Bang Bang Bang, chapter 1
I was going out of my fucking mind.
I'm in this tiny duplex in Glendale, California. I'm in this shit-hole of an apartment with absolutely no insulation so that in the winter it's all drafty and shit and in the summer it's a fucking oven.
It's August. The middle of August.
It's around a hundred degrees.
I'm in a heat coma, Jack.
I'm on the futon. In the corner of my living room. Dirty white plaster walls all around, and I can't move. My eyes are like hard-boiled eggs still boiling.
I can't get any work done on the project. I can't even think about the project.
Outside, it's worse. It's like a hundred and five. Dry heat so that you're cooked deader than shit about five minutes before you even start to clue in. At night, it's a cool eighty - no breeze. But then, you gotta go inside again so going outside's just a tease. Just a way to continue the torture that's so true it's disgusting.
So I'm in that shit-box, trying to get the project together and, like I said, I can't even think about the project. I've got a legal pad by my futon. I've got a mechanical pencil about six inches away from my left hand. I just stare at it. I'm concentrating like a bastard. Thinking, the project, get to the project... I'm almost there. I'm cutting through the heat. I'm almost there...
And then my neighbor's new goddamned wife turns on the bad techno.
It's all gone. Back to square one. Back to whatever's before square one.
If it's not the bad techno, that horrible techno, it's the TV volume way up. When it was just my neighbor, I never heard the TV. He'd meet me in front of the duplex at night and get all worried. Ask me if the TV was too loud and I'd tell him I never heard a thing. I never even heard the guy flush the toilet, but now I hear it all the time. If it's not the music or the TV or the toilet flushing, she's on the phone talking this loud, whiny Armenian that just shreds the project. Just fucking kills me.
Now don't get me wrong, Jack, I'm no racist... I love the Armenians. Shit, couldn't live in fucking Glendale if I didn't, it being like eighty-percent Armenian. All my neighbors: Armenia n. Taking me under their wing on Holocaust day. Filling me all fat with Russian vodka and skewered marinated pork and little chocolates wrapped up in purple foil.
I love my neighbor and his worried looks as he stands in front of his place sucking on a Marlboro Light and drinking a Diet Coke. Fat little guy with black, curly hair.
I turn my TV down. Shit, I know it's never too loud, but I turn it down anyway. Keep the music down because I love my little fat Armenian neighbor who's so fucking conscientious.
Then boom boom boom, Jack... He's married. Two weeks they're in the Bahamas or some such place, then she's moved in. Throws away all his stuff. He's in the front yard while she's at work. All desperate. Trying to clean the little coffee table he loves so much. Maybe then she won't throw it away... No such luck. She quits her job as a nurse. Boom. He's got two jobs now. Boom. It's August and what the fuck am I supposed to do? What the fuck am I supposed to do?
See, I work at home.
He knows that. That's why he's always asking me if everything's quiet enough, the lovely little bastard. Still asks me, now with this weary, whipped-dog face. Not even married two months and he's twenty pounds heavier. Tells me she can't even cook...
I tell him everything 's fine because I feel sorry for the guy.
It's a traditional Armenian thing, apparently. They courted for three years. Totally set up by the parents. He wanted to be a forest ranger, but now working two jobs and cramming for the bar and I gotta listen to that awful redneck techno garbage while she vacuums or polishes the TV or God knows what.
See, I tell him there's a problem and then there's still a problem... Woman doesn't respect him. Obviously won't respect me. See, I'm not a problem man. I'm a solving man. That's the whole reason I'm in this fucking Armenian ghetto in Glendale. In that shitty duplex working on the project. It's all about getting shit solved.
Suddenly, I'm not even trying to think about the fucking project anymore... All thoughts are on her. All energy that produces all thoughts aimed at that wall where the distractions come from.
I see her outside sometimes on my way back from the store. She smiles. I smile. I like her. She's cute. She's a kid. She's probably around thirty like me, but she's just a kid, being all traditional Armenian and everything. Doesn't know any better.
Makes it that much worse.
I'm going crazy.
I can't even think. Can't get from A to fucking B.
Where's the project? What the fuck am I gonna do? Burning up in this hell and she's cackling like some ninny-throated witch through that wall. Cranking up that goddamned music.
Gotta focus. Gotta get the fuck out of Problem City - gotta get to Solution Ville.
I've gotta kill this women. No other options. Yeah, gotta kill the wife, gotta kill the wife, gotta kill the wife...
