Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 492 - Matthew McBride

GUNPOWDER AND ALUMINUM FOIL - MATTHEW MCBRIDE

Originally published at Powder Burn Flash

“That’s the biggest cock I’ve ever seen.”

Those were his famous last words just before I shot him in the stomach. And for the record, I was aiming at his chest, but the silly bastard jumped up in the air at the last minute. Right before I pulled the trigger. If my partner, Radcliff, was surprised by the sound of the gunshot, he failed to show it.

I turned around to face the huge rooster that was now staring me down and I thought about shooting him, too. He scratched around the dirt and puffed his chest up.

Radcliff was back in the car doing foilys, waiting for me to return with more dope. His real name was Cliff but we called him Radcliff because he was so unpredictably radical. At least when he wasn’t high.

“It’s done,” I said, as I climbed behind the wheel. Radcliff was doing a line on the back of an envelope he found on the floorboard and his eyes were watering like hell.

“They cut this shit with fire,” was all he could say, and he was still holding the tutor in his hand, in the exact same position he’d been in when I left to take our former associate for a walk.

“You do it?” he asked, but before I could answer he started dicking with the radio. Then he reached under the seat and pulled forth a shiny new box of Reynolds aluminum foil. My mouth began to water.

“Where’s your shit?” he asked.

I pulled a nice little sack from my drug pocket, the minuscule little space just above the right pocket on your jeans. Useless for anything except small baggies of methamphetamines.

His eyes lit up momentarily as he prepared a crisp new piece of foil. He folded it precisely, his preparation ritual was an art form. Radcliff was in his element.

“So, you did it?” he asked me again.

“Fuck yeah, he’s right over there.”

But Radcliff never looked. I guess he didn’t hear the gunshot, either. Very carefully, he opened up the baggy and dumped a little onto the foil. He cocked his head, then poured out a little more. My hands began to moisten, but I never touched the stuff. Well, almost never.

I took the first hit, held the smoke for a second until my chest was warm, then exhaled a soft white cloud against the window and melted back into the seat. Radcliff was already grabbing for the empty tube, but I couldn’t let it go. Not just yet.

“Greedy bastard,” I mumbled, as I took another hit. My thoughts began to drift in strange directions, and it didn’t take long. I suddenly wanted to do all kinds of shit I hadn’t wanted to do five minutes ago. I looked around at the different buildings on the property and started to notice how the chicken house was missing a couple of boards and the barn could use fresh paint.

By God, if I had the time, maybe I could fix up this whole place. I even thought about shooting poor Jackson one more time, just for the hell of it. That was the name of our former associate, the one I’d just terminated.

“Will you give me that fucking thing?” Radcliff swore, as he tore it from my hand. I was already ready for another hit. The nature of the beast. The very reason we were out at the farm in the first place. The reason Jackson had to be let go.

Radcliff held the foil at just the right angle and, with the perfect mixture of flame and wrist movement, I watched a clear pool of speed run down to the end. He sucked the smoke up through the empty bic, then adjusted his hand positioning just as the boiling goo reached his thumb. Then he reversed directions and repeated the process. Radcliff’s technique was solid. He was a junky and a tweaker.

I, on the other hand, could take it or leave it.

Radcliff handed the shit to me so I took it, I laid fire to it and I thought about why we were here. Jackson had been arrested one too many times and he was still walking the streets. Still making deals and creating product. He’d become a liability, and you simply cannot run a business if you find yourself questioning the integrity of your partner. Especially if he’s a meth cook. At least that’s how Radcliff and myself saw it.

The method in which Jackson would be eliminated was the subject of great debate between us but, after much deliberation, it was decided we would kill him at his grandparents’ farm. They were long since dead and Jackson’s sister owned the property, but the only one who ever went there was Jackson. It’s where he hunted and it was his favorite spot to cook dope.

I looked over to see Radcliff had already polished off the first foil and had moved onto a second. I was ready myself, but I was also busy thinking about weird shit. All kinds of fucked-up things.

Jackson got arrested last summer with a mobile lab in the bed of his pick-up truck. Under the seat, they found a handgun, behind the seat, they found a shotgun, and in the glove box, they found 51 grams of very fresh meth. Dope. Bob White. That was the first time he got arrested.

The second time, after countless days of being awake, he finally crashed out on the couch of a friend of a friend. During this period, there was a raid, a raid which Jackson slept through. When he woke up, the cops were dragging him off the couch onto the floor, and they were holding a camouflage backpack that was filled with dope. No one else claimed it, so cops said it was his.

Radcliff was releasing huge clouds of smoke and talking his ass off, but I wasn’t really listening. As I reached out for the foil, I noticed Jackson wasn't where I left him.

“Oh fuck.”

My partner looked over at me through eyes of glass and shrugged.

“What?”

