Icarus

previously…

“What’s your relation to the patient?” the duty nurse asked her. “Family?”

“No,” she replied.

“Girlfriend?”

Lisa would rather get a pap smear with a rake than date the patient in question. Still, desperate times… “Yes.”

“I see.” The nurse wheeled her chair back to a stack of files on the other side of the desk.

“He wake up yet?”

The nurse glanced at one of the folders. “There’s been no change in his condition.”

So he wouldn’t be much company. There was some good news. “Can I see him?”

“Room 313,” the nurse said before returning to whatever it was that duty nurses did.

She crept down the corridors of the intensive care unit, in no particular hurry to get there. She didn’t know what to expect when she did. It couldn’t be any worse than finding him alone on a bed in a dark room the night before. She was wrong about that; seeing Sean today, alone on a bed in a bright room, was much worse. Instead of shivering and convulsing like he did last night, he now just lay still.

But what really disturbed her was the way he was wrapped in needles and tubes and pale sheets rather than in the droopy cotton sweaters he preferred.

She’d known him for a while, and had no idea he was so tiny. Sure he wasn’t all that tall, but she’d always attributed that to his slouch. Turns out he was just this little skeleton with some skin on it.

He wasn’t going anywhere, so she might as well get some rest. After settling into the visitor’s chair, it took only a moment for her eyes to drift closed. They took less than a moment for them to shoot back open as soon as something she’d seen reached her sleep-deprived brain.

Wide awake now, she hopped to her feet and crept closer to his side. Slowly–oh so very slowly–she rotated his wrist to get a good look underneath. A white, surgically precise scar ran down the length of his forearm. It had completely healed, but still couldn’t be more than a few years old. And it was serious. Whoever made this did not want it to close up.

She sank to the floor. When she’d discovered this drooling mass of sweat and flesh in his dorm last night, she’d just assumed his overdose was accidental. Now she felt really, really stupid. He’d always been the kind of guy who just shuffled his way through life, glassy-eyed and distracted, as if he’d rather be elsewhere; but it wasn’t until just now that she realized that he really did want to be elsewhere.

She’d had to drag herself through years poverty, abuse, illness, and mountains of cruelty to be alive, and yet here he was, surviving a second suicide attempt out of dumb luck. What an asshole!

Behind her, on this bed, without his cigarettes and marijuana and smartass comments and narrow, condescending eyes, he looked just like a little boy. And that’s all he was: a petulant, self-absorbed, frightened little boy. So why the fuck did she even care about him?

She didn’t even like kids, much less this guy. It was only a combination of boredom and curiosity that brought her to him in the first place. If she had any sense whatsoever, she’d get up off of this floor and fly the fuck away while she still had a chance to escape.

But she couldn’t.

After a while, she melted into sleep, waking some time later to a soft voice croaking, “Crap. Not again.”

Embarrassment yanked her to her feet immediately.

He blinked a few times, squinted, and frowned before focusing in on her face. “Shit,” he whispered. “If you’re here, then I must be in hell.”

The only thing keeping her from laughing in relief was the way she collapsed back into the visitor’s chair. Too late now. She was going to burn, and it was her own damned fault.

to be continued…

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Leviathan

The first thing she remembered about that day was how annoyed she was that she had to come onto campus during the summer. The asshole still lived on campus, even though he was, like her, a senior in a month and a half. Besides, she’d heard he was rich, so if he really felt like isolating himself, he could live anywhere. Whatever. It was one of those stupid fucking things he did to make himself seem cool and unique–kind of like that stupid fucking sweater of his.

Lisa’s relationship with the asshole had cooled by that point, so they could actually take a small amount of comfort in each other. Maybe it was because their mutual presence brought to mind her boyfriend–his best friend. Maybe it was because she couldn’t trust him to be alone with his own thoughts, and vice versa. What mattered was that it was Fourth of July weekend, her boyfriend was back home in Idaho, she was bored, she was hungry, and she was going to drag his skinny ass over to May’s Cafe for a greasy omelet.

