Month: September 2011

Walk The Line

There usually aren’t a lot of people out on a Tuesday morning at 1:45am. She traveled down the stretch of highway with the windows down and cool night air blowing her hair all around her. She was familiar with this road, as it was the same she traveled daily to and from work, except this time, she didn’t have to deal with rush hour traffic.

The song playing on the radio was one of her favorites and she turned the volume up to a level that would have her father scoffing at her to turn down.

“You’re going to be deaf when you’re fifty,” he’d say.

“What?” she would joke.

The stoplight at the approaching intersection turned yellow then red and she slowed to a stop. Her mind was fuzzy. She had been at a bar and had a few cocktails, probably one too many and she wondered if she would feel their effect in the later. She reached down and grabbed a cigarette from the pack nestled in the cup holder of her console, groped for her black lighter in the darkened interior and when she found it, brought it up to the cigarette’s end and flicked the flame. She caught a glimpse of her illuminated face in the rearview mirror. She looked tired and her eye make-up was slightly smudged.

“Hot,” she said around the cigarette filter.

She had a rough day. Nothing major, and she was sure she would live to have far worse days, but the day hadn’t been one of her favorites. That’s why she went out that evening; to relax and unwind, have a few drinks with some of her friends.

The green left turn arrow flashed on and she eased her foot on the gas pedal and turned the corner. She noticed a car coming toward her and as it got closer, saw it was a police cruiser.

Her breath caught in her chest and she didn’t let it out until the car had passed her. She looked in the rearview mirror again for signs of brake lights flickering on and much to her dismay, they did. The cop car then made a sharp U-turn in the intersection and quickly came up from behind.

“Goddamn it…”

She sucked in a deep drag from her cigarette and exhaled a cloud of acrid smoke into the interior of the car and it bounced off the windshield back in her face. She coughed.

Red and blue lights whirled on. She was approaching a gas station and signaled to turn into the parking lot. She probably should have pulled over sooner, like on to the side street instead of pulling into the station, but she was didn’t, and had a brief flash in her mind that she hoped the officer didn’t think she was trying to evade him. That’s the last thing she needed–having a cop think she was trying to flee from him.

She stopped her car, put it in park and lay her hands on top of the steering wheel so when the officer approached her window, he could see her hands and know nothing was amiss.

He was young and had a clean-shaven face. One of his hands was resting on the butt of his gun, the other was on her car door.

“Good morning, miss,” he said a little too cheerfully. “Do you know you have a headlight out?”

“Hi, Officer. Yes, I do,” she tried her best to sound calm.

“Have you been drinking tonight?”

Shit.

“Yes, sir, I have.”

“How many drinks did you have and how long ago?”

“I had four cocktails and the last one was about a half hour ago.”

“Yeah, well, I can sure smell them on you. Can I see your license and registration, please?”

“Sure thing. Do you mind me reaching into my glove box?”

“Please, go ahead.”

She opened up the glove compartment and found her registration and insurance card, thankful she had finally remembered to put the updated card in her car the week before. She handed the officer her things and he thanked her and walked back to the squad car.

She sat in her car, frozen. She had played this game over a year ago and was not too keen on repeating it. The last time had landed her in detox for the night and a reckless driving charge on her record. She berated herself in her head for being so foolish again. She should have gotten a ride from someone, but you lay in the bed you make.

The officer came back to her window.

“Do you mind stepping out of the vehicle, ma’am? We’re going to do some field sobriety tests on you.”

She unbuckled her seat belt, shut off her car and stepped outside.

“I’m going to ask you to do a couple of tests for me, okay? First one, I’m going to hold my pen up and I want you to follow where I move it without moving your head–just use your eyes. Are you ready?”

“Yes, sir,” she was so polite when faced with being in deep shit.

The cop began moving his pen back and forth to the sides, slowly at first, then more quickly, then up and down, her eyes following every movement carefully. She wanted to reach out and grab the pen and toss it into the bushes.

