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Forgotten Plans

It's easy to make plans, locked behind slab grey walls. All you need is the ability to dream....

But you find it's much hard to execute out in the real world, especially in the Gutter....

Forgotten Plans by Gabino Iglesias






The smell of freedom. People talk about it like it’s real. James wishes it was. He only smells the rotten ammonia stink of cat piss.

The stench. The oppressive Texas summer heat. A shaky ceiling fan slicing warm air. The dust bunnies screaming about how his mom didn’t clean his room before picking him up. It all fuels James’ anger. He’s angry that he got caught and was locked away for four years. Angry that his tough guy persona crumbled inside and only a friend’s cousin kept his ass from becoming an entertainment center. Angry that his mom stayed with her abusive boyfriend. Angry that he thinks that boyfriend, Cookie, made the damn call that got him locked up. Angry that he never cared enough to ask how a sack of blubber ended up with such a nickname. But most of all, he’s angry about his current state. He has plans, but can’t remember any of them. He wants to go places where he hasn’t fucked up yet and accomplish something, but a feeling of agitated stagnation locks him in this room without the need for walls or guards.  

Leaving the room is a bad idea, but staying is worse. Take a leak. Drink some water. Check the fridge. Those simple tasks will help him escape the trap he’s setting himself. James gets out of bed, opens the door, walks out. The living room is at the end of the short hallway. His mom and Cookie have been smoking for hours. The smoke is so thick James wonders if he’ll have to pull it apart with his hands to get to the kitchen.

“Gonna get some more free food, boy?” asks Cookie. “You been out for two days and haven’t made one damn call about getting a job.”

James keeps walking. His mother’s silence feels like a slap in the face.

The kitchen smells worse than the rest of the house. Next to the fridge are three litter boxes full of solidified feces. He grabs a glass from the cupboard and fills it with tap water.

“I was talking to you,” says Cookie.

James turns. The fat man’s standing behind him, his breath a mix of cheap beer, onions, and gingivitis that overpowers the combination of cat piss and the smell of skipped showers. James takes a step back. Cookie laughs. In that laugh James sees things. He made the call. None of his boys did and his mom would die before hurting him, so this fat bastard has to be the one. Cookie’s laughter turns into a hacking cough. His prodigious gut bounces inside the stretched brown fabric of his T-shirt.

“I’ll get on the phone tomorrow,” says James. “I have a friend....”

“None of them friends of yours can get you a job and you know it.”

“If he says he’s on it, he’s on it,” says James’ mother.

Both men are surprised to hear her. Cookie turns around and walks back to the living room. He hisses something and James’ mom walks away. James sees an opportunity to disappear before his anger takes over. He leaves the kitchen and crosses the living room while staring at the filthy carpet. He reaches his door. 

Slap.

The sound stops him cold. Was that the TV? He looks back down the hallway. His mother is making her way to the bathroom. She looks pissed. Cookie takes two steps, grabs her arm, and yanks her back. She stumbles.

“I won’t let you treat that fucking criminal like a goddamn baby!” says Cookie.

Instead of replying, she steps toward the bathroom. He grabs her again, pulls her close, and doesn’t let go. James watches as the fat man puts his mouth close to her ear and whispers something. She replies in the same hushed tone, but her words have consequences. He pushes her away and follows it up with another slap. James is in front of Cookie before realizing he has moved.

The fat man smiles. James takes in his baldness, the beads of beer sweat dotting his forehead, his cracked lips.

“If you hit her again....”

“What, boy? This might be your momma’s house, but I pay the bills around here, so I do whatever I damn well please,” says Cookie with a grin.

James was tempted to punch his mother’s boyfriend many times, but knew he’d end up being the one who got kicked out. Now that concern isn’t there. He doesn’t care. He’s been away and he survived. The man who sent him away is standing in front of him. He’s responsible for the anger, the lost time, the fear. He’s responsible for the red welt on his mother’s face.  

The first punch is a right hook. It closes Cookie’s mouth shut with a crack and snaps his head back. He doesn’t go down. The second is a straight right that slips between the fat man’s hands. Cartilage crunches. Blood gushes. He goes down. James grabs Cookie’s head and slams it against the carpet. The thud is too dull, so he throws a leg over him and starts punching.

James is aware of his mother screaming. He feels her nails digging into his arms and shoulders, but none of it matters: he’s finally moving, doing something. Then she leaves him alone, takes her screaming elsewhere. James keeps punching until Cookie’s nose is no more. A jagged piece of bone pokes out from the pulpy red mess that used to be the fat man’s right eye. It stabs James’ hand and he pulls back. His hands are shaking. His right fist hurts more than anything he can remember.

The water from the bathroom’s faucet is colder than the kitchen’s. James can hear his mother sobbing. Then a siren wails somewhere in the distance and joins her. He sits on the toilet and tries to recall the things he wants to do now that he’s out.
  
Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of Gutmouth and plenty of other things no one will ever read. His reviews appear in places like Verbicide, Word Riot, The Coffin Factory, Out of the Gutter, ManArchy, HorrorTalk, and other online and print venues.