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Authors: Sam Pink

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BOOK: Rontel
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Uncle Sam pointed at the rooftop with his mustard packet. “Man, send me in thuh. I fuck s’ass up. Cuh Jesus luh you no matter what.”

“Me and you,” I said. “We both go in, we both come out.”

I held out my hand.

“Yuh,” he said, moving the hotdog towards my extended hand as a sign he’d shake my hand if his hand was free.

I said, “All right, I’m going to the liquor store to get a phone card for my shitty ass phone.”

“Yuh,” he said.

“Or maybe not, should I just throw this phone against the ground,”

I said. “How about that.”

“Yuh,” he said, laughing. “Jesus luh you no matter what.”

He was smiling, face twitching.

I took out my phone and threw it—with authority—against the ground.

The phone broke apart.

Uncle Sam laughed and put his face to the inside of his elbow and repeatedly made a motion with the hand holding the hotdog, as if he were throwing the hotdog like a paper airplane.

There were news channels everywhere.

Helicopters.

“He gon surrender,” said Uncle Sam. “Muh-fuckiss always surrender.”

And he seemed so disappointed, like he’d seen this before.

Like maybe just once it’d be nice to see no surrender.

I said, “Only pussies surrender, man.”

Uncle Sam laughed.

He coughed harshly, bending at the knees a little.

Tophat waving just a little with each cough.

No, don’t die.

He pointed at me with the last bite of hotdog.

He said, “You cold.”

I said, “Fucking right.”

“Co-dest,” he said, laughing.

And for some reason I imagined our severed heads connected by a glowing double helix—floating up to the apartment rooftop where our vibrating power stopped the violence—and everyone cheered us, the two headed double helix, as we went to other planets to help likewise, yuh, travelling the world helping people.

No/who cares.

Behind us, a drunk woman walked up and started making sounds at the hostage situation.

She had on a dirty NFL winter coat.

Uncle Sam’s woman.

She stood there toothless, making noises at the situation.

Like, not words, just noises.

Then she came up behind Uncle Sam and slapped his head hard and said, “That’s not only
your
cigarette, gammee it.”

Uncle Sam ate the last of the hotdog and held up his empty hands and said, “S’a fucking ha-dawg, bitch.”

*

So I had to run over to my girlfriend’s.

It was five and a half miles.

I liked running over.

It was cheaper and faster than the train too.

In fact, fuck the train and fuck Chicago and fuck each United State.

I went home and put shorts on and lay on the floor, sweating, vowing—to myself if no one else—to figure out a way to kill everyone in Chicago.

“They all have to die,” I said, looking across the floor at Rontel, as he lay there blinking, streetlight across his face through the blinds in sharp lines.

*

I walked the first couple blocks to prepare my legs.

Had to wear boots because my other shoes fell apart.

It was almost dark out, but still over ninety degrees.

One street before Clark St., a raccoon walked around someone’s front yard.

And a dog walked out from the backyard, approaching the raccoon.

When I rounded the corner, I heard the dog whimper and shriek loudly.

And I started running with a smile on my face—thinking something like, “These are the days when the dog loses to the raccoon.”

And that made me smile even more.

To be my own stupid best friend.

Let me show you how a real man accepts the weights of shrieking terror.

*

On the run over, I thought some more about my “Talking to yourself is…” stationary.

I’d been thinking about creating this personalized notepad or like, calendar, or something similar, where on each page at the top it had, “Talking to yourself is…” then at the bottom it had something unique.

But so far, I’d only come up with like, ten ideas.

I had:

Talking to yourself is…“the result of having no one to talk to, even though there are plenty of people to talk to.”

Talking to yourself is…“never avoiding the argument.”

Talking to yourself is…“killing a strong animal such as a gorilla or rhino using only strikes to the mouth with your fist.”

Talking to yourself is…“killing a strong animal such as a gorilla or rhino using only your mind/kindness.”

Talking to yourself is…“being too worried about people knowing your thoughts.”

Talking to yourself is…“feeling comfortable.”

Talking to yourself is…“keeping a small animal frozen (having been frozen alive) in your freezer.”

Talking to yourself is…“not changing your shower curtain in so long that when you were showering the other day and saw a fly emerge from a moldy fold in the curtain, you were convinced fly larvae grew there (and it probably does).”

Talking to yourself is…“one thousand years of numb-handed surgery.”

Talking to yourself is…“too many cookies and not enough milk.”

And the run was nice.

But I felt depressed, thinking how sometimes the hardest person to talk to is yourself.

Just, nothing to say.

Kept thinking there was so much to say.

But there wasn’t.

Didn’t have anything to say.

*

Running over the Damen Bridge, I heard song lyrics in my head, from this dance song they played at the sandwich place earlier.

The lyrics were, “End of the world/end of the world/wake up, wake up/it’s partying time.”

At first I didn’t like it.

Thought it was dumb.

Thought it was just another dance song.

But then I thought about the lyrics.

The lyrics made a lot of sense.

I appreciated them.

Like, all right, if I was sleeping, and it was the end of the world,

I’d want someone to wake me up.

I’d also want to know if it were partying time.

Wouldn’t want to have to say, “Hey, what time is it,” only for someone to have to then tell me, “It’s partying time.”

Because if it WASN’T partying time, I might not want to be woken up.

But if it WAS partying time—and I was asleep, like in the song—then I’d want someone to wake me up and tell me.

If someone woke me up and just stood there, I’d say, “Why did you wake me up, I was sleeping.”