“Very good,” he said as he finished. “Okay, next test, I’m going to have you walk a straight line with your feet heel-to-toe, like this,” and he demonstrated how she wanted to walk. “You can use the seam in the pavement here as a guide. I want you to count ‘one one thousand, two one thousand’ ect until you reach nine, okay? Whenever you’re ready, you may begin.”

She placed her feet on the pavement like he instructed and she walked the line, counting off as she did so, until she reached nine.

“Okay, good. Now, I want you to balance on one foot with the other held out in front of you. Can you do that without difficulty? Do you have any medical condition that will prevent you from doing this?”

“No, sir.”

“Okay, begin.”

She balanced on her left foot with her right foot out in front of her. She wobbled and wavered a bit, but didn’t need to put her other foot down to regain balance. She felt her toes on her left foot gripping the soles of her shoes to help steady herself.

“Okay, that’s good. Alright, I’m going to ask you to follow me back to my car and you’re going to give a breathalyzer test.”

She followed the man to the car and awkwardly climbed into the backseat of the car, remembering from her last time in the back of one of these how hard the seat was and how cramped it was back there.

“We’re going to wait about five minutes before we begin. You don’t have anything in your mouth, do you? Any gum or breath mints?”

“No, sir, I don’t.”

“Mind opening up so I can see?”

She opened her mouth, stuck out her tongue and said “aaahhh.” She wondered if he was going to take her temperature and blood pressure next.

This is when the cop decided to make small talk. He asked what she had done at the bar.

“Singing karaoke,” she replied somewhat sheepishly.

“Oh, yeah? Sing anything good?” he chuckled.

She laughed, too. “Oh, nothing special.”

The cop then got the test kit out and inserted the plastic tube she was to blow in to.

“Okay, time’s up. I want you to blow as hard as you can into the mouthpiece here until I say ‘stop,’ okay? Ready? And blow!”

She wrapped her lips around the hard plastic and blew fast and hard until the officer stopped her.

“You know what the legal limit is, ma’am?”

“Point zero eight, sir.”

He turned the breathalyzer towards her face. The display showed 0.077.

“Well. Someone lucked out tonight,” he said to her. She detected a hint of disappointment in his voice.

She tried to stay calm, but on the inside, she was screaming. Holy shit, she felt like she had just won the lottery. A very sad lottery.

“Alright, ma’am. I’m going to issue you a warning ticket for your headlight. Be sure to get that fixed ASAP, because us cops are bored and look for people like you to pull over. It’s been a slow night.”

She got out of the backseat of the cop car and reached for the ticket as he handed it to her.

“Be safe, okay? I suggest calling someone to come pick you up.”

“Thank you, Officer.”

She walked back to her car, trying not to jump up in the air and click her heels together like Fred Astaire would have done, and she succeeded.

She sat down in her car and dialed her friend.

“Uh…hey. Can you come get me, please?” she asked once her friend answered.

“Oh my god, are you okay?”

“Yeah…I just got pulled over for my headlight and had to do the drunk walk. I’m at the gas station on 40th street.”

“Oh, thank god. Okay, I’ll be there in a few.”

She got out of her car and locked the doors and leaned against the door. She reached into her purse and grabbed her cigarettes and lit it. She inhaled deeply like she was a death row inmate who had been given a pardon and was a free man, standing outside the prison after his release. The plume of smoke dispersed into the night air.

Her friend showed up five minutes later and she silently got into the passenger seat and sat quietly the entire ride to her apartment.

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Little Grey Elephant

I don’t like how he rides his bicycle without grabbing the handle bars.

Ethan goes down the street, arms up in the air above his head. Laughing, he says, “Hey! Look at me!”

I look and cringe as he wavers, the front tire wobbling, and I expect him to lose control and dive head-first over the bike, but he corrects himself and continues down the road.

“Would you stop doing that and ride your bike like a normal person? You’re going to give me a heart attack!” I yell.

