Castles Made of SandbyRiven___Caulfield©
ONE: A SIMPLE FAVOUR
Sleep. Sleep is good. The warm, comfortable, soft cocoon of my own bed wrapping around me like a world apart. No cold. No noise except for the blood in my ears. I don't know how long I'd been like that. It could have been days. Safe in the dark. Silent and whole.
But the earthquake blast of the door opening. But the lights exploding on. But the rough, uncut voice of my father shredding my ear canal;
"You been smokin' them marijuana cigarettes, Boy?"
His breath reeked of tequila already. Mom left four years ago and never looked back, due to my father's various domestic addictions. His daily regiment reads like a shopping list in my head;
ALCOHOL: tequila; six ounces of
beer; eight bottles of
CAFFEINE: coffee; two cups of
pills; three caplets of
VALIUM: three capsules of.
TOBACCO: one and one-half packs a day of
AMYTAL SODIUM: three caplets (the 200 milligram kind) of
The irony seeps in as I deny my own psychotropic tendencies.
"Don't give me that shit. What's wrong with your eyes?"
"I forgot to take my contacts out last night. They hurt pretty bad."
Please let him be too drunk to remember…
"You don't wear contacts."
"Get your ass up and make lunch for your sister."
"Don't give me any attitude, kid."
I consider packing a bowl. This day isn't looking up.
I had lunch to make.
'Kid'? I'm nineteen.
I go and take a shower. I am still stoned; the water is woman. A smooth, invisible woman sliding over my body. Caressing that place between my crotch and my leg with a long, warm finger. I get out and towel off before my wood reaches full mast; I have lunch to make.
Baby steps. Do your hair. American Crew Quality Grooming Products for Men "STYLING GEL" in big capitol letters. "Firm hold" in tiny ones beneath. Don't ask me how I can afford it. A gentle, clean and light earthy smell as I randomly craft my coif into a pleasing mess of spikes and dark curls.
Baby steps. Get dressed. Black, soft dress pants from Hugo Boss. Don't ask. A crisp white dress shirt from Buffalo with the invisible buttons and dress pocket. Retailed for $95.00. I buy them just so I can wear them with wrinkles and no hems. Don't ask me how.
Baby steps. Get downstairs.
Baby steps. Get to the kitchen.
Baby - The phone was ringing. Baby steps. Pick up the phone.
"Charlie?" …it was a woman.
"Who's this?" I said.
"It's Alanna." Alanna… …what?
"Oh, right, Alanna." Who the fuck was Alanna?
"I just wanted to thank you for last night," she said. "I had a really good time."
"My pleasure." …what the Hell was she talking about. But she kept on talking.
"So Madeline and I were wondering what you were doing tonight."
"I hadn't decided yet." …who the fuck was ALANNA?
"Well, we were wondering if you wanted to come pick us up again. It was really nice of you to show us around when Sully couldn't last night."
…I don't have a car. Sully – my older brother. Sully called me up at like 10:00 last night and told me about these two chicks he'd promised to take out last night. Told me something had come up, and could I take care of them? Right… Alanna, our cousin by marriage. Perfect Uncle Steve's stepdaughter. Madeline, her best friend. In town staying with our uncle on their summer vacation. Riiight…. What the Hell did we do last night?
"Uh, yeah that sounds cool," I said. "Lemmie get your address again."
Baby steps. Find a pen. …still stoned.
Baby steps. A shopping list;
- One-Oh-Three Dunkirk St. (uncle Steve's place)
- Two women.
- GOOD TIMES HAD BY ALL.
I hang up the phone and slip the paper into my pocket. BANG, BANG, BANG! My little sister bounds down the stairs and crashes onto the landing.
"Afternoon, Chuck." Fuck her and her big brown eyes.
"I hate it when you call me 'Ains'." Fuck her and her A-plus average.
"S'okay; I hate it when you call me 'Chuck'."
The phone rings again.
"So what's for lunch?" she asks. Fuck her and all her potential. Baby steps. Pick up the phone.
"Domino's," I say. I think I'm clever.
"Charlie?" It's Sully.
"Hey, Sull. What happened last night?"
"Fuck last night, we have to talk about today."
I tell him, "fuck today, tell me about last night."
"Last night I got busted. This is my one phone call."
The vacum of space encloses me. Nothing exists. Not those two women Not my little sister chirping in my ear. Not my father. Sully got busted last night. I'm not stoned any more.
"What do you need?" My so-called resolve becomes tense.
"I need to you to go into your room. Take a screwdriver and open up the air vent. Inside is a key to a storage locker at the airport."
"Do you want me to tell Dad?" My gut tightens along with my so-called resolve.
