Thursday, September 22, 2016

New work in progress

Somewhere a phrase appeared in my mind. This phrase caused me to change which writing project I was working on.  That phrase, "I always told myself that I'll sleep when I'm dead. Now that I'm dead it appears there is too much to get done."  That phrase along with the quote from Playboy Magazine in the 70's, "Colfax is the longest wickedest street in America." just got me hooked. Before I knew it I am working on a novella that fits within the Urban Fantasy genre.  I decided I would share the first few chapters that I have written to see what feedback I can get as I work on this.

Corner of Colfax and Dead - Chapter 1

“I always told myself that I’ll sleep when I’m dead. Now that I’m dead it appears there is too much to get done.” The thought crossed my mind again as it always did right around the 5th shot. I slammed the empty glass down on the bar and called for a 6th. Daxx slid a shot down the bar towards me. I lifted it up quickly and downed quickly. It went down as everything else did bland and tasteless. My lack of smell and taste was a side effect of my condition. I didn’t usually waste much drinking but tonight was a good night. I had gotten paid for some work so I waved Daxx towards me.

“I’d like to settle up my tab, got paid today.” I placed a wrinkled 100$ bill on the bar.

“Sure Matt, let me go fetch it.” Daxx walked down the bar towards where the register was located. He reached under the counter and pulled out a ragged little notebook stuffed with old receipts between the pages. The old notebook was held together by a leather cord he wrapped around it. With practiced movements he quickly unwrapped the notebook and opened it up. I’m not sure how he does it but he always opens it to a page or two to where he needs to go. This time he opened directly to my page. He pulled out some receipts, closed the book, rewrapped the leather cord around it, and placed it under the bar.  

Deftly he spent a minute entering numbers into the register and printed a new piece of paper that he torn and held out in front of him as he started walking back over towards me. For a moment I held my breath pondering if I had enough money to pay the tab off in full and cover my rent for the next month. It seemed every other night I was here drinking a few shots while trying to relax. I closed my eyes briefly and pray to whatever gods there were for an amount I could handle. As Daxx got closer I decided I should prepare him incase it was too much.

“Daxx, could I…” I started to say but stopped as Daxx lay a piece of paper onto the bar. The paper read ‘$22.57’ and I stared at it in shock. How could it be so little. I’ve been drinking probably 4-6 shots a night. I looked up in disbelief at Daxx with my mouth slightly open. My confusion and surprise must have been evident. 

“Matt, I’m not sure what happened to you three months ago. None of my business, but I be damned if I let good alcohol go to waste.” Daxx said bringing me up to speed but I was still confused so after a minute of silence he continued. “One night I accidentally gave you some apple juice I keep for the kids. You didn’t notice it. So I tried swapping out your Gin with just tonic water. You still didn’t notice it.” 

“You’ve been cheating me!” I sputtered as my brain finally caught up. 

“Na, I didn’t charge you for the drinks. As you see, I saved ya over 200$.” Daxx replied as he pointed to the long list of drinks. All of the ones that I remembered were there nice and neat with the dates and times next to them. Even the night I tried hitting on a lady by buying her a glass of wine was there. One glass was marked as 5$ the other was 0.00$.

“I had figured you were watering the stuff down to save money.” I laughed as I squeezed my left hand. “Didn’t think it had anything to do with me.”

“Look Matt, you’ve been coming here for years. I like you coming around cause you never cause trouble and when someone gets too drunk, you’re always the guy offering to call a cab.” Daxx replied offering a friendly smile. After a moment of silence Daxx moved his right hand under the bar.

“Whoa, Daxx I’m not looking for trouble. I just… I just… I’m not sure what happened to me and I accepted the lack of taste and smell. I just didn’t realize I couldn’t get drunk. I thought 40 years of drinking finally built up my tolerance.” I gave my best smile, no teeth of course cause never could afford dental work. With both of my hands on the bar palms downwards I waited for Daxx to relax.  It took a moment but his hand came back up from under the bar without the tire iron I know he keeps under there. Every 5 feet or so he had a iron or bat or shotgun in the case of the register hidden under for safety. 

