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Tag: Year of 5000 photos and 50 short stories (page 2 of 9)

34 – Benny Rides The Train

Benny stood on the subway platform picking corn kernels from his teeth with his fingernail.  Unsuccessfully.  He sucked and he prodded, but the little bastards would not come out.  He regretted even more stopping at the street fair to get the corn on the cob, the delay of which had caused him to narrowly miss the previous train, leaving him to wait what felt like an eternity with something obnoxious stuck between his teeth.  He half thought about knocking one of his molars out on one of the steel girders sticking out of the platform.

The station housed only one train, but there was another side, lit, seemingly abandoned, unused, separated from the functional platform by a wall which had small openings he could see through if he ducked his head a little.  The tracks had been pulled up and there was no obvious way to enter, yet the city kept the lights on for some reason.  Stairs led to the other platform, but they were gated and locked off.  He tried to imagine where they led, but could not figure it out.  He had often wondered about the other side of the station.  It called to him.  He thought about exploring it every time he was down there, waiting for the train, typically on his way to do something bad to someone.  Its mysteries were attractive, wrought with potential magic, danger, and glory, but Benny had never summoned the dogged buttheadedness to jump the tracks and explore.

To his right, he heard the growing roar of the train hurtling up the tunnel toward him followed by the reflections of its lights on the tracks.  He looked back through the openings in the wall and only just caught a hint of movement on the other side.  Being a New Yorker he had seen his fair share of subway rats, and whatever just moved behind the wall was no rat.  His interest was piqued.  He looked back up the tunnel again to judge whether or not he had time to cross the tracks before the train pulled in.  When his eyes were blown shut by the rush of oncoming displaced tunnel air, he decided that it was best to wait.

The train he had been waiting for pulled into the station and everyone got on.  Everyone except Benny.  The Chink can wait, he thought.  A woman who had just boarded the train looked at him, surprise on her face, as if to say, “There’s only one train.  Why aren’t you getting on?” but she said nothing.  Benny, acknowledging the passing connection they had made tipped his hat to her.  The train doors closed and took her from Benny’s life forever.  

When the train was safely gone, he scanned both side of the platform for subway staff.  Satisfied that no one would see him cross, he hopped down onto the tracks and crossed through the not-quite-man-height gap, careful to avoid the third rail, into the abandoned half of the station.  

Disappointingly, it looked basically the same as the other half—central platform lined by tracks, stairs every so often, garbage cans, rats, trash, syringes.  Normal subway features and detritus.  The only real differences were the profusion of tags on the walls and the heavy layer of dust over everything.  Not the black grit from the train’s brakes that typically covers a subway station, but the more common greyish-brown dust that covers a dead, unused place.  He climbed up onto the platform to see if there was anything interesting on the opposite tracks.  He found only more of the same old nothing.  A train bed with the tracks ripped up.  He wondered what train used to run here.  

A sound on the edge of hearing echoed through the dead cathedral of transportation.  Benny stopped cold in his tracks, standing still, not even breathing, trying to get a better idea of what the sound was.  He could not make it out.  Ever cautious when dealing with other bad men, Benny ran and hid behind a dumpster on the far end of the platform.  He squatted there, listening.  The sound was becoming louder.  Footsteps.  Footsteps from down the tunnel, growing louder, more clear.  And not just one man.  Two, maybe three all walking together down the tunnel.  From his hiding spot, he could see clearly down the tunnel was coming from.  And suddenly, like the birth of a star in a distant galaxy poking a hole in the night sky, lights appeared in the tunnel, bobbing, weaving.  Flashlights.

Behind him he heard a new set of footsteps approach from another tunnel.  He shifted around the dumpster to be out of sight of whoever was coming through the tunnel.  Benny had spent enough of his life involved with nefarious sorts of characters to know that anyone meeting in an abandoned subway station was probably up to no good and that it would benefit Benny’s longevity to stay the hell out of their sight.  He thought about making a run for the passage way back to the other platform, but it was too far away now and he did not want to risk being seen by whoever these guys were.  He was in enough trouble already.  He didn’t want any more.

