Safe House

Watch a temporarily stalled-out writer go back to work: I’ve begun a new story. It has been too long since I’ve written one. My new collection, The Talker, came out in March. I haven’t put a link to The Talker, because though it is the keeping of a promise to people who’ve told me my stories, it is not what I’m writing now. The new story, Safe House, begins: The second-to-last time William had seen Mick, they’d been leaning against the back wall of the Toenail swapping hits off a joint. Mick had shaken his head, stared up at the greasy Phoenix sky and said, “It’s all these old people. That’s what I can’t stand about this fuckin’ place. Plus down here they gotta wear sandals so you gotta look at their ugly fuckin’ feet.”

William looked down at Mick’s feet. He couldn’t see them because Mick’s old lady had shoved them into Mick’s best Wheeler boots.  The sweet-faced hippie lady who’d beckoned him into Mick’s and Flo’s bedroom touched his back and whispered, “It’s okay. Go closer if you want.”  The last place William wanted to go was closer. It was bad enough looking at Mick’s mouth hanging open and smelling the sweet rot of death. It didn’t matter that Mick had actually kicked off only an hour ago, you could smell corpse. William knew. You don’t spend a hitch as an Army medic without smelling death.

“Goddamn it, Mick,” William said. “Why the fuck didn’t you lay back on the booze? Why didn’t I tell you to lay back on the booze? Why didn’t the rest of the guys? We talked about it. We talked about it a lot. But, nobody wanted to harsh your mellow.” He pulled on the toe of Mick’s boot. “And now look at you. Aside from your mouth hanging open, you never looked so mellow.”

Somebody tapped on the door. Probably the sweet-faced old broad. “William. Can I come in?” It was Flo. William let go of Mick’s boot and opened the door. Flo grabbed him and hung on tight. “Am I gonna live through this?” she said. “How can I?”…

…to be continued



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