Hungry Fists I

He itched the top of his bandaged hand.

The alley was silent. His cocky opponent’s cheerleaders fell silent, giving way to the ambulance and police sirens blocks from the dimly lit alley.

He cracked his blackened knuckles.

None of his fallen opponents shit-talking friends were stepping up.

“Whose next?” He quietly asked his remaining opponents.

He dropped their preppy pal faster than an ugly John’s paycheck on a two dollar whore.

He checked his lifeless opponent’s neck pulse with with his bare toes.

He’s breathin. Laid out on the ground like a seal out of water but breathin.

“Nobody?” I ask them.

His hands were trembling worse than before the fight.

He was grinding his teeth so hard the roof of his mouth felt tender.

He wanted to clobber each and every one of them but he needed them to engage him first. He needed to stick to his code and not start any fights.

“Cowards?” He tried egging them on. “Pussies?”

They weren’t budging. It frustrated him. Standing there frozen in fear was worse to him than running away.

He looked the biggest one among the four square in his eyes.

“You, big guy….” He pointed to the biggest one. “Make your mother proud.”

Big guy lowered his gaze to his friend and then to his feet.

“Uh huh,” He said.

Big guy nor none of these preppie college kids from the North side don’t want none of what he had brewing in my fists. All the smack talk from the bar earlier fell silent the moment they heard the crack of his fist connecting with their pal’s jaw. All the liquid courage evaporates from their pores as they watch their friend lying in a pool of his own blood and puke.

He cracked his neck.

He wasn’t the best at trash talking but he’d been practicing in the mirror. He thought if he improved his trash talk then it would increase his chances in finding a worthy scrap.

Clink.

Some guy staggered out the side door from the club and leaned against the wall and lit a cigarette.

“Fuck you looking at?” The new guy said as he lit his cigarette.

“I’m looking at you,” He replied.

“Well look elsewhere, bitch,” Cigarette guy replied.

“I’m no bitch,” He answered.

“Yet you respond to the title,” Cigarette guy blew smoke in his direction.

He recognized the cigarette sucking twerp. It’s the drunk at the bar with the guitar who was giving the waitress hell for no reason. But the guy looked familiar from elsewhere. He didn’t know that guy personally but he hated him with a passion. Something about him.

He kept his eyes on the guy hoping he would approach aggressively.

Gotta stick to the code.

“You some kind of fairy?” Cigarette guy tossed his cigarette to the side.

“Don’t you wish, punk,” He tightened fist.

The cigarette guy was talented at trash talk. He was impressed even though he wanted shove the lit cigarette up that guy’s nose and brand his tiny brain.

Cigarette guy looked down at the unconscious preppie and then the unconsciou’s preppies conscious friends and then at him and then snickers.

“Something funny?” He asked.

“The fact that you’re so sloppy,” He answers. “That’s funny.”

“Me, sloppy?” I replied.

“Yeah, big man,” Cigarette man said. “Looks like you had a little trouble putting the kid down. He get his hits off of you?”

He touched the faint strawberry mark on his cheek the preppie gave him at the beginning of their brief scrap.

It was true. His unconscious opponent managed to get a punch in. The kid had above average head movement and speed and could throw a straight punch. Without a doubt, the preppie had some pugilism training, as does most of these rich kids from the North Side do. But I easily caught on to preppie from the North Side’s movements and ended the fight quickly. He ended the fight quickly.

He didn’t like that cigarette sucking punk was making an already cheap victory feel even cheaper.

“That’s what I thought,” the cigarette sucking punk smirked at him before reentering the club– probably to harass more poor and defenseless waitresses. “Later, loser.”

I screamed. “I’m not a loser!”

How dare… I’ve only been defeated once in my entire life. He doesn’t know me. I’m a….

He punched the brick wall leaving a chip in the brick wall. He kicked the dumpster, nearly sending it rolling out of the alley like a semi with a drunk driver behind the wheel.

Call me a loser again!

He took a breath.

Dumpsters and brick walls weren’t going to hit him, though he liked the feeling of old brick against his knuckles and the feel of rusted steel against his bare toes.

“Take this weakling and leave,” He commanded the Preppies.

The preppies wasted no time grabbing their pal and fleeing the alley.

