It's not like what we've all seen in the movies, you know.
First, these guys aren't wearing shiny suits or expensive shoes. The gold chains? Yeah, they're real. Nothing too big or heavy, but exposed and noticeable. Wiry chest hair all poking through and everything. One of them even has what I think was a St. Christopher's medal at the end of his.
The track suits aren't an empty stereotype, though, at least for the fuckers fresh from the Old Country. The guy who has me in a headlock, I can read the Adidas label on his sneakers in between the pushing and shoving and punching these guys have done for a while. Pretty sure the athletic attire also matches the shoes. His chain is silver, maybe platinum. He stinks. Seems like his cousins or whoever put him to work on this side of the Mediterranean should welcome him to the New Country with some Speed Stick.
The other two guys are dressed like normal blue collar dudes. Blue jeans, nothing special. Maybe Carhart shirts? Could be Duluth. Not bad condition, nothing too worn or torn. Decent clothes, but not fancy. These weren't made guys, just footsoldiers.
One of them wears decent Nikes, the other has Timberland steel toes.
Shit got real personal between me and those steel toes, let me say. I think I may have left a little blood on the one boot.
When I took the money, I thought I'd be able to grow it into three or four times what I borrowed. Turns out, not everything I'd hoped for came to pass.
I mean, now that I think about it, staring through a swelling eye at my fingers being splayed before me, I guess it makes sense that lies and deceit would go together with the types of people I paid. I didn't walk away empty handed, but I didn't exactly get everything I bought.
I laugh, and I'm a little disturbed at the burbling sound down in my chest that accompanies the wad of blood and spit I hawk out onto the alley pavement.
"Somethin' fuckin' funny, dead man?" I think his name is Tony. I mean, it's a safe bet, I guess. I'm gonna call him Tony, anyway.
Tony smirks at me. He's standing in my line of sight while his other two goons hold me still. Tracksuit has my head in a lock while Frankie splays my fingers out in his meathooks. Frankie is really strong, and he has a mean left hook.
I know his name really is Frankie, because Tony told him to hold my fingers like this.
Tony steps closer, cigar cutter in his hand. "Which one? If you don't pick now, we take two."
I had a job once. A good one, with benefits and everything. One of those benefits was an accidental death and dismemberment insurance plan. I mean, this is far from accidental, but I'm clearly dipping my toe into the dismemberment and death waters, here. Well. Fingers, but I guess that's splitting hairs. Anyway, that plan paid out about two grand for a finger lost at work.
Two grand for a piece of me doesn't seem like an awesome deal, but now that a finger is about to be severed for free, I'm wishing I still had that job.
I figure I earned the beating. Honestly, sending three thugs to whip my ass was a little excessive, but I get it. I didn't completely skip town but I did change where I slept and didn't exactly leave a forwarding address.
That job I used to have? I left it. It's part of why I needed a big cash infusion, fast. Okay, if we're being honest here, I didn't need the cash fast, but there was a bit of an impulsive urgency in my decision making.
Addicts do that.
Hi. My name is Clarke, and I'm an addict.
This is where I imagine the record scratch sound effect and the voiceover to come in as the frame freezes. eeeerrrwheerrrehhh 'Yep, that's me, about to get my finger cut off. I bet you're wondering how I got into this mess.'
I laugh again instead of answer which finger to take.
Tony punches me in the nose, which is awkward and uncomfortable for everyone, because my head is still held in an awkward position by Tracksuit.
"OUCH GODDAMMIT," I yell in between gasps. "FUCK!" I add for emphasis.
"You're lucky we don't just kill you, man," Tracksuit kinda whispers in my ear. His accent is thick, like, straight-outta-Palermo thick, but his English is pretty good.
God I hate myself for this, but I can't resist being a smartass. "Yeah, but corpses don't pay the bills, slick." Fuck me if Tony didn't hit me again. "OUCHQUITIT!"
Tony laughs his ass off at my outburst.
"Times up, funny man. We're taking two fingers, and if we have to dump your body in the landfill, we'll get our money from your mother in Hoboken."
Oh, fuck that noise, Tony.
He moves in with the cutter, and he's aiming for my pinky finger, but he doesn't realize that mine won't be the corpse that ends up in the landfill today.
Technically, his won't either, but I appreciate the poetry of the sentiment.
