Friday, October 5, 2012

Any Given Tuesday on Chestnut Street

In jail there’s no friends and no real enemies either. Just fellow occupiers of space and time. So you get along. Or you don’t. But even when it looks like violence or oppression or coercion from the outside looking in, the reality is that the violence or oppression or coercion is just a particular tool or guidebook or road map for getting through the string of days, however long, until the days finally, eventually, inevitably end, one way or another.

So, after a few weeks in, when Smut says to Jack, “Hey, you know we’re related,” and when Jack replies, “Huh?” the relationship is commenced.

“How’re we related?”
“Your great-grandpa.”
“What about him?”
“Was my dad.”
“Swear to God.”
“Doesn’t matter if you don’t believe me, the truth is the truth whether you believe it or not.”
“My great-grandpa died a long time ago.”
“And I was born even longer ago….I’m his bastard.”
“…You got that right.” Head spinning, heart pounding.
“You got anything?”
“Course not, Dude. We’re in jail.”
“Well, if you do, remember, we’re blood.”

Months later Smut shows up on Jack’s doorstep, an Incredible Hulk lunchbox full of pills.
“So, this is how the white folks live…”
“I guess. Come in.”
“Came to help out my blood,” tapping his lunch box, winking.
“Come on in. Let’s go upstairs.”

Jack’s brother observing, wary and knowing, the familiar dusk of denial enveloping. “Hey,” he calls, rising hesitantly from his Cheerios.
“Just giving my buddy here the nickel tour of the place,” as the two of them climb the stairs.

In the bedroom, Smut parcels out pills. Small and white, evil benevolence. Jack clutches several and, as he draws them toward his mouth, his brother pushes open the bedroom door, sees what he sees and leaps into Jack like a cobra, seizing his clutched fist in his own, pulling him to the floor in a collapse of elbows and knees and noise.

“Cool it, Man!” Smut yells, his close-cropped, gray-black hair beading with sweat, his large glasses fogging. “At least it ain’t heroin!”

The brothers struggle on the floor, Jack spending all his strength on keeping his fist closed around the pills, as his brother pins it to the floor, vainly attempting to pry it open. “Drop ‘em, Jack!” he yells, “Drop ‘em!” 

But he doesn’t, and when his brother eases minutely, to see what Smut is up to, Jack immediately jams the pills into his mouth and swallows them. His eyelids flutter.

His brother climbs to his feet as Smut—this perfect stranger standing in the same bedroom he and Jack shared as kids—peers down at Jack, who sits slumped over, breathing heavily and slowly, quickly sliding into his familiar cocoon.

“He must not be adjusted to it yet,” Smut says. And as he finishes his sentence, Jack’s brother’s right fist slams directly against the meaty, pork-chop of his jaw. There’s a flash of light in Smut’s head and then nothing. Jack’s brother stands over him, panting. Still out of breath from his struggle with Jack.
Jack’s brother scoops up Smut in his arms like a dangling bag of rocks. He carries him, like a man carrying a drunken bride, out of the bedroom, down the stairs, out the front door, across the sidewalk and into the street, where he drops him like a bundle of shingles. Smut lies there, crumpled and unmoving. Groaning sounds come out of this mouth. His jaw swells like there's a balloon in his mouth. 

Jack’s bother leaves Smut in the street. He returns to the house, climbs the stairs, heads into the bedroom where he confirms Jack is still breathing. Next, he collects Smut's’s lunchbox, opens it. There are eleven bottles of various pills. He opens each lid and spills the contents of each bottle into the lunchbox and closes it. He shakes it. It sounds like a maraca. Satisfied, he bounds out of the room, down the stairs, out the front door and onto the street where Smut is up on his elbows, considering an attempt to raise himself.  Cars veer around him, looking. 

As Jack’s brother approaches, Smut's eyes widen and as he works to get to his feet, Jack’s brother kicks him hard in the ass and he sprawls into the street again, whimpering. Jack’s brother raises the lunch box full of pills over his head and smashes it with all his strength on the street. The lid separates from its thin hinges and a blizzard of white pills spill and roll in the street.  A car, and then another rolls by, gawking, crushing pills to dust.

“There you go, Pal,” Jack’s brother says, stepping over Smut’s outstretched form. “Enjoy your medicine.”

Before heading in the front door, Jack’s brother takes one more look. There’s Old Smut, with whom he either does or does not share blood, on his knees in the street, sweeping drug dust into his hands, crying.
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1 comment:

  1. Parwinsk: You are the master of the short story. Thanks for the mid day drama. Your's is the second blog I've ever signed up for. The first I signed up for was 3 minutes before I signed up for yours. Yes, I do not play in Facebook and am still a little blog-knowledge-deficient. That is why I signed up for a "private" follow. I don't know what a public follow means. Ha! Thanks for sharing your gifts with the world. Now, "Let it whip. Whip it, baby. Whip it right. Whip it, baby. Whip it all night." Your Bernard Hall Brother, Billy.