No more pounding on preppies. he had a new target.

He cracked his knuckles before re-entering the club.

It’s on sight whence he found the cigarette sucking punk. That punk’s going down the moment that punk raises his tobacco stained fists.

If cigarette sucking point didn’t want to fight, he would do whatever it took to make that that disrespectful bastard want to fight. He would never stop until he got his fight.

Read about the “cigarette sucking punk” right here.

Fleeting Tale Vol. 9

It seemed like trying only made him worse. At everything.

His joints hurt. His brain hurt. Everything hurt and every progressive thing he did on a daily basis only made him more tired.

Even taking breaks made him tired.

He finished his coffee and placed his glass on his wrinkled notebook next to his camera.

He was starting to feel envious of the old people he’d see practicing Tai Chi, sitting in their horse and balancing on one leg, in the park everyday at five in the morning. He wondered where they found the energy. Whether it was something inherent to everyone other than him. Whether he needed to return to the city to regain that enthusiasm for life and career he had as a teenager.

He stood from his chair, reached down and attempted to touch his toes.

He was a centimeter closer to his goal, and his lower back wasn’t bothering him.

Progress.

He sat back in his chair.

Ping.

There was a new email in his inbox from a coworker.

A request for a Database change.

He sighed.

He wondered if the old people in the park ever had to deal with annoying coworkers.

He replied to the message before leaning back in his chair and sighing.

He reached the conclusion he would never reach enlightenment sitting in front of a computer, answering emails. He would have to escape the 9 to 5 timeloop if he ever hoped to reach enlightenment. Enlightenment was just outside of his comfort zone.

He stood tall from his desk.

He would have to leave his comfort zone. That was the simplest, yet most frightening solution to his lack of enthusiasm for life. He would have to risk it all.

He claimed his coffee cup from his desk.

Time to make a change.

But first, coffee. He needed coffee.

Fleeting Tale Vol. 8

He was going about it the wrong way.

Who does he think he is?

Someone was challenging him by consistently and persistently invading his space. Or, at least, that was how it appeared to him.

Who do they think they are?

He reached down to his toes and took a long, deep, calming breath.

I hope they don’t think they’re going to impose themselves on what I am doing.

His peers were not his competition, nor were they his rivals. He kept trying to drill that thought into his overactive brain, but either the drill-bit wasn’t sharp enough or his mind was damn near impenetrable.

He stood tall, raised his biceps to his temples and stretched towards the dim ceiling lights.

He barely touched his coffee. It at at the corner of his desk near a mound of confidential files and it was probably getting cold.

He was too anxious for coffee at the moment. His coworker walked by, but he was indifferent about what they thought at the moment. Sort of.

Do they value me?

He took one last breath before taking a seat before his dusty keyboard.

There was nothing he hated more than a person shoe-horning themselves into his work. Especially if that person wasn’t made for that work. Didn’t live or care for that work.

I bring value, right? He kept pondering to himself.

What did he offer his workplace, his other workplace, his relationships that they could not find anywhere else.

Hard work didn’t count. Anybody could work hard. Availability or kindness didn’t count either. Those weren’t rare or invaluable skills or talents in his opinion.

He checked his phone.

There was a missed call from his mother.

He took his phone off of Do Not Disturb.

The idea he couldn’t figure out what value he brought frustrated him and made everything he knew and thought he knew feel worthless.

He pushed his rolling chair away from his computer and claimed his lukewarm coffee.

Anybody can buy a camera or pick up a pen. Anybody with money or time on their hands, but does that make them professionals.

His stomach to turn.

He felt he needed to hit his heavy bag.

But he needed to figure out what set him apart from the weekend warriors and hobbyists or big spenders who believed wielding a camera or pen made them something. More importantly, he needed to figure out what made him any different.

He stood from his desk.

He needed to find out, and fast. He wasn’t getting any younger and his insecurities, his need to always compete with his peers was becoming counterproductive and stifling his progress.

He locked his PC.

He needed to understand that any peer who put pen to paper or pointed a camera was not his competition, nor his rival, and that it was okay for them to want to do what he does. He needed to stop being so self-important. He would be looking for a professional to help him work through those dark, counterproductive dispositions and insecurities.

