A strong wind was blowing, meaning a storm was coming, only it wasn’t outside… something wicked was brewing inside Silas Jones, the young man with the old man’s name, facing down the gun barrel of aging. Lightning crashed into his eardrums as SHE brushed up, ever so slightly against him with a semblance of thunder rumbling in the cavity where he thought his heart had gone missing.
Was this just going to be another missed opportunity, he would allow to slip through his aching fingers or just another cruel joke by the universe rendering his existence the ultimate punchline?
Her tigress eyes were golden flecked burning brightly, the curl of her lips with a malicious or inviting smile (it was hard to tell these days- dazed).
“Sy, how about a couple of rails in stock-room nine and you eat my pussy out like a mad man?”
Followed by the barely audible giggle through the nose and slight presence of hips against pelvis.
She smelled like peaches packed tightly in imitation Chinese manufactured velvet or was it, wet rodent bound with dead butterflies (butterflies feast on corpses)?
He turned around, tinnitus like broken cathedral bells in his left ear in almost utter disbelief but an aside glance delivered by Nancy (being the” SHE” in question) veering on bashful with sinful eyes of malice said otherwise. This was not like when the old lady had asked “Could you, blow me where the hampers are?”
THIS WAS REAL. This could be his feast. His shot at the very least of a sliver at a chance of redemption. An unwholesome deed without consequence.
Then came the squeak, the scuffs and the clicking of sneakers as if they were combat boots. Aqua shoes to be exact, yellow fake space-age soled with purple laces. The enemy with black framed glasses and weasel eyes had arrived.
“Sup, girl, thinking of buying this dress for youngest girl’s first communion.”
Juan and his aqua shoes. Retail rat and lifer at every company he’s ever worked for until the company deems “it’s time to move on Juan” but that’s okay, because he’s got God and dreaming that American dream, five kids and all. Gliding through life on aqua shoes, tapered khakis and whatever color polo matched with a corresponding tie. He’s an assistant manager, like he’s always been for the last fifteen years at just as many stores.
Juan and Silas have had a rivalry going ever since Bullseye, both going for a Level Two Electronics position. Unknown to Silas being a nobody without aim who just happened to be good at selling panoramic cameras and 64-bit gaming consoles. Kenneth his Level Three supervisor had told him to go for the position “Juan is an insufferable back-stabbing prick, you think I want him under me with one hand on my crotch and the other waving a knife?”
However, Juan was head strong, a real go-getter, ex-football player, wrestler and girls’ volleyball manager who had just happened to knock up his high school sweetheart.
“I’m above you Silas, you may be in college but I’m above you.”
He had gone to Gwen the assistant manager and gossip maven who happened to be balling both Chris the store manager and Chris the ex-military prick, pear shaped Loss Prevention Lead.
“Silas likes marijuana. He’s a womanizer and has a problem with drugs and alcohol. Tell the other team members to stay away from him.”
Rumors. A lake of fire spread through a deluge of cinder and ash where the girls got turned off like in high school by Silas and his comic book t-shirts. He had never smoked pot until his best friend Deter came back from college three weeks ago, taking a couple hits off a joint.
Drug tested. Disgraced, derailed from lucrative career at a powerhouse retailer and unable to get financial aid for school (have to love Silent Observer). Down from Level One to plain zero, washing dishes at a pizza joint, he tried heroin for the first and only time… a requiem for the dream he never had, only he didn’t get high…the needle hurt too much but his arm got infected and had to be amputated below the elbow and the junkie menace he entertained himself to be was just another over magnified “freak occurrence” with permanent life altering consequences, first of many downfalls and scarification landmarks preceded by the presence of aqua shoes.
Nancy rolled her eyes at the sight of Juan, his glasses reflecting the image of the aqua-sequined dress, along with his broad dental implant grin. He had lost most of his teeth in a game of Edward Forty-Hands, trying to shatter his opponents bottles with his own, unaware he had cracked his own and teeth ultimately crunched into glass in a last mad dash gulp toward victory, though he said it was in a bar fight in Flint defending the honor of a good Christian girl against a group of Satanic bikers.