“Look Matt, I’m not interested in your story. I like having you as a customer and I don’t abide screwing my customers.” Daxx smiled back the smile he gives all customers. I pulled my wallet out and removed two twenties and a ten. I then pushed them across the bar. 

“Even if you aren’t gonna charge me, at least take something for tips.” I said as I stood up. “Also thanks for being honest. See ya tomorrow.” I stood up from the warm barstool that by now had a permanent impression of my butt on it and started walking towards the door. Right about the same time as I placed my hand on the door Daxx said goodbye.

“Hey Matt, get some rest you like like shit.” Daxx yelled from behind the bar. I looked back at him and gave a little wave and stepped out of the Drunken Moose. Immediately I was hit with the sounds and smell of Colfax on Saturday night at 10pm. People walking up and down the street, some inebriated and some not. Cars cruising up and down with windows down and bass rattling the side panels. 

Right outside of the bar exactly 20 feet from the door was the usual group of smokers. I reached for my pocket where I normally keep my smokes and it was empty. I walked up to the the one that I knew, Dan who also knew me from when we were roughnecks out by Rifle. “Bum a smoke Dan?” I asked rubbing my hands together out of habit in the cold. 

“Sure man,” Dan replied with a little cloud of condensation as he spoke. I didn’t think it was that cold out but all of the smokers here were alternating between blowing little clouds from smoking or from their breath. Dan held out a cigarette and a lighter. I forgotten that he rolls his own, but since it is Colorado.

“Normal smoke? I gotta work in a bit.” I asked while reaching. A nod from Dan was all I needed as I put it to my lips and flicked the lighter. Few puffs later and I was one of the group blowing little clouds of smoke on a cold street corner. “Thanks man, I owe you.” I said as I handed him back his lighter.

“No problem, hey you know any crews hiring near Parachute?” Dan quickly asked as he always did. Me and the guys figured he had a girl on the side that lived out there. I shook my head in reply to his question.

“Aint been on a crew since the accident.” They all nodded their head in reply to my comment. I guess I’m a popular topic of conversation. “Besides its rough work, getting too old, too tired for it.”

“Meh, you can sleep when you are dead.” Dan joked as he threw the stub of his cigarette to the ground and squashed it with his boot. I wanted to tell him he was wrong but needed to stop at home before I went to work. I thanked him against as I started walking down the sidewalk towards Holly Street. As I walked I pulled my coat tighter around me trying to block out the cold, seemed this winter I was always cold. Maybe it is time for a new jacket. 

At Holly Street and Colfax I turned northward to my house. My mood was getting fouler as I walked. The neighborhood wasn’t designed for every house to have 4 cars. Even if I did still drive I wouldn’t as the streets were tight narrow corridors lined of metal, plastic, glass, and rubber. Again I thanked the cold cause it kept most people indoors so the few parties that were going on stayed within the confines of the house. I passed by the next block shaking my head at the idea of gentrification. This whole street used to be affordable and full of families who took some pride in their street. Now, you get these kids who think it is cool to live in a dump. Then they complain when it is not as clean or pretty as the cookie cutter suburbs. With the cold the sidewalk was mostly clear, I only saw kids who belonged more in Highlands Ranch, Parker, or Vail. Twenty years ago I would have robbed some of them on principal. Give them a story to tell their friends when they meet at Starbucks to compare their BWM’s. 

I got to my place soon enough, built in the 30’s and bought by my parents in the 70’s and then sold in the 80’s. I was able to buy it back with my inheritance in the 90’s. I converted the garage into a little guest house. 

Walking up towards the front door of my place I reached in and snagged the mail. The porch light gave me enough light to figure out which mail was mine and which were my tenants. After taking mine, I placed the remaining letters in the mailbox and went back to the guest house. I unlocked the door and entered quickly, once inside I closed the door and locked it back up; handle, deadbolt, and bar. While the neighborhood has improved it was still as dangerous as when I was younger. 

I turned on a light and threw my mail on the table. It landed with a little slap and slide until it hit some cardboard filing boxes. There would be time later for bills or who ever else was asking me for money. My jacket was removed and hung with care on the back of a chair that went with the table. Then using the chair as support I removed my boots, taking care to not let it wobble too much. Lost one chair a few weeks ago cause the last one wobbled and I fell on it breaking it. With coat and boots off I walked to one of the few other furnishings in my little studio apartment, an old lazy boy chair. While I knew I couldn’t sleep I still found just relaxing in it always made me feel refreshed. Sitting down I reclined and closed my eyes, hoping sleep or something else would finally take me.

