This One Time, 19

This one time I was sitting on my ass in an alley between two of the four storey buildings in this town where that’s what the locals think of as tall. I remember when they opened the “towers” the owners threw a big party and made a big show of them having elevators. Code requires any building over three storeys to have elevators, after all. It was all very exciting — in this podunk bowl-a-rama town where ketchup is exciting. I went to the party as a journalist, ate free hors d’oeuvres and drank free wine, and suggested that the owners sell tickets to the elevators, as many of the people within about a hundred miles had never been in one and capitalizing on the novelty would help recoup their investment more quickly.

That was a funny joke in Ketchupville. I had another free cup of wine thrust into my hands where I already had one I was sipping on, and the taller one said, no, no, the building was being rented to medical practices and really that ought to bring the money in fast enough. They had bought the building with cash, after all, and it wasn’t like they had to be in a hurry to pay back a bank or a team of investors. All they had to do was wait for poor sick people to cause their insurance companies and Medicare and Tri-Care and such to fill up the pockets of the doctors and they’d skim their money back offa that.

These old boys had retired from anything like real work decades ago when they made their money buying up foreclosed farms and selling them to industrialized Monsanto outlets and pop-up subdivision and strip mall developers. They took turns running for mayor and kept their fingers on the thready pulse of their burgeoning metropolis in town hall meetings stuffed with city councilors  pulled from the deconry of the three largest churches, elected to posts on the basis of the votes of the hundred or so people who bothered to show up and cast a ballot. The uptick in food manufacturing and equipment assembly and servicing and warehousing and logistics brought in enough extra work that they had to build on a new wing for the local hospital and a couple new schools. These new buildings to house medical practices were part of that expansion, all mostly funded out of pocket by these two guys.

I was actually here merely to find out most of that, seeing as how back in civilization a pretty young boy had gone missing, dumped by his college sweetheart and following her back to her hometown like a confused puppy in a sappy Disney film. The girlfriend was the youngest daughter of one of these two hicks, and the boy was the child of somewhat older money from a family whose details I am not at liberty to discuss back in said civilization, and I was a pre-paid forward scout in what certain individuals promised to be an old-fashioned robber-baron smackdown, but struck me as more likely to be the bellowings and gruntings of a couple of financial elephant seals smacking into each other with tons of affronted blubber, spattering blood and slobbery froth in a purposeless territorial battle over beach exposure and mating rights.

Meanwhile back in the alley I was pulling apart a dead cat. The hide came free and tore like a dry-rotted carpet, and the rest of the cat was held together about as well as a cold roast chicken. Confused ants swarmed over my hands and bit and stung in an effort to defend their meat strip-mining operation. They weren’t very good at it. They compared very poorly to the Florida fireants of my youth. I dropped the cat and clapped the ants away.

The sky pulsed and the walls in the alley breathed. My blood sang and roared and I breathed in a double-lungful of backalley rancidity. The bastards had slipped something in my wine, maybe LSD cut with a tiny tiny smidge of strychnine, maybe some new designer thing, somewhat PCP-like. No mescaliny organicness, certainly something speedy and hallucinogenic. Maybe mixed with X.

I laughed when it started coming on. In a place where ketchup was exciting, this kind of discouragement for snooping must have seemed like being dragged through hell. For me, this was being dragged through a particularly unmemorable freshman week back in the dorms. But it did let me know they were onto me and, hey, it saved me trying to find where the kids in Unincorported Heck held their raves so I could score. If I were still into that kind of thing.

Still tripping balls, I walked back out into relative sunshine. The street wasn’t very busy, so I found one of those blue post office drop boxes to sit next to. When the light got to be too much for my eyes, I opened the little drawer in the top of the mailbox and climbed inside. It was mostly empty, maybe ten or twenty envelopes with actual stamps, something I hadn’t seen in ages.

A couple of hours went by and my head started to straighten itself out. I tugged the drawer down and began to try to figure out how to get out. But there was no way my melon head would fit back up the slot. The more I explored my tiny cell, the more I knew it was impossible for me to have gotten in there.

I didn’t particularly want to wait for a rescue, however. I found the locking mechanism — just a tongue of metal held onto a threaded bolt with a nut. I worked it free, even though it was uncomfortably behind my back, and rolled out of the box when the door popped open.

I’m not sure what was in what they slipped me, but they should certainly consider marketing it to carnival escape artists.


January 19, 2011 · by xalieri · Posted in This One Time  


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