So whoever wakes me up should say, “It’s partying time”—maybe while pointing both thumbs over one shoulder to indicate where to go for the partying.

And oh how I’d smile and shake my head and be ready to start partying (after I woke up a little, and maybe stretched).

*

When I got to my girlfriend’s apartment, she’d already been asleep and I got in bed with her—resting, but unable to sleep.

I lay there until the sun began to rise, hosting an endless trail of interconnected and unresolved thoughts.

Thought about this homeless woman I saw in a grocery store parking lot last week.

A hundred degrees out and she was wearing a big fur coat.

And her weave went sideways as she bent over and slowly chased an injured seagull.

The seagull looked weird—like a crawling pile of hair—because of how it moved in sideways hops, one wing bent and extended.

Sideways hops.

The homeless woman followed each sideways hop but never closed the distance.

Hopping sideways, the injured seagull.

Looking exactly like the woman’s weave.

I wanted to see her weave jump off her head and land somewhere by the broken-winged seagull, then both hop different ways.

And the homeless woman in the fur coat—wearing only the hairnet now—can’t decide which to follow.

She screams to the sky.

And for some reason in the sky I saw boxer James “Lights Out” Toney staring back down at her and the injured seagull.

I started thinking about Toney vs. Holyfield, one of my favorite boxing matches.

Midway through the second round, when James Toney began winning, he’d put his hands down and dodge a punch by moving his head back then thrust his head forward and stick his tongue out, dodging the next punch.

Then later he’d gesture to the ringside judges after every punch he landed.

He’d gesture to the judges and ask them to make sure they saw the punch.

The fight ended in the ninth round when Holyfield’s corner threw in the towel.

Right after the fight, when security and family and promoters entered into the ring, James Toney went to Holyfield’s corner and hugged him and said, “I luh you, man” a number of times.

Then Toney returned to his corner to have his gloves removed, tape cut off his hands.

He started yelling at the camera.

He said, “Detroit. Detroit, baby. Ypsi. Ypsi, baby, Detroit. Y-town, y’know wh’I’m talking bout. This how do it when you from the D. This how do it in the D, man. Ain’t nobody do it like this. I put a, I put a—” he looked to the side, pointing his finger downward, “—I put anotha southern brotha in the ground, man. They cain deal wit me. Nobody can deal with me.”

Then a broadcaster approached Toney and tried to interview him.

The broadcaster said, “James, were you simply too quick tonight.”

Toney said, “I’m too quick fuh anybody. Cain nobody hang wit me in the heavyweight d’vision. Assa bottom line.” And he got agitated, addressed the broadcaster by name. “I’on’t know, Jim. Don’t try-uh come up here, give me no bad-ass questions, try-uh degrade me wi’ some—”

The broadcaster moved the microphone to his own mouth and said, “Question’s legitimate,” then moved the microphone back to Toney’s mouth.

Toney said, “Holyfield’s a great fighter. Don’t diminish zat—enny time.” Then he grabbed at the microphone a little, to hold it. He said, “He a warrior, an’he came to fight. Bottom line.”

The broadcaster moved the microphone back to his own mouth to say something but James Toney leaned forward and yelled, “Who nex. I got milk baby.
Nex
! Uh, my mom, Sherry, Uncle Larry, all, everybody, I luh y’all.”

He kept yelling but the broadcaster took the microphone back to his own mouth and said, “Did he ever hurt you at any point tonight.”

Microphone back to Toney’s mouth where he finished saying, “Cousin Scott, Auntie Janina, everybody, luh y’all. NEX!” Then he wiped sweat off his face with a towel and, very calmly and quietly—almost hurt—he said, “Nah he’ain never hurt me, man. I’m undestructable, man. Don’t forget. When I’m ready, I’m undestructable. I fight ennyone, ennytime.”

He took a deep breath then yelled, “Nex!” thrusting his head toward the camera. Then he paused, took a deep breath and said, “Nex. Who nex.”

Someone from his entourage said, “Detroit, baby.”

Toney yelled, “Detroit, Ypsi, Ann Arbor, I’on’t care.”

The broadcaster tried to say something but Toney kept talking.

He said, “Whoever my promoter tell me, ’at’s who I’m knockin ova next. D’troit.” Hitting one hand into the other, he said, “Ey, ey, ey man, bottom line, my talent speak fuh itself. I ain got answer no one else’s queshuns, I’m going home. Have a pawdy. We goan have a pawdy. And eyr-body that doubted me—” he paused, made a serious face right by the camera, “—or didn’t respect me—” paused again, “—fuck em.”

He turned his head to the side.

A guy from his crew said, “You got cho respect, baby. You got it.”

Toney passed by the microphone again and said, “Scuse me.”

The broadcaster tried to say something else, but Toney kept talking.

“Ey, bottom line, Holyfield’s a great fighter,” he said, “I watched him when I’s kid. I did what I had to do. I get paid to do. Bottom line, Detroit inna house.” Then, addressing someone through the camera, he made a phone gesture with his thumb up to his ear and his pinky finger up to his mouth. He said, “Ey baby. Ey bay, I got ya message, baby.”

The broadcaster put the microphone under his own mouth and said, “James, James, let’s try to have a decent conversation or interview here. Hold on a second.”

Toney started yelling again.

He took the microphone out of the broadcaster’s hand and threw it down.

Then he backed up, staring at the broadcaster, saying something inaudible.

Someone handed the broadcaster the microphone again and sound returned.

BOOK: Rontel
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