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Editorials Concerning the Collapse of Society
The young man sat in the city square, reading the newspaper, getting bored. He got up, walked to the trashcan. He had just thrown his newspaper in the trash, already read and nothing gained from it, and was walking to grab a cup when he heard---
A loud, cracking, scraping female voice.
He turned around.
The square was full of dull and listless people, any one of them staring blankly at him. Wineheads, mental cases, psychos.
Where in the hell was the voice coming from?
"YEAH YOU MOTHERFUCKER!"
Then he saw. A young woman, maybe twenty-five or so, was advancing on him. Dressed in black, with black eye-makeup, black lipstick, and black hair. Something odd was perched on her head. The young man wondered vaguely who the hell she was and what the hell she wanted from him…..
"You need something?" he asked.
The woman stopped about a foot away, blew a stale rotten cloud of cigarette smoke in his face. Apparently she hadn't bathed in days; a foul reek of sweat and unwiped ass surrounded her like a low-grade mist.
She stared at him with hateful eyes for a few moments while he wondered why all the black stuff was considered necessary.
Finally she said:
"You're a motherfucker and a cocksucker."
"Motherfucking alien. Gimme some money."
"Hah?" he muttered, confused.
"Just give me some money, motherfucker."
"What the fuck is your deal?"
She pointed behind him.
"I saw you throw that newspaper away. I saw the callous, off-hand manner in which you did it, too."
He stared back towards the trashcan, pondering this, then looked at her.
The woman's eyes were filled with venom..
"Did you want it, or something?" he asked.
"No, I didn't. I already read the newspaper!"
Suddenly she was in his face, scrutinizing. "Are you an alien? You're an alien."
"I'm not no fucking alien, no."
She smiled. "I'm an alien."
"That's nice. And the newspaper?"
"I read the newspaper from front to back. I read every letter that's published on every day. The front pages, the local, the sports, the comics, the recipes, the classifieds and all of it. I read the paper, I don't glance at it and throw it away, you know."
The man smiled broadly. "You're one of those gooney people, aren't you?"
At this the girl looked indignant.
"How am I gooney?"
"Is that a funeral veil on your head?"
"A funeral veil?"
"Why are you wearing it? Did somebody die in your family?"
Suddenly, the girl stopped sneering and became sad, hopeless looking. She lit another cigarette, blew the smoke in the man's face.
"Did someone die?" the man asked again, suddenly feeling guilty.
"No," she said, sighing, "I just wear it because I like it."
"You see, I just got thrown out of my place. I was staying with my friend. We were both living together. As lovers. It was a shit place on O'Donnell Street but it was ours. But the bitch didn't pay the fucking rent and so we got thrown out on our asses. I think she went back to Carlos....."
"Ah, lesbians," the man remarked.
He rather liked lesbians for unexplainable reasons.
"No!" she exclaimed. "I'm not a lesbian, I just had one female lover, her. My friend. Because she wasn't against me like other people are. She wasn't then. Carlos has probably turned her against me, now."
They both stared at the ground as if hoping to see something vital materialize there. The man lit a cigarette of his own, blew the smoke away.
"Oh yes!" she continued abruptly. "I've been walking the streets. The filthy streets, rubbing my alien elbows with all the winos and freaks and sluts. I don't have anywhere to go now."
"Sorry about that," the man offered.
"My friend is gone too."
"Where'd she go? Oh, back to Carlos."
"I don't know if she did, she just left. Now I've got nobody. I am a orphan, a child of the night."
"You're like one of those goths, you must get into that scenario, then....."
"WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT GOTHS!" she shouted inexplicably.
The young man stepped back a little. "Nothing."
"I hate vampires myself," she replied factually.
"So do I, actually," the man replied, wondering what he had ever done to anyone to deserve this nonsense.
"I see vampires, I suck their blood, they don't get mine, you know."
She gnashed her decayed teeth together to show how she bit the vampires.
"You suck the vampires blood?"
"Yes. I do. I have to eat something, I've been on the streets for days and days."
"I guess you have a point...."
"And I'm horny, too. Being on the streets makes you hot to fuck like you couldn't believe. I've been looking for someone to fuck all day."
The young man nodded, wondering how to walk away from all of this without causing a bad scene....
"Do you have any money?" she abruptly asked.
"Just curious!" she snapped. "By the way, my name's Katie."
"Nice to meet you."
"Christ, I'm hungry.....I was just asking, you know, if you had any money, maybe you could spare a little so I could get a hamburger or something."
