Now and then I’ll be publishing my own attempts at fiction. These works will be changed and edited from time to time, as I see fit. Works evolve. If a piece of work suddenly disappears it’s because it a) either got published somewhere or b) I deemed it embarrassing. They are copyright me and all rights are reserved by me…
KD heats up a bot on the kitchen counter with readied glass. It’s her glass so Rachel can’t complain. Rachel calls the glass a tumbler. How pathetic. KD doesn’t know where Dale gets the hash and she doesn’t care. She’s been waiting for this, her post-work-hit, all day. She only does two hits a day. The pre-bus-hit helps with the commute; keeps her from freaking out. The post-work-hit is her reward for another long slog at the shit shop. Dale’s hash is good shit – Pakistani shit – nice and brown – sticks to the paperclip nice and heats up fast. She watches the smoke fill the cup and smiles. This must be what running a warm bath is like for Rachel. Where is that bimbo anyway? KD’s hungry for dinner already.
The TV isn’t on. That means Josh and Dale are each doing their own thing. Josh is on the couch. The couch that Rachel’s parents, when they make a surprise visit, never actually sit on but rather stand close by or lean against. He’s strums his unplugged Jazzmaster, jotting lyrics down on his notepad. Dale is getting his nerd fix at his desk. It’s all graph paper, books, dice and little pewter men. Even more pathetic. Both are happily oblivious to each other. Come to think of it, Rachel’s folks always leave their shoes on too. What a bunch of assholes. Dale’s really been into his gaming crap lately and he’s missed rent twice.
KD takes in her hit. Soon she’ll be all warm and grinning – like she’s wrapped a big brown blanket around herself. She hears the door being unlocked downstairs and then footsteps up the stairs. Little feet in little boots trying too hard to be quiet. It’s Rachel – finally! She comes around the corner, clutching her canvas bag, looking even whiter than usual.
“Why you lookin’ so worried, Rae?”
“Oh, it’s…nothing I guess.”
“OK fine. It’s those kids. The ones who are always hanging around across the street at the YMCA with their black hoodies and black bandannas. Isn’t that a gang uniform or something?”
KD feels her eyes begin to roll before she can stop it. “You’re always going on about them, they’re just kids, man. They never bother you, do they?”
“Well, no, but – ”
“Just mind your own business and they won’t bother you, so quit worrying about it!”
“Yeah but something happened -”
“What happened?” says Josh who, having abandoned his guitar, is already in the kitchen.
“Just the usual, Rae being a goddamn snoop,” says KD, grinning. “Maybe you spy a little too much from the window, eh Rae?”
“What! No! And I don’t appreciate being called a snoop,” Rachel’s face is all red now. “Anyway, I’ve got to start dinner soon.”
“Sure OK,” says Josh as he digs into his back pocket and unwraps what’s left of his weekly gram – compliments of Dale.
Rachel turns around to face the fridge. “And can’t you two do that somewhere else? You know I can’t stand the smoke.”
“Whatever, I’m done,” says KD.
Josh gives up on his stash and lights a cigarette instead. Apparently, Rachel can handle cigarette smoke. Dale walks in, pulling his earbuds out.
“Hey, guys. What’s for dinner?”
KD stares down at her dirty tumbler. It’s hard to keep a straight face around Dale. Nothing until you pay the goddamn rent, she thinks.
Rachel manages half a smile. “Butternut squash soup. I just came from the market.”
“Sounds nice. How long ‘till it’s done?”
“Oh, forty minutes, at least.”
“Dale,” says KD, “just what you working on over there in the corner?” KD already knows the answer.
“Oh, you know, the usual. The game for the kids over at Scadding Court. I’ve got this great campaign planned for them, sort of a castle siege-”
“Fucking pathetic nerd shit, man,” KD takes Josh’s cigarette and drops the ashes into an open tuna can before taking a drag.
Dale turns away to face Rachel.
KD mutters something under her breath.
“That’s too late for me, Rae,” says Dale. “I’m starving. I’m sure it’ll be great but I’m going to get some quick MacD’s. Save me some leftovers, will ya?”
“No, Dale. I wouldn’t go -”
“Dale! Today’s rent day,” says KD, almost yelling, smoke twisting around her mouth and nose like one of Dale’s miniature dragons. “You got that?”
“Uh, look I’m a little short again this month, but I’m gonna pay triple next month, I promise.”
“Shit Dale, it was double last month, now triple. What next, quadtripple?”
“That’s quadruple, actually,” corrects Rachel.
“Shut up!” KD turns to Dale, “You smoking all your merch, man?”
Dale reaches over Rachel’s head, rummaging through the cupboards. “No…Well, somewhat. More than usual. Look, triple next month. I promise. No quadtripples!”
