Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Grinding Gears

Since the science fiction novel has been put on hiatus - I simply can't seem to get into it right now - I began another work which concerns a rather peculiar friendship. I wrote about this subject a few entries ago. Below is the rough draft. Since this first chapter was written all in one sitting, I realize it needs major work and revision. However, it is a good start and I am pleased with the prose so far, even though I am dubious of the outcome. Novels are like that. Beginning in larval states, ready to hatch out and become their own monstrous entity unleashing unspeakable horrors onto the world.
I do know one thing, it will be about friendship and sacrifices of morals under dire circumstances. And it will be a comedy.

Chapter One

The yellow sun exploded over the skyscrapers on a cloudless, Wednesday morning. Kyle lay wrapped in a matted, pink blanket which he had found lying discarded next to a trashcan. It still held that funky reek of vomit and beer, but not as overpowering as the smell of dried feces and stale urine which permeated the alleyway that he had slept the previous night.
Kyle silently squinted, the sun rays bathed his face. He looked up into the sky above and it glowed a bright blue. The distant sounds of the city coming to life drifted down the trash littered alley. The whispering of cars, the pounding of air-hammers from construction sites, the wailing of ambulances. Kyle fell into a coughing fit and vainly attempted to shrink back under the blanket. He did not want to face whatever insidious shit the world was preparing to throw at him today.
Kyle was twenty-three. Fair skinned and ruggedly handsome. Thick, black eyelashes enveloped steel-blue eyes. His shaggy, blond hair was tucked under a red baseball cap. It was summer and he wore his regular seasonal uniform of white tank top and blue basketball shorts with sneakers. He had a lean and athletic build. Not tall, in fact, he was rather short. Which was commented on repeatedly, but Kyle kept a confidence air about him.
At first look, one might think that he held a high position of a clean jock in any major college sports team. A closer inspection unveiled the fine layer of dirt and grease on his face and arms. The dirty teeth, chapped lips and black grime under the fingernails, fingernails which had been chewed raw. The smudged clothes emitted a waft of unclean genitals and rectum. His sneakers, once white, were now smeared in black dirt and mud and stank from odor.
Moans of the living dead. The thirty or so others who shared the alley began to stir. Followed by a orchestra of coughing, sniffing, hawking, intermittent yawns. Kyle didn't want to see them. To look at those poor souls who shared his destitution. But, he had to wake up and grab his gear. Soon the police would cruise by and herd everyone off.
He flung the blanket off and began prodding a lumpy form next to him hidden under a dingy blue comforter.
Billy!” Kyle croaked. “Billy time to get up.”
The form did not move. Did not make a sound. Kyle shook the lump more aggressively.
C'mon, Billy. Get your fuckin' ass up before the cops get here.”
The person under the comforter grunted. Stirred. Then continued to snore softly. Kyle pulled the comforter down to reveal the ravaged head of an elderly black man. His face was twisted into a grimace as if he was suffering nightmares. Continuous nightmares.
Kyle lightly patted the creased forehead of his friend, “Wake up, stupid. They gonna be serving breakfast soon. Let's go get in line. Get your gear and let's go.”
Billy grunted, “Leave me alone, motherfucker. Let me fuckin' sleep!”
Kyle sniffed. Sat up and adjusted a loose lace on his weathered sneaker. “Fine. Fuck you. I'm getting ready.”
Kyle stood and began rolling up his blanket. He snatched a grimy plastic water bottle next to his backpack, took a swig, and then placed it in the over encumbered bag. The green and white bag was marked in crude graffiti, frayed with busted zippers. Kyle looked down at the prostate form of his friend and frowned.
C'mon, ya old fucker. I'm not playing around. We gotta go.” Kyle stated.
Where my shit? Find my shit for me. I gotta take a hit before we go.” Billy mumbled.
As the other homeless began filing out of the alley, Kyle stooped down next to Billy's comforter and began fishing under the folds. He pulled out a lighter, an empty beer can, and several waded tissues.