But Nancy didn’t care about that. She didn’t care about him and she most definitely didn’t give a shit about his daughter’s first communion. She just wanted to do some subpar coke and have a little fun with Silas, he seemed fucked up but kind of cool and she kind of liked that because she really couldn’t be fully invested in anything. Maybe she needed therapy but that didn’t matter the damage was done anyhow, at the age she should’ve been wondering why boys with braces always wanted to French kiss and eat peanut butter ice-cream, she knew the market value for a brick heroin (possibly the one which may have been involved in Silas Jones’ junkie fantasy) and what color pill combination dulled pain and awareness of her father’s carnal and sometimes violent indiscretions.
Green and yellow like the polo and vests at this here 24-hour supercenter.
Juan stared at the stud in Nancy’s bulbous Grecian nose.
“Juan, I’m going to the bathroom near stockroom nine to change my tampon out.” She seemed to be saying to Silas still uncertain of what was transpiring. Remembering the girl, he met online who had burned him with hot wax across his chest and back, putting a smiley face on his stomach with the cherry of her cigarette “Life is delicious” she said after she asked if he was cold after handcuffing him naked to the radiator. (“You can’t go to the police reporting a narcotic detective’s 5’1 daughter for that sort of thing, being a dope fiend and all” someone shave headed in a suit who may have been the devil or psychiatric law enforcement angel may have told him). Silas had to know, HE WOULD KNOW, if what he was reading into the intonation of voice and movement of her eyes whether or not these perceived patterns of beings corresponded with collective reality.
“Nancy, I’m concerned regarding the changes in your menstrual cycle as of late, I’m not a freak or anything but as your manager I have to make it my business my associates are in tip top shape not only physically but mentally and spiritually. I see things in people, especially in young ladies who have been hurt in the past and need a way to rebuild their sense of self into something beyond their wildest dreams. You’re bleeding earlier than you usually do and according my calculations, you must heart must be bleeding too. A group of people from my church, in fact a men’s prayer group as we consider ourselves like to take wayward young women like yourself under our wing for a weekend at our church’s camp. It’s a chance to not only purify ourselves away from what could eventually develop into turmoil with our family but to get know our lost youth through different forms and offer a chance at redemption. We teach you gals about essential survival skills like: hunting, fishing, cooking and reading scripture. You learn a woman’s role to her man and God, plus we also let you shoot guns and eat cannibal burgers AND…don’t tell the wife…. sometimes a bit of beer sneaks in there, we kick off our shoes and dance to some old-time rock n’ roll.”
Juan nodded feverishly “Raw hamburger with all the fixin’s, except all that vegetable garbage, we ain’t possums and rabbits, we’re men, men of God and you can be a woman of men for men by God.”
“Juan, no offense but my panties are going to fill with blood and piss from laughing so hard” She began to giggle and walked away.
Silas snickered, and Juan glared with a barely containable rage attempting to hide a bulging erection.
“You working on something Silas?”
“I don’t see anything in your hands.”
Silas gazed down at his pricing gun and shrugged. Juan seemingly slid toward him on his aqua shoes and slapped the gun out of his hand. The ink cartridge and tags unfurled as the plaster cracked and bounced on the floor.
“Break another gun like you just did and I’ll write you up. I’m above you Silas. Always have been, always will.”
Juan moonwalked behind Silas and twirled to impress customers as he continued to patrol the salesfloor and “coincidentally” run into Nancy to possible continue their conversation over an extra ten-minute smoke break which would not be over cigarettes but a fountain soda and getting right with God.
Silas Jones had to admire the weird grace of Juan along with his unwavering predictability and confidence. He once heard Juan “It’s all in the shoes, dog…” obviously, he wasn’t the “dog” in question but what if he had shoes like that? The real question was, would life be that simple with a pair of aqua shoes?
All of a sudden, the only two things that mattered in the entire frenetic eternity of universe was Nancy and those damn aqua shoes which usually heralded a sense of impending doom. He had to go to the bathroom and reflect, but not near stockroom nine. Stockroom nine would lead to the negation of another job and he was one paycheck away from the street as it was, eating only twice a day with most his money going on rent and a phone that was never called or messaged. Had his loneliness fostered by desperation fostered this little fantasy with young woman whom he never thought he had any interest for until she inadvertently bumped into him? He already knew the pattern of false hope and the downfall of a heartbreaking reality, but could this actually be a genuine invitation, was he ready to break the pattern and enter an entirely different realm?
