Tag Archives: Chapter Four

Zoid Man: Chapter Four

17 Dec

Chapter Four

 

Henry’s was a package store about three blocks from the school. You could get pop and gum and candy, plus other stuff, too. A back Coke cooler, it was said, was full of anything but Coke. And Henry didn’t ask questions nor require ID. He was in business to make money.

And he sold cigarettes with the same stipulations: as long as you had the money and could pay, he’d sell it to you. That included chewing tobacco and girlie magazines, as well.

The latest Playboy Playmate of the Month was tacked to the inside of the bathroom door, and all the guys flocked to Henry’s on a monthly basis.

Henry observed all from his barstool perch behind the small counter near the cash register. A sign on the front of the register said in faded red letters, THIS STORE PROTECTED BY SMITH AND WESSON. Behind him along the wall were cubby holes for hundreds of packs of cigarettes, all cellophane-wrapped and brightly colored. The store itself was elbow-room only, with shelves of various products lining the walls, and a center shelf-like island with even more stuff. From hair tonics to shoe polish, every cranny was utilized.

Various aromas hit the nose depending where you stood in the store. Tobacco, bread, Clorox and others mixed in the tiny store.

On the counter was a glass container that housed a hotdog cooker, and a dozen dogs were in various states of doneness, turning slowly on the metal rollers. Henry’s had the best hot dogs in town, next to the Dog House, of course. The monthly inspection grade at Henry’s was never above a C, although once it had received a C+. Everyone thought Henry had bribed the inspector that month.

The rough kids — the greasers — would skip the school cafeteria during lunch and go to Henry’s, where they downed a couple of hotdogs and smoked cigarettes. One or two would get a drink from the Coke cooler, then swig back nearly the whole teardrop container of Binaca, while splashing half a bottle of Canoe so that no one could smell the beer or cigarettes.

No one was supposed to leave the school campus during lunch. They were required to eat in the cafeteria, which served up the same old slop on rotating days. Even the faculty avoided the school food, opting to either bring in homemade meals, or quickly drive to the new MacDonalds a few blocks away. Each — students and faculty — had to keep an eye on the clock in order to be back in class at the bell ending lunch.

Neither Jack nor Benny had been to Henry’s before, and when they opened the screen door and pushed open the glass door it was like walking into the hallowed halls of manhood. Henry looked up from his perch behind the counter, the stub of a cigarette still moldering between his yellowed fingers.

“Hey, boys. What kin I getcha?”

The boys looked all about. There was so much to take in! Plus the mystique of Henry’s heightened everything.

“Hot dogs,” said Jack finally.

“Mustard, ketchup, onions and chili?”

“Hold the onions. Two. One for me and one for my friend”

Henry grabbed two paper plates and put a bun on each, splaying them open, then picked the hotdogs from the cooker and carefully nested them in the buns. He squeezed out watery ketchup and mustard along the meat, than ladled a generous amount of chili from a pan on the back counter.

Putting the plates on the counter, Henry asked if they’d like a drink.

“Coke. Real coke is fine. Not the other …” stammered Benny, half-smiling.

“Only kind I got. Anything else? No? Seventy-five cents.”

Jack paid Henry and the two went back outside in front of the store, where a small wooden picnic table baked in the sun, and flies buzzed about the various empty paper plates strewn about.

As they ate in silence, two “greasers” from school approached the store and went inside. They came back out minutes later with hotdogs and Cokes. One reached into his jeans jacket pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. Jack elbowed Benny and nodded toward the guy, who opened a hard-pack container. It was white with two red chevron stripes running from top to bottom. Tareytons!

Jack cleared his throat and looked at the guy, who cupped his hands expertly around a match he struck to light the cigarette pinched between his lips.

“Uh — you smoke Tareytons I see.”

The older boy pulled in a long drag of smoke, and pushed it out of his mouth to sniff it into his nostrils. Cool!

