(C)Tooluser December 2010

This story is fiction, and any resemblance to real people or places is entirely coincidental.

Apologies for the long gap between updates this time. I've hammered at it and I'm still not happy, but hey: time to move on to the next part!

Hope you like it, anyway.


Heaven Next Door
Part 9

Worst thing about bein’ so stupid and making Raylene hit me was I got to stay away from Bill ’til I didn’t look so bad. Duke said I’d get fat sittin’ around on my ass, which I guess was kind of a joke, but he said too as how it was time I started helping out the family and earnin’, so took me out riding in this little old panel truck what he got hisself. I was scared at first, thinking maybe he was gonna start cracking houses like Pop and hadn’t told him, but he said no.

Seems like that favor Duke done that guy in the Pen’s paying off big time. He was kinda pissed they’re startin’ him off on the soft stuff, but it means he can start workin’ right away without havin’ loads of stock around the house while the Snoops’re still watchin’ him for parole. Already he got real good weed and some pills too and maybe more stuff comin’, only he gotta show as how he knows his shit and ain’t just all talk.

Nicest thing, though, was I seen how I’m really gonna help Duke, an’ that’s real cool. See, we started off goin’ to see this guy, mister Deedie. I liked him – he’s just a ordinary, skinny kind of a guy, but he dresses sharp like Mom did when she was workin’ the bars. I don’t mean he was wearin’ a dress, or even faggy: just a big white hat and suit, and a silky red shirt and shoes what were shiny black and white. Only difference was Mom’s flash was all diamonds like our bathroom faucets, and mister Deedie’s necklaces and bracelets and stuff was all silver, but cut in that glittery kind of a way.

Right off he jerks his thumb at me and says who’s the punk, and I never did think to see Duke bein’ polite to no nigger, but Duke he just says how it’s okay mister Deedie: he been thinkin’ on the U weed. Duke says look, his face good for stick-ups, but it ain’t background. If he started hangin’ round student coffee bars, the management’d be phonin’ for back-up afore he blown the froth off of his mocha latte – that’s kind of fancy hot chocolate, Duke says. Anyhow, there’d be a whole lotta trouble. So he says how I can carry stuff and make deliveries, and he’ll only come in if some cheap-ass tries to get smart. And mister Deedie nods and says okay, just like he can tell Duke what to do!

I ask Duke about it after, and he just hits me upside the head and says how we gotta only call ’em bruthas and homies and like that, now. I said what about Pop? And Duke just said what about him? And how this is business, so I shut up.

Anyhow, it were real exciting. See, after, Duke gimme a cell phone! I just kept wantin’ to fold it open and shut and listen to it go “shzzzwing!” And I just had to call Raylene just so as I could use it, but really it’s so Duke can call me and tell me to go places, and so I can call him if anyone tries to rip us off. He don’t mind who else I call though, on account of he had it fixed special so it’s all for free.

The U is kind of like its own ’hood. Duke drove me around the streets and told me all their names, but a lot of places you can only get to by walkin’. That’s when I really figured out the why and how I’m helping, ’cos of course soon Duke’s gone all pale and sweatin’ and he’s got them grooves around his mouth, but I know better than to say about his leg or even about sittin’ down. In the end though, I done a wicked thing and I know come Sunday mornin’ I gotta tell Pop and he’ll whup me for lyin’. Duke had been reading out all the street names and store names for me, and I waited ’til we’d circled back almost to the truck and then said as how I couldn’t remember no more right now, so we went back home.

Duke’s leg must-a been hurtin’ him real bad, on account of he didn’t fuck me. I was kinda sad – it’s been a whole lot of fun since Duke found out about that gear from the fag store. Of course pretty much all the leather stuff was too big for me: I could just slide my hands and feet right out, so it’s only pretending and he don’t like that so much. Pretty much the only things what fit me apart from this little ball with straps on it are the cuffs – Duke likes the cuffs on account of them not being faggy.

Duke’s gotten a whole lot more relaxed now he ain’t got to worry about me yellin’, though the first time I done him a Shaynie Special with him sittin’ on a chair, when he nutted he groaned so loud I asked him, after, if maybe he shoulda worn that ball-gag thing, and he gimme this real long noogie and kinda play-slaps all over, but especially on my ass, so I always liked wearin’ both sets of cuffs after that.

Duke says the cuffs are real police ones and he keeps the keys in his wallet – ain’t that nice? - but I know they’re just pretending too. I’ll ’fess up if he ever finds out, but when I first saw ’em they each had a little book tied on. Couldn’t read it, but the pictures was real clear: if you pull on ’em just so, and press these two little buttons what look like screws they pop right open. It’s real easy.

Well, all this done good gettin’ the time to go by, but all the time inside my head I’m thinkin’ about Bill and missin’ him cruel.

* * *

Bill drove out of the site gates staring ahead, his face a perfect mask, concealing his fear. Usually the end of a shift was pure pleasure, and he could enjoy the ache of well-used muscles and the sense of the job moved on toward completion; the feeling of organization and useful coming-together that he loved about this trade. Plus, of course, the thought of a few hours blissful sleep before he had to work again. Today he doubted he’d sleep at all.

The face of his son loomed in his imagination, and Bill found himself turning off his usual route, unwilling to go back to the house, needing time to calm his stomach and nerves after Jake Schneider had shaken him up so.

Jake had been talking everyone’s ear off about his nephew, who’d won a basketball championship – singlehanded, apparently – and now looked set for a scholarship. Like everyone else Bill had complimented him, genuinely pleased for Jake and his son: trying to show that, and ignore the memories of Jay that it roused. He’d worked all that morning with an increasingly sour belly and throat; twice mis-measured simple components and once cut a mitre in completely the wrong direction.

Worse, at meal break Jake had handed round the team photo, proudly pointing out his beanpole of a son fourth from the left. Bill’s glance had caught the gleam of blond hair in the second row.

That blond kid had looked nothing like Shayne, of course: four years older and two feet taller, but Bill had been shocked at how he’d responded. Not just his cock hardening at the memory of that warm little mouth, teasing him beneath the table, but his hands and his skin tingling from the memories of stroking the boy. For the briefest of moments Bill could have sworn he heard, no, felt, Shayne’s voice; both that light, back-woods twang and the shivering intimacy of that little whisper, warm in his ear and whispering his name like a charm.

Hard on that came the memory of Shayne crying in the pod, and his confused attempt to give the boy at least some pleasure, followed by his promise to himself. Little Shayne was safe with him, he’d vowed: he was never going to make the boy cry that way again. Even the memory of the little monkey teasing him with flashes of his stiffie and wriggles of his little butt as they drove to the mall hadn’t shaken Bill’s resolve.