I'm what you might call a late bloomer. Normally, people like me discover a talent and learn a trade in their early teens. I only found out a little over a year ago, which is why I left that steady job. I figured, shit, I can invest some money in a tutor and get caught up on a couple of decades worth of skillbuilding in an accelerated program, right?
Insert the lies and deceit and whatnot, and what you get is me here and now.
Let me see if I can clarify a few things here. Back when I first saw the Star Wars movies (for sanity and argument's sake, let's just pretend there are three of those, but we can willingly acknowledge the awesomeness that exists in the seasons of streaming shows that dot the landscape) I didn't really identify with Luke Skywalker.
My sympathies kinda leaned Vader.
Until Return of the Jedi, anyway, when Luke showed up all in black with an agenda and a chip on his shoulder. Fucked Jabba's shit right on up with a smile. I dug that real hard. I mean, in the end, Team Vader, but Luke had a good showing in that flick.
Well. I learned that I can use the Force, like, for-real. Okay, so not really, but I learned that magic and wizards and all the shit that goes bump in the night? It's real. Fairies and vampires and ghosts and shit, too. It's all real.
I learned that I can do magic. It didn't take long to become addicted to learning more about it.
God, that makes me sound like a dork, but it's true. Wizards exist, and I can be one, only, I'm waaaaaaaay behind in learning how. So, I needed a tutor.
Remember how I said I leaned Vader?
Yeah, so, I had to find other people to show me Vader shit. Turns out those people kinda suck, and they took my money and ran after only showing me a few neat tricks. The trick they didn't show me was illusion magic so I could pass off fake money for real money. Thus, my investment plan evaporated.
Tellya what they did show me, though.
Whoa, baby, am I good with fire. That was how I learned about this magic talent. I was looking for my Zippo one day, gettin' ready to enjoy a fat stogie with a glass of bourbon, and I couldn't find the damn thing. I just sorta gave up, idly chewing that Macanudo, and when I went to kinda flick the end of it in annoyance, it caught fire. I about ate the damn thing in shock, but there it was. I lit it by basically wishing it was lit.
I learned a few other things to bring me closer to some Vader shit, but I still come back to fire as my standard parlor trick.
He should not have mentioned mom.
It was all fun and games when we were just gonna lose a finger, but to bring my neurotic, guilt-inducing, awesome-cooking, obsessively-cleaning, preachy-but-generally-nice mother into this shit?
What happened next is straight outta a Marvel movie's nightmare.
First, Tony's face just melts. He's sneering one minute and he doesn't even have time to scream the next. His face, eyes, skull, everything does it's best Ghost Rider impression before it looks like some shit from Raiders of the Lost Ark when the Nazis get fucked up. The rest of his body follows, and the alley smells like delicious barbecue. If you can ignore the singed hair thing.
Next, Frankie screams. He lets go of my hand and steps back, like, holding his hands up as if he's gonna block a punch or something. I'm a little disappointed in the scream, but hey, stress and fear are interesting things in the human condition. Meanwhile, it's only been a couple of seconds, and Tony is basically ash, Frankie is screaming, and Tracksuit still has me in a fucking headlock. I guess he settled into the "freeze" part of flight, fight, or freeze.
I guess Frankie is, what? Fight? I mean, he's in a stance and all, but he's still screaming.
I wish fire in his throat, and it obliges. The screaming stops, and he kinda makes a weird choking sound. His neck bulges in a way I haven't seen since that weird mask malfunctioned in Total Recall (the real one, not the Colin Farrel mockery) and I chuckle a little. I wish the fire a little hotter, and the dude's head falls off, since there's no neck or vertebrae there to support it anymore.
Neat. I've not done that one before.
Still in a headlock, I can't resist. "I find your lack of faith disturbing," I quip, and suddenly Tracksuit remembers he's holding me nearly and dearly.
He shoves me away, and I land facefirst on black, smoking asphalt. I choke on what's left of Tony as I gasp for air and inhale ashes.
"Oh, that's fucking GROSS, Tracksuit, fuck you man."
He finally snaps out of his freeze, and I see he's reaching for his waistband. I cock my head a little as I recognize how unlikely it's been for a gun to be safely snugged away there when the only thing holding it in place is an elastic waistband. God seems to favor the stupid and the brave, I guess.
Anyway, so out comes his shiny nickel-plated sissy pistol and I can't help but roll my eyes.
