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Authors: Sam Pink

Rontel (4 page)

BOOK: Rontel
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I could see her scalp.

She looked up at me.

The wind made her hair float around her head for a few seconds and she said, “Fif-ty cents,” real slow.

She only had the front four teeth on the top and bottom of her mouth and they looked like they were covered in caramel. “Fif-ty cents,” the teeth slowly came together like insect pincers.

I thought—Summer is weird because I always forget that it happens and what it’s like when it does happen and then it happens and I remember.

Always surprisingly unique and lovely.

This summer I’m going to kill myself—I thought.

And felt confident I would.

And confidence is all I need—I thought.

*

Honestly though, at some point, it would be my time to get shot.

Every couple days/weeks someone got shot in the area.

I awaited it eagerly.

It would define me.

Definition: Shithead shot dead on the street, found with receipt from a four dollar and fifty-three cents purchase at a gas station in his pocket.

Sometimes I’d be walking down the street and get a sense that it was about to happen.

That it was my day.

That the universe had arranged itself perfectly around this very day, for me to get shot.

That the universe’s creation supported one final moment in a long series of other seemingly important moments, and it involved bullets in my head and chest.

And all I’d have to do is relax myself and allow the bullets into my body.

Focus my mind on it happening.

Sustain the focus and let it finish.

I’d take the first shot, the next shot, multiple shots, spreading across my chest in a series of bloody holes.

And no disagreement.

I’d be no different.

Just put my hands over the bloody holes in my shirt and say, “Hey, you ruined my shirt, man.”

Bleeding to death.

Like to get me some of that action.

“Like to get me some of that action” was a phrase I recently started using.

I started saying it after I saw this cop the other day.

I wanted to ask the cop how much money was made through drugs every year in Chicago—then when he approximated something, I was going to slap my hands together and rub them a little, saying, “Like to get me some of that action.”

*

Out front of the apartment building that shares an alley with mine, my friend(?) the maintenance man dragged two giant bags of garbage, sweating.

He said, “Wassap, my frent.”

He looked at both bags of garbage.

“Too much,” he said. “Too much garbetch. S’too hot for garbetch I’m taking outsite, my man.”

He was shrugging and smiling too.

I slapped my hands together and said, “Like to get me some of
that
action.”

He laughed, gesturing towards me with the garbage again.

He pretty much always laughed no matter what I said.

Which is a weird thing to repeatedly happen between two people.

Because sometimes the things I said didn’t warrant laughter (I think) and it was always a little stunning and depressing.

Can’t help that it felt that way, but it did.

It always did.

Fated to feel certain ways.

All my fates outlived—I thought.

Tired all the time.

*

I went through the alley after holding the dumpster lids open for the maintenance man.

Someone had left a microwave out.

There was a handwritten note on a ripped piece of paper taped to the microwave.

The note read, “I still work!”

I still work—I thought.

I still work, motherfucker.

Which one of you motherfuckers thought I stopped working.

Wait.

Wait no.

Who thought I stopped working.

Oh no no.

Because I didn’t.

No.

I never stopped working.

You thought I stopped.

You
actually
thought that.

And went on with your lives.

You
still worked, thinking I didn’t.

But I do still work.

I still work and I want you to know that.

*

Two teenagers came up on skateboards as I exited the alley by my building.

They asked me to watch them do tricks and we talked about skateboarding while I watched them miss/not do tricks correctly.

The more incorrectly each trick was done, the more I had to watch again—the more they made sure I was watching.

I watched a lot of tricks then said thank you and goodbye and they skated away.

On the door to my apartment building, there was a handwritten note taped to the glass:

“Need help. L(
scratched out letter
)ost dog on Malden St. I was on ground having seasure. Had leash and colar too. Call 773 --- ----.”

I saw myself in the window of the front door as I went in.

My face looked sunk.

I still work.

I still work!

I lived with my brother.

Our apartment was two studio apartments connected.

He lived in one studio, with its own door.

I lived in a sectioned off area of the second studio, in a four-foot by eight-foot room divided by a bedsheet staplegunned to the ceiling and hung to the floor.

What a life!

When I got back today, my brother was sitting on our ripped and broken couch playing a hockey videogame from 1997.

He’d recently been fired, receiving unemployment.

Rontel lay on the armrest of the couch, holding the corner with his front legs like a gargoyle.

He kept blinking like he was going to fall asleep.

He went to meow but no sound came out.

He never really meowed at all.

He’d just look at me and open his mouth—with a dry clicking from his lips.

My brother paused the videogame.

“I got a new one, man,” he said, setting down his controller.

He picked up Rontel.

He made Rontel hold out his paw like Rontel wanted to shake hands with me.

“Come on man, shake,” my brother said, waving Rontel’s paw.

I said, “Hey, you got it,” holding out my hand to shake hands with Rontel.

Then my brother pulled Rontel’s paw back.

In the same motion, he made the paw slick back the hair on top of Rontel’s head—and flicked the paw forward like Rontel was flicking the grease from his hair at me.

