Brandon was drunk and subject to sudden mood swings, but as the entire restaurant sang "Happy Birthday" he accepted the tribute with ebrious aplomb.
"Are you going to blow out that candle or just let it wax your cake?" asked Marvin. Marvin also was drunk. The primary effect was to exaggerate his native lack of tact.
"What? Oh." Brandon's eyes focused as his attention returned to his two old grammar school friends. He successfully blew out the candle even though the main force of his puff was off target. "Thanks for the birthday party guys. I can't believe I'm the big Three-Oh."
Arnold stole from Oscar Wilde. "You look weeks younger." Arnold, as usual, was sober. Two sips from a wine glass qualified as a bender for him.
"Fuck you. I like this place. 'Le Beouf a la Mode'.
"The name had me worried. What flavor ice cream goes with braised beef?"
"Pistachio. So what's the plan guys? It's only 10 o'clock?"
"I guess we go drink some more," proposed Marvin. "I don't think we have to walk far in Manhattan to find a bar."
"I drink in bars every night."
"And the man is still single."
"Asshole! I'm not a total pig farmer, you know. I like to go to the Met and MoMA and shit."
"Well, the museum guards might object to us wandering the halls at 10 PM...
"...leaving aside the coprous behavior..."
"...and they don't sell beer there. Shoot pool? Movie?"
"Bullshit to both of you."
"We could go to a bar with some scenery," suggested Arnold. "Spikes is on 44th."
"A strip club?"
"You're such an uptight asshole about booze and drugs, but at least you like sluts. It relieves me that you have one vice."
Arnold acknowledged the basic accuracy of the portrait so he let pass the phraseology. The waitress, however, tabled the check with rather more force than strictly was necessary. Neither Brandon or Marvin noticed. Arnold overtipped her.
Arnold still lived in the suburbs, so he had kept his wheels, a predictably conservative Chevy Lumina. His friends had moved to the city. Monthly parking rates in Manhattan are higher than apartment rents almost anywhere else so neither Marvin nor Brandon owned a car. They enjoyed letting Arnold chauffeur them around town even though taxis and the subway were more practical. Partly this was so they could smoke and, though Arnold grumbled, drink beer. On the drive from the restaurant Brandon lit up a joint and shared it with Marvin. Saturday night traffic is light in New York outside of the theater district and the Village. Arnold found a parking place on the street less than a block from Spikes.
At the entrance of Spikes a spectacled young woman collected $5 cover charges. "Hi, Arnie. You can go right in but I have to charge your friends."
"They know you here by name? They let you in for free?" Marvin paid for himself and Brandon while eyeing Arnold curiously. Arnold shrugged. They entered the club which was a dingy space painted in black and lit with black light. Smudged mirrors were on the walls and in back of the stage where the girls danced.
"Buy your first drinks at the bar," ordered a curvy bartender who overflowed a skimpy black uniform. "Then you can take them to the tables in the back. Hi, Arnie." Marvin eyed Arnold again for a moment and then bought two beers. He handed one to Brandon. Arnold ordered a Coke.
Brandon's mood was suddenly surly. He scowled, swigged from the beer bottle, and pounded it on the table. "What's with you?" asked Marvin.
"Look at all these people here. They lead such totally worthless lives."
"I don't think they look at it that way, Brandon. Just enjoy the scenery. Those two girls on stage are gorgeous. If you like one, me and Arnie will spring for a table dance for you. Like happy birthday, man."
"These girls don't give a shit about me. All they want is my bucks."
"So? All you want from them is beaver."
"Actually it would be nice to like know someone."
"So you want one of these women here to love you for yourself. Tonight. I think you're kind of expecting too much, buddy boy."
"Arnie!" A tawny haired dancer in a purple microdress literally jumped on Arnold. She threw her arms around his neck and wrapped her legs around his waist until the manager gave her a warning stare.
"Arnold's been holding out on us," laughed Marvin. "Who is the human overcoat?"
