Tonight we have Write Club. Having been working on Clay Continent, I don't have anything too new, but I do want to hear the following narrative out loud. I think thus far, I have only shared this material with Don Hall over a year ago when he asked me to give him possible material for a short play fest. Please read, enjoy, and tell me what you think of it...
Rock Bottom Shaggy Dog Private Eye
Chapter One – Meet the Shaggy Dog
He sees his reflection in the hand mirror and doesn’t really know what to make of it. He still has all his teeth and that is a good thing. He is still afraid to test them though. If he tries to wiggle one of them and then it suddenly goes limp in his gums then he might curse his own curiosity for years and years.
Who is going to want to hire a private detective with a missing tooth. That might as well be a tattooed mustache. Having a limp is bad enough.
He put the hand mirror back in the drawer of his desk. Inside the drawer there were broken pencils sharpen with a pocket knife, newspaper clippings and photos of famous Chicago crimes, there was an unloaded pistol and a few loose bullets that would roll back and forth with the motion of the desk drawer opening and closing. There were also pictures of horses and bulls. Old black and white kodaks from a rodeo somewhere far away and long ago.
He didn’t think this was what the world would hold for him. He thought he would have a fast car and different blond every night. He though he would have a best friend on the police force and they would bust up drug rings and shoot pool til the dawn broke.
Instead he got sick. Or maybe he just got old. He had a cold that lasted for five years and after methodically checking his bowel movements for a decade for a any spot of blood, he finally started finding some. Without a case he stayed in bed for days on end. The bed was a flat mattress that he rolled up underneath the desk so that a potential client wouldn’t have to wonder what is that thin haggard pad is doing in the corner of this one room office.
He took showers at the local Y around the corner. That wasn’t so bad. What was bad was the hands that always seemed to be darting and poking and questing in those big wide wet public showers. It didn’t seem to matter how old and ugly or bald he got, there was always some one in those showers who was willing to give out a little quick moment of unconditional love.
And no one in the police station could give a damn about him. Even among the meter maids, he was some thing of a joke. He couldn’t even claim to have gotten arrested while on a case.
He still had his size and that was enough to intimidate anyone who wanted five minutes of trouble. Never a mugging, never a brawl, even when he got somewhat surly with the intent of increasing his local cred with a brawl, nobody seemed all that interested. He just got ignored or people shrugged it off. And he couldn’t bring himself to put hands on someone first. Not for no good reason. Once someone did something that required a bit of retribution, he had no problem dusting off his knuckles to punch a trouble maker.
Chapter Two – Questions
He had gotten lonely enough that he gave into his hunger and decided to limp to the corner diner and watch the faces and ask the waitress behind the counter about her grandkids. He didn’t really know the woman. He didn’t know her name, but he knew the name of those two kids, those two boys.
But, when he got there and brushed the snowflakes off his shoulders he saw that the old waitress was gone. He wanted to ask where she had gone, but was a little too ashamed to since he couldn’t remember her name. He had never asked or if he had it was years ago and absolutely gone from his memory. They saw each other’s faces and smiled and conversed and it was all in the faces, not in the names.
Richard and Thomas were the only names. Finally he convinced himself that the fry cook himself might never have learned the old waitress’ name. so he awkwardly managed a question.
“Where’s a…?”, he trailed off the question hoping the fry cook would finish his thought.
With annoyance, the fry cook shrugged his shoulders and turned his back. The Shaggy Dog had come to this diner at least once a week for a good nine years and those were the only words the two of them would ever exchange.
He sat down at the counter and wondered if a wave of malaise and regret would overcome him. He waited for a minute of two and it didn’t arrive. He thought very little of himself then. What kind of man has no feeling when he hears about the death of the only human being he ever really spoke to? That is aside from the occasional client that accidentally wandered into his office every other month of so.
“Do Richard and Thomas know?”
The fry cook, with his back to the world, shrugged again.
The shaggy dog just sat there and tried to be silent. He tried to honor the old waitress whose name he didn’t know, grandmother to Richard and Tom whose last name he also did not know. He wanted to do this not so much for her, but for himself. He wanted to believe that he had lost something special, because if he hadn’t then he might not have had anything special in the world ever. That dead waitress was the closest thing to a friend that he had since he came to Chicago so many years ago. He closed his eyes and moved his index finger to his pursed lips shushing someone who wasn’t there.
The restroom doorknob jiggled and the door shook. It was such a small thing to happen, barely noticeable, but it filled the shaggy dog with a sense of dread. He had an imagination, it was the only thing he had when the power bill wasn’t paid and the radio was in hock which was about half the time. So when that doorknob jiggled, he thought he imagined that the old gal was inside it trapped inside. He saw her politely rapping on the lid of coffin from the inside trying to get out, trying to grab a hold of Richard and Tom once again, one more time.