The whole time Rontel just stared forward, slowly going to sleep.

My brother put Rontel’s paws on Rontel’s belly and made Rontel laugh like, “ohh ohh ohh”—doing the laughs for him—moving paws up and down his belly.

“You motherfucker,” I said. “You sexy, motherfucker.”

My brother dropped Rontel, slapped his hands together to get the hair off.

Rontel landed on his paws and shook his head a little, paused, shook his head a little more, then came over to rub his head on my legs.

First he just brushed his head as he walked past.

Then he came back around and put his forehead against my leg and did half a rotation and kept his head there.

Then in the opposite direction.

“We should shave his head again,” my brother said, returning to the videogame.

Last year we shaved Rontel’s head.

Only his head, not the rest of his body.

It looked really weird.

His head/skull was extremely small underneath the hair.

Made him look like a bug or an alien.

Rontel liked it though.

He went around rubbing his head on things more.

He’d rub his head back and forth on the corner of a wall for ten minutes without stopping.

And the way he’d shut his eyes while doing it seemed to convey deeper satisfaction as opposed to when his hair was normal length.

My brother said, “This time we need to shave lines into him so it looks like he’s wearing a shirt or some shit.” Then he yelled “fuck” at the TV.

He twisted the controller a little, crackling sounds.

Then he motioned towards the other controller with his foot.

“Oh, I’ll watch,” I said.

But he motioned to the controller again, scratching the side of his head really hard.

Usually I’d just sit there watching him play, as I silently terrified myself with bad thoughts, waiting to feel tired.

But he needed me.

I was the top scorer in the game.

So I sat down on the floor and played.

We were the Chicago Blackhawks.

Rontel jumped back onto the arm of the couch and lay like a gargoyle.

I put my head against the arm of the couch and Rontel licked the back of my neck twice.

While the game reset, my brother said, “Oh man, this guy I saw coming home the other night. There was this guy with a Bears coat on and a thick moustache with big ass sunglasses, like the mirrored kind.

We were on the Green Line train. He was so fucking drunk. And he showed me a long, like, some kind of case he was carrying. It looked like it was for a pool cue maybe.”

For some reason, I waved my hand dismissively and—using a voice I’d never used—said, “Ah, those no-good stinkin drunks.” Then, using the same voice, I said, “I hates them no good stinking juh-runks.”

It seemed insane.

I felt fully insane for a few seconds.

Kept waving my hand downward, dismissively, saying, “Bah.”

Rontel was making pigeon-sounds on the arm of the couch behind me, licking my neck.

My brother didn’t say anything.

“So what about the guy,” I said. “He was just drunk and had a pool cue bag.”

“No. He was like, laughing, and he looked at me and smiled and pointed at the case. Then he goes, ‘Guess’w’s in the bag.’ I told him I didn’t know. Then he asked me to guess what was in the bag a few more times. Kept smiling every time I told him I didn’t know. Finally, he’s like, ‘S’rattlesnake. Iced’em wit my bir hands.’ Then he was like, ‘D’I’iced a rattler wit my bir hands.’ He kept saying that. ‘D’I’iced him.’”

“Iced him,” I said.

“‘D’I’iced’em.’ Like, ‘I iced him.’”

I kept imagining a man lunging at the ground with his bare hands in the classic “strangling pose,” missing a few times, groaning each miss, but then capturing the rattlesnake and icing it.

Really icing it.

I thought—These are the days when man ices the rattlesnake.

My brother slicked Rontel’s hair back with his bare left foot.

“I’ma ice you with my bare hands, Rontel,” he said.

“Give him the business,” I said.

My brother said, “Give him the fucking business.”

“Giving him the business” was a phrase we’d been using.

It was one of the programmed sayings in the hockey videogame from 1997.

If someone got hit hard in the game, the announcer might say, “Ooooh, he
gives him the business
.”

My brother said, “S’rattler”—using the guy’s voice. “D’I’iced him.” Then he leaned to the other end of the couch and head-butted Rontel, saying, “Hyuhh, hyuhh” with each head-butt.

Every time my brother’s head hit Rontel’s head, there was a small hollow sound.

The small hollow sound was both funny and sad.

Rontel just lay there blinking.

If the head-butt was especially hard he’d close his eyes, his ears down all the way.

“He gives him the business,” I said, feeling like what I really wanted was to meet a new woman and develop romantic feelings towards her and have sex with her once, then repeat that many more times with others and call it a life.

No, jump out a high window and call it a life.

“Hyuhh, hyuhh.”

My brother used the videogame announcer voice and said, “Ooh, giving him the business,” as he rapidly head-butted Rontel.

Rontel just lay there clenching his eyes shut, ears down.

My brother stopped.

“Shit,” he said, trying to focus.

He looked unsteady.

Then he said, “Hyuhh, hyuhh” real fast and head-butted Rontel twice more. “All right, no more.”

Our game began.

My brother always just selected this one really big player and then went around knocking people over while I scored goals.

BOOK: Rontel
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