"Cindy, this is Marvin and Brandon. It's Brandon's birthday."
"Thanks, Cindy. You two go out or something?" asked Brandon who was suddenly sentimental. There was a slur to his speech.
"Shush! We're not supposed to date customers."
"But you do?"
"Thanks so much for bragging about me, Arnold."
"I haven't been on a date in months," Brandon stated sullenly.
"Cunts like you Brandon," said Marvin with poorly disguised jealousy. He totally missed Cindy's folded arms objection to his noun selection. "They always ask me about you. You have that clean cut boyish prep school look. Fraudulent advertising in my opinion."
"Fuck you. Besides, Arnie's the trust fund preppie. The women I like run like rabbits."
The Night Manager Barbara walked by. There are beatniks in the 1990s and Barbara is one. She dresses in black, wears shoulder length black hair and no make up but manages to be pretty anyway. She is a nihilist though it is doubtful she knows what that means.
"That one for instance. I like her better than these tarted up strippers."
"Your friends are charming, Arnold." Cindy's antiphasis was lost on both of them. "Buy Barbara a drink," she suggested with a sigh. "She'll talk to you. Most guys don't pay attention to her."
Brandon frowned as though solving a quadratic equation. After a few moments he summoned up ethyl courage and walked over to Barbara at the bar. He tapped her on the shoulder and said something inaudible to the three at the table. Without prompting, the bartender put a drink in front of Barbara. From the steam it appeared to be simply hot coffee.
"That's the dog boy!" exclaimed Marvin to Cindy.
"We call Brandon the dog boy."
"I don't know."
"I see." Cindy was accustomed to this sort of irrelevancy from drunken patrons.
A few minutes later Brandon stomped back to the table. His sullen mood had been replaced by a murderous one.
"So did you do the dirty?" asked Marvin.
"Wasn't Barbara nice to you?" asked Cindy with more than a touch of Schadenfreude.
"That shit face! I kind of opened up to her, you know? I told her that there really was romance in the world. I told her I believed that true love was really possible and I'd like to find it someday. She said she didn't believe a word of it. That life is shit. That I was was living a total fantasy and I'd never find love. She all but called me an idiot. It really pissed me off."
"Don't worry about it. She is kind of a dark person."
"That was rather an amazing thing to say to her," commented Arnold. "Besides, I like La Rochefoucauld's line that people would never fall in love if they hadn't read anything about it."
"Fuck you too. No, Cindy, she's a real asshole. I'm going to go back and tell her off."
"No, Brandon. Calm down. She's the manager. You'll get thrown out."
"I'm not going to do anything to get thrown out. I'm just going to tell her to fuck off!"
"That will get you thrown out." Cindy started to pet Brandon on the back.
"No, listen. I'm just going to say to her, 'You are wrong. You are a total asshole. Go fuck yourself!' I'm going to tell her right now." He rose unsteadily to his feet. Cindy grabbed Brandon by the shirt and pulled him to his seat.
"No! Do you want me to dance for you?" Suddenly feeling awkward in front of Arnold, she changed tack. "Vanessa! Come over here and dance for Brandon. It's his birthday. Arnie here is paying." Cindy stood up and pulled over Vanessa by the hand in front of Brandon. A conventionally pretty bleached blonde, Vanessa stripped her top and wiggled between Brandon's legs. His agitation subsided. "You see, Arnold? Men calm right down with boobies in their faces. This is what I have to deal with every evening. It's why I find you relaxing. You don't need therapy from me every minute."
"I like the therapy though."
By the time Vanessa was done Brandon had forgotten Barbara . Brandon squinted at Arnold as though to clear the image. "I've been drinking too much. I'm all fucked up. Hey Cindy. You have any coke?"
"Shhhh! Don't even talk about that. That's automatic unemployment. The city hassles the shit out of these bars. They love to pull liquor licenses over drugs. The owner throws a tantrum if he sees any. I'd be out on my ass."
