Retarded Salmon by Louie Wilkerson

I want to say it’s like trying to pilot a spacecraft through an asteroid field but some science minded guy once told me that asteroid fields aren’t what we think they are; everything’s still really far apart.  So maybe it’s more like a retarded salmon trying to swim upstream, dodging bits of debris that happen to be humans.  Yeah, that’s what it’s like.

I just need to get off this sidewalk, away from all these good people and into Stephanie’s living room.

I arrive at the peeling, cream colored door, barely set back from the harsh corners of red brick.  The steps don’t separate me very far from the foot traffic, but boy they’re high up there – her porch is like standing on the gallows before the drop.  For just that brief moment, I get to be the tallest one around.

I knock a goofy tune so Stephanie knows I’m not the law.

“Hey baby,” I say when I see her cute strawberry face peeking out.  That jolt of red hair on top of her head never stops teasing me.

“Hi Mikey.”  She opens the door to let me pass, then quickly pushes the fresh air back towards the street.  Even though the lights are on, it’s dark inside.

“Have a seat,” she says, gesturing over towards the couch.  I plop myself and kick my feet up on her coffee table.  It’s littered with tin foil, needles and balloons.

“Where’s Angelo,” I ask.  I’ve never seen her do a deal without the large Mexican boyfriend in the room.  At least I think he’s the boyfriend, or maybe he’s just attached to a particular dick she likes.  Maybe that’s where Angelo was right now, in the back room, fitting his pair of jeans back up over his giant Mexican legs and cock.

“How much do you want?”  I look around the apartment and wonder who lived here before Stephanie and who would move in after.  She was a sure target for a bust: silly, red-headed white girl with a Mexican boyfriend, selling tar out of her living room, just off a busy street.  Yeah, she’d be an easy bust.

“Forty,” I tell her.

“You got forty dollars?”

“I got twenty.”

“Then you can get twenty,” she says, pulling out the scale.  Then she gets the tar ball, and I get the biggest boner my dick can manage – twenty two hundred dollars of sweet, sticky, black dope balled up the size of my fist.

“Angelo’s out running errands,” she says.   Before I know what I’m doing, the ball is stuck inside my fist, and I’m out the door.  I hurdle off the gallows, onto the sidewalk and now this retarded salmon is swimming downstream.

It’s just after noon, and the real people, suit-wearers, are out for their lunches.  It’s a crowded stream.  I sprint down the block and around the corner before slowing down.  Don’t want to be the retarded salmon jumping in a grizzly bear’s mouth.  Be unnoticeable – the key to life.

I’ve got my head down, making sure I just get one foot in front of the other.  That’s why I don’t see him.  He doesn’t see me because he’s yelling wildly into the phone and running as fast as his giant Mexican legs will take him.

We head-on each other and I end up splayed on the concrete.  He doesn’t.  I look up at Angelo, towering over and I see it dawn on him.  Then it dawns on me that the giant Mexican cock I was thinking about earlier is now my only way out.  I head-butt it as hard as I can and he tumbles magnificently backwards, Safeway bag spilling kiddy water balloons and diabetic needles for the world to see.

But I flop with him and end up gasping for breath on the sidewalk, staring right through his big Mexican eyes to the hatred boiling behind ‘em.  I scramble to my feet as fast as I can to swim away, find a log to hide under, but I’m snagged.  Goddamnit, he’s got my leg and I just can’t… quite… get… loose.

Board Games by Louie Wilkerson

When I first heard that Grandpa Hank died, I didn’t want to go to no funeral.  But Mama said that kin is kin and I reckon she would have just turned my backside sore if I hadn’t gone.

“Besides,” she said, “they’re divvyin up the fortune.  You want yours don’t you?”

Well now the way I saw it, Grandpa Hank’s treasure was gonna have to go around a mighty large circle before it ever got to me.  Not that any of it should, being the most time I ever spent with him were a few games of backgammon in his kitchen.  Those are good memories of mine, with Grandpa showing me how to play then teaching me to trash talk the family.  He’d kick around at the hollow floor boards and tell me about Aunt Tilly and her drinking, or Uncle Horace’s gambling problem.

When me and Mama got to Grandpa Hank’s old cabin, every swinging dick that had ever known him was there.  Musta been two hundred people spillin out onto the porch.  Thank goodness Mama knows how to talk her way through a crowd, and we got ourselves two seats up front.

Sam the preacher got up by the fire place, reading off a long list of names and items.  I watched Mama get some old jewelry and a Winchester rifle.  Uncle Horace and Aunt Tilly got things too, before stuff started going to folks I’d never heard of.  I was near the bottom of the list, paired with the backgammon board.  My heart was pounding as I walked up to Sam and took the old mahogany set in my hands.  I sat back down and opened it up and let the round polished stones cascade through my fingers.  I pooled them on the soft felt of the board and picked them up to do it again.

When the room around me fell into a hush, I knew they were waiting to hear about the gold.  But I was too excited about my board to care.  Grandpa Hank had remembered me, and that was plenty.  Wasn’t no need for me to go and get greedy.   I had just picked up the hand carved wooden dice when Aunt Tilly shrieked.

“What do you mean there’s no gold?  That’s the only reason we’re here.  The rest is junk.”

Well, I don’t know what Aunt Tilly got, but I certainly didn’t think my board was junk.   I gripped the dice thrower in my hand, turned it over once and felt a tickle run up the palm of my hand.  Turning the small wooden cup over, I pulled out a slip of paper stuck inside.  Without moving my head I stared down at my lap and saw one word written in the same chicken scratch that Grandpa Hank used to keep score with.

Floorboards.