33 – Benny Makes Friends

Benny was not excited about what he knew he needed to do the Chink this afternoon.  He was a stand-up sort of fellow, most of the time, and Benny had no problem with him.  It really got his goat that Spiegelman had told him to do the Chink, but who was he to argue with the Jew?  Benny knew his place.  He was muscle, brawn.  He was the intimidation factor that would make certain business deals more amenable for the party he stood next to.  He knew that.  Mostly, he was happy with the situation.  It gave him a real rush to see how some people got the fear in their eyes when he stepped into a room.  Not weaklings either.  Real, hard men.  Benny would step into a room where a moment before those fellows had been the kings of the world, then they would see him and start quivering in their boots.  It made Benny feel powerful.  More powerful than just his physical stature.  Powerful in that abstract way people used when talking about mafia bosses.  The kind of power that made another man feel dread.  Not too bad for a kid from the South Bronx who could barely read and never finished the sixth grade.  And Benny took pride in his work.

But he liked the Chink.  Except that he liked to cheat at cards, he never bothered Benny.  He figured he’d only stab him in the throat three times.  Either it would kill him quickly, or he would survive.  A man who had been stabbed three times in the throat and lived deserved it.  Benny liked the idea of giving his friend a fighting chance.  But first he would have to find the greasy, yellow son of a bitch and that was not going to be a simple matter.  

He spent all afternoon wandering the sea of Chinamen downtown but never found the Chink.  They all looked more or less the same to him anyway, and all the spitting made him sick.  Their dried squid and starfish and octopus was the stuff of nightmares.  He didn’t know what they did with it.  They certainly didn’t eat that filth.  He towered over everyone in the whole neighborhood by a good two feet, but it didn’t stop the old ladies from bumping into him with their shopping bags and umbrellas.  The first time he got an umbrella spoke in the face he looked up to check for potential rain, saw only blue, and gave up searching for the day.  He knew he had a few days at least to take care of this business for Spiegelman, so he felt confident that this was a good time to call it quits for the day.  Besides, the Chink had a way of showing up in the damnedest of times and places and Benny’s nerves were a little frayed.  He needed a beer.  

Dodging a flock of brightly dressed Asian women, Benny ducked into a tavern.  Smokey fog enveloped him and pulled him into the dimly lit, lightly populated room.  He removed his hat and coat, hung them by the door, and took a seat at the bar, leaving a stool or two on either side between him and the other men at the bar at 2 o’clock on a Tuesday.  

The barman walked over to him, cigar in mouth, and nodded.

“Beer,” Benny said.

“Light or dark?”

“Light,” and the barman walked to the tap.  

A familiar voice popped up behind him and said, “I hear you’re looking for me?”

Benny spun around on his barstool to see his quarry standing there.  The barman set the beer in front of Benny on the bar.  He took it and drank.  “You’re right.  I am.”

32 – One Sunny Day

Stress glowed hot on his forehead, veins bulging, sweat slick speed-bumps on the ruddy terrain of his face.  His eyes glistened with barely restrained emotion.  Food littered his beard like plastic cola bottles on the highway, unsightly, embarrassing, filthy.  His yellowed teeth bared, his hair wild, his clothing in disarray.  He screamed prophesy and admonishments at an unwilling public on the flower-lined promenade in the park filled on a hot, clear summer day.  But today was no ordinary day for Argo Thistleblack, Lord High Chancellor of The Twelve Moons of Rhygosia IX, Mandate of Heaven’s Armies, Crowned Ruler of the Nineteen Layers of Civilization, for today was the day, he knew, that the world as we knew it would end.

“My brothers, my sisters!  My loyal subjects!  You must know what I know for the world is coming to an end!  The tides of time space have been interrupted by the power pyramid and a great eye has opened up to swallow our reality!  Be careful, for everything we know will soon cease to be!” he yelled, hoping to get through the New Yorkers’ natural standoffishness.  He did not blame them for it was often a difficult city to live in, as he could attest.  He had given up the splendor of his crystalline palace in the Oort clouds off the arm of the Big Dipper to live under the boardwalk at the place these humans called Coney Island.  He had picked it because of all the places to sleep, he felt most at home there with its myriad folk whose variety and peculiarity reminded him most of the great ports of call on his native planet.  That and he was often sheltered from the wind by the wooden boardwalk.

A small group of onlookers gathered around Argo, patiently enjoying what they took to be a bit of street theatre sponsored by Bellevue Hospital.  “A sphinx has come to me in a dream and led me down the path of enlightenment!  He told me that soon a handmaid’s bath would wash over us all!”

“Maybe you need to take a bath, buddy!” yelled a thickset man in a Knicks jersey.

“Yeah, you stink!” yelled his cohort, a man of equal girth in a similar shirt.

“Do not listen to these men,” Argo said to his growing crowd, “they seek only to lead you astray!  Know that I, Argo Thistleblack, your Chancellor to the Great Assembly of Rhygosia IX, come bearing tidings of the worst kind!”

“You got fucking hot dog in your beard, old man!” yelled a voice from the crowd.

