Wednesday, March 19, 2014

This One Time (written in 2001)

"Well," I said to myself more than to Steve, "this must be it.
This’s gotta be the place.”

Steve just looked at me kinda funny as we pulled to the curb,
then he looked away and said, “Yeah.”

The car stopped shaking, just like a beat up vibrating bed
in some shitty Reno motel room.

All alone when your quarter runs out.

And somehow I just knew: it was gonna happen today.

It would start the second I got out of the car and walked up the stained cement stairs to the chipped black and tan door. 

As soon as I rang the doorbell.

Steve was looking at me again, measuring me really, but trying to make it look like he was popping a zit in the mirror, or
rearranging his greasy dark hair under his stained and smashed out black felt hat.

It was no use, I knew. Call it a gut feeling. Intuition.
Fucking unavoidable. Whatever.

“So, you coming?” I asked him, even though I could tell there
was no way he would.

He looked at me for real. Just for a second. “Why?” he mumbled, moving his eyes quickly to his hands at
the bottom of the steering wheel, “You know these people,
right? You have dealt with them before, ri-i-ight?”

“Yeah-- okay, okay,” I said, cutting him off. “Message received loud and clear. You just keep thinkin’ good thoughts.”

Then, all in one motion, I swung my body to the right, pulled
hard on the door handle, and as the door went flying open,
leaned my way out of the car as it was still rolling to a stop.

"Here we go."

In just a few steps my hand will be reaching out for the cracked off-white plastic button of their dangling, rusty doorbell.

It reminded me of a snail’s eye hanging there. A fucked up
snail’s eye.

Broken. Dangling.

One, two, three. Up the steps two steps at a time in my beat-up K-Mart™ winos.

The snail's eye hanging, red and white wires creeping out of a
jaggedly cut hole in the lumpy stucco frosting of the porch.

I heard Steve start the car up behind me. I rang the doorbell.

"This is it," I kept thinking. "This is it."

I could hear footsteps behind the door, getting closer. Muffled.

Then a sound. A small kid shouting in another room--the TV-- what was that?

“Hey, it’s me,” I said through the door. 

“Gary? Hey, Gary,” I muttered, rapping lazily on the door with the back of my hand.

The floorboards made that distinctive creak: a human weight
on the other side of the door. 
I could feel it under my feet, through the floorboards of the porch, through the doormat.

"Maybe they’re looking at me right now," I thought, staring at the dark domed glass of the peephole.

“Come on, come on…” Rubbing the palms of my hands up and down the sides of my burgundy corduroy pant legs.

Was that sound the chain lock slowly being undone? What the hell was taking so long?

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