Monday, April 02, 2007

Television, Part 2

(Second in a two-part series)

Lynn uncurled her legs from the leather chair and kicked aside the takeout containers on the coffee table.

Kurt ordered from all the coolest restaurants. Now the cold sauces stank, and she was too lazy to stack it up and throw it away.

She flipped the television remote in her hand in slow circles. Across the room, the colors and shapes moved in her unfocused vision.

Her hand stopped. She thumbed down the volume a couple bars.

She tipped her head to the ceiling and listened.

No sounds upstairs. She dared to drop the volume a bit more.

Yes, there was a low whine and pattering. They were in the shower.

A low voice echoed over the rush of water. The laugh was oily. Lynn gunned the remote and flooded the room with sound.

Twenty minutes later, Danny eased onto the couch without a word. She watched how carefully he sank into the softness. His face grimaced, then relaxed. A droplet of water flicked off a point of combed, wet hair.

Lynn didn't really want to join him, but she left the chair anyway. She made the effort to rub his shoulder. His carved-out face blinked occasionally at the television.

She sighed and pulled away.

Kurt strutted down the stairs. Huge grin as usual. "Your envelope is on the table."

He liked to be prompt. He also liked to keep the reality abundantly clear. "Did you have good day, Lynn?"


"Try to be awake and 'with it' a little earlier tomorrow, okay? You guys are getting later and later."

"Sure, Kurt. Whatever."

"I'm going back to the office for a little while. You need anything?"

Lynn shook her head. His gaze jumped to Danny, who didn't react.

Lynn's blood roared when Kurt's greedy eyes licked over Danny's lean lines, and Kurt knew it. The grin widened.

She snapped away, and the footsteps dwindled. The door closed, sealing them in.

Time crawled. Television shows came and went. Lynn made herself watch or else her heart would pound.

Danny swallowed. His lips were cracked and sticky. He used to dive into her neck all the time, kiss her everywhere while she giggled and shooed him away. How long since he last touched her?

During a commercial, he finally spoke. "I asked him to give us more money."

The words floated around in her brain. She was too tired to think.

"Did you hear me?" he said.


"Can you check?"

Her breath hissed as she walked over to the table and slapped up the envelope. "Five more bucks," she said.

"I asked for ten."

She shrugged, sliding out the money and folding it into her jeans.

"How much did you save today?"

"Not as much," she said. "The asshole's getting sick of listening to me, I think. He wants me to blow him."

Danny just stared.

"You know, why the hell are we bothering? A couple bucks here, a couple bucks there. Who cares? Do you want a bus ticket home? That's about all we're gonna be able to save."

Danny gripped the skin on his legs and turned it white.

Her words rolled around her head.

wants me to blow him to blow him to blow him

What was Danny thinking?

He never said what Kurt did to him upstairs. What Kurt made him do. She never asked either.

She replaced the empty envelope on the table.

Anymore, she didn't really care.

Go back to Part 1.

(Based on a true story. Philadelphia is known for its cheap, pure heroin. A couple of years ago, I noticed a lot of homeless college-aged guys and girls. They sometimes had cardboard signs asking for money to buy a ticket home. Of course, they never seemed to leave. Later, I read a newspaper article about kids coming from as far as Seattle for the heroin. To buy it, they panhandled for money in the day, then sold themselves at night. One couple was funded and housed by a well known editor (a man) in exchange for sex. But not with the girl. I've sometimes thought about their relationship and what that life did to them.)


S. W. Vaughn said...

Wow. Fantastic story, Jason. God, those poor kids...

anne said...

No more humour today, is there.

kcterrilynn said...

I'm always torn when it comes to giving or not giving to the homeless. I'm too sympathetic for my own good sometimes.

Great story.

Scott said...

Talk about stuck. I've not been there, but I understand being trapped.

Bev said...

how sad it is that real life is even worse for some folks that what ever nasty things we writers can dream up as fiction.....

klgilbert said...

It is heartrending that in our constant search for happiness we feel the need to escape reality. We want instant Nirvana - that ultimate high and feeling of enlightenment that comes from drugs. In heroin and cocaine, of course, we find only pseudo illumination and ourselves in hell. The pleasure lasts only minutes...the rest is misery.

Your story is poignant, and as I have stated previously, gritty.

I liked this writing style. It seems with a few well chosen, to the point words - you said volumes. Scarcity of words? It worked great with this idea. sparse, limited, scant, meager....that is what they have reduced themselves to... thin, transparent souls.

This packed a punch, my friend.

Anne said...

wow. very dark and sad.

billie said...

I love what Kaye said - scarcity of words, thin transparent souls - this really captures the essence of the piece, I think.

It pulls hard.

Joni said...


Makes my chest hurt.

Anonymous said...

Jason, life is a bitch at times. Hard for some folks to deal with. You showed it well.

Terri said...

Ugh, that's a little too much reality. You certainly know how to get our attention.

Jay said...

People do crazy things without really understanding why. Addiction is a bitch.

Jaye Wells said...

I swear I commented on this yesterday, but it's not here. So I shall repeat: The story was well-written but depressing as hell. Made more so by the fact it's based on a true story.

My word ver is: kidugdn

Kid, you go down? Freaky.

Anonymous said...

**Sorry for taking a while to respond to comments. Work has been a little crazy.**

Anonymous said...

S.W., thanks, my friend. I was really struck by what these kids endure, arguably by choice.

Anne, I suppose not. Sorry, this was pretty heavy.

KC, my feelings are torn, but I rarely ever give. I don't want to be an enabler. I feel really badly for the mentally ill who are homeless. They really don't have the means to get off the street without help.

Scott, yes, it's a horrible price they pay.

Bev, very true. When I choose to do a story based on fact, I'm trying to imagine what it was like to live through the experience.

Kaye, your comment is more artful than my story. Thank you for such wonderful and insightful feedback!!

Anne, I thought I'd go for cheery this time. ;)

Billie, yes, Kaye nailed it, didn't she? I know my style is fairly spare, but here I purposefully stretched their experience to a kind of frozen, meager dream. I imagine these kids might feel lost in a world like that.

Joni, although I do apologize for inflicting that anxiety on you, actually it is a very high compliment you paid me.

Steve, thanks! If I did their experience even a small measure of justice, I'm very pleased.

Terri, something like this is hard to read, I know, but sometimes we need a little reminder that we actually have it pretty good.

Jay, somehow you managed to tie the essence of the situation neatly into two sentences. There's infinite truth in your words.

Jaye, blogger must have been acting up. Actually, my notification of Kaye's comment came through oddly. Thanks for the feedback! I didn't mean to depress you. At least not very long.

bekbek said...

I love the title, Jason. Perfect on many levels.

Anonymous said...

Bekbek, thanks so much! I enjoy experimenting with subtlety and understatement.