Slater Street

We been runnin’ Slater Street since the beginning of time. Ask anybody. This has been our show since before the county even laid the blacktop, so we knew it wouldn’t be long before my brother Garrett dropped the hammer on this new crew trying to edge in on our thing. They’d been comin’ on like a heart attack these last few weeks, so Garrett gathered us all together to lay it out.

“Alright boys, listen up. Tonight we kick it up a notch. We’re gonna hit these pussies at midnight and we’re gonna hit ‘em hard. Shit is gonna pop off, so anybody who doesn’t think they can stomach it, let me know now.”

No one said a word. Scared, worried, or not, nobody was gonna puss out and lose Garrett’s respect. We were in. We were Slater Street.

***

Midnight.

These jokers were easy to find. Walking around loud-like without a care in the world. We watched from the high ground and slowly spread out to all sides. Dumbasses. You never give up the high ground. Everybody knows that. Garrett made the tall, blonde, lanky fucker as their leader and slowly shouldered his rifle. Garrett was the best shot I’d ever seen, and Lurch down there was fixin’ to have a bad day. When our crew was in place, Garrett let the first shot ring out. The sound cracked the night in half. Lurch screamed like a fuckin’ girl. The shot took him in the ear. Garrett wasn’t looking to put him down permanent, not yet anyway. He just wanted to get his attention and leave a mark. It was also the go-signal we were waiting for to rain down on these bastards.

A couple flicks of a Zippo and a few well-placed pitches later, and we lit that place up like the 4th of July. They had no idea what hit ‘em. The explosions and gunfire turned the place into a war-zone. We hammered them until the scene was total chaos then we tore-ass outta there like a fuckin’ band of demons. We rendezvoused under Mullins Pass to inventory any of our wounded. There were none. Those idiots didn’t get off a single shot.

“Well done fellas,” Garrett said, “I believe that’s the last we’ll be seeing of them around here. Johnny law will be comin’ down hard over the next few days, so keep your mouth shut and remember what happens if you don’t.”

He knew there was nothing to worry about. None of us were talking.

***

We dumped the BB guns and fireworks back at the fort before we headed home, and it was a good thing too ‘cause Mama was in the driveway waiting for us when we pulled up.

“Where the hell have you two been?” She yelled. Hip cocked.

“Nowhere Ma—Just out ridin’”

She snatched Garrett off his bike by his ear and led him in the house.

“Lenny,” She yelled back at me, “Put these bicycles in the garage and get your ass to bed. It’s a school night.”

An hour later my brother Garrett came in our room and climbed into the top bunk.

He didn’t say a word. He just winked.

Damn Right. Nobody fucks with Slater Street.


If I Ever Get Off This Mountain

Deddy always said “If I ever get off this mountain, I promise you boys I’m gonna carve us out a new life. One that don’t involve all this killin’.

He talked about building us a little house on a flat patch of land, where’s each of us would get our own room.  He talked about finding a good woman too, one that would stick around.

“Not like your Mama, that no good bitch.”

My Mama left us for some shit-eater west of the Chattahoochee when I was a baby. My brothers and me could give a rat’s ass, but you could tell Deddy missed her when he tried to sound hard. The sadness in his eyes always betrayed the gravel in his throat.

He never did find that good woman, so we was raised up in his image, and groomed for the family business.

In the sixties it was shine. From what I been told, we had stills set up all over this mountain, and when other runners came looking to set up shop, a beat down or two from Grandeddy’s hickory axe handle would be enough to send them packin’.

The seventies brought the war and the weed. Deddy was a young buck then, just beginning to run things, and the transition was not without bloodshed. Deddy bought automatic weapons from some bikers in South Florida to guard his crops, and maintained peace through superior firepower. Bodies were buried all over this mountain before word got out there was more than a piece of hickory waitin’ if you come to take what’s ours.

In the eighties, those same bikers that sold us the guns, taught my brothers how to cook methamphetamine.  Within months that evil shit put Deddy in the ground, and set us up to become the biggest suppliers of crank in all of Georgia-Bama Tennessee.

There were demons loose on the mountain, and that genie would never be stuffed back in the bottle.