"Are you stoned right now?"
"Good. Get the key, go to the airport. There's more there. I'm counting on you, kid. You're my boy."
He's counting on me. I'm his boy.
"I'm there," I tell him, "anything else you need?"
"No. They got nothin'. That's why I need you to do this thing for me so they won't get nothin' else."
…no… wait… I'm still stoned. What the fuck was he talking about?
"Sully," I say, "what's going on?"
"Nothin', and it'll stay that way if you get your ass down to the airport and figure out what you need to do."
"What am I gonna' figure out there?"
"STUFF I CAN'T TELL YOU OVER THE PHONE, SO GET YOUR ASS DOWN THERE AND QUIT GIVIN' ME THIS SHIT, CHUCK!"
…I hate it when people call me 'Chuck'.
"No problem," I say, "I'm on it."
Hang up the phone. Look at your little sister. All cute and perfect in her little sweater set. All perfect and adorable in her sensible yet styleish haircut. All adorable and smiling in all her potential and all her awards and not having any idea that worlds are going on around her.
In her world, she'll be getting an IT degree and making $110,000.00 a year in Silicone Valley. Her business casual wear. Her 2.5 children. Her sensitive stay-at-home husband. Big screen TV. SUV. DVD.
In my world our older brother had just been busted for possession. Maybe even dealing.
Fuck her lunch. I have shit to do.
Did you know that if you mix equal parts of styrofoam and gasoline with a half-part of oil, you can make plastic explosive?
I learned that from Sully.
True to his word, the key is in the air vent in my room. How long it had been in there, I have no idea, but a good layer of dust had gathered on top of it. I have shit to do.
Baby steps. Light a cigarette. De-stress.
Baby steps. Get a jacket on. A black leather tuxedo jacket from an independent designer. Don't ask.
Baby steps. Hop a bus.
Baby steps. Get off at the airport.
Baby steps. Find the storage locker.
Baby steps. Stick the key in. Fits like lovers.
Take a deep breath.
Baby steps. Open the box.
Take a deep breath.
Realize you should have worn the overcoat with the booster pocket. Put the letter in your breast pocket. Put the stack of money in your jacket. Casually. Don't turn around. Don't look to see. Fold up the map and put it in your pants pocket. Put the set of keys in your pants pocket. Take a deep breath. Don't turn around. Don't look. Take the cell phone. Stick the gun in your pants. Casually. Close the locker.
Baby steps. Get the fuck outside and light a cigarette.
Tear open the letter.
Nervous puffs of tobacco. Shaky fingers fumbling with a piece of paper. Plain, Times New Roman typeface:
Thanks for coming through. That locker key has been in your air vent since Christmas 2000. You're my contingency plan, kid.
Don't bother to count the money – it's five thousand in tens, twenties and fifties. It's yours. The keys are an extra set for the Lincoln, and the red key is for the grow house.
It's a day and a half drive away. The map will take your straight to it.
Here's what I need you to do:
Get to the grow house and pack it up. Everything. Clear it out. Blow it up, I don't care. Try to save the product if you can.
The gun is already loaded – the safety's off. It's just in case. There's two extra clips in the glove box of the Lincoln – fifteen rounds each. The number of the cell phone is 555-0801. I'll call you on it if I get out early.
If all goes well, by the time you get back here, I'll be out and we'll be smokin' a fatty on the beach in Miami.
Stay cool, kid. You always were my best dealer.
Hop a bus. Flirt with the girl across from me. Brunette with a bob. Blue eyes and a hundred-watt smile. Don't think. Just do. Get a number. Lose it out the window.
Get off at Sully's apartment building. When you're golden everything glows.
The Lincoln was fifteen feet or so of black convertible luxury. Long, sleek, classic lines with black leather bucket seats. Chrome so bright it hurts your eyes and 450 horses. I wonder if I had used Sully's car to pick up the girls last night.
Slip into the driver's seat.
Get that fuckin' gun out of your pants and stick it in the glove box with the two clips and the baggie of pot. I consider packing a bowl.
I have shit to do.
Start the engine. 450 horses. Roars like a lion, purrs like a kitten.
It's 8:30 at night already. I'm pulling out of the parking lot and the cell phone goes off. Sully.
"Hey Sully." …how the fuck do you turn on a cell phone? "Hello? Sully?"
Hit a button random button. And another and another. The cell phone beeps a little beep. "Sully?"
"Hello?" It was Alanna again.
"How did you get this number?"
"Sully gave it to me last night. He said I could get you on it today."
…he must have had some early warning before they busted him.
"Alright," I say, "what's up?"
"Well, you're a half-hour late."
Shit. I completely forgot.