He blew a cloud of smoke into the air, no hint of a cough or gag, and turned to look at Jack.

“Yeah.” He stared at Jack as if trying to place him in his memory, as if trying to unclog a recollection that was stuck in a crack.

“I smoke ‘em too. Wondered if I could bum one from you?” Jack tried to be nonchalant and tough.

“You go to Frankton?”

“Yeah. Me and Benny do. Sure.”

“Who’s your homeroom teacher?”

“Butts.”

“Ha! Butts! Great name for her, right?”

The duo laughed in agreement.

“Well, you and Benny … I ain’t got but five more butts myself. I’ll sell you a couple, though. Five cents each.”

“FIVE CENTS!” Benny blurted out. “A whole pack’s only a quarter!”

“Then go buy yourself a pack. I’m no charity. And it’s not like I know you or anything.”

“Five cents is fine.” Jack dug in his front pocked for change, and pulled out a dime. He gave it to the boy.

“Who is your homeroom teacher?”

“Dickers,” said the older boy, handing over the two smokes. Dickers was the shop teacher. He was the keeper of all the school’s “challenged students.”

“Oh, you’re in the seventh grade, too.”

“I live in the seventh grade,” he smirked, taking another drag on his cigarette. “Been there going on my third year.” He held out his matches to Jack.

“Oh, that’s all right. I’ll smoke ‘em after school. I’m hoping to play basketball next year, and don’t want coach to smell it on my breath. I have gym next period.”

“I got some Binaca you can use. Go ahead. I bet you never smoked before!” he grinned.

“Well . . .”

Jack looked at Benny, who shrugged his shoulders and wiped some mustard off his lips.

“Okay.”

Jack and Benny held their cigarettes pinched between the ends of their thumbs and forefinger, while Jack also tried to strike a match. It wasn’t working. The older boy grinned and shook his head.

“Gimme those,” he ordered, and Jack handed over the cigarettes and matches. The older boy put both cigarettes into his mouth and lit them on one match expertly, as though he had seen every James Dean movie there was. He handed the cigarettes back to Jack and Benny, who gingerly placed the smokes to their lips.

Benny puffed on his, but not in — out — pinching the cigarette daintily.

Jack brought his cigarette to his lips, mimicking the boy, and took a long draw of smoke into his lungs. Immediately he gagged and started to cough uncontrollably.

A few other greasers had noticed the transaction and had formed a semi-circle around the circus scene. Their audience exploded in laughter.

“Wow! What’s your name?”

“Jack.”

“And does Jack have a second name?”

“Carter.”

“Carter. You gotta older brother? Jerrod?”

“Jason. His name is Jason.”

“Ah. Jason Carter’s little brother Jack. I know where you live. Up above the triangle in the Emerywood section. So, Jack — that was impressive! Let me guess — this is your first trip to Henry’s, right? And this is your first time smoking.”

“No — it’s not! Smoking, anyway,” he managed to rasp.

“Second, then. So what is a good boy like you and your pal doing at a place like Henry’s? I bet your momma would go nuts if she knew you were here. Am I right? And especially if she knew you were hanging out with a greaser. And Coach! What would he say? Or your brother Jason? I bet they wouldn’t be happy about this.

“Wonder what if would be worth to you for me to keep quiet about this little escapade of yours? A buck?”

Jack stared helplessly at the older boy. Benny put his cigarette out and backed out of the middle of the small circle. The other boys were nodding and laughing at the situation. Reluctantly, Jack dug back into his pocket, and pulled out a wadded up dollar bill. He held it out for the older boy to take.

“Smart man, Jack. This’ll keep me quiet … for … say — a month.”

“A month!” Jack gasped.

“That’s cheap, Jack! Comes to about three cents a day. Almost the price of a cigarette on the open market!”

More laughter from the gallery.

The older boy stepped up to Jack and bent to put his face inches away. Jack could smell the mixture of cigarette smoke and Binaca and Canoe.

