THE DAY BEFORE IT HAD RAINED- JOAN MELLA
3. THE ART
Of course that whole scene didn't last sixteen seconds, although technically it would've been been thirty-two of them, as each tat also counted as a second. But anyways, Lou was right, and Jean knew this, so he proceeded to quietly pick up his sad chair and roll himself another joint. Lou, also shifted back to his previous position and placed his legs back up on the couch. “Donald was a cool guy.” Jean said, contemplating his doob, with slightly squinted eyes. The place Lou mentioned he was in, The Club, it was called. It was nearly pitch black in there, which was really hip in The City. “Yeah, I think I miss the bastard.” Responded Lou. The whole psychology behind having close to no illumination in a bar, was that people could do certain things in there and go unnoticed. You could slip your hand up a woman's dress, she could slip hers down your pants, sell a few grams, and snort them up all in the same place, and nobody—unless you wanted them to—would notice.
Lou stood up from the couch, and walked to the corner that was diagonally across the leak for a beer. As he opened the refrigerator door, the miserable light bulb went out, and the tiny, pathetic one inside the fridge went on. None of the two were surprised at this, as it happened every time you opened that door. Lou felt around for the coldest can of beer, and when he finally decided on one, he closed the fridge door, rusty on the corners, and the light bulb went back on, and continued to flicker. I think I mentioned The Art before, ah yes, “sell a few grams,” Jean was deep inside The Art. He bought from everybody and sold to everyone. He didn't buy straight from the source though, he had good money, so he could afford getting his stuff from middlemen. Jean's father owned a small piece of land, and because of whatever turn of events, that piece of land ended up being in a pretty decent street in The City, good location an all. His grandfather taught his father not to sell, 'cause he knew the price for the lot would only go up. His father never sold, but as soon as he expired, and Jean inherited the lot, he sold it to the first fucker that showed up. But don't think he didn't get a deal out of it, 'cause he did. After that, Jean only worked in The Art, and didn't even really do anything, he just gave the orders, when he needed to pick something up, or get something else delivered, he just called up one of his friends to get the job through. And with friend, I don't mean just anyone. Jean had few friends, and the only people that were his friends, were really close to him. Lou was his friend. You'd think he was his mate, or his brother or brotha or bro or whatever, but no, he was just his friend. Everyone else was an acquaintance. He had all his friends on a payroll too, so they could enjoy life, without having to work as wage slaves in a supermarket or some sad thing like that. Because of this, Jean had a lot of expenses, and despite money being good, it wasn't infinite, so he didn't have a car or anything, (Although you really didn't need one in The City) and only had two properties, one was his apartment, where he lived, where he spent the night with girls and all. And the other was this crappy, ten by ten room, equipped with a rusty refrigerator, a broken down television set, a wooden closet in one of the corners, a vault in the other (Where he stashed cocain, heroin, and pot), and a terrible filtration problem in the last one. When it rained, Jean took out an aluminum bucket he kept in the closet, and placed it under the last corner I mentioned, 'cause if it started only but drizzling, a leak that was practically a constant stream of water was summoned, and it wouldn't stop until the rain stopped. In the center of the room, there was an orange couch, which was losing its color, and across of it sat a plastic chair, where Jean liked to sit. In between there was a low iron framed table with glass in the center. And when the sofa was occupied (didn't matter if the plastic chair wasn't, for only Jean sat there) people sat on the floor right next to the table, and as it was a low table, it really didn't matter. This was where The Art took place, most of the time. In this crappy room, in the second floor of a crappy room complex.
1. ABSOLUTE BITCHES
He was wearing an orange and yellow Hawaiian shirt. With round wooden buttons and all, his khaki pants a size too big, and a joint fatter than the usual. He stood next to a mailbox outside this brick building, the sidewalk busy with people. As he blew away a cloud of this quit heavy smoke, the man he was waiting for finally came out of the rather old edification. “Hey man how are you listen, I've given some thought to what you told me, and I think I'll do it.” Said Sid, extremely anxious, and he didn't hide it well at all. Humphrey raised his eyebrows and showed his hands in order to say something along the lines of “Lets do it now then.” Sid looked down and chuckled a bit to himself.