"Sorry," the young man said.
Actually he had about twenty dollars.
They stood silent for a moment.
"Well," the man said cheerily, "I have to go now. It was lovely talking to you."
She looked at him blankly.
"Where are you going?"
"Uh, taking a walk."
"Can I come with you?" she asked pleadingly.
"I'm lonely. And there are lots of alien haters around here."
The young man sighed. "Okay."
They walked away together down one of the sidewalks, staring straight ahead. Mindless, droning people weaved around them, between them. Katie lit another cigarette. The man turned to her to say something, but stopped when he saw her neck. Fingernail gashes were running across the entire right side, from the bottom of the ear down to the collarbone. They were filthy, scabbed, infected.
"What the hell happened to your neck?" he asked.
"Oh," she said quietly. "I did that."
"You did that? Why the hell?"
"Man, you know, sometimes I get real disgusted with myself and I just tear at myself...like I got a virus under my skin, and to get it out, I have to tear my skin open....I used to cut myself with razors, knives. I tried to shoot myself once but I couldn't figure out how to load the gun. It was a stupid gun."
"That's awful," the man said.
"Oh, it's nothing. I do it all the time. I hate myself, sometimes I look in the mirror and I know I’m a alien, you know? Like an alien that closely resembles a human being, but not quite. That last ten percent is missing from the puzzle."
They came to a street corner, stopped, waited for the light to turn.
"That's terrible," the man finally said.
"Don't you know it. DON'T YOU KNOW IT!" the woman screamed.
The scream filled the air across the intersection, echoing. They crossed the street. More sullen and insane people jostled into them. The man, out of necessity, found himself walking as close to the veiled girl as possible.
"Oh, so you like me, do you?" she teased. Her breath was foul and sickening.
"I have to walk this close."
"Oh yes you do."
She seized his arm with her fingers.
"You want me to suck you off? I'LL SUCK YOU OFF! I'LL SUCK YOU OFF NOW!" she bellowed into his face with eyebrows arched.
"Christ, no," he pleaded.
"Just wanting to KNOW! BECAUSE IF YOU WANT, I'LL SUCK YOU OFF NOW!"
He got his arm back, worse for wear, but back nonetheless. A little while longer, he thought, and he would turn back and get away from this horrible goddamned woman. For all he knew she had taken a liking to him. All he wanted to do was read the newspaper and take a walk, that was all….maybe all the negative shit the newspapers were putting out, the editorials concerning the collapse of society, were all too true.
They turned down a side street. Unpleasantly, there were very few people.
A blonde woman approached them out of nowhere.
She looked about 40 and had agonizingly bad teeth. Her hair was dirty and matted, and she approached with a small, satisfied smile.
"KATIE!" she bellowed. "KATIE, WHERE IN THE FUCK HAVE YOU BEEN?"
"LAURIE!" Katie responded. "WHAT'S UP BABY?"
They embraced energetically, swirling around like drunks.
"Where the fuck have you been, girl?" Laurie repeated.
"I been hanging around, down and out with the alien haters.”
Laurie nodded, suddenly looking grim.
"You know, Carlos has been looking for your ass, you know."
At once Katie looked uncomfortable. Nervously, she picked at the funeral veil.
"For what?" she asked flatly.
"He says you did him dirt, stole a couple grand from him."
"Lying motherfucker! I didn't steal no couple grand, it was a couple hundred at the most. Lousy bastard!”
"He says he’s gonna cut your face up when he gets ahold of your sleazy ass.”
Katie sighed, looking hopelessly at the red brick walls of the street. The young man stood there watching her keenly. It was all very interesting to him, at least momentarily. "I didn't steal that motherfucker's wad!" she protested wearily. "All I did was snatch a couple of loose bills. That motherfucker has plently of dough, he can afford to lose some now and then."
Katie went on muttering. Laurie was now eyeing the young man suspiciously, licking her lips and flicking her eyes across his face.
"Who's this guy?" she asked.
"He's a friend of mine," Katie said quickly.
Laurie sidled up to his side, taking his arm and putting her mouth to his ear.
"Why are you all dressed up, honey? Don't you look fine."
"I was out on a walk," he explained.
"Oh yeah. And I suppose you weren't looking for a little kinda date, huh?"
"Huh," she said. "Huh!"
Katie lit another cigarette with a shaking hand, put her lighter away with difficulty. She drew the veil closer around her face.