Where'd you lose the fucking thing?” Kyle asked as he continued searching. “You got tore up last night. Keeping everyone up with your stupid shit. Everyone was yelling for you to shut the fuck up.”
Fuck those motherfuckers!” Billy snapped. “I don't giva fuck 'bout them assholes.”
Here it is.” Kyle said as he pulled a scorched meth pipe out from under the comforter. It was a glass stem with a bulb on one end. Silver streaks of residue lined the inside of the scorched glass.
Billy wiggled from out under the blanket. With difficulty, he sat up. Billy was fifty-four. Slightly shorter than Kyle, his dark skin was ashy and splotched with dust. A bulbous head, his hair was clipped short and unkempt. Lint and flakes of debris sat lodged in the curls. He wore a wrinkled, blue t-shirt draped over a frail body. Black jeans covered stumpy, bowed legs. The one striking attribute of Billy was that he possessed no arms, not even stubs. The birth defect ended right at the shoulder. When shirtless, he resembled a store mannequin with the arms removed.
Billy's face was a mask of perpetual disgust. A scowl that wouldn't quit greeted the world without hesitation. He always seemed pissed and to be honest, he always was. The hatred he held for his miserable existence consumed him into a twisted, despicable man.
Gimme my shit, Kyle.” Billy said.
The blond reached into his pocket and removed a small plastic baggie of bluish, powdery methamphetamine. With thumb and forefinger, he took a pinch of the dope and placed it casually into a small opening at the bulbous end of the pipe. The remaining film of meth left on his finger he slid across his red gums.
C'mon, boy, light that shit up!” Billy pleaded in annoyed frustration.
Kyle chuckled, “Gimme a minute, you fucking junky.” He placed the stem end of the pipe up to his friends chapped and discolored lips.
Fuck you!” Billy snapped as he hungrily sucked on the stem like it was a cock.
As others nonchalantly passed to go about their daily drudgery, Kyle flicked a lighter under the already charred bulb and slowly rotated it. The crystals inside melted into a mercury-like consistency as the gray smoke swirled around the bulb and into the stem. Billy inhaled greedily, twitching and fidgeting in robotic spasms of addiction. His very cells tingled in anticipation. He glanced across the alley. There was a lone drag queen squatting against the brick wall. Smeared in vomit and urine, the drag held a look of utter desperation on his makeup streaked face.
Hey, baby doll, can I have a hit?” The drag queen croaked in a voice roughened from years of cigarette smoke.
Naw!” Billy spat. “I ain't got enough for you faggoty-ass mooches!”
The drag queen clopped away muttering obscenities under his breath leaving a reek of foul smells in his wake.
Billy's bloodshot and crusted eyes lit up. He threw his head back and exhaled a great plume of smoke up into the bright, blue sky.
Good morning, America!” He howled, laughing.
Kyle chuckled and took a hit himself, “Crazy ass motherfucker.”
They passed the pipe back and forth between them ritualistically until the dope in the pipe was depleted.
Silently and with rapid movements, Kyle snatched up Billy's comforter, rolled it up, grabbed the various bags and bottles, shoveling them into an already over stuffed duffel bag and slung it over his shoulder. He took his smaller back pack and placed it onto Billy's back. The ordeal was quick and well rehearsed as they had performed the same routine countless times in countless towns.
Kyle wobbled, adjusting to the weight of the duffel, “You hungry? They serving breakfast soon. We best go get in line.”
Billy began marching down the alley in his usual duck like gait. He had the habit of remaining bent over and walking with barely bending his knees. At first, Kyle thought it was comical and reminded him of the old Felix the Cat cartoons and how that character strutted.
The two friends exited the alley and made their way through congested streets of early morning commuters. The pristine towers of downtown San Diego swallowed them up. Clean people in neatly pressed clothes darted past them, making a wide berth as if not to catch any virus or the chance the occasional tick would leap off the ratty two and nestle in their expensive attire.
