Chips

Prompt: Thanks

the finger bandaged

Leep sharpened the steak knife for quite some time, as he knew it could be more difficult slicing through raw meat than cooked, and his fingers were definitely raw.

He didn’t intend to saw through the bone; no that would be stupid, and very difficult, not to mention unnecessary. This might all be unnecessary if old Anthony Gizmodo hadn’t been scooped up off the street, from his usual spot on the bus stop bench in front of the liquor store, and taken to some kind of government rehab. He couldn’t find out where they took him and Hannah, the liquor store manager, who usually was pretty well-informed, didn’t know either.

So Leep would have to take himself off to emergency.

He’d been tracking Theresa, Anthony’s daughter, for a few nights now and knew her shifts and that she was working long hours in Emergency. It was risky just turning up. She could be on a break, or busy defibrillating someone, or stocking the shelves with thin rubber gloves and vomit trays, or injecting antidotes for illegal drugs. Really, he hoped she was well-paid for this work. Leep himself was ok with blood but not with anything of any texture coming out of eyes, ears or mouths. Those kinds of things made him queasy. He had a nice chilled bottle of Red Racer IPA to calm his nerves, and positioned the middle finger of his left hand on the bamboo cutting board.

Ok, who knew so many blood vessels and nerve endings were located on the ends of fingers?

He only cut a small piece, just the very tip, and debated whether to put it in a baggie and take it to Emergency with him, but it truly looked too flimsy to be successfully reattached so Leep disposed of it in the can under the sink. This injury should be just severe enough that he lingered in Emergency, but not so severe that they’d keep him there. He got a towel and a bag of frozen peas— holy hell, it hurt!— and made his way to the car.

Theresa, with great authority and purpose, pulled back the curtain that surrounded the bed where Leep sat perched, his hand still encased in the peas and towel. She hadn’t looked him in the eye yet. But how serendipitous that it was she who was assigned to bed number 4 in the emergency ward! Leep smiled inwardly— sometimes the chips (he imagined poker chips) fell his way. Not often, but sometimes.

“Leep,” she said, “is that you?”

Exactly what she’d said in the parking lot when Leep mugged her, that night two weeks ago. Then he’d responded “No” and stole all her cash.

This time he said, “Yes, I cut my finger.”

She examined it, dabbed at it with some liquid on a cotton ball that hurt but didn’t sting at all, then bandaged it up. All very deftly, efficiently, and while not completely ignoring Leep’s grunts and winces from the pain. Holy hell.

All the while they conversed in low tones.

“I was sure it was you in the parking lot,” Theresa said.

“What parking lot?” asked Leep.

“I needed that money to pay for my son’s school trip.”

“What happened to it?”

“You wore the same jacket and jeans the night we took my father home.”

“How is old Anthony?”

Theresa smelled equally of white gardenia and disinfectant. It was actually rather comforting. She didn’t wear a white uniform and white oxfords but instead a pink polyester short-sleeved pant suit and white Adidas running shoes.

“He’s not doing well in rehab,” said Theresa.

“No,” said Leep. “I’d like to go see him though.” He held his left hand up in the air, propped at the elbow as Theresa had instructed, with his wounded middle finger extended. It was not the message Leep intended. Perhaps Theresa had endured other symbolic though unintended insults before.

Theresa didn’t respond, and instead disappeared into the hubbub of Emergency, closing the curtains firmly behind her.

Was she calling the police? That would not be a good thing. Chips were falling his way tonight though. They were tumbling through the air and landing in giant mounds at his feet. So perhaps she would find him convincing, genuine, if a bit gormless; the details of the robbery might be fading. Leep was not the kind of man to rob the daughter of the closest thing to a friend that Leep had. Was he?

When Theresa returned she had a small prescription pill bottle. “For the pain,” she said. “Keep it iced and elevated, if you can.”

“Thanks,” said Leep, adding: “Maybe I could go see your dad with you, next time you go.”

“I don’t think so,” said Theresa.