“A month from today, come back with another dollar. If you don’t, it won’t go well with you. Do you understand?”

Jack nodded.

The older boy looked at his watch.

“Oops! Gotta run! The bell’s gonna ring in five minutes. Remember, Jack — a month from today. One dollar. Not too much to ask for peace of mind, right?”

He and his group laughed, slapped each other on their backs, poked each other in the arms, and took off back to school.

Jack and Benny stood in the wake of the older boys’ exit. They looked at each other and said, simultaneously, “Shit!”

 

Copyright © 2015, Lawrence S. Marsden

 

The Saga of a Rescued Dog: Chapter Four

22 May

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The Saga of a Rescued Dog

Chapter Four: The other inmates

by L. Stewart Marsden

 

Previously:

BAD DOG!

And I awoke, startled, hungry and afraid. It was night, and I stood on wobbly legs and slowly stepped out into the yard.

The moon was waning — yet bright enough in the sky to illumine the tall oaks that bordered the compound. I lay down in the cooling dirt and shook my head to clear the cobwebs. The conversation resurfaced slowly.

Euthanasia?

Thirty days?

What day was it?

_____________________

 

 

I remember lying on the livingroom floor and watching “The Shawshank Redemption” while Mister Master droned out on the couch, snoring loudly and letting a Budweiser slip from his hand. The beer poured out onto the wood floor, and when he awoke, I was blamed for the spill, naturally.

Anyway, the movie came back to me in the animal shelter, when I realized that at the end of thirty days, whatever euthanasia was, it was going to happen to me.

My cellmates explained to me that there were only two doors to the compound. The door I had come through days earlier, that led into the front waiting area of the shelter, and the door at the end of the hallway.

That door, my mates told me, was where dogs went and never returned.

Of course, I proposed immediately that perhaps those dogs were adopted, and that there was a loading area where the adopters drove to get their new family members.

The only response I got from that idea were low-slung looks and knowing slow shakes of the head.

The chihuahua in the next cage over clucked and said I was full of rice and beans, and that everyone knew what happened when a dog was taken through the door at the end of the hall. They just didn’t know how it happened.

My new friends filled me in quickly on the dos and the don’ts of the compound. How leg-lifting on the gates was frowned upon; how loud and incessant barking wasn’t the smartest thing to do; how any kind of snarling or gnashing of teeth marked you as a bad dog — which was the quickest way to get a one-way ticket through the door.

Mangum, a slow, fat southern bloodhound, had been there the longest. He had seen dogs adopted, and dogs by-passed by the excited misters and misses and little misters that crowded together at the various doors of the cages.

You don’t want to lung up on the cage doors. That’ll excite the misters and misses, who  will fear their little pups will be bitten or scratched by you.

What do you do? I asked.

Well, you smile — as best you can. And it helps to look real sad-eyed. That gets a lot of response from the misses. And wag your tail, too. Oh — make eye contact. Be sure to do that. If you continually look away, they think you’ve got something to hide.

Mangum was probably not going to get adopted, and had resolved himself to that fact. His mister, whom he had lived with and hunted with for years, had died when the old house they lived in burned down. Mangum made a valiant attempt to save him, but the dead man’s weight was too much for the aged Mangum to drag. Firefighters found Mangum, unconscious but alive, laying near his master’s side.

I’m too old to be adopted, he wheezed. And I guess I’ve had about the best life a dog could wish for.

It made me sad to think of Mangum going through that door. He deserved better. So did we all. Except maybe Damien. But even Damien was a victim of circumstance.

Damien was a muscular Doberman. Black with brown and white markings — he exuded warrior. He had the battle scars to prove it: one ear was half bitten off, and his back leg was horribly mangled.

Damien was a gladiator. He fought other dogs. As he puts it, he was a fighter the minute his foot hit the ground, and all of his training prepared him for the pit.

I ain’t good for nuthin’ else, he growled.

