Authors: Michael Allen Zell
Run Baby Run
Michael Allen Zell
Run Baby Run
by Michael Allen Zell
Copyright Â© 2015 by Michael Allen Zell and Lavender Ink
All rites reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced etc.
Printed in the U.S.A.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 15 16 17 18 19 20
Cover and Book design: Bill Lavender
Library of Congress Control Number: 2015935098
Run Baby Run
/ Michael Allen Zell
ISBN: 978-1-935084-87-7 (ebook)
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Tell me what we gonna do
If everything I say is true
oes finished his walk up St. Ferdinand. He was at his destination. Sweat was dripping down his back and from his underarms.
"I've been waking up all day long," he said.
He stood almost six foot tall but walked like a shorter man. Skin the color of glue. It glowed in the moonlight. He sported an ironic moustache that had grown in stride with his acclaim. It fluttered in the light breeze. His face was that of a young man who hadn't seen many rough days, though he was thirty-six. His long black t-shirt featured the logo of a skateboard company. Tan cargo shorts peeked out underneath. Shoes far too expensive for the rest of the get-up completed him.
It was early June, only a month into summer. Elsewhere, people slept. They cooked up tidy elixirs in the dreamland mind. Some of those people lived in New Orleans, but their number was limited. The Other City was in full swing and only midway through the night. Didn't matter that it was 4:00 a.m. on Sunday. Same thing would be happening any night. No need for last call at the bars. Some of them didn't have locks for the doors since they never closed. The bars paid the bills, kept the above-ground economy humming.
Much of the Other City bolstered the underground economy too. Who didn't need to scratch an itch? Third trick wasn't just the name for a workman's shift. No, this time of night the city opened her sweaty arms and said, "Bring me your huddled masses, and I'll leave them staggering in the streets and trembling between the legs of strangers by daybreak. For a cost."
Toes opened his backpack. Though he was conscious of what surrounded him, he'd waited in this spot a few minutes to make sure no one came out from the shadows. He had his buzz on. Whiskey. Enough to get in the zone.
That was part of his ritual. So too that the cans of Ironlak spray paint he took out were stolen. Also, that he spoke softly to himself, becoming at ease with his canvas.
"I've been waking up all day long," he said again.
It sounded like a good line. He added to it. "I've been waking up all day long. That's the only way to live in a song." Toes repeated the lines with his whiskey lips while he took out the special nozzles used for certain types of lines. He shook his head thinking about Rusto and Krylon changing their valves to discourage their products' usage by graffiti writers.
"It's a perfect place," he said, scanning the area more directly. Toes stood alongside the concrete columns at the riverside of North Robertson and St. Ferdinand. The posts supported the elevated portion of the road that bridged over the train yard.
"Yes, it's perfect. I can't believe these haven't been touched." Traffic couldn't see him. Only one light working up above. He was otherwise almost surrounded by dead end streets. Train tracks to his right. Only a few were brought by residence or intention. You didn't end up there otherwise unless you made a series of wrong turns.
"I'll just need to keep checking," he said, watching back to where the street led to St. Claude.
As Toes turned around to the columns, he looked at the moon and at the five story building shadowing the tracks on the other side of the overpass. It was why he was there.
"I've been waking up all day long, but you can't have my song," he sang.
For decades it was Schneider Paper Products. Sign still on the upper part of the building. Schneider moved to Baton Rouge after the flood Hurricane Katrina triggered and the levees released.
Toes was on a roll. He started with the first column while he continued speaking. His name came from the Toehead figures he'd concocted. Humans, animals, aliens. All with toes for the top of their heads. First, the outline in black.
"The paper people move away and you out-of-towners take over and call it the Papier Art Gallery," Toes muttered, conveniently forgetting he'd come to New Orleans just a few years before from New York as a college student.
"It's like the suburbs. Name something after what's no longer there. Complete opposite of war time. The victorious would never name a place after the defeated," he continued as the bird figure began to take shape.
"Away from war, guilt and nostalgia count most. Chop down acres of apple orchard and call it Apple Orchard Estates," he said, remembering the subdivision where he'd grown up.
"You start an art gallery and put out word you want
to do Toeheads inside your place, on your walls," he fired and grabbed another paint can to add color.
