Author: Guede Mazaka
The night’s as clinging as a bitch in heat, and the wind chases the corners of my coat around my ankles as I walk into Kadie’s, whipping the tattered damp fabric against me like a john’s sweaty hands trembling their way up some whore’s thighs. I’ve still got swipes of earth tracking over my pants, so I need to grab a rag from the bar sometime soon and take care of that. A lot of things will pass in Old Town, but good honest dirt won’t; it’s too far into the concrete-and-litter heart of the city, and anyway no one in their right mind goes digging within fifty miles of this city. Too many corpses, and you never know which one might trip you up.
I need to clean myself off before I head for the night’s bed. If I’m going out of Old Town, and I think I might this time. It’s my place and it’s that love that’ll eat me up and breathe me back to undeserved life, but sometimes I just need a look outside. A glimpse of the clean life. And besides, new face still doesn’t mean safety—I want to do right by the girls, I need to keep some distance from them just in case I do get taken down. All it’d take is one cop coming down for an after-hours treat and getting curious, one fingerprint and a lucky guess.
Though maybe I won’t have to worry about that, if I keep up the kind of gig that tonight was. My hands feel like raw meat and when I’m at the bar and picking up the glass, I can see pinkish streaks on the sides. It’s not fun trying to crack pavement, and it sure as hell isn’t a picnic trying to cut down to soil level in the middle of the city. But that’s what I get for being the only man these girls trust enough to haul around bodies.
Wendy wanted a nice burial, somewhere with grass and flowers. Never figured her for a romantic—or any woman from Old Town, for that matter—but something about this made her eyes soft. A real soft, cloudy and distant, and not that fake wet focus any girl worth her gun can whip out in a heartbeat. Someday I should get the whole story, maybe from Gail, who always knows or can guess more than she’ll say. But anyway, grass means either the pits or Roark property—everywhere else is scrubland, desert, or forest where strange things go dead in the night. So that was out.
She was going to settle for a cemetery burial, but the evening news with their follow-up: end of the journey special nixed that. The projects man—woman—whatever they were under those layers of rags and wrinkles—wanted it all to themselves, which was a no-go. And surprise, surprise to everyone, Kadie and Nancy wanted it in Old Town. But then, they’d gotten years of steady service and I guess their gratitude for that was bigger than the bar tab that they were never going to get paid up now.
In the end, they all compromised, and that’s how I ended up hacking a six-foot deep hole on the border of Old Town and the projects, right in the middle of the street while Gail and her friends kept anyone from driving through for a few hours. Most of the night, because Marv was a big guy and prison didn’t cut him down any. Helped that there, the roads are so busted they’re practically gravel—no road crew’s gonna risk getting caught between those two parts of the city—but still. Marv’s a pain in the ass and a team player, right to the end. I never realized how many people liked that ugly face till tonight.
We nestled a few bottles of his favorite brew before we covered him up, and the projects person added an arrow. Someone had gotten his mother and she was sniffling at the side, telling everyone about her poor misunderstood boy while we all tried to keep her from figuring out it was a road and not a graveyard. Not the kind of place any mother would want her baby laid to rest.
Though personally, I think it’s fitting. He was one big misshapen chunk shoved into all the wrong holes, but he left little pieces of himself in all of them and so it’s only fair. Besides, if that voodoo psychic shit on the television’s got any truth to it, he’ll make a good sentinel. Only thing he was ever good at, poor violent crazy bum, and I’ve got no links to the projects so I can’t cover that side of Old Town.
It’s not all that respectful but I have to laugh, and keep laughing while I drain my glass. Fuck. Maybe I should’ve saluted the grave, begged Marv to watch over his heir in fists and blood. When they bury me, I wonder whether I’ll even get a tombstone, or if they’ll just leave a bottle draining into the road fractures, like we did with him. I wonder who’d show—Shellie would, at least. She’s making eyes at me right now, worried and inviting, telling me all I need is to just walk her home and lay my head on her pretty pert breasts and it’ll all be better, baby. She’s good at that, and someday maybe she’ll get a guy that deserves it. Or that doesn’t need anything besides it.
She’s a nice, sweet girl. So I blow her a kiss as I go, shoving the glass over to Marv’s empty seat, and then I’m out in the night, looking for Gail. My lady of the night, my bitch and my master. She’ll have something to take off this jangling, morose edge I’m riding, and she’ll have it so I’ll fall into bed and be out before I can dream.
Maybe I should step out of Old Town once in a while. But see, there’s always a reason to stay, and there’s nobody now besides me to take those up.