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An Exercise In Style


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Guess, I sort of hope you like it. Remember to laugh.





An Exercise In Style




I'm sitting in a car. Half past noon and rather hot. I'm wiping the sweat off my face with a cotton handkerchief made in Havana. Bought for me by a Mister J. He's about 50, tall, dark and civilized. Used to be a farm boy, a long time ago, got himself some nice muscles underneath all them clothes and fancy hats. I've known him half my life, he was on the run the first time we met and he still is in a way, his time with me hasn't done him much good. Maybe he's a little bit richer and maybe he's a little bit smarter, but all them flashy rags don't mean [....] next to a brief moment of happiness. And that's why I'm sitting like a dud in the midday sun staring at the big ball above my head and thinking out loud bout Mister J. Because I'm waiting for something to happen. And that something's got itself a name. Alphonse, French immigrant turned delivery boy turned pusher. A complex individual, came to the States some 20 years ago at the wish of his dear old mother. She told the kid to get rich and get rich fast, and while he ain't rich yet, he's getting there, one step at a time.


Step 1. He brings the coke. I pay him. It's not much, just enough to make a decent living. He's looking at me, straight into my eyes as if something's wrong, it's not sadness, depression or fear, no, it's different, something different. I ask him if he's feeling well to which he nods his head, lips don't even part. That's as close as I'm getting to a good deed today. A slap on the back and I'm gone.


"Jesus Christ and Moses walk into a bar on 4th Street. Jesus orders a Tequila. Moses asks for some water. They chug their respective drinks, eyeing the barman and his pal for the night. Jesus gets up, moves closer to the Barman and shouts something about love and peace. Thing is, no one's listening, the barman's taking care of the next client and the boozers are busy with their jugs. So now he's..." Door opens. Tall fellow enters the room. Sits on a chair. Looks mean. Starts talking the talk, grumbling bout his sick family and their dead dog, shows me his empty pockets. Says I should've locked the door. I agree. There's nothing you can do once the devil finds your room. "Hey pal, wanna hear a joke?"


"There's this old story, "the embodiment of all that is holy" they call it. It's about common folks getting cheated on and raped by a church with vapid nuns in sweet chocolate braziers. I dunno if it's true or not, not my line of work, but they say there's an ounce of truth behind all jokes and legends. And tonight we're playing poker in this Korean joint downtown. Wanna play? You can make a couple bucks and buy your girl that corset she's always wanted. " Satan says and smiles at me. I smile back. Everything's fine, cozy and peachy. Problem is I don't have a girl and I've never liked corsets all that much. "I was expecting something different" I say. "A hood and gun smoke? Be real." He replies to which I laugh out of fear for my everlasting soul. Everything's just peachy, yeah. I tend to ramble when things get out of control, that's my thing, I ramble on and on. Tried talking ole' Beelzebub into taking some cash and leaving the room with me in it. Well, he took my cash and left a card on the doorstep. Edward. D. Ramirez. Accountant. "Now don't you forget about that game tonight, the address is written on the back of the card." He smiles. "See you there."


It's 4 PM and I'm smoking a cigarette on my woman's porch. Her name's Janine. I go to her once a month. She's the only person I know always happy to see me and my leather wallet. Everyone else's just day-to-day filler. I kiss her on the forehead like an old man going to war, a father figure facing the big bad world or just a plain sicko with a pony-tail fetish and mucho dinero. More rambling. Lost thoughts.

"Seen J?" She asks.

"Nah, I have this package for him, no clue where he's at."

"Well, there's been talk bout this big poker match. Everyone's going."


She squirms.

"My clients." Emphasis on clients as if I'm supposed to give a damn who pokes her inner beauty while I'm away.

"Yeah. Someone gave me his card, a mister Ramirez. Know about him? Tall, fat, ugly." I look for the devil's card, find it inside my back pocket. Show it to her.

"Hun, you just named half my clients." Same emphasis. Getting tiring.

"Yeah" I say, kissing her goodbye. I pass the woman a 50 and jump in my car.


Lost thoughts.


