Tuesday, April 10, 2012
A pile of laundry tossed against the cold stone staircase, at least it looked like that until the sun began to shine on it. Like a lizard sunning itself, Terry slowly began to move. He had survived another night. Struggling to his feet, he wipes away the brown and kaleidoscope in his eyes. A chill shook him down to his core making his hands feel like they would break off. The muscles along his abdomen clinched uncontrollably as what little there wanted to be set free.
“Jesus. Where am I?”
Wiping the spit from his face, he reached down and felt for his pants. Still there. Better than the last time. It wasn’t that good and he nodded off. It scared the crap out of him when the cop’s baton touched him down there. The girl wasn’t anywhere in sight, either. Just another day. He ended up leaving he jail in the jumpers he had been booked in with. Bastards couldn’t even find a donated shirt. A bit of sadness set in. Mama would have been proud.
No, she wouldn’t. She wrote him off a long time ago. She really couldn’t take the dope.Didn’t like the money disappearing and having to bail him out. Finally, she told him to get lost and he did. Didn’t matter. She’s dead. Someone told him that. Never did confirm it, though. And he really didn’t want to, either. The last he thing he remembered was the warehouse, dancing with the tranny in the pink dress. Lido Shuffle floated through the air, Boz Scaggs’ voice thumping in his head in between cramps. He/she wasn’t all that bad looking in the low light. Blonde with thin legs and whiskey voice. Someone said she was dealing White and he wanted to trade. He couldn’t remember if they did. All he could remember were the lights. There was a girl doing lines off a baby changing station. Why the fuck was there one of those in a bar? Like anyone would bring an infant to a rave? The vision of a black guy was jawing about being bumped, then, something hitting him. Everything kind of spun and this is where he landed. Always an adventure when you fly.
“Got to get a hit. Damn.”
Reaching into his pocket of his spotted shirt, he found a rock. Anybody got a pipe? Fuck it. He wanted smack anyway, not crack. A little ditty started playing in his head.
Smack and Crack
Down on his Luck
Here he comes
In through the muck.
Stumbling headlong into a bush next to the wall, the nausea had its way. Translucent fluid tinged with red issued forth. The smell reminded him of the dead hooker in the alley. Already swelling, the edges of her nipples were peeking out over the halter. She looked like some discarded Barbie doll. He moved pretty damn quickly. If the cops found him anywhere around there, he was going to get blamed for it. Another score as the black sheep of the family.
Smack and Crack
Down on his Luck
Here he comes
In through the muck.
The stones were cold against his face. The wall with the staircase that went to the heavens looked a hundred feet tall. The old buildings across the street waved and dipped in front of his eyes. Factors Walk? Yeah. So, where are all the tourists? He couldn’t see the sun. Stumbling on a cobblestone, he landed face first. Blood began to pour out of his nose and he put his sleeve up to stop it. It hurt to lift his arm. Lord, another cyst. If he wasn’t careful, he was going to end up like the hooker.
Smack and Crack
Down on his Luck…
Cold. It was going to get ugly soon. How long had he rolled, anyway? Last Tuesday, maybe? Fuck, he didn’t know. Maybe he should taper? Nah. Need a hit. He reached to the back pocket. No wallet. It wasn’t the first time. It was almost like his dead mother was reaching down to cut him off. Maybe he could call his…? No. They said they would shoot him if they saw him. Maybe…? Nah, she’s dead. How about…
Another stone reached up and grabbed his foot, pitching him into a Mercedes that was parked in one of the old wagon bays. The car floated to the beat of the loud alarm. Fuck. He stumbled back around the corner of the building to see if the cops came. Damn, why does it always have to be so hard?
The wall rotates until it becomes the waterfront. It came closer to him. What am I? A puppet pulled by strings? A shape slowing comes into focus. The Waving Lady. Good. The dealer up the ramp always has good stuff. How to pay? Guess it’s time to put on the old charm…
The bronze woman was dancing on the concrete stand. A sound like a dolphin whistle was coming from the haze around the statue. He looked down and blinked. A girl? The statue moved a bit closer. Yes, definitely a girl and it looked like she was topless. Awesome, a free show. But something was different about her. Most people ran away or got a cop when he approached. But this one didn’t seem to be moving at all.
