Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Prostitute

The yellow light of 3 a.m. parking lots illuminated the two of them. He, short - shorter than me - past middle-aged, balding, hunch shouldered, I already knew was fairly crazy, from just a three minute conversation we'd had earlier in the evening. "I was in the army for thirty years, up, up, up; coulda called anyone in the country at any time of day or night and said 'watch yourself' and they would have known... I was in only in the army for three years. My son is in prison right now. And I, I, I, I'll tell yah, yeah man." And so on, without ceasing. He spoke aggressively, emphasizing each subject with guttural breath and pointing fingers. I let him talk, inputting an encouraging 'uh huh' or 'right' when he took a breath, and he gave me twenty bucks for the pleasure of audience. But he is not important, though I wondered if he actually had a son.

In her heels, she was a foot taller and thirty years younger than he. And she stood back, without expression, as he approached my taxi with the cash. "How much," he said, "for you to take her back to that motel near the strip club by the army base?"
"Well..." I said, but he hadn't stopped,
"About forty dollars?"
"That's more than fair." I said. It was certainly more than fair, but he was already rooting around in an envelope of mostly hundreds.
"How about I give you sixty?"
"Alright," I said, "I have change."

She sat in the back seat, alone. It was difficult to determine her age - she was wearing far too much makeup - but behind me, she was just a voice. We pulled out into the street and headed east. I asked her where she was from - Tampa. She asked me how much he gave me for the drive - sixty dollars. I asked about living in Florida and she told me about how she had started nude and topless dancing, "and I made so much money, so much money, but I spent it all: I went on every ride at Busch Gardens and Adventure Island, I went water skiing, sailing, jet skiing, everything."

She told me she'd made three hundred bucks off that john, but that didn't stop her from trying to convince me to give her some of my sixty. “We should split it,” she said. It's not yours, dear. “He said he'd pay me and I could pay you...” He didn't. “How much does this trip normally cost?” About twenty-five. No, I'm not splitting the remainder.

She took a call. She told her coworker her plans for tomorrow. She already spent the three hundred in her mind, and listed the things she'll purchase at the mall.

I tried to find out more about her past, her family, what forced her to move from Tampa, but any topic that didn't involve money seemed to bore her. In the end, I dropped her at the seven-11 next to the strip club. She closed the door to my taxi and went inside to buy a slurpy. Two hundred and ninety four, fifty remaining.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Joseph's Accident, Chapter One

The climax comes first.

At 9:02 in the morning, on a Tuesday, Ronald Joseph Brittons - who disliked his name and went by Joe - was hit by a car. The bumper of the maroon 1993 Honda Civic collided with the side of Joseph’s right knee at 28 miles-per-hour, breaking first one, then the other, leg. Three milliseconds later, his right shoulder and head left a four inch deep impression on the hood of the rapidly decelerating Honda. His body hit the windshield, shattering it in three places, spider webs spreading outward from the points of impact, meeting, separating, meeting. He flew back into the street and bounced when the car came to a stop.

The entire interaction took fifteen seconds.

His sister, Georgia, and her large golden retriever, Sir Richard Longtooth, were five steps ahead of Joe when the car rounded the curved neighborhood street at 47 miles-per-hour. At 8:27, Georgia, Richard, and Joe had left Georgia’s house to walk and talk about life. To catch up a bit after a long separation. He was on vacation from a small town on the other coast. Joseph’s on-again-off-again girlfriend was off again. Her name was Charlotte and she didn’t know whether she loved him - he was alright either way. She would later try to come by and see him, but it was complicated.

At 8:43, the driver was trying to find his doorknob. He was certain he had one. He was also certain that he needed to be at work in fifteen minutes. He hadn’t slept. The party the night before had lasted quite a bit longer than anyone expected. He lost track of time - and also his doorknob. Ah, it’s on the right hand side of the door.

At 9:09 the ambulance arrived. Later, Georgia would not remember any of what followed. She called for it, she was pretty certain. Richard rode with them to the hospital in the ambulance. She couldn’t remember any of it, but the moment of the collision was   permanent. It was a fixed thing. For Georgia, it was the start of a new timeline, like the birth of Christ. Before the accident and after. But, at the same time, it was as though it had always happened, a stone in her thoughts - she could not remember life without it. Even life before the accident was time spent waiting for it to happen.

For the next twenty years, when she had nightmares, her body tumbled around in space, randomly colliding with hidden, dark objects, without any control of where or when or what would follow. Empty space and harsh unseen objects, that was all. It was not certain how deeply Sir Richard was impacted by the event, but secretly he understood more than anyone gave him credit for, and in his dreams he only chased one car now - one maroon car. And if he caught it, he tore it to shreds.

Ronald Joseph Brittons lived. Aside from the broken legs, his collar bone was shattered, three ribs broken, and four vertebrae in the cervical curve were fractured. There was massive internal bleeding in his chest and head cavities. He was in a coma. These injuries, however, were relatively unimportant to the remainder of his life. At some point during the accident his spinal cord was severed very close to his brain stem. His mind was separated from his body. When he awoke he had lost the ability to move or communicate in any way. His autonomous functions - to breathe and digest, salivate, fart - continued. He continued to experience sight, smell, taste, but he, himself, was trapped in the prison of his mind. He had a window on the outside world but he could not even rap upon the glass. Except, he could, he would later find, occasionally laugh.