“I’d help pay for gas,” said Leep. “My car is getting new brakes.”

“You don’t need to pay for gas,” Theresa sighed.

“Maybe you could tell me then about that thing in the parking lot,” said Leep.

“Maybe I will,” said Theresa.

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Peeps for Leep [Repost]

Prompt: Leap

jeep cg mud b&w 112908

My name is Leep. At school I was called, inevitably, Leep the Creep. It affected me, I can’t pretend it didn’t.

So it was as Leep the Creep that I put on my ski jacket and went out to mug someone for beer money. I drank Budweiser, which I know is terrible beer, but it was cheap and most of the guys at the club drank it. Leep the Sheep. I admit I sometimes do things to be a part of the gang. I’m weak that way. And yeah, I am saving some money for a vacation. That’s why they sometimes call me Cheapo Leepo.

I couldn’t touch my vacation fund, which sat in a Seville orange marmalade jar on my bedside table. It was up to one hundred and seventy-seven dollars. I could have dipped into it for beer money, but I made a vow to save for the camp. This was one vow I meant to keep. Leep keeps. Leep’s deep.

It wasn’t just the paintball, though I longed to play. At the vacation camp they also had wilderness mud rides, down steep slopes, in a Jeep. Leep in a Jeep going Steep. I heard too they had girls at the camp who liked people like me, shy ones who were also pretty interesting. Peeps for Leep.

So I had to get beer money, without spoiling my plans for camp. My future family depended on it. As in, if I didn’t go I wouldn’t meet the girl, the mother of my future children. See, that was really two vows I meant to keep. The one to my future bride too. I’m shy, and pretty interesting, and loyal. Just what the girls at the vacation camp are looking for. Or so I heard.

My gun was on the bedside table beside the marmalade jar with the one hundred and seventy-seven dollars. It was a deterrent, should anyone have the idea of breaking in and stealing it. I would use the gun to prevent them from stealing. Or maybe I wouldn’t use it, but they wouldn’t know that. Peeps needed to think that you couldn’t walk all over Leep, because he has a gun which might be loaded.

So what makes me pretty interesting? A good question. Well, I mug people, just for small amounts of money, or whatever they have on them. Even ten bucks is ok. My most successful mugging earned me almost two hundred dollars. I kind of wasted it. I bought a digital watch and forty bags of pork rinds. They were kind of a guilty pleasure, at the time. Don’t like them much, now. They were on sale so I stocked up. Cheapo Leepo strikes again.

I also write children’s books. One might be published. Anyway they are for children ages three to five. My publisher said I needed to establish a niche. Not really my publisher, but a publisher who gave me some advice, and if they publish the next one, he will be my publisher. The newest one is called The Joy of Toy. Or The Joys of Toys. I put some illustrations with it, but noted that they didn’t have to use my pictures. I’m not a professional artist. This last book was a departure, since it was so generic. Usually my books are more personal, like about people. One was about a boy who wanted a bicycle, that kind of thing.

But that is interesting, right? An author of books?

My job isn’t that interesting, so I wouldn’t mention that right away. Doesn’t pay that well either, which is why I was always looking for ways to earn a bit more cash. But work had a good employees’ club, nothing fancy, but where I hung out with the gang. Some of the guys are married. Their wives come pick them up at six o’clock. One of the guys, Vincent, met his wife at the vacation camp.

It was a black ski jacket that I put on as Leep the Creep, and I put the hood up to perform a mugging. My face would be in shadow. No one has ever identified me, at least I’ve never been caught. I have one of those everyday faces. Nondescript.

People were always taking short cuts, even late at night, so it was easy to find someone walking alone, off the main streets. It was surprising how careless people were, really.

So I walked around for awhile, just getting some fresh air, when I saw this guy walking alone, down a side street full of shops that were closed. He was no bigger than me, and kind of skinny.

I said, “Give me your money. I have a gun.” My usual script.

This guy looked up into my face. I backed away into the shadow, but he saw me, and I saw him. It was Vincent.

