Guest Post: Andira Dodge
In the slim lines of long shadows he walked, hearing his own heel-toe step staccato echo off the pavement. A be-bop to the time of an old jazz standard. He roughly shoved his hands in his trouser pockets, slowing his pace slightly. He paused a moment and then breathed deeply, waiting until after a bus had passed, belching hot gusts of diesel exhaust into the night air. Somehow the smell of diesel helped him feel he was going places, not stagnant; traveling anywhere the highways would take him.
The street-lamps flickered slightly. His shadow turned menacing, stretching and elongating in the crosshairs of the streetlights, and then stumbling back into a sloping gait, the shadows coalesced into one large mass, moving along the wire fence like the Blob in the old science fiction movie.
There were no stars to be seen in the heavy night air. The oppressive gloom held in its grasp the taste of bourbon and magnolia. He walked through the familiar city without much awareness of his surroundings. He could barely hold onto a single thought. Except he was wanting his rooms. His bed. Some quiet place where feeling alone, abandoned, out of place was not so glaring.
The thought of the small dingy room did not elevate his mood to any lofty heights so he turned at the next corner, pushing the door open to the dark club that always had dirty jazz emanating from within. He did not hesitate but walked purposefully and sat at the farthest, darkest end of the bar. He stared at the amber liquid in his glass, wishing to fuck it did not look so much like the blood he had just washed from his hands earlier this foul night.
Swirling the drink around a bit after he half-emptied it did not help erase the lingering visual of a body writhing in blood on the floor. So he tossed back the rest of the vile drink quickly and enjoyed the burn as he swallowed, picturing it forging a path through his body, a path of cleansing fire as it went down.
He wondered how long it would take for this body to be found. The last two had not yet been discovered. He was getting better at his job. He knew statistically, and realistically, his time was limited. It was not a moral issue for him, but almost clinically, a game of numbers. Only so many untraceable weapons, so many contracts, so many dump sites. Then he would have to move on. Again. Another city. A different dark corner of a different bar. Another dingy room with another creaky bed to lay his head.
The saxophone wailed like the bloody dying man had earlier. That drew his attention to the present. The light tap on the snare echoed his sluggish heartbeat. The past could be buried. The future could fuck itself. Right now, he wanted another drink.
The piano player brushed his fingers along the keys, playing a melody sounding of heartache and moonlight. All of a sudden, the air in the room held too much floral for his bitter olfactory senses. Disgusted, he pushed away from the bar but stopped at the sight of a couple dancing. After bumming a light from the bartender, he lit a cigarette as he watched.
The couple moved too slowly for the syrupy sweet, slow as molasses music. The man’s hands were low on her back, moving lower; her hands twined around his neck, clenching tighter. They did not speak. Their dusky skin blended together as one moving animal on a grungy canvas. There was no envy for the watcher; he did not want for company when he needed it. But it had been too long since he had felt any softness or comfort.
Watching the couple dancing in the darkness, he could almost remember caring for someone long ago. Needing to touch her. Be near her. But now as he watched this woman, he noticed her hands and could only think how lovely an assassin she would make with such obvious control and passion as she seemed to hold. Her dance partner did not seem to notice her hands as he was distracted with her swaying hips. The watching man put out his cigarette and cursed himself for a fool. You could not be a cold killer and need soft comfort. Too jarring for any sissy sensibilities
He walked out into the sultry night, feeling rather than hearing his footsteps. He turned into an alley full of promise in its iniquity, looking for reprieve from the light. He was not worried about running into a lone thug or even a gang. Bad elements? He may have been dressed in a suit but he was the bad element. People would certainly be afraid of him if they knew what darkness he harbored in his memories- and in his heart.
He felt his body relax and his mind unwind a bit as he drew deeper into the grimy alley. The concrete walls were sweating. He stepped around overturned garbage cans, teeming with rotten refuse. A rusty ladder from a fire escape creaked and dangled precariously. Feral cats fought nearby. Broken bottles littered the ground, crunching under his shoes as he walked steadily down the path home. Stale liquor permeated the air, along with the pungent aroma of urine and death.
A shimmering light from around the next bend hinted at the blinking neon that announced his current hovel of choice. As he neared his motel, the skies opened and it began to rain. Torrents of cool water seeped under his collar and over his shoes. There were no fleeting thoughts for this man about cleansing rains. Some things could never be scrubbed clean. When he got to his room, he locked the door, left the light off, and then sat in the one chair in the room. He enjoyed the sound of the rain. It would clean the alleys and streets, at least for one night. Another cigarette and a drink would help fix the rest.
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