The other side of a glass bubble, traffic drifted past. Some minor part of him responded to stop lights and turnings: shifted gears and avoided other drivers, but the rest of him sat numbed; choosing nothing and changing nothing, swept along in the machine flood.

He’d vowed. Yet a glimpse – and a mistaken glimpse at that! - of a boy in a photograph had reduced all that willpower to nothing. The safest thing for Shayne would be if he never saw him again; never spoke to him; never kissed him; never fucked him. Never made him cry.

Because he would, Bill thought as he flicked the turn signal, absently scanning for a break in traffic. The words he’d spoken to Jay came back to mock him now: “God gives us choice so that we can choose the right.” At the time he’d been proud of himself; the voice of reason counterpoint to Mary’s shrill denunciations of sin and shame. He’d gone back time and again to the logic of the situation. Men and women together were natural because such love was purposeful, he’d said. God had commanded us to “be fruitful” and Jay’s “lifestyle” could, self evidently, not be that. He’d done his best to force down his growing frustration at Jay’s stubbornness, and carried on talking, battering at that brick wall, trying to get through to his son.

Bill pulled the handbrake and rested his head on the steering wheel for a moment, trying to get his breath, his heart a hot stone in his chest. He remembered Jay crying, saying: “No! it’s not like that – you don’t understand! Can’t you see?” Why had his son’s tears meant so much less to him than Shayne’s?

Bill sat up, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, and found he’d arrived at his church. He’d even parked in his usual space in the lot. The building stood, whitewashed and square, its tall windows gleaming gold in the sunlight, the very image of everything wholesome and good.

His throat ached. From where he sat, the hall and the administrative buildings were hidden in back of the church, and he was glad. He wondered if they still held those regular re-education meetings, or whether the Prayer Action Group was too busy with its wider activism now.

The meetings had seemed to help for a while. He remembered the warm feeling of belonging, of caring; the gratitude he felt to those willing to help him save his son. The furious arguments had lessened as other, quicker minds had found arguments Bill hadn’t thought of. Jay had grown quieter, more thoughtful it seemed, and the outpouring at those meetings in which they’d all joined had seemed helpful: cathartic.

Then that awful day: Mary hysterical on the phone. Bill hadn’t been able to make sense of it, just that Jay had done something and she needed him home, right now. Turned out later he’d ran three Stop signs haring back to the house, but the journey remained a complete blank to him, even now.

The neighborhood had seemed eerily silent. He’d stumbled up the path and into that icy hallway; seen Mary emerge from the sitting room with a bundle of papers in her hand and an expression of impotent fury such as he’d never seen before.

A chilling document, that. No, not a document – what had Mary called it? A deposition.

Photocopies of newspaper clippings: “Preacher Jailed for Gay Cure Scam”; “Cult Gay Cure Banned”; “State Faith Legislature Derailed.” A thick wad of legal stuff Mary said to skip right over, and the diary.

Or rather a photocopy of that diary. Bill saw the prayer meetings documented, quoted. His talks with Jay written out with merciless clarity. Bill recalled running his finger over the smooth gray surface of the paper, tracing his son’s anguished, jagged handwriting, his underscorings, the blotches of his tears. Those had rapidly lessened, but somehow it made worse reading the cooler and more collected the accounts became. No – cooler was the wrong word. Harder, like the rocky skin covering molten lava; sharp like its glassy shards.

Pointed too. Reading on, Bill been shocked at how frequent the entries were. Surely they hadn’t – he hadn’t hounded his son so mercilessly? And with the entries for Mary, and the prayer group, and Pastor Merriman, and his Turn again to God program -

He’d looked up at Mary, appalled, and she’d nodded, her face grim.

“Says he’ll do it,” she’d managed to say through gritted teeth.

“’N I will.”

Bill had heard Jay’s voice and looked up to see his son slumped against the doorframe. Even now he could feel the shock of realizing Jay was drunk. One cheek was reddened and swollen, and his mousy-brown hair hung down over one eye as always. He’d flicked it back, almost overbalancing as he did so, and speared Bill with a look of such mingled pain, hate and desperation that Bill had looked down, covering his face.

“Told Mother - don’t matter ’f you win,” Jay’d slurred. “You c’n hire who you like -’ll get in the papers. Ev’ryone likes good story.”

“Bill! Do something!”

He had. He’d looked up and seen the greenish hue invading Jay’s face – rushed over, to be stopped cold by the look on his son’s face.

“Don’t touch me!” Jay had snarled, his eyes blue flames. “Don’t ever touch me again, you bastard!” He’d pushed himself unsteadily off the doorframe and of course Bill had grabbed him to prevent his fall. He’d expected a punch, and been completely unmanned by the sob that had escaped Jay’s tight-bitten lips; that and the thinness of the hard, tense arm he gripped.

His son had always taken after Mary: slender, though without the promise of her height. This wasn’t just natural wiriness though: he was too light; just skin and bones and anger, now.

Unaccustomed to alcohol, Jay had drunk far too much Dutch courage. “Come on son, - you need the bathroom,” he’d said, and dodged as, teeth bared, Jay had struck for his face, fingers hooked, sobbing obscenities. Fresh from reading his son’s account, he’d felt sick shame at once again overpowering Jay and dragging him, struggling, somewhere for his own good. He hadn’t wanted to think about that, telling himself it was better Jay should hate him than choke on his vomit alone.

Later, with Jay in bed and sleeping, Mary had shown him the pot and the pills she’d found while searching Jay’s room. He’d just stared at them blankly, not even hearing what she was saying, and put them in his pocket. Strange to think that the first weed he’d smoked in nearly two decades had been supplied by his son – but that was later. At the time he’d just nodded until Mary stopped talking and then wandered the yard, pacing endlessly as that endless afternoon faded into night. It was the last quiet period in that house for a long time.

He’d never seen how well Jay and Mary were matched until then. They’d fought like alley-cats. Oh, at first never laying a finger on each other, but using words like whips; goading each other on while he blundered behind them in helpless miserable confusion, never saying anything useful; at best only physically separating them. His last memory of holding his son was Jay struggling and punching him as Bill dragged him out of the room; Jay’s voice hoarse as he screamed at his mother: calling her a worthless hypocritical whore with a soul in hock to Nieman-Marcus.

Thank God for the report card. Jay’s grades had been beyond lousy – they’d peaked at D+. Whatever he thought of Mary now, he had to admire her ability to take the long view: no son of hers was going to end up a blue-collar failure.