When he didn’t answer the door, something she couldn’t put a finger on thought it was a little weird. He was always home, except when he was at her place. Sure he was entitled to go to the restroom or buy cigarettes or something, but not if it inconvenienced her. She knocked again out of spite, and, for a second there, she thought she’d heard something. She knocked one more time, and there it was–a dull moan. She tried the knob, but it was locked. After a quick glance around to make sure no one was watching, she pulled out her men’s wallet and removed a key.

What she was doing with that key was a long story, but the short version was this: before she came to college here, she ran with a pack of hoodlums. The alpha hooligan, a sneaky son of a bitch and aspiring criminal mastermind named Fuentes, taught her dozens of tips and tricks for breaking the law, none of which she’d forgotten. High up on the list was never to let a good skeleton key go to waste. Lucky for her, her boyfriend was an RA, and that meant he had access to every room in this dorm. She made herself a copy, not because she’d been planning on stealing anything, but rather to honor her heritage.

Besides, you never know what that kind of thing might come in handy. And that day, it was really fucking handy.

Inside, the asshole was lying on his back with his eyes half-open and a little stream of drool trickling down his cheek. It didn’t even take her a second to figure out what was going on.

“No!” she whispered. “No, no, no!”

Breathing deeply, she tried to figure out what needed to happen next. “Think,” she muttered, “what would Fuentes do?” He’d figure out what it was that was killing the person in question. That was easy. The asshole was overdosing on something. The next thing would need to get a little more specific. Something about the drool shouted opium, so she’d go with that. Next up was the delivery. It wasn’t a needle, because there wasn’t one lying around anywhere, and he wouldn’t have had enough time to stash it. She was pretty sure that wasn’t possible to smoke that much heroin, and besides, there was no smell. Snorting was out, or there would have been blood coming out of his nose. That left his stomach, and that she could do something about.

She crawled into bed next to him and listened to his chest to make sure he was still breathing. Satisfied, she stuck two fingers in his throat. He gagged, and, just before he threw up, she rolled him over so his head was hanging over the floor. She let him finish, and then repeated the procedure, just in case. When she was sure he was done, she wiped her hand on his stupid sweater and sat him up.

“Hey fuckface!” she yelled.

“Uh?” he mumbled.

Oh, thank God. “Yeah, you, fuckface!”

“‘Appen?”

“You tell me, you rock-stupid motherfucker!”

He shook his head imperceptibly. “No.”

“No, you’re not going to tell me?”

“Don’t,” he coughed. “Stop.”

“This is getting us nowhere. Phone.” Because, honestly, she’d forgotten that hers was in her back pocket.

“Sweat,” he sighed, “er.”

It was right where he said it’d be. She called 911 and told them, “I have someone here that OD’d on something.”

“I need you to calm down, ma’am, and tell me where you are.”

“This is my calm voice!”

After a bit of back and forth, she stayed on the line while at the same time trying to stop him from nodding off. Just when she thought she couldn’t keep it up anymore, the EMTs showed up and did whatever it was that EMTs do, and in no time, he was gone.

They had a lot of questions too: “Do you know what he took? Does he have a history of mental illness? Is he your boyfriend?” Shit like that. She answered the best she could–“No. I think so. Are you fucking kidding me?”–until they left her alone.

She held it in as long as she could, but really, that wasn’t very long at all. She collapsed onto his bed and sobbed like a goddamned baby. Eventually, she pulled her shit together and remembered the phone in her hands. Sniffing, she sat up and scrolled through his contacts. A part of her was disappointed when L went by with no mention of her. That part, as much as she hated it, pushed her back down onto the mattress, where she cried some more.

Finally she returned to the phone and scrolled down to where it said “Mother.” She hit send and waited.

On the other side of the phone, an exasperated voice sighed, “What is it this time, Sean?”

“Mrs. McCoy?”

My name’s not fucking McCoy.”

“What the fuck is it then?” Lisa didn’t know why she asked that question.

“Yoshida.”

“That your first or last name?”

