off your head and shit down your neck!”
As I took a long pull from my cigarette, something hit me from behind. I fell down and spilled another beer. My second wasted beer today. It soaked my cigarette. My luck was changing for the worse.
Then I heard screaming. High pitched screaming. I stood up and G. Gordon was on top of the Handyman. It looked like the huge beast was having a little more success with the college star than he did with me. At least I had some clothes on to slow him down. A couple seconds later all I could see was the massive dog and a couple human limbs frantically waving underneath. It looked like G. Gordon had found true love. I kicked my empty beer can down the hall and went back inside.
Janet and Beth were still in the kitchen. Janet opened the fridge and handed me another beer.
“Good God,” Beth said. “What happened?”
I popped the tab and smiled. “G. Gordon has a new girlfriend,” I said.
I took a drink of the beer. It tasted good. The best goddamn beer all day.
May 14th, 2009 — The Loser Chronicles
A DOG AND A BILLY CLUB
Earl Petty Jr.
(Part 1 of 2)
In fact I didn’t know why I was so tired. If it was the tedium of being broke, the endless pounding in my head from hangover number 96 in this year of our lord, or if it was the vague dissatisfaction I had with my life.
I pondered the question while draining the last three cans of beer in the fridge. I decided the reason I was tired was lack of sleep. I went back to bed. I solve more of my problems that way.
When I woke up I took stock of my assets. In the living room I had a black and white television. Wheel of Fortune was on. Someone spun the wheel and it landed on “Bankrupt.” I laughed my ass off. On the opposite side of the room was the brown beast, a huge couch I dragged from move to move for the last five years. Its guts were spilling out from the corners of each cushion. I dug through the cracks and checked for change. I found six pennies and a nickel.
In the kitchen I had a case of returnable Old Milwaukee bottles, right now the most valuable thing I owned, worth $2.40 at the liquor store.
My net worth, all together, was $2.51. And they said I’d never amount to anything. At the liquor store I sat the bottles on the counter, went to the cooler in the back and picked up a six pack of Black Label beer on sale for $2.45. I grabbed a few cents out of a cup of pennies by the cash register to cover the tax and headed over to Janet and Beth’s place.
I trudged up the stairs to their apartment over Whetstone Optical and knocked on the door. Janet answered. She was wearing a t-shirt with a smiley face. The smiley face had a bullet hole in its forehead. She was brushing her teeth. She motioned me in, went into the bathroom and spat in the sink.
The living room was in disarray; jars of cigarette butts were scattered around the room along with bottles of golden liquid. The floor was cluttered with empty beer cans, plastic cups, crushed cigarette packs and empty CD cases.
I walked to the kitchen, broke off a beer from the six-pack and put the rest in the fridge. I went back to the living room and sat in the least filthy chair. “You guys have a party last night?” I asked.
Janet emerged from the bathroom pulling her hair into a ponytail. “If you can call it that,” she answered. “Houser and his buddies came over and wrecked the place. That guy is a real pain in the ass when he’s sober. He’s worse than an animal when he’s drunk.”
Janet motioned toward my hand. “What the hell is that?”
I held up my beer, “Black Label,” I proudly announced.
“God,” she said wrinkling her nose, “How can you drink that shit?”
“I’m an equal opportunity boozer,” I answered. “Where’s Beth? And what’s in the bottles?”
Beth’s still passed out and as far as the jars go you don’t want to know,” she explained. “Last night the toilet stopped working so we had to improvise.”
“Bottles of piss?” I said. “Christ, Janet, what kind of shithole are you running here?”
Just then the door to Beth’s room opened and out came the biggest goddamn black dog I’d ever seen. It was some kind of half-horse, half-pit bull, all teeth. I stood up and the dog pounced. I screamed like a woman.
Next thing I knew I was on the ground and the animal was licking my face. My beer spilled and I could feel my shirt soaking it up. I got on my hands and knees and tried to get up, but the monster was mounting me, and having a hell of a good time at it.
“Woo hooo!” Janet yelled.
I fell flat on my face. The beast put both paws on my shoulders, pinning me down. He was still trying to work it in.
“Get this goddamn thing off me!” I screamed.
The screaming must have set the dog off, because he really started pounding away, knocking a big jar of urine off the coffee table. Several droplets splashed on my face.
“Hey Beth,” Janet laughed, “he really likes Earl!”
Beth grabbed the dog by the collar and pulled it off me. “Down, G. Gordon, down,” she said. “Bad doggy.”