“Bullshit!” KD takes another long drag. “Josh, you seen his supply lately or what? Bullshit! You’re smoking it all, aren’t you! I’m sick of covering for you – fat fuck!” KD slams Josh’s cigarette into the tuna can and it topples onto the floor but Dale missed the outburst. He’s already heading back to his desk; his earbuds in; a trail of high-pitched cymbals and guitar follows behind.
Josh offers KD another cigarette. Rachel’s already on her hands and knees, dealing with the mess.
“Fucking Dale,” says KD calmly, flatly, “Dale and his fat ass sitting in that gross shit-stained chair all day, tossing dice, jotting down useless bullshit. Doesn’t leave the house except to play with those dumbass kids. Calls ’em ‘my kids.’ So fucking pathetic. Ever since they gave him that award – I want to rip it off the goddamn wall.”
“He’s bought a lot more of that gaming shit lately. That stuff doesn’t come cheap,” says Josh.
KD looks down at Rachel. “You gonna start dinner or what?”
Rachel works at the stain with a cloth, scrubbing furiously, “Look, I don’t think we should let him out tonight. To get food, I mean. I have a bad feeling.”
“What the hell are you talking about, Rae?”
“Something disquieting happened tonight. With those YMCA kids. Something to do with Dale.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know the really rough looking one with the face tattoo? He…he knows Dale! He asked about him specifically. He was sort of polite but…it was just weird. He knew Dale’s last name! How does he know Dale’s last name? I’ve never seen Dale talk to those kids, not even so much as a nod! Anyway I did my best to avoid further conversation and went inside.”
Josh takes back his cigarette, gazing at his feet. “Maybe they’re just looking to buy. Dale’s a popular guy.” He takes a drag.
“I don’t know, I got a really strange feeling. Those kids…they creep me out.”
KD snatches the cigarette. “Whatever! They ever really bother you? Huh? They’ll cat call anything in a skirt, sure, but don’t take it so serious! Listen, Dale’s coming back. Don’t let on. Not a word, OK? He’ll get all paranoid and shit. Dale’s already annoying enough.”
“Not a goddamn word!”
Rachel’s takes the squash out of her bag. She puts it on the counter and starts to cut, sighing. If it’s really nothing than what harm can come from telling him? She starts pulling other ingredients down from the cupboards. She nearly confuses thyme for rosemary. Can they even tell the difference? Why bother? Dale’s already got his army jacket on. She can hear his keys jangling and his earbuds blaring.
“Keep yer mouth shut, Chef,” says KD, nearly whispering.
Dale heads down the stairs. Rachel turns on the range fans – the whirling sound is somehow a comfort. Soon the the smell of a nice butternut squash soup will mask out that wretched smoke.
“See you guys in a bit,” he says.
Rachel drops an onion and it rolls towards KD’s feet. Bending over to pick it up, she notices KD’s crooked smokey smile.
“Yeah, see ya,” says KD.
“Why wouldn’t you let me warn him?” whispers Rachel.
“About what? Hey, where are you going with that onion?” KD laughs as she kicks it out of Rachel’s reach.
Rachel picks up the onion and heads towards the window. KD shoots her a look that simply says, what the fuck.
“I just want to see-”
“C’mon Rae, you’ll do more harm than good like that. C’mon dinner’s not gonna cook itself.”
A black sedan with tinted windows pulls up in the alley next the YMCA. The kid with the face tattoo is bent over. He’s talking to the driver while the other three hang back, looking pensive. It’s dark. Are they looking for, Dale? Dale’s already gone. Probably already at the MacD’s, eating a burger. It all seems OK. Nothing too strange happening. Rachel walks back to the kitchen. Dinner won’t cook itself.
The soup smells good. Rachel sets the table for three. Soon they are all seated at the dining room table near the window.
A bass drum starts to blare from a car stereo outside. A shout echoes in the street. Rachel can’t make it out. Then there’s more. They all overlapping. Was that Dale’s voice? KD gets up. She smiles and closes the blinds. Rachel is holding a bread plate. It wobbles and the bread tumbles off. KD catches it before it hits the table.
“Sit down, Rae.” KD tears a piece of bread off. “It’s just some stupid drunks. Happens almost every night.”
No one talks. Under the din of music there’s more shouting and then thumping but then a car peels away and it all stops very suddenly. Rachel starts portioning the soup into bowls. Eventually the silence is broken by the sound of sirens and then cop radios. Blue and red lights flicker against the walls through the narrow slits of the blinds and KD and Josh have had two helpings of soup each. Rachel stares down at her uneaten bowl. Was that Dale’s voice? she mouths. She stares, listening. Josh and KD have disappeared – they’ve gone back to KD’s room. The flickering lights have stopped but the cops are still there, chatting on their radios. No other cars drive by. KD let’s out a series of muffled moans, followed by Josh. What could be a gurney makes contact with the sidewalk. Rachel gets up and starts clearing the table. Someone’s speaking calmly, collectively. Doors slam shut and the ambulance drives off. “No sirens,” she says.