“Nah man, but I can't just do that, Jean's my friend—he's our friend, and he's done a lot of shit for us. He's basically keeping us alive too.”
“Not me.” Humphrey responded, and this was true, but it was false at the same time. Humphrey, in contrast to Sid and Lou, didn't absolutely depend on Jean to get money. He did Art (if you know what I mean by Art) gigs on his own, nothing to do with Jean. But most importantly, because he got a big chunk of money a few years ago. He married this fifty-something year old woman, she looked good for her age though. They've only known each other for like a month or something, but Humphrey was a total casanova and talked her into it, he was also very good looking, and way out of this lady's league, under normal circumstances. But she had money, she had good money, real good I'll tell you. And after a month of their baseless marriage, he called some acquaintance of his, out from the dark alleys of The City, and had her killed. He also talked her out of getting a prenup, so you can imagine what happened. As it would be to expect from a man like Humphrey, he blew a considerable amount of that money the year after, so he really did need Jean's dough to make ends meet, but he liked to tell himself that he didn't. Sid sighed, he didn't want to contradict him.
“Still man, its not like killing any bastard you find on the street, and you know it,” At this Sid noticed the looks he and Humphrey were receiving. He got his beanie hat out of his right pocket, and put it over his short blonde hair. Sid's hair was already thinning, although he was rather young, only in his late twenties. “Hey Phrey lets go up to your flat.” Humphrey understood why he suggested this, for he too, through his sunglasses, saw the glances people were shooting at them. Sid's joint was really noticeable, but nobody really cared. And as Humphrey led the way up the building's staircase, Sid followed.
Humphrey's apartment was very hip. He always kept it nice and tidy too, 'cause he might decide to bring a gal along with him, and as all the girls in the world were at his disposal, he was never really sure if he'd decide to take one home that day. Anyways, Sid sat down in a chair by the kitchen table, and Humphrey took off his black leather jacket and lit up a cigarette, whilst his friend flicked away the dog-end of his joint.
“I got something that might help you.” Said Humphrey after a while.
“Us, help us.” Corrected Sid, without looking up or anything.
“Hey Phrey! Another fucking flaw in your master plan!” He yelled, 'cause Humphrey was in another room. “What the hell are we supposed to do with Lou eh?” Humphrey walked back in the living room and to the kitchen, (which were essentially the same thing) he had a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a transparent plastic bag in the other. Bottoms up and the bottle was half dead.
“I already told you what the fuck's going on, and what the fuck is gonna happen! Augusto, the fucking drug king of The City, is gonna give us both two hundred grand if we make a goddamn hole in Jean's face, he gave me two flipping Magnums for god's sake! His stash, Jean's stash is over there, there's probably fifty grand worth of stuff in there, and its all for us. Think of the bread we're gonna get out of this scene! And you know what the cherry on the bloody pie is? Eh? Augusto's gonna get us both anally raped or some shit like that if we don't get the plan through!” This was the first time Humphrey has lost his cool, he was yelling and all, and boy he was steaming.
“Well that and horse crap is all the same to me, goddamnit! Jean's my friend. Can't we just leave The City or somethin' like that?”
“And go where Sid? Its a small country. Besides, Augusto has men all over the place, and you know it. You are aware that we absolutely have to do this right? There is no other choice.” This was serious business, Humphrey hardly ever talked, only when it was really necessary. Sid should have been amazed at this, but his mind was way too immersed in the situation they were stuck in.
“Yes, yeah I do know that. What the hell are we supposed to 'bout Lou, I'm sure he's gonna be there.”
“Well, we blow his fucking soul away too, why do you think we got two guns?”
“Shit Phrey you ain't making this any easier. Why doesn't Augusto call one of his guys to do this anyways.”
“He doesn't want this shit to be tracked back to him, doesn't want any problems.” Neither of them wanted to do what they had to, just that Humphrey had experience hiding his feelings.
