Tag Archives: Foibles

My City by the Bay (Chapter 2, Part 1 of 6)

Impact wasn’t the most pleasant. In fact, it was like hitting a concrete wall. As a sign of Sig’s patience with Chrissy, he was “rewarded” with a 5 point racing harness in his Camino. At that time in her life she obsessed with his safety. This was years before the fallout and a bitter one at that. “Get hit by a bus” was the last thing she said when she left him. She always knew how to translate her emotions into words so eloquently.  She probably would have a fit, if she knew it probably saved his life.

“Get out! Get out! Get out!” Sig screamed to himself, but he needed to calm down. A capsized car isn’t the best scenario to be in but it wasn’t like he had a choice. “I’m not dying like this!” The water was filling in the car in no time at all. He took a deep breath and unlocked the doors, hoping beyond hope he could still get the door open.  Fortune was smiling on him as the pressure wasn’t yet enough to seal it. Sig took another breath before he popped his belt. The action made him bathe in Nagawatachumi waters, a questionable source of water for all endeavors. Using the steering wheel as an anchor he pushed the door as hard as he could and slowly pulled himself out.

Disorientation is always a fun time. What is up is down, left is right, and he was desperate for some clarity. Noticing the direction the bubbles were taking, he felt a little better and went with the flow. A burning sensation in his chest told him he wanted more air. He clamped down and wriggled as quickly as he could to the surface. The murky river water brightened then broke, and Sig let out a gasp that would frighten a sea lion.

“Over there!” A voice called out from the patrol boat. “About time someone was on top of things. I’m certainly not.” Sig was huffing like fat kid in gym class. He should know; he was that kid. The boat pulled up alongside and offered him help out. “You’re lucky to be alive, son.” Captain Fryer called to him as the river police yanked him up over the starboard side. The grizzled, pepper-haired vet couldn’t muster a whole lot to say. After his years in the Navy, there wasn’t a whole lot that got him too excited about anything.

“It’s a shame.” Fryer muttered while lighting his pipe.

“What’s that?” Sig peered up from his towel, still a little out of sorts from the whole affair.

“It looked a damn fine car, too.”

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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My City by the Bay (Chapter 1, Part 3 of 3)

Sliding through all four lanes of Douglass Avenue, the El Camino drifted behind a moving truck. “Mah!” Sig spun the wheel to the left and fishtailed his lane change. The ‘Cuda came alive and began to mime the Camino down the road. Sounds of a bee hive gone mad echoed down the road.

“They’ve got the better ride, but do they know how to jam?” Sig spoke, as his 8-track looped to the beginning. A slight ping notified the permission of a dirty habit. The tip of his menthol was singed and a curl of smoke arrived on the scene. “If today’s the day, at least it won’t be these that are the death of me. That’ll show her.” By “her” he meant his estranged wife, Christine. Chrissy had a way of throwing insults like pizza dough. She had her own spin, and they’d stick when she wanted them to.

The Camino ducked and dodged down Douglass for another thirty seconds, before a sharp right gave him a way north. He jammed on the clutch and power shifted the 8-ball capped stick into fourth. The ‘Cuda’s hockey stop nearly checked a bum into a bench, but it recovered and made another dash to the fleeing car.

“He’s not that great with the goods. That’s a shame. I’d hate to see him get it dirty.” With that, Sig made a beeline to a fruit stand off to the right. The proprietor, torn between dodging and protecting his assets, decided to save his own skin by hopping on a pile of black trash bags behind him. With a quick flick of the wrist, The Camino juked left and only smacked the right-side mirror on the kiosk. As intended, the sprinting ‘Cuda couldn’t dodge the stand quick enough and plowed through a variety of melons and fruit.

“Dammit!” No-neck said. “I just made my last payment on this thing two months ago!”

The gap between the Camino and the ‘Cuda widened and Sig could not push the pedal hard enough. Jumping a few hills, Sig smacked his head. “Moof!” could be heard as the blur passed several pedestrians.

He finally hit the bridge and stood a chance of making it back into friendly territory. The ‘Cuda, once again, recovered and hit the straightaway. The Camino could not match the speed of the muscle car, and soon No-neck was bumping The Camino’s rear end.

“She’s not that kind of car!” Sig screamed as he did all he could to keep the car steady.

