(Dedicated to the crew…you fuckers know who you are)
It was a morning full of sun but there was a melancholy quietness about it which kind of haunted the air reminding me of that Hitchcock movie where the birds come down and peck all the people to hell…I couldn’t quite recall the title but there I was sitting at table nine with the usual crew on the nineth day of the nineth month at the nineth hour of the morning, distracted by the absence of bird sounds feeling something bad was about to happen but no one seemed to notice trapped inside their own similar phone prisons that told us we were all the same but different so I knew making mention of anything outside of what we were here for outside of that tiny mobile screen would be useless. Who gave a fuck about nature anyway?
Once you were inside Flapjack Stacks the only thing that mattered was the kind of syrup and toppings you were going to desecrate your body with as one consumed a stack of plate sized specialty pancakes. Crisping pork flesh filled the air along with sizzling chicken fetus, chopped onion, raw batter and alcohol stained sex from various nights before oozing from a multitude of pores…lots of families went to Flap-Jack Stack on Sundays right after church to stress eat about going to hell and take it out on the slaves working in the strip mall, it was a Sunday but church wasn’t out yet and that’s why we were there.
I hated table nine. The waitress brought us there. She acted like she didn’t know us and treated us like shit, even though we’d been going there for years. Table nine and I had history. She didn’t share that history just hated other people who worked for a living because she didn’t want to work for a living because it all added up to nothing for her, so no one eating here was going to swoop in like a superhero and save her with a middle class life to make her their middle class wife, when she couldn’t even afford to go anywhere outside of work.
Life was over. Maybe that’s why, she got table nine.
I rolled a small joint as I sat down and tucked it behind my ear to demonstrate what a low life I was and smiled at her like I was going to kill her and have stuffed in some twisted love-struck way. She held head up high pretending like she had self esteem and was going to attend a private school and abruptly walked off as the rest of the guy’s snickered. I noticed the little extra wriggle she gave her ass as she walked away, it was instinctual she didn’t mean it, soon very soon she’d cave into the wrong guy, who wasn’t me. I leaned back with my eyes closed trying to imagine tapping that from behind.
“Fuck, I hate table nine.”
Armand chuckled know the history of most it, except what had happened a month before, I was still in my neck brace about to address Boris only to realize he had been deported and Tom had brought Boris’ cousin “Richie” in place of him. A few years ago, it was a golden age of filing serial numbers off guns in my loft and grooving out barrels to make bullets untraceable. Shortly after my ex left, I had asked Boris who I had known since the seventh grade for about ten thousand dollars to cover about a year in rent.
“Tony, I don’t have the money, but I know how we can make it.”
I kept my place, got a little deeper but pulled out once I got a warehouse gig and finished school to work for a text book company swindling students from all over the socioeconomic spectrum, it was cool until we got bought out and shut down by one of our rivals and here I was almost thinking of getting back to into things with a wide array of connections. Boris literally got pulled out of his apartment by a swarm of FBI agents for having a cache of illegal weapons and drugs, went through eight different prisons in a year and wound up back to where he came from returning to hopefully not the pile of rubble that was his shelled home back in the old country during the siege.
As for his cousin…
Richie wasn’t his real name; it was going to be his chosen name when he officially became an American citizen. He’d always puff out his chest and tears would well up in his eyes whenever he’d bring it up and how the land of opportunity allowed his family’s cleaning business to flourish, Richie didn’t know that his dad got Boris into the real cleaning business which wasn’t as much cleaning as much as covering for people who weren’t supposed to exist but that’s another story for another time. Richie was a good kid.
“Bro’, once wrong with table nine?”
I sighed, thinking of where and how this was going to go.
Luckily Tom, grabbed Richie’s hoodie and turned his American flag pin right side up.
“Dude, you want to be an American you can’t disrespect the flag like that. You got to keep watch over it, she’s your motherland now.”
“I’m sorry bro, I’m sorry.”
Armand smirked at all this, he smirked at everything whether it was actually funny or wicked, he was kind of fucked from the copious amounts drugs over the years along with being sexually abused in a refugee camp in Germany which led to some strange dark paths here.
“Man, Richie…I cried when I became a citizen.”
“Yeah, I still cry.”
“I cried for the homeland before we left, looking at our cat before the bombs blew it up. I cried when we got on the boat. I cried when we came here. I cried at my first American feast of fried chicken and orange soda. I cried when I became a citizen because the life, I knew was completely gone on paper, I was an American now.”