“Look,” the voice snapped, “stop wasting my fucking time and tell me why you’re calling me on my son’s fucking phone.”

“I think he tried to kill himself.”

The other end went silent.

“Hello?”

“Goddammit!” the voice bellowed. “What the fuck?”

“I’m sorry.”

“I can’t keep dropping what I’m doing every time he pulls shit like this?”

“The fuck?”

“Are you with him right now?”

“No,” Lisa replied.

“Well, where the fuck is he?”

“Hospital.”

“Are you there with him?”

“No,” Lisa told her, “I–“

“Well get the fuck over there and keep an eye on my son until I get there!”

“Okay?”

The call ended, and she stared at the phone for what was probably five minutes before she finally shook her head and muttered, “Asshole doesn’t fall far from the bigger asshole, does it?”

to be continued…

Jetsam

There was nothing Lisa Green hated more than being a kid.

When she wasn’t floating around this vast, barren trailer park in this vast, barren town in this vast, barren desert, she was wedged into her tiny, secret ditch hidden in the hills, far from her bed. When she wasn’t hiding there, she was in her room, getting chewed out by her latest “aunt” for not being quiet enough. When she wasn’t sitting through that, she was at school, getting chewed out for not learning hard enough. When she wasn’t in class, listening to her teacher’s bullshit, she was at recess, pretending not to hear what the other kids were saying about her when they followed her around. And when she wasn’t getting tormented by them, she was home with her father.

Kids her age couldn’t wait to grow up. They would eat fast food and ice cream every day. They would watch movies whenever they wanted. They wouldn’t have to take naps if they didn’t want to. When Lisa grew up, she would be left alone.

But even with the way things were in her seven-year-old life, she never believed for one minute that it could get worse; but there it was, in her hand: an F. She couldn’t hide it from her dad, because it had to be signed and returned by Monday. She might be able to get her “aunt” to sign it, but she’d inevitably tell her dad, and she knew full well how that would go.

Since she was in for a long, long weekend now, she figured she’d take her time getting home, and that’s how she ended up in the catholic school playground. She went there all the time on the weekends because they had the cool, older-kid swings–the rubber ones you could jump off of, not the crappy baby harnesses they had at the public school.

As she sat there, swinging back and forth, imagining what it would be like to bring home an A, a pair of hands shoved her off the swing, into a puddle. She rescued the soggy report card and sat up in time to watch a chubby kid her age waddle over to two others.

She recognized them immediately; they were that pack of little shits who prowled her trailer park, breaking things and running away from grownups. They never really bothered her, which made them some of her favorite people in the world. The really tall one, the Arab, was in her third-grade class, and she’d heard around that it was his second time. She never caught his name, though. The chubby one went to Catholic school, so she didn’t know his name either. But the other one? The alpha dog? Him she knew. His dad was her father’s supervisor at the bottle factory, so he had a name: Fuentes. If he had a first name, she didn’t give a crap, especially now, as he stood there, wearing a wicked smirk.

Something in her snapped. Sure she’d been pushed to the ground more times than she had fingers, but this time she was getting even–just not yet. She had no intention of going after the kid who’d done the deed either. It was obvious that shoving her wasn’t his idea. And so she came up with a plan, which armored her up that night as her father punished her coming home late and soaked, and again when he came back for seconds because of the F.

A few days later, she woke up early and skipped breakfast so she could find him alone at his bus stop. She never said a word. She just snuck up behind him, kicked him in the balls, and made him eat two handfuls of dirt. That night, she slept like the dead, even with inevitable retaliation circling the sky around her.

It didn’t take long.

The following Saturday, as was the case every Saturday, she got out of bed, shoved a handful of dry cereal into her mouth, and headed for the hills encasing the world she had to live in. She wasn’t running away from the trailer park, though; she was running toward the only peace she knew of.