His bladder started to overflow with something between panic and ninety-nine cent coffee with five creams six sugars.
“Silas, you’re too old for your age.” She slid him a note over a month ago, brushing back her light brown hair that didn’t smell like peaches but dollar store weed-killer shampoo and menthol cigarettes. She avoided eye contact but still smile, or so he thought…on that occasion he had also gone to the bathroom with the strange urges in his bladder. Something toxic, something foreign filling him up, a sense of doubt as artificial and black as the coffee he subsisted on with familiar sweetness gradually clouding his mind’s eye.
Nancy on her way to the bathroom near stockroom nine, to not change her tampon reflected the note she handed to Silas a while back, feeling sorrow at the look of dismay on his face and the sense of anxiety she may have aroused, wondering if maybe she came on too strong or whether or not the note itself came off as a cruel joke, the cattle-prod disguised as an olive branch delivering devastating electric shocks to the sack of meat and bone instead of peace of mind to the battered soul? Though it didn’t help suddenly Juan showing interest in her as he was having another glaring session at Silas who kept his eyes down on the floor most of the time. Something wasn’t right about Juan and his erections which seemed to swell when he had dominion over Silas in certain situations involving females, mostly customers frustrated by the lack of staff and stock which was usually taken out on jovial and civil Silas who would be immediately attacked by Juan and thanked by the lady in distress.
Out of red skin potatoes or battery-operated pillows? Take it out on the low wage, part-time slaves without the benefits of healthcare or vacation, they deserve it for not being as educated as you or inheriting wealth, it’s what they do best along with their managerial betters, climbing that never-ending ladder of retail success. Basic guaranteed income? Universal healthcare? Labor rights? None of that will really help you, you’re all just a bunch of temporarily embarrassed millionaires lacking gumption and intellect. Morality capitalized. Existence commodified.
Nancy wondered about the of patterns that manufactured Silas and how he came to be, sharp featured figure with an elongated nose as if carved from wood but cut up and sliced inside in which he probably didn’t know which way to turn or was that her? Did it even matter? The construct of herself or even her desire? She rarely got what she wanted and what she wanted was usually what she most likely believed she would eventually wind up with, so why have a sense of desire anyway when the lackluster inevitable pounded down those crystalline candy colored clouds of dream, like the hammer of an old world fertility god desperately attempting to remain relevant in a post-industrial, utterly post-modern post-truth world.
Back to the note and what it said or what she believed it may have said:
Hey Silas, I might love you, I might not but I like you. You got killer eyes and I like my boy’s skinny with that creepy b-movie star insomniac look. Hit me up. Two joints, a bottle of wine and a certain Molly if you’re feeling extra freaky.
It ended with her address and phone number. She hadn’t felt this enthralled since grade school. A nervous sense of anxiety, she waited for him all night on the couch of a dirty studio apartment, smoking two joints, drinking half the wine, eating Molly and wandering to her sister’s house, remember faintly Silas trying to talk to her and her ignoring him hoping he’d just show up and not wanting him to get caught by Juan, the workday and night off intermingled into a technicolor blue and suddenly there were dayglo gargoyles and flipping bass music along with wet and slimy sensations, misplaced warmth, humiliating laughter and a sense of shame and cool relief. Awake at home, her sister’s boyfriend was a low-level pimp and dealer, Jordan, Jorge or something? Legs sprawled, pain her cervices, in a costume of black paint, feathers and duct tape. Hands trembling, a fistful of twenties and the other a mammoth sized ball of opium against her glittered covered skin looking like the galaxy being stretch out by the waters of eternity.
This was the pattern the Nancy’s life had taken over last two decades and a third, like the Stones song “You can’t always get what you want” Nancy did but not the way she desired, the unstable molecules sang around the void directing her existential movement, with the bathroom door closed, Nancy had now wept, considering the confidence of aqua shoes.