As the marginally less-hated, Bill had found himself cast as go-between as a truce was hammered out amidst those Arctic silences. Religion, sex, lifetyles, morality never to be spoken of; grades, academic achievement, Jay’s future was all.

The house had settled into deep-freeze; the aching loneliness of three people with too much to say pushing them all apart. Even the absence of Mary’s gibes had been painful; constantly reminding him how eggshell-thin their truce was.

Bill got out of his truck and closed the door with exaggerated care. His head was ringing: clamorous with memories and swollen taut as a drum. He was glad to be here – he hadn’t felt this bad for months. He’d taken to coming to church not to think, but to grope after some kind of peace with what he’d done. It had been difficult talking to Pastor Merriman, or rather, under the terms of the truce, not talking to him; their absence from the group prayer and re-education sessions explained as a time of contemplation.

Bill crossed the lot and pushed open the church door, the golden, silky wood warm beneath his palm. As always now, his heart sank and he dared not look up to the light flooding in through the gold-tinted window behind the altar. He walked to his accustomed pew and knelt, only then daring to look up to the little thing that had gradually become all he could hold onto: the bible-rest before the pulpit.

He loved this sculpture, and not just for carving too beautiful even for envy. Bill felt his heart lift as his eyes traced the sure strokes of the chisel that had liberated those lovely forms from the heart of the wood. Beautiful lime: said to be the loveliest, most responsive of woods to carve. The angels seemed to billow out from the central pillar, not so much flying as suspended, free-floating like soap bubbles, bouyed up by their joy.

They faced North, West, and South, their open mouths breathing the winds of earth as gentle zephyrs. Their faces were joyous and serene, their arms uplifted, jointly supporting His word above. The faces of the angels had the same model: the face he’d recognized from Mary’s art books; the face he’d hunted and obsessively collected. They differed only as the faces of identical siblings differ, by the thoughts and life that animates them, but it was always the Angel of the West that he watched. At first, perhaps, for no better reason than that it faced him directly, but later he’d grown to feel there was some special connection; that it was some special intermediary for him alone.

It. Not a person. A piece of limewood, that part of him insisted was still-living, as all wood was to him. It. An angel: sexless and perfect; seperate and yet a part of the presence, masked with humanity for those cast down too low to raise their eyes to the source. Bill stared up into the smooth, polished curves of the boy’s beloved, breathing face and prayed.

The shadows had shifted by the time Bill looked away from the figure of love, and the interior of the church shimmered: translated to shades of purple and gold. He stood, blinking at the fading after images and became aware of Pastor Merriman watching him.

“Bill!” His pastor strode forward, hand outstretched, his handsome face wearing its familiar smile. “Good to see you!” he said, his square, blunt-fingered hand gripping Bill’s mechanically extended one with all its familiar warmth.

It wasn’t the same though: Bill felt the peace with which he’d risen fading as he recalled the need for caution. He was sure that the moment the letter of the truce allowed, Mary had told the pastor of Jay’s diary: of the evidence he’d gathered of those abusive and illegal sessions; yet the expression of practiced welcome in Merriman’s blue eyes had never changed – until now.

“It’s been a while since I saw you here,” Merriman said, dropping his hand. He glanced aside at the bible-stand, and now, yes, he definitely did look uneasy. “Came by to say goodbye, huh?”

“What?” Bill’s thinking felt slowed, muffled. As though his brain was wrapped in cotton wool.

Merriman nodded toward the carven angels. “We’re putting it into store.”

“What?” Bill felt a wrenching dismay. “But, the artist -”

“He understands.” His pastor looked at him, and though his face wore its usual expression of warm goodwill, suddenly it seemed to Bill to be no expression at all, just meaningless rubber features over an iron mask. Merriman lowered his voice. “We’ve prayed with him, naturally, and – well. It’s a powerful piece, no doubt. He acted in good faith, never meaning to lead anyone astray. Besides,” Merriman smiled and shrugged easily. “It was never meant for display. The full-size piece out by the airport is really the complete, definitive work, isn’t it? He says he’s come to see how removing one, uh, idol has unbalanced the whole piece.”

“Idol?” Bill blinked, dizzy. “What do you mean – removed? You mean someone’s stolen one of them?”

“No, no.” Merriman made a calming gesture. “He removed the eastward facing, uh, element where I stand as, uh, inappropriate.” His cheeks flamed dull red, like a dowager finally comprehending a blue joke. He looked at Bill, his blue eyes searching. “Come on, Bill,” he said, his hand descending unwelcome onto Bill’s shoulder. “We’ve stood it longer than we should, perhaps. Other members reported your,” his lips twisted with distaste, “devotion to this, uh, art – in the kindest way, you understand: purely out of concern at this, um, error. Which we all share!” he added. “Not only in our decision to welcome this, uh – this, but in encouraging your imitations. How is that, uh-” he cleared his throat, “- that new image of yours?”

“Coming along,” Bill said, dry-mouthed.

“Good, good.” Merriman nodded. “No hurry, you understand. In fact -” he swallowed and licked his lips, “- in fact, we intend to house them with the source of their inspiration the moment a more suitable display space can be arranged.”

“Like your basement, you mean!”

Merriman laughed. “You always were a joker, Bill! You know how it is – we have a duty of protection to weaker souls, and – and even the strongest can be tempted, as you well know. We must be strong together and set our faces against temptation.”

Bill couldn’t speak. One word would be too much; a billion not enough. If he’d learned one thing from the whole sorry business with Jay, perhaps he’d learned when to be silent.

He couldn’t bear to look at those solid, handsome features; he turned his face aside, and nodded.

“Well good!” Merriman said, suddenly all bluff joviality. “I knew you’d take it in good part! I’ll leave you then – you know, business to see to; things to do!”

“Busy, busy, busy,” Bill murmured, heartsick as he murmured Merriman’s habitual closing words with him. There’d been a time when the little catch-phrase had been joyful: an intention to do good works; to get involved as they’d all been told. Now they seemed mere empty cant.

* * *

Well when my face healed all up, Raylene got on my ass again after I talked to Lee, and durned if she weren’t right – again. I ain’t never gonna see Bill no more if I don’t hang around out front, so I gotta even if it means meetin’ the Dragon lady. Raylene and me both cain’t figure when she’s gonna be home daytimes and when she ain’t, so I just got to chance it.