"No way. You can't have my song," He attached the nozzle for shading.
Toes had heard that the gallery owners, Brendan and Juniper, in actuality both originally upstate New Yorkers like himself, had seen his work on the columns where Almonaster met Alvar, near the Danziger Bridge that crossed the Industrial Canal. That was his signature move. Toeheads on cylindrical surfaces.
"You can't have me. Fuck off," he said, feeling the effects of the whiskey and using a dark blue to double a few lines. His own deals with developers to use graffiti as a selling tool for their condos couldn't have been further from his mind.
Toes had come a long way. His given name was Tyler Dolan. Tyler had gone to school to follow in his father's footsteps as a business litigation attorney. In the aftermath of the 2005 disaster, he started collecting abandoned wood and the contents of houses put to the sidewalks and streets. Made art from the muck and disregard. In spite of never having done it before, his pieces were a hit. Family money helped, once Tyler was able to convince his father of a hefty return on his investment.
"I like how this is coming along," Toes said. He rummaged through his backpack for an accent mark nozzle.
Few in his known world as Tyler had any idea that he also did graffiti writing. Though he was the owner of a nice Marigny double shotgun house, in which he occupied both sides, Tyler craved his world as Toes. Skateboarding around rough neighborhoods. Graffiti writing. It was like the New York he wasn't allowed to have growing up.
Toes checked his back, then around. No one here. Just the random car zipping by twenty feet above him. He checked his watch.
"Good, good. Took fifteen minutes to do this one," he said. "Time to sign it."
Toes turned sideways to spray the letters that ran vertically alongside the Toehead so that the bottoms of the large "T" and smaller "oes" faced the bird from the side. He stepped back to take it all in.
As he did, there was movement at his immediate right from the rubble piled up alongside the other concrete columns.
Toes stepped forward and quickly pulled pepper spray from his backpack before tossing the paint cans and nozzles inside. He zipped up the backpack and flung it over his shoulders, all while intently watching the moving rubble. "The fuck you want?" he said in a voice with a lump in it.
The rubble turned into a shadow that continued toward him.
Toes spoke up louder, betraying his private school education with feigned toughness. "I said, 'What the fuck do you want?'" His face tightened. Each end of his moustache coiled as if ready to strike.
The shadow took one more step, now moving into the faint glow of the body shop security light directly on the other side of the overpass. He was a black man in his 40's who looked older. Wore a dirty button-up short sleeve shirt and dirtier blue jeans. His shoes were ribbons and his aroma was piss.
want? Me?" he said. "Shiiiit. S'all about what
Toes tried to make himself strong. The legend and ritual of infamous Toes, at least in his own mind, was quickly sinking. He had become Tyler Dolan again and was out of his element.
"I'm living in a song. It's my song," he said to himself.
The man spoke again. "Bernell got what you want. You want weed? Some dogfood? What you want?"
Toes was barely holding onto himself. His moustache ends twitched as if attempting to bore themselves into his cheeks to hide. "I don't need any pot. Definitely not... dogfood."
Bernell took another step forward, the lines in his face and the glint in his eyes becoming more prominent. "C'mon, man. Alla them artists and most ev'rybody shootin' dogfood now."
He looked at Toes holding up the pepper spray like a crossing guard adamant at protecting children in the intersection from cars. Bernell shook his head. "Shiiiit." He sighed and put on his whitefolks voice, all enunciation and intact syllables. "Sir... do you want to buy some heroin? It's good for your artistic expression."
Toes replied, "No, no, no. I just use a little molly and pot, but I don't need anything."
While speaking, Bernell slipped his right hand into his back pocket. He looked to his left at the train tracks to guide Toes' eyes while the shaky hand came out full.
Bernell took one more step. His uncombed hair rose in tufts and further confirmed as homeless or close to it. He was thinking, "Simple son of a bitch. Too easy to okey doke him."
Toes moved in kind, backward to Bernell's forward motion. Toes had no more songs in his soul.
Bernell began to run forward with the motion of a man barely out of a nap. He stepped into a crater-sized pothole unlit by the moon, the body shop security light, or the one working lamp post out of fourteen along the river side of the overpass. Went in up to his shins and fell forward, banging up his knees. His paring knife sprung from his hand and skipped along the street, right to Toes.