“What the fuck you saying that shit for,” Tom exclaimed, pounding his fist on the table.
“Yeah, Tom…totally free, I can choose my soda, what to put on my pancakes, but I can’t choose to live outside any of this,” Armand gestured around.
“Fuck you, you sound like the black guy’s at work.”
Tom was everything America was but wasn’t. He was the surface the corporate media wanted, a moderate with family-oriented values who was softly bigoted but fairly decent about it, hated paying taxes, shrugged his shoulders at war and didn’t vote. His grandpa used to be a high powered lawyer before dementia set in, it was rumored Tom’s family secretly owned the police department in several counties which explained the astronomical number of times Tom crashed his truck into trees and literally defecated and urinated on factory and cutting room floors, shrieking about the right to work whenever a union steward wanted to talk.
Tom didn’t believe in college. He believed in working with his hands, which really meant falling into a pool of blood money he got from just sitting back and inheriting. He didn’t have many friends rich or poor, because he pretended to be one or the other among the wrong ones, so he stuck to us like a parasite which meant he was loyal and reliable out of loneliness.
“Bro, what this about table nine?”
“Bad things always go down at table nine.”
Tom laughed recalling the drunken and heartbroken time I descended upon a butch lesbian who insisted she liked girls and how me made out hard in front of everyone in broad daylight only to find out she was transwoman and wanted to me to later come over and help her write a book about her life.
That was a table nine story BUT that wasn’t the story, Richie was going to hear…
I bristled as Armand’s eyes shifted knowing to where our association with table nine stemmed from and what it was connected to and how every story when it keeps going eventually ends in tragedy and it’s not an opera until somebody cries.
“It’s where I met…the girl.”
Pearl, my pearl in an ocean of sorrow when I hit bottom and needed a reason to breath for air, so lifted it up to the light out of the water to see the shine sparkle on her. It was a marriage between Heaven and Hell that eventually became an inferno when we were on the verge of getting married which was the reason we were all here together today due to the fallout of what I had to do after she or rather her dad worked on taking my future away, here condemning me to what we once affectionately deemed the “The Company” which had to do work for “The Organization” which co-existed in a love/hate kind of way with “The System” which really loved it all but pretended to hate it.
“You could say that’s when the trouble started but it was just the seed, really…”
The seed planted was hope, the trouble was the actually sprouting out and crawling from the gutter, she help me find who I wasn’t in all of this, encouraged me to go back to school and go to law school so I could become a lawyer maybe give other working class thugs like me a fighting chance…only I never got go to law school, I was unofficially marked, black listed from any real positive prospects, her dad and the deacon played golf with the judge and the lawyer they hired did work with for our fascist governor and normally busted unions for a living. It didn’t matter what happened or how it went down, only I won but had to pay for it and the pound of flesh wound up being a future in law. The nearest thing I could do was allegedly ghost lawyer and do people’s bankruptcies for them, a boring ass phantom melting in the shadows, working as a barback to most people I just seemed like a middle aged failure who only knew how to sling half drunk beer glasses and fuck…I didn’t fuck all that much but I could sure secretly lawyer, snort cocaine and masturbate out of frustration reading Russian literature.
The pancakes arrived. The highlight of the day. Perhaps a final meal part of the last rites for the devil’s bargain made but not kept. Funny, how you can never exactly focus on the face or other details of a person when their heralding something great, whether it’s food to sustain a ravenous hunger or sex, the experience consumes you rather than you actually doing the consumption but to hell with philosophy it was pancake eating time at Flap Jack Stacks where even if things were to go wrong, you’d die fully satisfied, fuck everything else including the end of the world.
“Bro…” Richie was astonished by the sight of the All American: plate sized butter milk pancakes, sausage, bacon baked in like berries topped with corned beef hash, shredded American cheese, steak tips and ketchup. His eyes glazed with a misty pride.
“I’m an American.”
Armand snickered and look down at his plate and beamed with his own peculiar type of pride at the Po’ Panda, same pancakes covered vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, black berries for nose and chocolate chips for eyes and for some reason strawberry jam for blood foaming out of it’s mouth. He cleared his throat and nodded to me.
“Tony…it was a great idea coming here, you know the first time I knew we were truly friends, we ate at this table and I ordered these pancakes feeling like a true American, you were my first real American friend because you were genuine and not an asshole looking for a token foreigner.”