I stood up and backed toward the wall. I was out of breath. “What in the Sam Hills of Wisconsin is that?” I gasped.
Beth commanded the animal to sit. “Bad G. Gordon,” she said. The dog sat next to Beth. He was almost as tall as her standing when he was sitting. The animal was some sort of Great Dane on steroids.
“One of Houser’s buddies wanted to get rid of him last night, and I figured we could use a guard dog. They told me he was really friendly,” Beth explained.
“I can see that,” I said, still catching my breath. “I’m used to a little wine and dinner before I take a relationship to that level.”
“I can’t believe it,” Janet said, still laughing. “Earl involved in inter species homosexual coitus right here on my living room!”
I wiped my face, walked to the kitchen and got a fresh beer. “I don’t see what’s so weird about that,” I said “What’s strange is I’m usually the top man for that sort of thing. I’m glad I was dressed, otherwise I’d be engaged.” I sat down as far away from G. Gordon as I could. He was still looking at me, licking his chops. “You guys want a beer?” I asked. Neither answered.
May 6th, 2009 — The Loser Chronicles
I WANT YOU TO HURT LIKE
Earl Petty Jr.
(Part 2 of 2)
I throw on a pair of shorts and my least rancid t-shirt I found in the back seat of my ’69 Buick Rust-O-Matic. I pop the trunk and grab my ten-gallon gas can (like the guys at the sprint car races have, yeah) and a seven-foot length of thin garden hose I once used for a beer bong. I walk over to the neighbor’s truck, remove the gas cap, snake the tube in and start sucking. I sense the gas coming but I don’t get my mouth off soon enough and I get a mouthful of unleaded. I stop the end of the tube with my thumb, spit the gas into the can, then I stick the tube into the can and start draining the tank.
I take my t-shirt and try to wipe the gas taste out of my mouth. I’d like to say that was the first time that has ever happened to me but it wasn’t. I swear you could draw me a picture and beat me over the head with a meat mallet and I would still get a mouthful of gas four times out of ten.
I fill my can and take a few moments to thank the gas siphon gods that live in the smog that surrounds the meat packing plant like a poisonous shroud. I pour the gas in my tank, start the car, and head out because, my friends, anywhere is better than here.
Down the highway I scream rock and roll songs at the top of my lungs because the radio doesn’t work and the windows won’t roll up.
I pull into town, voice horse from 99 raunchy verses of Chantilly Lace and the almost swallowed gasoline and I park in front of my friend John’s apartment, which is located directly above my favorite bar in that town (cheap, cold beer). Inside, John tells me I’m fortunate because tonight is the night for his pal Steve’s bachelor party. I don’t know Steve.
“He’s marrying Amanda Troutman.” He says, then looks at me funny and asks if I’ve been huffing gas and I say, “yeah.”
John says everyone will be here in a few minutes to have cocktails and I mix myself up a giant gin and tonic, with real lime, thinking this is my lucky day. After guzzling heartily, we pile into John’s Thunderbird and everyone is revved-up and hyped-up, high-fiving like we’ve won the Super Bowl 100-0, elated we are driving across county lines and between corn fields to the raunchiest strip bar in eight states.
The guy sitting next to me (the only person I know in the car is John so this guy is a complete mystery to me) tells me he was a marine and he’s served in some backward-assed countries and he’d seen a lot of strip bars and I wouldn’t begin to believe the shit they’d do, man it was just unnatural, and you’d need a vaccination just by walking through the front doors and this one we were going to was the closest to that and that is a good thing wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
So we walk past a twin set of four hundred pound bouncers posted at the door and we have a seat in the corner both. There are more beers around and I’m thinking just keep the beers coming, assholes, that’s all I want. The enthusiasm hasn’t died, and they each get up and walk to the short, dimly-lit stage for a chance to grope some brunette with augmented breasts, and I can tell, not only because they are perched unnaturally on her chest, but the scars on the underside of her nipples appear to be the results of a finger nail file incision stitched with baling wire.
I’m left on Steve (the bachelor) watch and he is nearly comatose from copious amounts of booze. Then, this chubby girl with slight breasts and mousy gray hair walks up and starts gyrating for him and he’s laughing embarrassed like and I say tip the woman buddy, and he says “I don’t have any money” and I know he’s fuckin’ lying and I give her a dollar and he yanks it back and says she’s a stupid slut (these people are trash, he adds, Jesus get a grip…), “get yourself a drink,” he says handing me the dollar, “but don’t give her any fuckin’ money.”
