By Mathew Serback
I bought weed from the white girl who lived next door to me. She was a child-monster whose face was full of freckles that were mopped up by her brown hair, which obfuscated her eyes and never let her make eye contact with someone she must’ve consider to be a loser.
The day I became a SCAB, Don – the teamster – spat on my shoes and told me the union would get revenge on those crossing the picket lines. He called us “no-good motherfuckers” and “bootlickers.” A few days later, the 1991 Honda Accord clipped me in the parking lot, which did a number on my right leg.
“No job but all the money,” the teenage drug dealer said.
“Inheritance,” I lied. I’d been surviving off welfare and worker’s comp checks since the accident.
“Your girl just died, right? Killed herself?”
I didn’t answer.
“Guess money can’t buy happiness.”
I felt my insides melt at the memory of finding Taylor dead less than twenty-four hours ago. Their neck lopped back at a ninety-degree angle with a bullet hole through the head.
“I can’t get high enough,” Taylor repeated while pretending to fly through the apartment – the overflowing hoody on their arms looking like the first set of wings that could carry them right out the window, past the rent-controlled housing, and into a world with something better.
That’s what the police said about Taylor’s death. Who’d want to kill some addict? Probably killed themselves.
I wasn’t smart or man enough to tell the police that I’d found the body – and they were wrong, it wasn’t suicide – or that I’d peeled the blue kimono off their body, held it close to my chest and inhaled through my nostrils like there was a way to keep them alive through the thought of smelling them for eternity.
“Fuck it,” I said while rolling a joint between my fingertips. I couldn’t get high enough fast enough. “And the gun?”
“Working on it,” the teenage drug dealer said.
Don – the teamster – attempted to break into my apartment.
“Don’t call the police,” I told my neighbor. Between the weed, the kimono, and the police’s insistence that Taylor’s death was self-inflicted, I knew that 911 would only add more shit to the toilet – and forget to flush.
Don left a note under the door.
Something to remember your poor dope head by, Mac. I’m not all bad. Call me.
I didn’t know something was missing because I didn’t know it existed.
Don’s handwritten note was covering Taylor’s handwritten note.
I thought you said you loved me.
“You’re going to eat shit,” I said through the telephone receiver.
“You should come meet me. Tiki-tiki, the strip joint off Broadview, ” Don – the teamster – laughed. “And, Mac, don’t forget your ones.”
It was hard to make out people and things inside of Tiki-Tiki. Nothing could hide the holes in the walls – not the crystallized smoke, not the boosted bass, not the imitation palm trees.
“Don – the teamster,” I mocked after entering the front door of Tiki-Tiki, “I believe you requested to eat shit.”
“It’s open,” I cawed with a smile. My teenage drug dealer queen slid through the door, flanked by two adult males. I waved my right hand at the three of them. “Don’t need the gun anymore.”
“We’re not here for that,” the teenage girl laughed with a small .22 caliber gun in her hand. From my window, I watched the smog roll out from the spoiler of a 1991 Honda Accord that idled empty in the parking lot. “Where’s the lawsuit money?”
I took another hit of the joint.
“I know you said inheritance,” the girl continued. “But I know you’re getting the money because you got injured at work.”
I laughed at my muddled reflection.
“It’s bullshit, kid,” I coughed and laughed. “I’m fuckin’ broke – like you. I’ve been using worker’s comp to pay you. I don’t even show up to the hearings.”
“But I – I thought,” the teenager’s scrambled brain on drugs tried to rationalize our realities.
“People lie,” I said while dropping the joint to the floor. “And, if you don’t mind, I’m still not high enough.”
(Bio: Mathew Serback is an oven-cooked bacon wizard. At any wave of his wand, electric ovens across the country may open their heavy doors and whisper, ‘Yes, daddy?’
But Mathew doesn’t like to be called daddy.
He is believed to be the cause of all grease fires since 1987.
‘The First Great American Novel: Where Parallel Lines Meet (A Story of Non-Sequiturs)’ will be available through Atmosphere Press in January 2021 and beyond.)