“I got your fucking Rolaidsia right here!” yelled another.

The crowd burst into laughter.

“You would deny my gift of foresight!?  I bring you echos of the future, and you spit at me?  Call me names?”

“You can’t have echos of things that haven’t happened yet!” a particularly lucid voice called.

“Well, surely, not in your primitive 4 dimensional understanding of the….” Argo said, but was cut off by a pair of burly young policemen wading through the crowd.

“Ok, folks,” the smarter of the two cops said, “get outta here.  Nothing to see.”

“Be forewarned!  The world will soon split in two as the great rhino emerges from its den!”

“Hey, gramps,” the cop said to Argo, “why don’t you get down from there and stop bothering these people, huh?”

“But officer, I just seek to warn them about the impending….”

“Sure you do, buddy.  Now, why don’t you take a hike, huh?”

31 – Don’t Eat The Sandwich

“Well, you know, if you had, like, fuck man, if you had fucking told me that I was going to, like, explode, I probably wouldn’t have done it, you know?”

“I did tell you.”

“Yeah, but you told me I was going to explode, not that I was going to explode.  I thought you were being, like, figurative or some shit.  Metaphorical, you know?”

“I’m not entirely sure what you misunderstood when I told you, ‘Billy, if you eat that sandwich on the table, you are going to explode.’  I think that was pretty clear.”

“But sandwiches don’t make people fucking explode!”

“That one does.”

“Fuck!  I thought you just didn’t want me to eat it!”

“I didn’t.  Because I knew it would make you explode.”

“Oh man, fuck, is there any way to stop it?”

“If I knew that, you think I’d be holding out on you?”

“I don’t know!  You’re some sort of sick sadistic fuck with an exploding sandwich, maybe you would!  I’m, like, freaking out right now, man.”

“Oh, I can empathize.”

“What?”

“I can empathize.  It means….”

“I know what it fucking, like, means, dude.  What I’m saying is how could you possible, like, know or something what I’m going through right now?”

“Well, I suppose I’m just imagining how I would feel if I had a bomb ready to go off in my stomach and I didn’t know how long it would be before I blew.”

“How does a fucking turkey sandwich make someone explode anyway!”

“The universe is filled with many mysteries.”

“Oh fuck off.  Fuck you.  Fuck you and your fucking bullshit exploding sandwich.”

“Now you’re just being mean.”

“You know what I think, huh?  I think this is some bullshit or something.  I think you’re fucking with me.  I think you’re fucking with me because when we were in high school I made the soccer team and you were fucking fat, dude.  I think you’re, like, bitter.”

“You don’t really think that I made that sandwich explosive, do you?”

“I don’t think I’m going to explode at all.  I think it’s going to be, like, totally fine.”

“Ok, ok.  I’m not the one that’s about to pop.”

“Fuck you!  Fuck you!  Fuck you!”

“Do you want me to make you some tea?  Maybe it will calm you down?”

“What am I going to do?  I can’t explode.  I can’t fucking explode, man.  I’ve got too many things to do.  What about all the, like, hot pussy and shit I didn’t get?”

“Life is filled with loss.”

“Oh my god.  I can’t believe this.  I can’t believe you killed me with your fucking exploding sandwich.  I fucking can’t believe this shit.”

“It wasn’t my sandwich.  I just saw the note on the table that said if someone ate it they would explode.  I was just trying to help you out.”

“You never tried to help me.  You fucking like wanted me to explode.  You’re bitter.”

“Billy, calm down.  Maybe the note was just a joke?”

“Yeah, yeah, that’s it the note was just….” and Billy suddenly vanished in a burst of red mist.  

30 – Court Is Such A Drag

Court is such a drag.  It’s just like blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.  The guy over there is talking about some crazy crap and the other guy is yelling, “Objection!” every once in a while and then there’s a bunch of dudes over there listening and some crap and I’m just sitting here bored to death, doodling on my little pad of paper.  I wish I was outside.  Look.  Out there.  See?  It’s fucking hella nice today, dude.  It’s like, the nicest day of the year or some shit.  I bet there’s like a hundred dudes out playing golf today.  I wish I was, four beer buzz, tearing ass around in the golf cart.  I love that shit, man.  Oh man.  I love the smell of the grass and knocking the bits of dirt and crap from your spikes.  I love the sunshine and the trees and when I kick the shit out of the dudes I’m playing with by like 1000 strokes.  Fuck those guys, seriously.  I’m such a better golfer than them it’s not even funny.  But I like to have them around for funny and whatever.  It’s way funner than sitting here in court.  Ugh, such a bummer.

