HO SPRINGS
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Archive for the ‘Jamie’ Category

13. JAMIE: Kissing the Toad

ive me another hit.”

Jamie held out his hand, expecting someone would put a pipe into it. But his fingers just hung there, empty.

“That’s it, man,” said Donnie, the guy whose mother owned the cabin.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” said the red-headed guy, Travis. “There’s got to be something else here, somewhere.”

Travis, whose eyes were looking as red as his hair, hopped up from the torn black leatherette couch and began pawing through the litter of plastic soda bottles and unbleached coffee filters, baggies and empty cold medicine packages, hunting down an overlooked kernel of crank they’d been cooking up in the kitchen, or bud of marijuana they’d been growing out the back door. The longer he searched, the more agitated he grew, flinging the filters up in the air, scattering the soda bottles across the floor.

“Chill, dude,” Jamie said.

This was why he wanted to keep his crank consumption under control. He was doing pretty well at it too; he was proud of himself for that. It was probably because he was far more intelligent than your average meth head. He remembered half these tweakers from kindergarten. They were stupid then, running around in circles until they fell on the floor, just like Travis there.

“What are we gonna do?” said Travis.

“I’m gonna go see DaShawn,” said Donnie. Donnie’s mom thought it was nice that Donnie brought his friends up there to hunt and fish. Said she was glad the place was getting some use, now that she’d moved down to Mobile. “Anybody coming?”

“I’ll go with you,” said Tiff, who danced down at the Go Go with Taryn. Wait a minute: Where was Taryn? She’d never shown up — was that last night? The night before? It was hard to keep it straight.

Jamie should get out of here too. Go see what had happened to Taryn. Check in on the old man. Change shirts.

Plus, he had the nagging feeling he was forgetting something else. Something important. What was it? He cycled again through the list of possibilities: Taryn, Dad, cats….

Ah, fuck it. If it was important enough, someone else would do it.

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25: JAMIE: Inked

e blew an extra $2 on gas to drive all the way out beyond the lake, to a roadside tattoo parlor where he’d never been before and he didn’t know anybody. He owed the three shops closer to town money, and all he had was a 20, which he hoped would be just enough to buy him a teeny tiny toad on the inside of his wrist, or hopping right on top of his bicep, somewhere he’d be able to see it and remember that little guy from the woods.

He couldn’t believe there was somebody there already, and not just anybody, but a bodacious babe, and a showcase too, with ink over much of the visible surface of her body, which was to say much of her body. Spring had sprung outside, but it was not what anyone would call hot. However, this honey was wearing cutoffs as brief as a bikini bottom and a torn-up tee shirt that barely covered her impressive though not thoroughly genuine-looking tits. She was half-reclining in the chair, her long slim legs propped up on the footrests, wiggling her knees: apart, together, apart, together.

“I still think it’s going to look hotter on the back,” said the tattoo artist, who had a long scraggly graying beard like Brad Pitt’s and was wearing a camouflage print cap, like at any minute he might drop his irons and snatch up a gun instead, run out into the woods behind the shop and shoot him some hajis.

“I want it on the front,” the girl said in a flat voice. “When someone looks at it, I want to see what’s in their eyes.”

The artist shrugged and lifted the white paper stencil onto the woman’s chest, smoothing it out. Neither of them looked up at Jamie, who wondered, for a moment, whether something with the frog had rendered him invisible. The woman had a teardrop inked on one cheek, a rose with the name Terry on her shoulder, and a swastika arrayed around her belly button. Then the tattoo guy lifted up the stencil and held up a mirror for the woman to see.

The woman, who had straight black hair, nearly Asian looking, lifted her chin and arched her back, twisting her head this way and that as if admiring a new piece of jewelry.

“Bingo,” she said.

The tattoo was of the top half of a woman’s torso: cartoonish breasts even bigger than the woman’s own, seductive shoulders, neck ending in a raggedy edge, right at the hollow at the base of the woman’s own throat.

“All right,” the tattoo guy said, revving his gun. “Lie back.”

Jamie should go. Maybe he wasn’t even here. Maybe they were so high they hadn’t noticed him. Very slowly, very carefully, he began walking backwards, feeling as if he was rewinding time.

