Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Payment Due" by DC Griffith

The thick red serpent of blood spiraled down his fair-freckled forearm like flame-melted wax. Slithering through the valleys and nooks of his muscles, other trails of life’s cabernet coagulate at the sharpened ax’s edge. A puddle forms from the red rain onto the gray woven industrial carpeting at William’s feet. His eyes felt outside of his head, disconnected from the horror released without compunction, an out-of-body experience internalized from the start. This scarlet moment cloaked in the violent dampness seeping into his white business casual shirt, bought at an outlet mall in Parnassus and always worn on Mondays to start the week off with a clean slate; who knew that the human body carries so much liquid, like water balloons bracing for impact. He hadn’t noticed so much blood, way more than he’d imagine, until after the first guy, then it just poured and left a tinted mist and dew.

Only in action movies are heads severed with so much ease, the horror films he’d watch at Meemaw’s house after she was off to bed; he’d swiftly click from the closing credits of The Golden Girls to after prime-time programming of chainsaw executions, hacking limbs, rainbow visions of gore, and any macabre morsels not butchered by the local television affiliate censors. Before there was cable, there was the lonely independent station filling up airtime with slasher films until signing off at 3 AM with America the Beautiful and waving flags. That was a time when William begrudgingly lived with his grandmother; a time when his dad went to county jail for not paying child support and his grandmother begrudgingly assumed the responsibility of “mother” to William while his actual mother begrudgingly gave her son over to Billy’s “Meemaw” so that she could have a break from him. That time was before William, Billy, Bill, Will, whatever anyone wanted to call him, knew about what child support was or what money’s really used for except that everyone around him was complaining about it. Before he got an allowance; before he got a paper-route and his first paycheck; before working after school at McDonald’s; before he filled out his first tax form; before he signed his life away on student loans on his way to a mythical American Dream concocted by Happy Meal commercials, Happy Days, and Happy, his golden retriever taken away after only three months by his dad because “he was just too hyper and too much work” for a boy Billy’s age. “When you’re ready to work, you can have another dog,” his father’s empty promise.

Later, Billy made promises all over the place. Dotted lines like the brail for the seeing, but Billy’s just as blind. I signed for my first credit card, an American Express table on campus and I was hooked. Spending started there and then I would just borrow. I’ll keep borrowing and I promise to get a job. I promise to work hard and I’ll pay it all back. I’ll take one more card and pay off the other. I’ll sign on for another student loan and I’ll pay that one back sometime soon. Interest doesn’t matter to Billy, such a concept is shrouded in a perceptions of the here and now and distantly dissipated in the unforeseeable future. No one to tell him what to be, how to be, who to be, why it must be. I promise to pay my debt for the purchase of these shoes I really want, the coffee I need to get up, the electric bill to power my TV, computer, and things. This shell game is only temporary, I’ll get a job and that’ll be that. I’ll work like that guy did in that movie Michael Douglas said, “Greed is good.” It wasn’t the one where he goes ape shit in Los Angeles vengefully killing anyone that says no to him. That was later in his career, way after that movie. I hear the sirens coming and I can’t think about anything.

Billy had a plan before everyone panicked and either ran out or was mangled by his clambering contemplations on how this day would go. He planned for months, trained in the gym, punching bags and growing from fifteen pound weights to dumbbells that impressed the ridiculing daily Jersey tools so much that they were asking to spot him, “What protein juice you hitting, bro?” It was to feel him out, maybe another buyer for the steroid dealing in the smoothie bar on gym’s ground floor. But I didn’t need the juice, the milkshakes, the injections; I was motivated to do something about the calls.

The calls, “William Page, you need to call me back right away at 1-888-555-2020. It’s important that you call me today.” Fuck you! I don’t need to call. I know what it’s about. You’re up there with the robo-call from Bank of America, Citi-Financial, and American Express. You’re up there with Nicki who calls me everyday like a chick in heat for a date, but the only thing she wants is, “What’s your checking account information so I can take care of that payment today? As soon as you pay off this payday loan, we can issue you a new one next week.” It’s 1300% interest and it wasn’t smart when Billy e-signed on the digital line, but it was 500 bucks in the bank so he could make payment on the car. The car he got for 30% A.P.R. because his credit was so lousy from the defaults on the credit cards he got in college, but he needed a ride to work in order to pay the other bills coming in.

Forget owning a house, Billy Boy. Forget being able to take a date out, be lucky Nicki’s calling you; at least you got one gal interested.

He drops the ax. Covered in the grapefruit-like spattered red ink of blood type O, O negative, AB, AB negative, no one from this place is gonna call him anymore. That’s gash in the side of the dead Indian hanging over a laptop isn’t gonna hassle you, that bitch with her operator headset dangling in front of severed mutilated breasts isn’t going to be the next “unknown caller” to pop up on your cell phone asking you to pay for late fees on a payment you don’t have, and that fat guy that died so instantly when the ax jammed into his mouth isn’t going to be jerking off in his office while he supervises and monitors calls made to you on the hour. Nope, nobody is going to bother you from here. What’s your plan now? One collector down, everyone saw you, but maybe you’ll walk from this one. You’ll walk right out that door before the sirens stop and the brakes halt right outside. You can’t take them all on, you’ll have to pay one way or another. Go to prison, be dead, and Billy won’t have to pay anymore. They won’t ask him for anymore. That’s fine by him. That’s fine by you, isn’t it, Billy? What’s the difference really? Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh; there must be enough here to take care of all.

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