"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord."
In the Gutter, double meaning is everything.
In the Gutter, double meaning is everything.
The Dead Don't Care by Paul Greenberg
Joe O’Brien had spent a good portion of his youth getting fucked in the ass by Father Malachy.
So, forty years later when he recognized the fallen Pastor at the Speedy getting gas, it was an opportunity for retribution that he couldn’t pass up.
Dressed like a thrift store hipster with black boat shoes with no socks, grey beltless slacks, and a dull white t-shirt with nuclear armpits, Joe watched as the Father’s nicotine stained fingers pumped his gas. The Father then shuffled his way inside to pay.
The old prick must be seventy by now, Joe thought, as a wave of humiliation fell on him just as it had when he was ten- years-old. He went over to check out the Father’s beat up Buick.
The back seat of the car was littered with newspapers, old blankets, empty Pabst tall boys and McDonald’s wrappers. Joe recalled his drunk of a father, regularly beating the crap out of his mother and then driving off in a car not unlike this one.
Joe took a quick look inside the store and saw the Father’s bird-like head, bent down like a pelican towards the counter, paying.
He noticed that the car keys were still in the ignition so he quickly reached in the open window and snatched them up just as the old man was on his way out.
The family Joe had abandoned crossed his mind as he glanced up and saw that the Father had only pumped in three bucks worth of gas into the car. “Poor fucker is broke,” he chuckled.
The two crossed paths as Joe went in to pay and the chicken soup body odor that was coming off of Malachy’s body hit him like a fist.
Joe slid a twenty across the counter as the girl counted a stack of coins that the priest had used to pay.
“The old stinker came up twenty-five cent short,” The girl said. Joe dipped into his pocket and gently pressed a quarter down and walked out.
Father Malachy was standing by his car slapping his pockets, scratching his head and his ass, and looking every inch the confused old bastard he was.
Joe nearly pissed himself laughing as he walked towards him recalling the “games” the priest had invented in the basement of the rectory.
“Is there a problem, old feller? Are you ok?”
“I can’t find my fuckin’ car keys.” With his South Boston accent, the Father pronounced it: khaki’s.
“Your car keys?” Joe teased.
“Yeah, what ah ya deaf? I had ‘em when I drove this piece of shit in here.”
“Maybe I can help you. Did you leave them in the store when you went in to pay? Come on, old-timer. Let’s go in and take a look around.”
Joe took a deep breath, took hold of his elbow, and walked Malachy back into the store.
“I can walk. I’m no fuckin’ cripple.”
They went in and the girl immediately picked up a can of Lysol and started spraying the area.
“Get that shit outta my face,” said Malachy.
“The old guy lost his keys. Did you find them?” Joe said.
“That guy brought nothing in here but a bad smell and a bunch of greasy coins. And not enough of them, too. Maybe he’s got the Alzheimer’s?”
“Did you look at anything else while you were in here?” Joe asked, as he made his way around the store. “Did you look at the beer? The snacks? The porns? I know you old dudes like your pornos.”
“I didn’t look at no fuckin’ pornos, wiseass.”
“Well, you can’t leave that rust bucket here. I’m gonna have to call a tow,” the girl said.
“Goddammit,” the father said and stamped his feet like a child.
“Why don’t I give you a ride home? Do you have a spare key? We can pick it up and I can give you a ride back,” Joe said.
“I don’t know. Maybe I got another key,” the Father said.
“See, things are looking up already. Don’t be so glum, old timer.”
Joe got the Father into the car not bothering with the seat belt, which was lying loose like a dead snake across Malachy’s lap. He got in, rolled down the window and turned on the A/C.
Joe hoped this would be the start of the closure he had been looking for. He started in on the Father as soon as they pulled away.
“So where do you live? As if I didn’t know, you fucking weasel. Let me guess, you live in that shelter on Commerce Street with all the other sick fucks?”
“Don’t taunt me, old man. I’ll dig your fucking eye out with my thumb.”
“What are you talking about? I don’t know you.”
“You know me all too well, you maggot. Here, hide this salami.”
Joe reached out and popped the old man right in the eye. The Father’s bird-like head hit the window so hard, Joe thought it would burst into feathers. Instead, it ricocheted towards Joe, landing right into his lap.
Joe reacted like someone had dropped hot pizza on him, screaming and shifting his hips from side to side, careening into the opposite lane, right into a Minivan on its way to Home Depot.
When the cops and emergency crew cleared the scene, they all had a good laugh as the crime scene investigator pulled the passenger’s face off of Joe’s lap.
“Looks like a case of sexual misadventure,” said the investigator. “I’m sure you boys will do your best to keep this out of the papers.”
“Yeah, good luck with that,” one of the cops said.
The bodies were dragged from the car, dumped and zippered into body bags, and sent by ambulance to the morgue.
Meanwhile, two cops oversaw the cleaning of the street and directed traffic.
“Who the fuck knows. I know this. Even in these crazy days, there is no accounting for taste,” The second cop replied.
“Hey, I see what you did there. No accounting for TASTE? Get it?”
“Whatever happened here, they’ve got no problems now.”
“Yeah, the dead don’t fucking care.”