Quickly, I scanned the ground and the surrounding area, carefully balancing fresh, unmelted powder on the foil. There was no sign of Jackson, the guy who I’d, only moments ago, inadvertently gutshot and left for dead.

“Where the fuck is Jackson?”

Radcliff sat up with a quickness that surprised me and threw open his door.

“I thought you shot that motherfucker!” he yelled.

I thought I had, too. I knew I had. Right in the belly, and I felt like a real asshole about it.

When a tweaker gets arrested, the people he does business with become real cautious. Nervous. Careful. And, by the third time, Jackson got himself pinched, it had already been decided that he would have to go.

He was buying pills at a gas station to make that shit when an off-duty cop paid attention. Out of curiosity, the cop followed him to the next station and observed Jackson purchasing his legal limit of cold pills. He looked spun out so the cop made a few calls. Before you know it, the door to Jackson’s mobile home is blown right off the hinges and the local narcotics task force is tearing his filthy little shithole apart.

Nobody gets popped three times and walks away unless they talk, and that was a chance neither one of us was willing to take. We’d all done a lot of business together, so if he went down, we all went down, and I wasn’t gonna let that happen. The fact we had recently acquired a new cook also played a role in his removal.

“So where the fuck is he?” Radcliff demanded.

I was still holding the foil and doing a commendable job of not spilling any of the powder. I had no idea what to say. Radcliff was acting funny, too, his round, boring face was red and blotchy, he kept shaking his head sideways. I noticed he was wiping blood away from his nose with his hand. He said his head was killing him, his door was still open, and now he was screaming. Reluctantly, I set the tin foil down.

What we didn’t know was that, before we picked Jackson up, he poured some gunpowder and some drain cleaner into the corner of a ziplock baggy, knowing full well that either Radcliff or myself would shake him down. He knew it may not kill someone, but it would sure fuck one of us up. In this case, Radcliff. Jackson was more aware of our intentions than I gave him credit for. Lucky for me, I had my own bag.

Radcliff was next to me, thrashing around and screaming. His nose was the size of a softball and he was making a real mess of things. There was blood on the dash, on the console; there was even a lone drop of blood mixed with the Bob White.

“Hey, get outta the car!” I yelled and tried to help him out with a push.

As I climbed out of my side, I felt something hot and painful hit me. The driver’s side window, which was still up, was instantly covered in blood for a second before exploding. Radcliff was in bad shape as well, his nose was in flames and his brain was melting. I was bleeding like hell as I fell back into the driver’s seat.

Then Jackson appeared from out of nowhere. I could see him walking up to the car in my rear view mirror. He had something in his hand. I was bleeding bad and pissed off for not doing things right the first time. As Radcliff started to talk, he was shot directly in the face with an arrow from Jackson's compound bow. It happened way too fast and part of his head came apart as a generous chunk of face fell onto the floorboard. That’s why I’m bleeding, I realized. The fuckhead must of shot me with an arrow.

With the transmission in reverse, I gunned the motor and the gravel flew. We made direct eye contact in the mirror before I smashed into his torso with the back of the car. I turned around in time to see his upper body come through the window and partially into the back seat. I brought the car to a gradual stop and we just sat there together for a moment and bled. What was left of his face was a train wreck and I could not believe it, but the cocksucker was still alive. Using my left hand, I felt around on myself for the wound and it felt like it was right through the middle of my belly, but I couldn’t bring myself to look at that shit. He’d probably be smiling right now if he still had a face.

I shot the prick in the top of his head and it exploded all over the interior of my wife’s car. I’m sure she’d understand. A handful of chickens dashed across the yard as I pulled away, and that giant rooster just stood there in the driveway like he owned the whole fucking property, so I hit him, too.

I left the old farmhouse for the last time with Radcliff’s door still standing open and most of Jackson’s body hanging out of the back window. My finger was plugging that whole in my belly and keeping my intestines in. I glanced at the bloody tin foil on the floorboard then slipped away into the darkness and drove my wife’s car into a tree.

BIO: Matthew McBride lives on a farm along the river and one day he will own his own machine gun. He’s been published at A Twist Of Noir, Powder Burn Flash, and The Flash Fiction Offensive. He currently has a novel under review at DHS Literary Agency. His blog is Got Pulp?

4 comments:

Ron Scheer said...

This is that one in a hundred first person story that needs to be told that way. Your narrator's character is all there in the way he talks, uses language. Right down to that use of "myself." Grisly, but I loved it.

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

Another wild ride, Matthew! Interesting first line...

ajhayes2 said...

The action is always clearly defined and diamond sharp. Big props for the "big cock" It's hard to make the reader go chuckling into deepest, darkest noir, but you succeeded. Enjoyed it a lot.

Matthew McBride said...

Ron, kathleen, and A.J.- Thanks so much, I appreciate it. I read it out loud last week at a reading and people seemed to dig it. They laughed. A lot. Glad you all enjoyed it.