Corner of Colfax and Dead - Chapter 2

Four hours later my alarm went off. I hadn’t fallen asleep but I did zone out some. I’m not sure if it counts as rest or sleep but it is the closest I can get since the accident. It took me a moment to stand as my joint get really stiff when I don’t move for a while. Once I did get up I snagged some leftover chicken wings and a beer. 

I stopped and looked at the beer for a minute before drinking it. One of the things I loved about Colorado was all the small brews and different flavors of beer that I could get to. I didn’t finish the beer and left it sitting open on the counter. Just another thing that damn accident took from me. I didn’t have time to feel sorry for myself, gotta go make some money. 

Minute later I was back on Colfax walking westward. Taking big strides as I walked with a purpose I moved swiftly down the road passing various people. Occasionally a scantly clad lady would ask me for a cigarette or if I wanted to warm up. I left my cigarettes at home and no to the other activities. I didn’t want to go to jail and I knew the ladies on this street. The ones who looked scared or desperate were the real deal, the ones who looked like they were fresh from college, well they were usually VICE. Perhaps a twenty years ago I would have been tempted but…

I picked up my pace trying to cover as much ground as possible. My coat flapping in the night even though there wasn’t a breeze. I didn’t zip it up because the baseball bat would show. Tonight was about sending a message and the baseball bat, Thumper was more than up for the task. At the corner of Colfax and Forest I stopped for a moment to catch my breath. The voice in the back of my mind telling me I should have left sooner

I felt my breath catch a little and my chest felt tighten, I stopped and leaned against a wall waiting for the feeling to pass. A car passed by me with it’s stereo so loud I couldn’t even make out what was playing aside from the bass thumps. THUMP! THUMP! THUMP! It distracted me from the pain, I’d goto a doc but have had enough of them to last a lifetime. Still not sure what happened, perhaps my old ticker has better taste in music than the driver of the car. Once I felt ok to move I stepped away from the wall and realized it wasn’t a wall, some art statue of a lady holding up a globe. While I appreciate them trying to improve my neighborhood I can’t figure why they would put crap like that up. On the statue someone had already made it anatomically correct using some spray paint. Thirty feet away where the new building ended and the old building next to it stood there was Crazy Joe sitting on the sidewalk sleeping under a pay telephone. Never figured out why he always hung out there but he always begged for some quarters. I reached in my pocket and pulled out a ten dollar roll of quarters that I had picked up earlier after getting paid. 

“Joe. Joe!” I said hoping to wake him up. As he stirred he pushed his hat over his eyes to look at who called his name. Once he realized it was me he smiled.

“Heeey, Matt. There was a phone call for you the other day. Some guy with a fiery voice said you missed your ride and he wanted to make sure you were still coming over.”  Joe said groggily. I glanced at the phone mounted to the building. Wasn’t even sure it still worked but Joe seems to think it did. 

“Here Joe,” I said as I casually tossed the roll of quarters to him. He caught it easily and smiled. “If anyone else calls for me tell them they can leave me a message at my house number.” 

“I will, thank you Matt. Now I can call my Sally.” Joe jumped up and broke open the roll of quarters.  He immediately lifted the receiver to his ear, put two quarters in the machine, and started punching numbers.  I had seen him talk on that phone in passing but never anyone else. Couldn’t hear anything from it and I was pretty sure it was not functional. Still for ten bucks I just bought that man a brief moment of happiness in his life. I smiled as I continued walking away from him as he waited for someone to pick up the line. 

Once I got within  block of my destination I slowed my pace down to a casual stroll. Didn’t want scare her, just wanted to deliver a message. In front of a music venue, can’t remember the name of it, theres a bunch along Colfax these days she stood. She stood out in front of the place a guitar strapped to her back as she talked to a bunch of younger looking people around her. Light brown skin and jet black hair streaked with a dozen different colored steaks of reds, blues, greens, and yellows. With her faced away from me I walked in the street. The cars had plenty of room and most were used to sharing the street as the sidewalks would get packed around the bars and music venues. Walking in the street also allowed parked cars to provide cover for me as I got closer. I worked my way through the crowd looking through a forest of teenagers as I worked my way closer.

