blood Flowers

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is a story of heartbreak that leads one woman down a violent path of revenge

Submitted: April 07, 2017

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Submitted: April 07, 2017

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He shouldn't have died all alone. He should have been with her. If they had been together maybe it wouldn't have happened. But even if it did happen, Emily would have found him, not his mother. Ricky hated that bitch. He had told Emily that a million times. His mother couldn't care less about Ricky. She never gave two shits about Ricky. She didn't want him when she had him and sure as shit didn't want him around now. She always called him a good for nothing drug addict, or a lazy no account thief.  Emily had heard her say those very words and more times than she could remember. Well, if he was, she had a hand in making him that way.

  Now he was gone, overdosed on the couch in his damp and dark basement bedroom. It was the same bedroom that he had snuck out of when he ran away from home the first time, ten years before. His father had knocked his tooth out in a fist fight with him during his sixteenth birthday party. His twenty-sixth birthday hadn't been all that long ago. It was hard, too hard, for Emily to think that only a few short weeks ago it had been Ricky's birthday and just a few short days ago he was found face down on that ratty couch with the bad floral print.

Ricky had died laying on his stomach, his face turned towards the TV. His right arm hung off the edge of the couch. The needle that had delivered that final deadly dose was still embedded in his pale bony arm. His right hand, curled into a claw, was blue from the pooled blood, as was the left side of his face. He looked badly beaten and bruised. And in some ways he was. Life had kicked his ass and the bruises from those beatings were on his soul and the scars from all of those battles were on his arms.

 

***

 

Ricky had surrendered. He had given up. He had cried Uncle. He was tired and he was in pain and he was damn tired of being in pain. He hurt from the inside out. His spirit had died and his body was too stupid to know it. He couldn't tell anyone, he couldn't even say it out loud to himself, but he knew deep down in the black pit of his stomach that it was over. The end was coming fast in a push of the plunger. He just didn't know which one it would be, but he knew it would be soon. He could feel the cold eyes of Death staring at him, waiting for the right moment to snatch him up and steal him away from this hell he lived in. This bottomless pit of human misery. Dying in this fucked up world was hard but living in it was impossible.

 A part of him was afraid to let go, afraid to draw that last wretched breath. That part of him wanted to change, wanted to get his shit together, wanted to be a better man. But that part of him was so small, so frail that he could barely hear it over the howling of all those demons he had in him. And it was far too weak to stop that plunger from falling, from sending that poison, that heaven, that evil calm coursing through his blue spider web veins those last few days and Ricky knew they were his last few days. He fought the urge to say "Fuck it all" and go out in a bang of glory with one final blast. He could just close his bloodshot eyes, ride that final rush until he drifted off into an eternal sleep. It seemed so perfect, so peaceful that he hated himself for not being able to do it. He hated himself but not for being afraid to die. He wasn't. He hated himself for being afraid to live. Afraid that he wouldn't die. Afraid that he would wake up. Afraid that he would open his eyes and he would be on his stinking ratty couch in that dungeon of a room and he would be out of shit. Afraid that he had gambled it all the night before and crapped out. Afraid that he would be stuck in that hell hole alone with his sweat and vomit and shit while his skin crawled and his bones ached. He couldn't go through that. He wouldn't go through that.

So he always left just enough. Just enough to get him off that ancient couch with its faded flowers and piss stains. Enough to get him up and on his way to score another hit. Enough to get him to where he could lie cheat steal or fuck somebody over. Whatever little bit of evil he could think up to get him twenty dollars. Better thirty or forty. Fuck, if he could get fifty bucks he could get high and hit McDonalds on the way back. Better still, he could get a fifty off of his dude and eat a goddam hot pocket or burrito. Mom always had the finest cuisine upstairs. It was still early in the month, if she hadn't already sold off her food stamps for fifty cents on the dollar, there might be some hamburger up in this bitch.

 As soon as his boy T told him to "Come on" he was up the steps and out the door. Fuck a shower that could wait. T wouldn't wait. Luckily, the piece of shit truck his piece of shit daddy had given him, to make up for beating the shit out of him every time he took the notion to, had enough gas in it to make it to the section eight apartments that T was shacked up in. There weren't too many brothers in this white trash Mayberry and T, like most of the others, shacked up with some fat white chick over in the Shangri-La apartment complex. It seemed as if every one of those units was rented out to some skanky, morbidly obese bitch with some freaky dye job, a bunch of fucked up tattoos, and a half dozen kids. Half of those would be zebras and the other half so snot nosed and grubby that it was anybody’s guess as to what color their daddy was.

