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Desolation Boulevard: Dead End
by The Pirate
III. COMPLICATION (The taconite wars)
She was just another pretty face. A refrigerator magnet, working the coatroom at one of the seedier hard-hat bars the tripods operated as a front for the safe house in back. Just another door hinge trying to make an honest buck who got in the way of the monster that was me as I lit a grapefruit and tossed it into the bar, ducking into the coat room. Our eyes met and I knew she knew her days were numbered in seconds.
I whipped out my best Elvis and asked her for a peanut butter and banana sandwich, just as three, fat tripods blocked the doorway and fired their pea-shooters. She died laughing, a frozen pea right between the eyes. Those eyes. Locked on mine as she giggled her last foaming breath unto her ample chest. She slid slowly down the door of the fridge and those eyes haunted me for years to come. I took the first tripod with one swipe of my splintered ruler, as a pea shattered the mirror behind me. The other two folded like tripods at the end of a photo shoot. Don Ho would have been proud.
I could smell the flatulence, like cordite after a gun battle, as I stepped over them and into the bar, frozen peas crunching underfoot like so many frozen peas. Those eyes still danced in my vision like sunspots, refusing to let me forget her sweet laugh and rancid breath as I began to systematically eliminate the bar tab of every patron in the joint, hard-hats and tripods and the three stuffed shirts in the corner, smoking a crack. Just as I leaned over to grab a shirt by the collar, I saw his eyes widen as he looked past me toward the front door. I flung him upright, diving into the crack just as six taconite pellets opened up on me with flashlights blazing. I dove out the window, rolled into the street and came up running. I could hear the shirts laughing as I rounded the corner with a dull router.
I taken a stab of light across my shoulder, just a slight shadow remained, so I wrapped it in mystery and headed straight for the one place I knew I could uncomplicate this mess-the hideout of the head taconite pellet, himself-Hematite…
The taconites aren't like you and I. Come to think of it, neither are you.
I mean, it’s all relative and you can pick your nose…
The taconites. They are spawned of the dark places and favor the same dirty things we all do, but there is a horrible difference. Taconites are devoid of the kind of ritualistic hatred and screaming fits that make you and I what we are. I cannot imagine what drives them and fear that someday I might be confronted with that horrifying truth. For now, I content myself with the knowledge that what I am about to do is unrealistic and fueled by irrational headcheese.
At the nearest pay phone, I stop and call the law. The more weak-minded and soft amongst you might step back in shock and horror, but I had to do it. I tattled on the taconites and it was good. Whistling a merry tune, I headed back across town toward the old lady's apartment and my perch atop the radiator. A block down the road, I caved in to temptation and turned into the cafe I passed the first night back in this hellhole. The watering can behind the counter stirred a pot of chili, dropping ash from his fountain pen into the vile mix. I ordered a big bowl and tried not to think about the radios roasting in the back, or the recently fried ream of copy paper, still dripping tiny bubbles of Don Ho juice, right in front of me.
The watering can served my chili and ash; leaning back on the grill to stare at me as I inhaled a shot of chili through a straw inserted into my left nostril. "A dang lefty", he drawled. "You must be from up North". I just stared and shoved the straw up my right, inhaling half the bowl in one long snort. " He shivered once, nodded his head and replied, "I'll give you that one and this one, y'all can have for free, too. The tripods are massing at the camera shop, two blocks down the street. You know the place? The one they took when they rose up against...", he trailed off. This time I shivered and nodded my head, remembering the telephoto lenses impaled on tall poles, lining the streets. Deciding against emptying the rest of the chili, I pushed the unfinished bowl toward him and stood up, reaching for my liver. "It's on the house", he stated, taking my bowl and pitching it into the bin. I walked out, thinking it was likely to be in the gutter, soon as well.
Making my way down the block, I noticed small, furry shower curtains scurrying into the sewers and alleyways, predicting mayhem for the near future and damn me if they weren't right. I didn't think, didn't hesitate, just walked up and threw four grapefruits through the window of the building on the left-the only one lit from within. Within seconds it erupted in flames. Those few tripods that made out the front door were cut down, splinters from my ruler strewn about the broken bodies like unused kindling. I stayed and watched long after they stopped coming through the door, leaving only when the sirens began to wail and it was obvious I had to beat feet, or answer a lot of questions nobody wanted to hear answers for.
I was only three blocks from the old lady’s apartment when I broke down, unable to control my rage and overwhelming shame for not storming the building and dying in the process. I knew you were in there, tied to a chair, or a large can of salted peanuts, silently praying for me to come to your rescue. Yeah, I knew you were in there and I chose me, letting you burn. My mother used to call me a punk. I knew I wasn't a punk and told myself that I would never grow up to be one, either. I was wrong. I'm the worst kind of punk and your dead. I feel something dribbling down the front of my shirt. Reaching up, I feel blood running freely from a wound on my earlobe. A bloody piece of copy paper lies at my feet, uneaten. I try to stem the flow of blood and begin to cry.
When the crying stopped, utterly spent and bereft of memories of the time spent in libraries and other such places of ill-repute, I found myself leaning against a telephone pole, covered in posters advertising the latest number-13, I think and of all things, a drapery rally on the edge of town, set to begin in the morning. It called out to me like buggery in a church. "Perhaps there can be some good in my life, after all", I thought, as I pulled the tin foil flyer from the pole. Taking stock, I took stock and emptied my pockets of the thawed peas and rotten memories of this town and the feel of your skin against the doors of my mind. A block down the street, I turned the corner, heading toward the alley cutting across the district to where the taconites used to hang out in the hard hat bars before I put them to bed with a phone call.
Entering the alley, I pulled my coat tighter, looked to the still dark eastern sky, thinking the moon would soon rise, lighting my way out of town to the woodlot mentioned on the flyer and I felt alive for the first time in my life. Maybe Don Ho would be there…