“Why don’t you just suck his dick and ask him to marry you?” Guffawed Tom, who held his fork like a caveman and stabbed into a sausage atop the Texan, which was whatever someone from Ohio thought should go on a Texas styled stack of pancakes topped with butter and barbecue sauce and a single jalapeno.
I took a slug of coffee and looked at my crew, missing Boris. We both used to get the same thing, Big Blue; buttermilk blueberry pancakes because we were basics bitches or rather anything but and that was the joke which as every joke has a nugget of truth, and at the heart matter, aren’t we all pretty basic?
“Tony Bordello in the House of Jack!”
Chris James swaggered in , obnoxious white sunglasses and all, knowing Tom would be there in his army fatigues and assault rifle, Chris felt the need to outdo him; in stars and stripes track pants, backwards white ball cap with Uncle Sam flipping the bird and of course a bazooka strapped on his back to offset his black DANCE , DANCE, DANCE t-shirt. Bordello wasn’t my last name either, it was Bordeaux, but Chris was an obnoxious asshole, you couldn’t help love.
“Have no fear everyone, my weapon of choice is disabled like my cheating ex-girlfriend’s new man!” He proclaimed to frightened patrons and uneasy friends alike. He shook hands all around the table like a spastic coke fiend, shaking so much you didn’t know if he was going to lift off and collide with the moon.
“Bordeaux, man…you remember that time we sat here and those goofy fuckers we’re drunk and talking about killing some guy’s girlfriend’s boyfriend and they bought us pancakes and the next day they were on the news ‘cause they really did fuckin’ murder that guy…anyway I gotta take a shit!” He thumbed toward the bathroom and blasted off in more ways than one.
I remembered the night. I had just starting going with Pearl, those two wanted to get ecstasy and have all of us run a train on her, when they found out we were dealing at raves, only we didn’t have any and the weaselly guy jumped up and down sputtering…
“We’ll get the bitch so drunk, stick that booty out the back window with duct tape, charge five dollars a pump! God, I’m so horny! Started drinking at 5am! Woke up from a dream, bathing in my girlfriend’s blood!”
The prospect of atrocity seemed to be attracted to the dynamics of Pearl and I which is why I was in this neck brace, sitting among old friends waiting for something wicked this way to come at table nine. The crew was gathered, and it was time for them to know why, Chris had known the story without even asking, he transcended “The Company” and could be considered an extended “family member of middle management in relation to “The Organization”.
“There’s always a story with you Tony.” He told me as soon as he picked up the phone before anything could be said. He knew why and agreed to what I was going to ask before it could be asked; we were homeless and used to feed each other when we lived off the streets, even did a couple of low level jobs, I just got out of the tractor beam of “The Organization” on time, while Chris got further pulled in, deeper into a specialized trade that eventually left him on borrowed time, as he had recently had surgery for an aneurysm due to the excessive amounts of coke and acid he had taken over years. It didn’t work and I’m sure the now brutal and more frequent intakes of coke, meth and whiskey weren’t helping, one week later.
I poked an over easy egg and drowned a strip of bacon into it. Tom shook his head and laughed.
“Worst Jew ever.”
I grimaced, it was forced there was barely any laughter left inside of me and Armand noticed. He took my hand.
“Tony? How’s your dad?”
Something broke inside of me and blurted on the edge of weeping.
“I done fucked up guys, it’s over.”
“Bro, what’s over.”
The levy broke and it all came flooding out.
“Pearl’s dad had to take one last dig, knowing he couldn’t touch me…my dad’s cancer is back, he can’t get Medicare, right? Got a dishwashing job so he could have insurance, they fired his ass for no reason, told him he wasn’t welcome there anymore showed him write-ups he never signed, manager said his friend Renaldo Salucio knew a guy by Tony Bordeaux, ‘Any relation? A junior perhaps?’ Laughed in his face, my dad’s going to forgo treatment he can’t afford now without insurance. “
“Bro, what are going to do?”
“It’s not what I’m going to do…it’s what I did.”
“Tony, when you strike back- “
“I’m a fucking monster, Armand.”
“Tony, every time you’ve done something to get back at someone it’s because they deserved it. You show them a bit of mercy, they laugh at you and poke you again…you’re like an animal in the forest, you can show the people where the food is, help them survive, protect them, show kindness, then they beat the animal with a stick, back him against the wall, cage him and wonder, why did this beast rip my arm off?”
“Shut the fuck up with your gay ass poetry. Damn, Tony don’t go all sissy with tears what did you do and what’s with the neck brace?”
Armand’s eyed widened, his mouth dropped as he slumped against the booth.