I imagine it as melted slag in his hand, and it is. The ammunition gives a few satisfying pops as they explode in the magazine, and his hand is partially incinerated, partially blown apart by about a dozen nine millimeter minibombs. A few pieces of white-hot shrapnel zip my way but I put up a shield to deflect them (one of the lessons I learned from my asshole tutor).
Tracksuit is screaming now and GOD these guys are loud.
I picture the flaming skeletal remains like what happened when Blade staked vampires in that piece of motion picture perfection (ignoring the final boss battle) and Tracksuit is so much dust on the wind. With a thought, I dispose of what remains of Frankie.
I wanted to avoid all of this, which is why I took my beatin'. I could have melted these fuckers the moment they rolled up on me, but I really, really didn't want to go to war.
They had to bring up mom, man.
God bless her neurotic heart, nobody's gonna mess with mom.
Now I gotta scoop up these cocksuckers' gold chains and melt 'em down into bars to pawn before I track down the other sunsabitches that will come looking for these dead cocksuckers.
Looks like war can never really be avoided, especially since I love my mama.
Blood on your hands
I am the least likely person to end up in a dark alley. For any reason. I am a prudish rule follower. I avoid conflict at all costs. I live well within my means. I am annoyingly responsible. I work hard, I’m never sick and I don’t take mental health days or in any way inconvenience my colleagues or employer. I pay my bills on time. I pay my taxes before the April deadline. I don’t gamble. I don’t cheat anyone. I go out of my way to not make others uncomfortable. In my mind, none of these are the characteristics of someone likely to have her face planted in a brick wall, held in place by an odiferous man with too much hair and a well-inked muscled arm while a dapper little man in a pin striped, three-piece suit and a black fedora tilted over his right eye prepared to relieve me of my wedding finger.
No, clearly, not my fault.
Responsibility lay wholly and completely with Jake, my fiancé. My former fiancé. Who apparently did not purchase the beautiful marquise diamond ring resting on an exquisite white gold band that looked like vines. No, apparently, he “lifted” it from a little shop in the diamond district that happens to include with every ring a tiny locator chip. Unbeknownst to Jake.
Jake, whose blood and quite possibly some fragments of his brain are presently splattered across my face and the wall my body is being ground into by the suit’s Muscle.
“Sir, please, you must believe me, I had no idea what Jake had done. I would never knowingly steal from anyone. Please just take the ring.”
“My dear, I am an old-fashioned man. As such, I am a believer in an “eye for an eye.” On the other hand, my mother, God rest her soul, taught me to treasure women. However, you cannot in all honesty tell me you believed that,” he toed Jake’s lifeless body with a well-shod foot, “was in a position to purchase such a precious stone as the one presently gracing your lovely hand.”
He had a point. More than one, actually. I met Jake online a year ago. He shared an apartment with three other people. We rarely went out to eat and when we did, we split the bill. Mostly, he came to my place, I cooked and afterwards we watched Netflix then went to bed. We were comfortable together. And he made me laugh all the time. He was a professional comedian and I thought he was brilliant.
But he did count pennies.
When he gave me the ring, I thought he had been saving which would explain his intense frugality.
But I am of the school, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
“Thing is, sir. I had the ring appraised. It’s glass.” Suit paused in his finger removal preparations.
“I don’t sell glass. Good try.”
“No, really. I can prove it. I had intended to talk to Jake about it tonight. I didn’t need anything this grand. Jeez, I would have been happy with a wedding band and him. But he wanted to ‘do it right,’ as he said. Anyway, today I went to have it appraised. I’ve never owned anything so pricey, so I wanted to make sure it was covered appropriately in my insurance policy. It’s glass. The jeweler’s document of authenticity, or lack thereof as it were, is in the inside pocket of my bag.”
Suit paused again. “Where’s your bag?”
“Digging into my stomach thanks to,” I eyed Muscle.
Muscle loosened his hold enough for Suit to take the bag from my shoulder. Within moments he held the, hopefully, finger-saving document in his hand.
“This is not good.”
Muscle’s hold on me loosened a bit more.
“The marquise stones are from your cousin’s mine, are they not, Theo?”
“There must be a mistake, Mr. Leviathan.”
“Hmmm, I trusted you, Theo.”
“I’m sure there’s a simple expla…,” before he could finish his sentence, Muscle’s blood and brains mixed in with Jake’s.
“I do apologize for the trying evening you’ve been put through, Miss…?”
“Doe. Jane Doe.”
“Funny. Here, take my handkerchief. You don’t want to walk the streets with blood on your hands.”
