A lamppost rose above his head, a smooth surface but for the etchings of adolescent delinquents. No light bathed him, though the time read by proper men would have been three thirty in the morning. Instead, the glass of the lamp sported a round hole with cracks radiating outward: gunshots had roared in this part of the city since the starving could shoot. He slouched against the pole. At its base, crusted saliva from a hundred slouchers had turned the ground white. Several steps behind, a bench had two weeks ago offered an enticing seat, but had since been pried from its foundation. He didn’t mind, though; the night was brisk and sitting would only invite the cold. A chain-link fence topped with razor wire quarantined off a property behind him, but someone had cut a hold through the middle and footsteps had bludgeoned a trail through the grass and weeds. Directly across the street in front of him an old brick cinema sported boarded windows and gang graffiti. The door was always open, he knew. Nobody had the guts to chain and claim it. Besides, there was nothing worthwhile inside, just shelter from the wind and the feces of thirteen other residents.
Sweat would have glistened on his skin had the streetlamp lit the area. His face could have been observed, and any onlooker would have noted the papery skin, white wherever scabs and open sores did not obscure. Tattered Levi’s ten inches too wide around the waist kept their place only by strength of knotted twine, and the right pant leg had shortened by removal of narrow strips many times until it ended just above his knee. He was bare-chested and what hair he had seemed on the verge of falling out. His skin clung to him in the cold, and an observer, even in the dark, could have counted every crease of his ribs and worked with one finger underneath his shoulder blade and lifted it over the feeble screaming protests of his ligaments. One hand shoved into each pocket; his right clutched a four-inch switchblade and his left a wallet that did not belong to him.
A voice croaked from the hole in the fence behind him. “Hey, it’s a regular. What’cha got for me?”
The regular did not speak but perked, stood on his own without the aid of the streetlight, and glanced down the pavement. No observers watched. Trembling, he withdrew his left hand and tossed the wallet, grimacing at the effort. His emaciated body did not appreciate such strain. The billfold fell with a pathetic flop just before the chain-link fence.
Revealing himself, the speaker stepped from the shadows of buildings and snatched the wallet, but returned as quickly as he had appeared. The regular knew what the speaker looked like, but had no interest in examination. Impatiently, the regular fingered the knife in his right pocket and waited for an answer.
The speaker stepped forward into the dim light provided by a crescent moon. “Seventeen?” he questioned, voice barely audible; his temper rose with each word, and soon his shouts echoed down the street. “Seventeen fucking dollars! What the fuck do you think you get with that? A fucking medal for past service?”
“It’s all I got. I need a hit,” the regular squealed, “Just gimme a bit, I don’t need much.”
“I don’t fucking deal by the milliliter, you son of a bitch!” The speaker stepped forward through the gap in the fence, left hand raised in a fist, right within his jacket as a precaution. He was not a large man, but when standing in front of the regular, what height and muscle he had dominated. Disgust consumed his face.
The regular reared back. He hadn’t come armed without a reason. His right hand revealed and the blade flashed, but too many months of drug abuse and too few meals slowed his reaction. The speaker’s face turned: this had happened before, and he knew what to do. His own right hand pulled from his jacket the handgun and the safety clicked off.
Three shots sounded the night. A dollar and eighty in bullets and seventeen in the pocket, and back through the fence. The cinema across the lanes held one less regular.
Edited by Rafv Nin IV, 21 December 2009 - 09:18 PM.