“Look Sid, Augusto also gave me this,” Humphrey threw over the plastic bag he was holding, it had several pieces of paper inside. “Put one of 'em under your tongue.” He did, and he handed the bag back to Humphrey, as he proceeded to do the same. It was LSD, and it was real good LSD too. In less then ten minutes, they were both high as a kite, and trippin' their balls off.
“You know what gets me thinking?” Said Sid with a finger stuck inside his ear.
“Yes.” Responded Humphrey, who was hiding behind his own hand, from something only he could see.
“When I look at one of these types of people in the face, the type of people that are just frowning all the time. No particular reason. They might be doing any ordinary chore, or maybe even loosely walking down the street or some shit like that. But always with this frown in their face, goddamn frown. You could tell obviously that these people probably had awful jobs, a shitload of kids, and a huge-ass debt of some kind all the way up to their neck.” Sid was stupid man, but the LSD brought the genius out of him.
“When I see people like this, I think two thoughts,” He continued. “If its a man, I feel that when he gets home at night, sweating, steamin' from his depressive everyday life, he'd beat up his wife if she knocked down a goddam spork, or sneezed three times in a row. And if she was a woman, that if her husband tried to beat her up, she would just burn him down to fucking cinders with her menacing stare, after that, she would call the cops, and all the lawyers in The City, and have those measly ashes jailed for thirty years. Which is the most time you can get in prison down here by the way.”
“National Geographic should make a week-long television special on that type of women.” Said Humphrey, who was now covering the top of his head with his hand, as he looked intensely at the floor. “Shit yeah, for crying out loud they are the most intimidating creature in the whole flying universe. Forget about great white sharks, or hippos, or ladybugs. That type of women, I'll tell you what they are. They are a succession- a compilation if you will, of a handful of adjectives, and when these adjectives are all synthesized and compacted together, they would lead you to believe, and you'd be right too, that this type of women, are the Absolute Bitches of our society. Queen Bitches if you'd like. Now I don't say this in a disrespectful way, at all. These Absolute Bitches, damn it I fear them out of respect, I really do.” Stated Sid, with an air of formality, and even superiority about him.
“The fuck's an adjective Sidy?” Smack! Sid through his cellphone right at Humphrey's face, and it was a really hard hit. Sid was now standing on top of the kitchen table, with open arms, acting as if he had an audience.
“In my winding and dynamic mind, Absolute Bitches are as independent as the eyes of a chameleon! They're the head of their family, although I'm pretty sure, as man-eater is one of the adjectives that describe them, that they're mostly all divorced, and this is logically because their significant other felt like a damn prey having to sleep next to an Absolute Bitch. Its like having to sleep next to a hungry, menopausal grizzly bear, that’s always complaining about how tight her pants are, although she knew she bought them two sizes too small.” Phrey looked at Sid with admiration, wide eyed, and with an open mouth, he didn't have his sunglasses on.
“They're fat too. The Absolute Bitches, but I don't blame them, I blame capitalism, who I always end up blaming really. You fucking Communist!” That he yelled to himself. “But she has no time to eat healthy. Oh no she doesn't, she's too busy working 'till she's all worn out. Working to buy things that aren't really necessary, for kids she didn't need to have in the first place. And what is the answer to this time problem? Eating a greasy quarter-pounder from McDonalds. She walks across the street, does her cue, and gets a greasy quarter-pounder with pale meat, massively produced 'Murican cheese, bright green lettuce that tastes like bright green construction paper, all held together by this thin yellow bread that your taste buds fear. And of course, she chugs it all down with an Absolute Bitch sized soda, that burns away the calcium in her bones, but hey! Its all worth only one dollar. Bob Saget, she might as well be snorting a bump during her lunch time and it would be healthier. To hell, it would probably be a million times better for her, she would lose a significant amount of her weight if she got hooked on it, and she would have more energy during her work shifts than a five year old who also happened to snort a line, while he was in a crossover theme park between LEGO Land, Disney World, and F.A.O Schwarz.” Humphrey didn't like what he was hearing anymore. He grabbed one of the table's legs and flipped it over, making Sid fall back dry, on his back. He got the Magnum he kept in his pants and fired two shots at the ceiling. Everyone in the whole goddam City must've heard it.