Kyle did not make eye contact. He loathed those assholes who held a job, had an apartment, friends, loves. What kind of existence was there in forcing yourself to get up every morning at 5:30am, forcing yourself to shit, shower, and shave then fighting your way to a job where not only did you have to pretend to enjoy it, but remark on the fact of how pleased you were to be employed every time your asshole of a manager was within earshot. Kyle knew if he was ever forced to attain employment, he would purposely do the minimum amount required and constantly complain on how bitter he was. And why not? Why drudge through a damn job which paid next to nothing only to make others rich?
Billy and Kyle continued their way down a side street. To their right lay the shimmering skyscrapers of downtown where the rich frolicked and sipped their over-priced cappuccinos and walked their well groomed dogs, caring only on sports figures and social standing. Not on this street, though. The sidewalks were cracked, the houses sagged and were covered in graffiti with bars on the windows and doors. Garbage and dried feces mingled with bums who lay against light posts next to shopping carts over filled with memories and lost hopes.
The desolate angels of skid row howled and moaned towards the unforgiving sky. The reek of stale piss and unwashed linens overpowered the warm breeze which blew in from the nearby sea giving the putrid smell a salty tang. A bloated woman scavenged through an over-flowing trash can as a black man faced a wall rapidly masturbating under stained sweat pants.
Kyle and Billy approached an ancient wooden building which appeared to be a shop or market in it's heyday. Now it was a church and soup kitchen. Above the door, scrawled in amateurish paint read God's Extended Hand. A malevolent paw reached down from a cartoonish cloud to a group of stick figures in a flower field. In Kyle's mind, he referred to the place as God's Extended Finger.
Outside, lined along it's peeling, slatted, wooden walls, loitered a hundred men and women smoking, sniffing, and hacking phlegm onto the already plastered sidewalk. Most stood somber and vacant, staring out into a life of maudlin bring downs and disappointments while a few chatted or complained or outright yelled into the world. Hip blacks congregated in knots slinging dope and drinking from brown paper bags as their women cackled and screeched sexual innuendos towards one another. Mexicans stood silent, red eyes glaring from sad brown faces and flicked towards bearded, white hobos who guffawed and leaned, smoking rolled cigarettes.
Kyle and Billy took their place at the end of the meandering line. Billy wheezed and grunted as he propped himself against the wall, the high was wearing off and the discomfort creeped across his already scowling face.
Fuck it.” Billy mumbled. “Boxcar selling some weak shit. That motherfucker better step up his game.” He paused, pursed his gummy lips. “Shit, I gotta take a shit.”
Kyle glanced over to a graffiti splattered, blue port-a-pottie stationed at the side of the building. He turned to a wizened, old coot who stood right behind him.
Hey, man, excuse me. Can you hold our place. I gotta help my friend use the bathroom.” Kyle stated with open palm towards Billy.
The old hobo glanced at Billy's lack of arms and grunted, exhaling a plume of gray smoke from a rolled cigarette. “Yeah. Go on, I'll watch yer spot.”
Kyle jerked his head towards the portable toilet, “C'mon, Billy.”
The two friends made their way to the toilet. The door read occupied, so silently they stood in the gravel next to a foul smelling dumpster cascading with tattered trash bags. The smell of rotting garbage and the stink from the toilet made it unbearable. Billy arrogantly kicked the plastic door to the booth.
Hurry the fuck up in there! There're people waitin'!” He hollered.
A muffled female voice stated from within, “Hold your fucking horses!”
Just hurry the fuck up! I gotta take a motherfuckin' shit!” Billy spat.
The door flung open and a squat woman burst out. Hispanic, her black hair was teased into a high rats nest. Worry lines creased a face heavily made up. She wore a dirty blue halter top and yellow, spandex stirrups. Her chaffed feet were adorned in frayed sandals exposing cracked and molded toenails painted a vivid red. Though she was in her early twenties, her face and lumpy body made her seem older. Much older.
Fucking old asshole.” She glared at Billy as she exited the toilet. “I should kick you wrinkled old ass in front of all these...” She halted when she noticed Kyle standing there. Her volumous red lips parted into a smile of large, discolored teeth. “Oh...hey, Kyle. How you doin' this morning?”
