That Story, or Ten Reasons Why Priestly Doesn't Like Chicago
1. The Little Old Lady | 2. The Weather | 3. The Computer Genius | 4. The Bars | 5. The Crazed Psycho | 6. The Women | 7. The Tripper | 8. The Lost Boy | 9. The Skateboard | 10. The Little Old Lady (Again) | 11. Epilogue
“How do you know Jake?”
Andy frowned and shrugged his shoulders. “I didn’t until about two hours ago. I met him at the gas station, and he said I could park my van here for a couple of days.”
“Andy is on a road trip.” Delia supplied, taking a sip out of her bright red cup filled with Southern Comfort.
A road trip? The kid looked like he was all of fourteen. “Uh, no offense, but shouldn’t you be in school?” Boaz asked, and thanked Delia as she handed him a drink. He sniffed it, Johnny Walker.
“Probably,” Andy said and took a swig of his own beverage, a can of Budweiser. “Hey, are you the Lit major?”
Boaz was pretty sure he misheard Andy just then, and while he was trying to figure out what the kid actually said Delia answered,
“No, that’s Tom. He’s over there.” And then she proceeded to point him out.
“Cool,” Andy said, and then slapped Boaz on the shoulder. “It was nice to meet you, but if you’ll excuse me, I have a philosophical debate that requires some input.” He made it all of two feet away before he pivoted and returned. “Oh, and hey, have one on me.” He smiled, handing over two joints and giving them a small salute.
Boaz looked at his hand, and then at Delia, who had raised an eyebrow in scrutiny. “Got a light?” She asked, wiggling the joint between her fingers.
“Don’t smoke,” Boaz replied automatically, and then his brain tried to immediately conjure up something to say to explain his remark to Delia.
“Me neither,” She agreed, pausing to drink. “Jake and Buzzer do, maybe they’ve got one.”
“Hey!” Boaz called out to the men who were currently in the kitchen leaning against the bench and fridge.
As though he had said their names, they both looked over in question, and when Boaz held up his spliff, they both reached into their pockets. Buzzer got there first, and tossed his zippo over and Boaz caught it in his cup. Jake nodded to the coffee table, and Delia reached down and picked up the ashtray, placing it in the middle of the three-seater couch on which she also sat.
In what he would later look back on as peer pressure, Boaz joined her on the couch, lighting up and taking a long drag before passing her the lighter.
At some point after the joint was long gone, replaced by a bowl from Jake, Boaz was on his fifth or sixth or eleventh beer and retelling his experiences in Chicago to Andy; particularly how people seemed to keep mistaking him for someone else.
"You know what you should do?" He gestured to Boaz with his can of cheap beer. "If you don't want them looking at your face, you should give them something else to look at." He then flexed his fingers as though he'd finished a magic trick, ta-da!
Either the liquor was starting to get to him - or the marijuana (or both) - or Andy was just not making any sense, because Boaz was left trying to figure out the meaning long after Andy had ambled over to talk to Buzzer.
Delia swayed across the room to them, her movements entrancing both them and even herself.
" 'Cor, she's pretty." Jake slurred.
"Yeah, in a... pretty sort of way." Boaz agreed, ever the wordsmith.
"She's got a fing fer ya, yer know."
Before Boaz could ask, or even think of anything to say, Jake had stumbled to his feet saying he was going to get another drink. The wink that he sent Boaz when he left made him wonder what exactly Jake was planning to do to said drink.
He didn't get time to ponder it, as Delia had already crossed the room and sat down on the armchair. Her balance being what it was, she overcompensated and fell over until she was leaning against Boaz, her head on his shoulder. "Hey Bo."
She looked a little different upside down. Her mouth was where her eyes were supposed to be and her eyes blinked upwards. Boaz cocked his head to the side to see if it was as interesting from a different angle.
"You know something Bo?" The words looked peculiar as they came out of her mouth, and he couldn't help but stare.
"What?" He asked, tilting his head down so he wouldn't miss it when she replied.
