Little Mickey told me this joke once: man walks into bar with horse, dog and monkey. Buys drink for horse, peanuts for monkey and bowl of water for dog. I forget rest of joke, but your mother is a whore. Cue big ha ha.
Am stumbling down tired and sucking in two cigarettes when Little Mickey looses the finger. Good smokes too, ones he’s owed me long time and figure he must’ve paid a couple of half-decent memories to get them.
It’s last break of my shift and have just stepped out to the loading bay, leaving Little Mickey on duty, who since we are on subject is not so little and whose moniker am not so sure is even Mickey. This big lunk has had my back ever since started at the chop-shop and is nearest thingumabob I have to family, but family in sense of trustworthy dudleys and dudettes rather than finger-waggers of the go to bed/wakey up/pray to Beardy-Jesus variety. Know I had that sort of family once too, but must have traded most of such remembrances for smokes or pick-me-up, since all is fuzzier than mouldy peach in my old meat-melon.
In roll the johns and the janes at the shop, all tranked and trussed like chickens at abattoir. We read their orders off of manifest, then snippity-snip we open them up, plant knock-offs in right holes, run installers and make sure augments seal themselves nice and tight, zippety-zip.
For most part the goods are cheap, crappermost stuff, and Boss-Molly who runs the joint, keeps it at rock bottom by employing min. ed. types like yourstruly and Little Mickey to do carving. She has it down to fine art: some muso cock-a-doodle or actor-dudley brings out their new range of peepers, lips or assholio and we have johns and janes blinking, pouting, and scratching their cheap copies of aforementioned before you can say bleed-out or copyright infringe-I’m-so-bored-I-fell-asleep-already.
Chop-shop is cheap, so broker only charges esteemed customers a couple of minor memories a piece. That time you accidentally rolled in poochy-doo when you were niblet? That’ll do nicey-nicey. No-one at Molly’s looking to lay hands on your ninth birthday party or that time you danced horizontal nut-cracker with number one hottie in accounts department.
Most nights we’re so tired we’re doing lines of pick-me-up or wakey-caps off of trolleys or washroom sink. Molly turns the blind eye, which is balls out ironical given that Mickey says she has one in back of head for security purposes, so as long as we keep johns and janes rolling and don’t have too many bleeders we’re okee-doodle, but like, digressment.
It’s dark out by loading bay. Has been long shift and am dozesome aplenty and just considering if I should crack a wakey-cap to pull me through it when this posh john arrives. I’ve had plenty dudleys trying to slide on me there, mainly because they think if you are dudette and work in a chop-shop you are fair and square happy meal type of deal. Not so me. Keep legs crossed. All. The. Time.
On first eye-clap I see he’s let some splice-jockey loose on him becausely he’s total-balls-out remixed. Not literally you understand, frank and beans all stowed, but face looks like mixed grill; got one eye all oversized and watery blue like a gem and other small and black like a crab’s or rat’s. Feels like they’re both looking through me, if that makes sense. I spot traces of usual celebrities in nose and lips, and even old school Cary Grant around ears. Common enough, what with copyright on dead faces being all cheapsome and suchlike. This is the harsh of my employment, first time I clap eyeballs on anyone, part of me gets busy spotting the provenance of their mugly. This dudley’s augments are kosher though and not cheap knock-offs like Molly’s.
“Good evening,” says Posh John, his twisted lips making it sound as though he is talking through assholio.
“I work at this here chop-shop, friend,” I say pointing at the loading bay, and not looking to branch out.”
“That’s ok,” says he, “just want to flap lips.”
“Serious,” I say, “if you’re wanting the girlfriend experience, get thee unto the docks and hire a susan machine like other mid-lifers”.
Posh John just smiles ratty little smile.
“Know this person? Name of Jannie Lytton,” he says, waving faded photograph at me. Picture shows young chickadee with retainer and that rarest of thingumabobs a natural mugly. Playing some sport or other and wearing white blouse and broadest smile like she has just snorted truck full of chuckle-dust. Then oddermost thing, I get the clammies and there is a flash in my meat-melon of big tower all lit up.
“Who’s looking?” I reply.
