We all got problems, man. Some of us are misguided loners; some of us are dead in basements. Some of us are just giant red, chain-smoking clowns with a busted foot and bad attitude. Who are you to judge?
McRib Therapy Alleviates Seasonal Depression by CS DeWildt
Where I am is the basement of the duplex Vern Saddler rents out on Fifty-Fourth Avenue, passed the cornfields where the church sets up the haunted house every year. Duplex sits alone, nothing to bother it for miles and miles, just a few old farmhouses. Vern’s place was the first of many that were to go up, but the deal went bad. Some bastard developer was left with a single lot and a duplex. See what I’m saying? We all got problems. Some it’s real estate, some it’s their health. What I got is a dead girl next to me holding a snatchful of my seed.
I put my hand on her skin, she’s cooling. I light one of her cigarettes and put the pack in my pocket. Smoke spirals upward through a blend of black light and strobe that fills the basement night and day. Upstairs, people are moving, drinking, smoking, shooting. Someone’s waiting at the top of the stairs for their turn. The noise sounds like what you hear when someone screams with a hand over their mouth, screaming for help that won’t come. I feel the girl’s skin again. Yeah, she’s getting cold. Problems, dig?
There’s a statue of Ronald McDonald leaning up in the corner. He’s got glow-in-the-dark stars pasted over his eyes. He’s missing his right foot, which is still bolted to the concrete base he was liberated from. His disappearance was a problem big enough to make the local news, but now he’s free, free to watch a shiftless sonofabitch like me fuck a dying and then dead runaway prostitute who may or may not have been old enough to drive. That’s freedom, Ron. That’s fucking life.
“Hey,” Ron says.
“Can I get one of those smokes?”
I light it up and he takes it, holds it between his painted red lips and sucks hard.
“Thanks,” Ron says. “You fucked her good, huh?”
“I wouldn’t say that, Ron. She died, but that’s not on me.”
Ron blows smoke and smiles. “Think she’s got any more of that horse?”
“Horse, Ron? You mean heroin? No one calls it horse anymore.”
“They should. Ride the white pony and all that? You should do it.”
“Lot of good it did her.”
“She took too much. Who shot her up?”
“That asshole is always fucking shit up. You see what he did to my foot? Come on. Let’s shoot some horse, baby.”
“You peer pressuring me, Ron?”
“Ha. We peers? You a clown? You got a foot busted off? You forced to live in this basement, near seizure from these fucking lights, watching people fuck. I don’t even have a dick, so how’s that for a fucking life?” He shakes his head. “Super-Sizing was the unforgivable sin and this is my Hell.”
I put my cigarette out on his chest. “Everybody’s got problems, Ron. We all do.”
“Maybe,” Ron says. He drops the cigarette on the carpet and clams up. He doesn’t want to talk to me anymore, that’s fine. I grab his cigarette from the burning carpet, put my dick away and kiss the girl on the cheek.
I give Ron one more look. He’s smiling, stars over his eyes. I loved that girl for a time and now she’s gone. It’s not Ron’s fault, but I throw my hand anyway and crack his face right down the middle. I keep going, swinging my arm, putting it to its only good use. Ron’s face splits open wide and he loses half of it; his neck cracks and I take what’s left of the head clear off.
“What now, Ron?” I pant. “You still want to get high, Ron? You want to get loose, baby? Ha! No more problems now, Ron. You fuck!”
I hear footsteps on the stairs and I’m out the window, disappeared. I watch from the dark, watch one of Vern’s boys eyeball the room.
“Vern!” he says. “Vern!”
The boy runs back up the stairs and he’s back quick, him and Vern and another. Vern throws up and nearly collapses but for his boys holding him.
They go to the girl and pull the blanket off her, leave her naked on the soiled mattress. They roll Ron and the pieces of him onto the blanket, wrap him snug and carry him up the stairs.
Six of them bring Ron outside with the rest of the party in tow. No one makes a sound. They build a pyre of wet wood and old hustlers and gasoline. They lay Ron on top of the flames, and whatever he’s made of gives off thick smoke that burns everyone’s eyes. They move in close to the fire, watch the clown bubble and melt. They take his smoky soul into their lungs and choke on it. Vern weeps.
I’m in a void between the heat of the fire and the heat of the house. I climb back in the window and fall for her again.