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Pen Your Pride

Eleven

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Lester walked home carrying a couple grocery bags. He didn't need to do much shopping for his food as his salary used to afford him frequent meals out. That changed over the last couple weeks and now he found he desperately needed to stock up on the necessities. An ambulance whizzed by sirens blaring. Not an uncommon occurrence in this part of the city. He found himself whistling to the tune of a song he heard blasting on someones car stereo a few blocks earlier. Seeing the sky turned to shades of pink and orange and purple clouds he picked up his pace. He hated being out on the streets after sundown. Especially in this neighborhood.

When he reached his apartment he fumbled with the bags and keys until he finally managed to get the one he needed out without having to put anything down. He placed the bags on the kitchen counter then returned to the entry way, closed and locked the door. After putting the groceries away he grabbed one of the beers left behind by Lars and melted into his easy chair. For a time he wished he had someone to share in his miserable existence. Someone who would give it up and for a time in their embrace. Who am I kidding? I haven't been on a date in thirty-three months and seventeen days. He thought. Too late in the game to start a relationship now.Maybe when I get out. He then dwelled on the very real possibility of becoming someones prison bitch. "No." He shook his head. "I can't think about that."He said to the empty apartment walls. He resolved instead to drown his thoughts with the half a case of beer at his disposal. The beer didn't last long but it achieved his goal of dulling his senses. So much so that getting out of the chair seemed an insurmountable challenge. After his fifth attempt to get up he gave up and passed out in his chair.

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Jackie drove forty-five minutes out of the city and into the suburbs through terrible rush hour traffic. Her phones GPS lead her into a neat,perfect, little neighborhood of identical houses and near copied and pasted landscaping. She parked on the side of the street and stood on the corner of the two streets indicated in the text from Mackey. Across the street, kitty corner from her, a half dozen young adults stood around chatting idly. She wondered whether or not she should be standing with them. In the distance she heard the song of an ice cream truck.

She checked the clock on her phone. Fifteen minutes remained until the appointed time. Down the street she saw a school bus rounding a corner and headed toward her. A few minutes later the bus stopped in front of the parents across from her and disgorged several elementary aged passengers. United with their children the young adults dispersed,each going their own separate way. The ice cream truck music grew closer.

Jackie checked her phone again impatiently then decided to check her e-mail while she waited. Nothing new popped up aside from a notification from one of the dating sites informing her she'd received a new message from someone. She looked up from her phone and watched the ice cream truck roll to a stop in from of her. A young black man got up from the drivers seat and leaned out the side window.

"555-3317?" He asked.

"Excuse me?"Jackie replied stepping forward.

"Are you 555-3317?" He repeated.

"That's my phone number. My name is..."

He cut her off, "No names. You got the money?"

Jackie produced an envelope from her purse and handed it to him. He popped it up and thumbed through the stack of bills inside. He tossed the envelope on the front seat then pulled a box of Popsicles out of the freezer which he passed to her.

"What's this?"Jackie asked turning the sealed box of Cherry Blast flavored Pistol Pops over in her hands.

"You wanted something that goes bang. That's what you get. Mackey makes the world go boom." She starts to open it but he stops her. "Not out here.Wait till you're in your car or better yet till you're at home." He climbed back into the drivers seat and pulled off leaving her very confused.

Jackie returned to her vehicle, looked around to be sure no one was around, then ripped open the flaps at one end of the box. Inside she found a pair of MAC11 machine pistols and half a dozen spare magazines. She pushed the flaps back closed and set the box in the passenger seat. I guess I'm really doing this. She thought as she turned the key in the ignition.

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Emma sat next to Spoony on the couch idly flipping through channels looking for something to watch. Spoony looked up to the TV and said,"Will you just pick something already?" before returning to counting stacks of money. Finally she settled on a new episode of Deathwatch. "How can you wash this trash?"

"I think it's funny." Emma answered.

"It's fake."

"That's why it's funny."

"That's why it's trash."

"Obviously enough people disagree with you since this is their third season."

"Just because the world is full of idiots doesn't change the fact that they are idiots."

"You think everyone is an idiot." Emma pulled her legs up curling into a tight ball in her seat.

" I have a lot of experience dealing with people. I know an idiot when I see one." Spoony placed a large stack of cash on the table and sparked up a joint.

"You have a lot of experience dealing to addicts. That's not the same as dealing with normal people."

"What would you know about the difference between an addict and a so called normal person?" He blew out a plume of smoke. "I'll tell you what I know. Everyone is addicted to something."

Emma didn't bother with a response. Never mind the fact that she served more people in a day as a waitress than he did pushing on the streets. She just didn't want the argument to escalate. She sat there silently watching her show, not really paying much attention, when her phone chirped at her signifying a new text message. She pulled out her phone and checked it.

"Who the fuck is that?" Spoony asked sharply.

"It's Stephanie from work. She wants to know if I will cover for her tomorrow morning." She lied, looking down at the message from Josh which read:

[Tell Spoony I got his message.]

[What message?] she typed out hastily.

"What did you tell her?"

"I told her I'm not working a double with a damn good reason." She got up, placed her phone in her pocket then headed toward the hall.

"Where are you going?" Spoony asked.

"Bathroom."She responded just before entering the bathroom. She sat down on the edge of the bath tub and silenced her phone so Spoony wouldn't hear it go off again. A second later another message popped up. It contained only a photo which depicted Joshes beaten, battered, and bruised face. Emma stared at it, first in disbelief, then with indignation. She couldn't believe Spoony would do such a thing but then realized he was not above having someone else do it for him.After staring at the picture for several minutes all she could muster was a simple

[I'm sorry.]

She started to cry not knowing what to do about this new situation. She couldn't confront him because that meant admitting to her encounters with Josh at work, but then again he obviously already knew,otherwise he wouldn't have had someone attack Josh. The tears rolled down her cheeks and she wiped them away. She stood up and checked herself out in the mirror. She spent what seemed like an eternity trying to pull herself together to no avail. Finally she gave up,wiped away all her now ruined make up, and resigned herself to hiding in bed so Spoony would leave her alone.

"She made sure to get all the welling tears from her eyes, took a deep breath, and exited the bathroom. She walked down the hall into the living room. "I'm going to bed." She told Spoony.

"You forgot to flush." Spoony responded without bothering to look at her.

Shit. She thought. "Good night." She quickly went to the bathroom and flushed the toilet then retreated to bed where she carefully deleted the texts from Josh.

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