I am drawing such an awesome dragon right now.  It’s flying crazy high above a mountain and I’m riding on it with a super hot chick with ginormous tits and I’ve got this sweet sword and the dragon is spitting fire on this lawguy who is just blah blah blahing over there, giving me a headache.  I wish I had some water.  Man, this drawing is so killer.  The guys at the country club later are going to dig this shit, man.  I wish I had some colored pencils or something right now too because I’d really like to color in the flames and put some blood all over homeboy for giving me such a bad headache so early on such a beautiful day.

I wonder what I’ll eat for lunch.  I had pastrami yesterday and that was pretty good.  I could probably eat it again but my wife would totally bust my balls for it.  Nah, fuck it.  I’ll get the pastrami and just tell her I ate a salad or some crazy bullshit.  She’ll buy it.

Oh dude, seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever drawn anything this sweet before.  I completely nailed the likeness of the guy with his bald head and stupid gay ass glasses and big fat belly.  I’m not good at drawing hands though, so I drew him wearing oven mitts.  I don’t know why.  They’re just a lot easier to draw, I guess.

I bet there’s all sorts of killer hotties at the country club right now.  Man, I could really go for a quick 9 and then tie one on something fierce at the clubhouse and maybe eat some buffalo wings. Fuck, man!  This shit sucks!  I got to get out of here.

“Your honor!” homeboy screams.

I look at him and say, “Uh, yeah?  Like, what?”

29 – A Draught of Madness

My finger tips are blackened with frostbite and I am not sure how much time I have left to recount to you the tale of the horrors that have brought me here to this remote outpost on the edge of the arctic circle where surely death will take me as it has already taken the intrepid members of my party who so bravely sought to understand the great hidden terrors which now wish to see me dead.  Or worse.

My tale begins at a waterfront tavern in the lower portion of New York City.  It was the type of place frequented by the sailors and longshoremen who plied their trade of loading and unloading various merchant vessels in the myriad ports serving New York’s thriving economic backbone.  Normally this sort of place was too coarse for a man of my learned stature, but I found something thrilling in the rough shod banter of these men, their saltiness, the way they embraced life and its mysteries without too much of preoccupation with propriety.  I found the company stirring, if a little bawdy at times, but what could one expect from men who spent so much time working with their hands?  As you often do with men from so many different places, strange tales would trickle into the tavern bouncing between the men.  Many times the tales were of strange beasts at sea thought to have wreaked some havoc on a ship which narrowly escaped.  Sometimes the tales were about tremendous storms that nearly blew intrepid captains off their courses, but which ended with the cargo being delivered safely to port.  Still other tales were of ghosts and demons who haunted the waters, dragging unwitting sailors to a watery grave in the embrace of Poseidon.

One autumn day I was sitting in the tavern enjoying a pint of their house lager with a colleague, indeed I might call him a friend, when a sailor darkly came through the door and sat at a table in the corner without ordering a drink.  My spirits were high with the briskness of the day and of the drink, and I made an offer to this man to provide him with a drink should he deign to entertain us with a tale of his times on the sea.  My friend encouraged this notion with no amount of restraint, but we received only dour looks from the man whose only response was to pull down his hat’s brim and light his pipe.  The barman then leant in and told us that the man came from uncertain stock and that we, being refined gentlemen and educated, should steer well clear of him.

Well, dear reader, you can no doubt imagine that this only encouraged us to hear this man out more.  We purchased a glass of whiskey to endear ourselves with the man in the corner and joined him at his table.  We placed the glass of whiskey in front of him and remained silent, for we both thought the best way to get him to talk to us was to wait him out.

28 – Absolutely Not

“No….

“No….

“No.  I said, ‘No,’ how many times to you?  Do you not understand?  Melissa Robbins absolutely cannot show her work here ever again,” Yu Lee yelled into the hands-free attachment to his iPhone as he stomped around the half-painted gallery.  “Do you remember what happened last time?  ….no, I don’t care if she’s the hottest tentacle dildo installation artist of the fucking decade.  She’s a nightmare, Billy!  She.  Is.  A.  Nightmare.  Do you remember what happened last time?”  

He flicked his cigarette ash and pushed his David Lynch hair back into place.  

“You don’t remember?  Whatever.  You’re so stupid.  You have to remember.  Really?  You don’t.  You mean you don’t remember her opening her show here, getting all trashed like some dirty gutter skank, and insulting all my clients, Billy?  Our clients?  She is a fucking nightmare!  I can’t have that….”

