hey all. here's another installment (in no particular order, sorta like my mind, and my writing style, lol) from my current work-in-progress, tentatively titled 'crescent city blues.' (earlier pieces here, here... shit, just search for the tag crescent city blues.)
tell me what you think!
CRESCENT CITY BLUES
By Kurt Brighton
By Kurt Brighton
Outside the bar, Elmo passed three Jesus Christs in the grubby corridor. They were drinking from green wax Pat O’Brien’s to-go cups and laughing roughly. They had Kool-Aid red stains bleeding down the front of their white tunics, neon bibs of spilled Hurricane and what looked like vomit in one case. The tableau was like a bizarre Christmas hallucination, a nightmare vision from the alcohol-ravaged mind of a former shopping mall Santa.
All three were sweating profusely--on the lower levels of Upstairs, the air-conditioning was generally either broken, under repairs, or else it wasn’t working. The three young men chattered nonsensically amongst themselves, intermittently haranguing passersby, especially those of the female persuasion. The nano programs they were running gave them the standard Jesus look: long wavy hair, soft brown eyes, faces that seemed to glow a preternatural white, as if lit from within. Elmo glimpsed stylized stigmata on their hands--puckered, bleeding wounds that never seemed to close, the lines of them as intricate and detailed as any tattoo.
One stout son of God stood out slightly from the rest. Not only had he opted for a decidedly devilish goatee rather than the usual full beard, he also had his room number etched cleverly on his forehead, written in the blood that ran from his crown of thorns. It read, in red:
Sonesta - 2317 - Ladies Only!
It might have been a really stunning effect, this unholy trinity, if only they kept their mouths shut. But they were all quite drunk, and not shy about it either:
“Show us your tits! As the Son of God, I command you to show us your tits!”
The whooping Christs grew slightly more sedate as a tight pack of riot gear-clad Party Security troops clattered past. Encased in their black armor carapaces, they looked like shiny cockroaches that had somehow discovered bipedality. Elmo quickly stepped aside and found himself next to the Jesuses--or maybe that would be ‘Jesii,’ he thought. The ParSec troops rattled by, their faces obscured by filtered plastic faceguards and goggles, but they hardly even glanced over. The Jesii were paying tourists after all; the cops, and especially ParSec were looking for terrorists intent on disrupting the convention, not run-of-the-mill loaders.
“Principalities and powers, my son,” murmured one of the Christs as he and Elmo watched the troops trot down the corridor.
“We struggle against principalities and powers, ‘the rulers of darkness of this wicked world and all their followers,’” the man continued, gazing thoughtfully after the troops.
“Yeah...uh, right,” Elmo replied.
“These are grim times. A good man must work hard to retain his soul.”
“Not a whole lot of good men left around here, O Lord,” Elmo said. He eyed the suddenly philosophical loader, noting the tell-tale signs of someone running a nano program with standard Cloud-9 enhancers: enlarged pupils, dreamy smile, relaxed breathing.
“That’s where you’re wrong,” the loader said, grinning beatifically. “We have some fight left in us yet.”
“Right. Well, good luck with that,” Elmo said as he made his way into the dark, cool depths of Perdition.
“Bless you my son!” the Jesus called out.
The bar was crowded for a weekday afternoon. It was especially crowded for a dingy bar with all the ambience of a concrete bunker. Perdition was in a relatively obscure corridor, just off the lowest level of the Sonesta wing--the ass-end of Upstairs, the oldest and dingiest section. For neighbors the bar had a couple of rip-off electronics retailers owned by a revolving-door cast of sketchy Eastern European immigrants, rickety beer booths, several spray-painted doors, and a sorry, dilapidated strip joint. It was a grimy, local bar, and generally that’s who hung out there: grimy locals.
But not today.
It was nearly convention time again. In a couple of days it would begin in earnest, but the early birds from The Party had already descended on the Quarter en masse, even infiltrating this obscure bar in the lower reaches of Upstairs. There was also a smattering of locals, along with a few loaders. Year-round, there was an endless stream of visitors infected by the past, by the long-expired romance of the Crescent City. The mythos lived on, but only in caricature form. As they prowled the endless concrete corridors, what the tourists saw was a version of New Orleans as imagined by a Tennessee Williams-smitten matron who lived and breathed the trashiest sort of romance novels, but who never left her house.
What they saw, in short, was New New Orleans, aka Upstairs.