His response is a hearty chuckle and he grabs the handle bars only to start pedaling at break-neck speed. He goes faster and faster then suddenly, he grabs the breaks and skids to a stop, the back tire now in front of him, dust billowing around him. He takes off again, going faster than before.

This kid is going to be the death of me, I just know it. Nine-years-old and already giving me issues. God help me when he reaches his teens–if he lives that long. He’s fearless, carefree, and scoffs in the face of danger. Lethal combination. But, I remember when I was nine and invincible, so I relax and continue watching him ride up and down the street.

Soon his friend Peter rides toward him and they stop and huddle their heads together in a serious conversation. I can’t quite make out what is being said, but the minds of nine-year-old boys plot delicious plans and sure enough, he calls out to me.

“Hey, can I go over to Pete’s house? Please?”

“Sure, pal. Remember your dad will be home by seven to take us out for dinner. Try not to blow anything up, okay? And be careful, please.”

I think he yelled back “Okay!” but he was too far down the street to hear. I keep sitting on the porch swing out front and am actually kind of glad he left. Now I can focus more on my book I’ve been half-assed reading. Without Evel Knievel tearing around the neighborhood, I’ll have some peace and quiet.

Yet despite my chance to relax, my thoughts wander away from the book and to Ethan and his father–my husband, Matt–and what a rocky start we had.

Matt’s first wife is no longer in the picture. She married Matt but only because she found out she was pregnant with Ethan. Her family protested them not being a “conventional family,” and they were married when she was three months pregnant. Soon after Ethan was born, she filed for divorce, picked up and left town, leaving Matt to raise his newborn son alone.

Matt has no idea where she is and wants to keep it that way.

“But what if she wants to see her son? What if she has a change of heart and wants to get back into Ethan’s life?” I asked Matt one night as we were lying in bed.

He laughed softly, my head bouncing gently off his chest.

“Baby, no way in Hell. As far as I’m concerned, you’re Ethan’s mom,” and he wrapped his arms around me tight.

Ethan was four when Matt and I started dating and I was careful around him. He wasn’t exactly receptive to me at first and would throw temper tantrums whenever Matt and I would leave Ethan alone with a babysitter. Matt had been a stay-at-home dad until Ethan was in preschool, so there were some separation issues, but I was extremely patient around him during this transition.

Time passed and Ethan began warming up to me. He’d hug me whenever I’d come over and I was sure to spend as much time with him as possible to get him used to me being around. Matt proposed to me a year later and I moved into the house after we married. By then, the three of us had formed a family and all went smoothly.

I came out of my daydream and sighed heavily. Looking down at my watch, I saw it was quarter till seven and I began berating myself.

“Jesus Christ, Karen…waste the whole afternoon away…”

Matt would be home soon and here I was off in la-la-land. I got up off the swing, grabbed my book and the glass of iced tea which had gone lukewarm and went inside. I decided to go over to Pete’s house to get Ethan and send Matt a text to see when he was going to be home. I walked into the living room and saw my phone on the couch, grabbed it and saw I missed a call from Matt.

“Hey, gorgeous,” he said as I listened to the message, “I just got out of work and am running late, but I should be home by seven thirty. Hope you two are hungry! Ask Ethan where he wants to eat and we’ll leave as soon as I get home. Love you.”

I smiled at the sound of my husband’s voice–deep and soothing. I love when he whispers in my ear and nibbles the lobe, breathing softly into my ear.

I walk out the front door and down the sidewalk to Peter’s house and see Ethan’s bike haphazardly on its side in the front yard. I walk up to the stairs and knock on the front door, then return to his bike and pick it up. Peter’s older sister answers the door, her look of excitement quickly fades when she sees it’s me, then sticks her head into the house and yells, “Ethan!! Your mom’s here!!”

I heard feet thumping down the stairs and Ethan shot out the front door over to me and grabbed his bike, already on top of it, ready to pedal back home.

I lean over to him and whisper, “forgetting your manners?”

“Oh yeah…thanks for having me over, Pete! See you tomorrow!”