He left his office to warm his coffee in the microwave.

He planned to work light that day and answer very few emails.

What his peers were doing were not his concern. He needed to focus on himself, and if anything, figure out what sets himself apart– for himself, and not others and set it for one minute.

He planned to reach out to his peers to applaud them for what they were doing. They were not his competition, nor his rivals.

The World Below Damocles I

There were living people who remembered the Doomsday Clock like it was yesteryear.

He sprinted across the street and through the revolving door to his office high-rise.

The Doomsday Clock became an afterthought the day the asteroid scientists call Damocles appeared, and suspended itself in the atmosphere. That was when all the nuclear powers unplugged the Doomsday Clock and aimed their arsenals –away from each other– and towards the more powerful threat.

He checked his watch.

Ten minutes before his grace period would elapse.

Ten minutes to midnight…

Traffic was madness. Not that his supervisor cared. Late was late. The clock on his Supervisor’s desk was his own personal Doomsday Clock. There could be a great flood or an erupting volcano in the middle of the freeway and his Supervisor would still write him up for tardiness.

His grandfather would talk about a time where there was only one fiery ember in the sky during the daytime, as opposed to two. The sun would set and then there would be complete darkness. The other fireball on the horizon never set, and burned nearly 24 hours a day, leaving much of the earth with near constant daylight.

He put his cell phone and keys in his bookbag’s front pocket before walking through the full body scanner.

The security guard smirked at him as she sipped her tea.

He smirked back.

She was cute. He liked her. And he guessed she liked him. He thought of asking her out one day. He needed to think about it before he did.

He was alive too, but too young to remember the Doomsday Clock or a time where countries were at odds with each other. Too young to remember the time when the possibility of nuclear annihilation or mutually assured nuclear destruction was more a potentiality than a science fiction trope.

He picked up his bookbag from the conveyor before flashing his ID to the half-asleep security guard near the elevator.

He heard something about Damocles on the morning news but couldn’t remember what. If he had time, he planned to scroll through a few articles while he sipped his coffee. If he had time.

The cubicle farm looked busy.

He still wasn’t used to seeing so many people so early. Since his supervisor changed everyone’s hours to work at the same time– for lord knows what reason.

He powered his computer before taking a seat at his desk.

What was that thing I heard about Damocles….

He couldn’t remember that news report about Damocles for the life of him. It was probably something unimportant and irrelevant to his day no more relevant than a cloudy day or high pollen count.

Partly cloudy with a chance of rain. Also, Damocles is reported to have moved two centimeters.

Whether Damocles had moved forward or backward was irrelevant. People stopped caring. Even the government had slowed their efforts to safely destroy it or propel away from the atmosphere or even try to study it. The government had diverted their funds elsewhere– he believed into defense. Damocles was beginning to cost too many tax dollars.

The boss was cooking curry in the microwave for breakfast again. It burned his nostrils and made his eyes water.

Another reason he needed a transfer to another division. He couldn’t stand sitting so close to the microwave, and he believed his education was being wasted where they placed him.

He walked to the window to look at Damocles.

He remembered listening to a radio program the past where the hosts argued whether Damocles had grown bigger since it appeared in the sky and that bigger just meant it was growing closer. Of course, there was no way to substantiate or verify that claim. Scientists were baffled by Damocles existence or the nature of it and any time they tried to get close enough to study it their instruments would fall out of the sky or melt.

“Hey pal.” His older co-worker slapped him on the back.

He nodded. “Morning.”

“How was your weekend?” His older co-worker asked.

“Didn’t do much,” He replied. “Yours?”

“Can’t complain,” Older co-worker answered. “Went fishing.”

He tilted his head. “Didn’t you do that last weekend?”

The old co-worker looked taken aback by his question, as if he expected a more vague, less probing response. “Yeah… I guess I did.”

“Don’t you want to try something different?” He questioned. “Like… gardening. Or traveling.”

“Traveling?”

“Yeah, somewhere other than the same pond you always go to…”

His old-coworker stroked the matted white bush on his chin. “No… fishing at the pond’s fine.”

“Cool,” He said. “Catch you later.”

“Lunch?” Older-coworker asked. “I got fish.”

