I remember when Curt killed this King on the Tracks. I say / we said, “the Tracks,” but that was really a name for this big section of the Chicago and Northwestern tracks from about Big Pit down to the stop at Lunt or so and meant all of this ground in between too. The Cinder Path, Pottawattomie Park, 3-D, all that, even the A&P’s or the Aldi’s or the National’s or whatever it was called, the place where my brother dusted out of his mind took a sledgehammer to the cinderblock wall around midnight and finally broke in about 4 in the morning and got himself some fuckin beers. Which was better than the time he Batmanned through the skylight at the Community’s or Zayre’s or Ames or whatever because he wanted a bike and he got one and also the fucking gumball machines that he had to throw off the roof four or eight times to get six bucks in nickels.
So yeah, this time that Curt shot this King in the head. I thought he shot him in the face the way the light was but no there was all this mess and this blood so for sure he shot him in the head and not the face. It was a quiet like night and we were just chillin talkin about things you know like what’s up with your ma’s new boyfriend I hate that motherfucker (ha! sorry) and he got weed though ain’t it and drinking beer not hurting nobody, not even mad that it was a little warm until it sat in the snow for awhile. Just doing the talk. Of all the things. Green light to greylight to false dawn not-morning talking. We talked about a white kid we knew, this white kid adopted by a Native family and you know we were just talking and that shit hardly ever happened, you know when you can talk to your friend and he don’t make fun of you, you don’t talk shit to him, ain’t nobody judging, but you still have to be careful you think, there’s shit you won’t say because just maybe that motherfucker might use that shit on you later, but still, pretty cool. It’s probably the only time you ever want to share secrets, and it’s the one time in your life when you really can’t. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard. Or maybe it’s the dope. Anyway, it was just him and me talking and all cool-like, you know, like when you’re reading a book and it’s just you and the writer, like that. There’s always this secret between writers and readers and people never tell that secret either. They say oh yeah you should read that, it’s cool, they never say and then he’s talking about jerking off from the roof all over the city, not complainin at all, or how the guy in the yellow coat rapes boys, or how you could turn yourself into a werewolf if you really wanted or any of that shit. You all have got a secret now, you and the writer, and you cain’t never tell nobody. Like that. That’s the shit you wanted to have happen, the shit you wanted to talk about but never really could. You could get close. You could drink, and wanna open up, but usually you’d end up just punching the shit out of each other, cause that’s how that shit works.
We’re sitting there, talking, smoking ‘ports, or maybe kools, drinking these ever colder Old Style tall boys, feeding this little fire between us when I look up and see this dude coming across the ice. I say Curt do you know this motherfucker? Nah, Teddy, he says, but he looks like a fuckin King. Huh, I say. Let him get closer. Fuck that—what the fuck for?, says Curt. He pulls out this chromed up automatic with pearl grips. Holy shit.
We were just talking about Curt’s ma’s boyfriend. He laughed and said she calls him her fuckstick. I say who is he? He says he’s a fuckin C$Note, some dude from like ChiWest, or Taylor St., he’s a Italian motherfucker. He don’t beat me up though, says Curt, and, he’s usually got dough in his passed-out pants pockets. Plus that weed, right, Teddy? I say huh. That’s alright, I guess. I think about that word, fuckstick. Curt momma kinda big like, and I think that shit is nasty, can’t imagine this RicoSuave fucker goin at his ma, but shit, someone got to pay the rent. And put gas in that 72 Royal blue Newport she haul her ass around in. You know they moved in from somewhere else, cause they was the only fuckin family in the neighborhood with a car. Also, Curt had this cool ass shirt. It was just a white t-shirt but it had those short sleeves with extra material at the end that made the sleeves tight. I don’t know why they did that, I think to make skinny guys feel like they had muscles, but it said playboy playboy playboy playboy all over in this turquoise color and after each playboy playboy playboy playboy it had a in turquoise, too. I thought man that shirt is the coolest, even if he wore it every day. All that Playboy. All those bunny heads. Those bunny heads made you think about how every magazine cover had a hidden bunny head. And those covers, well they made you think about what was inside. And all of that made me think of the last time I went to class. That was a while ago, but when I was there, I couldn’t pay attention to my work cause of my lab partner, or maybe the weed. Nah. It was Lenore. Dang…
Lenore. That one day I was looking at you in Miss P’s horticulture class and I was like damn you are so beautiful lookin like I don’t even know who but even better and you got it goin’ on and that body and all, but Lenore, 1955 called and said whoa what’s up with that hairdo? Right this way young lady, we’re going to need you to be our mom, ’cause that is the oldest old lady fade we have ever, ever, seen. And that’s the problem with gettin high at school, shit, that’s the problem with gettin high, period, at least for me, see? You ain’t never serious. Cain’t work, cain’t spell, and cain’t mack on the girls at school. Got no game. Just talk shit and crack jokes that prolly ain’t even funny. Man.