It happened so quickly that they both were wordless, the new potholed supplicant and the other in a surprising position of power.
Toes bent down and picked up the knife with his left hand while assuring, "I'm not going to use it. Don't worry."
Bernell was over his shock at being disarmed and now felt only disgust. "Get it over with. Man come at you, gonna stick you, you gotta get him. Do it. Get it over with. Stick me."
Toes put the pepper spray in his front shorts pocket and pulled out a wad of bills.
He put the money in his left hand with the knife, walked to the crater, and pulled the astonished Bernell up with his right hand.
"You just need money for food, right?" Toes asked.
Bernell looked at him quizzically, an odd bleach-white man offering a knife and money.
"This a trick?"
"Oh, no. No, sir. Here, take this."
Toes handed the knife and $87 to Bernell.
"This mine? You playin' me?"
"You need it more than I do."
Bernell, still expecting a trick, tentatively took it all from Toes. "Alright," he said.
Toes smiled, now secure in his patronizing position.
Bernell turned and hobbled away from Toes, under the overpass, ending up back in the shadows.
Toes felt relief that no one had come to harm and he'd done a good deed. "I've been waking up all day long," he sang.
A couple cars barreled along the initial incline of the overpass far too quickly. He stepped back to look upward, only to see a jeep rise into the air and a man expelled from it.
In an instant, the flying man struck the guardrail and the jeep slammed against him. This all occurred in a matter of milliseconds. The sound of speed, the jumping jeep, and the pinned man screaming and staring at Toes with eyes of horror.
Before Toes could move, an object was rapidly flung from the action above. Hit him square in the face. "Uhhh," he moaned. His nose was broken, moustache curdled, and he landed flat on his back, knocked out.
In the twenty or so minutes Toes lay passed out, New Orleans was busy.
The first death of Sunday, June 8th, homicide by car, had of course already occurred almost simultaneously with the brief incapacitation of Toes.
Shortly after, a security guard driving home from work had his Honda Civic t-boned by a red light runner at nearby Franklin and Claiborne. This was the first auto collision involving two vehicles.
A new Infiniti was stolen from an apartment courtyard way out on Chef Menteur, just past the cluster of Vietnamese restaurants and shops. This registered it as the first of what would be six car thefts for the day, hitting the city's daily average firmly.
As with many of the others, the Infiniti was driven to a body shop, stripped expertly, and the tires were added to a pile that would be eventually sold off. Everything else was loaded up in a truck to sell at one of the numerous local salvage yards that paid cash for scrap metal. They were legally required to record seller information and issue a check, but that was routinely disregarded.
The firsts of the day also included fifteen young men and seven young women who lost their virginity, along with thirty-one tourists (three of the men also lost their wallets in the aftermath of their deflowering), and one foolish guy in his early 20's who only said he was a virgin online for what he thought would be an easy pick-up.
When he showed up at the only inhabited house in an otherwise weed-covered Lower 9th Ward block, he was met by more than the temptress seen on the dating site. Five men intended to steal his car and were so angry that he'd had the nerve to waste their time by biking all the way there that they beat him with his bike. Next they stripped him down and dumped him out of their car along the Claiborne Bridge, making for a particularly harrowing first simple battery of the day, with a kidnapping thrown in to boot.
A 24-hour market in St. Roch also had a first, their initial drop-off of goods for the coming week. Elastically named Cajun Creole Supermarket, though owned by a Gretna man from a wholly other part of the world, they got their food from one source and everything else from others. The batch of stolen smart phones arrived just in time to start the week, along with boxes of sandwich bags, roses in glass tubes, shoelaces, steel wool pads, and spoons. Variations of this drop-off occurred at nine other corner markets around New Orleans.
Among other events in New Orleans while Toes was flat on his back, two children were born.
In the other direction, along River Road in Kenner, a baker's dozen of late night marathon runners were pacing themselves back to Orleans Parish. One of them called out the time, "4:45," but of course Toes couldn't hear him.
Toes wobbled to his feet. Nose was dripping blood. He had black eyes and bruised cheeks. Moustache was mangled. The backpack that cushioned his fall didn't prevent a concussion.