"I didn't steal that motherfucker's grand," she repeated again, to herself.
Laurie leered into the young man's face.
"You sure you don't want come home and fuck with me? I can show you a good time."
"C'mon, only set you back 20 bills."
"I don't have 20 bills."
"Shit on you, then," she said disgustedly. "Where do you always find these cheap pricks? You have your freak-off with this loser. I'm out of here."
She walked off importantly, leaving the two of them standing alone on the street. Suddenly it was quiet; and not a person was walking past them.
"Oh," Katie muttered.
"Hey, listen, I'm out of here," the young man said. "It was certainly lovely talking to you, you know, and all that…..”
She looked at him tearfully.
"You think I'm a freak, don't you?"
"You? Why, no."
"It's because I'm an alien," she stated factually, her voice rising. "IT'S BECAUSE I'M AN ALIEN THAT YOU DON'T LIKE ME! WHY DON'T YOU LIKE ME? JUST BECAUSE I'M AN ALIEN!"
The man shrugged, finding nothing to say.
Katie went on, screaming in his face: "JUST BECAUSE I'M ALIEN! LISTEN! I'LL SUCK YOU OFF FOR TEN AND YOU'LL LOVE IT EVEN IF I AM AN ALIEN! I WOULDN'T LIE TO YOU!"
"Well, I don't have ten," he insisted. "Only a couple of dollars."
"THEN I'LL SUCK YOU OFF FOR YOUR COUPLE OF DOLLARS! IT DOESN'T MATTER TO ME! I'LL SUCK THE SKIN OFF OF YOUR DICK FOR TWO DOLLARS!"
"Well, that's okay," he reassured her.
She flung away her cigarette, lit another one, blew a cloud of smoke in his face. This time he didn’t mind; it smelled better than her.
"Well, can I walk back with you, then?" she asked bitterly.
They turned and began retracing their path, the young man walking steadily with blank eyes on the horizon, she staggering beside him, face down, cursing underneath her breath.
They came to the street, crossed it, and were two blocks from where they met.
"Oh, Carlos is going to kill me," she moaned.
"Who is Carlos, anyway?"
"He's some asshole. He's a pimp and a drug pusher. He works at a grocery store during the day as a cashier. For the medical benefits, he says. I took a couple of his dollars and now he's after me."
"That's not good."
"Screw him," she retorted. "I'll beat him someway, some day. Aliens always win out over humans."
A car pulled up to the curb ahead of them.
Neither of them took much notice until the door opened and out stepped a Hispanic guy dressed in a grocery store uniform, gold chains around his neck, and sunglasses. The young man was vaguely reminded of the old break-dance teams from the mid 1980's.
"HEY, BITCH!" the guy hollered.
Katie stopped, at first fearful, then defiant. She spit in his direction.
"GET YOUR MOTHERFUCKING ASS IN THIS CAR, YOU BITCH!" he yelled, approaching them with long strides, arms swinging.
"FUCK YOU, CARLOS!" Katie responded.
She gave him both middle fingers at once.
Carlos, apparently enraged, came up to her and smacked her across the cheek. The sound was like a dead fish hitting the pavement.
"WHERE'S MY MONEY, BITCH?" he shouted, spittle flying everywhere.
"I SPENT IT ON ROCK! YOU FOOL! YOU CAN'T HIT ME! YOU CAN'T HIT ME AND EXPECT ME TO TURN TRICKS! FOOL!"
Carlos wiped sweat from his face, scowling.
"YOU'LL TURN YOUR ASS UP WHEN I SAY TURN YOUR ASS UP, WOMAN! NOW GET IN THE CAR!"
He smacked her again. She bounded back and spit in his face. He wiped the spit off and flicked it to the ground.
"I'LL CALL THE FBI!" he swore. "THE FBI WILL COME AND GET YOU ALIEN ASS!"
Katie stopped as if she had been shot, her lip trembling.
"You can’t do that!" she pleaded.
"YOU DON'T WANT TO BE DEPORTED BACK TO YOUR PLANET? GET IN THE FUCKING CAR, THEN! AND TAKE THIS GODDAMN FUNERAL VEIL OFF!"
He tried to rip it off her head, but she clutched it desperately, screaming like a cat in heat, tears forming at her eyelids. Carlos rolled his eyes and let go.
"Now you want the FBI on your ass?" he asked.
"NO!" Katie wailed, still clutching the veil.