Sleeping on the opposition will get you killt anyway. Or at least shot up. No room for the weed in my life.
And that’s the story I wanted to tell Curt, but I didn’t. And I didn’t tell him what it felt like the other day when I stole this bike and raced that shit down Clark Street, and I went to the comic book store cause I had a little money and I bought the new Hulk and stole the new X-Men and a Thor and would’ve gotten the new Conan except I couldn’t find it and then I hopped back on that bike and it was warm and this long-ass hair I got was all streaming out behind me as I stood up on the pedals and the opening chords to Barracuda blasted out of this one storefront and I was never, ever, ever gonna die. But because this boy’s life is what it is, I just said some stupid shit like yeah, if that bitch ever gets out of hand or treats your ma bad we will fuck him up and Curt laughed and said fuck Teddy, that motherfucker would just as soon shoot you as give you the time of day so I wouldn’t worry about it if I was you, Midget, and then he looked down the sight on that automatic and squeezed off two shots quick-like while he said plow-plow and they panged off the ice and that King looked up and he started running.
Curt sets down his beer and takes aim with both hands.
Fuck, man. Twenty minutes ago, Curt came back from grabbing up some chunks of wood and bark and shit from a clump of birches on the side of the tracks about thirty feet away, down and up from the first base line of diamond two at Pottawattomie. We had just come back with our stuff from doing a small cart at the National’s (I don’t know why this is, but in Chicago, the grocery stores all end in a possessive “s,” as in “go get some fuckin milk from the Jewel’s [or the Dominick’s, or the IGA’s, or the Hi Neighbor’s]). We used to do this pretty regularly at the National’s. We would put a bunch of beer in the bottom of a shopping cart, then load it up with shit that we wanted, like lunch meat, or hot dogs, and bread and tortillas and mustard and whatever, then a couple of us would wait outside, while a couple of us just shoved that motherfucker under the bar and turnstile thing by the front doors. The cart would trip the automatic doors and keep rolling on through out to whoever was waiting for it. They would grab all the shit out of the cart and then run through the parking lot to where we had cut a hole in the chainlink by the steepest part of the hill heading up to the tracks at the top and then they’d haul ass down the tracks with the beer and whatever else they could carry out of the cart. Then we’d all meet up, usually behind the Jackass leather place, and get to grubbing and drinking. Sometimes, in the summer, if we had Brain with us, we could talk him into going back inside and using his foodstamps to buy ice for the beer, which was always warm.
Um, a little bit about Brain. This dude was this massive, hulking, Howard St. Lord, who, for some reason, didn’t get along with his set anymore. I remember humbugging with the Lords, and that motherfucker would be there, and I was always like, man, I need to put space between me and that fucking guy; he looks like on that one Bugs Bunny where Bugs takes the Jekyll and Hyde formula and transforms into a giant rabbity Mr. Hyde. Yeah. That’s exactly what this dude looked like. And, bonus, he was obviously mentally unbalanced, and I ain’t saying that just because he was like nineteen and gettin’ foodstamps. I’m saying it because one day we were sitting around drinking after Brain had come back with some ice (“Brain! I’m Brain! I get the ice!”) and he goes yeah, winter is coming. I like that. Why, Brain? we say. That motherfucker goes, well because it gets darker earlier. And I got more time to rob people when they get off the El. Jeezuschrist.