“No-one,” says Posh John.
“U-huh. Well. I knowed this unfortunate,” I say, “pegged out. Stiffed upon the table at this self-same chop-shop. Bleed out,” I say.
Memory is vague, but we get our far share of stiffs. Do remember it cost us much cabbage to clear it with columbos. “Am sure Boss-Molly would confirm”, I say.
Posh John peers at me with largest eye. Who knows, maybe it’s all loaded with expensive sparkle and creepster is removing my clothing with a backscatter x-ray, like on the pr0n feeds.
“Really?” he says, “Shame. If you remember anymore, give me a call. Make it worth your while,” he slips card onto loading deck.
As I lean forward to pick it up Posh John grabs my wrist and squints his bugly blue at me.
“How about Arnold Brewster, ever hear of him?” he says.
“Hands off, freakshow,” I say, even more clammy and sick-feeling, slapping his hand away. No-one touches goods.
And this is very moment when Little Mickey emerges from rear door of chop-shop to chew me out for pulling the crappermost and lingering upon my break. He eye-claps this nutcake of local variety attempting to slide upon yourstruly and charges down ramp towards him, swinging one big hand before ascertaining nature of fracas. This is why am fond of Little Mickey. No questions, all actions. And more loyal than if was remixed with poochy-dog.
Posh John barely has chance to eye-clap Little Mickey before aforementioned lays almighty one upon him and he flies across loading bay into mud. Most wage slaves, and regular columbos too perhaps, would pause for reflection at this point, but Posh John just flips back upright like blood-sucker I saw once in a flicker-flick.
His mugly is all twisted and twitchy and blue eye doesn’t have a pupil anymore and he starts spouting all sorts of unpleasant jibberwocky and it seems to yourstruly he is packing way too much sparkle for regular columbo. Then he reaches into his Posh John jacket and pulls out nasty looking shank, springing at Little Mickey who is meantime preparing second bunch of fives. Posh John does this pirouette most dainty, dodges them and there is sound like celery snapping and Little Mickey’s littlest digit rolls across ground, go-juice squirting out of stump, leaving tiny piece of bonio protruding, just like chicken leg.
Meantime, Mickey staggers forward and kicks Posh John square betwixt the ballnuts and down creepster goes for second time. Lies in mud all twitchy and shit, like upturned crab with hiccups, having a full-on sparkle fit. Just goes to prove: have as much souped-up DNA code spliced into you as you like, but use too much and bill is in the post, am I right?
I run over and riffle through Posh-John’s jacket while he stares up at me and dribble-juice leaks from mouth. I find his wallet and stuff into pocket then I grab Little Mickey who has gone all quiet and yellow and slap him in the face. He shakes the old tick-tock from side to side and then we’re up and running into the dark. We limbo under gap at bottom of chop-shop fence, leaving Posh John still writhing behind us. Am scared enough to shit cinder-block, but legs and meat-melon feel are lit up, and bonus points for weird: something in chest, next to heart hammers like it wants to come out. Maximum joy.
Had this dream once or perhaps saw it on TV:
Little chickadee lived all alone with her mommy in little house way out in Corn Belt. Mommy is a skinny sort who spends much time looking into mirror and singing country while taking slugs from quart bottle and applying excess eyeliner. Daddy in picture too once-upon-a-time, but did the flit when dudette was a niblet. Still, they scrape by with mommy engaged in series of min. wage crappermost employments.
Then one night, waiting tables at Pie Palace or similar mommy meets Arnold Brewster who works as team leader brainiac for big corporate. Tells mommy how he’s been watching her and thinks she is hot meatball special or some such and has waited all of life to meet her. Stuff that all lonely ladies want to hear. Cannot blame her for that, I suppose.
Little Mickey and I dodge past some columbos on a stop and search kick and duck into alleyway on 65th and Mandelbrot, climb up fire escape and over flat roof, with yourstruly helping Little Mickey due to him being down one digit handywise.
I crouch, take hold of Mickey’s injured paw and sit him down. He looks as pale as advertisement for pint of milko.
