“Where’ve you been?” Mark asked after a quick kiss hello.
“I went to get milk. I was out,” Paul said, putting the carton in his nearly empty fridge.
“Thanks.” Mark could not drink his morning coffee without milk. It was very nice of Paul to remember this even though Paul had become distant since Mark moved out. This small consideration seemed like an encouraging sign.
A week later, Paul noticed the billboard was half tagged. He’d been at Mark’s place the night before, so the kid must have been back and gotten interrupted again. “Idiot,” he murmured as he let himself into his studio. The kid was an idiot with a quest, and the romantic in Paul couldn’t help but admire that.
Making Mark fall in love with him had once been a quest, but an accomplished quest is no longer as interesting as an unaccomplished one. Reasonable as ever, Mark had suggested they needed more space or something and moved out. They continued to date, but Paul was keeping his options open. In these last, restless months before his thirtieth birthday, Paul was no longer sure what his options were open for, but they were definitely open.
After years of living in an industrial area much beloved by taggers and junkies, Paul knew that taggers, at least, were not dangerous unless they were cornered. He’d never had occasion or desire to corner one, so there’d never been any conflicts with them. Paul minded his own business, only nodding when the spray can-toting outlaws made eye-contact, which was seldom. Now, the kid tonight he’d seen before: he’d been trying to tag the new billboards above his studio for several weeks. That particular billboard changed frequently enough that it was a challenge to keep it tagged. It seemed to be the personal quest of this one particular kid to keep it tagged and he was willing to brave cold, rain, police, and falls. Paul had seen him fall more than once, but the kid usually bounced right up again and darted away before the police got there. But not that night.
“Hey, thanks, man,” the kid said, hobbling out of the shadows.
“You’re not going to get far on that leg,” Paul said. “And the cops are probably just going around the block, looking for someone who has spray paint on his pants. Like you do.”
“I–” the kid slipped back in the shadows as a car went by. “I’ll be okay,” he said, trying to look tough balanced on one leg.
“I can give you a ride somewhere,” Paul said.
The kid thought about it and then agreed. He directed Paul into a shabby neighborhood not far from the train station. He said, “Thanks,” and hobbled away as Paul drove off.
“You’re welcome. Stay off that billboard, kid,” Paul thought ruefully as he drove home. He stopped at the market to pick up a carton of milk because he knew Mark would be there when he got home and he knew he wouldn’t feel like explaining where he’d been.
“For a book of 16 pages, it packs a punch. Depending on the reader, this story could probably be seen in different ways. I saw it at a story of surviving prison by whatever means dictated to you that kept you as safe as possible.”
lizamichelle1, LibraryThing, May 24, 2012 (and Amazon)
The Tagger 1/3
By Ginger Mayerson
The thump on the sidewalk outside his studio sounded larger than a cat jumping or a rat falling out of a tree. There were, in fact, no trees outside Paul’s studio. There was, however, a billboard, which was a magnet for taggers. Another case for it being a human thump were the police sirens and the running feet. Against his better judgment, he looked outside.
“Not you again,” he said to the kid, who was struggling to stand. Well, at this distance, Paul realized he was more of a late teenager or in his early twenties than a kid.
“Who me?” he said, wincing in pain and favoring his left leg.
“Yes, you. You who fell off this same billboard last weekend, you.”
The sirens were getting closer. The kid limped behind Paul’s van parked next to the studio. There was a plea for help in his eyes as he melted into the shadows.
A patrol car slowed to a halt in front of Paul. The cop stuck his head out and asked if he’d seen anyone tagging the billboard. Paul said he hadn’t seen anyone on the billboard, which was true. This satisfied the cop and, after wishing Paul a pleasant evening, he drove off.
You are, for you, lucky this time. In one of the few jobs you managed not to get fired from in the first week, you learned to cook a little when you weren’t waiting tables. You look at the groceries, you look in cupboards. You find very little in the cupboards, but you do find salt and pepper. You fry half the bacon in the frying pan while you cut up the mushrooms, onion and a quarter of the kielbasa. Thad comes in and eats half the bacon off the paper towels you were blotting the grease off on while you’re sautéing the vegetables and kielbasa in the bacon grease. You say nothing, but you eat some bacon yourself when he leaves. You scoop the meat and vegetables out of the grease and onto paper towels to drain. You get a sauce pan really hot and dump six eggs and butter into it and, while broiling some bread, scramble the eggs very quickly. You put a piece of toast on a plate, pile the vegetables, kielbasa and bacon on them, and then pile the eggs on top of that. You arrange squares of toast around this to keep it from spilling out the sides. You grab a knife and fork and bring it to him on the couch. He sends you back into the kitchen for salt and pepper, which he doesn’t use because you actually seasoned it well enough while cooking it. You go back into the kitchen and clean up.
Thad wolfs down half of it before he notices you slouching in the kitchen doorway, looking at your feet. “You hungry?” he asks, or demands, depending on your point of view.
Continue reading “Six Smutty Stories: You Know You Should be a Better Person (But You’re Not) 3/3”
He parks in front of a grim apartment building with dead grass and broken toys in front of it. He uncuffs you and drags you across the driver’s seat to get out of the car, which he does not lock because everyone knows this is Thad G’s car and dying for fucking with it would be painful, pointless and humiliating. Anyone with any brains would steal a newer car from someone less lethal than Thad G.
Going into the building, you notice what you think is his name on the buzzer panel: Thaddeus Gorski. Even this name that might be his name intimidates you, but you’re not sure why. You are shoved up three flights of broken, filthy stairs to his apartment. It has the most boring furniture you have ever seen and looks like no one lives there.
“Find shit to clean this place with,” he says, throwing himself on the couch where he can see you rummaging under the sink and in the bathroom until you find a broom, rags and Comet powder.
You get to work. You’re glad he doesn’t have a dog. You hate cleaning up after dogs. You wash a lot of dishes without breaking any and have to really scrub the stove, twice. The bathroom is something you hope you can forget very soon. After you sweep the floors, you dilute some vinegar in hot water to wash them with because there isn’t any ammonia or bleach in the place. There’s a laundry basket full of bunched-up sheets and towels in the bedroom. Thad tells you to make the bed, which only has some naked pillows and tangled blankets up on it. You find lube and used condoms in the bed. You also find one very high heeled shoe there. You never find the other one. But you’re good at making beds, hospital corners and all, so it looks nice when you’re done.
Continue reading “Six Smutty Stories: You Know You Should be a Better Person (But You’re Not) 2/3”