So yeah, Curt and I had just done a scaled-down version of the cart roll, just beer though, not even stuff for sandwiches and whatnot, and we’re chilling the beers in the little snowpiles that are left on the side of the tracks in late March and getting a little fire going in a pit we’ve dug. It’s a pretty warm night, but the wind is picking up a little and it’s gonna get cold but for now we can see the water running on top of the ice in the field under what was left of the high arc lights we were always busting out. Pottawattomie is a big park, with three baseball diamonds and a huge football field, and the white guys who ran it were always trying to get us to do stuff, like wrestling, or tumbling, or something. They thought maybe we should be like them, and like hockey, so they iced down a big section of the field. We liked hockey ok, I guess, but we liked the sticks best of all, so those just kind of disappeared and then no more hockey, but we still had all the cuts and bruises we would’ve gotten if we would’ve played instead of just beaten the shit out of each other, and maybe even learned something. But no.
Curt pops off a shot. It hits the guy in the foot. I see him jump and try to grab at it to look, but he just keeps running. I’m like hmmm, that’s not bad, Curt will just let him go. It can’t be too bad anyway. Well, at least it’s not like in the movies where plow!, someone gets shot and bam! down they go, another body in the alley. It makes me think of this time years later when I was bullshitting with these two buddies of mine that worked the door at this punk rock bar on Milwaukee Ave. we all worked at (I was a bartender), standing around out front before the rush, having a smoke, taking a break, and this stupid yuppie / jock / fratboy comes up and starts telling us how he’s been shot—I’ve been shot! and we’re like yeah, whatever. No for real! he keeps saying so I’m like ok where? and he goes here in my leg. I look at the front of his leg next to the shin about two inches below the knee in his fat fat calf and I see all this blood soaked into his pant leg and I think yup, he’s probably been shot, that’s a lot of blood, and I look on the other side of his leg and cool, yup, same thing, tons of blood, so I say let me see, and he goes see, right there! and I say mmmhmm and I stick my pinkies in the holes in his leg under the pants and he goes OWWHATTHEFUCKAREYOUDOING and I say man, it’s a through and through, you’ll be fine, don’t go to the hospital though unless you want to tell the cops how and why you got shot and oh by the way how did you get shot? I need some water, man, he says, and I say what were you doing that you got shot and I give the head nod on the water to the fellas and he says, well, I was trying to buy some weed. Mmmmhmmm, I say. Where at? Over in Wicker Park, he goes. (That’s the actual park a block over from where we’re chitchatting that he’s referring to, not the now-gentrified neighborhood of the same name where said park is located). I say did you actually pay for it, or did you try to beat them out of paying? He says well I shorted them a little. How much? I say. ‘Bout half he goes. I say, well then you deserved to get shot. Here’s your water ya dumb motherfucker, Sloz says. Sputum goes now get the fuck out of here, dipshit. I say, later dumbass, and, direct pressure is your best friend. We go back to telling jokes and making fun of Bob for a while and then I have to get back inside and wait on the fucking yuppie tourists.
Me and Curt wrap it up, I guess. We gotta run down this corona and finish the job. Fuck. I do not want to walk away from all this beer. I cover it up as best as I can using a bunch of leaves and snow and shit, but I still worry someone’ll creep up and find our stash. I know it happens and I’m a little skittish anyway. Man, there was this one time I had stashed a half bottle of crème de menthe on the tracks. It was like 8:00 in the morning, and it was bright, and already really hot and humid and I just couldn’t drink anymore. I needed to crash for a minute, so I was like fuck it. I’ll just hide this shit behind Sergio’s (by this time the Jackass leather place had gotten bought up by Sergio and turned into a gym. Sergio was that Sergio. “The Myth.” Mr. Olympia. The only guy to beat Schwarzenegger in a Mr. Olympia contest, and the only cop I could stand. He was a good guy. I always thought he was particularly good to us longhairs, and now that I think about it, maybe that’s because the village in Cuba he was originally from had a long history with Indians. And the Jackass leather company? Fuck those guys. They made holsters out of horsehide for the CPD and those other assholes on Miami Vice. And they threw out all their fuckups and trash on the tracks behind their stinky factory and then moved to Phoenix or something. Suck it.) I wrapped the bottle up in this big old brown paper bag and stuck it in this little ditch in the side of the hill behind Jackass.