So ten minutes to Shangri-La and ten back plus however long it took that Jimmy Walker looking motherfucker to walk his ass out to the truck with dope and Ricky could be back in his hole. No matter how low he was, scoring the shit was the high light of his day. He always looked forward to it, to the buzz. But there was something about doing the deal that got his adrenaline going too. Maybe because it was illegal. There was always a chance of getting popped by the po-po, Mayberry's finest, and going to county lock-up. Or getting ripped off. But everything else sucked. At least after firing up. Guilt and shame and a few others lived in his back pocket. When his eyes rolled back in his head and the needle fell to the floor, they would crawl out and sit on his shoulders and tell him he was a piece of shit just like his father.

 Sitting there in the nearly empty parking lot, out of smokes and his legs wanting to get up and run off was getting to be a real bitch. His mind was racing. Was that a cop? Where the fuck is T? Goddam legs won't quit. Nose starting to run. Can't quit yawning. What a bunch of bullshit. Text that motherfucker again.

When Tito Brown's phone beeped, he didn't even look at it. He knew who it was and what it was about. That motherfucker Ricky had been texting every two fucking minutes since he pulled into the parking lot. Tito didn't have to make him wait. He had his shit ready before that white boy had even got to the apartments. Tito liked to make people like that wait. Tito didn't jump for nobody, let alone some scarecrow looking motherfucker in a piece of shit truck. “Goddam, my shoes are worth more than that truck,” he thought.

"Yo, T man," started Ricky as the other neared the truck. "Man I ain't got all day."

""Sup, man? Y’all know I got to weigh this shit up dude." Tito laughed to himself. It was his favorite lie.

"Fucking cops are driving around the complex man. I gotta split." Ricky had to get high.

"Nah, man. It's cool." Tito stood just far enough away from the truck to not be able to do the trade. He loved to see these crackers going ape shit. Squirm, motherfucker, squirm.

"C'mon T. Seriously. I gotta go." Ricky wiped his nose with a dirty sleeve. Hurry the fuck up you nigger he wanted to say but he just smiled. Tito waited a second or two longer then stepped closer to the truck.

"Fifty, right?" Ricky asked, trying to stay calm, relaxed.

"Yeah man. Shit's good too." Standard sales pitch.

"Really?" Ricky perked up. "You hook me up?"

"Yeah man. You know it." Same shit, different asshole.

They made the exchange, Tito barely looking at the crumpled up wad of cash but Ricky examining his score as if it were a rare gem. Then a frown. "Little light, ain't it T?"

"Shit man, you know I don't do you like that." Tito stepped back a few feet from the truck. This discouraged any attempt to renegotiate. "I weigh my shit man. Besides, that's the best shit around here, I should be chargin’ seventy-five for that there.”

"I don't know, man. Looks a little small." It did look small but Ricky was really hoping for a handout. It was improbable but not impossible. He was a good customer. Dependable. Sometimes T would throw a little extra in. Not today.

"I should have charged you seventy five for that man. That shit's one forty a gram." That was a lie. It was actually cheaper. He wasn't sure why. The Mexican he dealt with gave him a good deal. Tito didn't touch the shit himself. He was strictly weed and a little gin, but he sold it all. He had crack, heroin, meth, pills, and pot. A little of everything. He even had some Viagra.

"Really?" Ricky was suspicious but hopeful. T was pretty reliable. You could get a better deal sometimes if you drove to the city but it was a lot longer trip plus there were always cops doing a street sweep or raid or some shit downtown. Ricky could score with a couple other guys here in the complex but odds were it was the same shit.

Tito Brown turned his back to Ricky who had remained sitting in the rusted out pickup. He wasn't being rude, not really. He just didn't give a damn about what some hillbilly, inbred junkie thought about shit. “Fuck him if he don't like it,” he thought. “I'm goddam Tito Brown. I'm the king of this here motherfucker.” He looked around the Shangri-La apartment complex. He had two other boys slinging dope for him in the other buildings. He had a fat wad of cash and a fat ass bitch to pay the bills. Life was good. His phone beeped. Business was good. He never looked back to see what Ricky was doing, or if he even left.

Ricky only waited a second before leaving the parking lot. Just long enough to make sure there weren’t any cops around. They tried to be sneaky, hiding behind cars and buildings. Ricky knew the game too well. When he was sure it was safe, he pulled out. But he would not wait until he got home to get a fix. He never did although he always meant to. Only a taste. He could wait until he got into his mother’s basement before he let it take him for a long, slow ride. For now, just enough. Just enough to make the ride home bearable.

