Alfred’s class finished on time and he promised me next time he would give me a ride home he just had other plans in the other directions. He let me use his phone to call a taxi. I waited outside for the taxi, a familiar noise filled the area. The plastic shell of the car rattles while the bass warps the space around it like the heat emanating from a blacktop. Both windows of the car roll down giving Veronica’s head a contrast to I can clearly see it’s her. Her hair is a dark green.
I mockingly say, ‘Get the fuck in.’ and we say it in unison and she looks at me with a fuck you stare. I go to the car and stop at the passenger window.
“Fingers came to visit me. He’s looking for you. Don’t you think it would be best if you got out of town?”
“He’s not chasing me out of here. This is where I want to be and he’s got no control over me.”
“I don’t want to get pulled into whatever fucked up love story you two have.” The cab pulls up behind Veronica’s car. “All I can tell you is to be careful.”
I walk away from her car and get into the back seat of the cab and tell the driver my address and he slowly drives away. I look back to see Veronica still sitting there.
When Martha Jo walks into the house I ask if I can carry her to the bedroom. She laughs and punches me in the arm playfully. Telling me that she’s too tired to laugh. I tell her if she’s too tired to laugh then she should be too tired to walk up the steps. She agrees with me and puts her arm around me and as she hops into the air I catch her legs with my arms and walk toward the steps.
I walk up the thirty seats and down the hallway to our bedroom. I set Martha Jo onto the bed.
“Did you want me to run the shower for you?”
Martha Jo puts her finger to her lip. “I wasn’t thinking about taking a shower but now that you mention it I could put my body in some water. How about you?”
“Sure, you wash my back.”
“And I’ll wash yours.”
Martha Jo and I removed our clothes from the bed to the bathroom that was in our room. I got to the shower first and turned on the water to the correct temperature for both me and Martha Jo. She walked into the bathroom with her hair down draped down her shoulders and back. She put her hands on my chest and ran her hands all over me. She slipped her hand between my arm and torso and pulled open the door to the shower.
“After you.” She said.
I walked backwards into the shower and she followed me.
We both stood under the water the steam already blurring the door, us wet with water and sweat. I go for the washcloth and soap. I get the cloth as soapy as can be and wash every inch of Martha Jo. I get on my knees starting at her feet. I meticulously clean ever part of her. I clean between her toes, behind her knees, under her breast. I then pull her head under the water and lather shampoo in my hands. I run my fingers into her hand and scratch her scalp. I’m spreading the shampoo all over her hair. Once I know it to be enough I put her under the shower and remove the soap from her body. Martha Jo then does the same to me, she wets a cloth with soap and lathers my body front to back and then shaves my face. She once again slips between my arm and torso and turns off the water.
I get the towel and I dry Martha’s body and then give her another towel so she can wrap her hair. Once she leaves the shower she hands me a towel and I dry myself off. Martha goes into the bedroom and pulls out a pair of sweats and a black t-shirt for myself and a short purple silk nightgown for herself. We dress and dig into bed. Martha Jo and I put ourselves into each other’s arms.
“We have to get serious about hiring new people.” Martha Jo said.
“We’ll talk about it in the morning Martha Jo. Good night.” I kiss her on the lips.
“Good night Elwin,” She kisses me on the lips.
If you say gullible really slowly it sounds like naïve. That’s what’ my foster mother used to say to me before I ran away. I still don’t get it because I don’t know where charity falls in that method of thinking. Do we just do things just to do them? No rhyme or reason for us to be ourselves. Fingers, taught me so much and I ran on him, but I didn’t want to dance to his tune anymore. I couldn’t go on thinking about the lie anymore.
The man Frank, the home where Fingers brought me for dinner, it became a frequent spot for us. Then one night it all changed. We were heading over there like any other time but we drove, Fingers didn’t have a car and I don’t know how he got it. When we got to Frank’s he told me to wait in the car while it was running. I did so and just as Fingers walked into the home gunshots rang through the air. Fingers comes out of the house and gets in the driver seat, he doesn’t say a word when he drives off.
He parks the car outside a Mexican restaurant named the Burrito Store. We go inside get dinner and we don’t say a word to one another during our meal. When we leave the restaurant I walk toward the car and Fingers whistles to me. He is walking home I get next to him and I walk in step with him. We walk all the way back to the home and never say a word to each other. We got home and slept in the same bed but we didn’t fuck. We just slept together.