I was the baby of five brothers. I come late so they always towered over me. I loved my brothers like a kid loves cowboys on the T.V. They were like the superheroes in the drugstore comic books–bigger than life. Just like Deddy, I believed they was made from steel. But the truth is, they were just boys made from skin and bone. Boys who believed the lies this way of life whispered in their ears. Boys that could bleed and die just like everyone else. They could easily get ripped apart in gunfights with GBI agents, or bleed out into the dirt after being shot and robbed by tweekers.

Tweekers we created.

One by one, I lost ’em all. I’ve got dead brothers in six counties all over North Georgia and Tennessee. The clay this mountain is made of, runs red from all the blood of my kin split in it.  There’s no one left standing now but me. I’m the only one saddled with the burden of my Deddy’s name.

I’m also the only one standing between these three garbage bags full of cash and the ATF outside that just showed up to seize it. Choctaw took one in the brainpan pulling the car around back, leaving me no way out. That little house on a patch of land Deddy promised sure sounds nice right now.

There’s enough money here. I could of made that happen.

 

“Come on out here Clayton, you got no choice! Toss your weapon and nobody else needs to get hurt!”

 

I pull the small tin star off my shirt pocket and run my thumb over the indented letters that spell out SHERIFF. I used to think this made me different. I thought it might free me my family’s legacy.  Now it just feels like a nine-pound hammer.  I let it drop to the floor and pull my Colt.  What was I thinking? I’ll always be my father’s son.

Deddy never did make it off this mountain and I reckon neither will I.

I suppose it’s time to spit in the dirt and get this thing done. It will be good to see my brothers again.


Ceiling Fan In My Spoon

I’ve been here fourteen years.

Today’s the day.  Sammy brought me a steak.  He’s a pretty good guy, I hope he gets the fuck outta here before this place kills him on the inside.

I deserve to be here. Day in, day out, twenty-three hours in this box, and thirty minutes in the yard.  I did the math once, it added up to a hundred and six days of daylight.  Less than a year of fresh air to show for my adult life.  I never complained though, like I said, I deserve to be here.  I killed a little girl.  A beautiful little eight-year-old girl named Stacy.  I know she was beautiful from her pictures in the paper and the photos they showed in court.  I shot her and her old man point blank with a shotgun loaded with double aught buck.  I don’t remember doing it, but I’ve heard the playback so many times over the past fourteen years of courtroom reenactments that I can recite every detail.

I knew the Animal doctor had dope in his house, but I didn’t think I would find the mother lode.  I broke in looking for Valium, sedatives, maybe some loose cash.  I found a closet full of 100mg morphine tablets.  Didn’t know Vet’s even stocked that shit.  The sheer rush of the find made me stupid.  Every caution melted away.  I sat down in the man’s kitchen, shotgun in my lap, cooked up and tied one off.  I even used one of the Doc’s spoons, my works were outside in the car.

That’s it.  No pain.  The single greatest high of my life.  My lawyers did their best to convince the jury I blacked out.  That it was the sickness that did it, not me.

Fucking idiots.

From what I understand, the Doc and his little girl came home to find my smacked out ass in their kitchen.  Before the Doc could get out a word of protest, I unloaded the shotgun without even lifting my head from the table.

The Doc lived.  Stacy did not.  I woke up in a room like this one and haven’t be out since.  The doc’s testimony saw to that.  I hated myself after hearing what he had to say, so did my twelve peers.  He got a chance to ask me why.  I never gave him my answer.  At least I got that right.

I went with the blackout story my lawyers were peddling, but the truth is I didn’t black out.  I remember the reflection of the ceiling fan in that cooking spoon.  It was beautiful.  I remember never wanting it to stop spinning.  I stared at that while my body went through the motions of silencing the interruption.  I remember that Goddamn fan, but not mowing down a little girl in front of her father.  That’s how a drug addict’s mind works, hold on to the high no matter what, and filter out the rest.

Four years ago the Doc sat on the other side of a steel table and told me he forgave me for what I did, for what I did to his only child.  He said he had to.  He didn’t want to hold on to the hate anymore.  I wonder how tight he’d hold on to it if I told him the truth, that what I did to them just wasn’t important enough to remember, but that ceiling fan was.