Juan on the other hand watching Nancy swing those hips, licking his lips at what he forced himself to brutishly be; the ideas of forms in the void punished Silas for being and wanted to be, Nancy punished for the desire of being, Juan tormented for the act and state of non-being; the golden boy, all-American golden glove boxing student athlete with low grades and an inclination toward solitude but forced into “normality”, wanted to act but forced to act, no belts and bruised but game consoles, cars, booze and girls with no lack of egocentric bruises brushed aside by testosterone driven dopamine receptors.
Outside the scent of Juan was fast food fries with second rate designer cologne (it had a ship on the bottle) with a hint of animal musk, while on the inside he smelled like a sterile operating table with a sweet hint of butterfly devoured corpse (the inexplicable attraction to Nancy?). The boardroom was a jungle, it was where he belonged but his superiors but kept saying with hyena styled grins “Please, tell us more with your lack of an education.”
They feared the jaguar he was, descended from the jungle-cat god his father was, just as savage, perhaps even more so as he kept his dad’s unwashed shirts from business meetings soaked with sweat to rub over his own clothing and skin, projecting a double-dose of primal alpha-male savagery. They could sense it, all of them at every company terrified of him, how he could hunt them all down and eat every single one, this is why they kept moving him. Why he was still stuck fucking the same peroxide blonde manufactured Barbie who never retained her baby weight and had stretch marks removed or liposuction done each Christmas. How dare, she make more money than him, running her own franchise? Cooking gourmet foods and raising those kids so polite and technologically adept? If tonight’s events were a sitcom episode, the name was going to be “Water-boarding Barbie”.
The lion would no longer sleep. If they would not let him hunt in their jungle, he would stake his own territory and prey. He fantasized how each of these socialized so-called “civilized” beasts in the concrete jungle would pray as he clawed, pummeled and sodomized every one of them drenched in blood. A hushed gurgle morphed into an audible growl, heads turned behind random carts uncertain what they heard or whether or not it was heard at all in the absence of collective acknowledgement. Aqua shoes did not glide or dance without purpose but trampled silently in the act of tracking, dodging the distraction of spilled bleach and run hamburger on the floor, in the cornering of its prey hidden in its den… the bathroom near stockroom nine.
Everyone complemented him on his aqua shoes, whether seriously or sarcastically “Juan, I love your aqua shoes.” He attributed his success to his aqua shoes, showing off high school athletics trophies and various retail management certificates along with overly staged family photos. He had worn this style of shoes since junior year and bought them in bulk when the manufacturer stopped making them. He would never run out and continue to glide through life, however in actuality, Juan fucking hated his aqua shoes.
Yellow soles kicked at the bathroom door, it did not budge, he would pull it open…but not like a gentleman.
Silas stared in the mirror, he had his boots on, a premonition had in the afternoon before work in the contemplation of the store as an ancient gallery showcasing tortured souls among the dead souls, but which was which and were any of them actually living? Silas Jones, old enough before his time, streaks of gray running through jet black lanky hair, the dead man awake never allowed to live without abandon with too much imagination and unrealized dreams blurring reality (at least he wasn’t chasing dragons or crashing starships into the nebula wearing a bright red leotard…just yet).
The note. THE NOTE. It had haunted him. The sensation of actually being without consequence frightened him through goose-bumped flesh down to shivering bone. Is that why he threw it away? Fear? Was it even real? Had Nancy, even handed him a note? Why did she ignore his almost hapless pleas for knowing? He had to know and before he knew it, stood before the bathroom door near stockroom nine. Fuck Juan and his aqua shoes.
The door opened.
“Fuck you Juan and your aqua shoes!” Nancy screamed. Glass and blood streaming from her cracked china skin like morbid tears. Her pants down, shirt pulled and bent over the bathroom sink, Juan twisting one of her arms behind her body, pants around his ankle, breathing heavily in sweat with limp dick.
“You can’t get it up, you fucking creep. Have to slap a woman around to get hard, you’re not a man, you’re a pathetic freak.” Nancy laughed exposing several broken teeth inside her ripped mouth.