He reached into his leather jacket and pulled something out. I was afraid it might be a weapon so put my hand on the gun in my pocket, just in case. It wasn’t a gun or a knife. It was a jar, my jar.

“This all you got?” Vincent asked me.

I shot him in the face. I didn’t want to, but he could have identified me in a court of law.

__

Photograph by Erik Hinote


  • Original Prompt: Leap, February 29, 2016

Blackout

Prompt: Panoply

city-street-blackout

There was a power outage, and a quarter-moon, so the streets were blanketed in a dense black haze. Hootie decided that since it was a perfect mugging environment downtown, he would set forth and find the man who shot him.

Hootie had no weapon at home, so he put a paring knife into his jacket pocket, more for confidence than any practical defense. Was he afraid? Yes. Was he brave to take to the streets while in fear of his assailant? Yes. Had he just smoked a joint? Yes.

His eyes got used to the darkness quite quickly. Not many people were out, all the storefronts were dead and black, and the side streets were lit by sparse, thin moonlight and a panoply of distant stars. He passed at least three people walking their dogs, miserable and silent, picking up poop from the pavement in supermarket plastic bags. He met one of the nurses from the hospital, who told Hootie that he walked a few laps around town after his evening shift, because it helped him sleep.

There were others, surprisingly to Hootie. The only club in town was closed, but several people still congregated outside the the darkened entrance. Hootie walked by, ignoring a very hot young woman in a pencil skirt and sequinned tank top. Hootie was sure she noticed him as he walked past, but he had other things on his mind.

He had two small scars on his butt, one where the bullet went in, and the other where the bullet exited. While it was true that his current girlfriend found his ass intriguing, in damp weather it was uncomfortable to sit down. Not only that, but he had to endure jokes about being shot in his buttocks, as if it was somehow demeaning, or worse, as if he’d been shot running away like a coward. Hootie was proving, right this moment, that he was no coward.

What would Hootie do when he confronted the man who shot him? He wasn’t exactly sure, except that he would bring the mugger to justice. Since the man had a gun, Hootie would have to surprise him, somehow. And even though Vince DeMarco lay dead, the mugger hadn’t fatally shot Hootie. So the man might be big and ruthless, as Hootie had told the police, but he still had a weakness, at least as far as Hootie was concerned. Hootie would distract him, possibly wound him, and call the police on his cell phone.

Near the old brewery, Hootie spotted a man in black approaching him on the street. It had just stopped raining, so what thin moonlight there was, was reflected on the pavement. This could be the one, Hootie thought. He felt his pockets. Paring knife, check. Cell phone, check. He ducked into the recessed doorway of an abandoned shop.

He heard the footsteps approaching, and tensed. The man stopped walking just before he reached Hootie, pressed hard against a damp brick wall.

“Hello?” said a voice.

It was Leep the Creep, that weird guy that Hootie met at his brother’s wedding; strange, socially inept, maybe even a bit mentally slow. It wasn’t odd that Leep was wandering around late at night. Leep was a creep, and creeps did creepy things.

Leep was a lot smaller than the man Hootie remembered had attacked him, or he might have even suspected Leep of criminal behaviour.

“What’s up, Leep?” Leep was wearing a black down jacket in April. Really?

“What are you doing?” asked Leep. “I saw you duck into the doorway.”

“I’m er, Just walking around,” Hootie said. “Seen anyone?”

“Just you,” said Leep.

“Uh huh,” said Hootie. “You should get on home, what are you doing walking around?”

“I couldn’t sleep,” said Leep. “I thought I’d walk to the 7-11 and get a hoagie.”

“Yeah, you should get on home.”

“I think I’m ok,” said Leep. “But thanks.” Leep pulled up the nylon hood of his jacket, put his hands in his pockets, and walked on.

Hootie patrolled the streets without incident until he got hungry, then went home and made ramen noodle soup.