"You have some though? I'll pay you for it."
"Shush! No, and I can't call my connection from here."
"I'll go see my dealer then. I'll be back."
Cindy shrugged her shoulders. "OK."
"Hey Arnie, you can stay here. Just give me the keys and I'll go."
"No! Arnold, go with him. Don't give him the keys!"
"I wasn't planning on it."
The walk up apartment was on 1rst Avenue in the East 80s. The neighborhood was fairly posh, but this was an older building with a pool parlor on the first floor. Brandon pressed the buzzer repeatedly. An irritated voice on the scratchy speaker asked "What?!"
"Shut your mouth Brandon! This is my neighborhood. Come on up." A buzzer sounded and the lock clicked open. Brandon pushed the door open so that it banged against the wall. He took the steps two at a time even though his balance threatened to return him to the entrance at an even faster rate. Without pausing to knock he slammed open the first door at the top of the stairs.
The studio apartment was long and narrow with a single window at the far end. A full sized mattress was on the floor in the center of the room. An unconscious dark skinned young woman lay curled up on it with her shoulders exposed above the blanket. There were no signs of night clothes. A table and couch occupied the space by the window. On the table was a pharmacist's scale.
"Hey, Harvey, this is my friend Arnold. He's cool."
"Hello, Arnold." Harvey extended his hand with the businesslike politeness of a bank officer reviewing a candidate for a loan. To Brandon he was familiarly abrupt.
"What do you want?"
Brandon wrapped an arm around his shoulder and turned to Arnold. "Harvey is a cool dude. He is a black man and a white guy."
"Cut the crap, Brandon! Excuse the mess and my looks, Arnold. I've had a busy day." Harvey actually looked quite well-groomed in a white shirt and creased pants.
"Your talking to a bachelor. Everything looks neat to me."
"Excuse my looks too," Brandon interposed. "I forgot the white sheets I usually wear lynching up niggers."
"Hey! Hey!" Harvey shoved off Brandon's arm. "I'm in no mood for your bullshit tonight! So tell me what you want and get the fuck out."
Brandon was unfazed by Harvey's anger. "Blow!"
"Keep your voice down."
"And something for Arnold. Some crank maybe." Brandon dropped cash on the table.
"No thanks. I don't do that. Or coke."
"Hey, that's cool, man," responded Harvey. "I respect that. I envy it actually."
"The dufus doesn't even drink. Maybe like a glass of wine at dinner. Sometimes. Just hangs out in the burbs and watches the Disney channel or something. Haven't you even tried this stuff, Arnie?"
"Back in college I smoked some pot. Inhaled it, too. Tried depressants. Too depressing."
"But not snow?"
"Why not? Why not now? I'll spring for it. Come on. Don't be an uptight pansy asshole."
Arnie laughed. "Deja vu! We're back in the schoolyard again."
"Hey, leave him alone, man! He's brighter than we are."
"Either I'd like it or I wouldn't. Either way it'd be bad for me."
Brandon pulled back slightly from his frenetic state. "OK, actually that makes some kind of sense, but you're still an uptight asshole."
Harvey scooped the coke off the scale into a mortar bowl. A larger pile of white powder sat on a sheet of wax paper on the tabletop. "I'll grind this stuff up."
"Pay me more!"
"That's all the money I've got. More! Look, I'm you best customer."
"Don't say that! I hate that word, man! You're my friend. You dig?"
"In that case..." Brandon leaned over the table and reached for the powder on the wax paper.
Harvey grabbed the back of his neck and yanked him away from the table. "I'm going to break your neck man!"
"More!" Brandon ducked down and shouldered Harvey in the stomach. They fell together onto the couch. None of this disturbed the sleeping woman on the mattress.
"That's it!" Harvey elbowed Brandon off of him. "Get the fuck off of me and get the fuck out!"
