Wednesday, December 17, 2008

61 - Whiskey Alpha Romeo

That night, if there was one thing that Frank could've taken when he parachuted into that anonymous jungle in 1965 it was Mickey. Frank had never known anyone quite like Mickey, his nickname was War. You heard the capitals when people called him that, later he would make cameo appearances in literature as a red-haired female war correspondent but that character was very much based on the odd real-life talent of Mickey.

Frank had not been a professional soldier for long when he met Mickey, It would be a few more years before anyone could see Frank coming in hot on a naked burning country with all the keys to all the doors of all the ways of death poking from his battle webbing. When Frank first met Mickey, he hadn't begun to enjoy himself yet.

A soldier kills with sympathy but if he keeps at it, doesn't that mean he enjoys it? It's a sick divorce from the position of the victim but if nothing else comforts there's always the old standby lie, well worn with use:

what choice does a soldier have? To keep at it, pick a useful lie and stick to it, it's either that or instant insanity.

All cheques get cashed in the end though, but Frank didn't know yet about the faces behind his eyes at night, not then.

Back then, back before the doors of death, all he knew about Mickey was all he'd heard: that there was this war correspondent who was always first to the hotspots, first to the killing fields, first in the line of fire, Mickey doesn't know to this day why it happened or why it stopped, or why he told Frank the truth he'd never told anybody:

If Mickey stayed more than a month anywhere, a war broke out. It didn't seem to matter where.

Every tortured crevice of humanity seemingly itched for Mickey's presence to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.

Mickey had tried running from it since he was a teen in Argentina, but eventually he surrendered to the might of a superior force and turned his curse into a job. hoping it would run its course.

It's a lot like what any successful obsessive does, isn't it?

So by 1965, with all the keys to all the doors of all the ways of death poking from his battle webbing, Frank was parachuting into another waking nightmare with the soldier's schizophrenic detachment from reality. It was making his scalp and groin itch in nervous anticipation, he spared a thought for Mickey and wondered how things might go differently down there if Mickey were around.

Because the other thing about Mickey, it was weird, but you knew he wouldn't get so much as a scratch in a war zone.

And whatever force protected him seemed to look out for the people around him too.

Frank remembered an I.E.D. that had gone off in a club, mad naked destruction across the block.

Except for the bar where Mickey and Frank had been drinking with a few non-coms from the wires.

Not a scratch, although meters away there were only bloody stumps that once had names.

That's what Frank was thinking as the plane's cargo door, an angry metal mouth, yawned its black ugly open and Frank ran wordlessly into the ripping suck. Thinking Mickey owed him a beer if Frank ever saw him again. Would either of them ever live any other way?

Chute not yet open, Frank watched the plane quickly shrink to invisibility, leaving only Frank.

With all the keys to all the doors of all the ways of death poking from his battle webbing. And a lock of Mickey's hair stitched to his shoulder.

Just in case.

Friday, December 12, 2008

62 - When Frank moved into 275 block.

Mickey had trouble getting in, Frank had failed, for the second time during their friendship, to secure an apartment at ground level, Mickey was forced to resort to the stairwells on account of his fear of elevators.

He wasn't claustrophobic, he simply had an irrational fear of elevators, like his roommate Jake during first year university had an irrational fear of department store mannequins, sure that one day, when his back was turned, they would quickly and silently move in and kill him.

Jake was killed when a truck carrying department store mannequins jackknifed on a local highway strewing mannequins in every direction. One mannequin scored a direct hit on his SUV windshield. Mickey always heard the words 'I knew it!' crashing through Jake's mind seconds before his brains crashed through the rear of his SUV. It's just how Mickey chose to remember it.

He always felt guilty for having helped slip a Mannequin between the sheets with Jake one morning. He'd never heard anyone make sounds like that upon waking, half scream, half groan, all terror.

Could it have influenced his reaction time when that mannequin came sailing silently out of the highway noise and grey to pulp his head?

One day, he was sure he'd wake up in bed with an elevator.

Or was it an elevator for a bed?

He didn't care, hopefully he could convince Frank to move again soon. Maybe he could unite the neighbours against him again like last time.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

63 - Just an evening with Frank

Frank found himself alone one night and took the opportunity to practice silence. It required great effort to not turn on the TV or radio or play a record or phone Mickey or otherwise fill the air with noise that would distract him from himself.

He suspected people who feared silence were scared of the thinking that inevitably came with it, he knew Mickey would rather listen to the hum of a bad electrical transformer than listen to his own thoughts. Mickey himself would agree, having told Frank in the past how awfully full of garbage his head was, full of nasty ideas and cruelty.

Frank let the silence sink into him as he delayed lighting a cigar end he'd found under the sink. And when the dry old destruction did eventually get lit, Frank realized how foolish he'd been to try. It was long past saving.

He'd have to lock them up from now on, only someone like Mickey would steal a 20 dollar cigar, manage to smoke less than a quarter, then assume he could hide it under the sink.

