Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 343 - Graham Bowlin


“I don’t think I can shit, Am.”

“I don’t think you have an option, Hiram,” Ambler La Bauve said, irritation slowly creeping into his voice like his father into his childhood bedroom at night.

Hiram Arcenaux looked down at his great, bloated stomach, hoping for a rumble but expecting nothing. He had not had a movement since Tuesday. Four days, ten enchiladas, nine chili rellenos, five orders of juevos rancheros, countless beers and cigarettes, and half a kilo of heroin-filled balloons later, Hiram was still constipated. And all the way from a border town in Coahuila to a shithole rest stop outside Louis Armstrong International, Ambler had listened to his complaining.

Ambler finished setting the toilet paper down on the seat. In the next stall over, Hiram had foregone formality and plopped immediately down on the cold plastic. Now he was anxiously tapping his feet, hoping against hope that around $60,000 worth of brown, South American powder would fall out of him. He grunted and groaned, finally pounding on the stall door and interrupting Ambler’s balloon count. He was up to four when he clenched up.

“I can’t do it, Ambler,” Hiram whined.

“You fat asshole, just bear down and get it out. Terry’s gonna be here fucking soon, and then you’ll just have it beat the fuck out of you anyway. Hurry up.”

“Why you bring Terry up, Am? Now I’m more nervous. You tied my guts all up.”

“I can’t go with you talking in my goddamn ear,” Ambler said. He closed his eyes and focused. Five, six... “You know what’s a good cure for what you got?”

Hiram shrugged and then, realizing he couldn’t be seen, responded verbally. “No.”

“Fuckin’ suicide, that’s what. Put a bullet through your head right now, you’d shit everywhere.”

“That ain’t true.”

“It is true.” Ambler sighed. Seven... “My mother was a nurse, so my drunk fuck perv father didn’t have to leave the house. She told me that EMTs used to carry around string and cotton balls, so when they’d get somebody that died they would tie off their dicks and put cotton in their asses so they wouldn’t piss and shit on the floor.”

“What do they do now?”


“You said they ‘used to’. So, you know, what do they do now?”

“What? I dunno. I assume they do something else now. It was a long time ago. Now pinch off that loaf before Terry gets here.” With a final spasm, Ambler dropped the last balloon. He smiled to himself and reached for the paper.

“Aw...” Hiram whimpered as he thought of Terry. Terry had beaten the living hell out of him several times before just for being a dumbass. If he couldn’t get the balloons out, it would be a lot worse this time.

If Ambler wasn’t lying to him to be mean, which he sometimes did, then maybe he should just kill himself, Hiram thought. Anything would be better than this. What if he never shit again? Was that possible? Was it possible that people shit their pants when they died? Did his Mom shit her pants? He was working with Ambler when it happened, so he wasn’t around to see it. If Ambler was right, he was glad he hadn’t been there. That would have been awful.

Suddenly, the door swung open and the familiar sound of clinking spurs echoed through the room.

“Monkey bread,” said a gravelly voice.

“Monkey bread,” Ambler replied.

The password. Terry had arrived and Hiram hadn’t moved a single balloon. He desperately squeezed down with everything he had.

Though not quite done wiping, Ambler pulled his pants up and stepped from the stall, trying to buy Hiram some more time.

Terry stood in the middle of the small bathroom, his stance calmly suggesting that no one attempt to exit the room. An unlit cigar rolled back and forth between his lips, framed by a bushy mustache. One look at him, and Ambler could tell that Terry was pissed.

Ambler was right. Terry’s day had begun with waking up to his girlfriend’s period blood soaking his sheets, an angry call from his boss on the way to the store, and some spic kid getting in his face as he waited in line to buy tampons. Terry would have murdered the kid in the parking lot, but he was in a hurry to meet two chuckleheads in a rest stop bathroom and had to stop back by his house to deliver the tampons. Needless to say, Terry was royally pissed.

“I’m all through in there, but Hiram’s, uh...”

“What?” Terry spit on the floor.

“Constipated,” Hiram muttered, embarrassed, from behind the other door.

“You fuckin’ kiddin’ me?”

Ambler shook his head. Terry grabbed him by the collar and threw him up against the door.

“Guard the door,” Terry growled.

In two steps, Terry was at Hiram’s stall. With a third he kicked it open. Instinctively, Hiram moved to hide his manhood, though his gut covered it all up anyway.

Ambler’s hand tightened into a fist. If there was one thing he hated it was a man who didn’t respect the privacy of another man’s locked door. There was never any excuse for that.

Hiram looked up at Terry, tears of humiliation brimming in his eyes. “I just can’t go, Terry. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

“That’s a quick fix,” Terry said. With a single fluid motion, Terry reached into his polyester, western cut suit coat, pulled out asilenced .38 special revolver, and put two bullets into Hiram’s chest.

Hiram looked down in surprise as the bullets ripped through him, spraying blood from his chest in a fine red mist, like fireworks in the night sky. He’d never seen anyone get shot before and he was fascinated by it. He slumped backward on the toilet as his hands began to go slack. As the last synapse fired in his brain, he wondered if Ambler had been right about the death shit.

He had been.

Terry turned around and slid the gun back into his blazer, shrugging at Ambler. Ambler looked down at the floor. He suddenlyrealized that he couldn’t stop blinking. He then tried to stop, but just kept going.

His boss pulled a pair of rubber gloves from another pocket and held them out. “I’ll guard the door. Sorry, but you’re doing double duty for your friend here.”

Ambler didn’t move.

“Dig around in this fat fuck’s crap, you shithead.”

Without a word, Ambler took the gloves from Terry. Terry leaned against the door.

“Oh!” Terry exclaimed. “I brought two pairs, so you can double up if you want.”

Ambler shook his head and opened to door to Hiram’s stall.

BIO: Graham Bowlin is a dirty young man from a clean North Carolina town. Currently, he's writing like a madman and dreaming of bigger and better depravities on the West Coast. He has two stories forthcoming in Thuglit and Powder Burn Flash. His blog is The Pulp Primer.


Anonymous said...

Good job Graham. Nice character development in such a little space.

Graham Bowlin said...

Thanks a lot, Scott! Glad you liked it.

Al Tucher said...

Great dialog, grimly funny premise. Good one.