With that, he walked to his waiting limo and left me alone with two dead bodies and a handkerchief.
And all ten fingers intact.
Waving with All Five Fingers
"Seriously, blonde looks stupid on you. What'd you think we are anyways?!" says the greasier one with cigar dangling, the thin pin suit, and sparkling Tissot that I can wickedly hear ticking up against my right ear.
but I say nothing because the stocky sweaty hench-pal with less hair to slick-back to begin with has me by the neck in the creases of his shirt sleeve. The black fabric is all rolled in a bunch at his elbow and wedging double pressure on my thin bare throat. Dampness touches my cheek and I can smell his perspiration-- I'm feeling nauseous.
You said you'd love this color on me and begged me to dye it.
To the right and above, his Bossman's got my dominant hand jammed in an interlock with his, putting sharp tension between every digit, pushing down hard with rings on his fat fingers, while pulling my wrist up over my shoulder. He's using his left hand. I can feel his thumb making an extra pressure point in my palm.
"Yeah, where's yer imaginary boyfriend?" he snears.
Where indeed in retrospect!? Mo-Fo got us into this mess and now it's just me caught out in this alley. Figures. But of course, I'm relieved you're not actually here.
I mouth: "I don't know."
"Speak it up sister. He's late. We'll find him one way or another, so might as well go easy on yah self."
He's pulling out his cigar cutter from his right pants pocket, and I know he's not cutting himself another cuz he just lit the cherry scented one he's got. The ashes are tumbling down the back of my gaping white blouse collar as the wrestle-maniac is adjusting the choke hold on my neck.
If only I hadn't chased the cat.
I always lose my head over cats. Always. Never mind the alley. Ever since I was little.
Checking in with the cat folk, like I was one of them.
Momma: "Yah gonna get fleeaz or rabies.
Don't even think about bringing that dirty thing home."
It was a kitten. It looked hungry. Injured maybe even. Abandoned. You know.
Of course, you'd told me not to go out. Told me a dozen times:
"Hey, we're keeping a low profile."
And I didn't need ask why. Obviously, you didn't want to draw attention in this neighborhood. We're stashing money in the mattresses and cans, scrimping and saving to make a good life in Buenos Aires or Rio. Puce the banks, you said.
"South American, Baby. Tax Free."
Ugh. We ran out of cream for your coffee. I knew how put out you get when we run out. Even though you don't say so. I thought, I'll just run right to the Porte Rican Deli down on the corner like I've done a zillon times. They're open till 1 (in the morning, and here it is not even 10:00). I'd be back by then, and in the morning, you wouldn't even know it.
You'd just smile that sweet sexy grin over your journal and take a smooth grateful sip with that satisfied Ahhhh, and say "Nobody makes coffee like you, Sweetie."
Fph. Now I was in real picklepants. I had foolishly skipped out without my cellphone on account of having no pockets. Otherwise, I likely would have snapped a picture of the kitten and messaged, "Can we keep it??????" (Having already made up my mind.)
Then at least you'd know I was out--eventually. You'd likely id the whereabouts cuz you're so damn good at that. Always finding me when I'm lost. I can never recall the names of streets or take directions... time and again you calm me down with your easy back track: "Honey, take a breath. Then look around. Slowly; now just tell me what you see; and I'll know where you're at..."
A yank brings me to my knees.
"Looks like the Beeeach is opting to lose a finger..." click, click, metal against metal. Must be the ompteenth ring of his right-hand clanking against the cigar cutter. His left hand's clammy and pressing stronger on my raised right, which is starting to go numb in pins and needles.
The trio of us is standing so tight in this darkened alleyway that even if someone were passing by, I'm pretty sure I'd be utterly hidden behind these two.
Mobsters? Con men?
My heart is pounding, and my back is killing me with the bow I'm bent into...
I know when you went into business for yourself you mentioned you'd got a little loan from your Uncle Freddy. I admit it made me uncomfortable when you talked about risk assessment, gains and losses, and anyway I knew nothing about Import and Export. But you reassured me that I do: "You know. Like rugs, lamps, antiques, that sort of thing. Stuff that goes for Big Money."
And when you said No, we wouldn't have to storage anything, that's not how it works with direct dropship, I swallowed my doubts and said:
Alright let's do it.
And we did.