He broke all of Mangum’s suggestions. He leaped viciously at his door when adopters came through. He barked and slathered (he said that slathering was a particularly intimidating tactic in the pit, because the other dog thought you were crazy) for hours on end.

The mister and the little misters carefully slid Damien’s food and water through a small opening in his cage just big enough for the bowls. They never came in to clean his cage because he would charge in from his yard before they could close the door to the yard. So they hosed his area out with him standing there like a demon dog.

That’s what they called him, too.

Only one adopter expressed interest in Damien, but the rumor came back that the adopter was also involved in dog fighting.

Damien had been “rescued” when the sheriff’s department raided the pit he was fighting in.

He told us it was a shame he wouldn’t be going out fighting.

Muffy was a dainty Shitzu — which she pronounced “she-zoo,” and the rest of us said “shit-zoo.” Many a howl over Muffy. Her story was that one day she wandered away from her yard, and a mister drove up in a van and took her.

He ripped off all of her identification, and drove forever away from her home. She thought he was going to try to sell her, but she managed to get away when he stopped for gas and left the passenger side window down.

She took the chance and leaped out, running through four lanes of traffic to escape.

Someone found her days later, and brought her to the animal shelter.

Of us all, Muffy was the most refined and queenly in her deportment. But we put up with her anyway.

At the front end of the hallway, against the wall, were the cages for small animals other than dogs. A thick-furred manx, who claimed to be two generations removed from being a bobcat, hissed from her enclosure. Like Damien, the manx was reclusive and spiteful. Plus, she was a cat.

In case you didn’t know, I hate cats. I had a bad experience with a feral cat when I was a puppy, and there is no love lost where I’m concerned. There are not enough dogs, and too many cats in the world. I’m sorry — that’s just how I feel. Live with it.

Clarence was a possum (Oh-possum, he would say) and was just plain stupid. His tail was broken when he tried to cross the road at about the pace of a slug, I’d say. And at night! A car loomed out of the dark, and Clarence was mesmerized by the headlights.

He told us he thought they were twin meteors coming out of space . . . what a dip! But the idiot had the dumb luck of being an animal the mister would nurse back to health and turn over to a local zoo. He was not going down the long hall and through the euthanasia door.

Imagine that.

And there were others in the compound — mostly whom I never got to know. Newbies came in about every other day.

Oh, the mister came through and took pictures of all of us with a Polaroid camera, and taped the picture to a piece of white cardboard on which he wrote about us. He also put numbers one through thirty on the bottom in a line, and crossed them off, one by one, for each day we stayed. That card was fastened to the front of each cage.

When he brought in potential adopters, he would go over each animal’s history. If lucky, and adopted, the adopters took the photo and the card with them.

If not adopted, and all thirty numbers got crossed off, the mister would pin the picture and bio to a cork board fastened next to the door at the end of the hallway. It was a large cork board, and there were a lot of photos and bios pinned to it.

The saddest day in the compound was when the mister entered and walked slowly down to Mangum’s cage. It was no surprise to Mangum — he knew the day was coming. The day before he asked the dog in the cage opposite his what numbers were still left on his card that weren’t crossed off.

None, came the reply.

The mister was extremely sad, and he walked to Mangum’s cage with his head bowed. Mangum sat ready on the other side of the door, also with bowed head.

The mister didn’t even leash Mangum, but opened the cage door, and out Mangum stepped. Then the two slowly walked to the door at the end of the hall, Mangum’s picture and bio in the mister’s hand.

The two went through the door, and about an hour later, the mister emerged without our friend. The mister’s face was streaked with tears, and he turned and pinned Mangum’s picture and bio on the cork board, then quickly walked out of the compound and through the front door, letting it close by itself.

Hey, I said to the dog in the cage across the aisle from mine. What numbers are still left on my card that haven’t been crossed off?

He squinted and looked, then lowered his head and said something.

What? I can’t hear you, I said.

Six. Six days have not been marked off.