“What's this shit you're prechin' 'bout fucker?” He said, as he flung away the whiskey bottle he had, which shattered in a million pieces when it met the wall
“Hey, Phrey,” Sid said lying on the floor. “I think I'm gonna go sleep here.” And he did. And Phrey, he went to his couch, and fell asleep as well. The next day it rained.
2. SIXTEEN MISSISSIPPI
“Hey do you remember that bastard that killed Donald few years ago?”, the light bulb was flickering, as it always has been. That sad, simple contraption was just dangling from the ceiling, held by maybe three wires. “Yeah, why?”, and the ceiling was no good either, all the paint was coming off, and there was a terrible filtration problem in one of the corners. It was raining that day, so there was an awful leak situation going on back on that corner. But Jean had put down an aluminum bucket to prevent the floor from getting wet. “I saw him the other night.” said Lou with a grin in his face, he was sitting on the edge of the couch too. And every second, another expected drop fell into the bucket, that perennial tat, one Mississippi, tat, two Mississippi. Jean stared at Lou with this judgmental look, with his frown upside down and his forehead down and everything. Tat, three Mississippi, tat, four Mississippi. “I killed him.”, still sitting on the edge of the couch and still with a grin on his face, a grin that kept reinventing itself. Lou sort of moved his lips around, and sometimes even curled them in a bit, he was very excited about this story he was telling, 'cause he knew he had Jean's complete and absolute attention for this one. Tat, five Mississippi, tat, six Mississippi.
“You killed him?”
“Stabbed him.” Lou was now biting his lips, nodding, and you could see some sick kind of glimmer in his eyes. He was really proud about all this.
“So you just took that bastard's blessed life?” Jean said, he could hardly believe Lou.
“And I was real smooth about it too, I was like hey, Denny, buddy, could you do me a favor? And he knew something was coming, he was startin' to backup and all. Then I said, get this Jean, then I said, would you mind holding this for me? And he was like, hold what goddamit? My knife, I said to him real quiet. Then I proceeded to gently park my knife right in his gut, real smooth, and he held it damn right. He just stood there looking down with his eyes about to pop out, his guts just holding my flipping knife, the motherfucker started coughing blood and all, and then he collapsed.”
Tat, seven Mississippi, tat eight Mississippi.
Then Jean started smiling, and that smiled turned into him chuckling, which didn't happen that often. And Lou finally got off the edge of the couch and sat back, he had the biggest smile ever, you could've killed him right at that instant and he would've been a happy man. He was very proud of making Jean, chuckle, after all he looked up to him. Jean got off the lousy plastic chair he always sat in, and reached for the small table that rested in between the couch and Jean's chair. Whilst the perennial drops, those that are never the first and are never the last kept falling. Tat-tat, nine Mississippi, tat-tat, ten Mississippi. Jean sat down again on his chair and started to roll himself a joint.
“Where was this all anyways?” Asked Jean.
Lou had his feet up on the couch now, he was feeling real cool now, and was staring at the crappy ceiling with the flickering light bulb.
“In the alley behind The Club,” he said.
“Oh really? What was that fucker doing there anyway?”
“Dunno, hiding from someone maybe? I went out there 'cause I didn't want to pay Ray, I knew I didn't have enough bread on me so I figured I could slip away through the back door and nobody would notice me, and they didn't.”
“What did you do with the knife?” Jean asked as he blew away a thick cloud of smoke.
“Well I knew he probably wasn't dead yet, so I pulled the knife out of his gut and sliced his neck a bit, you don't have a clue how much blood there was then, ruined my fucking jacket and all, but after that I just left it there next to him and walked away.”
“You left it there?”
Tat-tat, eleven Mississippi, tat-tat, twelve Mississippi. Jean flicked his joint away, though he was only have through it. He kicked away his plastic chair as he stood up and started pacing around, and looked at Lou as if he was some type of bizarre, never before seen arthropod of some sort. He wasn't smiling now anymore, oh no he wasn't. And Lou, he put his feet off the couch, he sat straight up, with his eyes wide open, he knew he was in for it. The light bulb flickering as always.
