It became kind of clear they didn’t want us there. The little darts came zooming in from every direction and they were loaded with some sort of sedative; knocked us on our ass, out cold. Lucky we weren’t carrying gold in our teeth or we’d be hubcaps in east St. Louis, gone and forgotten.
We woke up in an alley atop mattresses with springs jetting out, stray newspapers everywhere. Bottle caps galore, broken glass too, smell of a cat urine, a little like Eucalyptus. We all rolled around a while, still recooping from the darts, fell back to sleep, cut my hand on a stray sardine can or maybe it was a dream? Sucked the blood for breakfast. It was real. Everyone else was hungry. It was way past sunrise. We were way behind schedule. Actually, we had no schedule. We had quit our jobs and settled on a life of nothing. This was day one.
Ghetto criteria came into full zoom and bloom…..the trifecta of a check cashing institution, a liquor store, and a holy site, church or otherwise, in this case, Luigi’s Mosque which happened…go figure, to be a former church. The front door had a ram for a knocker; made a loud thump sound. We let it loose five times before someone came to the door. There were three of us. We held out our hands, hoping for a falafel ball or silver coin, something, anything, but all we got was the pork-o-meter, a simple device, much like a metal detector. They x-rayed our ass or rather, read our entrails. We had no chance. The pork rinds and strips of bacon we had eaten lit up like bolts of lightning. The mosque master handed us each a bag of coins and flung us to freedom.
We spoke with fake Arabic accents, but it was no use. We lacked the royal family gene so we sucked up some air and remembered the rumors about pay phones; how a few still existed at the bottom of Silendro’s shopping mall, and if you tapped the cap with a paper clip, you could win a dial tone, free of charge. I stepped into the booth first and liked the sit down position much more than the walk around, look important cell phone routine.
I called the suicide hotline.
“Press one if you’re feeling like an overdose with Valium washed down with Whisky.
Press two if you prefer carbon monoxide poisoning.
Press three if you have a rope and are near a chin up bar or some other horizontal pole.
Press four if you have a bridge to jump from not too far away.”
This went on and on and if I hadn’t thought about suicide before calling, I sure did now, all the recordings and no actual human, but fittingly the reel of spiels ended on the ninth option. Nine…. like nine players on a diamond. I smashed the phone down, not out of disgust or hatred at the world. I did it for the sudden synchronicity over the number nine. I put my arm around my buddy’s shoulders and we walked to the liquor depot. We pooled our bags of coins together and bought a bottle of rot gut wine, Carlo Rossi, so big we needed a wheel barrow to lug it along.
Instead, we cruised by the junkyard and snatched up an abandoned stroller and then…..well….we strolled, a family of four…..the three of us and our baby bottle red tucked nicely in the stroller throne, a cherry king. We drank and drank and we were lit up when we entered the diamond. I forget who was playing….high school or little league, maybe an Indy league team? It didn’t matter. It was relaxing.
We lived another day.