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Chilled to the Bone: A Short Story

I Finally Made Time

It’s been a long time, much too long, but I’m back writing creatively again and it feels mighty good. I hope you enjoy my little foray into the darkness. I actually have another article written and ready to publish, a feel-good article, but that will have to wait until next week.

I don’t know where my muse went to, but she has returned. I suspect she felt ignored and unwanted with me running around frantically trying to accomplish more than I was capable of accomplishing. I said my mea culpas to her and she has forgiven me.

And this is what she wrote!

It is always cold on the streets

It is always cold on the streets

A Winter’s Day

So cold!

I wish Tyrone would turn up the damned heat.

Can’t mention it, though; don’t want him mad at me.

“Angel, get up, girl! It’s almost noon and we need to get our asses out on that street corner.”

Angel looks at me from one eye, her tangled, strawberry locks covering most of her face. Tyrone says she’s eighteen. Eighteen my ass! More like fourteen with those narrow hips and smooth skin. Been here a month now and still showing attitude, the kind of attitude that will earn her a split lip . . . or worse.

Me, I’m what? Twenty-two? Is that right? Yes, twenty-two, soon to be twenty-three, a Christmas baby, like the Christ child, too damned funny, no resemblance at all to that child, not unless Christ turned tricks for a twenty.

Angel crawls her ass out from under the covers, squeezes herself, her long curly hair spilling over her tiny breasts. I can see her breath when she speaks, one lonely tear caressing her cheek, tracing a path to her chin, dropping to the floor.

“I won’t survive,” is all she says.

I hug her tight then, hug her hard enough to push those demons back, hard enough to make myself forget for just one moment.

“Yes you will,” I tell her, not believing it for a New York minute. Truth be told we all die in this job, some slower than others, but we all die.

“My little sister, Marie, she’s really missing me, you know. She would always follow me around, like a puppy, and now . . . “

“Don’t go there, Angel,” I tell her. “It does no good. The sooner your little sister realizes you are dead, the better for everyone.”

I’ve seen hundreds of Angels over the past six years, runaways, discontents, streakin’ to the big city like a comet entering the atmosphere, and like that comet they burn out quickly . . . or, like Angel, they are snatched from parking lots and jogging trails, back in Cedar Rapids or Topeka or Bozeman, there one moment, gone the next, their families left with memories and empty rooms.

Me? I’m from Salem, another place, another time, home no more.

“Come on, now, let’s get moving before Tyrone comes back. Twelfth and Pine is just waking up and we need to be there when the lonely boys start searching for salvation.”

Lunch on the streets

Lunch on the streets

In a Deep, and Dark, December

That’s what we are, you know? Salvation for the lonelies, a fifteen, twenty minute escape for the guy with a bitch for a wife, the guy with the too-stressful job, or the guy who can only get a date if he pays for one. For a quarter hour we make him feel better, give him release, even his keel so he can sail back to that hellhole he came from and face it refreshed.

Most of them are okay. The few assholes answer to Tyrone, and word gets out on the streets that you do not want to be messin’ with Tyrone’s girls, not if you don’t want to be fish food in the Hudson the next day. So it’s safe enough, just spread your knees, take them in, give them what they paid for, and pretend it never happened thirty, forty times each day. Put together five good days and Tyrone give you a day off, benefits on the job, a day off to do whatever, as long as Tyrone knows where whatever is going down.

He’s okay, you know, as good as pimps go in this city. Treats us all right, buys us clothes, insists we see the doctor every six months . . . he even bought me a Christmas present last year, pretty necklace, all turquoise and purple, made me feel special, sweet-like, I wear it every single day . . .

Angel is holding herself tight, can’t stop shaking, colder than a witches tit on that street corner, sign above First Federal says eighteen degrees, our coats, lined with newspapers, no match for that kind of weather, and Angel being so damned skinny to begin with, no meat on her bones, no hope in her heart, shaking off the baby fat, her mind twelve-hundred miles away in another time, another place, going to dances, flirting at study hall, bitchin’ at her mother for all the damned rules, rules she wishes now she had followed, a good life gone in a New York minute, or in her case fifteen minutes, that first trick, always painful, always shattering, bye bye Mom, bye-bye Dad, sorry, sorry, so sad.

Tyrone stops by around four, first of two stops, collects cash, ninety percent to him, ten to us, better than most, takes a look at Angel, asks her if she’s okay, tough kid, hacking up a lung, says “don’t worry ‘bout me, Mister Tyrone,” makes a half-assed effort to smile at him, but she’s burning up an hour later, eyes glazed, me worrying something fierce. I page Tyrone, he’s back in ten, scoops Angel up and takes her away, away from the corner, away from the Johns, back to her safe place, her memories, her . . .

She died that night!

I Am Alone

It happens sometimes. They just can’t hack it on the streets. No rhyme or reason for it. I don’t know what happens to them then. Tyrone takes care of it. Angel will show up in a dumpster, or floating down by the docks, her hair tangled around that sweet face, finally at peace, her room back at home forever empty. No more school dances for you, darlin’.

And a new girl takes her place, Janice she says, pissed off and breathin’ fire, but the fear is there, no hiding the fear, no matter the bravado, the threats, the fear is there, so real you can touch it.

Red is gray and yellow white

Red is gray and yellow white

I Touch No One and No One Touches Me

There’s physical touch, you know, and then the real touch, the one that reaches the heart, a momma’s touch on a summer day, a soft breeze caressing the two of you, you knowing love will always win, no matter what, Momma is there so hush now child, don’t you worry none.

No one touches me that way, never again, won’t allow it, won’t open those doors for nobody, that’s just the way it has to be if I want to see another year. Emotions will kill you quicker than the cold out there, stone-cold dead from the inside out, and I aim to never let that happen, and that’s just the real of it.

Burned Out Bob stops by, ex-military, left some of his brain back in Khe Sanh, not a bad guy, sad, lonely, wants his usual, around the world, no kissing, never any kissing, kissing like that movie, too personal, like Julia Roberts would ever hook, what a laugh, but she was right about that, never let them really inside of you, not where the ghosts roam the corridors and the truth will kill you, so Bob gets his pleasure for a part of his retirement pay, an even exchange, capitalism dating back thousands of years, me part of a history, Bob happy, Tyrone happy, me, I’m just killing time till the end of time.

Damn it’s cold, colder than a hooker’s heart, and ain’t that the truth?

Fog now, drifting down, staining everything a surreal gray, wrapping us in its arms, squeezing the warmth from us, red is gray and yellow white, an old song, can’t remember the title, and we decide which is right and which is an illusion.

Silliness! Fog can’t shade the pain.

“Come on, Janice, let’s me and you get some coffee. I’ll tell you how it is and how it’s going to be.”

A Personal Note

It felt good to write creatively again. Naturally I returned to the dark side. It’s where I’m always drawn. There is so much darkness in the world, and I happen to think it’s important we acknowledge it . . . at the very least acknowledge it . . . so that no one becomes invisible.

By the way, globally, sex trafficking is a $150 billion industry involving over 20 million victims. Capitalism . . . ya gotta love it!

Thanks for reading!

2018 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

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