Sunday, April 27, 2008

Avenue (1)


"Ain't no big" Flanders said, "I mean, I get all the noise all the time about saying things when it's not the best time to be saying anything at all, but understand this, it aunt no big thing, no slab of massive import?"

He sipped his coffee and listened to the dishes being bashed out in behind the door to the kitchen area behind the cook station. He hated all night diners, but it was the only place in the area where he could get a coffee, a smoke and chance to run some lines of finessed rhetoric of what he was about.
Ferg sat across from him in the booth, rubbing an imaginary stain on the table top as Flanders stopped long enough to light a cigarette and take a long, caustic pull off it.

"Your goddamn cheeks are all sucked against your jaw line" he said, noting the Flanders had a face that could scare morgue attendants when he'd been up for a week, wrecked on righteous speed, living on nothing but some glasses of water and a cartoon of rank TJ smokes.

Flanders dredged up a laugh, smoke spewing from his mouth like vapors on a cold, lost morning that made him think of searching for car keys under hard wood floors in the Midwest where he'd been raised until his family moved to California on a job offer his Dad accepted.Those mornings when the cold air that crept from under the door caught him in its embrace and made all the objects at that level – cheeks on the boards, looking under chairs for some glint of key chain from under a stray sock or newspaper section –radiate a coldness that killed aromas and preserved every ache and sting of being awake at an age when the body knows only its own sensations to either fall into lust and love and maybe a relationship . The room seemed to literally chatter, to find a vibration of another dimension that was like this one,but blue, faded blue, the color of lips against a frosted window, dead skin, a deep kiss of an unkind heart. He hated looking for keys.

"Like I said, it aunt no thing that I haven't already talked about. I made my choice to have my cheeks go slack when sucked up against my jaw line while I suck down a righteous flaming butt of skunk tobacco."

"Fuck that," said Ferg, "Lemmee see the money." A busboy happened by and took away the plates they were done with, smears of eggs over easy, yellow yoke, impressions of teeth lost in cold, over buttered toast.

The plate fell into the industrial rubber tub with a crashing sound that made both of them cringe; each expected the silver ware in the glasses to shatter and make the thing a nightmare for the dishwasher, who both of them saw earlier getting a coke from a dispenser next to the coffee machine when the both came in. A white kid, maybe seventeen, tall and skinny and with a haircut you had to get murdered to keep longer than a day. As soon as they bus boy was gone, Ferg spoke again.

" I mean, you got the money, don't you?"

"Money?" repeated Flanders, adding the lilting, up ended lilt of a question mark at the end of the uttered word in successful effort to the annoy Ferg even more, "Money? You think I have any money? I misjudged you..."

"Pull my chain. Jerky. I gave you a ten spot to get a bag of frozen French fries and a sixer of Tall Boys, and some Borax if you had enough change. That was yesterday, you said you'd have it today, and now I'm asking for it…'

"Yeah, my friend, but we are all asking for the big slap inna kisser when all is said and done for, and besides, its not as if you're not gonna use the Borax to wash your hands after you untidy them inna the goddamned sink and over the stove and after you use the toiler, I mean, really, and those are my magazines in the can anyway, I know you been reading them while you've been dropping bombs in still water, I mean, come on, it all comes out in the end."

Flanders took another drag off the cigarette, dropped a sagging ash to the floor, and spied Ferg reaching into his coat in order to pull out a bottle of Myers rum, a large one that was crammed in pocket on the inside of his white and black plaid sport coat. The bottle made him look like he were about to topple over as the result of a horrible miss-distribution of weight. Ferg unscrewed the cap of the bottle and poured a stiff addition to his coffee, and then passed the bottle over to Flanders. A waitress taking an order at the next booth moaned when she caught a whiff of the shark-toothed contents of the bottle struck the fine hairs of her nose.

"Fucking a it all comes out in the wash, I mean I want some money, bub. You said you'd have it, and now is the time that the you said you would give it too me, and now is the time for me to get what you said you would give to me, and besides, hey, fucker, easy on that shit…" Flanders put the bottle to his lips and lifted it, chugging away at the vile rum as if it were nothing more abrasive than cold water. His gulps drowned out the orders the customers next to them were trying to place with the waitress who'd moaned when her nose caught a waft of the wretchedly desirable hooch.

"You can't drink in here," she said to Flanders. She tapped her ticket book with the cheap plastic clicking pen, "you can get this place closed down" Ferg thought she looked suddenly very beautiful and had half a mind to offer her half his bed that night when he felt himself being yanked out of his seat by his hair. A bus boy the size of a the dumbest linebacker on the worst football in the ugliest town in the most rudely attired state stood over him, pulling at Ferg's scalp.