The blond youth looked down onto the oil blackened gravel. Shifting uncomfortably in his sneakers. “Hey, Gracie. I'm good. Helping out Billy use the bathroom.”
She shot a disdainful glance towards the stooped, old man. “Why you helpin' this fuck? He can't shit for himself?”
I ain't got no fuckin' arms!” Billy barked.
Sucks to be you.” Gracie arrogantly stated. She smiled at Kyle, “Look, baby-doll, why don't you meet me up at Balboa Park this afternoon? We can have some drinks, maybe fuck a little?”
Kyle flushed crimson and mumbled, “Maybe. I might have other things to do.”
She stepped up to him and layed a dirty, brown palm on his chest, “I'll ride the gay right out of you, baby boy. Make that dick feel all kinda good in this pussy.”
Billy began stepping into the toilet, “I got a STD just hearing that shit!”
Gracie whirled and screeched into the open door, “Fuck you, you worthless piece of shit! My ass is cleaner than your whole nigger body!”
Billy turned to her and smirked, “Bitch, my nigger dick would rip your nasty cunt in half.” He stepped forward, “C'mon, baby, let me stick this in ya?” He began making little thrusts with his pelvis.
Gracie rolled her overly-mascaraed eyes, “Oh, fuck no! I'd eat my own fuckin' flesh first!”
Kyle, fed up with this dialog, stepped in the doorway of the toilet between Gracie and Billy, “I'll talk to you later, Gracie. They gonna serve breakfast soon.”
As Kyle shut the door, Gracie chirped, “Okay, see ya at the park.”
The inside of the port-a-potty was a biological hazard. Shit stained toilet paper lay scattered around the urine soaked floor. In the cramped space, Kyle made the mistake of glancing into the toilet hole. Mounds of feces, soda cans, toilet paper, and cigarette butts piled up almost to the rim of the seat. In the morning heat, flies buzzed and the wafting aroma almost caused him to projectile vomit.
Help me with my pants.” Billy mumbled.
Kyle reached down and unbuttoned Billy's jeans. He jerked his friends pants and soiled underwear down to the ashy knees. Billy plopped onto the damp toilet seat and used the shitter loudly and abundantly. Billy sat and grunted and wheezed.
Fuckin' shits all clogged up. Feels like I'm passing rocks.”
No need for a commentary. Just hurry.” Kyle sighed.
Don't fuckin' hurry me, kid. One of man's greatest pleasures is that long, good shit first thing in the morning. Life's taken everything else from me, don't deprive me of this simple enjoyment.”
Now your getting all philosophical and shit.” Kyle grinned.
Best ideas of mankind occurred while sitting on the toilet. Fact of life. Never forget that.” Billy grunted.
They remained silent momentarily amid the fetid stench of Billy's tortured grunting and raspy farting. The dankness of the toilet booth had become mind-dizzingly unbearable.
Okay, that's it.” Billy mumbled.
Kyle glanced at the toilet paper dispenser. It was empty. He reached behind Billy, unzipped the backpack, and removed a used roll of tissue. Billy silently stood up and bent over. Silently, Kyle used several sheets to wipe the dark matter from his friends buttocks. Tossing the stained paper into the pile of shit in the hole, Kyle stooped and yanked up Billy's underwear and jeans, fastening and zipping up the front.
That it?” Kyle said.
Yeah. I'm good.” Billy stated. “Let's get in that line.”
Around the front of the building, the line had grown progressively longer. Deranged tramps and bent elderly chatted. Kyle and Billy returned to their place in the que. The metal door at the entrance clicked and swung open. A frail elderly woman popped her head out and smiled at anyone who would meet her gaze.
Good morning.” She rasped. “What a blessed day the Lord has given us.”
Good morning, Sarah!” Several derelicts squawked.
Hey, Sarah!”
'Bout time you opened, I'm starving!”