So, using sheer force of will, I roll off the futon and crawl to my closet and get the gun that's under some old dusty blankets behind some cans of blue paint I used on the bathroom last January, back when I was getting all primed and laying the foundation to get started with the project.
Silencer looks like it'll still take a few.
I spend the rest of the afternoon leaned up like a beat dog against the wall. Take the gun apart. Put it back together. A hundred times or more until it's glowing in my dirty, sweaty hands. Everything smooth.
Go by the door around the time he's supposed to come home from job one. Don't wanna stand outside or maybe I'll run into her first. Don't wanna run into her first. Don't wanna do it like that.
Of course, there's always the chance she'll come outside while I'm trying to talk to him, but what can you do? Tell me, Jack, what can you do?
I hear him open the broken gate. I come outside. Smile.
"Hey man," I say to him. Call him man because I can never remember his name, even back when it wasn't so damn hot.
"Hey, my friend," he says. Comes up to me. Always earnest. Always weary now. Pulls out his Marlboro Lights.
I get right to it. "Listen," I say, leaning toward him. Looking away. "Ummm, I'm not sure the best way to say this, but ah, I've been giving this a lot of thought..."
I stop. He's looking really worried. Hasn't even lit his cigarette. Just holding the lighter by his big gut. Giving me those eyes.
I'm shitted right there. Still got the kill-brain from all the heat and everything. Look off at the lawn with the little shriveled-up tomato pl ant he put in last January.
"Yeah," I say. "Uh..."
I hate the concern on his face. I watch him light the cigarette and take a puny drag. "Is everything going alright with the project?" he asks me, lowering his voice respectively.
I made the mistake of telling him a whisper about the project a couple months ago and now the fucking tit won't shut up about it.
"Ah, no man, everything's great with that. Just great." Grinning so hard I give myself a migraine next to each eyebrow.
"Listen though, okay? Something's gotta be done about your wife." There, I said it. Now it's out and the big ease just locked on. Now I'm on the freeway.
Naturally, eyes flare. "What? What did she do?" Giving a look toward his closed door with those idiotic TV sounds coming through. Sounds like Judge Judy. Fucking hate fucking Judge Judy.
I put my hand on his shoulder. "Listen, Jack... It wasn't any thing in particular. I don't wanna mess around with details now 'cause they're old and shit, so what's the point of that, right? Point is, well, it's a... well, I'm gonna do you a favor... She's making too much goddamn noise and the truth is I'm doing this more for me than you, but I really feel you stand to benefit and I'm not asking you to do anything. Fuck, I'm not asking for your goddamn motherfucking blessing, I'm not even sure why I'm talking to you right now except I think you're a hell of guy."
I take the gun from where it was soaking up sweat between the small of my back and my waistband.
Seeing the gun makes him get real calm. Has that effect on some people. Not me. Me, it's more of stimulant. Like a Coke on an empty stomach.
I do my best to explain the situation again. Knowing that it didn't translate that well the first time, but still feeling he should understand. Maybe even hoping for a little support. I don't know...
Meanwhile, the little bastard backs up against the side of the house and starts crying about his dogs.
I start to feel sort of bad. He's accusing me of killing his dogs all of sudden and well, he's got a point... Little fuckers kept shitting on my patio and I killed them one night when he was away courting or something and I'd never had the heart to tell him 'cause he really loved those rude little fuckers. They were spaniels or something.
This isn't exactly the best time get into it. Him whimpering. Me gesticulating with the gun. Making him whimper more.
Then his wife opens the door and gives me this expression - like fucking Sandra Bernart getting pissed in the movies - and I pop her right underneath her left eye. The silencer makes a discharge sound like duck fart from ten feet. Blood everywhere. I think I might have missed her brain so I pop another one into her temple.
Then I have to give two pops to my neighbor because I see he's really about to lose it. He's dead with his eyes still open, leaning against that cottage cheese plaster shit the sides of the duplex are covered with.
The wife fell back into the apartment. I can't see most of her from the angle and the angle of the sun in the sky. Scientists say people almost always fall forward but she fell back. I might have pushed her a little.
I don't know.
I'm too busy noticing that my other, less friendly neighbor's wife is staring at me through her kitchen window.
Where'd she come from?
Jack, it's just one of those situations. I must admit that I was basically jumping the gun on the whole thing, pardon the pun, if that's a pun...