“Maybe tomorrow,” He said before heading back to his cubicle.

He’d had enough of his old co-worker’s fried fish to last him a lifetime. Plus, he was tired of the smell.

“Suit yourself,” Old co-worker said.

“Thanks though,” He said. “Appreciate it.”

His co-worker moved on and he returned to his desk.

He looked over to Evan, his cubicle neighbor, who was playing with his phone.

Evan would normally greet him first, since he was always in the office before him. But lately, Even always seemed distracted by things other than work. That time it was his phone.

“What?” Evan said without looking away from his game.

“The boss will be making his rounds soon,” He said.

“So,” Evan answered. “My magic meter’s about to fill. Monster’s about to get a dark matter charged foot up his ass.”

His heart skipped a beat as his supervisor turned the corner and looked in his direction.

“Hey, put that away,” He warned.

“Almost there.” Evan waved him off.

Their supervisor skipped over several rows of cubicles to head straight for theirs.

His supervisor had a serious but relaxed face and reeked of day old coffee and was sipping more coffee from a mug nearly as big as his orange face. .

“Good morning,” Supervisor said to him.

“Morning,” He greeted.

“Great job on the reports.” Supervisor was speaking to him but had his eye on Evan.

“Thanks,” He replied.

“Evan,” Supervisor called.

Evan grunted.

“Have a report for me?” Supervisor took a sip of his mug.

“Sure thing,” Evan replied.

“Well, can I have it?” Supervisor moved closer to Evan.

“Can you….” Evan put down his video game. “You nearly made me lose the battle, dude.”

Supervisor rested the mug on his desk.

He hated when Supervisor would rest the mug on his desk. He knew it was a territory, alpha male thing to show dominance over the space, which is why he hated it.

Supervisor leaned over Evan’s railing. “I think your reports are more-“

“Shh,” Evan interrupted.

Supervisor stood up as if he was literally taken aback by Evan shushing him.

“F*ck.” Evan slammed his phone on his desk. :”See what you made me do?”

“I’m going to have to write you up, pal,” Supervisor said to Evan as he retrieved his mug.

Evan looked up at Supervisor. “Do what you feel is right.”

The Supervisor took a sip and shot Evan an angry glance before stepping away.

“The f*ck Evan,” He said. “You trying to get fired?”

“I don’t think that matters,” Evan answered.

“What matters?” He asked.

“Getting fired,” Evan answered again.

“I guess you’re not worried about food and bills,” He said. “You must have a lot of money I don’t know about.”

“Is everyone insane but me?” Evan massaged his temples.

He used one of his McDonalds napkins to scrub away the sticky coffee ring left by his supervisor’s mug.

“There’s a ten mile wide fiery freaky rock suspended above our planet,” Evan said.

He balled up the tissue and tossed it in the recycling bin. “Yeah… I’m aware of that.”

“You sure?” Evan said.

“Of course,” He answered. “See it every day.”

It wasn’t like it rose or set like the sun. The fiery ball in the sky was ever-present. It was a flaming, permanent fixture, frozen in time

His old coworker rolled a cart to his desk to drop off several packages.

“Thanks,” He said to his old coworker.

“Screw this.” Stood pocketed his phone and stood from his desk.

“Where are you going?” He asked Evan.

The old coworker looked just as puzzled.

“To empty my bank account and travel,” Evan answered. “The world could end tomorrow… Hell, today.”

Evan walked over to his desk and put a hand on his shoulder.

“Don’t get caught by Damocles doing something…. boring,” Evan said.

Evan withdrew his hand, entered the break broom and emerged with the microwave before disappearing into the elevator.

The old coworker shrugged and moved his cart to the next aisle.

He leaned back in his chair.

Leaning back in his chair allowed him a partially obstructed view –now that Evan had abandoned his cubicle– of Damocles fixed in the sky as a lone cloud passed over it.

He stood and walked to the window.

He rarely thought about what Damocles would do to the world if it suddenly propelled towards earth, or even away from earth. He rarely thought about what his life would, should, or could be like if he considered the possibility that there was a hidden countdown somewhere, and time was ticking away and would one day reach zero and all life would be wiped away within minutes.

