Monday, June 14, 2010

“Hard Times” by Garrett Quinn

Papa Bo pounded on my door just before midnight. I watched a cockroach scurry into a crack from my bare mattress. I got up, threw on a white shirt covered in cigarette burns and poured myself a whiskey ginger. I only had one glass. One glass I stole from a set at Target. It had a crack running down the side like a lightening bolt and when I drank I ran my finger over it and caught the beady rivulets that squeezed through like the sweat now oozing from my pores, or the cockroach sliding into the crack, in the wires of my fingerprint. I pulled the door open until the safety chain was taught.

“Hello,” I said.

“I got Cindy here for you,” Papa Bo said. The bitter stench of his breath caught my nose like a punch. His greased shit colored hair ran angrily down his forehead, ending in a sharp widows peak. “I’ll be right here, leave the door unlocked, don’t try anything funny or I’ll slit your fucking throat before you can even get your limp dick out of this whore,” he said. He popped a switchblade open in front of his baggy jeans and I looked at the rusty two-inch blade and I thought it might not be so bad.

I slipped him a crisp one hundred dollar bill through the crack of the door, shut it, unchained it, opened it and let Cindy in. She had a blonde wig on. She had a silver sequined tube top that revealed the tops of her pale pink nipples. She had green eyes.

Cindy sat on my bed. She sighed and laced her fingers into her rigid hair, bunching it up on the top of her head, then letting it rest slowly down her slender back and shoulders and face. She crossed her legs and ran her eyes over my room. The floor was dusty and I only had one bed and one desk and one naked light bulb that hung from the ceiling. It was a room of solitude, and when I looked at Cindy I couldn’t remember the last time anyone had been in here.

I lit a Winston and the tobacco popped and curled and filled the tense silence. Through the shade of smoke, Cindy almost looked good. It was the piss-yellow bruise that hung from her eye like sap that ruined her beauty. I offered her my cigarette and she placed it between her wine colored lips and sucked the smoke deep into her lungs. Her fake breasts moved with her lungs and in a raspy voice she said, “Boy, come over here and kiss my mouth.” Smoke flowed from her nostrils like two ghostly waterfalls. I walked to her and took the cigarette from her mouth and dropped it on the floor and scraped it out with my heel and I kissed her. She took my lip in her teeth. I could taste the stale smoke and stale beer and stale passion in her spit. I reached up her skirt and slid her damp panties down her bony legs and she pushed me back on my bed. It was fast and when I finished she smiled and got up and scurried back into her clothes.

“Wait, Cindy, I mean, can we do this again? I want to see you again,” I told her.

She giggled and looked back at me, her hair tangled into a blonde nest, “I’m a prostitute. I’m just a whore. Give me money and I’ll see you again.” She took a cigarette and lit it with the blue Bic lying on my floor and she opened the door and left.

I’d need more cigarettes. I need cigarettes and whiskey and I need to pay Greta for the room. That old bitch would ask me who was here because she was a cockroach. I’d need to pay her.

I only ever got two things in the mail. A rejection letter from some trendy literary magazine or a letter from my parents, written in my mothers beautifully curled handwriting, asking me where I was living and where my stories have been published and there’d be a one hundred dollar bill in there because they didn’t want me living on the streets.

The cockroach appeared from the crack in the wall and we looked at each other. We just looked at each other and we shared that same view, each other’s eyes.

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