Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Empire of the Owl (Part I)

Happy Boxing Day everyone. And happy birthday Kevin and Johnathan.

I've been very reluctant to share any pieces of my upcoming, best-selling, Pulitzer prize winning novel, f u. It seems the more I write, the more protective I feel of it. Or maybe I feel more vulnerable.

Anyhow, here's a little snippet:

He sighs, looking annoyed, standing there on the dewy parking strip grass next to his newest beater Volkswagen race car. His arms are crossed. He's looking at me like he's in a hurry, like I'm slowing him down; like he's got better things to do, and I'm just getting in his way.

I sigh, frustrated, and stare at the car, all matte-black and dumped, the springs no doubt chopped down to nothing, the floor pan practically resting on the blacktop. The front rim glints, catching light from the streetlight as a I walk around the side of the car heading to the passenger side. They're nice wheels. Classic chrome Empis with new-looking Toyo tires. I start to wonder who he stole them from.

I turn and look down the hill at the unruly congregation, off in the distance, meandering down North State Street, David and Emerald hanging back a few paces. I clear my throat and turn back to Brandon. “Nice car,” I tell him.

“Huh,” he mocks. “Thanks, man.” He pauses. “You wanna get in now?” he asks condescendingly, gesturing with his head toward my side of the car.

A clucking noise startles me. I shake my head, dismissing it, or at least hoping he wasn't actually telling me the truth earlier. I turn to look back over at the mob moving down the street, growing ever smaller in the distance. I sigh.

Shit, I mutter, eying the open slot on the side of the car where a door handle is meant to be bolted, a tiny steel lever barely visible inside the cavity in the sheet metal. I glance over at Brandon and then turn to look once more at the crowd, barely visible in the early morning shadows cast onto sidewalks by strip malls and dark storefronts.

Shit, I mumble once more, sighing, realizing there's no easy way out of this one; realizing I'd much rather be a part of the mob, and I don't even like most of those people – I mean, I just spent the last couple hours trying to convince them all to leave my apartment.


I look at Brandon. I catch him grinning before he notices me noticing him, and he forces a scowl.
“Get in the car, man,” he says.

I stare back at him, trying to read him.

“He's not gonna bite you,” he tells me.

I pause, still staring at him. I look at the door again, shaking my head, mumbling some profane nonsense. I feel around inside the open cavity for the lever that's meant to be attached to a door handle. The lock mechanism clicks, and I can barely make out the sight of the knob popping up on the other side of the tinted glass, and I wonder why anyone would lock a car with no door handles.

The aroma of compost and old doughnuts, all earthy and sweet, hits me in the face as I open the door. Wincing, taking shallow breaths, I peer inside the car, watching as Brandon brushes random debris off the passenger seat onto the floor. There are feathers everywhere.

“You're gonna have to take the back,” he says, throwing a wadded up pair of jeans into the back of the car.

I scoff. “Yeah,” I snicker. “Right.” I sit down and look over at the inside of the door, completely stripped of all upholstery and trim, and look for something to grab onto to so I can close it.

Brandon turns the key and cranks the starter a couple times before the engine fires, roaring to life in an almost obscene manner. The engine idles loudly, roughly, sending reverberations through the bare floor pan up legs; my feet tingle. I look down at my black and white Converse low tops. An old, dirty penny vibrates past my right heel, it's vibrations inaudible over the deep, rumbling exhaust note. It disappears under the seat. My ears pop.

I grab onto the least sharp looking piece of sheet metal I can reach and pull the door closed. It slams shut silently under the cacophony of engine noise and rattling metal.

Brandon turns to me and points towards the back of the car, his index finger shaking wildly. “In the back, man,” he mouths, or says; I can't hear a word of it.

I look past the all the debris, the pizza boxes, clothing, car parts and tools strewn about the back of the car, which I now notice doesn't even have a back back seat, and look out through the dirty, dark-tinted rear window at the billowing exhaust cloud glowing a muddy red behind the tinted tail lights. I reach down to the side of the seat, trying to find a lever, or a knob, or something to make the seat move forward so I can get in the back easier, all the while being highly aware of the dangers of feeling around blindly in any vehicle of Brandon's, but I can't find anything except loose change and something slimy.

I look to Brandon for help, but he just grins back and buckles his harness. He points towards the back again.

I shrug my shoulders, exasperated, and shake my head no.

“Why do you always have to–” I begin to yell, barely able to hear my own words, but he starts to laugh and looks down at the floor by my feet just as something pokes my leg.

I jump in my seat and move my legs towards the door.

A ratty looking chicken – or a rooster, I guess – looks up at me from the floor, its feathers unkempt and ragged-looking, speckled with what looks like black spray paint.

I look over at Brandon and then back at the chicken. I shake my head, turn back to Brandon, gesturing with my hands, and I ask him, “why?” That's all I can come up with.

He grins back at me, then points to the back again.

I shake my head and start picturing worst case scenarios in my head as I turn, kneeling down on the edge of the seat and grabbing both of the front headrests for support as I squeeze myself through the small passageway to the back of the car. I accidentally kick Brandon in the process.

The back of the Squareback smells even worse than the front. I reach for a couple wadded up shirts and lay them down to sit on. I'm not even fully seated as Brandon shifts into first guns the accelerator, causing me to lose my balance. I fall onto my side and reach for whatever I can to keep from getting thrown to all the way to the back of the car. I end up grabbing hold of the red, nylon strap of the racing harness right next to where it's bolted to the floor, which must've choked Brandon, or something, because the next thing I know I'm getting punched in the shin and the car is swerving towards the cars parked along the curb, and I'm tumbling towards the back.

I'm rubbing the back of my head; it's throbbing from hitting the sub box in the back. I'm dazed, staring towards the front of the car. Brandon's giving me the finger, and there's a chicken perched on the front of the seat I should be sitting in.

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