Third shift always makes me think about murdering my manager. His name is Kenneth, but Corporate made him have KENNY on his name tag. They think it’s friendlier. Horseshit. Bad enough I get to be bossed around by a pimply puke younger than my grandson. Having to call him “Kenny” is insult to injury.
Third shift means switching from late menu to breakfast, so there’s a lot of downtime between bars closing and the working stiffs starting their days. The pair of moths that landed on the drive through last night are still there.
I miss my Gretchen so much.
“I wish I was a dog, Mel.”
Rae was always saying shit like that. This time I wasn’t in the mood. I didn’t say nothing, just kept walking. We had a long way to go before it got light.
“Dog wouldn’t be lost like this. Dog would know where it was.”
That did it.
“I suppose you never heard of a lost dog, then?”
It was just the sound of her crunching footsteps for a long time. She had stopped complaining about her boots, at least.
“They ain’t ever lost except when they want to be. Like us, I expect.”
You know how they are.
Try to take everything from you. They start with small things.
Then the expectations come.
Don’t turn into one of those girls.
Every time you agree to do something, they take it from you.
Every time you do it their way.
It’s not yours anymore.
Sometimes you get so mad you want to tear it all out, make it go away forever.
But you can’t. One way or another, they keep you from doing it.
That’s what they did to me.
They think I’m better, but I’m just pretending.
“See?” she said. “Winter’s not so bad. I bet they’re selling cider at those stands. Want some cider, Randy?”
“He’s bored, Jeannie. Rather be in his room playing that goddamned game. Am I right?” He hugged the boy’s shoulder in a fatherly way. “Man up, Randy. You don’t get to do what you want every single moment of the day.”
“You say that every single moment of the day,” Randy said. “I don’t know why you can’t let me do my own thing.”
“Family time,” said his mother. “You and me and Dad.”
“He’s not my fucking dad,” said Randy.
In some ways, it was better than if I had stayed in the states. Good food and plenty of tourists to work. But in some ways, it was harder. The French cops were smart fuckers, and usually it only took them a day or two to catch on to me. The language was another problem, but that usually worked to my advantage when I ran my scam. The best thing was how Americans were off-guard while in another country. One guy I hustled was a New York lawyer, and you bet I’d never have gotten away with it at home.
I got a good feeling about low places. Wells, tunnels, holes in the ground. They my power places. When I’m down there I get stronger. All the other people stay the same or even get weaker.
I don’t mean no harm to them, but things do happen. Way I see it, all them violences ain’t really me. If a tornado picked you up and slammed you into a person and knocked them down or even killed them, would it be your fault or the tornado’s? That’s how I feel about it.
I never feel no pleasure at them violences. None.
Cadillac Ranch. Yeah. Dad used to drive us out to that fucking place almost every Saturday. It was the only day we had with him, too. Mom worked two jobs and in between she was either sleeping or bitching about how she never got child support. I guess we were starved for attention.
After Dad got sent up to Clements for good, Davey and me kept going out there. We’d fill water bottles, pack sandwiches, ride our bikes. Not much to do in Amarillo for a couple kids anyway.
After Davey was killed, I went by myself.
You say it’s still there? Funny.
“I bet he’d shoot your ass if you pushed him.”
“Hell with that. He’s just a mall cop. They don’t got guns”
Ivan pointed at the guy. “What’s he got on his belt, then?”
“A taser, maybe. Or pepper spray. It’s not a goddamned gun.”
The guard stood like an old west cowboy, thumbs tucked into his waistband. He hadn’t caught them doing anything this time, but he clearly remembered them from earlier in the summer. He had chased them and called them punks.
“I bet his gay hair is a wig.”
“Ten bucks says you can’t snatch it, dude.”
“Krylon, Rustoleum, motherfuckers boring em” sang Riptide as he swept the can up and down. There was a trick to getting the coverage just right—you wanted it dark enough so the tag stood out, but not so much that the paint dripped. That was bullshit, when the paint dripped. Fucking monkey move.
Riptide picked up the Candy Apple, shook the rattle can like a medicine man with his ceremonial gourd. Window glass crunched beneath his sneaker, ground into the carpet.
The red and black tag on the clean white plaster looked tight. Tight.
I hated it there. She kept everything all perfect, and noticed if you ever touched anything. And I mean anything. Once just to mess with her I turned a couple of decorative cups around so the handles pointed at an odd angle. I swear, she wasn’t in the room three minutes before she spotted it and fixed the goddamn cups. She shot me this real bitchy look when she did it, too. The look said I know what you’re up to, Buster. That’s what she called me when she got mad. Buster.
You asked why I ran away, didn’t you?