"All right! Here. Here's more!" Harvey got up and added a small scoop to Brandon's pile. He poured the lot into a plastic bag and threw it at Brandon. "Now get the fuck out before I kill you." Arnold was astounded. The death threat he could understand given Brandon's antics, but the extra scoop of coke was a mind blower. "Hey, Arnold," said Harvey with forced calm. "Good to meet you. Brandon's really all right. When he's sober. He just gets wild when he's high."
Arnold realized Harvey was actually apologizing for Brandon's behavior. He apparently did think of Brandon as a friend. Why Harvey bothered was not entirely clear. Not for the first time this evening, Arnold wondered why he himself bothered. "I noticed."
Arnold drove back to midtown as Brandon rolled a dollar bill and snooted directly from the small plastic bag. "Where did you meet Harvey?"
"I was in a local bar downtown just after I moved to the city. I said loudly at the bar, 'What I really could use tonight is some blow!' and went to the bathroom. I figured someone would follow me there. Harvey did. He's all right. He stayed at my place for a couple weeks when his mother threw him out."
"His mother threw him out?"
"Tossed his shit right out the window onto the sidewalk. She was pissed at the drugs, I guess."
Street parking was now full despite, or because of, the late hour. After circling the block twice, Arnold gave up and parked in a 24 hour parking garage. They walked back to Spikes where Marvin waited.
"Where the fuck were you guys? It's almost 3 in the morning."
"We went to see a big black man with fleece as white as snow."
"Watch remarks like that, Brandon. This isn't Idaho. Not everyone is going to think you are ironically amusing."
Despite her earlier caution, Cindy was attracted by the presence of cocaine. She leaned over the table. "I'm off work in a little while. Chill out for the rest of the evening and we'll go to an after hours club."
Bars in New York close at 4 AM. This causes a sudden surge in traffic. At the parking garage, the exit was blocked by cars entering and cars leaving.
Marvin smacked his palm against Brandon's head. "What do you think I am, you fucking Nazi asshole?!"
Brandon leaned in toward Marvin's face. "Jews! Jews!"
The after hours club was located on a dingy commercial stretch of 30th street. Cindy was allowed in for free. Her three escorts paid $10 each cover charge. These establishments are illegal and typically feature gambling and open drug use. Ever since a fire killed 80 people in one such club a few years back, the police have raided them frequently. This one was once a large restaurant. The decrepit but once fashionable decor was stained by water leaks. Two very large bouncers flanked the bar. The patrons included aspiring musicians with their girlfriend financiers, bikers and their girlfriend financiers, drug dealers and their customers, compulsive gamblers, suburbanites on a lark, those strange men who wear conservative business suits and gray pony tails, and legitimate nightclub employees whose workday ended at 4:00 AM.
Cindy lighted up her porcelain pot pipe. The mixture of pot and vodka induced paranoia in her rather than the usual sleepiness. "This place is hot tonight. It's gonna get raided. I can tell. It's too crowded."
An overweight but muscular man wearing stained denim, a two day beard growth and a matching accumulation of body odor brushed Brandon's arm on his way to the gaming tables. He scowled over his shoulder with obvious disappointment when the bump did not provoke an assault. "It's not the cops I'm worried about," said Brandon who was just short enough to be self conscious about it. "A lot of these guys just come in here for a fight."
"I start some fights myself," Cindy bragged. "The bouncers watch my ass."
"I'll bet they do. But you're a girl. They'd watch our asses get stomped. Men are much more likely than women to be targets."
"Except one kind."
"Actually, more men are raped each year than women," stated Arnold with more of his usual pedantry. "About 400,000 by some estimates. But 90% or so of them happen in prison and we don't care much what happens to prisoners."
"That's true," said Brandon. "I don't care what happens to them. Screw 'em."
"Yuck. The thought of men fucking each others' butts is disgusting," spat Cindy.
"I thought you were bisexual."
"Do you like women, Arnie?"
"So I agree with with you. Don't get all PC on me."
"OK. And I agree with you that a raid is worse than a fight. You usually can walk away from a fight. The slammer has locks."
