Tuesday, August 30, 2011


By Steven Novak

Kareem Abdul Jabar is lying dead at your feet. The damn dollywad munched a cyanide tablet to keep from yapping, but it really didn’t matter. You’ve already put the pieces together and you’re done playing games.

The ‘Trotters – they’ve been playing you like some goosed up house-dick in a hash-house packed with bees the entire time.

It’s time for payback.

You pop the empty cartridge from your rod and slide another in. A slug slips into the chamber. She’s purring like a kitten itching to spit a hairball full of lead. No more pawing for pancakes like some patsy peterman anxious for a pinch.

The best offense is a good offense.

“What the hell happened here?” It’s the Chief. He’s charging down the alleyway with his fist in the air and his belly bopping him in the chin.

By the time he reaches you, he’s out of breath. One hand drops to his knee and the other clutches his chest. A squawk of blue and blacks is already clogging the street behind him. They’ll figure out what’s going on soon enough. The seven-foot corpse of the NBA legend spread out in the filth behind you will make it real easy.

You need to get to the ‘Trotters before they do.

The Chief pokes his sausage finger square into your chest. “I want answers. Start singing.”

You brush the chubby digit aside and step around the Chief without so much as a word.

“Where the hell do you think you’re going? Walk away and you’re out of a job! Do you hear me?”

Reaching into your jacket you retrieve your wallet, remove your badge and toss it to the concrete. It’s useless to you now. Time to settle the score the only way you know how. Time to punch a few bad tickets right in the tickers.

The Chief steps on your badge, points at you and screams so loud you can feel the alley move beneath your feet. “Answer me damn it!”

The kitten at your side continues to purr. She’s quiet for the moment, but she’s anxious to scratch. “Answers are like assholes, Chief…everyone’s got ‘em, but only sickos and perverts are anxious to tear off a piece. Tell the boys in the morgue to dig out five fresh body bags…cause I’m about to fill ‘em.”

Snagging a set of keys from one of the gap-jawed hoosegows called to the scene, you hop into his car and peel away. You know exactly where you’re headed – Gino’s. It’s the place all this mush started and it’s the place it was going to end.

The trip across town takes less then fifteen minutes. The sun is already beginning to set and the locals are headed home. This city isn’t safe at night for the normals. If you aren’t packing heat, every joe and junkie looking for a little jack will have their way with you when the sun goes down. Around here the night is for the hardened and the hard, and the hatchetmen and the heels.

The night is for people just like you.

Your car screeches to a halt just outside Gino’s. Though it’s an hour past closing, the lights are still on inside. You snatch your purring piece of alabaster, pull it to your face and press your lips to the barrel.

Time do go to work, darlin’.

The instant you exit the car, you’re charging full speed at the front door to Gino’s. Suddenly the lights inside go off.

Damn it.

They’re onto you.

The windshield of your stolen squad car shatters. When you turn around you spot a basketball wedged in the glass.

Sons of bitches.

Another basketball bounces off your head, and another still smacks you square in the gut. You can’t breathe. Your legs go as wobbly as a plate of Gino’s famous spaghetti. A third ball knocks the heater from your hand and sends it spinning across the concrete. A pair of lanky mitts snatches your trousers and pulls them down around your knees.

Damn, Twiggy!

When you reach for the knife stashed in your socks, another basketball slams into your knee and bends it in a way knees aren’t meant to bend. Bone snaps in two, and a moment later you’re flat on your keyster. For a fraction of a second you make out what you think is Sweet Lou, ten feet away and grinning through a mouth full of the pearliest marbles this side of the Mason Dixon.

He launches another basketball into your forehead and suddenly you’re flat on your back.

The world goes blurry – like you’re seeing it through the eyes of some lazy number hopped up on nose candy. Five dark, undefined shapes are standing over you and looking down with their hands on their hips.

The sound of Sweetwater’s voice finds its way to your ear. “You’re an idiot. You know that, right?”

Your leg is throbbing. You have a feeling one of your ribs is broken. You shake your head in a desperate attempt to clear the cobwebs, but it’s not working.

“Seriously, man.” The blurry image of, Sweetwater continues. “The hat, the jacket, the fact that you don’t own a cell phone. Plus all that stupid shit you’re always mumbling about…leadfoots and hoosegows, and gams and jingle-berried jaspers…what the hell is a jingle-berried jasper anyway? You know it’s not nineteen twenty-four, right? You do understand you were born in the 80’s, correct?”

When you try to get up, Meadowlark puts his size eighteen on your chest, cracks another rid and returns you to the unceremoniously pavement.

Sweetwater sighs. “Fuck it. We’re doing you a favor.”

Your vision returns just in time to see all five of the boys lift their respective basketballs over their heads. The muscles in their arms tighten. Their heads reel back.

Though your mouth full of blood you manage to squeak, “It’s a hooch-drunk hombre.”

The boys pause.

“What?” Sweetwater asks, a look of absolute confusion spread across his mug.

“A jingle-berried jasper…” You stutter in response. “A jiggle-berried jasper is a hooch-drunk hombre.”

Sweetwater sighs.

Three seconds later a barrage of basketballs puts an end to your life.

Oops...Return to Chapter 8

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