Flash Friday 27/05/2016: Clean Streets
I put my hand on the corpse. Cold, like stone. Damp to the touch. Lifeless. A being once alive, reduced to nothing more than meat.
I stared at the man across from me dead in the eye. “How long’s this one been dead for?”
The man gave a sneer as he thought, curling the bushy moustache over his lip like a caterpillar. “‘Bout two days, I make it.”
“Two days. Yet still looks fresh.”
“Yep. Gotta keep them refrigerated else bits start fallin’ off.”
I looked around. Cold corpses, just like the one I was inspecting, all around me. So many bodies, and one man was tending to them all; keeping a catalogue of death around him like a toy store owner.
I looked down at my own specimen. As much as there was a whole selection to go through, I knew at first glance that the one in front of me was what I was seeking. Perfect size. Perfect time of death. This was the one I was looking for; the very reason I came down to meet this man of meat in the first place.
“Alright then,” I said, picking it up. “I’ll take this chicken breast, please.”
The man took my order, weighed it, and put it in a bag as white as a ghost. “That’ll be six dollars. Want some of the lollipops you always get? You know, for your kid.”
I gave the man a jaded look, ready to decline at any moment, but I still caved. “Yeah,” I said, handing over a ten. “For my kid.”
I had barely left the butchers when the scum of the city decided to show its ugly face to me. I was approached from an alleyway by a man. He had a mohawk as colourful as his personality and enough studs in his skin to think someone had gone to town on him with a handgun. “Hey,” he hissed, with the same tone the snake gave to Adam and Eve. “You look like the kind of guy that would, uh, like to see what I have.”
Adults never truly ‘grow out’ of candy; they just trade in the sweets and the sugar for trips and rushes. Pills, patches, tablets; it’s all the same. A little money, a lot of fun, and nobody has to know about it. Of course, I’ve never taken a drug stronger than a good painkiller and some caffeine. When a cat approaches a dog thinking it’s a mouse, though, you just gotta go through with it.
“Sure,” I said. “Lemme see what you got.”
The man looked left and right, seemingly convinced that nobody was around. Then, with a swift motion, he revealed what he was keeping in the inner pocket of his jacket — a kitten.
“Listen,” the man said, in a worried tone. “I just found this poor thing in a dumpster down the alley and I don’t think it has a mother. What the hell should I do?”
I frowned. “Take it to an animal shelter.”
“But what if…what if it’s a kill shelter?“
“I know the Smithson Animal Shelter near the stadium is no kill. You’ll probably find a good home for him there.”
“Really? Thanks, buddy!” the punk said, with a smile. “You just saved this little guy’s life.”
“Wait a minute,” I called out to him as he already began his voyage down the alley. “Weren’t you going to sell me drugs just now?”
“Drugs?” the man said, the look of scorn on his face. “Man, if you’re talking to strangers in alleys for a potential drug hit, you’ve got your priorities all wrong. Go clean, alright?”
The man left before I could object.
Life was usual back in the run-down apartment. Lying in a cigarette-scarred recliner, the greasy, gravy-stained remains of the chicken dinner on a plate beside me. I knew tonight was going to be rough; I could feel it within the grit of my soul. Maybe it was the stormy weather. Maybe it was the drink. Maybe it was that I was already on my third lollipop and all the apple ones were gone. Either way, when the phone rang, I knew exactly who was calling; trouble. And it was for me.
I picked up the phone. “Hello?” I rasped.
“Detective Jones,” the familiar growl of the chief of police rumbled down the phone. “Turn on the television. Channel six. Man getting murdered live on TV. Check for yourself.”
I flicked the channel from the movie I was watching. Two boxers were going at it like a pair of angry bulls. One of them had a beat-up face, blood dripping down his nose. He didn’t look like he was going to be standing much longer.
“Can you believe it?” the chief said. “I put a hundred bucks on the guy! Two-to-one odds, my stinkin’ ass. Now he’s taking a real beating and I’m gonna be out of pocket real soon. Just my freakin’ luck. Anyway, just thought I’d let you know so you can cover my rounds at the bar for the next month or so. See you tomorrow!”
The phone went dead just as the boxer hit the mat, out for the count. Maybe the barman will take the nasty lemon lollipops as payment.
Thanks to Ashe Elton Parker for the idea!