“Of all the fucking twats out there in the universe, who would do something so stupid? Eh? You must be the scum of all the twats and turds, and 'tards and maggots out there!” There was a pause, and Jean stared at Lou, and Lou stared at Jean, and the drops counted their way up to fourteen.
“Fuck! Out of all the fucking twats and turds and 'tards you must be the thickest! The thickest!”
“Listen Jean I-I'm sorry”
“I'm sorry? You're damn right you are! But don't tell that to me dipshit! Tell that to yourself! You're the one who's gonna get jailed tomorrow morning for crying out loud.”
Lou sighed and looked down, he wasn't fond of the idea of having Jean screaming at him, but he hated himself for disappointing him.
“God! How the hell did you get to be so fucking stupid? Do you drink varnish for breakfast or something? For crissake! The cops are gonna find you, send you to the judge or whatever, you'll have no fucking defendant, and you're gonna be in jail until your anus looks like a damn sinkhole.”
There was a pause again, tat, fifteen Mississippi, tat, sixteen Mississippi. And then Lou looked up, and said: “Cops? Judge? Defendant? Prison?--Jean, there is no law in The City.”
Humphrey opened the door to the tiny room, with his chin high up, his black hair perfectly combed. He adjusted his leather jacket with a slight forward move of his shoulders, took out the cigarette that was trapped in between his lips, and took off his Buddy Holly-shaped sunglasses, only to clean them up and put them back on. He was real smooth, and seldom spoke. “Hey there.” Greeted Jean, Humphrey raised the hand he was holding his cigarette with as to say hello. Then, he proceeded to get a beer out of the fridge, and the light bulb went out, and then went back on. And as if he had a thousand years to get there, he slowly walked to the couch, and sat on the armrest, real cool. “Phrey, goddamit, close the door,” Hollered Lou. Humphrey didn't even turn to face him. Falling drops were heard in the corner, and there was a pause. “For fuck's sake Humphrey get the damn door.” Lou said, this time louder than before, you could see he was starting to get irritated. Yet, the man with the leather jacket didn't move a muscle. And an almost empty can of beer, carrying a lot of momentum impacted the wall, Lou was standing up, he was all in Humphrey's face.
“What are fucking deaf you piece of shit? Ah? Close the damn door or I'll shove a flower pot up your mom's pussy!”
“Calm the hell down Lou!” Ordered Jean, also standing up now. And with all this yelling and shrieking, and cursing and insulting, Humphrey had only raised an eyebrow, as he looked at Lou, still sitting in the couch's armrest.
“Hell's goin' on over here?” Said a head, peaking from the opened door. And Humphrey presented Sid with his open hand, in an I-told-you-so fashion.
“Shit.” Sighed Lou. And everyone loosened up again in the room. Except for Sid, who was really tense since this morning, and Humphrey who was always relaxed, most of the time. Jean sat back down, and beaten, Lou walked over to the fridge and got two beer cans out. “Still haven't fixed the light bulb issue?” Said, Sid, as he caught a can of beer Lou threw to him.“Hey Phrey,” Said Lou in a jokingly fashion, “Love you darling.” To this Humphrey responded by blowing him a kiss, and at this, all the friends chuckled. Sid, trembling, took Lou's anterior spot in the couch, while he sat on the floor next to the table.
“Hey guys, guess what Lou did yesterday? Said Jean, grinning.
“Wha-.” Sid choked, before even completing the word.
“This fucker over here, stabbed the guy who killed Donald last night!” Sid went pale after considering, for the first time, the killing capability that both Lou, and Jean possessed. It never had gone through his mind that their mission might fail. And at the same time, Humphrey finished his beer and lit another cigarette.
“Was, was that Denny?” Asked Humphrey, to keep the conversation going, he knew that Sid wasn't going to say a word.