Anyhow, this time I come out to wait for Bill – he’s got this deal where he comes home in the afternoon, sleeps ’til evening and then goes out to this second job, and I see how she’s kneelin’ in the front garden, like, right on the dirt, and she’s fussin’ with these little bushes, snipping bits off. So I gone over and looked and I said what’s she doin’, and she said as how she was “pruning” which didn’t mean shit to me until I seen how she was making the bushes into, like, pretty shapes and I said was it her done the ones out back?

Well, she gimme this nasty look and I said, real quick, as how we got this hole in the fence and I seen her pretty garden through that, and then she kinda smiled some. Not a whole lot – more like some of her face kinda melted and bent just a little bit, and she said oh, we was neighbors, right? I seen that look, like when security guys at the mall are figurin’ what you got in your pocket-book and comin’ up short. I was glad all over again I was dressed nice for Bill, so I just said “uhuh,” and then asked what she was gonna make that little bush into, and was it gonna take a whole lot of cuttin’?

She said yeah, it’d take some, and when I said could I stay ’til it was finished, she said it’d take a while. I said s’ okay: I got all the whole afternoon, and she laughed and said as how it was gonna take years.

Yeah, right. So I just played along and said, real cool, as how that was mighty slow cuttin’ and I reckoned I could do it a whole lot quicker, but she said no, you have to cut ’em just so, or they don’t grow right and maybe die. She said as how it was the same with everything – you gotta cut out the bad wood before it strangled the good.

Then she asked was I saved, and that was all right on account of Pop: I know about that and what I got to say not to get whupped. She looked kind of happier and said that it was a particular good I was armored against sin, bein’ a fetchin’ child.

I was kinda scared she’d heard somehow about me gonna be a gofer for Duke, you know, doing fetchin’ for him, but when I asked what she meant she went kinda red-cheeked and said someone’d tell me when I was older.

I didn’t have Clue One what she was talkin’ about, but all of a sudden she wanted to show me more about that “pruning” thing. Said about how you could make trees grow funny by bendin’ their twigs, and it was somehow like people. It sounded like that devil-witching stuff like I seen on TV with them making them little dollies, and I started watchin’ her real close, but she didn’t try to get a snip of my hair or nothin’.

She showed me about how this bit of the plant growed last year, and this other bit growed this year, and I seen how the numberyness of the growin’ made her cut where she done. I seen how this bush gets new branches on opposite sides, two an’ two, but that one gets ’em in threes; this bush grows all its tips twistin’ thataway, but that other one everything kinda just grows away. It was real cool - I never thought of bushes and stuff havin’ numberyness before, but once she shown me it was like, all over everywhere! Once you see the numberyness of the growin’, it’s obvious what way it wants to go, and what way it don’t.

I got all stupid and excited and run about, pointing to different bushes and sayin’ how this one I’d cut here, and that one I’d cut there, and she said yeah, but you gotta have a plan or it just dee-generates: that means the bad kinda drowns out the good, she said. Well of course I knew about that, but Duke says I’m not to talk about his business, so I didn’t say about him havin’ good stuff now and not needing to cut it with so much crap.

She said too, how some things what looks bad ain’t, but some things what looks no problem can really mess everything up. She shown me this little green plant, ever so pretty, and said how if she didn’t keep pulling ’em up it’d grow all over the nice pebbles what she’d raked into pretty patterns and there’d end up being nothin’ decent here at-all. And then she yanked it out and I was kinda sad. I reckon as there’s always room for more pretty flowers and I like ’em more’n stones anyhow.

Then Bill pulled up and I just forgot all about the plants and stuff! I went all stupid and couldn’t say nothing, just stood there dumb as a hump on a stump as he come up the drive, lookin’ real red-eye tired. I missed him so bad it was like all hurtin’ inside and making me shiver, and the Dragon Lady she looked at me, and then said to Bill real sharp what had he done to scare me so?

He said he was sure he didn’t know, but he looked real sad, like he did know but didn’t want to say. He looked at me and said whatever it was, he was real sorry and he wouldn’t do it again.

I got all mixed up inside, wanting real bad to say how nice all that time in the pod was with him, but I still ain’t sure if that nice cuddling is dirty fag stuff or not, and I know better than to talk about that.

Anyhow, it meant I could only say thank-you for Freddie MacBurger’s. Ain’t hardly opened my mouth afore Bill bust in and told her about how I went out for breakfast that morning, only seems like we just met there – and come straight back here, too. ’Course I wanted Bill to say how he had a good time, and how he liked me and how I done him good and how nice and tight my little ass was. I got a special tingle thinkin’ on how I been practicing for next time: I been thinkin’ how if I get on my back then maybe it’ll, you know – be more like a girl? Thataways not only will it maybe be less faggy for him, but I get to do kissy with his nice furry chest and stroke his arms and all like that while he’s fuckin’ me! ’Less, of course he wants to do that senshal stuff, whatever that is - I still ain’t figured yet.

Well, I tried real hard not to think on him being all warm and wrapped around me all nice, on account of having the stupids real bad anyhow and not needing more of ’em!

She said oh, so that was where he went when he was pretending to work, and he said there wasn’t any pretending about what he was doing right now, which was going to bed. I wanted to go to bed too! Only I know even if it was allowed I would have been all wriggly and excited and kept him awake.

She said if he weren’t gonna shower, he gotta sleep in the spare room, and he said how it wasn’t spare, and his voice was all rough. Not growly-rough but like he’d been shouting or cryin’ or something.

She just looked down at the bush and hunched a shoulder and said how it was better spare. She sounded real cool and don’t-care, but I seen how her fingers was shakin’ and she was cuttin’ that bush all wrong.

Well, you know I kind of think about Bill all of the time anyhow, but this time it was different. I felt as how I gotta look after him somehow. So after he gone inside, I went upstairs to my room and got that plastic dickie out from under my pillow and pretended how it was him. Just stupid stuff like talking to it and kissing it and kinda holding it like it was a baby. Just like a stupid sissy playin’ with a doll, I know. It’s like every time I think I’ve used up all my stupids I get to find a new way.

I was sitting there cuddlin’ that dickie and looking at my new cellphone, wishing I had Bill’s number so I could do a different kind of stupid and wake him up, when I got a idea!

See, I never been able to stay awake for when Bill comes home after his late workin’, but my cell, it’s got an alarm! Well, I just got up and jumped all around the room ’til mom yelled what was all the durned racket, so I just yelled “Nuthin’!” and then I kissed my Bill dickie-doll and hid it, just in case.