“So tell me, LM,” I say, “how is it that you have the chops to 1-2 john who is packing enough sparkle to be fairy on top of Christmas tree?” Little Mickey doesn’t reply, just looks at floor.
“Escaped from reclamation,” he mumbles.
I nod and look at roof.
“Figured as much,” I say. Had no idea, actually. Imagined that Little Mickey probably some sort of perp, like everyone keeping it on down low, but never had inkling was on lamb from knob-jockeys at the D of R. Hear about them all the time. Some big ticket crime is solved, but guilty party has already checked out or done the flit, so they send in assholios from Reclamation to collect scraps of hair or jock strap detritus or whatever from site of aforementioned. Then they grow replacement perpster from leftovers and send poor schmuck straight to death row for big fry-up.
Mickey has dosed up helix used to grow him double quick, which explains ability to plant Posh John’s ass in dirt, but the real harsh is that Little Mickey might perform dead-parrot-sketch at any moment, not having been designed with robust shelf-life, if you get drift.
I turn away from him and pull off boot and slip stocking from left leg. Fresh on today. Full of holes now, but not too dirty. I tie it tight around Mickey’s stump like I saw on TV once. Wound is clean and if he can scrape up the cabbage or trade a few non-prime remembrances can get new one grown on the easy-peasy.
Little Mickey pulls up piece of damp cardboard and settles it behind him, then lies back and waves damaged hand in air.
“Thanks,” he says, “don’t suppose you have a smoke?”
I find single cigarette in front pocket, bent like cock-a-doodle, also green lighter of crappermost quality that says, “We’ll Always Have Paris” in jollymost yellow letters. One of two that I bought on vacation with parents and have had forever. Other one long lost, I guess. Offer both to Little Mickey and watch as he tries to light cigarette with bloody paw. Feel real sorry about whole situation for first time. Like I should hug him and thank him for white knight bit, but would not know how. Never been big on affection.
“So what about you, Dolores?” says Little Mickey tapping ash onto damp roof, “want to tell me why I lost rightmost digit of sweetest lover I will ever know?”
“John was flapping lips about blast from past,” I say, “not sure why”, and there’s that sickly feeling again and I pull out Posh John’s wallet and turn upside down. Cards tumble onto roof in cascade of paper and plastic. Long deceased dry cleaning receipts, old broker tag and a worn ID card of sort that dangles from grievous chino pants favored by desk-jockeys. Last thing that flutters out like spiralling butterfly is picture of this Jannie dudette.
I pick up ID. There is portrait of Posh John all asymmetrical and fugly, whose kosher moniker it transpires, is Milton Regis. As suspected, Posh-John-Milton is private columbo for sovereign corporation: Behring Takeda Roche.
Something squeezes throat. For a second hear sound like finger-tips brushing plaster. Like sound of someone sneaking towards my bedroom in middle of night when everyone else is asleep. And again there is that thumpety-thump from inside of rib cage, but more urgent now, right beneath where heart ought to be. I shiver, slip ID back into pocket and leave rest to melt in the wet.
Little Mickey claps eyes all over the faded picture of the Jannie dudette and his face goes even palier. For moment think he is going to say something, but instead just pulls tourniquet tighter around stump, leans back and smokes cigarette down to nubbin.
Was good after Arnold Brewster moved in with us. At least at first. Even discounting fact that my new-daddy has hard-on for discipline of all varietals and demands I pray to Beardy-Jesus each morning and forbids going out with friends after school. But for first time do not feel like off-cut. Feel part of something bigger than self. Good memories. Worth quart of booze or perhaps case of Twinkie bars at broker depending on exchange rate:
Arnold-Daddy holding my hand on vacation, fingers wrapped around mine. Walking along hot sidewalk filled with chubster daddios and their melted wives. Arnold scowling at the stretch limos that slide down darkened streets with tops akimbo and scanty-clads squealing within. In the distance, glittering scaffold of Eiffel Tower. And then later that evening, sitting inside restaurant of selfsame, eating overcooked burgers with mayonnaise and mommy isn’t crying and Arnold, slurring and drunk again, even gives me sip of wine. Our troubles are over, things are going to change, he says waving small, steel box that he is so proud of and that is answer to all cabbage-related prayers. Meantime, I watch ball of blue neon through window. Paris it says in golden letters. So happy my face leaks.