His phone beeped.  He had another call.

“Oh my god.  That’s her.  I’m going to take this.  Stay.  On.  The.  Line.”

He switched the calls.

“Oh my god, Melissa, so good to talk to you.  Yeah.  No.  I know.  It’s been so long.  Yeah, I did.  I loved it.  Oh my god, I know.  It was so great.  Look, Mel?  I’m on the phone with Billy right now, can we call you back later?  Ok, yeah, great.”

He switched back.

“Billy, you have to save me from her.  I cannot handle her drama.  No.  You need to untell her that she can show her work here.  I don’t know!  Tell her something!  This is your fault!  No!  No!!  Don’t you start crying on me.  You need to grab those disgusting, gigantic balls of yours and tell her that she can’t show here.”

His cigarette went out.

“Fuck.  Billy.  My cigarette is out.  I can’t handle this, Billy.  I need you to take care of this for me.  No, she can’t come!  We have important artists showing here this time, Billy.  People who are making real art, not weird like caves of fucking dildos and shit.  I mean, you’ve seen them, right?  I’m a freaky bitch—you know this—and even I think they’re fucking weird.  Dildo caves, Billy.”

He lit another cigarette.

“I don’t care…. What?  Who?  Really?  Wow.  That does change things.  Brad Pitt, huh?  God, I love him.  She’s really seeing him?  What about Angelina?  No!  You bitch!  Oh my god!  I can’t believe you said that!  Nasty!  Ok ok ok.  Put her on the guest list plus one.  But, Billy…  Billy, are you listening to me now?  Billy.  You are responsible for her.  If she ruins even one sale, I am never going to talk to you again.  You remember that.  This is your problem now, Billy.”

He took a deep drag.

“No, I’m not mad at you.  How could I be mad at you?  No, I’m just stressed, you know, it’s so crazy right now.  That’s all.  No.  No.  Yeah.  No, don’t worry.  Yeah?  Ok, that sounds good.  Sure, yeah, ok.  I’ll meet you there at 9:30?  Ok.  Kisses.  Bye.”

27 – Not Fair At All

He is smarter than I am.  He is smarter, taller (slightly), more handsome, funnier, faster, stronger, and does way better with the ladies than I do.  I bet he fucks way better than me too.  I bet he’s able to do all sorts of crazy sexual shit that I’ve never even thought of before, stuff that would blow my fucking mind.  And I bet he’s so good at it that he makes chicks explode.  Literally explode from having sex with him.  But, I bet it doesn’t phase him at all.  He just makes chicks explode by banging them and then some other chicks just line right up to get freaky with him with the full knowledge that allowing him to dip his wick into their most wonderful and mysterious piles of wax might make them explode.  They’re down.  He’s just that great.  I’ve never gotten close enough to check, but I bet he even smells good, like some fancy English cologne or cookies or some crazy thing that makes women go totally nuts for his junk.

Every day after football practice he comes into my deli and orders the same thing: turkey with provolone and pickles on a dutch crunch roll.  Then he buys a single bag of chips and a Gatorade and leaves.  Turkey and provolone?  Seriously?  He even orders sandwiches better than I do.  I usually just go with ham and american cheese on white bread.  Why don’t I think to order turkey and provolone?  I even work in a fucking deli!  I make his god damned, perfect turkey and provolone and pickles on dutch crunch every day, and I still lack the imagination, the foresight, to order something so utterly perfect.  It haunts my dreams.  In all honesty, I will go to my grave never having ordered a sandwich quite as perfect as that.  It’s disgusting.

But no, the worst part about all this?  He’s nice.  I know, right?  He’s fucking nice.  All of this perfection—the turkey and provolone, the athleticism, the blowing chicks up with his dick—would be tolerable if he were a total, raging dick bag.  But guess what?  He’s fucking decent, man.  No no no.  Not just decent, he’s practically a fucking saint.  I mean, he walks around and birds land on his shoulders and chipmunks run up to him like Saint Francis.  Everyone in our town stops him and says hello in the street, how are you doing, I’m fine, thank you.  And how could you not?  He freaking radiates good will.  

Do you even know what that feels like?  To be shown up by someone who is totally perfect in every single way?  To want to be liked, to be popular, to finally make it with some girl in your high school class—she doesn’t need to be perfect, just not fat or ugly, I’m not that picky—and have every effort trampled unwittingly by some golden locked Adonis who can save the world with his smile?  Do you comprehend the frustration that brings?  Can you smell my seething rage at this horrid state of injustice?  It’s not fair, man.  It’s just not fair.