the change we carry

Featured on The Five Hundred

“Give me all you’ve got,” he said, his grainy voice choked by a life of sucking off the Marlboro man.

A similar addictive fix was the source of his desperation. He had spent time carving her name into his skin.

His yellow-stained, grey beard had started to align with his teeth and personality. Recently, he had started to feel like piss on the shoes of the black and white world around him.

The night air carried a city stench in it from all of the people that had eaten take out and taken shits before tucking their families into bed for the evening.

A streetlight flickered above. A shame that it’s last bits of life would be taken by a poor connection.

He glanced over at the bricks in the wall beside him and thought of how they build and break down lives.

Beneath his feet, a crack in the sidewalk created an uneven surface. Something so complete and concrete, splitting and losing its element of safety.

“Please don’t do this.” she replied, her voice quivering.

The pleading gave him an empty feeling in the pit of his stomach, then moved into his clenched fists.

“Give me all you’ve got,” the Smith and Wesson whispered into her ear.

Just below it, her earrings held up small bloodstone birthstones.

Her conservative blouse with flowers firmly planted in the fabric was being watered here and there by a tear or two. Her pencil skirt drawing conclusions of her new success for the rest of the world.

He looked down at her small hands. She had more in them than the purse she was tightly clutching. She had a family and friends and people who cared about her. She had a home and a yard and a dog.

She had so much more and there was only one way to take it, that he knew of.

“Give me all you’ve got,” he thought as he pulled the trigger and fragments of it all dripped down the brick wall beside them.

Her blood seeped into the crack in the sidewalk and metaphors seeped into his mind.

Nearby families would likely wake from the sound of the gunshot, but the bystander effect would put their minds at ease. He would have all the time in the world now.

He had spent so much time trying to be the husband she wanted him to be and then she’d left him behind. Took his life from him.

He bent down and picked up the small purse next to her body. 

Six bucks and a few pictures of their kids.

Should be enough for a pack of cowboy killers.

doors & windows

"Boy, when god closes a door, he always opens a window," his mother used to tell him.

He looked out the window of his small, deteriorating apartment and his eyes focused on the bars that were there to protect him from the rest of the world. Their function seemed to be the antithesis of their ambition.

God could open all of the windows in his low-income neighborhood, but no one would ever be able to get out. They were meant to stay there, by design.

He slipped on a pair of old Jordan's, opened the door and walked across the street. There were no tree-lined cobblestonesidewalks. No gated homes surrounded by skillfully manicured landscaping. Just block buildings, bootleggers, cracked concrete and addicts.

On the sidewalk next to him, someone rolled a dice. It didn't matter how it landed. It wouldn’t change anything.

He opened the door to the liquor store across the street and he was immediately hit with the familiar smells of cardboard, tobacco and booze seeping from the pores of the people around him. These smells were programmed into his brain as sources of anxiety: The steep climb up to the peak of the hedonic plateau.

He pulled some coins from his pocket and then pulled the handle. 

At the counter someone was purchasing lottery tickets. It didn't matter how the numbers fell. Everyone in the place had already lost. 

He put down his change. It stretched further than he thought. Enough for an extra nip and a stick. He picked them off the rack. Exact change. What were the odds? He took a penny from the tray as the clerk turned away.

Opened the front door and the cow bell rang, reminding everyone there that he'd be back soon.

A story written again and again, unfolded as he slowly walked back to his apartment, clutching the brown bag close to his body, trying to conceal all of the vulnerability, the guilt, the failure inside it. 

He closed the door behind him and closed all of the blinds in his apartment. Flipped the TV on and moved past all  the game shows. It didn't matter who won those damn things.

He always told people that he drank to forget, but the whiskey always brought back memories.  Like the time when he was a kid and the older boys held his face to the furnace. When he got older and learned to cut drugs and hustle. When he learned there was no way out. When his mother told him about god and doors and windows. 

He took the last coin from his pocket and held it in his hand. 

He'd flip the damn thing, but it wouldn't matter how it’d land.