Hootie and Ham

Prompt: Healthy

Gun Rock-Island-1911-gi-standard-carry450x300

The day was clear and warm, so Leep was walking home from the mill, with the idea of stopping in the 7-11 for some eggs, a can of salmon, and a package of Bisquik. He had a lot on his mind: Hootie, Deborah Demarco, quiche, The Rabbit Hole, and, of course Tony.

But to his great relief, there was Tony Gizmodo, in his usual baggy grey slacks and grimy jacket, back sitting on the curb outside the liquor store next to the 7-11, looking as sullen and unhealthy as ever. Leep stopped, and scrabbled in his coat pocket for some change, and dropped it into the coffee cup beside Tony.

“That’s my coffee cup, you asshole,” said Tony, whose stay in jail had not improved his disposition.

“Sorry,” said Leep, and watched Tony take the two dollars out of the cup and put it in his pocket. “So you are out of jail.”

Tony rolled his eyes. Leep never noticed before that the stubble growing on Tony’s face was grey, so maybe he was older than he thought. Or maybe jail had aged him. Leep knew he could never do jail. He would come out of it grey, too.

“I mean, you didn’t kill that guy, right?” Leep persisted.

“Nah, I guess not,” said Tony. “They were pretty convinced I did.”

“So how’d you get out?” Leep asked.

Tony shrugged. “Some other guy got shot. I was in my deluxe cell, negotiating with Bob for a bit of vodka or cough syrup, anything, at the time of the shooting. They brilliantly deduced I couldn’t be in two places at once.”

“So it was like, the same gun or something?”

“You should be a cop,” said Tony.

Leep remembered that at one time he had wanted to be a cop. He also wanted to be a trapeze artist. He heard there was a trapeze school in New York City. Perhaps he should use his savings for some lessons in New York City, as a kind of fantasy vacation. But no, he was too tall, skinny, and awkward. Leep in tights? They would laugh at him. But kids have dreams; Leep still had dreams, lots of them.

Like having a wedding. He would need a girlfriend first, of course, but he remembered the wedding he went to shortly before Vincent Demarco was killed. Ham invited practically everyone from the mill, including Mr Duggin, the manager. Leep sat at his assigned table at the reception, nursed a bottle of Budweiser beer, ate his sliced chicken, listened to the DJ, and watched all the people dance. Ham and his wife Dolly looked like they stepped off the top of wedding cake, as they say, and they spun round and round on the floor. In fact, Leep was suddenly struck by motion all around him– people moving and dancing, laughing, talking, gesturing, moving, moving; a vortex, while he was in the middle, perfectly still in his chair with his hand on the Budweiser. He couldn’t be part of it; it would be as impossible as jumping onto a fast-moving train.

But how he longed to be.

Then Ham’s brother, “Hootie”, disrupted everything, by having too many cocktails and co-opting the DJ’s mic, and rambling on incoherently about the bride, some of the words rather rude, until Ham grabbed the mic and walked Hootie to the toilets, where Hootie was either struck in the face, or vomited. Leep didn’t know. He went home.

But a week ago, when he was out late, he spotted Hootie again. A bit unsteady on his feet, but walking with purpose towards Railtown, where he probably had one of those new converted lofts. He was wearing shorts and a suit jacket, which Leep thought was odd.

Leep still wore the black ski jacket when he was out on the job, but now tied a dark blue scarf around his face so he would not be recognized again. He carried a lightweight backpack.

He intercepted Hootie underneath the broken street lamp, a favourite mugging location. “Give me your money,” Leep said, the usual script. “I have a gun.”

Hootie’s face went yellow, and he fumbled in his pockets in a panic, looking for his wallet. “Ok, ok, ok,” he said, over and over.

Leep took the wallet and said, “I killed Vincent Demarco. Unless you wanna die too, run!” as menacingly as he could. Hootie backed away in terror, then turned to run.

At that moment, Leep drew his gun, took careful aim so as to avoid a major artery, and shot Hootie in the ass. Hootie screamed, and Leep backed into the shadows, removing the scarf and the ski jacket and shoving them into the backpack, before reaching the end of the alley, and disappearing. He could hear Hootie shouting, even when he was blocks away.