I placed my hand on top of Ethan’s head and smile up at Peter’s sister and now Peter, as he was standing next to her in the doorway.

“Smooth, slick. Let’s go. Your dad should be home soon.”

We make our way back home, Ethan pedaling slowly beside me in the street as I walk on the sidewalk.

“Where do you want to eat, little man? Gentleman’s choice.”

“Can we have ice cream?”

“Just ice cream?”

“Yes. Just ice cream. You said ‘my choice’ and I choose ice cream,” he looked over at me with his soft, chocolate-brown eyes, them catching the last remnants of sunlight as it set through the trees.

“If ice is what you want, ice is what you shall have. Your dad will be thrilled,” I said with a wink.

Ethan let his bike drop to the ground by the front steps of our house.

“Ahem…why don’t you park that Chopper in the garage, little man,” giving him The Look.

He gave me a toothy grin and walked his bike back to the garage. Matt wasn’t home yet, so we went inside and I told Ethan to clean up.

“I don’t want you getting cooties in my hot fudge sundae. Wash up and change clothes, please. It’s not every day we take you out in public. I don’t want people think I abuse you.”

He stuck his tongue out at me and I stuck mine out in return. He ran upstairs, tripping on the second-to-last step. He fumbled for the top, then stood up, arms raised victoriously above his head like an Olympic gymnast and he bowed theatrically.

“Grace is not your forte, kid. Wash up. No cooties or no ice cream.”
Ethan came downstairs twenty minutes later in different clothes. He walked over to me on the couch and I demanded he sit down for his cootie inspection. I rifled through his hair like a monkey and announced him cootie free.

“Oooh, oooh, monkey boy clean!” he said as he hopped around the living room. He then began throwing fake poop at me.

“Alright, alright, that’s about enough of that, Monkey Boy,” I giggled.

He picked up the television remote and began surfing the channels, scooting close to me on the couch as he did so. I wrapped my arm around him and savored this moment.

He stared at the cartoon on the screen.

“When’s Dad coming home? I’m starving.”

I reached for my phone again to check the time. Quarter till eight. No missed calls.

“We’ll give him until eight, then we send out the hound dogs. He didn’t get off work until late, E. He’s probably stuck in traffic.”

“Okay, Karen,” he sighed, then laughed at the cartoon.

I ran my fingers through his hair, stealing glances at this boy in front of me, silently loving him more than I thought I ever would.

Ethan’s show ended.

“Karen? Where’s Dad? I’m getting really hungry. And I changed my mind. Let’s get hamburgers then ice cream. I worked up a mighty hunger earlier. Plus, I’m a growing boy and I need MEAT!”

“Mighty hunger, huh? Easy fella, we’ll get you fed,” I laughed. “Let’s call your dad.”

As I reached for the phone again, it rang in my hand, startling me. I saw Matt’s number on caller ID and a smile crept across my face.

“Well, hellooooo handsome. I told you not to call me here; my husband will be furious,” I purred into the phone.

“Uh…hello?”

The voice on the other end was not my husband.

“Matt? Where are you? Your family needs you. We require food.”
“Ma’am, I’m terribly sorry to call you like this, but–”

“Matt, knock it off. Are you coming home or not?”

“Ma’am, my name is Officer Daniels and I’m so sorry, but I’m afraid I have some bad news…”

“Is that Dad? Where is he? Tell him I’m going to die of starvation!”

I shushed Ethan by holding up my hand to his face and gave him a stern look, then placed my hand on his knee.

“What’s going on? Where’s Matt? Why are you calling from his phone?”

Ethan reached for the phone, “Lemme talk to my dad!”

“Ethan,” I hissed, “knock it off!”

I stood up from the couch and hurried into the kitchen, but Ethan followed me.

“I wanna talk to my daaaadddddd!!”

He had the tone and pitch to his voice I was all too familiar with when he was ready to throw a tantrum.

I covered the mouth piece, “Ethan. Not. Now. Go to your room.”