I woke up to Fingers’s hands around my throat, he’s choking me as hard as he can. The look on his face is blank, like he’s looking in the refrigerator to get something to eat. Just when I think I’m going to pass out, he lets go of my neck. I get up and gasp for air as he sits on the side of the bed.
“I need you to call the cops on me.” Fingers said.
“Why did you choke me?” My hands on my throat.
“I killed seven people in that house. I covered up my tracks as best I could but I could still be connected to the crime. Call the police right now and tell them that I raped you. I need to go away.”
I just sat there on the bed unable to move. Fingers rose up from the bed, he never turned around to face me. He went over to a dresser and opens a drawer he gives me five rolls of twenties. I never counted the money and he never told me the amount.
“You won’t be able to keep it when they take you in. You came in with a bag, give it to me. I’m going to bury it in the backyard. I’ll mark it. Call the police when I’m done.”
Fingers buried the money, called the police and waited on the porch. I sat in the bed until the police came into the house searching for any order threat that could have been in the house. A female officer came into the room and dressed me. They took me to the station took photos of my neck, they did a rape kit but didn’t need it because Fingers pleaded guilty. Fifteen years is what the judge gave Fingers and after all of the judicial shit was said and done. I was on my own again.
I went back to the house and it was cleared out with a for sale sign stuck into the yard. There is no fence I walk to the backyard and walk all around the yard looking for some kind of mark in the grass. I walked around five times and couldn’t find anything. Until accidentally stared at the tree and I saw an arrow that had been stabbed into the tree with mostly likely the shovel’s tip. I didn’t have to look around I never saw anything in the yard for me to use. I climb up the tree and pull down a strange tree limb and stab the ground, it doesn’t take too much effort to find my backpack. I open the backpack and the five rolls are still inside. I take the money and leave the pack and I don’t fill the hole.
Fingers is nothing close to something that you can put trust in or think of as a constant, but to me he was support that I’ve never had. No one had looked at for me the way Fingers had, everyone I meet after him used me, stole from me, treated me like shit. Fingers ruined me and prepared me for the world.
A pompadour is walking toward me, Malcolm is coming to me. He doesn’t knock and opens my door.
“Mr. Ruckle is flying in, he’ll be here in three hours and he’s expecting you to pick him up at the airport. Did you want me to get the weed smell out of your car or rent you a car?”
“I’ll take a rental. Just drive me to the airport and take my car to your place I’ll get it after all of this.”
Joseph is passionate about making the iron press as common place as the ballpoint pen but his methods couldn’t be considered questionable, just overly opportunistic. He’s spent a fair share time and money perfecting the iron press technique. The few people that were harmed by the technique had been compensated, you can’t replace an arm, but money helps a lot. Don’t know if I’d be saying that. I didn’t get sick and I’m seem fine from getting my press tattoo but I’m unable to forget the pain of the press.
The numbing heat is unlike any other and the pain is ever lasting, it doesn’t scale down it throbs forever, the pain is just behind the skin waiting for you, a fresh memory. The ink sluggishly crawls into you, seeping through your skin like bubbles. I don’t understand how people have multiple iron press tattoos. The twisted aches of tightening muscle, the icy swell with the burning looseness of the underside of pain.
I look to the clock and from when I assumed Malcolm left I think he is late. It can’t take that long to rent a car. I move to the window and see Malcolm pull up in a white sedan, I see him through the windows, the shop, and the car windows, I exit the shop and get into the car and Malcolm drives to the airport.
Mr. Ruckle is on the phone the entire time, from when we pick him up, when he’s in the car and when we get him into his hotel room at the Ritz Carlton. He makes Malcolm carry his bags and shoos us away and shuts the door. Malcolm and I leave the hotel and go back to my house.
Ruckle is at the store before Malcolm and I and he is pissed. He’s telling me that he will need a key for the time he is here. I’m more pissed that he’s here without us getting him which means he didn’t need us to pick him up at the airport. He just wanted us to. Once inside he goes straight to the books and checks the numbers. I’m watching him sit at my desk treating it as if it was his own, he ate at my desk with no plate, took his shoes off and put his feet on my desk. He demanded passwords, combinations to the safe. Then he called me into my office and took me to lock the door behind me, I did not.
He curled his finger at me as if I was an animal I didn’t move to his command, until he spoke.
“Come here.” He said.
I move over to the other side of my desk, he’s slouching in my chair in an exaggerated manner, he puts his arms up stretching his hands out all of his fingers spread.
“Do you want me to pull you up?” I asked.
“You don’t know how this works?”
In one motion he drops his hands, springs to his feet and is close to me.