“Got any change?”
As soon as the words escaped his mouth, he saw the fin. Huh? A mermaid? Have I really gotten that far? Didn’t matter, he needed the hit or he was going to die anyway. So why not dream up a fucking mermaid? Maybe she can lead me some undersea treasure.
“Uh... are you real?”
She looked up at him and stared. In a flutelike voice, she answered.
“Yes. I have come to visit my mother’s memorial. Funny, when I come, no one ever notices me.”
The musical sound seemed to warm him and make him forget his mission. She made a slight clicking sound as she finished.
“Yeah, most of the tourists don’t pay much attention to anything than getting the next trinket. I used to buy T-Shirts wholesale and come out here to make a quick buck. And the locals tend to stay far away from here unless they have family visiting. But, you didn’t say whether you had change.”
That got a laugh.
“No money in the water. It would just fall to the bottom. My father used to sneer at the floaters when they would drop during storms. The nasty men screaming for their mothers. He would say ‘serves them right trying to exploit the sea.’ And there would be all the pretty metal.”
He felt warmer. The haze seemed to be lifting, but the Mermaid was still there. Wait. She said she was there to visit her mother’s memorial? That didn’t make any sense. All he ever heard about the Waving Lady is she liked the sailors coming in to port. He remembered there was some old legend about her. But he couldn’t remember exactly what it was.
“You said ‘your mother’s memorial.’ But you are…”
“A Mermaid. Yes. Mother lived over on the island there down to your right. She would set up her supply station and wave at the boats as they came up and down the river. Her brother was with her out on the island, but one day he died. The supply station became her sole support and responsibility.”
He remembered his mother talking about the Waving Lady he was little. Mama used to say she touched in the head and the old wives’ tale about it being good luck to be waved in and out of port by her. She always spat the words out. Like she was some hooker or something. He never thought it was fair. But what did he know? She’d been long gone before he came around.
“You mother was the Waving Lady?”
“Yes. She used to tell me she would wave to the boats to make them aware the supply station was open. She had heard the whispers of the sailors and whether it was good luck to be waved in. She thought it was laughable. “
“She was very sad and alone after Brother died. My mother would swim out here in the river most every summer. It was a much simpler time back then. Many times she would go naked down to the water, it was how she liked to bathe. No one would ever see her because it was early in the morning before the tug captains started work. One day, a storm came up while Mother was outside and she was caught by the wind. She went headlong into the water. Struggling to get back to the surface, her dress kept dragging her down. She told me she felt a slick thing come up from under her and she took it. It brought her back to the surface near her dock and she noticed it was a dolphin.”
“She was as confused as you are now. The dolphin clicked and whistled and Mother understood. Father had seen her and wished her to join him. Not having anything to lose, she stripped off her wet things and went back into the water. She swam beside for a bit, but she couldn’t keep up. The Dolphin then came under her and lifted her again to the surface. Joined, the journey lasted well into the night. The sounds of flutes and clicking followed them though the harbor. Waking on the beach as the sun rose, the sky was a hundred colors. And that is how I became.”
He was silent. What do you say to someone who is half chick and half fish? A chill came up through his toes and he remembered what he came for. He needed smack and soon. He coughed.
“How did you end up alone?”
A long silence followed. Like a radio signal was fading into the night. A tear hit the sidewalk as she began to speak again.
“Father never liked me. He was ashamed that he made a half breed and could never understand how the humans worked. All he knew was to swim and fight.” She began to sob. “Father would bump me hard enough to kill me, but I would always manage to get to the surface. Finally, I quit swimming in the pod. I see him now and then, but he always turns away. “
“I sort of understand. I’ve haven’t seen my family so long, I forgotten what they look like.”
“Really? Why?” She asked
“I like to … well... I’m not a very good person.” It was Terry’s turn for sad silence.
She didn’t need to answer. She reached out and touched his rough skin. He stood and took her hand. It was their time. As they disappeared into the water, all the hurt that was disappeared, along with them.
Terry’s body was found a few hours later down by the dealer’s ramp.
No one claimed him.
He truly was alone.