What's for breakfast this morning?”
Sure smells good!”
Ya got coffee this morning?”
I'm so tired.”
Better be better than yesterday's slop.”
Show a little respect. The shit's free.”
My ass itches.”
Kyle glanced around at the bums and his gaze unfortunately fell on Gracie who stood leaning against the wall of the building staring at him. When their eyes met, she flashed a lascivious grin, reached down to her blouse and exposed her tattoo covered and stretch mark lined breast. She jiggled the floppy orb at him while mouthing, I love you.
Kyle smirked and looked away, shaking his head humorously.
Slowly, the group shuffled inside. In a large room there was a row of metal chairs and plastic, folding tables. The chairs were dented and the tables were covered in grime and scratches. The dark, wood paneled walls were plastered with religious posters and icons. Towards an opposite door lay a small stage and podium. The transients morosely seated. The area became so cramp that their elbows touched as they sat. Momentarily, a withered, old man made his way to the podium and a hush washed over the weary throng.
The old man opened a well-worn bible and said, “I am reminded of a verse this morning taken from Matthew 6:25-27 'For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food? And the body more than clothing?' And in Luke 12:6-7 we read: 'Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows'.
Kyle drifted into a stupor. The man's voice droned on and on. His stomach growled as the people around him coughed and sniffed patiently for the sermon to end. No one cared. No one wanted to listen. The souls who sat captive only wished to eat and continue on their daily routines of addiction, alcoholism, and madness. What was there to live for anymore? What reason did anyone have. The world had went to shit and Kyle knew, you had to remain a deviant in this country of false promises and ideals or die of boredom.
The old man continued, his voice attaining that of a bleating sheep, “I have never been addicted to drugs or alcohol and I have always believed in doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. I do not like people stealing from me, so I do not steal. I do not like people cheating me, so I do not cheat others. Simple. Just because I’m homeless doesn’t make me a hopeless sinner, doomed to hellfire. One of my favorite scriptures is Matthew 7:1-5, 'Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye'.”
Kyle glanced over to Billy who looked as if he was about to doze off. In fact, a few of the men in the room had fallen asleep and began to snore loudly. The old pastor on the stage ignored the obnoxious snores and continued as if he was the only person in the room.
Finally, the sermon ended and the throng stood and lined up at a small, rectangular hole in the wall to be served luke-warm oatmeal, a greasy sausage, and bitter coffee. The men and women coughed and hacked as they retrieved their meager breakfast in tiny styrofoam bowls and cups only to sit in depressed finality back at the rickety tables. The room was morosely quiet as they slurped and gagged at the meal.
Whispers and side remarks issued through the still, tangy-smelling air.
This shit's cold.”
The coffee tastes burnt. It tastes burnt to you?”
I could caulk a wall with this oatmeal.”
Is that what it is?”
Show some respect, the shit's free.”
Free or not, it's still shit.”
Kyle sat next to Billy, spooning the mess into Billy's slavering mouth with a plastic spoon. Intermittently, Kyle would wipe a glop of sticky mush from his friend's face. More oatmeal dribbled onto Billy's stained shirt than would remain in his mouth.
You're making a mess.” Kyle said.
Billy just grunted and slurped. “Coffee.”
Kyle placed the cup to Billy's mouth. He slurped. “Damn, shit got no sugar.”
An old hag who sat across from them reached into he large, tattered purse and removed two packets of saccharine. She handed them to Kyle.
Here, sweetie, I got some you can have.” She said to Billy.
They both mumbled gratitude as Kyle ripped open the packets and dropped the contents of each into their coffee cups. He stirred the sweetener with the spoon he assisted Billy with.
The old woman smiled a row of discolored teeth, “That's mighty nice of you to take care of him like that. That is kind.”
Thank you.” Kyle said as he shoveled another scoop into Billy's mouth. “He's my buddy. Known Billy for years.”
How did you two meet?” She asked, kindness beamed from her wrinkled face.