This evoked a moment of chemically enhanced protectiveness from Cindy. "Everyone remember that the game plan is to protect Arnold. He is just humoring us here. He shouldn't be hauled in with us. If you're not doing anything illegal the cops just let you go. So we don't know him." She laughed. "Actually the cops once let me go when I had a packet of coke hidden in my mouth. Shit, I paid 100 bucks for it. I wasn't about to throw it away. Hey!" Cindy jumped up and hugged a light skinned black man. He glanced at her table companions, whispered and left. She then approached a muscular white man with a pony tail. The scene repeated. Cindy returned to the table annoyed. "No one will sell me any blow. They say some narcs are in here tonight. Some dudes at the bar have been asking for blow."
"They think we're the narcs."
"No, they trust me. This place is hot tonight."
"Let's go back to my place", offered Brandon. "I bought enough to share."
As they climbed into their car, three police cruisers and a wagon entered 30th street. "Shit, that was close." After a stop at a 24 hour deli to buy a case of beer, they drove south past City Hall. There was a parking space on John Street less than a block from Brandon's apartment. Brandon lived on the fourth floor of one of the rare residential buildings in the financial district.
In the apartment Brandon chopped white powder with a razor on a hand mirror. He held out the mirror in his left hand and proffered a straw with his right.
"No. I don't like using other people's straws," Cindy explained. "May I?" Without waiting for a response, she picked up the bag, dipped her long fingernail directly into it, and sniffed a bit with each nostril.
Brandon snorted the line he had cut with his own straw. Cindy extended a digit to Marvin. He inhaled deeply. "I love this shit!" At irregular intervals thereafter she supplied her own nose and Marvin's. The three also resorted frequently to the case of Budweiser from the deli. Arnold found a Cherry Coke in the refrigerator.
"There's caffeine in that you junkie!" shouted Brandon.
"So I hear."
"Arnold is disgusted with his fucked up friends," laughed Cindy. Actually Arnold was rather enjoying their frolics although he placed a higher value than before on his quiet life in the suburbs.
"I don't know what he gets from us sometimes," said Brandon as though Arnold were not in the room.
"We rely on Arnold," observed Cindy, "but he knows that we're his friends. He may not be able to rely on any one of us at all times, but he knows that somebody here will be straight enough to be there for him."
"That Barbara really pissed me off."
"She's a black witch. You stay away from her!" She had forgotten her earlier advice to buy Barbara a drink. "Those people destroy everyone around them. They ruin their karma and their future lives for some stupid worldly gains. Arnold doesn't believe that."
"You can't separate the thought from the thinker," explained Arnold.
"When the mechanism of thought, your body, goes, the thoughts go too. Future lives belong to future people. There is no continuity."
"That doesn't make sense, Arnold. How do you explain karma?"
"No such animal."
"You really believe that?"
"Yes." Cindy, Brandon, and Marvin were stoned enough to believe their discussion was reaching new depths of profundity. Though sober, Arnold caught some of the attitude. "I've had to fight too hard for my sanity to play with fantasies," he added. You see, about 10 years ago a tandem truckload of phobias ran over me. It's taken me a long time to work them out. Anyway, the irrational now leaves a very sour taste in my mouth. That's probably part of the reason I pretty much gave up booze too."
"What happened 10 years ago?"
"It was in New Orleans the morning after drinking myself into a stupor. Those were my more crapulous days, you understand."
"Ooh, crapulous. I'm not sure what that means but I like it," said Cindy throatily.
"Yeah. Well, while crossing one of those 10 foot wide streets in the French Quarter on a traffic free morning, a cop waved me over and began to write me a jaywalking ticket."
"I always knew you were a criminal at heart."
"I was feeling cruddy and dehydrated and and hung over and was standing in the sun. Suddenly everything went gray and I fainted on the sidewalk."
"That's because you saw him as a parental authority figure and you are so hung up about pleasing your parents," Cindy analyzed.