Giant, fat tears slpped down my boy’s perfect cheekbones, landing in dark stains on his t-shirt. He ran out of the kitchen, thundered upstairs, tripping on the last step again, but before he went into his bedroom, he yelled, “YOU’RE NOT MY MOTHER, KAREN!!” and slammed the door hard enough that the house shook.

“I’m sorry,” I said with a sigh to the man on the phone. “What’s going on? What’s happened to Matt?”

“You don’t need to be sorry, ma’am. There was an accident. Your husband was involved in a pretty bad car wreck and he’s being life-flighted to the nearest emergency room.”

The officer was still speaking, but I couldn’t hear a word he was saying. My ears fuzzy, my head fuzzier, I kept repeating softly “accident…accident…accident…”

“Ma’am? Did you get that? He’s being taken to Creighton Medical Center. Use the Emergency Room entrance and someone will be able to tell you more information. I’m very sorry, ma’am. Very sorry,” and with that, he hung up.

I stood in the kitchen with the phone still to my ear, listening to no one except my own voice repeating “accident…accident…accident…”
I took a deep breath and started gathering things I thought I might need for Matt–a copy of our insurance card, his Social Security card, snacks for Ethan…I had a feeling this was going to be a long night.

I ran upstairs to our bedroom and started throwing clothes into an overnight bag. Would Matt want this flannel pajama pants and robe? What about his slippers? Where are his slippers? I frantically searched our room for the slippers, then realized I needed Ethan to get ready, too.

I hurried down the hallway to his room and noticed the door was shut. I thought about knocking, but I went in.

“Go away, Karen. I’m mad at you,” he replied from behind a book.

“Little Ma–Ethan. Look, I’m sorry I yelled at you and upset you.” My voice was cracking. I was trying to hold back the tears that wanted to burst, and one slipped down my face.

Ethan looked up from his book and saw my red, swollen eyes. He sat up quickly in bed, throwing his book down.

“Karen? What’s wrong?” he walked over to me and I collapsed at his knees, sobbing into his jeans. Ethan knelt down beside me, his own tears now falling.

I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t talk, but I somehow managed to speak. I grabbed his hands in mine.

“Ethan, your dad…he was in a pretty bad car accident. We have to go to the hospital right now, okay?”

Ethan stared at me with giant deep brown eyes, tears welling up in the corners and falling on our clasped hands.

“Is…is…he okay? Karen? Is he going to be alright?” he asked between sniffles.

“Baby, I don’t know. That’s why we need to leave right now. I want you to pack a few things to bring with us, okay? We might be there a while.”

He stood up slowly and wiped the tears off his cheeks with the back of his hand and nodded feebly. Walking around his room, he seemed lost and disorientated, and began picking random things up to bring along: his PlayStation Portable and some video games, the book he was reading, and as he walked by the stuffed grey elephant I had given him for his birthday one year after our trip to the zoo, he stopped and hesitated, then picked it up, tucking it under his arm. He found his back pack and stuffed everything inside. He zipped it shut, sighed and looked over at me. He looked like a young soldier going off to fight in some foreign war, scared out of his mind, but trying to be brave.

“Okay. I’m ready. Let’s go be with Dad,” his voice quavered.

Ethan was clutching my hand hard as we walked through the revolving doors to the Emergency Room. He hid behind me at the front desk, his face buried in my back.

I could feel wet spots forming on my shirt and I squeezed Ethan’s hand.

The nurse in the trauma unit looked bored and barely gave us a second glance until I said Matt’s name, then she looked at me with sad eyes and directed us to his room.

“Fifth floor, Intensive Care Unit, room 543,” she said. “One you get off the elevators, take a left and your husband’s room is on the right side of the hallway.”

He sympathy seemed rehearsed, like she practiced acting sympathetic while outside on her smoke break.

Ethan and I rode up to the ICU in silence. We stood in the doorway before entering Matt’s room, unsure of what we’d see. I knelt down before Ethan and tried to prepare him for what to expect.