"Don't worry, I just had some stuff to do. I'm on my way."
"Really," she says. She doesn't believe me.
"Hey, it's not like I'd forget about you."
I can deal with the grow house tomorrow. I remember Alanna now. Cousin by marriage. A certifiably cool woman. A doctorate in being hot. Honorary degree in worming her way into guy's minds. The tenant of any man's wet dreams – occasionally late with the rent but impossible to evict. All green eyes and wavy blond hair. She was golden.
I stop by the house to change jackets and put Sully's cache into a safe place before heading out. The phone rings again.
"Charlie? It's Jason." Jason. Jason was a semi-rival dealer from the West End. We'd gone to junior high together, and when he was low on product he bought off me on occasion.
"I need a half an ounce."
"I'm gonna' be a little busy for the next few days," I say. "Call Alan."
"Alan's out too. The city's pretty dry."
"Listen, unless you want to meet me out on the highway tomorrow, I can't do anything for you."
"Where on the highway?"
…he was serious.
"Fine… meet me out by the south perimiter highway tomorrow. Let's say noon."
"Noon? Cool. Thanks Chuck, I owe you one."
…I hate it when people call me 'Chuck'. Well, I have shit to do.
Deal with the Grow House tomorrow.
TWO: THE OIL AND THE GOLD
The rumble of The Lincoln's engine conjures up an image of a giant ball studded with razor blades rolling down the street. Roaring down the street. Impossible to stop – not that you'd want to try.
It comes to an easy stop in front of One-Oh-Three Dunkirk Street. The Blue House. Uncle Steve's place.
I hop out and make my way up to the front door.
It's less a house than a mansion.
Uncle Steve opens the door. His skin-and-bones frame barely filling out the golf shirt. Uncle Steve with his straight priorities and healthy eating habits and sensible haircut and 2.5 children. Miserable Old Perfect Uncle Steve.
"Is Alanna here?"
He just looked me up and down.
"You're that fuckin' stoner boy of Jerry's."
"Yes Sir, I am," I grin. He's not impressed. I think I'm clever. "Would you like some?"
"I'll be fucked if I'm letting my daughter hang out with the likes of you."
"I thought she was your stepdaughter," I remind him. Cousin by marriage.
He goes to shut the door. "…fuckin' stoner." Slam.
Dad had told me stories about Uncle Steve. Steve was a closet alcoholic in university. I hate hypocrites. I walk over to his shiny PT Cruiser and let the shiny air out of the shiny tires as I star-sixty nine the cell phone and call his shiny daughter. I was out front. Would she and Madeline like to join me?
Uncle Steve's roars of disapproval weren't quite enough to stop Madeline and Alanna from slipping into The Lincoln with me. His vows of police action weren't enough to stop me as I pulled out of the driveway and cruised away.
And the women were laughing. They are slumming with me. I am a vacation from their big houses and SUVs and gentlemen of great expectations. And I am their new summer home. I am their dirty little beach house, splattered with oil that ruins the beach and slaughters the ecosystem from the tanker that perverts the sunset over the stagnant lake. I am not shiny. I am their vacation.
"What're we doing tonight?" Madeline asks me from the back seat. I want to muck them up.
"Something dirty," I say. I want to strip away all their make-up and their political correctness and remind them the world is cold and dark and nothing you want to smile for.
I drive us to the Quarry.
The Quarry is an old stripmining operation about a half-hour outside of town. Now it was abandoned by the big companies – taken under the wing of some conservationist society bent on reminding people how precious nature is. How important this unique ecosystem is. How special and important and special specialness it is.
I park at the edge of one of the man-made cliffs and turn off the headlights. The imperfect, near-full moon reflects off the makeshift lake below, the rain collecting in the rock of the quarry and having nowhere else to go. It shines up on us and gives our faces a pale glow. I smile to Alanna in the gentle light of the dashboard.
Perhaps it was that I was so tired, or just the dim light. The imperfect near-full moon. Her shiny high-life face a little spark of special unique specialness in all this shit.
"What are we doing here?" she grins, as if she doesn' already know. When you're golden everything glows.
I don't answer. I get out of The Lincoln and hop up onto the hood and light a joint.
Soon enough they get the clue and follow suit. Alanna to the left of me, Madeline to the right.
"…here I am, stuck in the middle with you…" I sing to myself. And the women are laughing.
Soon enough I'm laughing too. Soon enough I've taken the time to actually look at Madeline.
Madeline, with her brand-new pre-faded jean jacket. Tight khaki-coloured capri pants. Little tank top with her little breasts. Madeline, with her thick-rimmed glasses and shy smile. Her curly dark hair. Her little nose and hundred-watt smile. When you're golden everything glows.