"Whatever. Anyway, I woke up staring at the sky. The cop asked, 'Are you OK?' I said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'Sign here.'
"Cute story. What has it got to do with corn in Kansas?" squawked Marvin with an apparently painful noseful of coke.
"Well, for years afterwards I couldn't shake the feeling that I was on the verge of fainting. That can be a bit disconcerting when driving a car or standing in line or whatever. This one irrational notion led to others and soon to full blown anxiety attacks. You know how it feels when a deer suddenly jumps in front of your car?"
"Yeah, I feel that way when I see blue and red lights flashing behind my car."
"Right. I felt that way 24 hours a day."
"You should have seen a shrink."
"Psychotherapy is a disease masquerading as a cure. But if you keep hitting your hand with a hammer, eventually your hand goes numb. My phobias wore themselves out. Suppose I did faint at the wheel? The worst that could happen is that I die in a crash. Eventually, I starting feeling as well as thinking, 'So what?'"
"This is kind of interesting," commented Brandon. "You never hear Arnold talk about himself. You always have to drag things out of him."
"That's why you should get fucked up with us. It makes you feel better for a while. And it doesn't 'ruin your life'. That's up to you. I've had tough times too, you know, Arnold. I was raped by a couple of assholes once. So you shouldn't try to take away my pleasures."
"I didn't tell you to stop. I said that I choose to live my life sober. My choice. Other people can do what they like. I'm all for legalization."
"I'm not," grunted Brandon.
"Wait a minute. You're the one stuffing cocaine up your nose and you want to outlaw drugs."
"Yeah, I'm telling you man, you can't trust people. If they could buy this shit they'd be fucked up all the time. Cab drivers, elevator operators..."
"They can buy this stuff. You buy this stuff. Besides they can buy booze legally. Is that better? And most people aren't drunk all the time."
"It'd be worse, man."
"I agree with Brandon. Except for pot. That should be legal." Cindy declared as she refilled her fingernail.
"Why, Cindy? You can get high on pot too."
"Yeah, but it's a mellow buzz."
"OK, you don't mind cab drivers with a mellow buzz. But there are costs to keeping drugs illegal too. It turns neighborhoods into war zones, overloads prisons, turns ordinary people into criminals, undermines civil liberties...
Marvin laughed. "Still the campus radical. Shouldn't you have outgrown that back during Reagan sometime?"
"No. And a lot of the real damage done by drugs has to do with the criminal environment created by the law. May I guess those rapists offered you cocaine?"
An offended Cindy answered, "Can we spell 'Blaming the Victim?'"
"I'm not blaming you. If someone steals your car the thief is always to blame regardless of where you parked it, but some parking spots are safer than others. I'm just saying that not many rapes happen in liquor stores where you can buy booze openly."
"You're wrong, man," insisted Brandon. "I'm telling you. People would be all fucked up everywhere. Work really sucks. You wouldn't know about that."
"Right. Working with mom and dad exploiting the proletariat. But on a real job you want to be high."
"So you can handle drugs, on the job or off, and that's OK; but those other people need to be locked up." Arnold was struck by a minor insight. "Or do you think you can't handle it? That if it were easier to get you would be high all the time. I think you have pretty easy access now, Brandon."
"Look guys," said Marvin "it's 8 o'clock and I need some sleep. Give me a ride home?"
"I don't want to leave yet," said Cindy to Arnold. She put her arms around Arnold's neck and kissed him deeply. He knew this was just to prevent the evening from ending, but he was happy to be persuaded.
"Guys. Guys! Do I need a bucket of water? Like I really need to go home."
"So go!," Cindy shouted. She put her hand to her forehead. "Oh shit. OK. Take him home, Arnold. I'll talk with Brandon. You don't mind, do you? I won't fuck him."
"You're a free woman."
"I know. But you don't think I'm trying to hose your friend, do you?"
"No, I believe you."