Then again, Mickey had lost his sense of smell years ago in a chemistry accident in high school.

He put enough hot sauce on everything to kill or cure a 2 ton rhinoceros of tuberculosis.

Disgusted, Frank killed the mutilated cigar falling apart in his hand and went to bed under a pile of papers and dirty laundry.

He stared at the ceiling until he fell asleep.

He had successfully remained silent all evening.


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

64 - Wet lungs on a Tuesday morning.

Coughing, Frank returned to his new apartment one morning to find Mickey had let himself in through the balcony. Frank didn't realize that he had picked this apartment precisely because it was easy for Mickey to break into. The air was wet with steamed rice and Buggles, Frank's occasional stray cat, yet another change, was nowhere. Mickey didn't explain and Frank didn't ask, it was a sign of how desperate their co-dependency had become that neither cared to ask for a pretext, they were together and that was enough, Frank's nose was bleeding from too much decongestant spray and his hot rice dinner (odd hours) was thoroughly pink by the time he had finished with it. Mickey had dropped the pot of rice on the floor shortly before Frank had returned but didn't mention it to Frank.

After dinner, they settled in front of the television and watched a movie on tape, baked fries completed the picture, Frank went to bed around noon and Mickey crashed on the couch. Before he closed his eyes, Frank looked around his bedroom, a bedroom Frank had never shared with anyone, not even certain hired visitors. Not even Mickey was allowed inside, So as he drifted through his afternoon coming attraction dreams he imagined how he would feel if the entire population of the Earth simply disappeared tomorrow and these walls were all he had left.

Where others might have seen only dinged furniture and clothes on a stolen metal rack, Frank saw a universe of unequalled possibility, if he could spend a thousand years in this room, he naively imagined he could...flibbertigibbets, the idea was gone.

Having lost the thread of it, he finally surrendered to his little death, on a pillow of his conscience, thumbing his nose at a ceiling dotted with phosphorescent paint. imagined it was sky. For all he knew or cared, one by one, outside his narrow window, the real stars could be going out. He'd never know.

It was always overcast in December. He made a mental note to put a lock on the balcony and give Mickey a key.

Monday, December 08, 2008

65 - Never too late though there's never enough time

Frank woke up to the itch of something under his back, rolling over on the filthy sheets he found nothing but quickly figured out what is was and pried the used cigarette butt off his back using the compliant edge of the door hole to the hallway. There had never been a door there for all the time Frank had rented the studio apartment from the Kaszynski family. It was a good arrangement. The flat was never properly maintained or inspected and Frank paid his bills in cash on time and everybody saved on the difference.

All his clothes hung on a stolen store rack. He hadn't stolen it though he had stolen other things in his life.

After the triple S in the toilet (Shit Shower Shave) Frank was transformed, clean, pressed suit, sharp features, he didn't invite anyone over unexpectedly so those who knew him would never have guessed that he often let his laundry rot on the floor next to spilled take-out boxes and rancid pizza.

Everyone knows someone deeper into shit than they are and Mickey was the guy Frank did allow to come over. Mickey would crawl out of his parent's basement and knock on the ground floor balcony door and Frank would let him in wearing a pyjama top but no bottom and they'd sit on a genuine original foam and particle board couch from the seventies (the most comfortable couch ever created) and watch movies on tape while speculating on when the black puddle of what was once potatoes at the back of the fridge (broken since always) would evolve opposable thumbs and let itself out for a walk.

Suffice to say, Frank kept no pets, he claimed it was in honour of an Australian girl who'd roomed with Mickey years ago. She used to recount how her mother never let her or her brothers keep pets on account of how they killed them for fun.

They would go to the beach in Melbourne and stuff black cat fire crackers into tiny cocktail sausages, light them and throw the deadly meat bombs up to the eager maws of the giant but stupid seagulls.

The gulls would swallow them whole then try to fly awkwardly out to sea, the fuse burning through their digestive tracts.

They laid bets on whose gull would get furthest out before, with a little 'pop' a gull would stone-drop into the sea.

Frank figured no animal deserved how he chose to live. Including steady girls. As long as his well varnished magazines kept him going, he'd focus on his retirement savings,

Mickey suggested they rent some prostitutes again. Nothing like treating a person like a disposable sock puppet as far as Mickey went. humiliating people gave him a stiffy you could hammer nails with. Whenever Frank thought about his own opinion on the subject, he returned to the idea that he and Mickey would likely part ways soon, if this went on.

Only Frank didn't have anyone else he could invite over. It could get lonely in the small quiet hours past Thursday midnight.

Maybe he'd hire someone to clean up this mess, get truly respectable, get a girl even. But that left Mickey's replacement up in the air during the interregnum. There wasn't time now to think anyway, he inspected himself one last time in the hallway mirror, nodded to an empty hall, left for work. clicking the door shut with a flat ugly thud.