“Okay, baby. Remember, your dad was in an accident, so he’s going to look pretty banged up. Try not to be scared, okay? Don’t be scared…”I don’t know if I was saying this for Ethan’s benefit or mine.

Ethan blinked rapidly and tears fell again. I grabbed my son and hugged him tight. He hugged back tighter.

We walked hand-in-hand into the room and saw Matt laying in the hospital bed. Tubes coming from his nose, mouth and both arms. The soft beeping of the heart monitor and the “ssssssshhhhh” sound from the respirator were the only sounds in the room. Both of Matt’s eyes were swollen shut and deep blue and purple. An angry cut snaked down the left side of his face and was held together with gauze strips. His right arm was in a sling and his fingers were swollen; almost comically so. They reminded me of clown gloves. His right leg was suspended above the bed in another sling and his leg was encased in a plaster cast that went up to his mid-thigh.

I glanced at the machines next to Matt’s bed and saw a bunch of numbers that I had no idea what meant. Some where high, some were low and every now and again, the machine would make its own sound and the blood pressure cuff around Matt’s left arm would inflate. There was an IV stand next to the bed and dripping what was no doubt some sort of pain medication into the plastic tube that wound into Matt’s arm.

I heard Ethan gasp softly. He stared at the broken man before him, his father lying in the hospital bed.

“Ethan, tell him you’re here. Let him know,” I whispered. He looked up at me with terrified eyes. “It’s okay, Ethan. I’m here. Just let your Dad know you are, too.”

Ethan inched to the head of the bed, leaned over slightly and said, “D-d-d-d-dad? It’s me, Ethan…your son. I’m here now, Dad.”

My throat started swelling shut as I fought back sobs, and I had to remind myself to breathe, Karen, breathe. Ethan reached out for Matt’s left hand and gently took it into his own.

“I’m here, Dad,” he said softly. He looked back at me.

I offered Ethan a sad, small smile.

“Dad? Mom’s here, too.”

Day In The Life of a Single Female

She comes home and is greeted by the enthusiastic tail-wagging of her dog, and she reaches down to pet his head, and when she stops, he nudges her hand with his cold, wet nose as if to say, “you’re not finished yet, woman!” so she scratches behind his ears to appease the wicked beast.

She goes into her room and kicks off her beaten and worn-out Converse sneakers and shimmies out of her work scrubs into something more comfortable, which is silly, because there really isn’t anything more comfortable than scrubs. Anyway, she finds an old t-shirt and slips on her jeans and makes her way into her roommate’s room to let his own dog outside with hers.

They tear around the backyard, pausing to bark ar squirrels and to bite at each other, and she sits on a patio chair and lights up a cigarette, simultaneously enjoying the burst of nicotine and hating that she is smoking. She needs to quit. She’s trying…and failing, but she IS trying.

The dogs settle down for a rare moment and she looks around the backyard at the late afternoon sun sparkling through the leaves of the trees and the garish orange house across the alley. The house bugs her, simply because it has all white window frames save one that is black. She wishes the owner would either paint it white like its brothers, or the rest black, because then the house would look like a jack-o-lantern.

She puffs away, letting time pass with the smoke that dissolves into the air around her.

Usually, her thoughts wander, as they are often prone to do. Work, money–or lack thereof–him, writing, him some more, then she gets distracted by checking social networking sites, then back to him. It’s a vicious cycle.

The “him” she thinks of is two men, actually. One; the ex. Don’t worry–the thoughts are not pleasant. Mainly it’s wishing she had the extra cash to pay for the divorce, and why he’s being such a poor son/brother to his family and why he is punishing them for his mistakes. He was never good at accepting help, and she’s disgusted that at thirty years old, he hasn’t learned yet. But, he’s not her problem any longer, yet she still feels responsible for him. She hates that. A lot.

The other him makes the previous him pale in comparison. In fact, the only similarities they possess are that they are both male. She likes that. A lot.