She kisses me, breathing THC-laced smoke into my mouth as she does, and rolls the joint back onto my fingers, smiling a little fifty-watter as she leans back and looks out to the Quarry.
She says she can feel the past. She says she it's the ghosts of the things that used to live here. Before it got stripmined. She says they want her.
"Madeline's a lightweight," Alanna explains as I roll the joint over to her. But I don't think so. I think Madeline's in touch with something Alanna' can't find yet. She's close.
"Your problem," I say to Madeline, "is you don't see how unimportant you are."
The women laugh.
"You're an asshole," Alanna says to me. I'm stoned now. And she's gorgeous.
"No one's important. Nothing is," I tell them.
"Then what's the point of anything?" Madeline says.
"There is no point," I say. "Nothing. Nothing we do is important. Nothing we want is important. Not your fuckin' pre-faded jean jacket or your father's SUV or your university or your life. We're all dead. The world will keep on spinning, even if you're golden." I take another hoot. I smile to myself. I think I'm clever.
Madeline kisses me again. I breath smoke. And she smiles. I kiss her back.
"Maybe," Madeline says, "your problem is you don't see how special you are."
I've got a half-hardon. I'm beginning to want to agree with her. I wonder how far the gold would go if she were placated.
"This thing's almost toast," Madeline says. And do I think I could get another hoot off it?
I do, and lean in to my cousin my marriage. She's unsure for a moment.
"I'm not special," I tell her, and kiss her full on. She freezes, then loosens as I breath the smoke deep into her. She inhales, and breaths out a light steam, grinning a hundred-twenty watts.
I lay back on the hood and look up at the imperfect near-full moon. Madeline stretches out next to me, and soon her curls are resting on my shoulder, a hand on my chest.
"I think you're special Charlie," she says. She kisses my cheek. I remain still. I want to see how far she'll go. My hardon is disagreeing with me.
"What if he's right?" I hear Alanna say. "What if nothing's important?"
I don't answer. I light a cigarette. The acrid smoke hits the back of my throat and slips past to my lungs, and my high lunges higher.
"Then Doug doesn't matter," Madeline answers. Her fingers slip between the buttons on my shirt and lightly caress my chest. They're freezing from the night air, little slips of ice dancing over my skin. But my dick presses harder against my pants. I wonder who Doug is.
Madeline undoes the top button on my shirt.
"Madeline…," Alanna says. Alanna doesn't understand. Madeline needs to forget about her GPA and her nifty little sports car. She needs to remember how unimportant everything is.
"I'm not special," I say again. The pot and Madeline's hands have moved me off the hood of the car to somewhere better. Somewhere with a perfect full moon and night air that doesn't stink of the factories a half-hour away. Somewhere golden.
And I can feel someone stroking my cock. I hadn't noticed them open my fly. Madeline is kissing me, and I feel the weight on the hood shift. Alanna has removed herself. I hear the car door slam behind us as Madeline's tongue slips past my lips and touches mine.
The car's engine roars to warm life beneath us and jazz suddenly comes on the speakers in the car. And Madeline is jerking my cock. I hear the distant "shink" and "foomp" of a Zippo, and I smell the sweet first plume of smoke from Alanna's cigarette. She just wants to get out of here.
I am aware. Madeline's hair falling around my face smell of fruits and is heavy with the scent of hair pomade. I finally move, letting a hand run through her curls and holding her to me as we kiss. And Madeline is jerking my cock. I pull off her pre-faded designer jean jacket and she grins until I toss it over the edge of the quarry into the lake below. She looks at me like I just shot Kennedy.
"Nothing's special," I tell her. She tears off my jacket and tosses it in with her coat. I smile. Her tank top, her special little capri pants fly off the edge of the abyss. So far down we can't hear the splash over the jazz Alanna's using to drown us out.
Soon I'm standing beside the hood with my face buried in her crotch. Her perfectly trimmed and styled bush is matted and scraggly as my tongue methodically spells out the alphabet on her clit. A hand grips her slim ass and another holds her stomach down as she bucks against my face.
"Oh fuck…" she yells out.
The jazz music gets louder.
"Don't… don't… oh fuck…" her tiny hands grip my mess of hair and crush my face into her pussy. "Don't you… don't you… Jesus Charliiieeee!" She screams out something. I don't know if it's a word. It's just a noise. She bucks wildly against my head as her juice pours down her thighs and my throat, and suddenly goes slack. She breathes heavy. Her tiny tits heaving up and down, her nipples peaky in the cool night air. Her perfect curls a mess over her perfect face. Her perfect skin mottled red with passion. A perfect hundred-watt grin on her face. The woman was laughing.