“Come on Veronica, you’re going to act like we don’t have chemistry. You don’t remember the convention?”
“Yes, I remember the convention. Do you not know that people can change? Their likes and dislike can shift. The person I was at the convention was a different person. The person I am now is different, yes I find you attractive but we are professionals more importantly you are my superior. I will be around if you need me for anything connected to Crystal Needle, but we will not meet privately anymore.”
Once I walk away from him, his hand wraps around my elbow, he digs his fingers in the pit of my elbow. He doesn’t turn me around he pulls me backward and puts his arm around my throat I get a sharp yelp out. He’s pulling me against his body, his warmth feels gooey, I can feel his erect penis on the back of my thigh. He’s grinding on me forcing me to feel it. He takes my hand and put it on it.
“Tell me you don’t like that.” He said.
The door opens and Malcolm steps in. Joseph quickly lets go of me and plays it off as if he was about to get what he wanted.
“Everything alright in here?” Malcolm asked.
“Not since you showed up.” Joseph said.
“Don’t worry Mr. Ruckle, I’ll have that information for you after lunch.” I said and I quickly exit my office and pull Malcolm away from the room with me. As I’m walking away I let go of Malcolm once I do he stops moving, he doesn’t follow me outside, doesn’t come outside when I started my car and drove away.
It doesn’t take me long to get to the interstate I don’t have a destination I just need to move. I don’t need to change lanes I don’t need to be anywhere I just need to keep moving. As the world moves along, the night eating the light and society city is no longer around. The road is a scar on the skin of nature, that leads to another wound. I can’t remember if it was easier to just keep running around, never a constant, always changing, never staying put put me in a mood. But being where I’m told is no fun either.
I feel a hand on my right shoulder. “Stay calm Veronica, keep your eyes on the road.” Fingers said. I’d been waiting in your trunk for a while, I actually fell asleep back there. How you been? You stopped writing, made me worry. You mind if I come and sit in the passenger seat?” He crawls between the seats and plops in the passenger seat. “It’s the little things in life you miss in prison. How cars have seats that flip down, any flavored drink at any time, 24-hour stores, sixty-four ounce soda cups, and the people you know and love abandon you.”
“Boyd, you need to tell me what’s wrong.”
“I can only see the path, I can never walk it. Where you ever scared of me when I was around you?”
“I just felt comfortable around you. I don’t know what that is and I know I can’t always trust it but I know that I can trust myself.”
“I don’t think I ever apologized for choking you that night. I’m sorry for that, it was the only way I could think of to mark you without really hurting you.”
“Why couldn’t you just tell me?”
“I needed you to be indolent, beat, rug out. The game is better if only one knows they’re playing.”
“Don’t I know it. That’s my whole life broken down to fit on fortune cookie paper. Everyone is mad at the people who aren’t playing the game.”
“What happened?” Fingers asked.
“Nothing. It’s just work.”
“What’s that all about? I still can’t believe it. A spray on tattoo? Sounds like some sci-fi shit to me, I know it can’t be safe. Am I right? Is it safe?”
“It’s as safe as driving a car.”
“The responsibility of others. I’m too assume that the person who made the machine had my feelings in making it. Hurts less than a needle tattoo?”
“Quicker than a needle tattoo right?”
“Sort of, it all depends on the person. Some people can handle the pain and finish a large tattoo in six hours. Some people can’t handle the pain they leave the shop with an unfinished tattoo and never come back. Due to the pain and the payment policy, it only pays for the time you booked that day and doesn’t roll over. So if you are getting a back piece that covers your entire back and you skate out become of the pain, you’re out the two grand you dropped for that day.”
“Then the quality must be astonishing?”
“It’s not the best tattoo, the colors bleed into one another sometimes, and the scaring from an iron press is different as you know that can change the quality of the piece too.”
“Why are these fucks doing this?” Fingers asked.
“To cash in on the fad. We all need money to survive in this world and I’m trying to survive.”
“You didn’t learn anything since the last time I saw you. Which is a shame. Pull over.
I pulled the car over to the shoulder as soon as he said it. It took a while for me to slow down to stop the car. One I did I looked over to Fingers who was already looking at me.
“Everything you’ve seen me do and you still trying to living in the past and don’t believe in the present. It is because you don’t want a future or you just don’t see one for yourself?”
Fingers gets out of the car and runs into the darkness. He doesn’t shut the car door that light that is pouring out of the car can’t pierce the darkness. I put the car in drive and pull into traffic. I get enough speed and step on the brakes to shut my car door without it still being ajar. I take the next exit and head back home.