 

****

 

Inside the two bedroom apartment Tito flopped down on a ratty old sofa. A spring nicked him in his bony ass and he jerked. "Motherfucker," he said between gritted teeth. The stuffing was coming out of the tired old couch. It had long since seen its better days. He had caught Marlene's little rug rats poking the shit out of it with a steak knife the other day. None of her four kids were his-Hell, one was redheaded- but that didn't stop him from kicking the little heathens in the ass with his Timberlands.

Marlene was scurrying around the apartment, trying to fix dinner and get ready for her counseling appointment. She was court ordered to go to the county recovery center three nights a week. It was inconvenient but it kept her out of jail and kept CPS from grabbing up the kids and putting them in a foster home. Fresh out of the shower, she held a beach towel around her ample body while stirring the macaroni and cheese. Tamika, her youngest at three, was hanging on to a flap of the towel, half walking, and half being dragged around the apartment. The only thing she seemed able to do so far in her young life, was to blow incredibly large snot bubbles. Two were growing out of her crusty nose now.

Tito knew Marlene wanted his help, needed his help right now with the kids, but fuck that. They weren't his kids and he wasn't getting into a whole daddy thing with them. He didn't babysit either. She had to run them over to her sister's apartment in the next building before she took off for her lame ass class. Besides, on the three nights a week she was gone, he went over to the neighbor's. Desiree only had two brats and they lived with her mama. Plus she was probably a hundred pounds lighter than Marlene. The only reason he hadn't made the switch was Desiree's old man was due to make parole in three months. And from what Tito had been told, that motherfucker just as soon kill a nigga as not.

Tito decided to go into the bedroom and wait for the feeding frenzy to die down. Once fed, Marlene would drag them to her sister's and be off. He watched through the bedroom door that never quite closed. Maintenance was nonexistent at the Shangri-La. Marlene was in the hall, furiously drying off her fantastically bright orange hair when her towel slipped off. She bent over and quickly snatched it up. Realizing that he was watching, she giggled girlishly and ducked into the bathroom.

"Damn,” Tito muttered. Desiree was fucking Beyoncé compared to her. Oh well, it was really just a business location. One with certain benefits perhaps. He inspected his phone to see if he had any new business. He had a couple more of the local junkies stopping by for the usual twenties. One of his boys had been trying to reach him.

It was Jamal that told him about Ricky. Banging on his door. Waking him from his afternoon nap on Marlene's shitty couch with the flowers all full of steak knife holes. It took two blankets and a whole lot of squirming around to even get a little comfortable on that piece of shit and now this kid banging on the door, tripping about some OD'd white boy. Who gives a shit? It took a minute to even remember who Ricky was. Hell, how many people named Ricky did he know. But he did remember. And it didn't surprise him. The last time he seen that skinny dude with the complexion of a corpse, he knew it was only a matter of time. For Ricky, that was. He was either going to OD or go to rehab. Sitting in that rusted out truck, sweating and stinking and blowing his phone up. Ricky’s eyes were so sunk back in that skull that Tito couldn't even see them. Just two black holes.

Damn, he was gonna miss him. He was a good customer. Someone else would take his place. Another OD out here in the sticks was just a slow news day. Hell, Tito could remember back in the day, a junkie would be hooked for twenty, thirty years. These fools today dropped dead after a year at most. It happened before and it damn sure would happen again. He didn't make them buy dope, but if they did, he damn sure wanted their money. He didn't go to their houses. He didn't go to their work. He wasn't a pusher and he didn't feel guilty for giving them what they wanted. Why shouldn't he put a little paper in his pocket? If it wasn't him it be some other brother come in from the city.

 Out here you couldn't swing a stick without hitting some kind of an addict. When one dropped two more took his place. Business was good. Jamal said his grandmamma was sick. He couldn't come around for a few days. Boy was too young for this game. Always worrying always thinking about what might happen. Tito didn't give a rat's ass about these rednecks out here in the boonies. Most of these apartments out here in lovely Shangri-La were overweight white women with too many kids and no man. Most of them were dope fiends too. He could damn near just knock on any door and they'd open it up and spread their legs. Fuck these white trash motherfuckers. He wasn't going to let it ruin his nap.

Jamal was different. Jamal's grandmamma was white and she had raised the boy out here in the boondocks. Jamal knew a lot of these people. But if Tito put some money in his pocket, he'd forget about them. Go home and relax Jamal. I got to get me some sleep before the fiends start blowing my phone up. That damn couch was almost impossible to lay on. He could feel the springs pressing against his legs through the yellow fabric, faded and worn with time and too many kids. He could feel the wood under the springs.