We clamber across rooftops to avoid columbos. Mickey seems to know where we’re going. Is hard work, especially with his bad paw, but when we climb back down to street we are at edge of docks where the bridge soars across to other side of bay. Grievous bouquet: fish-heads, engine oil, rutting. Wouldn’t want to nose it regular. There is chirrup-chirrup from the susan machines as they roll past looking for company and mid-life pervs taking their haptics for post-fuck stroll by the water. Don’t know about you, but sight of oldsters hand-in-hand with tentacled, perambulatory vajazzle or cock-a-doodle gives me the heebees.
When we hit street-level the spams start pitching at us. The usual stuff: fuck me and sign up for Economist magazine or I blow for pennies, and they are cute enough in that grown for one-purpose sort of a way, but even if was into all that stuff would never do horizontal-shuffle with factory grown types. Am strictly free-range chickadee.
Somewhat inevitable: regular programming resumes. Happy family situation goes south about same time as vacation. When chicklet’s breasts bud and legs lengthen creamy long and unforgettabubble, that’s when nocturnal visits from Arnold Brewster start. Hear him now creeping along passage between the domestical arrangements, drunk, unsteady leaning on wall, fingers-tips casting long shadows like those of vampiric dudes from old time flicker-flicks. Sour smell of whiskey. Sickly feeling as his warm hands push up my night dress. And walls so thin that mommy must have heard. But maybe, didn’t want to hear. You are my special one, he says. You are my only one. And the harsh of it is I believed him. I had to.
Little Mickey hurries down street, bent paw jammed in pocket. Says nothing, but looking for particular spam methinks, Eventually settles on a Pinocchio shilling for snack food corporate.
“Hallo, friend,” says boy-spam in that lilting way they all have, “care to try new recipe cheesy-puffs and then get some head?” His good looks combine all boy stars from all the flicker-flicks you’ve ever seen, but all such chit-chat with these walking adverts in hot pants, have led yourstruly to conclusion that attic is empty, if you get meaning.
“No disrespect,” I say nodding at spam, “but is no time to foxtrot with disposable friends”. Spam smiles at me blandly and Mickey carries on whispered conversation with selfsame. My gaze lingers on the USE ONCE AND DESTROY notice that blooms in red on nape of all such spams. Reminds me of craze for getting this tattoo amongst my idiot peers, and inevitable subsequent enthusiasm for open back shirts that show absence of selfsame, but this is realio-dealio. Spam and Mickey finish talking and then they get broker tags out and wham-bam Little Mickey has had some memory, priced and plucked out of his meat-melon. Spam hands him a slip of paper in exchange.
“What was all that about?” I say.
“Needed new password for safe house,” he replies,”assholio made me spring for it.”
Heard this on TV once or perhaps I saw it on radio: Arnold-daddio is showing me latest gizmo from work, proud as punch in the mugly. Tells me extracting memories with broker tag for cash-money is one thing, but implanting them in another’s meat-melon is different kettle of goldfish altogether. Little buggers melt like cobwebs in rain. Except that Arnold Brewster and propeller-heads at Behring Takeda Roche have built exactly such a bi-directional gadget. Recording and playback. Just like old time music player.
Daddy-Arnold is proud of new toy. Says is disruptive gizmology, will upset economy. Make Behring Takeda biggest poochy-dog on block. Arnold Field tests only functioning prototype, recording family holiday, evening dinner and then yourstruly praying to Beardy-Jesus on her knees in night shirt. Even leaves it going while his hands creep around my bare little ass. You’re my special little one, whispers only daddy I have ever known. I pick up his magic, metal box and slam it into his pointy-head, leaving big, wet dent. I run far, far away.
We walk to bottom floor of low rent apartment block keeping out of sight of roaming columbos and then up bazillion stairs that stink of piss because elevator has not worked for billionty years. We go down corridor to an apartment where cluster of cables feeds knock-off juice to open panel. Little Mickey whispers something to door and it opens. Have never been this far up in city before. It’s dark inside and out, but I gasp at the balls-out glitterscape in dirty window of lounge.