Can you believe there are people out there right now waving signs that say I don’t deserve what’s comin’?  That my death will be cruel and unusual. Sammy told me that. Some people got nothing better to do.  To me, it makes perfect sense.  The needle got me here, I think it’s only fitting that the needle puts me down.

Sammy wants the rest of my steak.  I don’t care, I can’t cut it with this spoon anyway. I sit and stare at the ceiling fan spinning in it.  It’s still beautiful.  I can’t remember anything else.

Her father can.

I’m the lucky one.

She would have been twenty-two.

 

With respect to Evan Dando.


Services Rendered

It was Mason’s idea to clean pools.

More to the point, it was Mason’s idea for me to clean pools while he drove the van around doing jack shit.  Most of Mason’s ideas involved me working my ass off so he didn’t have to, but this job servicing the pools of the rich and infamous was turning out to be a good gig.

At least until today.

My idea of good clients were old folks, retirees with dependable cash flow, but Mason–being Mason, kept booking wannabe starlets with the hopes of getting laid.

“William,” he would say, “Lonely housewives love the pool boy.”  This was typical of my brother.  Mason made most of his decisions with his cock.

Take Tina Crenshaw For Example.

Not much of a looker, but a smokin’ body.” His words, not mine.

He’d been servicing her for weeks, but now she was getting needy, blowing up his cell, wanting to leave her husband, that kind of thing.  So in an effort to avoid her, he asked me to take over the Crenshaw’s pool.  I wanted to say: Fuck you Mason, clean up your own mess.  But I didn’t.  I said “Okay“.

Like a sucker.

The first thing you notice about Tina are her legs.  The corded muscles of her calves showed off the work she put into them.  They were runner’s legs.  They just went on forever, twin tan highways.  She could parade them too.  She paced that stucco Balcony like a lioness in a cage, while I pretended not to notice.  I skimmed leaves from the pool and Tina pranced back and forth, a sentry on a castle wall.

I was kneeling at the edge of the water, testing the PH balance, when I got my first close up of those legs.  My eyes followed them up her white satin rope, over her obnoxious fake rack, and stopped at her pout.

“Hi, Mrs. Crenshaw.” I said.

“Where’s Mason?” she said, arms crossed and hip cocked.

Up close her legs were still nice, but her eyes–not so much.  They were beady little things, sunken in and almost black, shrouded in Robert Smith style eye shadow.  In fact, all of Tina’s facial features were too small for her head.  They pooled together in the middle of her face, causing her chin and forehead to look inflated.  Her bleach burned hair fell thin and wiry, and her eyebrows were definitely painted on.  Bless her heart, she tried, but her age was getting harder to cover up.  This close, she looked every bit of fifty.

“He had something come up, asked me to take care of you today, I’m Will.”  I rose and stuck my hand out to shake hers, but she made no attempt to grab it.  She just looked at it like it was carved from dog shit.

“Mason sent you here to take care of me?”

“Yes, Ma’am, I hope that’s okay.”

She stared me up and down.  Sizing me up.  I almost laughed.

“Well, I suppose you’ll do.” She said.  I watched her strut away and slip back inside, leaving the door wide open.  I knew what that meant.  She might as well have given me a key.

When I finished with the pool, I packed up my gear and wrote out an invoice for services rendered.  I walked to the door Tina left open and called her name.

No Answer.

I called again, still no answer.  Then I noticed the satin robe lying over the sofa in the sunroom.  I should have left right then, but why should Mason have all the fun.  I could see Tina’s toes peeking around the edge of the sofa and I took a step into the house.

“Mrs. Crenshaw, are you trying to seduce me?” I said, doing my best Dustin Hoffman from The Graduate.

“She can’t hear you Mason, she’s dead.” Mr. Crenshaw said right before he wrapped the extension cord around my throat.  The same extension cord he used to strangle his wife.

I caught a glimpse of Tina’s bloated face staring up from the sofa as I blacked out.

“Thanks Mason, you son of a bitch, thanks a lot.”