He could buy Marlene a new couch. There was a Goodwill in town. They would probably have a couch for a few bucks. He had to pick up some new kicks anyway. The phone had already started. Going to be a busy night.  Who the fuck was Emily? He would text her back later. See? One junkie drops and another takes his place. Damn this couch.  They would go to Goodwill tomorrow. Her sister better watch them wild ass kids of hers.

 

***

 

He shouldn't have died down there in that black hole. He should have been with her. But he hadn't been that day or any for over a week. They had had a fight. Now the love of her life was gone. There would be no more fights. There would be no more making up afterwards. The funeral was tomorrow. Ricky's piece of shit dad was picking up the tab. She was surprised, hell, everyone was surprised. Turned out the fucker still had some kind of insurance policy on him through his work. He had moved out not long after he knocked out Ricky's tooth at the birthday party. He lived in the next town over. Ricky said it was a really nice trailer, but the lady he lived with owned it. Her old man was locked up for making meth. He was doing three years or so up in county. Ricky's dad had slid into her bed before the sheets had cooled.

 They would be at the funeral along with Ricky's mom. She had never got along with his mom. Now that she was really alone, she was trying to be Emily's best friend. Fuck her. Sure, she let Ricky come back home after their fight, after every fight even, but he had to stay down in that dirty dark basement. It leaked and half of the lights down there didn't work. She had sold his bed at a yard sale years ago, so he had to sleep on that ugly couch with its ugly yellow flowers, all faded and torn. When it rained the water would be almost to the couch. Everything smelled of must and mildew. The only light in that room was from a cobweb covered forty watt bulb hanging from the ceiling. That or the ancient console TV. No cable. Ricky had a cardboard box of VHS movies. Most were from when he was a kid.

 Her last text from him said he missed her. He was sitting in the basement eating a burrito and watching The Fox and the Hound. It was his favorite movie since when he was a little kid. She begged him to come home. It was only a crappy one bedroom above the Village Laundromat, but it was their home. They had been together almost five years. He had bought her a bottle of Jaeggermeister at the Party Pantry because she was underage. They had spent the night together. She knew right then that he was the one. Now he was gone. She would spend the rest of her life missing him. She wasn't quite yet twenty four and she couldn't imagine being twenty five. Not twenty five and alone. Without Ricky she would always be alone.

His mom called to say it would be a closed casket service. The guy from the funeral home said he couldn't fix Ricky's face. The blood had settled in his face and hand and they couldn't get it covered. Ricky was so pale. He had lost so much weight lately. Emily wasn't looking so good herself. She hadn't eaten anything since she got the call he died. She hadn't slept much. Too much to do. And now the funeral was tomorrow. Tomorrow she would say goodbye. Today though, there was still things she had to take care of. His mom had told her that she could have anything she wanted from his basement room. She didn't think she would want any of that stuff. It was too sad. Just shit from a shitty childhood. She wanted to cry just thinking about it. Maybe she would take The Fox and the Hound.

 A friend had called to tell her he had seen Ricky. Charley B. said he had seen Ricky up at the Shangri-La apartments. He was talking to T. Emily knew that was probably the same reason Charley B. was up there. Score some dog off of T. He told her about some kids that OD'd at a party. He said he was sorry for her loss and that he wouldn't be able to make the services. Emily knew he would be too high to go. That's how those kind of friends are. Always there to stir the pot, to gossip and spread rumors. Always there when they needed a ride to score some shit or give a ride in exchange. Where the Hell were they when Ricky needed them?

But she had not been there either. She had let him die alone in that wet cinder block hell hole. They had been fighting over the dope lately. Fighting a lot. They had fought over him going back to rehab. She had quit. She was clean. For the most part anyway. Ricky couldn't shake it this time though. He had quit before. He had gone to jail for six months once and was good and clean when he got out. One thing or the other always seemed to drag them back into it. She had stopped running it long ago. It was never her thing. But Ricky loved the rush. At least at first. Then he didn't care about anything. She told him it was going to kill him one day. More than anything she wished she could take those words back. They sounded so cold and hollow echoing in her mind. She wished to God she had never spoke them. It was if saying it out loud had made it come true. But there was nothing she could do about it now. Nothing but maybe one thing.

Emily had been staying with a girlfriend at the Shangri-La apartments when she met Ricky. He had rescued her from there. He had saved her from a life like so many others she knew. Or so she had thought. T didn't live there then but there were others just like him. Staying with desperate women for free, selling dope. She knew T now though. She had been to meet him more times than she could remember with Ricky or Charley B. or any one of a dozen other people. She never dealt with him herself. He gave her the creeps. He looked like J.J. except with a gold tooth that kept getting snagged on his upper lip when he smiled. He smiled a lot when he looked at women. Like he was God's gift. He wouldn't answer her texts. She would go to him.