“Yeah,” Boasted Lou, “You know what I told him? I said, hey Denny, mind holding my knife for a second, and I stuck it right inside his gut. And he stood there, holding my knife! Get it?” Jean, and Lou were laughing hard at this. Lou took his knife out and contemplated it. It was shiny, you could see your reflection on it, very clear too. This was because it was brand new, this knife has never met flesh of any kind. Yet. It was intimidating too, about an inch and a half wide and eight long, with a menacing row of teeth in on side.
“I kinda liked the guy.” Commented Phrey.
“What do I care, are you gonna kill me or something you lil' bitch.” Joked Lou.
“Hey Phrey did you eat a goddam radio for breakfast or something? You're talking like a madman, for your standards that is.” Said the man atop the plastic chair. Humphrey flicked away the dog-end of his cigarette and lit another one. Sid stood up, and stared at Jean.
“Hey I'm gonna take a shit.”
“Enjoy yourself.” Called Lou from the floor. Humphrey got a grip on Sid's arm and looked at it him. Sid looked back. With his focused eyes, and the expression on his face, Phrey meant to say something along the lines of “What the hell do you think you're doing?”
“And I gotta go take a piss.” He said as he stood up, fixing his hair ever so slightly with his hands. They walked outside to the corridor, and closed the door to the tiny room. They walked down towards the bathroom, but just to make sure they were out of ear's reach.
“You didn't keep your cool, you said you would.” Accused Sid in a quiet voice. Humphrey paced about, looking down with his hand to his forehead.
“I kept my cool at the beginning at least,” He disclaimed. “You didn't do anything good either so shut your damn mouth.” They were both breathing heavily.
“Alright then, lets storm in, and lets just do this shit, right now.” Humphrey got his Magnum out, and Sid went even paler at the sight of it, and what it was intended to do. Killing wasn't the problem though, Sid had killed at least four people by now, having lived so many years in the streets. Killing a friend, now, was the problem.
John, Paul, George and Ringo. Jean, Lou, Humphrey and Sid. The amount of wicked stories these friends had to tell, stories about girls, crazy psychedelic trips they've taken together. Brawls, even killings. They were innumerable. The three of them owed so much to Jean, and they payed him with their presence, which he enjoyed, but each one of them also enjoyed his presence, and the presence of each other as well. When Ray saw Lou at The Club, he wondered from behind his counter, “How come Lou is here all alone?” As none of them ever went to a bar without any other. 'Cause who knows what great story could occur that night? And the night before the day that it rained, Sid and Humphrey experienced a crazy LSD trip, worthy of a story, and Lou did something that all of the others would've liked to be there to witness, including Phrey who said he kinda liked Denny. The inseparable friends were starting to be torn apart, and they themselves, were the only ones guilty for this.
Sid had his gun out, and was prepared to open the door, Humphrey stood right besides him, he had taken off his jacket and his sunglasses, so that they wouldn't get all bloodied. Sweat was dripping down Sid's face, and Humphrey had a few strands of hair that were out of place. Sid looked intensely at Phrey, waiting for a cue. Their hearts pounding.
“Now!” Phrey yelled. And instead of all hell breaking loose nothing happened.
“What?” Called Jean from inside. Sid stood there wide eyed. He was twisting and turning the door knob in all sorts of ways, yet, it wouldn't open. He was extremely nervous. Petrified.
“Door wasn't even locked.” Said Jean as he opened the door, he looked up and froze. Humphrey was aiming his Magnum at his head. A million years passed, and a million drops fell, a million lives ended and a million began anew. Species were changed in the process of evolution and continents drifted across the oceans.
Humphrey fired, and brains flew all over the place, he was covered in blood, as was Sid, their friend's blood. Sid's jaw dropped. Lou saw this, but before even realizing he couldn't believe it, his street instincts kicked in, as in one motion, he stood up and threw his knife at his friend, it lodged itself deep inside his neck, and Humphrey was no more. Then Lou froze too, as he saw Sid, covered in blood, aiming at him. Sid fired. The gun didn't shoot, he had forgotten to take the lock off. At this, Sid broke down, he dropped the Magnum, and fell to his knees. He was crying.