The imagined vision was interrupted by the fry cook clearing his throat. The Shaggy Dog opened his eyes and the cook jerk his chin towards the door to open it since he was closer to the bathroom by a few yards. The Shaggy Dog didn’t move toward the door. The fry cook rolled his eyes and turned back to his grill to make it sizzle with a piece of meat and egg. The hot sizzle now accompanied the jiggling doorknob, and it was the sounded like a body turning on a spit. Irrational fear consumed the Shaggy Dog He was convinced that if he opened that restroom door the old woman’s bones still steaming from a good roasting would leap out at him and plead for fate’s respite.
But then the fry cook hollered at the door “Lift up on the knob when you jiggle it!” The thing inside heard his instruction and obeyed. The door slowly opened and the Shaggy Dog cowered a bit, just the tiniest little bit though. The door opened and a woman dressed as a waitress stepped out. She was a young woman maybe even so young that she was a girl. The Shaggy Dog expected sinews and flesh and carrion, but instead was presented something smooth, white, and possibly even untouched. Slender fingers pressed down on the fabric of the dress trying to smooth out the apron’s wrinkles.
“Is this the only apron you got?”, she said.
“One size fits all”, the fry cook said. “And it don’t go home with ya, less you want it deducted from yer pay!”
The Shaggy Dog was smitten. Yup, it happened that fast. It almost always did. He pictured her walking along beside him, holding his hand and looking at Christmas lights down the main street. But, it was a short dream. The real thing started talking to him and he didn’t want to miss a beat of it. She walked toward him and did a little spin like a model. She then curtsied for him and asked, “Coffee?”
He only nodded, too intimidated to speak.
Once she got behind the counter the weight of the job almost seemed to fall on her all at once. She was aware of the fry cook’s eyes which never wandered far from between her neck and her knees except to make sure the food wasn’t burning. Underneath his breath, but still loud enough to be heard he would keep saying the word “Hot…hot…hot!” and pretend half heartily that it was the grill he was referring to.
She was incredibly put off by the fry cook and didn’t bother pretending otherwise. This gave the Shaggy Dog some sort of tiny held out hope that something was at the very least possible with the new waitress from a romantic point of view. Just so long as she smiled at him, then he had a chance. She became his personal lottery and the price of the ticket was a cup of coffee.
You see that beautiful face smiling
maybe it’s the waitress,
maybe it’s the counter girl
maybe at you.
Like a beam of sunlight through the window shade
(When you’re ready for it)
Then realize you want to do things to change that smile.
You don’t want her smiling at you while you’re humping her from behind.
You want the heavy breathing, grimacing,
You want her keening.
You actually want to see a little fear.
It is so absurd cause if she made that face right now
talking to this waitress
you wouldn’t want that.
You’d want her smile.
The Shaggy Dog suddenly wondered if he had speaking these thoughts out loud? He had seen the hero in a private eye movie do that once and ever since he was so certain that it might happen to him.
Shaggy Dog goes back to his little office. There is someone standing outside the door. Shaggy Dog stops at the corner then and pretends he is waiting for a bus. He doesn’t like surprises and this is definitely unexpected. The man knocks on the door. From this distance he seems like a young man.
The Shaggy Dog contemplates the possibility that the young man is one of the old coffee waitress’ grandsons come to hire him to find out what happened to the old lady. Perhaps no one in the family knew where she worked.
A cab pulls up and a second young man gestures from the back seat. That must be Thomas.
How do I tell them that their grandmother is dead and only the careless fry cook knows any of the details. Would those two boys forget all about there grandmother once they caught a glimpse of my new lottery ticket?
Grandma wouldn’t want that boys. She wouldn’t like the idea of her 2 geniuses losing everything fighting over a little girl.
Wait I don't even now that these 2 men, these 2 young men are even related to my old coffee waitress. Why not just go over there and find out.
Shaggy Dog knew why. He was afraid they might be someone who wanted money rather than service. He had a coupla payday loans that were well well past due and there was something a little too vehement about these 2 young men
The Shaggy Dog walked home alone. He just finished sucking down some caffeine at the corner diner. A different diner though. Not her diner. It is late. His shadow moved beneath him on the sidewalk. The streetlights fluctuating. First a single shadow straight in front of him. Then a second shadow sneaking slowly from behind. The second shadow rising forward. The first shadow losing its lead. Then the two shades meet at an awkward angle for one brief moment beneath his feet as he moves directly beneath a streetlight. They meet and then both are suddenly snuffed out to nothing beneath the streetlight’s sweet spot.
He didn’t look up from the cement often. Only at intersections to make sure he wouldn’t get plowed over. He had already seen all the trees that lined the streets. He had already counted the houses, and the windows in the houses. He had dismissed any fetish or fantasy about who lived behind all those grey curtains. There was nothing worth noticing he thought. Just a dry cold night. A brittle wind barely breathed across his shoulders and neck. Nothing to send a shiver down your back. Just a boring wind pathetically blowing.
He started up the steps slowly. He heard the first step squeak. He halted. He tried to imagine what he would do if he were a ninja, a secret silent assassin. So, he stepped as close to the wall to where the step met the wall. This didn’t shush the squeak. A solitary second stretched into million doubts, each one extinguished by something small, silent and quick inside. He began to jog up the stairs, trying to take them two at a time if could. He pulled the gun out and stumbled once on his way up just catching himself before he took a serious spill. His only thought was to get up those steps and burst through the door before they would have enough time to respond. Sneaking up, his original plan, wasn’t going to be an option. If he was lucky they weren’t expecting trouble and might have some music playing.