“Tony, you did it, didn’t you?”
“I couldn’t help it…Armand, I’m a fucking monster…that’s why I told you guys to come packing, it’s the end.”
Tom stopped shoving food in his face when it dawned on him what it could’ve been, remembering the one thing which frightened even Boris.
“Tony, god damn it, you didn’t…”
“Bro, what did you do? Bro, what did he do? Bro what the hell is going on?”
“The crack-whore? Was it the crack-whore? Don’t tell us it was the friggin’ crack-whore.”
“You unleashed Nancy, didn’t you?”
“You got back with her?”
“No, guys far worse than that.”
“Bro, who’s Nancy?”
“Nancy is the Devil, one time your cousin, thought of shooting her ‘cause she said he was a pussy for bringing a gun to a dope deal but he didn’t think the bullets would stop her when she pissed off this one dude who smacked her with a brick in the face…didn’t even phase her, bitch was so high and crazy. You didn’t fucking get back with her, did you?”
“No, no…I declared my love for her, told she was the one and how wrong I had been about everything, especially us.”
Armand shook his head in dismay as Richie nodded pretending to know what was going on as I wondered why it took so long for Chris to take a shit. Tom pounded the table with his fork and huffed.
“You stupid mother fucker!”
Nancy was my girlfriend from way back when, we used to make ecstasy or rather she did as she was good with chemicals and I’d sell it at raves until she got into crack but her lawyer parent’s eventually cleaned her up and she wound up getting three master’s degrees; one in political science, chemistry and business management…her job was inheriting money from her dead cancered up mother and suicidal father, while gravitating toward a slew of prescription drugs to keep her normal with others to counter act the side effects of the initial prescriptions along with the legal highs of a multitude of painkillers and unheard of amounts of alcohol. Her body was a perfect drug intake machine almost making her superhuman, a demon in the sack, coupled with a trauma inflicted mind , spoiled rich kid syndrome and corporate filtered news, she was a soul sucking succubus that not only devoured your sex organs but consumed your sanity and recycled the will to live into something so twisted and bizarre you never knew exactly where you were and how you’d get out.
“I couldn’t help it, I needed revenge so bad…I went to her…these people are never going to recover, the old man’s legacy is gone, his shit he valued with his money…all gone, he can’t get it back without plundering his own retirement and Pearl…Pearl’s infertile and totally fragmented from her family, her new husband beat her so bad she’s on life support.”
“She got The Movement involved.”
“That bad ass freedom fighting group?” Tom was elated by the revelation.
“She’s bankrolling a new local chapter; they want to overthrow the government and they’re actually white supremacists.”
“You can’t join them, who ever heard of a Jewish Nazi?”
“Bro, they’re not coming here, are they?”
“No, most of them are gone…I outed what they did to the police giving names, it all went down, but Nancy escaped.” I pointed to my neck brace.
“She tried to snap my neck after I got up in bed and told her I made a terrible mistake and how every time we have sex, I always get a guilty sick feeling in my stomach and that I could never be with her. Then I begged her not to commit suicide, she once told me how if I ever rejected her again she would go off in the woods, take a bunch of ecstasy, crack and acid and just wander all drugged out until she died heartbroken but tragically fake happy.”
I drained the last bit of coffee from my bone chipped mug, took a sip of water and cleared my throat.
“I saw those baby blues glisten and harden into something dark, Armand. She manically laughed, it was otherworldly, asked me about The Movement. When I declined, she pounced on me trying to break my neck, giggling ‘I’m going to make it so you can’t move and learn what it is for someone to take your ass against your will.’ I got away in a way I’m not proud of with what she and I used to call ‘love taps’. She screamed at me how she would never let a cheap Jew from a poor ass family join The Movement anyway and that I had a small dick and didn’t know how to use it and how she was going to crush and create a union to crush all other unions.”
Bro, what does that even mean?”
“Man, other than the killing you part, this chick is starting not to sound bad after all.”
“Tony, you’re my best friend, I love you like a brother, you’re going to be fine, we’re all going to be fine.”
“We’re not fine. None of us are fine. She is a pill crazed, toxic chemical laced blood hate filled abomination and she is coming here to kill us and anything that gets in her way. I’m hoping everyone is packing.”
They all nodded. Armand snickered.
“Remember when Nancy called me: ugly, fat, stupid and disgusting and I asked, “Yes Nancy, I am ugly, fat, possibly stupid and even disgusting but even so, shouldn’t I be allowed to have love and affection?”
