He finishes his room temperature coffee– store brand and brewed at home.
He longs for the days of old when a bank account was something he checked when his debit card was declined. The gruff, knotty white hairs shedding from his chin and cheeks were making him fiscally responsible. And boring. His adventurous-self retired the moment he resigned to being the (fiscally) responsible adult– spouse, co-worker, business owner, etc.
He rinses his reusable Starbucks cup before refilling it with fountain water.
He craves more coffee. There was a Starbucks on the ground floor, but was too responsible to buy coffee when he had plenty at home.
The hallway is quiet, but he isn’t alone since he has several surveillance cameras to keep him company.
He salutes the cameras.
He’s always tempted to wave at the camera, but that will just reinforce the idea that he was a strange and awkward fellow. It was true, he was the strangest, most awkward fellow in the (commercial) building, but he believes they didn’t need to know that about him.
He returns to his office and takes a quick sip of his cold, coffee-flavored tap water.
Responsible him no longer buys sugary drinks, nor does he drink them. He misses Snapple and the Arizona Half and Halfs– the one with the old golfer on the can, but hiscalories were now a thing to him and to his wife. She didn’t want him to get diabetes because diabetes were a thing to (fiscally) responsible adults.
He checks his phone.
55%… (Charging)… Spam likely called twice an hour earlier.
He turns off the Do Not Disturb on his phone and puts his phone on the Vibrate setting.
His phone needs to be on in case his wife calls. She wants to leave work on time so she can work from home for another five hours.
He spins his chair towards the door and reclines.
Its the week before a holiday weekend so he expected the office to be quiet.
He watches his door, waiting for Calliope, or one of her fine sisters, to twirl into his office and sprinkle magic dust on his eyes, or even his typing fingers.
It has been months since he’s written or snapped or played anything good or updated his resume or added anything to his website. He wonders whether he’s forgotten his muse in the Colorado mountains. Or whether his muse decided to remain behind, refusing to accompany or empower a person who periodically checks his bank account and refuses to buy coffee or ingest sugary drinks.
What’s happened to me?
He logs off of his computer, yanks his phone from the charger, grabs his jacket and prepares to promptly exit his office.
If his old muse won’t return, he’ll walk to the pier for his lunch hour and snap pictures of wandering pigeons and quirky restaurant signs until another muse takes notice. Or… so he hopes.
His phone rings.
Its his boss.
He removes his jacket, returns to his desk and returns his phone to the charger before answering the phone.
“Hello,” He says.
His new muse will have to wait. Or, send him an Outlook calendar request like everybody else.
He thought of trying the alley again but didn’t have the energy or the patience to tussle with the diseased cats and Thick-neck bouncers who antagonized him with their lies, claiming they didn’t know who the fuck he was.
My goddamn name should be in lights. My guitar and I made this goddamn club.
He made that Goddam city. The Rose ain’t shit without him.
A black limo crossed the corner of his eye and drove past the block.
The same limo, fueled by the pain and oppression of Landlord’s tenants, which drove past three times before.
He examined the cracks in his guitar.
The neck of this guitar was one drop away from irreparable.
The fire escape did more damage to him than he first thought. He wanted justice. Payback.
He fought back tears as he dropped his guitar to his side.
A very special woman gave him that guitar. Taught him how to play.
The guitar was one of a kind. She was one of a kind. Its why he named his guitar after her. Landlord was going to pay for the guitar with his money and with his blood.
He shoved his way to the front of the long line and dared everyone with his eyes to say something.
Half the spot was his. He should not have to wait on a line to place which was mostly his. The son of a bitch owner, Bird-Killer., owed him big time, and he was there to collect the debt.
“Wait,” Bouncer ordered.
“What?” He said.
Thick-neck bouncer waved in half a dozen whores in front of me.
He bit his tongue.
Allowing whores before him.
He took a deep, calming breath.
He wasn’t in the mood for static. Perhaps he’d deal with thick-neck bouncers after his sit-down with the owner. Until then, he’d exercise restraint and patience, like one of the delusional peaceniks with the drum circles he liked spitting on.
“What do you want?” Thick-neck asked.
“Entry,” He answered.
“No can do.” Thick-neck looked him up and down. “No shirt no service.”
He could kick himself for not grabbing a button-down and loafers before leaping from his from his second story window to escape If he’d have just stayed an extra minute, dug through his closet for some decent clothes and in turn allowed Landlord the proper time to cave in his skull with a shotgun cane, he’d be headless, but at least his body would be appropriately dressed to enter Bird-killer’s crappy establishment– which he partially owned.
He smirked. “Look buddy-“
“I’m not your buddy,” Thick-neck snapped.
“I’m here to see Bird-killer.” He replied through his teeth.
