>>> The Lady's Shave
By staff writer NG Hatfield
March 13, 2008

« Back to Part 4

I had recognized him immediately after he was in the light of the Subway’s back door. It was the limp. More drunk, sloppy, exaggerated. But nevertheless the unmistakable walk of our local icon, Roy. He was shirtless, shit-faced.

“Look at you.” He said to Tory, “You’re beautiful.” He stopped, “And you, Buckwheat….” Something fragile in his voice calmed me a little. “You’re lookin’ like you need a good drink.”

I took a step back and prepared to heave the flask at him.

He understood my threat. “No. No.” He looked down to his hand, the knife. “Oh, no. No. Not what I meant.” He laughed, dropped the knife and it rang a jarring sound through the alley.

“Now get him!” Tory shouted. “Grab the knife! Get him!”

Go back to your horsecock, you crazy bitch.”

Roy yelled whoa and stumbled back. He had expected this from Tory as much as I had.

She stood, heaving little chest, almost ready to dive for the knife herself. I only wanted peace and counted on a fact I learned very quickly in Morgantown: rich, rebellious girls never do much themselves, they have men do it for them. They just aren’t quite capable of doing the real threatening shit, only faking suicides and a little drug usage here or there. Tory fell to stereotype, stayed behind me demanding that I kill, or seriously harm, Roy.

I couldn’t kill him, I couldn’t kill anybody. Not in my state of mind, at least. “I can’t do that,” I said. Though I considered for a moment how I would have reacted if Tory was my wife, I realized that there was nothing to be ashamed of. Roy didn’t deserve to die; he wasn’t threatening us, nor did he have the knife anymore.

“What the hell are you waiting for?” She looked through me as if I had deserted her, abandoned some friendship that ran deep, like blood.

“What? I’m not going to kill a fucking bum. Look. He’s harmless.”

I walked up and cuffed him on the bare shoulder. It felt wet, slick like the dew that condenses on trash bags that sit outside overnight.

“Well thank you, Buckwheat,” Roy said. He mumbled something and supported himself with a brick wall.

Tory came up to me and poked me on the forehead. Nobody had done that to me before. “You would risk my life like that?” She kept poking, relentlessly.

“I’m not going to stab a fucking bum.” I swatted her hand away and thought of the most reasonable explanation. “I mean, we just met.”

“You’re a fuckhead,” she said. Then something angry in Latin, something, then in absentia.

A spell, I guessed.

“I’m out of here.” She began walking into the darkness from where Roy appeared.

“Go back to your horsecock, you crazy bitch.” I kicked the knife at her.

I turned back, sat down on the stoop and picked up the fallen joint.

Roy was now down, curled up, weeping unintelligibly.

I got up and walked over to him. “Here, you stupid bastard.” I tossed my leather jacket over his back, sighed, and took my first steps toward solitary drinking, my car, the parking lot of an old macaroni factory that closed the day after my birth.

I returned to my space with the quickness of a drunken walk—when Time speeds up enough to allow me the great privilege of forgetting previous steps. I saw my car, lonesome, near the darkest end of the asphalt and decided to jog to it. The headlights were on, but very weak, flickering, barely alive. I realized I had forgotten to turn them off after my drive into town.

I shouted, cussed. I had no phone and the blankets in my trunk were probably tossed beside the couch in the basement. I kicked the door, dented it, then eventually recalled that one of the primary stages of the grieving process was anger and only through passing through that phase could one achieve acceptance. Bliss, maybe.

Of course, this was a stoned thought, but a healthy one nonetheless.

I calmed down, got in the car, and decided to wait until morning to call my parents from the nearest payphone. A feeble optimism told me to buck up, that it wasn’t too terribly cold outside.

I rolled another joint and tried, with no avail, to turn on the car, the radio. Then, awake looking across the Potomac, I smoked. A reflection, the distorted golden lights from above train tracks twinkled over the murky ripples of the river.

Then, near the bottom of the mountain, I saw it coming: a steam engine heading West. Into the night it charged passed the abandoned Ridgeley High School football field, the old macaroni factory, the Kelly Tire plant. It pushed through the city like a church bell’s ring through air. It called out, unrestrained, venerable, that roar of the train’s whistle, its wheels hitting slats in a clean beat, waking up half the city.

It was the Night Collector for the Fee of Time, that moving iron. It was the Enforcer of the Highest Penalty for movement.

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