19 August 2013

New York Texas Toast Blues

Seamus couldn't fucking believe it. "This is what my life has come to?" he croaked. "Frozen Texas toast? From New York?" The last said with a lilting inflection of utter disbelief. What the hell did New York know about making Texas toast? he thought. There it was, big as day, the garish box sitting on the shelf at eye level with the label blaring "NEW YORK TEXAS TOAST - 5 CHEESE".

His stomach lurched. The cool air of the freezer cascaded down his bare legs dangling below the rumpled boxers that barely clung to his bony hips. Coils of ghostly smoke snaked across his vision, the cigarette dangling from lips glossed by whiskey. Seamus sighed, coughed, brushed absent-mindedly at the smattering of ashes on his stained undershirt.

He stood confused, wondering just when it was he had bought the toast. Even in his most desperate days, and there were many, he had always kept his distance from that particular abomination. Especially if it had that spread that looked like uncooked batter on it. It was supposed to be "butter", he knew, but it tasted like burned garlic mixed with stale movie popcorn oil.

He hated that shit. Yet there it was, in his freezer. A whiskey-tinged belch made its way up from his rumbling belly. He was hungry in spite of the booze, the fridge was mostly empty and there was exactly a dollar fifty-three in change sitting on the table in the dining nook. The table was barely standing, battered, and to his mind it made the whole place look smaller than an efficiency ought to be. The walls bulged in, he swore they were moving.

Seamus slammed the door shut. Shaking, he surprised himself by starting to cry. Memories rushed in of his step-mother's awful dinners, where that kind of toast showed up so often his older brother joked that she must have been banging the route driver for the bakery. He and Aidan had no options growing up, they ate it because it was that or nothing. Most nights, it seemed.

He swiped at his running nose with the back of a grimy hand. He shuffled over to the table, pushing aside the pistol. The slick black barrel clanked against the plastic highball glass next to it, slopping cheap scotch over the rim. The liquid beaded up on the torn note stuck under the glass. A black, spidery scrawl of ink across the brown kraft paper showed a name and address. Both started to blur as the whiskey soaked into the paper.

"Shit. Shit. Shit." He needed the money, but now he was feeling weak-kneed and hopeless. The thought that it was a job he could no longer finish burst bright in his head, he just knew, but he needed the cash so fuckin' bad and this shithole apartment is going to cave in on me, no way, no way, man, I can't eat another slice of that trash but I don't know what to do!

Seamus slammed his hands down on the table. Pistol and glass jumped. He grabbed the cigarette from his lips and dunked it hard into the glass. There was a faint hiss as the butt went out, bobbing in the whiskey like a bizarre canoe. "Changes, man, gotta make changes." Trembling hands cradled his aching head. "Cut out the booze, get out of the life, yeah, that's what I need." His rasping voice fell flat into the cramped, stale air of the apartment. "Gotta get help. Maybe Father Mancuso over at St. Ann's could do it, yeah, maybe so."

He sat up straight. He'd get dressed, that's what he would do. Put on the black shoes, the pair with only one hole in the sole. He'd walk the few blocks down to the old neighborhood, beg Mancuso to take him in. God loves a sinner, right? The good Father could take him in, clean him up, get him out of the life. A smile creased his mouth at the thought that he would never pull the trigger again. And if he was really lucky, he'd never again eat that goddamned toast.

It was just too close to the bone.

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Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

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