“And who are you?” Thick-neck said.
“He knows.” He pointed to the second floor window.
Bird-killer was watching their interaction. That creep loved to watch.
The black limo pulled up to the end of the block.
Landlord and his limo was stalking him. Waiting for him to leave Bird-killer’s block.
“Your boss knows me,” He pleaded.
“Pretty sure he doesn’t,” Thick-neck said.
He attempted to step around Thick-neck to enter the club.
“Back of the line.” Thick-neck shoved him hard.
He tripped on the curb and lost grip of his guitar.
His night couldn’t possibly get any worse. The dark clouds were thickening.
Nanci hit the street and shattered into three parts.
He fell to his knees.
He lost Sister Nanci twice. The pain felt like he did.
He stood to face Thick-neck.
Thick-neck cracked his knuckles like he was go for a scrap. “Try that again and I’ll-”
Thick-neck didn’t see him coming.
He cracked Thick-neck across his jaw with a leaping elbow. A hundred and fifty pounds of force across Thick-neck’s obese melon before chopping him across his buffalo shins.
Thick-neck staggered back and bulldozed a trio of whores who were politicking with a couple of simps at the door.
He didn’t want to kill Thick-neck, he just wanted the guy to know he meant business. Give him something to think about the next time he put hands on him.
Thick massaged his face before wiping the blood from his lips.
“You done fucked up,” Thick-neck said.
No sir, you fucked up when you finished my guitar.
I took a high-guard fighting stance.
The elbow shot should had dropped Thick-neck like a sack of oranges, but the bouncer was clearly juiced and thick like a coconut. He was prepared to chop Thick-neck down like a tree– he had nothing better to do.
Two more buffalo-built bouncers stepped outside the club.
Thick-neck and his two behemoth buddies were on top of him in a blink, beating his ribs and twisting him like a pretzel in the streets.
Thick-neck and his two bouncers immediately hopped off of him and returned to the door.
He spotted the silhouette of a man wearing a feathered fedora in the upstairs window.
He wiped the blood from his nose as he staggered to his feet. “You better talk to me.”
He looked down the street.
The window was cracked in the limo.
“You owe me bitch,” He screamed at Bird-killer in the window. “How quickly we forget, partner.”
Landlord was watching. Waiting. Landlord wouldn’t dare make a move on Bird-killer’s block. Honor among demons.
He turned his attention back to the window. “I built this place!”
Bird-killer stepped away from the window and closed the blinds.
Seconds later a young lady stepped outside to speak with Thick-neck.
He helped build that club. Bird-killer would be a drugged up nobody if he didn’t bring him into his circle. The fedora wearing fairy was a subpar drummer who lacked the talent to make it in that city without him, which is why he resorted to pimping and weapons-dealing.
Thick-neck approached him again.
He raised one hand to a half-guard with the other holding his ribs together.
He was going to lose the fight but took satisfaction in the idea that he was about to be beaten to death and Landlord was never going to get his rent.
“Bird-killer will see you,” Thick-neck said.
He lowered his guard. “That’s what I thought.”
He snatched the pieces of his shattered guitar from the ground and followed Thick-neck into the alley to the VIP entrance at the side of the club.
The hall was dark and he could feel the rumbling of the shitty music in his bones.
Bird-killer had done renovations since he’d last been to the spot. The VIP entrance was completely separate from the club.
He followed Thick-neck through the dark hallway and up the stairs and into the office.
Bird-killer was behind his desk.
Behind him was a view of the club floor and to his side was a view of the street.
The limo was no longer there.
“Stain,” Bird-Killer pointed to a seat. “Please.”
He took a seat.
Bird-killer poured him a drink. Vintage bottle. Expensive looking.
That’s more like it.
He took the drink and downed it in a single gulp.
It was like cold medicine going down but set fire to his chest.
He wanted another.
“You here for me?” Bird-killer asked in his effeminate voice.
“I’m here to collect,” He replied.
“Oh.” Bird-killer poured and slid him another drink. “Not here to pay off your debt.”
“My debt?” He gulped another drink.
“You owe me a lot of money sweetie.” Bird-killer poured and slid him another drink.
“Owe you?” He drank another. “Bullshit.”
You owe me, Bird. The world owes me.
Bird-killer took a seat, crossed his legs to the side and rested his chin on his clasped hands. “No matter….”
The room started to spin.
“I’m happy,” Bird-Killer said. “You’re here to pay either way.”
His fingers froze..
He lost his glass and nearly melted out of his chair.
“I promise you it’ll be painless,” Bird-killer said. “I owe you that much, partner.”
The drinks. Bird-killer slipped him something heavy.
“You backstabbing piece of… …” He slurred.
The room went black. Couldn’t move. Couldn’t see shit. But he could hear.