Thought I never would get to sleep, but I guess I musta, ’cos next thing my cell’s going bingly-bingly from under my pillow. Well, I got dressed all nice lickety-split: a new white top with red love-hearts all over and these nice jeans what Duke let me boost. I was gonna boost some ones like mom wears – you know, tight, but then I thought about the stuff Bill had gotten me and I got some kinda like that. Only then when I wash my face I get to trying to fix my hair and it’s all nohow like usual: keeps fallin’ over one eye and like to drive me crazy. Reckon if everybody what got stuck with curly hair had gotten straight hair instead, with the extra time saved from not cussin’ it we’d be livin’ on the Moon by now.

Anyhow what with all that fussin’ I near forgot my cellphone and it was only I so particular wanted to show it him made me go back and tiptoe through the house again real slow and careful. That took so long, when I come down the drive again I seen Bill’s pick-up turn the corner from Cherrytree, so I ran on like a crazy thing, and waited by the kerb just like to jump all over him when he got out.

I wanted to hug him real bad, but I wanted to jump up ’n’ down even more, and I showed him how you can make my cell go all different kinds of pretty, and how it plays music and takes pictures and all - I got TWO pictures of Bill now! But then I seen how he was just leanin’ against the his truck’s side just dead beat and I was sorry.

So I said could I maybe help him get his tools outta the pick-up and put ’em away? And he gave a jerk like he’d just almost fallen asleep, and said thanks, he’d nearly forgotten ’em. So we went around to the rear and I drug a small toolbag out and Bill he picked up a big one all full of wrenches and bits of pipe and stuff.

Maaan! Even under that dirty old paint-spashed shirt I seen Bill’s arm muscles kind of slide around each other when he done that, and I recalled him all big and warm around me - ’cept part of me was tinglin’ and achin’ and rememberin’ him bein’ big and warm in me and I couldn’t work out if I was gonna melt into the ground or shoot up in the sky like fireworks. Kinda both, it felt like.

And he said don’t worry I’d get to be like this when I growed, and I said “uhuh” like a retard like usual, which I guess was better than sayin’ how I felt like I was his puppy; only not the one what Pop drownded.

So I just followed him up his driveway carryin’ that littler bag in both hands. He were so tired it took him two goes to get his key in the garage door, and then he typed the first six square numbers – the ones what ain’t got but themselves, one, and His magic number inside of ’em – into this little high up pad.

I stood back some when he pulled up the door and then I run in quick, wantin’ to get back to the pick-up. I figured the more tools I shifted, the less Bill gotta.

Only I screwed up: Bill said no! He dropped his tools, run past me, and yanked open the inside door into the house. I just stood like I was struck stiff, my hands grippin’ on that toolbag, and then after a fuckin’ age he come back and went straight over to by the door.

I thought he was chuckin’ me out, and my eyes and throat was all burnin’, but he just reached up to this little box by the door and put a key in and turned it.

Then he said as how his house was full of eyes and stuff and when I’d run in, they’d somehow phoned the pigs or somebody, so he had to go phone them and square it with his magic word and it was all safe now and Mary wouldn’t get woke up.

I said how I was sorry, and he said, hey – don’t matter, and then he got down on one knee and wiped my face real gentle with this old rag he got outta his pocket. It smelled real nice. I thought huffin’ was just fer kids; or maybe that was just bein’ near Bill what was gettin’ me high.

Anyhow I said as I wanted to say sorry and make it all square and I’d get all his tools outta the pick-up, and he gotta sit down in that chair and not stir ’cept to tell me what to do. And I run off afore he could say no.

Well, I come back with his big power drill, and it were easy to see where that went: there was a peg, and like a shadow painted right on the wall. So I done that, and then in the toolbag I seen another tool with a shadow on the wall. So I hooked that too, and Bill said “Thanks, little buddy.” Yeah, he really actually called me his little buddy!

I just flew back to that truck and got more. Not everything had a wall shadow – some had places in drawers, and once I seen the shape of their working I could see how that fitted to the shape of Bill’s workin’ and I could guess. A few times I guessed wrong, and Bill said no, over there, and I could see how it was the shape of his working fighting with theirs. I was real tempted to guess wrong so he’d talk to me more, but I knew insulting the tools’d make all of them pissed, and Ash too. It was kinda weird: scary and nice too, the way it always is with Ash; like I’m dreaming.

It ain’t like a dream though, where you wake and all the crazy stuff ain’t never happened. I knew if his tools did bite Bill he’d bleed real blood – and I figured the ones he’d dropped were already plenty pissed. I did chicken out with this kinda gripping-wrench thing, askin’ him was that a new scratch when it was obvious it weren’t, but Bill took it anyhow and while I finished up he handled it and worked it and put a bit of oil on and I’m hopin’ maybe that helped some.

Well, I kind of slowed to a stop, just doing the last tools slower and slower and watching Bill from under my eyelashes. You know, he’s got the strongest hands. They’re big, but they ain’t clumsy, and I could just watch ’em all day, and I can feel this big sigh kinda buildin’ up inside me as I’m watching him strokin’ and greasing that old wrench and I’m pretending like it’s me.

I’m all on tippy-toes and all of me insides is fizzing like them sparklers. I look up from his lovely dirt-smutched fingers and see as how he’s looking at me. Well, two heartbeats later I got both arms around his neck and I’m getting grease and paint and what-all rubbed off on my new top and I ain’t carin’ a button!

Only Bill kinda groans “No Shayne we mustn’t!” and of course the second he says I could hit myself upside the head for bein’ so stupid. Ain’t I been practicing stuff swearing how next time Bill’s gonna have so much fun the whole fuckin’ zip-code’s gonna hear? Been thinkging so much on making my big guy all toe-curlin’ happy I plumb forgot about Mary the Dragon Lady sleepin’ upstairs – ain’t it the bitch!

I stood there up close feelin’ him all warm and wanting to stay there ’til the stars all fall down and not move or nothin’, ever. I could feel his hard chest and his arm touching my back and the side of his leg making a huge achy-tingle right where it was touching my side and that warm, comfortable smell of him just flooded me while all my insides did that melting sky-rockets thing again.

Darn! I was so close to don’t-fuckin’-care! But I knew if I stayed just one single extra bit longer my hands would-a got to touching where they shouldn’t and we’d have a class-A fuckin’ disaster. So I cussed myself every six ways from stupid, and took a long step back into the cold.

He said, “thanks Shayne,” and I heard his voice was all kinda raspy-rough. All of a sudden I felt as how I wanted to just jump about I was so happy hearin’ how bad he wanted to do my cute li’l ass.