Brandon had followed this exchange with an intense expression. "Actually I need to get some sleep too and we're out of blow. So thanks guys and see you later."
"That's the thing about this shit," said Marvin. "You can have a flour sack full and it won't be enough. You'll keep doing it until its gone."
"Let me call my dealer. I'll buy some more. I really don't want to leave. Besides, I owe him $20."
"Thanks guys. I don't mean to be impolite, but like get the fuck out."
"Brandon thinks you'll be jealous, Arnie. Tell him it's OK."
"Really, guys. Out!"
"How embarrassing. I'm actually being thrown out of Brandon's apartment!"
A few minutes later Arnold's car headed north. The sun shone brightly in the clear morning. Traffic was slow due to a bicycle rally. The car approached Murray Street. "Turn here so I can buy some blow!" Cindy demanded.
"The street is blocked off because of the bikes."
"Then pull over. I'll walk."
There were no legal parking spaces so Arnold pulled up to the corner and stayed at the wheel. Cindy got out and walked down the block. She navigated pretty well considering her daze. Arnold and Marvin waited what seemed too long a time. "Do you want to sit behind the wheel while I go find her?"
"Uh. I shouldn't even be sitting behind the wheel."
"OK. Then would you go see where she is?"
"Oh shit. OK."
Several minutes later Marvin and Cindy hurried to the car. "Pull out!" Cindy ordered as she slammed the door. "Go!" Arnold pulled out into traffic.
"That was a long walk just for a piss."
"He wasn't there. Or maybe he was getting laid and didn't want to answer. I saw his girlfriend's car outside. But I needed to go so I went between two cars."
"Yeah. I was all bloated from the Bud too so I went in a corner and some guy ran out of a store yelling 'Hey! Hey!' That's why we told you to go. We were about to be busted for pissing. You know, Arnie, Brandon didn't kick Cindy out because he was worried you'd be jealous. Cindy ended it for him when she said she wouldn't fuck him. He would have let her stay otherwise."
"Thanks. I have working familiarity with the male mind."
"You assholes! Hey, you were at Brandon's dealer before. Let's go there."
"Cindy, it's 8:30 in the morning. Isn't it time to call it quits?"
"I'm buying some coke. Are you going to be a friend and help, or am I going uptown alone?"
"OK, OK. You shouldn't be wandering the streets right now. Maybe Harvey is still awake."
"Of course he is. You're the 9 to 5er. For night people the day doesn't end until noon."
They found a space on 1rst Avenue and walked to Harvey's building. Arnold buzzed. He was surprised when the lock buzzed open without any queries over the intercom. The three climbed the stairs and approached an open door.
"Come in!" a strange voice invited.
Three clean cut white men stood next to Harvey in the area by the window. One wore a rain coat even though the sky was clear and the day was warm. The mattress was empty. The men waited for the new arrivals to say something. Cindy nearly did so until Arnold quieted her with an admonitory tug on her arm. Finally, Harvey suggested "Maybe now is not a good time. Come back later man." The revelers retreated.
Back in the car, Arnold slammed the door. The interior was already hot from the sun so he opened the window. "Those were cops. They were waiting for us to ask for drugs. You nearly got us arrested."
"Lighten up. We're out of it. Let's go up to 110th. I know some dudes on the street there."
"No, that's it. We're done. We're going home."
"I don't want to go home."
"I do. I'll drop you off at your place."
"I'll probably go out again."
"We don't care for snitches," said a voice by the open window. Arnold slumped onto Cindy when the bullet entered his chest.
She shouted out the window at the vanishing gunman. "I need some blow!"
To the Editor,
I am a horseloving suburbanite whose conservative facade is belied by
his twisted fiction. My tales, most of which are SF, have been
published in Pursuit magazine and in several web zines (see www.sound.
net/~rmcheal and www.geocities.com/Area51/Vault/3051). This somewhat
offensive story is a bit of a departure for me.
RICHARD BELLUSH, JR.
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