“Hey,” His supervisor tapped him on the shoulder. “We’re all heading downstairs for coffee. You should come with.”

“Okay,” He said.

“Now that what’s his name has resigned there’s an opportunity for you,” His supervisor shielded a smirk behind his enormous coffee mug. “An opportunity of a lifetime.”

“Yeah.” He gave Damocles one last glance before facing his supervisor. “A lifetime…”

But how long was a lifetime?

The world could end at any second.

The Docks I

He tossed his cigarette over the edge of the pier.

Smoking was his nastiest habit, but he couldn’t help himself. It’s what he’d always done after a tough job. Especially after killing someone.

The nicotine was starting to ease the jitters in his jagged, broken hands.

“You should get that checked out.” His partner approached with his rifle on the ready.

“I’ll be fine,” He answered as he looked over his shoulder to his partner.

He checked his hands. The blood had soaked through the wrapping on his hands.

“You’ll turn into one of them junkies.” His partner slung the rifle over his shoulder and drew a pistol.

“Been there, done that,” He turned from the peer and walked past his partner. “You found the brother?”

His partner shook his head. “You?”

“Nope,” He said. “I can barely tell these junkies apart.”

“Suprised you found the girl.”

“Me too.”

“Boy can’t be far behind.”

“Nope.

He had to take out a dozen of the junkies to get to the girl. For drugged up and malnourished people, junkies had ungodly strength and endurance beyond logic. His mark nearly gnawed off his hand before he was able to subdue her.

“These bastards bite hard,” His partner said.

“Yeah,” He grabbed the potato sack holding the unconscious woman and slung it over his shoulder before walking the body to his car and popping the trunk. “And they’re strong.”

“We should check another nest,” His partner suggested.

He popped the trunk and dumped the body in. “No.”

“Why not?” His partner asked. “We don’t, another suiter will.”

“Don’t care.” He slammed the trunk closed. “Bad idea.”

“I need that bonus,” His partner said. “Ain’t leaving without the brother.”

“Shit,” He muttered.

His partner would do it with or without him.

“They’re only two of us,” He said.

“Those ghosts are more interested in the next high than us,” His partner said. “Just help me look through one of their nests.”

He watched the charcoal colored smog overtaking the river.

“Just one?” He said.

“Just one,” His partner answered.

He sighed. “Just one.”

The smog reminded him of something he couldn’t quite remember, but he could feel it gnawing at his subconscious mind.

He checked his ammunition before following His partner to the hangars just beyond the docks.

All the hangars were opened and abandoned. No traces of ever being used. Except one.

“Got your bolt cutters?” His partner asked.

He drew the cutters from his belt. “Yep.”

The fog had grown thicker over the years.

It bothered him. He didn’t know why it bothered him. He couldn’t let it bother hi-

“Hey?” His partner snapped a finger in front of his face. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” He answered.

“You keep looking out there,” His partner said.

“Ever thought of just catching a boat out of here?” He asked.

“I mean, I could,” His partner replied. “But never thought about it.”

“Why not?”

“Just never did.”

“Not curious?”

“Not one bit.”

He drew his pistol.

“You’d be sailing to another shithole place,” His partner answered.

“You sure about that?” He asked.

“The whole planet is a shithole.” His partner said. “Why not remain in the shithole you’re familiar with.”

“How do you know?” He asked.

“Should probably just sail out there.” His partner said. “Since you’re so curious.”

“Perhaps I will,” He answered.

“Could use the bonus to buy a boat,” His partner said.

“And I’ll sail to the edge of the goddam world,” He said. “And you’ll ride out too.”

“Count me out,” His partner said. “I’m fine an dandy in my shithole.”

“Know anybody who’s sailed out of town?” He asked.

“What do you mean?” His partner questioned in reply.

“Have you ever seen boats sail out?” He inquired.

“All the people I know are businessmen,” His partner answered. “They’re too busy making money to go sailing.”

They walked along the docks and approached the biggest building on the pier.

“These businessmen have yachts?” He asked.

“Of course,” His partner answered. “Several.”

“Any of those yachts leave port?” He questioned.

His partner looked off to the smoggy sky. “Probably. Will have to ask next time.”

He couldn’t think of a time when he’d ever left Rose City, or whether he knew anybody who had left Rose City.