"What the fuck" he yelled.

Flanders tried to get out of the crowded booth so he could run quickly away, but his face slammed straight into a fist when he tried to rise out of his seat. Through the spinning stars and dimensions of new defined pain he saw another bus boy hovering over him, not as tall as the one playing yo-yo with Ferg's head, but big all the same, thick muscled, thick headed.

The waitress stepped aside as the diner's night manager walked up, a short guy in white shirt damp with sweat, bald on top with a thin crown of hair circling the oval circumference of his head. He was smoking a cigarette, with the burning tobacco mixing poorly with his body odor. The place smelled as an animal of some kind had found a place where old toupees went to die and had crawled in an attempt to mate . Funky, funky Thought Flanders.

"This patch of linoleum floor space and table tops quite suddenly smells like something smeggy and unflushed, like failed fake love across species distinctions…"

"Told you two fucks to stay the goddamn fuck outta here?" he said.

"What" said Ferg, pulling away from his tormenting busboy."

" Tollyewtwopunxtostaythefugodorhere" the manager repeated, faster this time.

"Have a drink" said Ferg" I mean, they are gonna blow a gasket or two, and the war looks like its gonna be a long, and your hash browns tastes like the stains in your shirt, so I mean, get rid of these goooons and have a blast of this grog…."


The would be diners in the booth next to them had gotten up by this point, a man and woman who thought they would have some late night eggs after the Dagmar film festival at the quizzical art movie house up the street. They were almost out the door, just past the cashier station, when the manager turned around and screamed at them.


The woman turned around just long enough to to flip the manager the bird.


The two bus boys dropped their plates and chased them into the parking lot, but the man and woman were already in their car. Flanders and Ferg heard car wheels squeal, high strung and grinding of gears. The manager went back into his office, mumbling something having to cut back on the amount of over time that he'd been paying out to idiot thug kitchen staffers he'd ordered to put the hurt on some yahoo who looked they were having a half a lick of a good time.

"So gimmee the goddamned ten spot" said Ferg. Flanders pushed the bottle back over to him.

"Start stealing some better grog, baby…"

"Whattaya mean kipe some beet grog, you fuck? You steal some and see what you can get under that coat of yours. Anyway, this is the stuff that'll do the trick, get us outta here and outta of our heads in a hurry, and that is a good thing, and that is a good thing indeed, ya know what I mean, look at this place, look at the death trap this is…" Ferg made a sweeping motion with his arm to convey an idea of the coffeeshop viewed in a nauseating panning camera shot that made the particulars of the place, from the hot lights at the cookstation and the rotating metal mill that contained waitress orders, homeless men going back and forth to the restroom as their funkified smell mixed in with the layers of undisposed cooking grease that added the flavor to many house favorites, to the customers lined up along the counter, hovering over coffee cups, plates that resembled battlefields, sports and business pages that had more news than anyone this time of night could use ,

"I mean this aint all there is too being alive, y'know? I mean, whattaya think?"

Flanders stirred yet another pack of sugar into his coffee, and rotated the spoon relentlessly as he spilled goodly amounts onto the table top. He kept his gaze on Ferg, who was now watching Flanders and his business with the sugar spoon.

"Getting out of your head is one thing, but you don't hafta do it with some third rate boogie swill you can clean auto parts with." He dropped the spoon and took a sip of the hot syrupy coffee. He grimaced, his nose and mouth giving flinching at the unpalatability of the drink, and then he finished it in two throttling gulps.

"Anyway, I think that fat fuck of a manager is gonna be coming back here with his bus boy toadies, and right about now the white crosses I took are starting to kick in…" Flanders dropped the paper napkin he wiped his mouth with , readjusted the spoon, and grabbed his pack of rank smokes. I dropped a five dollar bill on top of the check.
He stood up."Gotta go. I'm likely to either stare at traffic or murder that fat ass for his bad lanuage and love taps, so I'm go and walk around and read headlines in news stands, watch TV through an appliance store window, find me a giant leering woman and get paranoid some place where I can do the least amount of harm. But all that , away from here…"

"Great then" said Ferg, "then I'm going up Avenue to the Watertower.."

"Yeah, I 'll trace you later…"
Flanders adjusted his coat and walked up the aisle past the cashier the stand, past the manager who was suddenly busy with a line of customers wanting to pay their check. He could hear the little fat guy yelling "Hey, hey you,. HeY!" as he went outside through the door . Car horns, crashing dishes and rain pounding the roof drowned out most of what he said once he was on the sidewalk.