This is a sneak preview from our up-coming Going Down Swinging #33 from the story Badass by Michael Trudeau. We will be launching the new GDS #33 on Sunday 2 September at the Toff in Town with an amazing line up of performers.
Event details can be found here.
SO I GET FLASHES AT THE STRANGEST TIMES, not before bed like people say, but during the day, when I’m doing some stupid task. But at night though, too, after reading a bit in bed, when you reach over to click off the light. In that instant when the switch is flipped and everything’s black but our eyes don’t know it yet. Memory flashes. Usually it’s the indian’s face. It’s beginning to get all puffy – Charlie and I have just beaten him senseless – his lids are swelling, his nose is flat, splayed out like the time we smashed a mushroom cap with a hockey stick. The indian’s smiling and mouth-bleeding, and I’m not sure if we’ve plastered the grin there, contorted, or if he’s trying to make us feel guilty by smiling. That’s what I’d do.
From the indian’s face my mind flashes Charlie. This can keep me awake for hours. Thoughts span our life, beginning as kids, on the summers up at the lake, with his father D-Wayne. I’m able to fall asleep, thinking about a little thing. The wood grain of the dock into which I’d curl my toenails. Maybe here the sun’s searing on my pale shoulders. A sunfish’s fin, pricking my palm in self-defence. Here the lakewater’s running down my arm, dripping from my elbow. We spoke the other day for the first time in years. Though I’d often wondered what Charlie was up to, I didn’t ask,because it would be unlike me. It was about noon, and he’d woken me. I was surprised to hear him but also groggy, so my nerves were steady.
“D-Wayne’s dead,” he said. And then he asked if I would I meet him up at the cabin.
Good, I thought. D-Wayne was an asshole. He died in a car accident around one in the morning, driving the wrong way down I-94 from Saint Paul to Minneapolis. I already knew about it, Charlie wasn’t lying, his obit had been in the paper a few days before. Dwayne Learky, sixty, of Northeast Minneapolis, drove over one-half mile, police say, in the wrong direction, before annihilating a Dodge Shadow and a Central Senior High School teen. I asked Charlie where the wreck happened. Near the exit ramp for Hardee’s. Since reading the obit I’d been wondering how the wreck might’ve come about – from which downtown bar D-Wayne had driven home and which streets he’d taken. I knew the city like the back of my hand, and kept rehashing his route in my head – he must’ve entered the exit ramp of blank street – till I had formed a pretty good idea of what his course had been.
“How did you know to call me at my mom’s?” I asked.
“I heard it from Stace.”
My ex-girlfriend knew, too. The doubt and paranoia started to get me then, just a bit, and I leaned back in my chair. At the dining room table, I sat there suspended with the phone against my ear, pinching my scrotum through my sweatpants. My mom’s electric fireplace sat opposite across the room. It had been installed the previous week and still didn’t look quite right. (The problem, I understand now, is there’s no hearth.)
“The last time I saw you you were moving out of our apartment,” I said. And I got to thinking about a moment very soon before that, pausing on an image I usually avoid. It’s Charlie, staggering in the light of our kitchen doorway. He’s twenty-two years old, already a drunk and a burnout. We’re in the hallway of our apartment in Minneapolis, and he refuses to lean against the wall to keep his balance. His legs are like tree trunks – his right one plods forward, then his left. I can see from his face, which registers little, that his mind is blank-drunk. He has beset himself with the task of balancing a beer bottle on a doorknob, which is the nearest excuse for a tabletop. He must relinquish the beer to free up his hand, he needs to dig out his cell phone or car keys – something like that – but finds again and again he has a beer in that hand, and another in his left that could also be relinquished, but he can’t decide which. He concentrates, almost topples, but steadies the bottle. Wait. It teeters on the knob. There. He’s got it. It’s tilted back against the door, just right. That’s it. His eyes find mine.
That’s how I like to envision it.
The likely truth is I’ve just stabbed him in the gut with a screwdriver, and he’s trying to figure out if what’s happened really happened. So in all likelihood, I’ve decided, he wants to relinquish the beers to feel the screwdriver handle for himself, with his own hands, not to rummage in his pockets or answer his cell phone. I was told as much by Stace, much later, but have little recollection. I leaned back in the chair, the phone pressed between my shoulder and ear, and Charlie described some work that needed to be done at D-Wayne’s cabin up north. Something about sorting through the cabin shit. Anything of value we would load into boxes, we’d haul out old furniture, the wooden TV console, the old picnic table they used as a kitchen table, did I remember? We could build a bonfire if we wanted in the clearing out back, have some beers.
But I was thinking about that pathetic, quizzical look I’d put on Charlie’s face. What happens after is foggier. The beer bottle is balanced, Charlie has located its centre of gravity. I’ve witnessed this triumph, and then I wander off to another room in our apartment to get away. I can’t handle the scene. To the bathroom maybe. I must have been pretty far gone myself, alcohol, everything. Maybe I sit on the toilet for a while and try to shit. And I can’t, which is often the case. On the toilet, I decide to draw a bath while waiting for the shit to come. I am a time-saver. I reach over, squatting, and turn the dial. I slip, and nearly bash my teeth through my tongue. I sit back down on the shitter. I give up trying to empty myself – there is a high risk of prolapse. I shuffle to the tub. Whoa, careful. The water is running directly into the drain hole. Seems I’d forgotten to plug it. Saved again by luck (high risk of drowning) from being the local fuckup of the season, a lesson for teens during drug-abuse resistance education. Instead I wake up naked on the linoleum floor. It isn’t yet morning. The bathroom door is open wide, which means, if indeed we’d had guests as often we did, bathroom traffic hadn’t ceased. Panic gets me. I roll over, reach around: in situations like these I always check my asshole for signs of penetration, forced, ill-conceived, other. But there’s nothing, no bottlenecks, no fissures.
In the dining room I pinched my scrotum a bit too hard, the pain jolted me, and I almost toppled backward into the china hutch. Charlie seemed to be waiting on the line. I sat upright at the table.
“Yeah?” I said. “What’s the question?”
“The cabin. Can you help me this weekend?”
At the time it seemed possible he was fucking with me. And it was also possible, though he’d talked to Stace, he didn’t know who stabbed him. A thing I hoped but didn’t much believe. I thought it over and said why not…
Read the full story in Going Down Swinging #33, to be released Sunday September 2, 2012. Launch tickets here.