Just a few more seconds, and he would clear the crown of the bridge. His grip could crush steel and he wanted to puke that cheap beer he just had at Jack’s. Clenching his jaw, he held on and steadied the car for what seemed like hours.

“Steady. Steeeady. OK, half-way th— OH SHI!” Sig failed to see the traffic jam at the other end of the bridge. It was rush hour, and those lucky enough to live in North Wharf wanted to get out of Dodge. With this distraction, the ‘Cuda made a solid bump and the Camino was out of control. A slam to the right and slam to the left knocked the cigarette from his mouth, and the ‘Cuda went in for the kill. By some fluke, the last slap sent the Camino up and over the rails.

All Sig saw was blacktop, then blue and lots of it. It wasn’t a huge drop, maybe 15 feet, but it certainly was enough to drain the blood from his face. White foam soon enveloped the Camino, and the chase was over.

No-neck slammed on the breaks only to clear a bumper by three inches. Getting out, he went to check on his handiwork. A ring of suds marked where the car had made its surprise splash landing and a police tug was already preparing to survey the site. The river cops were strangely different than the regular heat, as they were more prone to do their job. Provided Sig could get out of the Camino, he would be able to find a route back to safety. No-neck slammed his fist on the steel tubing of the rail.

“He dead?” Tiny stuck his head out the car’s window like a dog.

“No, he ain’t dead.” Said No-neck flatly.

“Miss Redglove ain’t gonna be happy with us.” lamented Tiny.

“Really?! What makes you say that?” No-neck was building in irritation.

“Well, we didn’t get him or kill him. That’s bad. Ain’t it?”


© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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My City by the Bay (Chapter 1, Part 2 of 3)

Almost tripping over the barstool, Sig leapt up and bolted for the back. To his advantage, there was enough excitement to cause confusion in the room. Mr. No-neck grabbed him, and Sig shifted his weight onto the guy’s shoe. There’s nothing like a searing pain in the foot to get someone off your case.

With a loud slap, the door to the alley opened up. Blinding sunlight and stench. It wouldn’t be Old Town without its aroma. So familiar… so repulsive. Too bad he didn’t have time to vomit.

The dumpster was a decent enough refuge to hide behind for the moment. Better yet, it was the place he decided to hide some supplies before he went it. Someone had one too many drinks; the packaging was covered in puke. There’s a small amount of bravery required in handling puke-soaked items, but it’s better than ending up dead. A plastic bag produced a Ruger SP101 and a paper bag with a change of clothes. There was no time to lose. He had to work fast.

He couldn’t deny it now. There was something up at this place, and it was pretty serious. If Sig could get back to the station, maybe he could start cross referencing disappearances within a certain radius of the place and find something in common. He had to find out why they were being taken. That’s part of the hunt, but first: the getaway.

Immediately after he slipped on the change of clothes, the backdoor of the bar swung open. No-neck and a friend came out to play. “Fine,” Sig thought, “I suppose it was going to happen sooner or later.” Crouched behind the dumpster, he waited. The figures peered around the alley for a starting point. Sig strained to hear any jabber from two goons who didn’t know any better.

“Why are we after this guy, again?” bumbled a tall, brutish man with a several day-old beard.

“He was harassin’ Harley, and snooping around ’bout the bodies.” Mr. No-neck had that quintessential Jersey accent. Sig winced about the cliché before continuing to listen. “We need to find out what he knows, and probably show our unwanted visitor the way to Chestnut Grove.” Chestnut Grove was the name of the dilapidated cemetery in the heart of the ghetto. Cops rarely poked around there, because of the high probability of finding the recently deceased. Less paperwork that way.

“Miss Redglove never liked unwanted company.” The lug childishly pondered aloud as he pulled back a stack of pallets, only to discover a two-inch gap made a poor hiding spot. He was a regular Baby Huey. They probably have some apt nickname for him, like “Tiny.”

No-neck was a few steps ahead of him on the intelligence scale. He had already peered into the dumpster Sig was behind and wiping his hands clean on a kerchief. The congealing food grease and liquor remnants apparently took up temporary residence on his palms. The dumpster smelled beyond foul and he was glad it was suspect free. With a little relief, he decided to scope out a nook in the building beside the bar. It was the backstage exit area for the Hips and Jiggles ‘Gentleman’s’ Club. Those walls had some stories to tell.