To her left leaning against a light pole a few feet away from her I saw a guard, big guy probably six three standing against the building looking around. I don’t think he was a professional as he would have saw me coming from a mile away otherwise. Probably one of the few times my short height works out to my advantage. Since he didn’t I was able to get behind her without either of them realizing it. She must have sensed a presence behind her as she started to turn around right as I was reaching into my jacket. A look of shock and anger quickly filled her face once she saw who I was. 

“Get the FUCK away from me.” She said loudly and took a step backwards. Her guard also took action and started moving towards me. I had already pulled what was in my jacket pocket out and thrust it at her neck so she would be forced to move her hands up to prevent getting a paper cut. As I jabbed the envelope at her she grabbed it and I let go.

“Buy yourself a new guitar and call your grandma, she would love to hear you sing.” I growled as I quickly turned around and stared walking away. The crowd got louder as people were trying to figure out what was happening. It was already over but I did hear her shout a warning at me.

“You can’t buy my love Dad!” she yelled behind me.  What she didn’t know is that I wasn’t trying to, I was trying to buy forgiveness. Walking away as quickly as I could without drawing more attention to me. As soon as I got near a corner I turned and then picked up my pace even more.  I know deep down inside that she will still hate me, but at least I know she won’t be one of those scared and desperate women trying to make enough money on the streets to live in a cheap room 50 feet from where they ply their trade on Colfax. 

Corner of Colfax and Dead - Chapter 3

Working my way through the residential area I made my towards City Park. I had an appointment with a young lady there at dawn. When I last spoke to her she had been scared and wanted to make sure meeting with me would be safe. We both figured dawn at City park Sunday morning would be safe. All the junkies and thugs would be asleep and hopefully everyone else would be asleep. Once I arrived at City Park I found some trees away from the road that would be strong enough for me to hide in.  

After leaning against the tree for a minute and making sure no one was watching or at least looking in my direction, I left upwards. When I was younger I played basketball as everyone in my neighborhood did. When I stopped growing at 5’8 I kept trying to play. Spent years working on perfecting my jump shot and my vertical to make up for my stature. Even in my old age and condition my jump vertical is still pretty good. I left up and caught a branch about ten feet off the ground. Quickly pulling myself up I got comfortable. Getting here a few hours early allowed me time to get a feel of the park and watch the night life wind down. I had been coming here for the past few days sitting in different trees on the south side to get used to the rhythm. I knew who went jogging, about which dogs were walked, who got up early to goto work, and the police patrols. 

I leaned back and watched as I replayed the events leading up to this meeting in my mind. I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Before the accident my mind wasn’t that sharp but my memory was good. Now, my mind is a little slower but the memory still works… 

“Hey Matt, there is some gal looking for you.” Daxx called down to me as I was finishing my fourth beer. It had been a tough day as I had spent most of it helping some friends transfer some goods from one trailer to another. Why one would move a truck load of goods from one working trailer to another? Well I do not ask questions like that. I looked towards Daxx to see if he was giving any indication as to where the lady was at. He was pointing towards a table in back. I looked at the nervous looking young lady trying to sitting elegantly at the table and gave Daxx a thumbs up indicating message received. Her light skin and blond hair made her look like a cheerleader from some 90’s film. I wondered if her dad dropped her off in the beamer.  

Standing up I moved over towards the table and stood next to an open chair. “My name is Matt, mind if I sit?” I asked the lady sitting there. She was taking a sip of a glass of wine, it was after she finished she spoke. 

“Have a seat please.” Her voice reminded me of a phone sex operator. Heavy and velvety, I wasn’t expecting that from a her. “You must be Matt.” She continued as I took a seat across from her.

“I am, Daxx said you asked about me?” I was worried she was after money though usually a collection agent doesn’t go searching for you at a bar. “Look if you are after money I aint got any.” She laughed at this, the type of laugh that was a gift of pure joy wrapped in sex. Before the accident it would have made my heart race and blood boil, I almost felt the same effects out of habit. 