Well, takes me a time to notice he’s talking, so I got to go “huh?” like a retard and he says again and this time I like, bounce off the moon!

See, he’d been thinkin’ about me! Bill has! All the time I been thinkin’ about him, he’d been doing thinking right back! Seems like he got to figuring after hearing how my birthday is on Christmas day, reckoning how I missed out. So he says do I wanna swap and have his birthday instead? Seems like this old British guy Carol done it, so it’s all square and legal. Gotta be a fag, calling hisself a girl name right out like that.

Anyhow, the real cool thing is how Bill’s birthday is only, like, four days away, and he’ll take time off work, and take me out – a special evening for a special boy,” he said, honest like to die: he really said that.

Well, I’m so happy feels like I ain’t so much standin’ in that garage as floatin’. Not so as you’d see, but just a zip above the floor, with all whizz-bang rockets goin’ off in me head. You’d never have guessed if you’d been, oh, stone blind, deaf and dead.

So Bill levels his finger at me, pistol-style and says remember we swapped birthdays now so I ain’t to buy him nothin’. And I say sure and durn near bust my face smilin’ - thinking on what I am gonna give him and how it’s gonna be the best for him, ever!

Well, you can guess how puff-headed and super-stupid I was over them four days. Just skipping around and gigglin’ for no reason. Duke had to bop me one a couple times when I said addresses back to him wrong.

It was good bein’ Duke’s gofer though. Only thing is I got to not use the n-word no more. Duke says if I use it wrong time I’d get cut bad and his whole deal’d go to shit. I said what about Pop? And he said what about it? I thought on it some and said if anyone did cut Pop he wouldn’t bleed more’n a stone anyhow, and Duke said I’d gotten the right of that and to shut up.

Well, maybe it was on account of doin’ different thinkging, but I sure did notice how a lot of – uh, I mean: some of those guys are built. Of course me bein’ Delivery Boy, lot of ’em are smiling at what I’m bringing – some tip me too, and Duke says I get to keep my tips! He said too, though, how I gotta remember how Mom’s gotten herself in too deep a time or seven, workin’ guys for tips. I said uhuh, I’d be careful, being real careful too not to even look at Duke’s bum leg. Pop’s got, like, a sixth sense as well as two rolls of nickels in his pockets, but by the time Duke got to me I’d be toast, sticker in his boot or not.

Still, I guess I’m like mom - I smile at guys natural: I figured I just got to go careful with the extra nice smile and stuff and stick to guys what I ain’t gonna say “no” to.

Not I got a chance, though: seems like Duke’s business was boomin’. I seen Lee’s Jeep parked a couple times near the U and both times I was busier’n mom on Labor Day and wasn’t time to stop and look him out, never mind get friendly with any guy.

Shame about one guy though: Harmony. Yeah, a black guy. Like mom says: thinkin’ gets to seein’; seein’ gets to lookin’ and lookin’ gets to ap-ree-shee-aytin’! Started off bad: I heard yellin’ behind the apartment door before I knocked. So I played safe, and then banged loud, and pretty soon this skinny, dyed-blond streak of piss with more attitude than eyebrows yanks the door open and says “yeah?” and I ask if he’s Harmony. He’s jumpy as shit – definitely one of the guys for what the “see the cash first” rule’s for.

Skinny turns on his heel and yells; “Yours, Harmony! Fuck! - you trolling Junior High for blonds now?” and I seen this scowl atop a pair of shoulders come barrelling down the hallway behind Skinny. He jerks his thumb back over his shoulder and tells Skinny to shut his mouth in front of the kid, and Skinny yells “make me, you two-timing bastard!” and bursts into tears.

Harmony’s too smart to bop him one in front of a stranger – or maybe he wouldn’t have anyhow. He just used his big body to kind of ease Skinny back inside, real gentle like, and all in a flash I got it figured. Ain’t never seen two fags livin’ in Sin before and I could feel as how my mouth just dropped open. They was just like a real family!

Then Harmony got the door shut behind him and was smiling down at me real sweet. Nice smile, and – well, he ain’t wastin’ his time down that gym. “Don’t be frightened, little fella,” he says. “I’m sorry you had to see that. He’ll be okay – he’s just upset.”

Guys with nice smiles give me the stupids so bad! “You’re fags, aint’cha?” I heard myself say. Fuck!

I was well back, but that was only a small stairwell – he could’a reached and bopped me one easy, but he didn’t. Just said: “We love each other, yes.”

I looked from under my lashes, knowin’ I needed to keep my stupid yap shut, but it just bust out: “Cain’t be you bop him none, though.”

“Lord knows I’m tempted,” Harmony said, “but we’ll get through it. Again.”

Slap him hard, then fuck him harder, I was thinkin’, but that time managed not to say.

Harmony cleared his throat. “So – you’re here why?”

I don’t look around and act suspicious: I know I ain’t been on camera and ain’t nobody else here – Duke ain’t stupid.

“You expectin’ a delivery, right?”

Fuck. He’s one of the shocked ones. That’s the trouble with new contacts – you never know, and I brace myself for that long fuckin’ question-and-answer where he tries to figure out if I know what I’m carrying, but not actually sayin’ in case I don’t. Glad I done the safety play.

“Do you know what you’re doing?” he says, and for the first time I’m glad Skinny’s in the picture, because he glances back over his shoulder at that quiet apartment.

So I grin and say, “Yeah, earning five dollars,” and hold my hand out. “Gonna buy me a skateboard! A real cool one!Skateboard’s important, Duke says: got little kid writ all over it. Just stay cool and watch for Snoop questions like if other kids are getting gear that way. “You gimme thirty dollars and I give you your Secret Spies stuff.”

It’s how they play it. Any more questions and I bail. If they figure I’m stupid and wanna pull a rescue, they’re a one-off: do the deal, then put ’em on the shit-list. If they figure “dumb kid – he’ll learn,” they’re okay for a while. If they spot the game and play along, they’re gold.

Harmony glances at the apartment again, shrugs and digs in his sweatpants. Man, I got to learn not to look at hunky guys’ packages when doin’ deals. Especially when they’re free-ballin’ and on the generous side of big.

Wern’t quite soft, too – definitely perky, and I got to thinkin’ how Skinny was one lucky boy.

I was definitely a little pissed when Harmony held the banknotes in front of where I was lookin’.

“You need to be careful what you ask for,” he said as I pulled the envelope out of my inside pocket.

We did the swap. “Yeah,” I said as I stuffed the notes in my pocket and backed away. “And you need to check your hallway.” Out.

