Archive for April, 2021



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Doughboy was easy to spot, overhead lights glinting off the big round shiny dome of his head like some sort of urban distress signal. Low on energy? See the Doughboy. Can’t sleep? See the Doughboy. Can’t face life without a crutch? See the Doughboy. Too much pain? See the Doughboy.

Business must be slow, Frank thought, the Doughboy all alone in a booth kind of hunched over and disheveled, looking like he needed a friend. And that gave Frank an idea, the universe finally opening up with a game plan and laying out the procedures.

The Filling Station, set pretty much in the middle of the Central Hillside, was the focal point of the neighborhood and one reason Frank always disliked coming here. There was a lot of overlap in the customer base and you never knew when someone you had to punch out at the Metropole might decide on payback while you were off your guard drinking and socializing and having a good time at the Filling Station.

Striding down the aisle toward the Doughboy, nodding to familiar faces and gesturing to the bartender, Skimmer Mancini, older guy rumored to be buying the place, Frank was fighting the urge to snap his finger into the back of Loy’s balloon of a head. But then he saw the pale mountain of flesh quiver and begin to rise up from the booth like a not-so-great white whale. Frank watched the creature struggle out of the booth and stagger and sway toward the men’s room at the back of the bar. Halfway there the Doughboy formed a gun with the thumb and forefinger of his pudgy right hand and placed the finger against his head.

When Doughboy flicked his thumb three times like he was shooting himself in the head and then disappeared behind the restroom wall, Frank got the message. Old Mister Doughboy was feeling a tad self-destructive tonight.

Frank slid into the empty booth on the opposite side from where Loy had been. A few minutes later Frank heard a scratchy, incoherent whine coming from behind him and then saw the man himself dripping down into the booth like a melting candle, everything sagging. Frank gave Mr. Loy a nice deep smile, phony as a three-dollar bill. “How’s it hangin’, Doughboy,” he said, “got anything I might be interested in tonight?”

Doughboy’s chin rose slowly like the opening of a coffin lid in an old vampire movie. The slits for eyes slowly widened, going from hazy to stark and staring, in an instant. “Frank, I didn’t expect to see you here. In a place like this, I mean.”

“This is my neighborhood bar, Maynard, the place I met my former girlfriend. This bar carries a lot of nostalgia for me. Now you gonna answer my question?”

“What question was that, Frank?”

“Come on, Maynard, wake the fuck up. What you got for sale, tonight? Ups, downs, narcotics—what?”

“That’s not your bag, Frank. Even I know that. You’re just fuckin’ with me. Loads of fun torturing the fat guy, right? Ray was the same fuckin’ way except he was too small to pull it off.”

“Afraid you’d sit on him I bet, eh, Maynard? But I am not here to torment, only to seek shelter from the storm. What’re you holding, man, come on?”

“Nothing, Frank. I was expecting someone to show up and they haven’t yet. But you never know what might turn up here if you wait around until close.”

Maynard out of product on a weekend night? Something was in the wind.

“Well then, Maynard, this is your lucky night. I just may have the answer to your prayers. I was going through Ray’s shit at his old apartment the other day and I ran across a little stash of his. Actually, it’s not little, man, it’s an entire shaving bag full of pills: reds, yellows, capsules, tablets, shrink wrapped stuff, bottles… a real pharmaceutical horn of plenty. Probably a gift from his former wife.”

Loy’s face was turning pink now. “Come on, Frank, what’re you trying to pull? Everybody knows you hate that stuff. And I’m sure the cops gave Ray’s place a complete shakedown, so stop fuckin’ with me and go bother someone else to get your sick kicks.”

“Doughboy, my man, I appreciate your caution. Didn’t expect it, believe me, but this time your instincts are failing you. You heard that I quit the Metropole, I assume. And now my day job is on hiatus, so I really need the fuckin’ money. And, you see, I knew where Ray stashed his shit. Little bro had a hidey-hole under some loose bricks in the fireplace. Come on, this stuff is right up your alley. We can both make some hay here.”

“All right then, let me see what you got.”

“I didn’t bring it in here for Christ sake. You gotta car?  We can go over to my place, it’s only three blocks from here.”

Doughboy’s face scrunched up and his eyelids began to flutter. “Well, I dunno about that, I’m kinda fucked up.”

“Consumed the last of your product, eh? No problem man, I got something’ll fix you right up. Up, down, sideways, inside out… whatever way you need to go I’m sure I got something will fill the bill. So whattaya say, let’s go and have a look, the night is still young. You can get yourself right and be back here for the witching hour if we make haste.”

Drug lust motivating him, Doughboy stood up. “Let’s go then, Ford,” he said. “Let’s make some haste.”

Frank followed Loy out to the parking lot and a dark green Dodge four-door from the late sixties. Ugly car with rust around the wheel wells and spots on the doors looked like blasts from a rust-shooting shotgun. Getting in the passenger side, Frank’s feet crunched down on a pile of empty potato chip and Cheeto bags, candy bar wrappers and grease-stained fast-food bags. Craning his neck to the backseat while Loy struggled in behind the steering wheel, Franks saw an even larger collection of similar debris covering the floor and the rear seat cushions. Whole damn car stunk like a landfill on a hot summer day.

Loy cranked the ignition and the engine fired. It was loud as hell. Had to be a hole in the muffler or no muffler at all. “Jesus, Maynard,” Frank said, “Aren’t you afraid of getting stopped in this thing? Not too smart to carry dope when your car sounds like a stock car.”

“Which allows me to fit right in perfectly in this part of town, Frank. Zenith cops don’t seem to pay it any mind.”

“At least until they need an excuse to pull you over. But I guess it’s your choice, Maynard, being a grown man and all.”

Loy gave Frank a look before pulling down the shift lever and driving out of the parking lot. “Which way?” he said at the intersection of Fourth Street and Fifth Avenue East.

“Come on, Maynard, you know the way. I’m sure you and Artie have been by my place before.”

“Never been there, Frank, swear to god. Why would we do that?”

“Okay, never mind. Play it that way if you need to. Go over to Third Avenue and take a right, I’m in the alley above Fifth.”

(To be continued)

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