She’s insulted, angry, hands-on-her-hips insulted. I try once again to give her the dollar, he smacks my hand, his eyes cold and gray like a fish and drizzled in alcohol and mean, and he knocks over a beer splashing the dancer before it rolls off the table and smashes on the floor.
Then the bouncers, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, are on their way and nothing is going to stop them so I pick up my beer and slug it down just as thick hands come down on my neck and arm and squeeze tight like a constrictor.
Next thing we are out on the street, Tweedledee standing sentinel while Steve vomits in the gutter, growling like he’s summoning up an army of trolls and I’m lying on my back, bruised, rocks jabbing my spine and ribs, looking up between a pair of parked cars at the dark ink heaven-void above and I taste blood at the corner of my mouth and from my nose and I smile and think, goddamn, I haven’t even begun to sink as low as I can go, have I?
May 4th, 2009 — The Loser Chronicles
I WANT YOU TO HURT LIKE
Earl Petty Jr.
(Part 1 of 2)
So I was out on my ass again, no money, no job, no gas in the tank, no life, goddammit…
The unemployment part wasn’t the worst. I love the freedom, sleeping in, and the drinking at noon. What wrings the life out of me is the search for another job. I hate explaining how I need an extra three sheets of paper for the application to list all the jobs I’ve held in the last two years, why the list of my most recent five jobs only covers the last three months of my life, and that I’ve spent more days out of work than in it.
And if that doesn’t take the fuckin’ cake, I have to hang out at the unemployment office and watch a video tape (in English and Spanish) on how to fill out an application that’s already overloaded with useless instructions.
So I go to the Plasma Center and I get done filling out another personal history this time asking how risky my past sex life has been, (which informs me if you ever even thought about having sex with a homosexual interveinous drug user from and urban area whose had sexual contact with a prostitute from Haiti who had a blood transfusion you are lucky to be alive to fill out this damn form) only to be sent packing when I tell the eerie nurse who smells like kerosene and lemons that I had a sinister skull with one red eye tattooed on my right shoulder three months ago. She tells me I’ll have to wait another three months before I’ll be eligible to visit again. Possible exposure to hepatitis.
You know you are screwed when you can’t even sell your own blood.
Then I grab six disks constituting the remainder of my music collection and take them to the used CD shop where they are refused on sight – the pimply faced little counter girl won’t even pretend to look up a price on the computer. I take them to the pawnshop and the withered geezer at the filthy counter offers me a buck apiece. I do the math in my head. Six beers at happy hour. Not a bad trade.
So, I go home and dig through the rest of my possessions. I find three copies of Jay McInery’s Story of My Life I bought years ago at the “everything’s a buck” store because they were first editions. I open the covers on each and write, “Best Wishes, Jay,” in the most flamboyant hand I can muster. I figure an autographed first edition might be worth something. I take them to the used bookstore. The bloodless lady at the counter with the too tight bun in her hair offers me three bucks apiece. I take it. I couldn’t stomach any of the copies when I read them anyhow.
Nine dollars equals nine more beers. I’m a goddamned human calculator.
But now I’m tapped, my assets are entirely liquidated. The “everything must go” sale is over. No reasonable offer was refused.
Now I have no prospects. I’ve deeply betrayed so many employers in this town that I’m probably blackballed for life. I’m on everybody’s shit list. I’m a leper staggering through the streets screaming, “Unclean! Unclean!” so people will give me a wide berth and not contract what I have, a terminal case of evil luck.
What I decide I need to do is get out of town for a few days. Leave the bad karma golems behind, let them latch on to some other poor bastard and run him out of town.
April 30th, 2009 — The Loser Chronicles
Earl Petty Jr.
(Part 2 of 2)
I landed on my back about ten feet from the grill. It wasn’t that the world receded from me, I was launched from it. I hadn’t even touched the coals. A huge column of flame was still burning, as if I’d punched a hole into hell and dozens of demons were making an escape. I rolled over and something landed in the middle of the street. I stood up, wiped the dirt off my back and walked over to investigate. It was Beth’s lighter. I either threw it when the charcoal ignited, or the explosion knocked it there. I carefully inspected it. There was a long scratch across Rat Fink’s face. I cursed and slipped the lighter in my pocket.