“Oh, no I’m not looking for money. I have a problem and a mutual friend said you helped her.” She replied and flashed me a secretive smile.

“This friend of yours what did I do for her?” I asked to give me time to think, if word was getting around of my abilities I may start attracting attention. The wrong people asking some questions and suddenly my second chance at life becomes a long stint in prison or buried out in a cornfield. 

“Oh you found her ex husband’s new address and name so she could get child support payments.” She whispered as she leaned in as if it was a secret. I remembered that job, tracking down some loser who had a million dollar home up in Estes Park but wasn’t paying his $600 a month child support. Relief must have showed on my face as she smiled again that secretive smile and leaned back. “I take it you do not like to advertise.” 

“I have some enemies who think I’m dead, I wish for them to continue that delusion.” I told her as I pulled out a little notepad and a pencil from an inner pocket. “Two hundred a day, minimum three days, if I have an expense I cannot recoup I’ll provide an itemized list at the end. Expenses that are more than fifty dollars I get your approval beforehand.” I wasn’t sure how much a private eye charged but the last job for her friend I didn’t state an amount and thats about what she paid me. It wasn’t the six figured I used to make as a driller but it was better than the current jobs around. 

“Agreed, I can’t meet you here again though, and I can’t have you call my cell. My husband Sergei Tsepov is a good man but a little protective of me.” Her voice lowered as she said her husbands name. I almost missed it and was silent for a minute as my brain started processing the information. When the light finally powered back on I started to stand up.

“I can’t work for your husband, I think he would probably kill me for even talking to you.” I told her as I stood up, she quickly put a hand on mine and gave me a look that would have broke my heart.

“Please, he has nothing to do with this. I would hire someone legitimately  but I do not want him to know about it.” She quickly said and I glanced around the bar, no one was looking towards us so I sat back down.

“Why not just tell him and have his guys do whatever is needed?” I asked looking for an angle to get out of this.

“Because he would kill my brother.” She sighed and took a moment to compose herself. “My brother Takahiro and Sergei would kill each other on sight. I need to make sure he is safe and not in trouble.” What she said made some sense, Sergei was the type of guy to bury problems. 

“I gotta up my rate then, three hundred a day. Also you don’t look Japanese, is he a half brother?” I said as I crossed out the 200$/day on the notepad and wrote 300$/day, then flipped to another page and wrote Takahiro at the top.

“No, he just really liked Anime when he was younger and legally changed his name once he turned 18.” She shook her head a little as she pulled out a small purse and set it on the table. From there she produced a couple of pictures of a clean cut young man. She pushed them towards me and opened a checkbook.

“No checks, sorry, I don’t have a bank account.” I started to say but she kept on writing. Then once she was finished she handed me a cashiers check payable to cash for a local credit union. 

“This will be accepted anywheres. It is payment for 3 days up front. I’ll give you a weeks worth when we meet next and hopefully you will find him by then.” 

“As for the meeting place, I need you to start jogging each morning, is City Park close to where you live?”

“Its a mile or two but ok, why jogging?”

“Its good for your health and if someone is tailing you it makes it difficult. I’m hoping after a week of jogging they will stop tailing you and just wait for you to finish the jog.”

“Alright, City Park, what time next Monday?”

“Actually if you can 5am Sunday morning, I’ll be near some trees on the south east side and I’ll start jogging with you.” 

“Five in the fucking morning!” she said loudly, if the bar wasn’t mostly empty I’m sure it would have gotten  few heads turned towards us. 

“Yeah, 5am on a Sunday morning, usually people are still drunk, sleeping, or too tired to give a damn.” I smiled as I said this, as the early meeting place would help protect my identity and will help ensure she was committed to this. I also informed her that if she needed to contact me she could leave a note and a twenty with Daxx and I’ll get the note. 

“Just find my brother quickly and make sure he is safe, I fear he is or will be in trouble.” She said as she stood up to leave. I nodded, shook her hand, and then watched her walk away towards the door of the bar. Dear God, if things were any different I’m certain I would have killed if she had asked it. Even now I am not sure if I would refuse a request like that from her.