Never hang around after you’ve told ’em where the real stuff is. ’Cept I had to add, turnin’ my head to get one last look: “Don’t waste that – it’s good mashed pertayta!” Caught my foot on the step and had to grab for the rail. Worth it though – I’d been right: hot, big, and interested – and with a boyfriend whose name was Trouble. Ain't it just the way?

Well, I did a whole lot of gofering for Duke, and all the time in my head it was like a clock countin’ down to my “special time” with Bill. I was just floatin’ around, and so happy thinkin’ on what a great time we was gonna have. Raylene, she did try to say, but I was just too dumb to listen. I really didn’t think he was mean.

Okay, so it didn’t start out so bad. Used some of my tips and bought some bathroom stuff and I spent like, ages in the shower makin’ sure any bit of me what Bill got close to was gonna smell real nice. I spent extra time on my dickie and my balls of course, and even up inside my uhu as far as I could get my fingers – okay, maybe I done that bit a whole lot more’n I really needed and for a whole lot longer’n I should-a. When I come out that bathroom, if Bill’d been there I’d-a just jumped him and forget the whole rest of his plans!

Bill just said to dress nice, so I wore some nice pants what I reckoned he’d like, and my brand-new trainers. I near put on a button-down shirt, but then I remembered that cropped yeller Spandex turtleneck: the “$ale & Rent” one from that fag shop. It fit me real snug, and with the way it worked my tan, and the way it was cut to show off my smooth little pits I just knew while I was having fun, my guy was gonna spend the whole time thinking about the hot time we was gonna have when we got somewhere more private!

So I put like a bucket-load of product on my hair, and I didn’t even care that it still looked the exact same – if Bill didn’t like curly-haired moppet (not to mention smooth grapefruit-size buns and a killer dimple!) then why was he takin’ me out on a treat, huh? I swear I cocked a hip and smacked my little ass, I was so happy with the way them pants hugged my sweet little cheeks. So I swung into my jacket, and zipped exactly to here, and bounced down the stairs hummin’ some goofy little tune.

Even for a lowlife, you gotta admit Bill buffs up pretty good. So I guess “starry eyed” pretty much says how I was when I saw him. He’d had like, the best haircut I ever seen on him, and he was in this white wedding suit, and in that soft evenin’ light he just glowed.

And – get this – Bill wasn’t drivin’! This other guy, like, come with the car, and he was just gonna sit around, waiting like we was high-class, just in case we changed our minds and wanted to go here, or there instead of where Bill had fixed up. He was all dark against Bill’s white – or maybe it was to go with the shiny car, I dunno. Anyhow, I’d’ve done mister snaky-hips dark-pants in a heartbeat if it weren’t for bein’ scared all the product in my hair would’ve welded me to him permanent.

The inside of the car was all white and bouncy and softer’n your dreams – the good ones, anyhow. It had, like, this little bar in? With all lemon-tea and Tab, and what Bill said was real juice from fruit, only sparkly? I’d ’ve tried it, only I felt like I had all these little bubbles in my belly already, and any more might make me spit up. So I figured since we was ridin’ back in this limo – yeah, he was gonna bring us back too, did I say? I’d maybe boost one on the way home. Stupid little fuck.

So I played with all the toys while I pretended to sip my lemon-tea: the up-and-down smoky window behind the driver was cool, but the TV only had cable. It was all going great, and then we pulled up at Castle fuckin’ Iceberg.

It looked like it could’ve sunk the Titanic, it was that big. All white and square, but glowin’ with these shiny blue lights like that’s some kind of special and narrow, mean little windows and a pissy little door with a red rope around it and a snooty guy standing there with gloves on like he’s cold.

Right up until then, it’d been great: Bill and me’d been like little kids, tryin’ everything and having a ball. But then it was like when we got out, Bill felt like he’d gotta “grow up” or somethin’ and he didn’t think he could cut it. I swear it was like that freaky zoom thing in “Jaws”, only this time it weren’t the background gettin’ bigger, it was Bill gettin’ smaller.

So cold-fingers unhooks this red rope like he’s doin’ us a fuckin’ favor, and Bill looked like he agreed with him. Inside it weren’t so much: real small. Only about a fourth as big as a Freddie MacBee’s and looked like a jungle with these big plants with shiny green leaves in pots all around the walls and little white covered tables. Their music system musta been broke, too – they had three guys with fiddles kinda jammin’ together in one corner instead.

It was real cold, maybe on account of the other folks there who all looked old enough that at least one of ’em got to be dead. They had enough guys standin’ around in those black church suits it looked like they was gettin’ ready for a funeral, anyhow.

So there’s this snooty guy standing behind a big book on a gold stand like it’s church, and he asks us if we’re expected, and I wanna say No, we just fuckin’ dropped in for pot-luck, what d’ya think? But Bill says yes, and then starts explaining how he ain’t here with Mary like he’s scared othewise they’ll figure out he’s this big pedo-fag, which is exactly what it does do, of course and I see all the church-guys’ faces kind of set, like they’re piles of cold shit.

It’s not like we’d be the only fags in the place: I can see a couple or three eyein’ my guy like they’re plannin’ on tradin’ up, and for a second it give me a real nice feelin’, thinking on how it’s my little ass what Bill’s gonna be plowin’ later and all the practicin’ what I done.

Anyhow, so this guy starts walkin’ Bill away, and Bill’s lookin’ exactly like some little kid on leading reins and I go to follow when this shit behind me says “If I may take sir’s jacket?”

Look, it’s cold, everyone else in there is wearin’ a jacket; he’s wearin’ a jacket for fuck’s sake – you think they’d get the hint and crank the thermostat, right?

So I reckon the best thing is just to pretend like I don’t hear and hope he’ll figure it out. Fat chance: he just follows me and says it louder!

And Bill turns round and gimme this look like I’m just a stupid little kid and it’s my fault.

Well no way do I want that creepy guy feelin’ me up, so I unzip and shuck it, and I do it cool: you know – that catwalk spin and grab? So I’m holding it out to him, and the place goes so quiet, for a couple seconds I think I’ve gone fuckin’ deaf.

Well, so then I’m turning round to look for Bill, in the sonic boom of a roomful of hardons maxing out – and he’s looking real mad. So I mouth “what?” but he just jabs his finger at my chest and glares at me.

Well, I figure it cain’t be my top, on account of it ain’t hardly there. If it ain’t showing me, then it’s hugging me so tight it might as well be, only better. Momma says it’s good to make guys work some: figuring out what they gonna get makes ’em want it all the more, and harder – and then all of a sudden I figure it. See, Bill’s already seen everything I got, so he’s gotta be figurin’ I’m doing all this fancy-ass stuff to hook me another guy, and that’s hurtful. Maybe I don’t charge so much yet, but it don’t mean I’m cheap.