The devil's an evil bastard. I've always been told to fear the devil and I've always feared him. As a kid his name scared me almost as much as Jesus'. The only difference being that I knew the devil was outside, even as kid, yet Jesus was everywhere, his invocation always following a bad deed on my part. And that meant a spanking, or even worse, a grounding, separation from my friends and the world at large. I couldn't handle that so I ran. I've been running ever since in one form or another. Started with me running around the farm and ended with me driving this Chevy at full speed looking for J. "Where are you, man?"


Teenage rebellion filling the air. Some 18 year old dumb[....] had just murdered his girl. They had been living next door for months. The sound of them [....]ing kept me awake at night. Can't say I minded. That girl had quite the mouth on her. Can't say I blamed him either. If she was as much a talker as she was a moaner a fast slaughter was too good a fate. Yeah. They scraped fragments of her skull from the front door. Sorta funny. They had him caged like an animal in that police van of theirs. I'd have cried a little on the inside but there aren't enough tears in life to waste on trivial bravado. Got inside my pad, lit a cigar and let myself fall on the bed, half sleeping, half thinking about J and the magic coke bag.


I've got loads of dreams, some good, some bad. Yet on that day there was just me and my friend dubbed nothingness, playing poker, looking at the moon, passing time.


A knock on the door had woken me up, still shaking, I approached it and peeped at the dark man standing outside.

"Let me in!" He shouted. "Let me in!"

I did.

"You've got some dough?" He asks.

"How much you need? Anything for you, remember?"

"I dunno, man, you better come with me." Distressed, panicked.

"Just give me a second to change. Where we goin?"

"Some place downtown, you don't know it." To which I smile.

"Yeah, tell me more."

"More? More? What more do you wanna know? Look, man, I just need your help, I'm your friend, your brother. What's with all the questions?"

"Never mind. There's a bag of coke in my leather jacket, bought it from Alphonse yesterday."


He got his face dirty in God's powder. Now there I was, with this tall pig face all white, thinking about Satan, poker, my failed nap, teenage angst and good ole' fashion camaraderie. Boredom.


J's growing old and knowing it. Approaching 40 with no prospects or cash in his pockets. Sometimes, I think I'm all he's got. Maybe that's true, I don't know, maybe he's all I've got too. There are about 5 people I care for, me, Janine, J and two old bitches I haven't faced in years. One's my mother. The other's my wife. She's gotta be around here somewhere, God, I don't even miss her. Just have this feeling I should be giving her a call. Someday.


There are thousands of homeless kids surviving in this city, a little theft here, a little theft there and you've got yourself a pretty good life if you don't mind the constant fear and mountains of junk. At least they wash Chevys. They're about the only ones left.


I've always thought God did a good job on me. I ain't ugly and my mind works well enough. I've lived through [....]ty job after [....]ty job, drank enough milk to last me a lifetime, drank enough booze to last me even more. He gave me two good legs, God, I've ran so much, I've ran and I've jogged and I've walked my life away. And I still am in away, afraid to meet the Devil head on. Afraid to be a man and get it over with. But I've got J with me and I'm always a little saner with him around.


The Joint was a rich place for rich bastards. How did that go? Yeah, "Ben Franklin was the only man I ever loved". Bull[....].

"Hello." The devil said, placed his cards face down, and smiled.


"Ready to gamble?"



We played at the Devil's table and took the route of the trash. Drunk and broke, we woke up in a muddy alleyway, birds singing. We were alive, God, we were alive. It's a great feeling, waking up in some sodden alleyway at 7AM, seeing your life throbbing in the gutter. There's nothing quite like it.







So, what do you guys think?

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Great voice and characterization. It felt gritty and the stream of consciousness style added to the story. I got a bit confused in a few spots about who was talking though, but I don't read well on the computer.

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Interesting atmosphere, you get a real sense of the wan and tired days of this guys life. I like the very ending.


Oh and... *laugh* :)

“Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.” – Alan Watts
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Though I am indeed grateful for such sharing and inspiration, the Obsidian fora are not geared toward fanfic. There are indeed many fan fora that can accommodate such creative sharings. Until then ... know that there is much gratitude for this sharing.



The universe is change;
your life is what our thoughts make it
- Marcus Aurelius (161)


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