What are you the fuckin' cub reporter for the Daily Asshole askin' so many fuckin' questions?” Billy snapped. “Bitch, mind your own goddamn business.”
She scowled, “You don't have to be so rude.”
Fuck you, bitch!” Billy snapped. “Just eat your shit and let me eat mine without sitting here listening to your annoying ass voice.”
In a flurry of tattered rags, the old woman stood up, grabbed her bags, and stormed out, “You are a worthless piece of shit! You deserve all the horrible that happens to you! Both of you!”
Does that include smelling your stanky pussy?” Billy barked. “That stench is enough to gag the Holy Ghost!”
The room busted into guffaws and snickers as the woman stormed out. One of the women servers popped their head out from the hole in the wall and looked around.
We'll have no foul language in the Lord's house!” The woman from the kitchen commanded.
That fuckin' bitch needs to shut her fuckin' hole!” Billy stated.
The woman glared at him, “Sir, you need to leave.”
I ain't goin' no where, you old cunt!” Billy snapped.
The crowd began mumbling as the tension rose. They knew what was going to happen. Two large, old men marched into the room and stood behind Kyle and Billy. Kyle knew the outcome. Experienced it countless times.
One of the men, pink faced, gray haired, in khaki pants and a white shirt, rumbled, “Sir, you and your friend have to leave.”
I ain't done eatin'!” Billy stated.
We aren't doing anything.” Kyle pleaded. “We're just sitting here.”
The other man of equal size scorned from beneath a bush of curly, red hair, “You both need to leave, now.”
Kyle quietly rose and began to gather his things. Billy on the other hand was not going out before leaving a mark.
Ya'll motherfuckers are racist! Some white bitch starts talking shit and y’all gotta throw the black man out? You christian fuckers always talk about being good to your fellow man. Ya'll only good when your fellow man is either rich or white!”
The woman from the kitchen stood at the entrance, fists firmly on hips, “You both are barred permanently! You no longer are allowed here!”
Billy wobbled to his feet, “You pinch faced cunt! You white motherfuckers been saying that same shit to black people for too long! You think we're not used to hearing that? I don't want to be seen in this racist shithole anyway!”
If you don't leave now, I'll shut the whole place down.” The old woman said.
I'll burn the whole fucking place down.” Billy spat.
How? Ya got no arms.” Yelled a hobo in the corner followed by an uproar of guffaws and cackles from the transients.
Billy whirled in the direction of the remark, “Fuck you! You racist, too!”
A large, burly man in a red plaid shirt looked at Kyle, “C'mon, man, best leave. You gonna ruin it for every body.”
Kyle looked resignedly at the man and put a hand on Billy's shoulder. The place was turning nasty and Kyle knew he didn't need the entire homeless population of San Diego turning against him.
Let's go, Billy.” Kyle said as he placed the fastened the backpack onto his friend.
Shit! I just want these motherfuckers to show a little respect.” Billy mumbled.
You got no respect for yourself.” Stated someone. “Start there.”
The two friends quickly strode out the door into the bright, early morning sun. They stood on the cracked sidewalk adjusting their various bundles. Kyle reached into his shorts pocket and retrieved a crumpled pack of cigarettes. He removed the sole cigarette and lit up, tossing the empty packet onto the ground.
Gimme a smoke.” Billy said.
Last one. We can share.”
How much money we got left?”
Kyle pursed his lips, grimaced, “Two and some change.”
Fuck! That it?” Billy exclaimed. “How we gonna score my shit?”
Guess I'll go out and hustle up some cash.” Kyle sighed.
He put the cigarette up to Billy's mouth. The old man took two great puffs which resulted in a hacking fit. Billy bent over and hawked a yellow glob of phlegm onto the pavement. Kyle stood there watching his dilapidated friend.
You going to be okay?” Kyle asked.
Yeah, don't worry about me. I'll get Bruce to front me some shit.” Billy rasped. “Just go on and handle your business.”
All right. I'll meet you for dinner at the shelter.”
Kyle turned and quickly strode towards the row of gay bars at the edge of downtown.

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