I head over to my other neighbor's place. Their shitty little house cramming the duplex about four strides away across the lawn. Basically, another shitty little pueblo-style place. Through the kitchen door. Shoot her in the back three times as she's heading into what must be the dining room - I've never been in here before. Nice place. Reminds me of what my mother's kitchen might've looked like if I'd grown up in the forties.
Follow her into - and it is the dining room. And wouldn't you know it, but the grandkid's there. On the floor watching Teletubbies on this monster huge TV entertainment center thing they've got. Who knew? Man. I didn't intend on shooting him. I didn't intend on shooting anyone other than my neighbor's wife. Though in retrospect, I can see that the heat-kill-brain lead me to the wrong decision to talk to my neighbor first... The false step which lead to all of this sudden mess.
What was I saying?
Right, Jack, so I shoot the kid behind the ear and then look around quickly for the husband. The place is empty. He must still be out driving his cab. God bless him.
Then he comes through the door and I shoot him in the face. He falls forward onto his grandkid.
I take a breath as I change magazines in the gun.
Well shit... That's like five people dead. Shit. There's also the other little house in front of this one. The one that's on the street with the three Mexican families living in it.
Sticking the gun back against my lower back, I go into the bedroom. Wipe all the blood off with the comforter. Jam through the bureau until I find a shirt I can replace my own with.
The whole time, still thinking about whether I should go into that third house and kill like thirty Mexicans that I know are in there right now.
I leave the house walking briskly down the concrete path. Through the gate that my less friendly other neighbor put up to keep the grandkid from running out into the street.
Decide against trying to kill everyone in the first house. My brain's cooling down from all the action. The sun beginning to crest into the mountains. Thinking things through more clearly. I'm sort of off the wave right now so I probably couldn't kill them all without getting seriously fucked up or dead myself. Plus, they're all Mexican, which means they're cool and if they heard anything, there's no way they're calling the cops. Little bastards're probably packing all their shit up right now. Probably down on rent and illegal. Thinking, shit Jack, now's a good time to relocate anyway... Shit.
The Dream Body, chapter 1
One night toward the end of February, when everything in Bishop County, Arkansas was black and the mean wind whistled over frozen dirt fields and all the good and proper people were asleep in bed dreaming of good Christian deeds both done and undone, Dolores Arthur ended up taking too much of her brother's crystal meth, and placed a call to a live phone sex number using a credit card she'd stolen two days before at t he 7-11 she worked at out on highway 99.
A chirpy prerecorded lady's voice told her to hang up and wait for the confirmation call. Dolores did as she was told, keeping the cordless pressed hard against the side of her head, scrunched into the corner of the musty old couch. She stared at the basement's dark concrete floor in front of her where her black stretch jeans and faded turquoise panties with the little turtles on them lay in a humble heap, the bubble gum colored vibrator still stuffed deep inside of her, though n ow temporarily turned off.
The phone beeped.
Dolores quickly pressed the TALK button with the pad of her thumb.
A dispassionate female voice asked her some questions about the credit card she was using. Dolores lied "yes" five times and "uh huh" once, and then entered the system.
A different chirpy voice came on: "Welcome to the exciting and STIMULATING world of Intimate Encounters..." The voice went on to explain something about hearing messages and leaving messages and pressing the star key, but the crystal meth still raged away like a sort of dense sonic hell inside Dolores' brain, making her instantly understand everything and comprehend nothing.
There was a pretty electronic chime and Dolores felt her dry, sticky lips parting on their own: "My name's Amber" (because that was her secret, favorite name) "and I live in Bear Springs, Arkansas and I'm sixteen years old and I still live at home and I wanna be a body. I wanna be a call girl and have sex with strange creepy men. I wanna get my ti ts and my pussy" (this was the first time she'd said that word out loud) "pierced and I wanna get tied up and beaten and I wanna be in a gang bang and I wanna make pornographic movies and I wanna fuck women and get my pussy sucked and clawed and I wanna just be a body... I've got short black hair and I'm sixteen and I dropped out of school and I shave my pussy and anyone that wants to talk to me, I really want to talk to someone... I've never done this before and I'll do whatever you want, just do whatever you've got to do..." She put her lips back together and waited, not sure what came next.
It was dark and the darkness seemed to be glowing, seemed to be seething around her, filled with slick, slithering evil spirits that...
"One moment, please," the chirpy voice said. "Thank you. Here are the most recent callers on the directory. To skip to the next message, press the pound key. If at any time you wish to contact a caller, just press the star key."