I put down 50% of the half Freddy wouldn't cover. Put in $40K, no chump change, My whole savings. For our future. Surcharges or some other surfeit, things like that come up.. And you said, we'd be partners 50-50.
My task would be merchandising. Picking the Nice Things. Whatever I felt was sure to sell. "You've got a good eye," you'd said without blinking.
"Where is he? or which finger is it going to be, Pretty?" mockingly of course cuz at this time of night without makeup I look like shit.
But I can't say anything in this death grip.
--I thought in a flash I'd wet my pocketless Capri's...! Yes.
That's what they say you should do right? when assailed, piss off the assailant, or defecate-- whatever, to put them off !
And that's when it happened.
Taken aback the pig let go his elbow with such force it knocked over the main man, also obviously not wanting to get puke on his Armani.
And then I ran.
I knew I couldn't go home if I'd wanted. They'd follow. That's where you were-- Asleep in the ottoman. I left you, with your book still open on your lap-- suspecting nothing, or so I'd thought, when I'd slipped out the back.
No. Of course. I ran to brightly lit Deli. They couldn't follow me there without drawing attention. I had nothing to call the cops about. No real description of faces, or persons, no license plate; nothing to report as missing.
I don't know why. I pulled out Our business card. I dialed the info number. I'd never called "us." I guess I thought I'd leave you a message through there... just in case I didn't make it out of this alive.
"Hello Blackwell Import Export. Buying or selling...?"
I hadn't bargained on a live person.
I recognized that voice.
I look up. The glass in the Bodega is extra clean. I see me dropping the pay phone in the dark night. And you outside, the two goons to the left and right. Sniper tucked under your armpit. Aiming right for my still raised hand. Every finger spreading like a fan in slow Mo.
I cuss-- Fkg-A. you set me up!
Looks like you'll be calling the shots. . .
I think the craziest part of all this shit is that I don't regret it.
Sure, it seemed insane at first. Taking a loan of that size when I knew I had nothing to give back. I think they knew when they saw me, actually. I had a feeling they were sadists; those shadowy, faceless men in dark suits. Well maybe less a hunch than fact based on the way the one holding me is digging into my skin as far as he can go without knocking me straight out.
This... Is decidedly not how hugs work.
Let me start with this; it was a stupid idea in hindsight. Heck, foresight, too. What was an idiot living alone in a matchbox apartment planning to do with all that money?
You're about to find out... Judgeth me and perish says a biblical philosopher of ancient times.
My eyes blank as he playfully squeezes the life out of me but I give a small smile like this is all a game and cock my head to the side, nice and slow. "Tell your boss... Or bosses... That I bought myself a teddy bear with the money."
The men's heads all snap to me. The one holding the instrument I'm meant to be getting un-phalanged with sucks in a sharp breath, nearly dropping it. They look at me as if they didn't hear me and I repeat myself.
"I bought what is probably the biggest, softest teddy bear in the world. I call the fucker Onyx or Obsidian, depending on how the day went. And Chumchum Charcoal on the weekends. I like colours I guess. And it's the prettiest shade of the colour I've ever seen! And when you lay on him, you just absolutely sink into his belly like gosh, it is worth every colourful paper rectangle spent-"
"Oh, that's okay. I'm not mad about the oxygen. I spend every panic attack I have searching for it so I'm used to the deprivation. In fact, I've had a pretty good number since you guys decided to chase me to the ends of the earth but I'm guessing no one's paying for my therapy so all's well."
"You spent that thick wad of cash on a toy?!" Another yells.
"A stuffed animal. And I love him. Gives me great hugs."
"Jesus." The third spits, probably just so we can remember he's there. He's the quiet type like me. I try to send him a grin but it hurts to emote.
"Oh, that guy? I bet he probably took a second's glance down at my crapfest of a life while playing Poker with Loki and the devil and giggled. But luckily, between the one that flooded the earth and was forgiven cos he sent a fucking rainbow and the other that did... something or other with a young girl out of the blue, the hippie with the beard and crown that talks about peace and love is my definite favourite."
"Although, he was a hypeman about paying taxes and I didn't like that. But that part where he fucked up some vendors was such a violent slay hooray for violence and passed-down genes suddenly exposing themselves to the sunli-"
"Although he was such a hypeman about paying taxes and I didn't like that. But that part where he fucked up some vendors was such a violent slay hooray for violence and passed-down genes suddenly exposing themselves to sunli-"lthough he was such a hypeman about paying taxes and I didn't like that. But that part where he fucked up some vendors was such a violent slay hooray for violence and passed-down genes suddenly exposing themselves to sunli-"
"If you don't choose a finger in ten seconds, we're taking your whole goddamn hand. Your stupidity may be catching; I'd rather not be touching you."