If I’d’ve just run then... fuck. But figuring what Bill was thinking of me, I just hung my head so I wouldn’t have to look at him no more and followed him and his bear-leader in the dead quiet.

The table had this sheet on it, and so many silver cutting things I swear I thought it was a hospital. The little cloth things folded up like birds was real neat though.

So we sat down and didn’t say nothing. I looked around under my hair at what the other guys were eating and wished I hadn’t. It was all boiled-up stuff or sloppy garbage and the best I could see about it was it didn’t look like I’d be gettin’ much. I didn’t see any burgers or pizza or nothin’ American ’till I see this guy with a steak patty: darn, I was just hummin’ “...bacon-lettuce-tomato-STEAK-patty-in-a-fresh-steam-bun-mmm-HMMM” when he cut into it and I nearly spit up. Okay so maybe it didn’t actually spurt blood, but it was real gross anyhow.

I totally felt like I’d dodged a bullet when another snooty church guy shows up tryin’ to palm an old necktie off on me!

He said, all down his nose: “If siiir would care to choose?”

Look, maybe the other ancient guys in this place are so fucked in the head they don’t know if their outfit needs a necktie or not, but I fuckin’ do! And if I did want one I wouldn’t choose from a handful that looked like they boosted off the last five guys what died in here!

So I said, real sweet and nice: “No thanks, I ain’t needin’ one.” And Bill, fuckin’ Bill! Says “Oh yes you do.”

Snooty winds this stripy old piece of crap around my neck with some over-and-under strangle deal. He gives me this little smile that’s like “Yeah, take it, bitch!” but to me he’s just somethin’ in my line of sight and when he moves out of it I’m silently telling Bill that if he thinks he can make me wear shit in public with no come-back he’s gonna get a wake-up call so loud his whole fuckin’ zipcode’s gonna hear it.

Another employee of the chapel of Peace shows, but when he says “Menu, sir?” I’m actually glad to see him. Yeah! Push a bit of food around, get out of here and then tell Bill and this fuckin’ neighborhood what an asshole he’s been all night.

Then I find the menu’s got no pictures, just this curly writin’ don’t mean shit to me. Another time it’d have been bad enough lettin’ on how I’m so dumb about book-learnin’, but with the way Bill’s been on their side all night, I got scared. And with him thinkin’ how I was tryin’ to hook other guys maybe he’d’ve thought it was time for, like, payback?

Snooty turns to Bill and his mouth says a whole lot of soft-shit patter, but his face is sayin’ as how whatever Bill orders it’s gonna get here after Snooty’s finished pissin’ on it.

And Bill’s smiling up with this fake smile like Snooty’s doing him a favor. Well, maybe Bill ain’t seeing it, but nobody’s messing with my guy and not getting comeback.

I tried to, like, ask Bill what I should have, but he just smiles real weird and says “Oh, anything you like, hon-, er, Shayne,” with this big fat-ass gesture like he’s Don Perignon or somethin’.

So, fine. I just pointed, and picked the three things with the longest line of writin’. I figured that’s gotta mean they’re putting more stuff in, right? Even if he was being an asshole, I didn’t want Bill to get cheated or nothin’.

If ever there was an expression that was rollin’ your eyes without actually rolling ’em, that was what snooty shit-face was doing right then.

And Snooty bends in half like he’s stickin’ his fanny out for someone to stick a dollar up it, and says to me: “If soeerrr is quite certain? Per’aps...”

But I give him back for disrespecting Bill, and say, real quiet: “No thanks, your taste in fuckin’ neckties is bad enough.”

But of course,” he says moving his face like he’s been bitch-slapped. “Eeef soeur is cerrr-tain,” and he goes off, wiggling the ass he ain’t got, I felt I won a trick, but when I look back round Bill tells me to watch my language. Well, if Bill didn’t want me saying “fuck,” it was for durn sure he didn’t want me using the words what was climbing up my throat right then, so I just shrugged and looked at that fancy folded bird some more.

It got real quiet between us, and for a long time – I’m tellin’ you the service was slower’n a Cracker-Box on a holiday. I’m biting on my lip trying not to cry while I got this red-hot basketball swelling up in my guts, and I just kinda ignored Bill while he said some stuff, I don’t rightly know what.

Then we got the whole goddamn’ parade from the Chapel o’ Rest, and one of ’em give Bill a steak, like, I mean, it was half a cow! Neat! No fries, but at least they put the green and white yuk on different plates like they knew folks wasn’t gonna eat ’em, and I’m thinking maybe it ain’t so bad and I’m gonna get maybe fried chicken or something.

This guy pushed this little wheeled cart out, and it had this shiny dome on it like I’d won some big prize. He wheeled it up real close and then he yanked the shiny cover off, and —

— well, I’m guessin’ you’ve seen that face-sucker in Alien, right? Well, this was like a giant orange cockroach, only it had these real mean big-ass claws on it as well as all armor and shit. Then I realize it ain’t even dead on account of it’s got like, all these shiny hammers and pliers and torture stuff all around and I, — well, I was already movin’ backwards real quick and the chair kind of tipped.

I got cold icyness all down my back where I just know them orange claws were gonna get me, and I kind of half-jumped, like trying for kind of a kung-fu roll?

Well, points for spectacular, but it weren’t nothing like Jackie Chan ever done. I got one of the snooty guys – dunno where, but it felt kinda soft under my trainer and he yelled in a kinda throaty sort of way while the restaurant went kinda upside-down and I landed bam on this little table what tipped over and I got all goop on me, and I felt something grab my heel and I kicked up!

Everyone’s yellin’ considerable now and jumping around. Well they can all go orange bug stomping or stand on the fuckin’ furniture and sing do-lally for all I care, this boy ain’t hanging around.

This big red-face guy grab for me, so I give him low five where it do the most good and that slippery glop helps some as I slip out of his hand slicker’n a used raincoat.

Then as I duck under him some fat chick all teeth and ice starts yellin’ about little monsters – yeah, plural monsters – and I’m like Mom on Spring-o-lators: over the table, under that little red-plush rope, around old cold-hands, and then I’m runnin’ like I just shot the president.

* * *

Once again, hoping you’re still with me.

As always, thoughts, wishes and encouragement warmly welcomed. Flames ignored.

Please mail me at tooluser@hushmail.com

Best wishes,