Remember that night well, clear as a spring sunrise in Montana. Slim kept buying ’em until I was under the table. Woke up the next day back in my bunk at the ranch with the worst hangover of my life. Haven’t been able to say his name since. Just call him the Big L in my mind.
I was sick as a dog the next day, but I bucked grain with the crew best I could. Could barely sleep in the bunk house though. Bad dreams and the shakes. Went three days like that and then cuz the sheriff was nosing around about Big L’s death I lit out and caught a freight train east to Reno. Never been back to California since. It’ll be forty years next year. Hard to believe I’m still alive. Ain’t worth shit now neither. Worthless as that old swamper we was going to shack up with. Dumb dreams those ones.
Played poker for a year in Reno instead a busting a gut. Made a stake too, eight hundred dollars. Bought a little farm and a house in Colorado with it. Only lasted about a year and a half though. Spending the winter out there all alone on the Eastern Plains with nothing to do but drink till spring about drove me crazy. I’d get so loopy I’d see Big L moping through the hallway carrying a dead mouse in his big paws. Just lit out a there one day too. Imagine the bank got the place in the end. On the move more or less ever since.
Been living in this flophouse now for two years in this hundred mile an hour city. I hate it even worse than the roaches and bed bugs. Damn neighbor’s got his television too loud again. Bang on the wall twice a day, but he just yells, “Blow it out your ass,” and cranks the damn thing up louder.
And police sirens wailing through the heat and stink of this town all summer. Some crazy bastard’s been shooting people in their cars, mostly women. Read it in the paper and it made me think of him. Went out and drank away my last ten bucks. Got nothing now. Rent’s due next week and I ain’t got a pot to piss in to pay it with. Been on some bumpy roads a time or two, but never thought the last one would dead end in a shit hole like this for me.
Live on the ninth floor and I suppose I could do it. If I lit on my head it’d be done quick. No broken back or nothing like that, don’t like to think about lingering a cripple. Window opens onto the alley. Could just tumble out her one day. Be gone for good and nobody’d even notice. Nobody’d give a shit, ‘cept those that cleaned up the mess on the street I suppose. Damn mess I’d make too I suppose.
Big L wouldn’t understand. Pain of the soul wasn’t something he got much of. All he understood was the rabbits. Every damn day, rabbits, rabbits, rabbits, talk about it all day if I let him. Blabbering on about getting our little house and live off the fat of the land. Not that he would heard me if I done told him, but that ain’t the life for bindle stiffs like us. Never was. Big L never knew it, never understood that we was the rabbits, ground up rabbit meat that is, that feeds the machine and the “fatta da lan” been sold out from under us a long time ago.
About the Creator
Steve Howard's self-published collection of short stories Satori in the Slip Stream, Something Gaijin This Way Comes, and others were released in 2018. His poetry collection Diet of a Piss Poor Poet was released in 2019.