Dolores automatically moved her thumb over to the pound key, feeling her eyes go super wide, cold sweat making the invisible hairs on her back and stomach go stiff.
"Hey there, this is, uh, Larry, giving a shout-out from Phoenix. It's like, shit, I don't know what time it is and I'm like sorta fucked-up and I'm sitting here in my apartment and just sorta looking for someone to talk to..."
Dolores was about to press the pound key, her eyes getting even wider, when there where several strange clicks and the chirpy voice said, "You have another member who wishes to make contact with you. To hear their voice greeting, press the pound key. To automatically transfer them over press..."
Dolores jammed the star key while simultaneously biting a taste bud off the tip of her tongue with her canine and tasting blood.
"Hi... Hey, anyone there?" Like a dark ship coming from deep black outer space.
"Hi, I'm here," Dolores said, feeling her vocal cords get tight and loose with every rapid breath.
"This is, Amber?"
"Hi Amber, my name's Rick."
She didn't k now what to say. She realized she was suddenly wet again, super soaking wet. She could feel the vibrator sliding, shifting.
"You still there?"
"Hi Rick, my name's Amber."
"Yeah, I heard your message. I really like the sound of your voice."
"Thank you." Sounding so lost and grateful. Realizing that she wanted him to control the whole trip, that that was all she ever wanted, clutching the plastic phone tighter with her skinny red fingers.
"Are you really sixteen?"
"You don't have to call me sir. That freaks me out."
"Because, like, yeah, if you're sixteen, you probably shouldn't be on this..."
"Do you want me to hang up?"
Something like a nervous laugh, maybe not that nervous...
"No, totally not. So you're sixteen... And you still live at home?"
"That's cool. I live in L.A.. I'm a producer."
"You do make, like, X-rated movies, Rick?"
More of the whatever laugh.
"No, not at all. I do infomercials. Like when you turn on the TV late at night and you see Susan Summers talking wit h somebody about how great this new beef jerky maker is. Except I didn't do that one..."
Silence. Long silence. Dolores licked her dry lips with her dry tongue. She was becoming so wet and loose she couldn't believe it. With her quivering and disbelieving free hand, she reached down and carefully turned the vibrator on. Instantly, she was orbiting the room, the moon...
"So you really wanna do all those things you were saying in your message? You sounded like you really wanted to do them. This is like the first time I've called this thing, and I listened to, like, fourteen or fifteen messages, and you just sounded so sincere. That really impressed me."
She couldn't help the fact that her breathing was getting really loud and hard. "Yeah, I'm really sincere."
"No kidding. You've got a really great voice."
"I'm, uh, I'm really hard... Is that something you hear a lot?"
"Not as much as I want."
"So what's your pussy like right now?"
Dolores' mind filled with her vibrator, the dull bubble gum plastic expanding into walls of her head.
"I've got a vibrator in it right now."
"Holy shit... Right now?"
"Did you just put it in?"
"No. I've had it in me for like three hours."
"I'm really fucking high on crystal meth."
"Crystal meth... that's a bad drug..."
"I know." She had to keep her index finger of her free hand on the end of the vibrator to keep it from sliding out, all the micro vibrations making her dizzy, feeling her juices running down the crack of her ass into the soft fabric of the couch.
"You know what?"
"I want to meet you."
"Oh yeah. I'm touching myself. I wanna fly out there and meet you in a motel room, like a Super-8 motel. There's gotta be one out there..."
"Oh please, I'd love that. There's one where I work, like up the road."
"What would you do if I came out there and met you in a motel room? You're in Bear Springs, right?" His voice getting higher, faster.
"I'm in Bear Springs, yeah. I'd do whatever you want." Shoving the vibrator in until it nearly disappeared inside her. And still, she couldn't come.
"Amber, I'm gonna get an airplane ticket online and I'll be there, say, in like, five days... Gimme five days. I'll bet there's only one motel or Super-8 whatever out there. I'm gonna be in room sixteen, OK? I bet no one's ever there. I'm so fucking serious..."
And then there was more of that strange mechanical clicking and the chirpy voice said, "To hear the most recent message press the star key..." and Dolores clicked off the phone. She shoved the vibrator in deeper than she thought it could possibly go, staring hard at the ceiling that was all sections of fiberglass panels and glowing a very dull gray. She ran the tip of her excruciatingly dry tongue over the desert of the roof of her mouth, back and forth, back and forth. And still she couldn't come, she couldn't come...
to be continued...