“Stop it! I am the Jungle-Cat God-King, you are my prey, I shall tear and eat you as I please.” Juan seemed to plead.
“Some god, punching me in the head from behind.”
“I’ll be hitting something else from behind soon enough little girl.”
“Juan, I’m going to kill you.” Silas Jones heard a cold icy voice emanating from his throat. Both Nancy and Juan turned to see him holding a shard of mirror in his one hand.
Juan was instantly erect with a malicious grin spread upon his face. “You gave me a boner, you one armed faggot. “He tossed Nancy aside who slammed against a stall and stepped out of his pants making his way toward Silas looking like an old school 8-bit videogame gorilla ready to toss barrels complete with beer belly and aqua shoes.
“Once I finish you, I’ll do the girl, then stash both of you in my trunk and do you guys again…then my wife…maybe sacrifice my children.”
Silas slashed at Juan’s chest, drawing blood and taking off a chunk of nipple. This did not stop him. He slashed again, deeper in a more jagged manner drawing black just below the other nipple. This did not stop him. He became harder and the smile seemed to extend beyond his face. Silas plunged the reflective glass into Juan’s midsection. Both stopped. Silas dropped his hand and backed away waiting for Juan to give off a death-rattle and collapse.
Juan broke the glass off in his body and cackled “I’m above you Silas!”
Silas Jones fell back, with three scratches across his face, Juan pounced upon him, holding both arms down and bit into what remained of the arm that had been amputated. Silas saw a sickly green illumination shine from the cracks in the mirror which began to invade the room.
“Doesn’t anyone else, ever use this fucking bathroom?” Nancy exclaimed, thrusting the worst part of a plunger inside Juan’s rectum. Juan stood up and placed a hand around Nancy’s neck and began to squeeze. The entire room was bathed in the sickly green light.
“I’m the god you always feared was real.” Juan let out a screeching roar, only to have his mouth filled by Silas Jones’ fist. Teeth broke off into knuckle bone as Silas withdrew and his hand only to have Juan place his other hand around his neck. Juan looked back and forth between struggling Nancy and Silas.
“It’s the shoes, right? It’s gotta be the shoes.” He smirked.
“I’ve always hated them.” Silas coughed. He locked eyes with Nancy who let out a choked snort of laughter and rasped. “I never liked them either.”
Juan let out a sigh “I know, neither have I.” Nancy and Silas were dropped to the floor. He envied the two lovers as they crawled toward to each other and began to huddle together.
The green light flashed, shifting into a glittery red like falling stars raining over a fiery sun.
“Ever since, I got these shoes, I seemed to glide through life and everything seemed to be turning out so right…but all of it felt so wrong, I don’t think I ever really lived.”
Silas cleared his throat “I’ve always been punished for trying to live, even the way I didn’t want to. Only now…” He gripped Nancy’s hand tightly. “I feel, somehow that we can truly live without repercussions.”
Nancy put her other hand on Silas’ cheek “and what I’ve always wanted I never really got but the quick fix on the surface level, leaving me wanting for more but everything I have and want is right here and it doesn’t matter how far it goes or how long it lasts.”
Juan went to his knees, tears streaming down his face “I never lived at all. These tears aren’t even real, they’re just what my brain is telling my body to do to simulate what I think everyone else would think a normal person would do and feel. I wish I could apologize for all the things I’ve done or haven’t done but I never really existed in the first place.”
Silas and Nancy looked at Juan in awe or rather they looked at void and dance of invisible unstable molecules, they could read the pattern amid his revelation of existence.
“Kill me… please and take these damn shoes away.” He begged.
Without warning before he could take another breath, Nancy placed both hands underneath Juan’s chin and began to push as Silas pulled the upper part of Juan’s head in the opposite direction, in which followed a multitude of tiny snaps, cracks and large pop. Head removed from the body, Silas and Nancy looked at one another and finally kissed but did not linger, separating the dead man from his shoes, they removed each one of their own and replaced it with his.
Perhaps they would not glide through life but walking hand in hand out the sliding doors to the parking lot, they would be together with genuine desire and without consequence in blood stained aqua shoes. The pattern had been broken.