Scattered across the landscape, like green, brown, and clear sprinkles across pink, sandstone icing, were drained bottles of beer, wine, malt liquor, whiskey, gin, and any other kind of alcohol that could be purchased cheaply. Rage, frustration, and despair filled them, and the only way to dispel these things was to smash them, with rocks or with each other. Eventually, she’d run out of strength and curl up in her secret ditch, sated, for a little while anyway.

She was on her way to do just that when a voice behind her said, “Green.”

She was pretty sure she knew who it belonged to. Her face hot and her stomach very, very cold, she turned to watch Fuentes, his friends in tow, stroll up and look her right in the eye. There was no fear on his face; just that predatory smirk. “Hi,” he said, “I’m–“

“I know who you are, you fart!” she told him, balling up her little fists.

At that, the chunky one charged, but Fuentes held him back, saying, “I got this, Ange.”

“But she called you a fart!”

“I said I got this!” To her, he said, “Sorry. He’s still pretty mad about how you cracked my huevos.”

In her toughest voice, she asked, “You want me to do it again?”

“Yeah,” he replied.

She dropped her arms. “Huh?”

Ange frowned. “Huh?”

The Arab turned to Fuentes. “Huh?”

Fuentes’s cheeks lifted with that dangerous smirk. “Not to me, you dummy. Simon Largo.”

“Who the fart is Simon Largo?”

“He’s in my class at the catholic school.”

“And you want me to kick him in the balls?”

“You don’t have to kick him in the huevos,” he explained. “You can give him a black eye or a wedgie or make him eat dirt like you did to me; all I care about is that he knows he got beat up by a girl.”

“Why?” she asked.

“He’s a bully.”

“So are you,” she replied.

Fuentes said, “I got better.” Again, there was that cocky smirk.

Ange growled.

Fuentes ignored him. “I need you to make an example out of him.”

She frowned so hard it hurt. “Like, a math problem example?”

He snorted. “Jeez! What do they teach you at public school?”

“How to crack nuts.”

The Arab whistled and shook his head.

Fuentes laughed. “Simon Largo and his friends need to know they can’t get away with that kind of stuff anymore.”

“What does that have to do with me?”

“You’re mean as heck,” he replied. “The meanest person I ever met, actually, and I need your help.”

“What if I don’t want to help?” she asked again.

“I’ll pay you whatever you want.”

She thought of the most ridiculous thing she could imagine so they would just go away. “What if I want Five Merde Bars?”

“You’re crazy!” shouted Ange.

“Let me handle this!” Fuentes barked, and then he strolled over to the Arab and whispered in his ear.

The Arab shrugged and whispered back.

Fuentes headed back over to her, extended his hand like grownups doing business would, and said, “Deal.”

“How do I know you’ll pay up?”

“If I don’t,” he replied, “you make scrambled eggs in my pants.”

She couldn’t stop herself from smiling. “Deal.” They shook hands, and he passed her a slip of paper with Simon Largo’s address on it. The following Monday, she snuck into the Largos’ backyard, punched Simon in the face three times, and threw his action figures into the street. Wednesday after dinner, she found Fuentes waiting for her in her secret ditch. He was holding a paper bag and that stupid smirk of his.

She snatched the bag away and looked inside, ready for one more disappointment in a long life full of them. Instead, she found six assorted Merde Bars–and not the mini ones either. “I only asked for five.”

“I know,” he replied, “but I threw an extra one in because everyone knows what happened to Simon and why, but no one knows it was me.”

“Thought that was what you wanted.”

“It was, but I didn’t expect you to do it so good.” Again he smirked that cute smirk.

She blushed. “So, ah, if you want me to, like, I don’t know, beat someone else up, um…”

“And if you ever, you know, want to throw rocks at stuff with me and Ange, like, whenever, you totally can.” He added, “I’m Max.”

Okay, so she was crushing on him then, just a little, but she didn’t want to be too easy. “I don’t give a fart, Fuentes,” she replied.

“Suit yourself, Green.” Right before he ran back to the vast, barren trailer park, leaving her alone, wedged in her tiny, secret ditch, he gave her one more dazzling smirk and told her, “I’ll be in touch.”


… And now…