"You want me to rip that stupid shit off of you and let everyone know you're a freak?"
"NO! NO! NO!"
"Then shut your fuckin mouth, bitch."
Carlos looked down the street, then spit.
"Who's this stupid punk?" he asked, motioning vaguely at the young man. "Did you sell him some ass? Did you sell him a suck-job?"
"I didn't sell him neither."
"Bullshit! Tell me you sold him some ass, bitch. You better not be reading newspapers with this motherfucker and not selling him ass."
Katie backed away from him, grinning.
"He's my man."
"Bullshit! I'm your man."
"No, he's my man now. He said he was going to take care of me, put me up in a nice little room, nothing but good fat rich tricks and no alien haters. I won't have to scratch myself anymore."
The young man felt as if he were sinking slowly into quicksand.
Now Carlos was looking at him with a steady, murderous hatred. His eyebrows were arched in half-circles. He smiled with some difficulty.
"So, you're gonna take my woman from me?"
"Huh! That's pretty funny."
"Let me tell you how this all---"
"YOU DON'T TELL ME NOTHING PUNK! I'M TELLING YOU RIGHT NOW THAT YOU DON'T TELL ME NOTHING! NOTHING! YOU BETTER TELL ME THAT SHE SOLD YOU SOME ASS!"
The young man swallowed, went on:
"Look, you see, I was just reading a newspaper. Just a fucking newspaper----"
"But you threw it away!" Katie screamed. "How could you throw it away?"
"THAT'S NO KIND OF EXCUSE!" she wailed.
Carlos smacked her again. "Shut up, bitch!"
She shut up.
Carlos turned to grin at the young man, who felt as if he were face to face with a wolverine. Christ. A crowded city street....suddenly not so crowded when you wanted somebody around.
"Look, man," Carlos said reasonably. "Now we know you're here for something. Why are you here? For what motherfucking reason?"
"Well, I don't know."
Carlos crossed his arms, looked from Katie to him, back and forth.
"You don't know," he repeated.
"Yeah, I don't."
"Then why are you harassing my woman? Why the fuck you telling her you're gonna take her off my hands and put her up in a fucking penthouse?"
The young man shrugged; he couldn't say a word to that at all. No point in protesting.
Carlos whistled, shook his head. "Hey, whitey, I may be just a spic grocery store cashier, but I protect what is mine. Now I only got one girl and all the other hustlers, shit, they might have ten, but that don't mean I'm some punk, man. I AIN'T NO PUNK! So tell me what you want to do to her, whitey, and it better involve some ass."
Katie shuddered underneath her funeral veil.
Carlos went on, in a patient tone:
"Now, what do you want? Smack? Coke? Acid? PCP? Meth? Old women? Young girls? Boys? Getting pissed on? Getting shit on? Getting tied up? What!?"
"I want a cup of coffee," the young man replied.
"Yeah. I was going to get one when she showed up.”
Carlos turned, walked back to the car. He opened the trunk, rooted around in it, pushing bags and boxes aside. He finally came up with something, closed the trunk, and returned to where they stood. He held a huge can of imported French coffee in his hands.
"Costs twenty bucks at the store," he explained. "I can give it to you for five."
The young man sighed, then pulled out five dollars and handed it to Carlos. Katie began to berate him for lying about not having any money. Carlos looked at her and she shut up, began humming underneath her breath. Carlos pocketed the five faster than the young man could witness it and handed over the can of coffee.
"Thanks," the young man said.
"No problem. Anything you need, you come see me. You need some ass, you see me, okay?"
Carlos turned to Katie, looked at her briefly, then backhanded her across the face.
"NOW GET IN THE CAR, YOU STINKING BITCH!"
Katie shuffled off to the car, rubbing the side of her face tenderly. She sat in the back seat, staring straight ahead. Her black eye-liner had run; her black lipstick was smeared. The eyes were inscrutable under the veil. Carlos nodded to the young man, strutted back to the car, and jumped in. A second later and they were gone around the corner with a screech of wheels.
The young man regarded the can of coffee for a moment. Not a bad deal, he guessed. He tucked it under his arm and began walking.
He walked a long time.
Walked until he was back at the square, back at the same bench he had sat not thirty minutes ago. He went to a newspaper machine, fished out twenty-five cents, bought a paper he hadn't read yet, sat down at the bench and opened the paper amongst all the bums and wineheads and old ladies and psychopaths of the world, all of whom eyed his French coffee with jealousy.
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