“You want something?” the tattoo guy said, at the same moment he inked the curved line of the bottom of one of the figure’s breasts.

“Uh, it’s okay,” Jamie said.

“Sit down. I’ll be done in a while.”

Jamie gestured toward the door. “I’ll be back….”

The guy laughed, looked at the woman. “A B-back,” he said.

“Let him go.”

“Sit down,” the guy said.

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36. JAMIE: The Slave

o.”

Jamie felt the muzzle of the rifle dig into his ribs, but still he hesitated.

“This stuff is dangerous,” he said.

The tattoo artist laughed. “That’s what you’re for. Now git.”

Fog rose from the fields that stretched all around them, newly plowed in preparation for the spring planting. There was a barn, empty except for hay, to his left; the farmhouse lay dark and slumbering in the distance to the right.

And ahead, curved and white as the moon, looking like a giant white capsule — a big metal Tylenol, maybe — elevated on stilts was the tank. The tank that held the anhydrous ammonia fertilizer. The stuff Jamie was charged with stealing so that the tattoo artist and his Nazi girlfriend could brew up a big old batch of crank.

Jamie had never been involved in this part of the process before. He was usually up for the smoking, and maybe a little bit of the distribution, with some light assistance thanks to the family pharmacy on the manufacturing end.

But running across farmland in the middle of the night with an empty propane tank in one hand, a cordless drill in the other, and a length of tubing knotted around his neck: That was not his thing.

He tried to tell them that, but they informed him that he didn’t have a thing anymore. He was a slave now, they said. And if he didn’t do what they told him to do, he’d be dead.

He could feel the rifle trained on his back as he rapped on the tank, as they’d instructed, to locate the exact level of the anhydrous. Once he figured out where that was, he was supposed to drill into the metal, insert the tubing, then tip the whole thing ever so carefully to fill up the smaller tank without spilling anything.

A spill would be disastrous, even if it didn’t eat into his flesh or make him go blind or burn out his vocal chords. The sharp smell, the cloud that would form over the whole property, the potential for a massive explosion: These things could attract unwanted attention. And would result, the Nazis told him, in his imminent demise.

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47. JAMIE: Homecoming

e felt like he was wearing a diaper.  God, that was depressing, but not as depressing, he guessed, as ending up with one ball.  Not as depressing as lying dead in a field.  Not even as depressing as being 37 years old and having no job, no wife, no kids, no home, and not an ounce of fucking ambition.

He leaned on George, clutching the towel he was wearing like a skirt.

“I don’t know if I want to go back there,” he said, stopping outside the MAL, which looked weirdly like someone was trying to open it up again.

George sighed heavily.  “You don’t have anywhere else to go.  And your sister’s been out of her mind with worry about you.”

“She’s going to give me such a hard time.”

“Jeez, Jamie,” the vet said.  “Pull up your socks, would you?”

“Can’t I just stay with you?” Jamie said.  “I’ll sleep in the stable, help you with….whatever it is you do with horses.”

“No,” George said shortly.

“Jesus, Taryn was right,” Jamie said.  “You really can be a prick.”

“Listen,” George said, letting him go so precipitously he thought he was going to crumple right there on the sidewalk.  “I don’t need to do this.  I’ll leave you right now if you want.”

“No, man,” Jamie said.  “I’m sorry.  I want to go home.”

Want wasn’t exactly the word.  Need was more like it.  Didn’t have anywhere better to go at the moment, especially with one semi-detached ball, was the real story.

He hobbled up the staircase leaning on George’s now distinctly stiffer shoulder.  As they got toward the top of the flight, he could hear voices inside.  His sister haranguing the old man, no doubt, trying to get him to lay off the booze.  Just as she would undoubtedly do to Jamie.

But wait, he thought, as the voices became clearer.  That didn’t sound like his father.  That didn’t even sound like English.  Jamie had never quite made it over to Europe, but he recognized French when he heard it.
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53. JAMIE: The Secret of Happiness

eality was seriously overrated.

Get clean, everybody said. Stop drinking. Quit smoking. Just say no to fucking drugs.

Well, maybe if you were fucking Nancy Reagan or fucking Michelle Obama living in the fucking White House, high on your beautiful fucking life, that might be a reasonable way to live.