She knew what building he lived in and that he lived with a girl named Marlene. She would just ask someone. When she pulled into the parking lot, Marlene was outside. She was trying to wrangle three little kids while screaming at a fourth one who was throwing rocks. The littlest one looked half black and she wondered if it was T's. When she asked about T, Marlene told her the apartment number. She was too frazzled to care about Tito. She was tired of her hooligan kids. She was tired of Tito's lazy ass sleeping on her couch all day. She was tired of the bullshit classes she had to take just to keep the rotten little brats. Get his ass up she had said. Why should he get to lay around all day when she had these kids to take care of?

So at the door of 5B she didn't knock. She just opened the door and let it swing open. The apartment was as depressing as the one she had shared five years ago. Same shitty color on the walls and same shitty carpet. The floor was littered with toys, most of them broken, all of them second hand.  The furniture was sparse and rickety. The TV was newer. Tito Brown was lying face down on the couch, one arm was hanging off and in danger of knocking over a glass of Kool-Aide. The carpet stains said it was a common occurrence. She stopped and stared at the couch. It couldn't possibly be. The light in here was better so the color seemed a little brighter, but the pattern was unmistakable. The same flowers on the same background. These flowers were all tattered but the same as the ones on the couch in Ricky's basement room. She moved closer to the sleeping man. Her feet were leaden and she had to drag them along the threadbare carpet. Her hands were trembling. She had to remember to breathe. It wasn't the man that had shaken her, but that damn couch.

She was directly over him now. She could smell his cologne. It was cheap and strong. She could smell the ashtray that sat on the end table, overflowing. The smell of diapers and unwashed children mingled with the other aromas and she fought back the urge to vomit. His back rose and fell steady. He was snoring slightly. His gold tooth visible under his top lip. She wondered if that was what Ricky had looked like seconds before his heart stopped. Was Ricky sleeping while this fucker's poison ran through his veins? Why should her Ricky be gone while he lay here? Why was her love to be buried in the morning while this piece of shit still breathed?

No answer came to her. There was no right or wrong. There was no good or evil. There was no one to blame and everyone to blame. It was just life. It was just how it worked out. Some people live and some people die. She closed her eyes tight. Tighter. She wanted to block out the present, the past. She had no future.

The knife she pulled from her purse looked absurdly large in her hand. In the kitchen drawer with its brothers and cousins it had seemed just another utensil. In her hand it had turned into a wicked thing full of deadly purpose. She caught a reflection in the blade and stopped. It was her own, even though the woman in that thin sliver of cruel steel was someone she did not recognize. She turned her eyes, now the eyes of an animal-a predator-back to her task. It was her task, her job, perhaps even her destiny. It had become so the moment he died. The moment his heart ceased to beat, his lungs ceased to breathe and he ceased to be. Gone as completely as if it might never had been.

She positioned the tip of the blade above where she imagined his heart to be. Heart? What kind of heart could this monster have? He became less as she stood there, less than human, less than an animal. He was dirt, filth, vermin. Something to be wiped off of the bottom of your shoe. Something to be scraped off and flung away. Everything disappeared. The dingy walls and the stained carpet. Nothing existed but the gleaming blade. She pushed down into the soft flesh. There was little resistance, not like she thought but like a tough piece of meat. Over and over she repeated her motions. Tito never moved, never even flinched. Maybe he was already dead, struck down by that same poison that had taken her Ricky. It didn’t matter now. The pale yellow flowers began to turn dark as the old tired fabric greedily drank up the crimson offering. They weren’t yellow anymore. Now they were blood flowers. She wondered if it too would be a closed casket.

 

 

When she was done, she sat down on an arm of that pale yellow couch with its pale yellow flowers, its arms threadbare and its cushions tattered and torn. It sagged now in the middle, as if were about to surrender and collapse under the weight of its own filth. It was covered in stains and cigarette burns, and they bore silent witness to years of misuse and every careless thing ever done to it. How those pale flowers now seemed to be camouflage, to hide its scars rather than some decorative pattern in the fabric. And how that couch now seemed so much like a life-her life, perhaps-but a life whose soul was covered with the stains of misuse and ill treatment. She hadn’t any pale flowers to hide her scars. And she thought that her soul might surrender and collapse under the weight of its own filth


© Copyright 2017 Terrence Lee. All rights reserved.

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