She gets ripped from her daydream by sounds of vicious growling and realizes she’s turning into Michael Vick and letting the dogs fight, so she grabs her roommate’s dog and takes her inside, leaving her own dog to daydream his own dreams of finally catching that squirrel.

The rest of her night is uneventful, as it usually is. She’s home alone and is enjoying the solitude. It gives her time to think uninterrupted.

And like the smoke disapating into the air, so does her night. It’s 11 p.m. and time for bed.

She bids you all a fond good night and pleasant dreams*.

*also, this was “written” via hunt-and-peck style typing via an iPad and her fingers are tired.
Shut up. Good night again.

From Jersey, With Love

Gun fire. Splintered wood shot through the air. The sound was deafening and echoed in his ears.

That was close, he thought. He checked himself over to make sure he hadn’t been hit.

There was a bullet hole in the shoulder of his Armani suit. The bullet had grazed him as it exploded into the shipping container behind him.

“This is my favorite jacket, you son of a bitch!” he screamed as he brought his pistol up to reload. He jammed the clip in and poised his forefinger on the trigger. He pressed his back against the container, gun held in front of his face. He quickly poked his head around the corner to check to see if the coast was clear.

All clear.

He darted out from behind the container, crouched low and running quickly to take better cover. More gun shots rang and he can hear the bullets ricocheting off the cement floor of the warehouse. How many of these bastards are there? These shots are coming from all directions, his mind raced at whom to take out first. He caught a glimpse of a giant mook wearing a cheap, ill-fitting grey suit, sweat glistening off his Neanderthal forehead and he winced as a drop of sweat landed in his eyes. Perfect distraction, and our hero took aim at the caveman, pulled the trigger and fired a shot into the man’s meaty thigh, causing him to drop to the ground, clutching at this leg and squealing like a stuck pig.

One down, four more to go.

He assessed where the others were at and calculated in his head who was next. The tall guy with greasy blonde hair that just ducked behind the steel support beam in the center of the warehouse. He’s vulnerable and what a stupid hiding spot.

Our hero darted out from his spot to get closer. Greasy Man popped out from behind the beam and started shooting wildly at him. Our hero stopped, kneeled down on one knee took careful aim and pulled off one shot, which hit the man square in the left shoulder, causing him to flinch back and scream in agony, his gun flying through the air as he lost grip on it. Blood squirted out in great jets and pooled around the man’s feet, causing him to slip, fall, and land on his back, his head making a sickening thud as it hit the concrete floor. More blood spurted out, this time from the massive gash on the back of the man’s head. He lay motionless in a growing puddle of his own red blood cells.

Two down, two to go.

This pair was proving more elusive than their cohorts, and had concealed themselves well, firing with alarming accuracy and skill at our hero as he tried to find cover again. Another bullet grazed his suit jacket.

“JAMES!”

Damn! They are mocking him now! These bastards are going to pay!

“JAMES!!”

His blood boiled with anger, his eyes wild with a fire that burned within…

“JAMES, GODDAMN IT, TURN THAT FUCKING THING OFF AND COME UPSTAIRS AND TAKE OUT THE TRASH!!”

Wait…what?

Our hero was stunned and confused. Did they just ask him to take out the garbage?

“JAMES, YOU HAVE TO THE COUNT OF FIVE TO GET YOUR LAZY, NO-GOOD ASS UP THESE STAIRS AND TAKE OUT THE TRASH, OR I’M GOING TO KICK THE SHIT OUT OF YOU!!”

Our hero slowly became aware of what was happening…and came out of his daydream to find he wasn’t in a warehouse being shot at by goons in bad suits, but sitting in his mother’s basement in New Jersey, the controller to his xBox 360 in his hands, the thick, acrid smell of pot hung in the air. He looked at the coffee table in front of him and saw the smoldering glass water pipe, lazy trails of smoke winding from the mouthpiece and the shit brown-colored water in the bowl.

He sat for a second longer on the faded floral couch and realized he high and had dozed off while playing Grand Theft Auto. He started giggling when he looked at the piece on the table again.

“They call me Bong. James Bong.”