He wanted this now. Badly. He didn’t want to go back to reading comic books alone in his apartment. He didn’t want to go back and disappoint the lady. He didn’t want her to scowl. He just wanted to know the sensation of her hands in his lap, pumping away at his erection. He started to get a slight and small erection as he ascended the stairs. He thought this should disturb him, but he didn’t let it stop him. He pushed away the disturbance and climbed on.
This world was hard and grey. Everything he touched hurt and cut. That’s why when she, the pretty little lottery ticket showed him a small soft tiny bit of something pink it was the only thing that mattered. She promised him. She promised to lay down flat on her back. He had considered that maybe she was lying to him. Using him. But, if that were the case, he’d just move further down the darkening line of road that he was already on. What did it matter if raped her, after having murdered her pusher boyfriend, what did it matter to rape a woman who arranged to have people murdered? One step slips into the next, and you begin to think I’ll just do whatever I want. “But, I’ll finish this” because it was the first step. “I couldn’t rape her if I didn’t murder him.”
And now he was near the top of the stairs. His mind was filled with rape. A mixture of anger and hatred at her for showing him this sensual possibility, for not having the common decency to give herself up to him without this nefarious condition attached. He wanted to push through his confusion. Just as he reached the last step on the staircase before wheeling around the banister towards the door, he blinked his eyes tight like a dreamer tying to wake up. Trying to twist this venom out though his eye sockets like poison from a sponge. But the sponge was soaked though and though, too much venom to clean away.
He kicked though the door. To his surprise, the pusher was on top of some lady and his handy man was on a chair passed out. The pusher stopped fucking the girl and rolled over behind the bed trying to hide. There was no more room between the bed and the wall for the girl. So she just got as close to the edge of the bed as possible, her arms and legs spasming in an attempt to escape the line of fire.
“This is wrong.” This isn’t what he imagined. He almost turned around. But the idea of getting shot in the back stopped him. A cacophony of screaming. Suddenly he was shouting. “Shut Up! Shut the fuck up! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Just let me. Just forget it! Forget it!” The girl was screaming her head off. The pusher was shouting at her to shut up. The other guy, a body guard, woke up from his sleep; his gun was still aimed at the ground. My gun was aimed at the pusher.
“I’m sorry. Just let me go!” He was pissed off at himself hearing his own voice begging for forgiveness. Trying to back out. “Just…please!”
The body guard is asking what the fuck is this? He is jacked up on something, really jacked up. He is sniffing hard; whatever he is on is fucking up with his nasal passage so he is snorting after every syllable. He tells the pusher to just give him the word. He (?) is strangely calm, but also barely awake. The pusher tells him to put the gun down, but the girl screaming at the top of her lungs “No! Shoot him!” Now the bodyguards gun is slowly shaking he’s barely got his finger around the trigger.
“I drop this gun and we are dead, boss”
“Just drop the fucking gun!”
“Drop the gun and erase my face from your mind, and I’ll go”
The gun starts slowly rising. He spins quick and shoots the bodyguard. He’s afraid he’ll miss and so he fires a bunch of shots. He doesn’t know how many. He turns back around and pusher is rushing him. There was a least one bullet left. Whatever remained in gun found its way into the pusher’s skull. Somehow his aim had been directed at the pusher’s nose. It caught the bridge of the nose on the way in and pulverized the nose and right eye. As if the pusher tried to turn away from the shot once fired.
The girl went quiet. Nothing moved. Then I could hear him breathing. Still breathing. She heard it too. A hard sound to listen to, like he was face first in puddle struggling to get air. She started slithering slowly towards him, her eyes on me. I’m not moving. She gets over to him and holds him. Her hands are covered with blood. She starts hyperventilating. Both of their breathing like broken band. I’m out of bullets.
I can’t use my hands. I go over to the body guard and try to pick up his weapon. He must have just gotten his finger in place before he kicked cause the second I touch the gun while still in his hand, it shoots. She lets out a scream. The shock scares me and I drop the gun. She lunges for it and before I know what’s happening, I give her a quick kick to the head. Now she’s broken. I grab the gun off the ground. I start twisting like a top convinced that that last bullet somehow got inside me, but I’m wrong. I’m still lead free.
No one is rushing me. I have got the gun in my hand, but I can’t bring myself to shot the gun at a broken person on the ground.
She is keening like a cat in heat. Finally I do shoot. Him in the head. I go over to her.
“What’s your name?”
I reach over and touch her breast. I’m a little sick with myself, but I don’t stop. She lets it happen for a few moments. Then she tries to bite my fingers. She’s got one in between her teeth. She’s got it hard. I try pistol whipping her. Now she’s all over me. Still on her knees, she’s got her arms tight around my waist still biting on my finger. I feel her teeth hit a bone in my hand and fire a shot into her. She’s done.