“Dolores?” says Little Mickey with edge in voice, prodding me in back with good hand. I turn and realize someone sitting in corner of room.
“Didn’t expect to see you so soon,” says person sitting all hunched over in wicker chair in corner. Takes while for eyeballs to adjust, but then see that it is Jannie, dudette from Milton’s picture. All huddled up wearing old green jumper, chronic khaki’s and staring at musty old rug. Her eyes are older and all sad and shit, but is defo selfsame.
My piehole opens and shuts. Thought this dudette had handed in all coupons at chop-shop. Then understand that she isn’t even talking to yourstruly, but looking past me at Little Mickey. Before can vocalize displeasure LM grabs me by elbows and pulls them back towards spine.
I struggle, but Mickey, my poor sweet Mickey just grunts in my ear and hisses to stay put.
“Corporate columbo found us. Need to flit,” he says to Jannie.
Jannie’s eyes pop out of mugly and she hops out of chair and grabs an installer and waves it at me, all long and black and metal and glinting like.
“Hold it steady” she says not even looking at me.
Brings extractor close to my chest. It sprouts three long teeth and drools cutter-juice, and then that thing inside my chest starts tap-tap-tapping again. Wriggling to be free. Feel its square edges dance against ribs. And then have head slap moment: 1) I know this this thingumabob doing jig in chest, is exact shape and weight of Daddy-Arnold’s magic-memory-box 2) Jannie is going to open me up, pull apart seams and leave me like pile of rags on crappermost rug.
Then door blows in like wet cardboard and there is dark rush of air and something swats Little Mickey away from behind me like a bugly and I know Posh John has caught up with us and is dishing out the Hulk-Smash. In meantime Jannie dives at me with installer and its teeth glance snickety-snick across my chest and while know I should drop-kick this presumptuous chicklet through window, have oddermost feeling: don’t want to hurt her.
I make like sappy dudette and stumble. Jannie goes for it and then I have the installer out of her hand and fold her skinny-ass over like cooked noodles. I throw her towards Little Mickey who is having multiple shades of personality correction applied to him by Posh John. And the sad of it is that for a second I want to stay, want to help them. Instead, I run into room beyond, installer falls from my hand. Stop dead. Despite palaver from next door cannot move.
There in Jannie’s room is spam can, still glistening and plugged into power cables and surrounded by packets of spares and installers filched from chop-shop. But what I cannot drag eyeballs from is poster on far wall. Three feet high and all lit up with electric grace is Eiffel Tower restaurant on main drag in Las Vegas, complete with fake balloon of blue light mooning in front of it. On table next to it is long lost red plastic twin of my crappermost lighter. I walk over to wall and press cheek against cold, glossy paper. Think of my hand in Daddy-Arnold’s, sitting in Eiffel Tower, clink of glasses, ring of cutlery. Just as I remember it. Or rather is all as she remembered it, Jannie. I am just an echo. Piece of meat put together in spam can and dosed with enough of her to be dangerous. Perfect hiding place for something everybody wants. Feel like someone has located long lost heart organ and ripped selfsame out through piehole. And then the door crashes open behind me and I leap out onto fire escape and gallop down rattling iron steps three at a time.
Stop halfway down fire escape. Dawn sky is same color as chop-shop loading bay. Like most dudettes and dudleys have never seen Sun, but have heard if eyeballed directly it will burn eyes to smoking little holes. Little Mickey told me he saw it once. Such was its splendor, he said, he dropped a load in his pants. As I look up I see golden circle buried deep in the grey permacloud like monstrous eyeball winking at yourstruly. I am a monster too, methinks. But I am Jannie’s monster.
“Maximum joy,” I whisper and then I shout it too and I shake my fists which are not my fists, but hers really, and all the pimps and susan machines and other spams on the docks below look up. I pull collar up over words USE ONCE AND DESTROY that I know must be on nape of my neck and clamber back up fire escape, picking up broken piece of iron railing, ready to help only family I have ever really known.
• • •
Copyright © 2017 Philip A. Suggars