Her mouth opened a slight fraction, inhaling the air she'd need to speak. "___ ______ _____ _____ _____," She had said, and everything that happened after that was a big gaping hole in Boaz' memory.
The next morning he was woken in his Uncle’s apartment by the endless waves of pain that were coming from his neck. They were so potent that, when his body started sending the sensation to his brain and his brain had finally woken to what it was registering, his shoulders and head spasmed so hard he fell off the couch and onto the floor. Which didn't help the situation with his neck at all.
This all happened so suddenly to Boaz that he didn't have time to make sense of what was really going on - and thus, swear about it - so all he could do was stumble to his feet in a daze and run for the bathroom to wash some water on the bruised burning that was his neck.
He stumbled into the shower, still clothed, and turned on what he hoped was the cold water. The fates tossed a quick smile his way, for even though he had turned on the hot by mistake, there wasn't any left. Mildly lukewarm water sprayed down onto his head and shoulders, quickly turning to a chilly cold by the time the first droplet had passed down the leg of his pants.
This was both good and bad. Good, for his neck was enjoying an oh-so beautiful respite, and bad because he couldn't stay like this forever because he had to go to work at some point. Also, his clothes were now wet.
As he turned off the shower and gingerly stripped off his shirt, he tried to think of what exactly could have happened last night that would result in the pain he was currently feeling. Try as he might, the last thing he remembered was the party at Jake's, and Delia walking over to talk to him. And now, as he concentrated on it, he couldn't even recall what they'd said, if anything at all.
It didn't matter terribly because, when he dropped the sopping shirt to the ground with a squelchy splat, he happened to catch his face in the mirror looking up. One small glance and his eyes shot back in a panicked double take.
Black ink creeped along his neck, curling over itself and splintering out like thorns. Red rimmed the outside of the design, indicating that the skin hadn't fully healed. A tattoo. At some point last night he had gone and gotten a tattoo. He didn't know much about the side-effects of drugs, but he was sure he'd remember getting a fucking tattoo.
After two minutes of tentative prodding, he finally turned away from the mirror and finished getting changed.
He had just finished gingerly pulling his shirt over his head when his alarm went off, reminding him to get up and ready. Boaz started at the blaring clock, trying to will it to stop with the power of his mind so he wouldn’t have to go to work. When it didn’t work he slapped it on his way past to the kitchen where he toasted up half a loaf of bread and contemplated what he would say to Delia when he saw her considering he couldn’t remember anything that had transpired. Part of him wished that nothing had happened, and part of him wished that something did. Mostly, he just wished he could remember.
He finished off his breakfast and slipped on his shoes, trudging out of the apartment and into a day that was far too bright for his hungover self. Well, partially hungover – the adrenalin rush brought on by the tattoo went a long way to waking up his senses, and he suspected he’d be regretting that with one hell of a headache later on.
He picked up his skateboard from where he left it, pausing to consider the fact that no one had stolen it yet, and even on the mornings when he thought he’d forgotten it at work the day before, it was still there in the exact same spot waiting for him to ride. Boaz liked his skateboard that way, it was predictable, reliable. It wouldn’t get stoned and wake up with a tattoo.
Yeah, his skateboard was awesome. Too bad he wasn’t a skateboard.
When he rolled up to work, Boaz made his way out the back to where the others would surely be assembled, and felt a guilty sense of relief when he saw Tom.
“What happened?” Boaz asked quietly, nodding to the shiner on Tom’s face.
“No idea,” Tom answered in much the same tone, and pulled up his sleeve to reveal a matching bruise on his left shoulder, and then another on just below his right ribcage. “I think Buzzer does, though, but he won’t say.”
Buzzer must have heard his name because he appeared at that moment, bright and chipper as ever. “It was spectacular.” He said, smiling proudly at Tom. “Those frat boys will never forget it.”
Tom threw Boaz a look, partly pleading and partly pained from how loud Buzzer was. Boaz caught the hint and asked, “Forget what?”