"Rude. I'd rather you not be touching me either but you don't see me complaining while I'm in a headlock! Anyway, I've thought of this exact senario before so I already know the one I want to say bye to. I love my pinkie but it's got to go."
I close my eyes and count down from a million. It hurts about as bad as I imagined, getting worse with time. I stare at the blood on my hands and feel myself get a little faint, barely hearing them as they threaten me. The quiet one remains... Quiet. I love how he conserves his energy and doesn't waste it screaming jibber-jabble at me. I'm just as much an NPC in his story as he is in mine, after all.
"If you don't pay us back soon, we're taking another pound of flesh!"
"Aww... A Shakespeare fan... That's adorable. I knew I wasn't the only gay in this town. Also, tell your doms that they can suck on my pinkie dick!! I paid for my teddy and m keeping him! And another thing-"
I got slammed on the back of the head, the world dark around me. I wake in my ted's arms. He's smiling down at me with those creepy, unblinking eyes. Luckily, I've known their species since childhood so I'm already used to it.
The sky is a dark mess and I'm still bleeding.
I also still don't have any money. Maybe they'll sell my pinkie to fancy rich cannibals on the black market and leave me alone...?
Guess I better choose which piece they get to hack off next time. Who needs body parts when you've got a snuggle at the end of the day to make you feel better, right? Chumchum gets it. He gets me! And I will not be sending my best friend into to some filthy rich, unknown little crook's arms just because I need blood and appendages to live my life! What kind of selfish cuddle-buddy would that make me?!
Guess I better choose which piece they get to hack off next time. Who needs body parts when you've got a snuggle at the end of the day to make you feel better, right? Chumchum gets it.And I will not be selling my best friend into to some rich, unknown little crook's arms just because I need blood and appendages to live my life! What kind of selfish cuddle-buddy would that make me?!
And I will not be selling my best friend into to some rich, unknown little crook's arms just because I need blood and appendages to live my life! What kind of selfish cuddle-buddy would that make me?!And I will not be selling my best friend into to some rich, unknown little crook's arms just because I need blood and appendages to live my life! What kind of selfish cuddle-buddy would that make me?!
No Way Out
I know from all the places to die, my life shouldn’t end in the alley, at least that’s my wish, a hopeless wish that doesn’t have a guaranteed return on investment.
This is my story.
I am an impulsive gambler in life, never thinking ahead first, or even using my head for once. I gambleed all I had on a card game. After I lost everything, I began borrowing money, small loans that mounted to bigger debts that I couldn’t afford to pay back.
I knew there was no end to this habit. But I kept going, deep into the belly of the beast, and never stopped to look back or manage to find a way out. Now, my neck under a sharp knife, my heart rapidly beating, and fingers trembling before they're cut off one by one, it’s too late to think about the solution. For I drained all the resources I ever had, including friends and family. I’m too deep, and have no way out this time around, just waiting for my fate in the dark alley.
“I’ll Do it Myself”
a dangerous game
Slicked back hair,
drink blood graffiti
Oh so far has
the golden angel fallen
I’ll do it myself
Plunged too deep
to fly away
But high enough
to take a leap
A freeing cage
I’ll never escape
The King’s men
Breathe in. My heart races faster than an Olympic runner on drugs, countless little earthquakes hit my body all over, and rivers of sweat stream down my skin like a waterfall. The dread overwhelms me, but I won't let it take control. Breathe out.
I knew this day would come, but I hoped it won't be this soon. On the other hand, the money I took belongs to the King and, knowing how he does business, to expect anything less would be underestimating him. Insulting, even.
"Tell your boss I'll have your money by the end of the month," I wheeze through the chokehold, addressing the guy holding a cutter, "I've got a job coming up. Enough money to pay back in full and even to leave a tip for the three of you."
He chuckles. Though we are in a dark, secluded alley in the middle of the night, I can see a set of crooked, but clean teeth.
"Well, that settles it, eh? I suppose we should we let her go then?"
He looks at the thug to the right of him, and at the one behind me. They don't reply. He leans closer to me. The overly-saturated scent of cigarette smoke in his breath makes me feel even more nauseous.