I went back to check the grill. The flames had died down but there was a small blue flamed dancing on the surface of my martini, like a miniature Olympic torch commemorating my gold medal performance in the Idiots with Flammable Liquids event. I blew out the flame and poured what was left on the ground.
I went inside, sat the martini glass on the counter, got out a heavy glass tumbler and filled it with ice and Old Granddad. I sat down on the couch next to Beth. I noticed the hair on my knuckles was singed. I took a drink. It was warm, glorious. The best minds on this planet are the ones running distilling plants. Who the hell needs a rocket scientist? Give me a man who can turn fermenting corn into whiskey, potatoes into vodka, wheat into beer, grapes into wine. He’s the alchemist. He’s the genius. I set my attention on the tv. The drill sergeant was screaming, red faced. Behind him was a wide lake. The scene cut to an alligator cruising through the water.
“Recruits!” he yelled. “We are going to hit the water, swim out to the middle of this god-forsaken swamp and make love to that alligator.”
“Are you with me!” he yelled.
“Sir, yes, sir!” the recruits screamed.
“Sir!” one of the recruits said.
“Boy” the sergeant screamed, “You got a problem, son? You eyeballin’ me?”
“No, sir!” the recruit said. “But that is a male alligator, sir!”
“Well,” the sergeant sneered, “it looks like we got ourselves a god damned herpetologist here!”
“Sir, no, sir!” the recruit responded. He stared off into the distance. “I grew up in Louisiana!”
The drill sergeant moved his face just inches from the recruit’s face. “Then you of all people should know that when a full-blooded American male feels the urge to engage in sexual congress with the largest member of the reptile family that the gender of the lizard is of little consequence.” The sergeant stood back and scanned the group. “Recruits!” he screamed. “Follow me in.” The sergeant turned and walked into the water. The group of recruits just stood and looked at one another.
I took another drink of bourbon. I looked at Beth. She was pouring herself another martini without looking away from the television.
“Maybe you should switch to wine,” I suggested.
“I’m fine,” she said. “Shouldn’t you be checking your fire?”
“Good idea,” I said. I went to the refrigerator, put the four shark steaks on the plate, brushed them with some olive oil and went out the door.
Once outside, I saw the charcoal was gray and perfect. I spread the briquettes with a broken broom handle, then placed the grill over the coals and put the meat over the fire. It sizzled and popped. It smelled good.
I sat in the shade and had a drink of my cocktail. Beth seemed to be doing a little bit better. Maybe the meal would pep her up. She needed help. If I could just get her out on the town, out to Gary’s Pub, someone there would be able to make her laugh and maybe break her out of her funk.
I stood up, checked the meat, and turned it over. It was white and perfect. A cool breeze blew across the trailer court. I lit a cigarette, took a few drags, and waited for the steaks to finish. My mouth watered.
I put the meat on the plate, went inside and placed the food on the kitchen counter. I poured some more whiskey.
“Last time I grilled shark I sautéed some onions in butter and paprika. It was excellent. I bought some onions today but forgot to prepare them,” I said. “Well, what can you do?” I got out a pair of plates and sat them on the counter.
“Beth,” I said. “If you want to grab some silverware, we can eat in about three seconds.” She didn’t respond.
I walked over to the couch. Beth was passed out cold. She had switched to drinking straight out of the bottle. She still clutched it in her hand.
I took the bottle, screwed on the cap and put it, and the meat, in the refrigerator. I took Beth’s lighter out of my pocket and put it back in her purse. I found her wallet, took out two fives and sat her purse on the couch. I finished my drink. I lit a cigarette, turned off the tv and the lights, and went to the bar.
April 29th, 2009 — The Loser Chronicles
These stories were a staple on the back page of Sioux Falls’ first Alternative Magazine, TEMPEST. The author has given me to permission to post them. I’ll try to get one up everyweek.
Earl Petty Jr.
(Part 1 of 2)
You can say anything you want about winter, this last long hideous winter in particular, but at least it keeps the assholes off the streets.
The cold had kept everyone in the court trapped in their trailers for the duration of the season. I’d adapted to the quiet, tomblike life in my tin can of a home. I liked it. I never had to talk to anyone or listen to crying children, screeching tires, or domestic disputes ringing out of open windows. The snow had insulated me from the world.
But now spring finally arrived and the sky was clear and the sun was hot and the women wore a lot less. Between the heat and light and dizzying, wonderful display of flesh I felt as if I’d escaped from a long sentence in purgatory to a world of Eden. I’d finally woken from a long, dreamless sleep into a grand lurid technicolor reality. I was being allowed to live.
