A Short Story

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Everything went down about three days ago.

We were at Vesuvio’s, a Friday. The bar was busy but really, that old beatnik bar, right on Columbus, that ol’ Kerouac hang-out, was always like that Friday nights. That’s why you go — to be around the around.

Earl, Chi, Angie, the one guy who’d just gotten out, and a few others are drinking in a booth downstairs by the water cooler. One of the guys nobody really knows buys a round, paying their way in a sense. Free alcohol’s a sign of respectability.

“So, three days to today,” I start but then, I get a text. “Hold up.”

I get up while everyone starts moaning and groaning. Me, I wave them off as they throw cherry red cocktail straws and rainbow-colored Hawaiian umbrellas at my back.

“HEY!” the barman barks. He’s a living, breathing scarecrow that guy is. “You going to clean that up?”

I see Earl or Chi or maybe the guy who’d just gotten out stand up and go to the bar out of the corner of my eye. I brush past the bouncer who’s now going over there. I’m out on the street with the traffic, the sad faces, the construction, the long lips, dust spraying in my eyes. The sun’s somewhere in the sky between two and six o’clock in the afternoon. I don’t know. I’m no astronomer.

My new dealer pulls up and I get in the back seat.

“UBER sticker on the windshield,” I say, “That’s smart.”

I met him at a club nobody knew I went to. He put his name in my phone as Lover C. He drives up Grant towards Bay and veers into a one-way street and into a driveway of a house that’s under construction. It’s Friday so, everyone’s gone.

“100? 80? 60?” I take out one-fifty and hand it to him.

“What’s with the black leather gloves, man?” Lover C asks taking my cash. “You look like fuckin’ OJ.”

I open and close my hands as I fake a chuckle. The leather of the gloves stretches creating a distant squeal, like a pig being water hosed behind a closed door. I ignore his question.

“Dealer friend of mine got found over on Illinois and 25th last Tuesday,” C starts to tell me, “You know where all those hobos suck each other off?”

My eyebrows raise. “Nah, I don’t really hang out where hobos suck each others cocks C.”

I feel a text buzz in my breast pocket. I don’t look at it. A black car passes behind us slowly, never halting C’s money counting. A dog barks somewhere. There’s some shouting. The sound of siren careens down Embarcadero.

“I should move to this neighborhood,” I say, “Peaceful.”

C looks over his shoulder. “Get in tech,” he says. “Yo, there’s an extra $50 in here. You know that, right?”

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I look at him. “And why would that be?” I ask.

C unbuckles his seat belt as I unbuckle mine.

Before I take the car over to my place to check on Kelly, I stop at Trader Joe’s for some groceries. The other night, I opened my fridge and nothing looked good. I fucking hate that.

“Chicken,” I said to myself as I snaked from aisle to aisle, “Should start eating chicken and veggies and quinoa and shit…the good stuff.”

Kelly’s on the bed where I left him. The news spouts the usual chaotic bullshit as I check his wrists and ankles.

“You gotta’ keep these sunglasses on,” I tell him, “You know how hard is for me to look into your eyes.”

I slip them back on, feed him some Odwalla Superfood through a straw and drive to Buddha Lounge in North Beach. The crew had wandered up there after Vesuvio.

“I’m trying to get a hold of Kelly but he’s not picking up.” This is coming from a girl I don’t know. I’ve seen her before but, I don’t know her.

“I’ll text him again,” I say.

“Finish your story or whatever Anthony,” Chi or Earl asked me. “You left us hanging back there.”

I pause, think back, and tell them a story.

Mitchell Duran is a freelance writer. He earned a Master’s in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University in 2019. Find more work at Mitchellduran.com

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