His lip quivered.

“You got a smoke,” He asked his partner.

His partner shook his head.

“Shit,” He muttered.

His overthinking would always get the best of him when he didn’t smoke. The last drag was all he had left until he got back to town.

“C’mon, let’s clear this place out,” His partner said. “The wife’s expecting me home early.”

“Alright, I’m good to go,” He clipped the chains on the door.

His partner nodded as he pulled the hammer back on his pistol.

He opened the door.

A gathering of glowing white eyes stared out to them from the darkness.

“Alright…” His partner lowered his pistol and drew a picture of their target along with a glowing white vial. “Free drugs for the first junky who leads us to this kid.”

Fleeting Tale Vol. 7

He is clumsy. His footwork is ineffective.

He moves in and instantly eats a jab from the amateur boxer– his much taller opponent.

Five years of training for a fight and all he could accomplish was walking chin first into basic jab-cross combinations.

He can’t move without being hit.

No place to go.

Hands are getting heavy. Guard dropping and chin rising every time he presses forward to strike.

Pop!

The lanky boxer snaps his head back again.

He never sees them coming. He justs tastes and smells the rubber of tall boxer’s glove every time he moves in to throw an off-balanced punch or kick.

He’s hit with another jab.

He wants to blame the art he’s been training for the last five years, but that would be unfair to blame an art for his lack of spatial awareness, balance, fight IQ, or overall skill. None of that has anything to do with the art.

Smack! He takes another light jab to the nose.

Ding Ding.

Jab to his eye.

The bell sounded and ended his vicious pummeling, saving him from further embarrassment.

How could he blame the art. It wasn’t the arts fault he hasn’t picked up any real, effective skill in five years of training. .

As he walks to the sideline and removed his gloves and headgear, he thought about all the awesome practitioners who came before him his Sifu would brag about daily. People he will probably never reach. He thought about taking an art that would be more effective against bigger opponents specifically.

He took a seat on the ground and tool a guzzle of water from his bag.

The tall boxer was holding back the whole time. He knows tall boxer would have made quick work of him if he wen’t at even half his power.

He rotates his wrist.

He believes he jammed his wrist trying to punch through tall guy’s cross guard.

He can’t rely on speed, and what was the point of ox-like strength when he couldn’t even get close to opponents without getting clipped.

He removes his shin pads to massage his sore legs.

Tall guy checked one of his clumsy kick and he felt the impact through his pads.

He didn’t know his body. He blames the art. It wasn’t for him. It wasn’t for taller, more skilled opponents.

He watches as tall guy obliterates another one of his training brothers on the mat with the same jab-cross combinations he was hit with.

Tall guy’s combinations look so smooth and effortless. They are much slower when he watches other people on the receiving end of tall guy’s gloves, but the combinations were blinding when he was the one getting hit with them.

He put his water aside.

All of a sudden he doesn’t feel so thirsty. He doesn’t feel like he deserves water for his poor effort in sparring.

He watches at tall-guy dances around his opponent.

Tall guy moved like a tall guy. Tall guy knew his reach and he knew to stay out of range.

Why couldn’t he move his stocky body around without crossing his feet.

He removed his gloves and completely removed his shin pads.

He is done… for now. No sense in sparring, or learning anything new if he didn’t understand how to best utilize it for his body. If he didn’t know how to attack and move without getting his jaw clipped by simple jab-cross combinations from tall, long armed boxers.

He grabs his Gym-bag and bowed before leaving the Gym.

It will be the last time they see him for years. When he returns, he will be a better fighter.

Fleeting Tale Vol. 6

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 his calories 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.

Rockstar’s Rent II

Part I : https://darrionjwrites.com/2019/02/13/rockstars-rent-i/

Do you know who the fuck I am?

He side-eyed the trashy, piss-coated alley.

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.

Sister Nanci.

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.

Screw this.

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.

Shit.

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.

No!

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.

Aw fuck.

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.

A whistle.

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.

That ungrateful…

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.

Ungrateful bastard.

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..

Crash!

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.”

Pain…less?

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.

“Prep him for surgery,” Bird-Killer said.

“Yes boss,” Thick-neck replied.

Shit.