I nodded with a sheepish smile at half of it being true.
“NO!” I mocked shrieked emulating my crack whore femme fatale set to do us all in.
We all shared a laugh and a few snorts until like a movie there was a crash, and glass breaking, a haunting silence followed by a shrill spiteful inquiry.
“WHERE IS HE?” She screamed, decked out in an American flag jump suit, sporting mom’s apple pie baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire and an un-American katana blade in the other.
“I don’t care how many of you have to die, I am here to destroy this god damn Jew!”
The busboy tried to intervene, a young kid about sixteen threw his bus tub at her. Nancy sliced it half and smacked him against the side of his head with the bat.
“All lives matter! The Movement will keep moving!”
The climax of the third act of this carnage filled real life cartoonish murder film (I had always wanted to screen write, one of the many things I couldn’t afford to do) had arrived and what lesson we learned would depend on who lived after the credits rolled. The bus boy’s execution resulted in a flown blown counterattack. Strangers protecting a stranger they didn’t even know existed all to render another’s stranger’s life with meaning in the dispatching of a foul stranger’s presence. Silverware flew, followed by chairs, and furious bodies with pounding fists with even a few guns thrown in there. We pulled our own heat out and started blasting away to join the fray in the hopes of stopping her but Nancy her baby blues and curly red hair accentuated by her jumpsuit at her diminutive height gave her the statue of a hungry god in need of human sacrifices, trained a bit in martial arts, jumping, dodging she followed with a thrust of the sword into a vital organs, spinning like a tornado limbs flew in every direction, blood spraying likewise as the bat she held tore skin, crunched bone and brain damaged lives. What she couldn’t block or miss, lodged into her skin.
We caught each other’s glances.
My beautiful death-machine, a blood veil across her face.
Our bullets ran out, she kept going among the wreckage of bodies, gritting her teeth with an animalistic glare. We threw our guns at her. No words could be said.
“YOU ARE NOTHING, I COULD’VE HAVE GIVEN YOU LOVE!”
Armand threw himself in front of me as Tom dove under the table and Richie frozen in fear.
“Fuck love!” I pushed Armand out of the way ready to pay my dues, none of it mattered anymore and the good sure as hell didn’t outweigh the bad, I was ready to go and just give it all a rest.
“I never wanted love, I never wanted you.”
Nancy stopped, perplexed.
“I never met anyone that didn’t want love.”
“I never wanted it from anyone, and I never got it when I needed it. You were just supposed to be a one-night stand but I felt sorry for you when you asked to call you, I stayed with you because I was desperate for a place to live, I became your friend out of guilt but you got your share of misery out of me over the years, it’s over.”
“It’s done, when I say it’s done, you stupid, uneducated, gay, loser ignorant waste of man.”
“It’s over, bitch. Step off, or I’ll use it.”
Chris stood outside the bathroom aiming his bazooka at her. Nancy turned around with a grin.
“Aww, is the brain-damaged piece of shit going to use his big toy instead of his tiny penis to try and please me? Maybe you can join your dead mom and Tony’s dead mom in a sick three way in Hell like the faggot you are!”
“I’ll, do it.”
“DO IT!” Nancy threw her sword at Chris; the blade went through his shoulder as he pulled the trigger and what we thought was disabled was actually quite capable.
Nancy was gone. People were gone. Part of Flapjack Stacks was gone.
Chris was bewildered, looking between us and the bazooka on the floor.
“I was just trying to scare her. It wasn’t supposed to work. Honest, man…am I good guys?”
Armand put an arm around Chris and looked solemnly at me. Tom was curled into the fetal position weeping for Boris possibly mention something about love, but I didn’t want to notice nor care. Richie vomited, wiped himself with his napkin and calmly took the scene in.
“Bro, my dad can get one of a hell contract out of this.”
It was hot, I zipped open my black hoodie and was irradiated I still got coffee on my white t-shirt and sighed.
“I don’t think your dad’s going to be able to clean this up, Richie.”
Mike Zone is the author of One Hell of a Muse, A Farewell to Big Ideas and Void Beneath the Skin and coauthor of The Grind. Editor in Chief at Rogue Wolf Press and a managing editor at Concrete Mist Press, a frequent contributor to Alien Buddha Press and Mad Swirl . His work has been featured in: Horror Sleaze Trash, , Better Than Starbucks, Piker Press, Punk Noir Magazine, Synchronized Chaos, The Whiskey Rye Review and Cult Culture magazine.
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