Things weren’t so good for my room mate Beth. About the same time the weather broke, she was fired from her bartending job at the Top Shelf. The boss said she gave too many drinks away and he was right. It had been a long time since I’d paid for a drink there. And I swilled great liquor, no bar whiskey for me, punk. I had Rusty Nails made with Johnny Walker Black. My Greyhounds were made with Grey Goose and Absolut. Now I was going to be a regular paying customer. It’s amazing how a shift in personnel can turn a great bar into a shit-hole. In protest I decided I’d never drink there again.
Since her termination Beth hadn’t got out much. She had liked the job and the thought of finding other employment was depressing. She just sat around the trailer watching television, smoking and getting drunk.
I decided to get some drinks and some meat and have a cookout for Beth. At least it would be something in her day. I stopped at the liquor store, picked up some German white wine, a twelve of malt liquor (talls), a fifth of gin, a bottle of tonic water and a half-gallon of Old Granddad. I stopped at the supermarket and the meat department had a special on shark steaks. I’d cooked shark once before and I loved the idea of feasting on the reigning monarch of the ocean food chain, so I picked up four. I also grabbed a quart of coleslaw at the deli, a jar of red olives, two large Vidalia onions and a bag of charcoal.
It was dog’s work carrying that shit six blocks to my trailer. By the time I sat the bags on the kitchen floor, my back ached, my knuckles were sore and I was sweating like a butcher.
As I started putting things away, Beth came out of her bedroom sat down on the living room couch and lit a cigarette.
“Hey,” I said lifting the gin out of the bag. “I bought you a new pair of wings at the liquor store.” I tossed her the bottle.
“You’re precious,” she said. “Thank you.”
I sat the olives on the counter. “Anytime,” I said. “And those olives of which you are so fond,” I added.
She got up and walked into the kitchen. “Oh my,” she said. She opened the jar, selected one from the top with her long fingernails and popped it in her mouth. “Yummy,” she said. “I could live off of these.” She grabbed two martini glasses and her stainless steel shaker from the cupboard. “I’ll set us up,” she said.
“Excellent,” I replied. “I will get the fire going.”
I went outside, set up the rickety grill, and poured about five pounds of charcoal in the bottom. I arranged the briquettes in a neat pyramid and remembered I neglected to buy any lighter fluid.
I didn’t feel like waiting for the fire so I went to my neighbors shed and borrowed a can of gas. I poured it over and around on my charcoal pyramid. I sat the can on the ground and patted myself down for a light. I didn’t find one so I stepped inside and asked Beth for her lighter.
“It’s in my purse,” she said. “It’s my Big Daddy Roth lighter so don’t lose it. It’s a collector’s item.”
I dug through her purse and pulled out a shiny lighter with Rat Fink painted on the side.
“Thanks,” I said. “You got that drink ready yet?”
“Yeah,” she said handing me the glass. “I’m halfway though my first.”
“It’ll be about an hour for food,” I said. “You’d better pace yourself.”
She took another gulp off her martini, draining the glass. “Don’t worry, I’m gonna watch that show I taped last night, New Recruit.”
“What’s that?” I asked. I took a sip off my drink. It was grand, beautiful, crystalline. Beth shook a good Martini.
She popped a tape in her VCR. “It’s one of those reality shows,” she said. “They take a bunch of regular people off the streets, send them to boot camp. They film the whole thing.”
The tape ran. I took another drink. The show introduced all the participants. “They are awfully good looking to be regular people,” I said.
“Of course,” she said. “They are all models and actors.”
“Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?” I asked. “Shouldn’t they have lawyers and bums and taxi drivers?”
Beth rolled her eyes and lit a cigarette. “How the hell am I supposed to identify with ugly people?” she replied. “If I wanted to tune into ugly people I’d watch the news.”
“The reporters and anchors are all models too,” I said.
“You’re right there,” she said. She poured herself another cocktail. I went outside.
I sat my drink on the table next to the grill. The heat of the sun was making the gas evaporate. The fumes were so thick I could see them. I figured that most of the previous dousing had evaporated off so I gave it another splash of fuel. I sat the can down took out Beth’s lighter. I hit the flint and moved toward the fire. As I passed over the lip of the grill, I heard a deep boom and the world began to recede away from me at an alarming rate.
TO BE CONTINUED