I came back later that late afternoon / early evening / magic light time of day with my brother (no dust or burglaries that day, at least not yet) and one of his friends and one or two of the Jimmies. Cool. I was like it should be right over here. They gave me the yeah right looks but followed along anyway. I said there’s at least half a bottle. We can get buzzed and go do a cart or something. Or head down to Farwell and see what’s up. Hold on. Here it is.
Sure enough, I found the bag. I reached down and picked it up. It was super wrinkly and felt kinda damp, but whatever. Like I said, it had been hot and humid all day, so…yeah. But then I noticed it felt light. Shit. I went to open the bag and what? dang it smelled funny. Huh. Shit. OK, I thought. Let’s see. Hahaha. I opened it up and the bottle wasn’t in there. Whatthefuckisthis? Instead, I’m looking at a lump of black fabric. I pulled that shit outta there and goddamn. It was a fucking Batman suit. Holy shit. I threw it out on the ground and yup, a mask fell out with it. We all looked at each other like whu…I could feel though, that there was something still in the bag. I eeped my face over the top, eyes slowly rolling down and…what? There was a big, used, dildo in the bottom of the bag. I laughed and flung it at my brother’s buddy. It hit him in the face with a thwap sound and then we were all laughing. Shiiiiit. His face turned red, even redder than where I hit him in the face with the dildo and we were just dying and shit. Fuck you! he yelled and we’re all just, yeah, we can’t even talk. I imagined this Batman fucker, drunk on crème de menthe, chasing people down the alley next to the tracks, slinging his dildo around, yelling Holy Strap Ons! and doing lord knows what to the people he caught.
So yeah, I’m careful and nervous about hiding stuff on the tracks, but I got no choice and no time because Curt’s on the move, hustling down the side of the tracks to go get this fucker. Who the fuck is that, man? I ask him. I don’t fucking know Teddy, he says. Let’s just get him. Shit. He’s moving again. Goddamnit, Curt says. He pops off another shot and I see the guy go down like he’s dead. Feet fly out from under him and he falls straight back. I can hear this loud thunk sound when his head hits the ice. Me and Curt move a little slower. We look around, but the whole park is deserted. One or two cars way far away in the parking lot that have been there I think since they built the place. A bus goes by on Rogers, one of those new double ones. But no cars. No people. Nothing. We roll up slow and cautious. Dude is not moving. At all. Laid the fuck out. Hands flung out at his sides, feet turned out, black hi-tops with gold laces. Curt sees them too, and spits on the guy. We look around one more time, and then down at this King, this corona laying in a dark, dark puddle.
But all that shit, all that blood? Man, we can see this motherfucker had just slipped and cracked his head open. We could hear him breathing, for fuck’s sake. Curt couldn’t shoot for shit. I don’t think he even hit the dude’s foot. Nope. Nothing there at all. Dude must have been hopping along to check it like he couldn’t believe he missed either. We sweated walking up to this fucker laid out on the ice, big puddle of blood all blooming around his head. We even habla ingles puto?’d and all that shit, but dude was just passed the fuck out. Curt was gonna kick in his ribs or piss on him or something but I was like nah. Just leave him there. Think about what it’ll be like when he wakes up and the back of his head is frozen to the ice.
You’re a cold motherfucker, Teddy, he says.
And we slip and slide back to our spot on the tracks.