Thursday, February 12, 2009

another 'nuther piece...

...of my sci-fi story. This chapter I think is called "Elmo Awakes." Read the first part here.

I’ve got to figure out how to change the alarm settings on that damn thing, Elmo thought. But the news feed didn’t matter anymore--the sounds of rough laughter and two pairs of feet banging down the staircase pounded the final nail into the coffin of Elmo’s sleep. He slid upward into the sludgy pain of yet another hangover, as familiar as slipping on a poison mask, one that was molded perfectly to his face. He squeezed his eyes shut, curled up tighter and groaned a little.

Until someone pounded on his door.

“Elmo! Wake up, man! You late again!”

His bloodshot eyes flew open, filled with an instant rage. Fucking Tre.

Elmo leapt naked from the sour, twisted sheets, tripping on his way out of the tangle and banging his knee on the floor. Cursing, he half-crawled, half-limped to the flimsy boarding-house door like some kind of wounded crab-thing and flung it open in time to see Tre’s bouncing dreadlocks disappear past the landing below, a giggling girl in tow.

“You’d better run, motherfucker!” Elmo croaked before sinking into paroxysms of wet coughing. He groped his way to the wobbly banister and held on for dear life as the coughing consumed him. Once he gathered himself he peered over the edge to see Tre and a grinning, disheveled blond girl peering up at him from two floors down.

“Damn, Elmo, you about to be the most unemployed-ed white man ever in the history of New New Orleans if you don’t move yo’ ass,” Tre said. “Don’t forget I got you that job, boy! And put on some damn clothes! What’s wrong with you?”

The girl giggled and looked up at him frankly.

“Ain’t nothing wrong with me! Come on back up here and I’ll show you,” Elmo growled. Then he blinked and noticed that what little sun slanted in through the filthy skylight above was nearly vertical. “Hey, what time is it?”

“It’s 11:35: do you know where yo’ job is?” Tre shouted as he and the girl crashed their way laughing through the front door and out onto the street.

“Shit,” said Elmo, blinking.

He stepped back into his room, grabbed a cigarette from a crumpled pack and gingerly made his way toward the bathroom at the end of the hall. The burst of adrenaline he had exerted in chasing after Tre was not customary at this stage of his usual hangover program, and it wasn’t sitting well. His head felt like a melon, a big rotting melon. It felt like you could punch your fingers through the soft skin of it and poke around at the putrid brain matter inside, if you should find yourself wanting to do that for some reason.

Elmo lit his cigarette as he peed no-handed with a reasonable measure of accuracy. Not that accuracy mattered at all in the disgusting rooming house bathroom. When he was done he soaked his head in cold water in the sink. As he splashed the tepid, discolored water across the stubble on his face it occurred to him that it nearly matched the length of the stubble on his head.

I should probably shave sometime, he thought.

On the other hand, why shave if he was most likely about to be fired yet again? No need to impress his soon-to-be ex-boss, especially when he was already two hours late.

He sighed heavily, exuding used bourbon fumes. Here we go again, he thought.

The grizzled mug that blinked back at him was 33, but today it looked like it was leaning more toward middle age. He didn’t live his life any differently than he used to when he was 23 -- the only difference now was that hangovers felt significantly worse. More than ten years worse.

He ducked his head in the water and then shook it off as if he were a dog, spattering the filthy sink and mirror. Then he inserted his now-wet cigarette back into his face and dragged soggily on the damp filter before he gave up and flung it into the toilet. He sighed again and headed back toward his room to get dressed. He had to at least try to salvage his job at The Prodigal Sun, even if it was hopeless. It was a shithole restaurant on the lowest levels of Upstairs, just another corporate cardboard cutout, but they paid under the table and he needed the money. This would likely be the third job he had gone through in as many months, given that he was an hour late.

That, plus the fact that he had yet to make it to work on time since he’d been employed there.

It’s not like Elmo went out of his way to fuck things up; fuck-ups just sort of seemed to... happen around him. They gravitated to him as if he were the King of Fuck-Ups and they his loyal minions. Fuck-ups just wanted to be near their Lord, and bask in His glory. Elmo, being a beneficent sovereign, granted them their wishes as often as possible.

No comments: