Tuesday, June 30, 2009

NOT DEAD

Ain’t easy typing when your hands are shaking. Don’t know how long I’ve been awake. Awake and running. Been running since Ballentine. Tired. Tired of running. Tired of people trying to put bullets in me.

Thought it would be different with Rodeo. Thought he was a fucking business man. Guess he is—the kind of business man who wants it all for himself and doesn’t want to pay for it.

Why is it that only the motherfuckers out there have guns? I should have a gun. Always staring at the wrong end.

Should’ve been gone by now. Pile of money. Hop a couple trains. Canada. Find a nice little cabin on some land. Plant some apple trees. Get a cell phone. Give Tokyo a call. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Sounds better than two .45 slugs. One in the heart and one in the head.

I tried to plan it airtight. A way in, a way out. I needed a place to feel safe. Isolated, but not too remote. There’s a VA hospital around here with a lot of parks and grass. I’d wandered past a couple of times, following the flow of the other homeless guys, trying to get a feeling for this city. But those guys are different. Most of them are broken in the head. Me, I was just looking for a little work and a new plan.

Figured the VA would be a good spot for the meet with Rodeo. Might have a government file in one of those buildings with my dad’s name on it. Maybe he’d be watching. I’ll take whatever I can get.

My dad didn’t help me. Payback for me not being ready with the .38 when Sig showed up. Guess I deserved that one, Dad. I’ll give you a gift some time. I’ll give you Sig’s soul so you can crush it under your boot for the rest of time. Maybe then we’ll be even.

Almost got to see my dad for real in the afterlife. Hands are still shaking. It was late last night. After midnight at the VA. Everything was quiet. Couple of lights on in the buildings. Security circulated in his golf cart, but you’d have to set something on fire for him to notice. Seemed like the perfect place.

I waited at a tree and wished I had a cigarette. Don’t smoke much, but it kills the time. Even if I had one, I’d have saved it, though. Didn’t want to give away my position too soon. I came out from the tree when Rodeo’s Mercedes showed up.

He prowled into the VA and killed the headlights. The car rolled to a stop and he waited. I ain’t no car-hop. Or a hooker leaning into his window so he can take what he wants and drive away before anyone can stop him. I stood on the wet grass and let him get out of the car and come to me.

Rodeo carried a heavy duffle bag and I fought the urge to smile. With that bag, and my backpack, which was ready at the tree, I could start it all over. I’d leave that night.

His face was tight and he glanced all around us. He’d done this before. Trey’s no greenhorn either. Made plenty of deals. Not for this much cheese, but I ain’t nervous.

“Open the bag, let me see the money.”

“And hello to you, too.” He put the bag on the ground and showed me a couple of his teeth. Don’t know if it was a smile.

“Tell you what, after the deal’s done, we can douche each other and paint our toenails.” I’d been waiting too long to dick around.

“Business first.”

“Damn right. Let me see the money.” Something wasn’t feeling right. Rodeo was too calm. He was faking something.

Rodeo leaned over the bag and unzipped it. Like he was skinning an animal, its guts made of bundles of money. He took out one wad and fanned it, showing the bills. “It’s all here. A fair price.”

That’s the kind of thing that gets you killed.” My dad, whispering into my ear again.

“Show me another stack.” The dagger was heavy in my waistband. I’d have to get it out of the sheath this time.

“I need to see the thumb drive. I need to know you have it.” His body wasn’t moving, but he was planning on it. Little twitches, adjustments in his joints.

As far as I could tell, the deal was still on. I pulled the black bag from my inside jacket pocket. I watched his eyes when I showed him the thumb drive. Rodeo had been slick, right up to seeing what he wanted.

This wasn’t a sloppy charge with a dork dagger. It was something pretty. Rodeo is a professional. He barely moved and the gun came out. I would’ve appreciated the artistry of it if I wasn’t on the wrong end of a .45 automatic. Should’ve guessed Rodeo would play cowboy with a Colt.

“Throw the drive to my feet.” Like he was talking to a retard. Well, it was stupid of me to trust him.

I dropped the drive back into the black bag. I was real calm for some reason. More calm than I am now. Guess I’m getting used to people wanting to kill me. My brain took everything in: Rodeo’s belt buckle. The .45 was cocked. In his other hand was the full stack of cash. The Mercedes was running, puffing condensation out of the tailpipes.

“You don’t need to kill me.” I took a step closer and pointed at the open bag full of money. “Just give me half of that and I’ll disappear.”

He laughed, ugly. “No negotiations.”

“Dead body’s going to be bad for your business.” A little closer.

“Another dead bum. No one will care about your body.”

I saw my dad, dead in the rain. He might still be lying in the mud. I understood why he crawled into those Vietnam tunnels. You have to do it because the fear will paralyze you. Jump in before you think about it.

I grabbed for the gun. Didn’t think. Couldn’t let myself die.

Rodeo had the pistol at his hip and pushed it forward to shoot, like he had to throw the bullet at me. Some people would try and knock the gun away, give it a twist or chop his wrist. I ain’t the American Ninja. But I do have moves. I grabbed the top of the .45 and pushed back as he came forward.

I could feel the tension in his arm as he braced for the kick of the gun. Rodeo squeezed the trigger with all he had. But my hand had pushed the slide back and blocked the hammer from falling. I was some kind of awesome, cool as a killer robot, but I wasn’t out of trouble yet.

Both of our free hands were occupied. He had the wad of cash, I held the black bag with the thumb drive in it. Rodeo stuffed the cash into his jacket pocket and started to claw at my hand on his gun. I balled my fist around the thumb drive and punched him in the jaw.

It was good and bad. I got the satisfaction of his head snapping back and a grimace of pain instead of a smile from Rodeo. But when he jerked back, the slide on the .45 came forward. I twisted out of the way and, with my hand buzzing from punching him, fumbled with the gun while trying not to lose the drive.

Two men and four hands on one gun. Neither of us wanted to die.

But one of us was cocky and wore thin leather shoes to a killing. You can bet that idiot wasn’t me. I wear work boots. And I stomped on his fucking foot and wanted to break his whole body.

Rodeo yelled in pain, right in my ear. But he was strong. I couldn’t get the gun away, but I did push the magazine release and seven rounds meant for me thudded to the ground.

I gave his foot another smash and knocked him to the grass. I figured, one shot in the chamber. No time to mop it all up, I gave him one shot at me.

I grabbed the duffle full of money on the run. I got my backpack from by the tree and kept running. Didn’t hear the shot. My dad told me, in Nam they said that you don’t hear the one that kills you.

Kept running. Through the VA. Under a bridge or a street or something. Finally stopped in a grove of palm trees. Some kind oasis surrounded by on-ramps and off-ramps of a freeway. Rodeo wasn’t coming. He couldn’t find me in there.

But I wasn’t alone. Other homeless dudes were camping there. They hid under cardboard and tarps, protected from the headlights of the cars coming and going, circling for the freeway. Late at night and still people were driving everywhere. I used the lights of the cars to check the duffle bag. I’m sure you’ve guessed by now. The wads were fake. Couple of tens or ones on the top and cut-up paper in the middle. I stripped the real cash out, about 68 bucks.

That’s when my hands started shaking. Haven’t stopped since. I’m on a college campus right now, in a library. They probably think I’m a junkie or something. But no one’s given me any trouble. They know better. I’m not taking shit anymore.

Hands are shaking because I’m angry. Tired of running. Tired of people wanting me dead. It’s time Trey fucks someone else up.