NEW WEEKLY SEGMENT: 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.

COOKOUT

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



2 comments ↓

#1 Angry Guy on 04.29.09 at 2:29 pm

I would love to go back and read some of the Tempest mags.
damn shame when struggling underground magazines can’t stay afloat.

*cough*Scrounge*Cough*

#2 l3wis on 04.29.09 at 3:05 pm

That wasn’t an underground magazine, it was “just a bunch of bloggers”

I met a lot of ladies on the TEMPEST personal pages. It was fun, and old skool. The F’ing internet ruined meeting crazy people of the opposite sex. It’s not as fun as getting a beer stained letter in the mail from a potential date.

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