But here? Living in one squalid little room in his father’s house with no job and no woman and very nearly one whole ball melted off? That was not a reality he cared to inhabit.

Downstairs, ha ha ha and ho ho ho, the party was going on. He couldn’t stand that kind of thing, sitting around with a bunch of people he barely knew talking about nothing and pretending to have fun. And doing it sober? He’d rather melt off the other ball.

To make matters worse, somebody had cleaned his room. If it was depressing when messy, this looked like the chamber of the kind of person who ate squirrels for dinner. Squirrels he caught with his bare hands and then fried alive in the microwave. Cheap 1970s dresser with bong burns and beer can rings on top. Saggy mattress on the floor covered with barf-stained bedspread. Wine-crate bookcase stuffed with yellowing paperbacks of the complete works of Charles Bukowski and Hunter S. Thompson. And not even any old newspapers or clothes lying around to hide the essential hideousness.

His stash. He’d left one here, he was nearly totally sure: a small one, of indeterminate contents, but still.

He’d already made a cursory search of the neatened-up room to see if anything remained, but he hadn’t located the bong, any prescription bottles, or the emergency bottle of bourbon he always kept in the bottom of his laundry basket.

Now, though, he started searching through the more obscure corners of the room, the pockets of the jackets he hadn’t worn since hard winter, pockets of jeans that had become too big for him, envelopes that might be layered among the papers someone had “helpfully” piled in a tall stack on his dresser. Every few minutes, he had to stop to adjust his sweatpants and the gauze taped over his crotch area. Ouch. One more thing that needed to be anesthetized.

Finally, in the inside pocket of an old corduroy pocket he’d dimly remembered borrowing from Senior last fall, he found it: a little baggy with a few stray leaves and seeds left from a much larger stash. In flusher times, he wouldn’t have even bothered to keep scraps like this, much less smoke them, but everything was different now. Now his heart fluttered in anticipation of the burn at the top of his lungs, at the liftoff of the top of his head, at the transcendence over the rest of so-called reality.

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68. JAMIE: New Man

t took him at least ten minutes lying there, listening to the silence, to believe that he really might be home alone.

No babbling in French. No female voices nagging him to clean something up. No Jimmie Sue woo woo or Senior dementia. Just…..silence.

He turned over which nudged Iggy awake. The iguana lazily opened its jaws and then snapped them down, more quickly than Jamie might have believed possible, on a beetle or maybe that was a cockroach scrabbling over his covers.

He’d been working hard to lure the bugs and the dust and the chaos back into his room, just to show his sister who was boss, if only of this 12 by 15 foot patch of ghetto. Let her scrub the cracks and align the corners of the rest of this dump; she wasn’t going to get the better of his room.

Jamie got up, brought Iggy into the shower with him, then let the animal perch on his shoulder while he gulped a cold cup of coffee left from the pot and ate the ends of all the food on the plates piled near the sink, ranging from peanut butter and jelly crusts to what tasted like a roquefort and leek omelet.

Where was everybody? What time was it? What should he do, now that he could do anything?

He flipped on the TV, but it seemed as if somebody had disconnected the premium cable: No more porn on demand. He considered jerking off anyway, but he’d done that already last night. Somebody had cleaned away all the magazines and newspapers. He had the feeling he’d been reading a book, and that he’d even liked it, but he couldn’t remember what it was or where it had gone.

There was nothing left to do but go out. At least there was nobody to stop him. He went downstairs, Iggy still on his shoulder, leaving the door open since he’d long ago lost track of any keys. His poor melted crotch was feeling a bit better, he noticed, though he still limped a bit taking the steps.

The streets seemed strangely empty. Now that he was outside, where was he going to go? His default destination, the Go Go, was shut down. There were other bars in town, but not ones where he knew anybody, and besides, he hadn’t had a drink in — he couldn’t even remember how long. Plus, he had no money. No girlfriend. No friends.

No friends except the miracle of Iggy, that is. He stopped in front of the MAL, giving his pet’s hide a proprietary pat, and that’s when he noticed it. The old place looked different. Cleaner. He pressed his forehead to the glass of the front window and peered inside. Damn if it didn’t look like somebody was fixing the place up.
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