|Under the Arch
Author: Guede Mazaka
Paul's taken up smoking in the past few weeks. One day he looked at the chain-smoking whore sitting clench-kneed in front of him and decided he was too damned old to be dying by someone else's inches. If he's going to get fucked over, it's going to be firsthand and not second, and he's going to do it himself.
The cigarette dangles from his lip as if it was born there, hanging ashy tip occasionally sizzling when the stray raindrop blows into it. When that happens, the sparks go wetly down to the ground, buzzing Paul's hands on the way so he tries to tuck them into his pockets. Except he's got that newspaper bunching up one of them, and he's got to take out the cigarette for a blow once in a while, so it never works. He just wishes this church doorway was a little less shallow. Where his pants bunch over his shoes, the fabric's already sopping knotted wrinkles.
Kind of like his face, according to Greenly. Stupid bastard.
It's been a bad week. Month. Whatever the hell. Times like these, Paul has to sit back in the confessional and wonder really, what is he doing? He's a dinosaur, and he knows it. He's slowing down, cartilage ripping every time he bends down to pick up a pen, and God better help him up if he takes the trouble to kneel to that son of a bitch. Arthritis is nothing to sneeze at. A guy can only get shot so many times before he keels over or shoots back, but joint pain is for the ages.
Cuddling is something that has to be sacrificed to age. Not that it's one Paul really dislikes making; that kind of close touching is too damned distant from the hell-streets he walks through on a daily basis, too damned comfortable for comfort. It always made him antsy, and then of course that upset the fuck of the hour, and he just got tired of the arguing. He's what he is, thank you, and considering how long he's managed that trick, it's not an accomplishment to be sneezed at.
One of Greenly's favorite habits, goddamn his annoying mouth. And of course, hard to close that for any length of time.
So then, what is Paul doing, fucking fangirling a pair of cocky, bouncy, motherfucking pretty boyos from Ireland? What is he doing? He follows them around, passes them information, saves their asses for maybe a story over piss-warm beer and paired grins. Once in a while, he drags their bloody ripped-up doll bodies back to that truly freaky father of theirs and applies some basic field medicine. And every single time, he's got his career on the line, his pension painstakingly built up on so many corpses and juries and turncoat snitches that even sound like grease, for God's sake. Why the fuck? Why?
Greenly's favorite question.
Then again, it's not like Paul's risking himself. By the way, when he says that he doesn't mean his body, his reputation, his heart and mind and so on because those are firmly aligned with that strangely appealing infection the McManus twins like to call justice. He means…well, look, he's not religious but dear mother certainly knew her saints and even if she hadn't, hang around the Irish district for more than fifteen minutes and ten to one you've subconsciously converted. The Catholicism just oozes from the gutters. So what he means is he's talking not about the possibility of having a soul, but talking as if he knows he's got one. As if, angels have mercy on him, he's got faith. Or something.
For the fifth time in the hour since he was trapped here, Paul tries to unfold the newspaper and read it. He's bored stiffer than a stiff with a stiff one-wouldn't believe the kind of bodies the morgue gets, poor insane bastards-and he desperately wants a distraction, but goddamn it, he just-can't. Can't read, though he's literate. Can't see, though the black print's clear enough:
Police officer killed in the line of duty
And in nerve-squeezing fine print:
Detective…[ink's run from the rain]…Greenly was shot last--
Paul smells something besides nicotine and his brain cells burning, then feels the pain. He rips the cigarette fragment from his mouth and pitches it into the rain, and then he realizes he's moved both arms in a throw. Like a fucking robot.
As soon as the paper hits the ground, the rain cuts off like someone knifed its maker, and the headlines glare up as brutally as ever. The sun sticks in Paul's craw, and for a moment, he seriously considers-
--but he's late. For another goddamned fucking body. God damn this city. God damn it and him and the sun that just keeps going on and on like nothing ever changes under it.