Buzzer snickered. “You had to be there.”
“I was there and you won’t tell me.” Tom whined, just as Jake appeared;
“Hey Tom, I hear ye ‘ad an excitin’ night.” He clapped Tom on the back, who winced at the noise... or the slap. Or both.
Boaz was sure that the older people weren’t supposed to bounce back after a night like they had so well, especially in comparison to both Tom and himself, who were much younger. Jake looked like he had woken well-rested after an early night of knitting and assembling miniature ships inside bottles. Boaz took it as an affront to the laws of nature.
“I sure did, Jake!” Tom exclaimed a little too loudly. “How did you know?”
“Oh y’know, I ‘ear fings.”
Tom levelled his best glare on Buzzer. “You told Jake but you won’t tell me? ‘Had to be there’ my ass!”
Tom was getting angry, which was something Boaz had never seen from the well-spoken, considerate young man. Before he could vent his frustration on Buzzer though, Jake held up a hand;
“’Old on there, Tom. I’m sure yer having some troubles with yer mind not workin’ right, but that’s nufin’ compared te what Bo’s gonna go through when he sees Delia next. Not after wha’ ‘appened last night, anways.”
Boaz blood ran cold. “What did I do?”
“Ya don’ remember?”
Boaz gestured to Tom. “Neither of us do! What the hell was in those joints?!”
Jake took in Boaz’s new feature with a smile and said, “Personally I fink it’s got more t’ do wif the copi’us amounts of alcohol you were drinkin’ than the pot.”
“You shift started ten minutes ago! If you’re not going to work, then go home!”
They turned, as one, to the end of the warehouse where the door to the shopfront was. Phil stood there with his arms crossed and his ever-present cigar sticking out of his unimpressed mouth.
“Yes, boss!” Buzzer called, and scurried off to work.
Jake had disappeared as well, so Tom and Boaz made their way over to retrieve their order sheets from Phil.
Phil handed them a stack of delivery receipts. “Tom, Delia needs help out fr...” He trailed off, taking in Tom’s shiner.
“Bo, go help....” He paused again, eyeing Boaz’s tattoo.
He looked from one to the other and then glanced down at his papers.
“One of you go help her, the other can start the rounds.” He then turned around and walked back into his office.
Tom turned to Boaz and said immediately. “I’ll take the rounds.”
“Oh yeah, thanks man.”
“Look, I know you probably don’t want to...” Tom looked at the door to the displays, and Boaz interpreted that to mean walk into the fires of Hell “But I really need to know what happened last night. Really.”
Boaz took in Tom’s marred features and sighed. “Sure.”
“Thanks, man.” Tom smiled and turned around. “BUZZER, DELIVERIES!”
Boaz flinched from the noise, before squaring his shoulders and making his way through to the shopfront, saying nothing as Delia instructed him to help carry out a set of bedside tables to the customer’s car.
When he returned, he was all hands in pockets and nervous energy as he shuffled over to Delia’s counter.
She handed him a bottle of water.
He took it. “Thanks?”
“I don’t remember much of last night.” She said, matter-of-factly. “But what I do recall suggests that you’re going to need a lot of water.”
Boaz looked down at the bottle in his hand. “Thanks.” He frowned. “Again.”
Delia nodded and focused on her paperwork.
“Look, I uhh...” She didn’t look up, but he could see that she had stopped writing. “I don’t remember last night either. And there is something I have to ask.”
She looked at him, one eyebrow raised in inquiry.
“Do you know how I got this?” He gestured to his neck.
She stared at the tattoo for the longest time, before dragging her eyes back to his. “No.”
She then resumed filling out the sale details before handing Priestly a delivery slip for the tables’ matching bed frame. She held onto the paper when he gripped it, forcing him to look into her eyes. “You really don’t remember?” She asked softly.
“I really don’t.”
She released the form and turned away, effectively ending a conversation that they would never have again.
[ cont>> ]