The muscle hum has settled into a satisfying sine wave now. It changed matched the tone of the heart monitor's steady dead tone a few minutes ago. Or hours. I don't know anymore. It feels like the grey time of night when you know you should be asleep, when fatigue grinds your bones to make it's bread, when even coffee tastes like ashes in your mouth. I try to fold into myself like a origami fist, wrap up my perception in a tight ball and swim within . The bucketseat slowly shifts me back and forth as we travel the town, rolling me like a pebble in a river of pain. Just tumble and take the edges off. Can't go backward, got to move forward.

It replays like the flashback reel on a cheap TV drama. Last week, blur, highlight, shocker, cliff hanger, and now...

She is dead, he is breathing, and I am tired.

I suppose that it isn't a daydream if you do it at night. I sit quietly amongst the various smells of medical solvents and the mortal remains of a poor old lady and remember university, when I tried to play the part of doctor. It's very dreamy, with the adrenaline bleeding away from me, spit on a hot sidewalk.

I keep coming back to these two guys I knew, Scylla and Charybdis we called them, and wonder what happened to them. I can't even remember anything real about them, knowing them only in passing and as the subject of rumors and gossip. See, Sky and Chary were roommates with a prodigious appetite for women. Last of the old school trim-hounds, stupidly ignorant of the new world of STDs and emotionally stable women. Their pad was a dangerous Strait of Messina for pussy.

We turned off the siren after we pronounced Sonya dead but I can still hear it. We are just a glorified Hearse now, no rush for the dead. I sit in the back and rub my hands compulsively, lost in memory.

The thing I couldn't work out about Sky and Chary was why so much back chatter about them filled the lulls in our study groups down in the lab. A whispered undercurrent always held them up as a couple of lovers that were tangled up in their own denial. Chary was always brooding, strumming on his guitar and fixing his Gap Model hair. He was the bait. Sky was a rougher, fratboy character who snapped up all the frustrated girls who orbited around his deep dark partner. It seemed the perfect system to me, until my friend Claire pointed out the key to what I was missing. Chary loved Sky with that perfect soul mate love you only ever feel once in your life. Sky loved Chary right back, but they would never tell each other. The taboo of it all locked them up like a couple of Young Virgins Auto-Sodomized by Their Own Chastity. What seemed so grand to me dribbled away. It became the saddest goddamn thing I've ever seen in my life.

"Fuck You, you fucking fascist pigs!" was the first thing I ever heard my only true love say. She was a teenage junkie. I like to call her Candi, with an i, when I think about her. I have no idea what her real name is. She was a drug addict with these beautiful needle tracks all up the insides of her pale white arms. Rich red Connect-the-dots bruises.

Candi, oh Candi. I miss you so much. When you stabbed that store clerk with your jackknife and ran out with half the till jammed in your oversized pants, you never even saw the minivan. It broke both your legs under the knees and sent me running. The cops let you lie in the street and scream at them while they attended to the shop keep.

You said the most beautiful things. The story about shooting their mommas in the face didn't seem to speed your egress from the asphault. They can be so cold-hearted, enforcing laws that keep you from your fix.

I don't remember who I was working with that night. All I can remember is you. How your eyes looked so blue. How husky your voice was when you screamed at them. How shock made your face so smooth and cool. How your punk rock breasts heaved under your dirty white tank top while you gulped air in a goldfish manner.

How cold the ring of a .38 muzzle felt when you pressed it up under my chin.

"Gimme sum'n fo' the pain, you fuckin' whiteboy hero." you said. I was in the middle of putting the IV tap in your hand. You broke my heart with those words, Candi. I'm no hero, dearest Candi. I'm just a failure like you.

"Put the gun away" I said in a weary voice. "If I don't finish the IV your going to get a bubble in your bloodstream and die." I followed up, laying my bullshit hand on the table. It was a lie. She pressed the gun into my throat and sat up, eyeing the IV. "It's a painful way to die" I managed, rubbing my chin on the barrel as I spoke. Everything stopped, time invalidated in our little white world.

I saw your pupils flaring and retracting like a railroad sign. You were tweaking on meth. I pushed the gun away and broke your nose with the splint bar I had behind my back. Then I pumped you so full of Haldol you almost went into a coma.

I miss you Candi.

I close the mental book on her one more time, for the hundredth time. I've rolled the sheet covered shell all the way to the morgue on autopilot. Stan rolls out an empty steel autopsy table when he hears the basement elevator chime. Squinty Mole Stan the Boatman is all business. In and out of his domain flow the living and the dead. He looks dyspeptic all the time, a poster boy for Pepto Bismol. Hoisting poor featherweight Sonya only takes a minute.

"Form." quoth the Boatman.

I hand it to him. He purses his lips at the signature of the attending ER doc who signed the death cert. I stand on the far side of the body.

"Let's have a look." he dictates off his internal procedures list. His voice is as empty as a fresh grave.

"Hmm. Bled out?" he asks, raising Sonya's makeshift bandage, now black with blood.

"VTAC" I offer.

"Stroked out then" concludes Stan. "Autopsy will tell."

"What's this?" he asks, accusing finger circling Sonya's bared breast. Two circular electrical burns ride her withered still chest.

"Max Paddles, no gel". I probably broke her ribs with the CPR too. It happens. She looks so small.

Stan curls his lip in response. I'm sure he has seen it before.

"Figure it was suicide?" he asks.

"I dunno. Kind of a weird cut." I offer.

"Sign the form." Stan concludes.

I shuffle away, having traded a woman's dead body for a signature. Another delivery made. Now we will leave to get coffee and wind down, waiting for the next call. The Sadist starts to talk about the women he meets on the Internet, the housewives he ties up and beats for their jollies.

"Shut the fuck up George" morses out the twitch. I sip my coffee.

continued in Street Meat


In which the mountains are old and I am the ghost on the battlements - Kid Eternity - Do svidanya, Rodina! - Standin' in a pool of cop blood with a shotgun you can't stop - Street Meat - Johnny Cash with His Hot and Blue Guitar

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