"The King asked for a proof that we have an understanding." He grips my wrist tighter. "So, which one will it be, princess?"
Breathe in. There's no shame in being afraid for your life when you're overpowered and pinned by a man, let alone three. Especially if those three are barbaric cut-throats who would happily kill their own child if it meant a big paycheck. The best thing you can do in situations like this one is to do your best to keep your head cool. Almost impossible, I know, but giving into panic will only make it worse. I know. These types of guys, they're predators. Sadistic fucks preying on fear, getting off of crying and begging. But that won't be me. I'm trembling, I want to cry, I want to scream. But I will not. Not right now.
I look him dead in the eye.
The cut is surprisingly swift. For a little moment in time, I feel nothing at first. Then a bolt of pain surges through me, and I feel as if I've put my finger in the molten metal.
The thug behind me puts his gloved hand on my mouth, muffling my scream. They strengthen their grips, waiting until I run out of energy before letting me go. I collapse down on my knees, my breathing sharp and rapid. Clenching my right hand, I hold it closer to my chest, smearing blood all over my shirt.
The two make their way back to the car while I watch as the thug with crooked teeth steps on my severed finger, crushing it with a sickening crunch. It takes all my willpower not to barf my guts out.
He comes closer and pulls me by the hair. "You better have the money by the end of the week or we'll pay a visit to your dear little sister next."
If I wasn't so helpless right now I'd make him regret these words. But I just sit there on my knees and grit my teeth, watching as the thugs get into the car and drive off.
I take the phone out of my back pocket, smearing blood on it and my clothes in the process. I call the number on my speed dial and wait.
"Hey Cleo, what's up?"
"Get Lynn and meet me at the safehouse as soon as possible. We're hitting our mark tomorrow."
I hang up and scream into the night.
I was getting desperate; the fix was crucial. It had been days since I had a hit, and I was hooked at this point. So I did what any normal, sane person would do: find some sketchy guys in a sketchy alleyway and ask them for some money. Except in this situation, I was not a normal, sane person. As a matter of fact, I was pretty bonkers at this point. You see, when your mom has cancer and your sister wants to kill herself, you find your own ways to cope. Unlike my sister, I was not cutting my arms; I was out on the street getting high off my ass. Well, it didn't start off like that. I had a good job; I was making the right income to try and support mom. All the medications that came with her cancer had their own price, and it wasn't just her hair. In the course of time, the medical bills kept piling up, and my paychecks kept disappearing. I didn’t really see the point anymore. And yeah, I felt awful for leaving Mom and Carly in the situation that I did, but I just couldn't do it anymore. I left home, started living in my car, and did everything I could to find a fix as often as possible. Fast forward to now, and these guys are looking for their fix too. I borrowed their drug money for my drugs. I can't pay it back, so here we are. I have to make a decision, so I tell them to take my pinkie. They oblige, but take my pointer too! I scream in agony; this is the worst pain I think I've felt in my life. In the nick of time, the sirens come. I look up and see a girl with a phone to her ear in a window, looking down on me. I wink at her, thankful for her existence at this moment. They run, scattering like roaches. Thinking of the white power in my pocket, I run too. I run until my legs are aching and I can’t catch my breath.
“Take Them All”
At this point in my life I have come to believe that
hands are evil.
Fingers have forced themselves around my throat and
It has been 7 years --
but I still feel as if I'm choking.
When you cannot breathe, the air is a prison.
I cut gills into my flesh but all they did was bleed and
liquor felt like oxygen but really
It was drowning me.
My hands are no exception,
you can see it all over my skin.
His hands pushed me to the streets but
my hands took the world into themselves
and brought me down.
Analog Sentiment in the Digital Age
They had me and they knew it. I knew it. Time to pay the piper. Time to pay Paul, Peter's robbery long forgotten. My lesson to learn: spend their money and lose a finger.
I knew the risk when they so generously offered me their money, interest compounded minutely (not in small amounts, but in time).
They had the courtesy to allow me to choose which finger I announced was worth losing. It didn't take a lot of thought.
I needed my thumbs to hitchhike with my lover.
I needed my index finger to please my lover.
I needed my ring finger to flaunt my love for my lover.
I needed my pinky to swear undying love to my lover.
Gagged so efficiently, I couldn't name the finger. I could only show them. My gorilla released my hand and I raised it to display the middle finger, which I only needed to identify those I hated.
It's an important life statement to make. Glad I have another one.