Knowing when to spot opportunity, Sig pistol whipped No-neck without much more thought. He didn’t want to shoot these two, as that was only used as a last resort. Less paperwork that way. The slight grunt and subsequent thud was enough to wrench Tiny out of his meditation upon an olive loaf sandwich. Spinning around, Tiny found himself with a coldcocked partner and a rather high-strung man in a pink hoodie and a snub nose.

“Whaddyado to him? Don’t make me angry, mister.” For all Tiny wasn’t, he was at least polite.

“I wouldn’t try anything smart, pal.” Sig was sure that he didn’t have to worry about that, but felt the need to say it anyway.

“You don’t wanna mess with us. We’ve gots a good thing going. I get paid and my Daisy likes the flowers I get for her.” Sig could only imagine they were from funeral arrangements.

“Listen, I’m not looking for an economics debate,” as he would probably end up using the pistol on himself, “but what I am looking for is you to step aside. Nice and easy.”

The big man’s eyes darkened. He knew failure would be bad, or at least bad in the sense he had to listen to Miss Redglove scream at him again. He didn’t like it when she screamed at him. Throwing things at him were fine, but screaming, no. She was pretty (stunning, as it turns out), and it made him very sad when pretty girls were mad at him.

“I can’t let you do that, buddy. Miss Redglove likes me to do my job.” Tiny shook his head as if he were agreeing with her in a previous conversation.

“Oh, is that who that is?” Sig said, spying over Tiny’s ham-fisted shoulder.

As surefire as basic instinct, the meat head turned to look down the street. He saw no one there. Then he saw black with a white starburst.

“MMMMMMMOTHERFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFT,” yelled Sig, as he would have been better off clocking masonry. Clutching his right fist underneath the .38, he dove in a gap between Tiny and the wall.

When the brute finally sorted out all the pieces, he roared, “hey, that was cheap!” Sig didn’t stop to apologize. He was out on the street and ducking into his El Camino. With a plaintive sputter and hack, the car screeched onto the road and headed to the St. Mary’s Street bridge. That was the best way to get on the “right” side of the river. Fortunately, driving south-side of the Natawagachumi required very little adherence to traffic and safety laws.

Tiny and No-neck were making their way to a 1974 Vitamin-C Barracuda as best they could, shaking off their latest surprises. Their engine started. It wasn’t over yet.

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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My City by the Bay (Chapter 1, Part 1 of 3)

Old Town

The hustle of traffic and the bustle of pedestrians made a clamor on Fillmore Street. Sidewalk vendors bartered with customers, dogs were barking, couples arguing, and rain water made its hasty exit down storm drains. It was typical bedlam in the slum neighborhood known as Old Town. Built in the late 19th century, it was now a neglected wreck of a site. Buildings often lost bricks off the top of their facades, and was received with near apathy by the typical pedestrian.

Neglected and worn out, the residents were in a drifting state. The crime rate was naturally high, but there weren’t exactly any welcome wagons elsewhere. Like many American cities, Old Town was the hand-me-down from the well-to-do long ago, a cast off by the boon of successful businessmen. These stately structures spoke of craft and care few artisans today would ever desire. In recent times, they told tales of neglect and abuse. The frustrations of a population trapped under the thumb of chance, personal mistake, and indifferent leadership were acted out in broken windows, graffiti, and arson. It was like a pet shredding a comfy shirt.

Sig (Sigmund only to his mother) played with his lighter, waiting for something to happen. One-Eyed Jack’s was known to be a problem child among the police, but apparently there was more to it. Spinning the lighter, he took a drink of a flat domestic pilsner. There was wind of suspicious activity, people disappearing to be more precise, going on in the area. He needed to check it out for himself. Being early afternoon, it wasn’t very packed and fairly dull. Fortunately, he brought a book with him. That often caught him flack, but his apartment was a mess and he couldn’t drink a pint at the library. Naturally, he was more at home in a bar.

He started to ply his mind to the pages. It takes a few moments to orient one’s mind to a story, and get in a groove. The characters of the book came back to the forefront and the movie he created started to roll. This wasn’t to last, as he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. It was the bartender nodding to someone. A corpulent man with a comb over, the color of his right eye would suggest that he owned the place. He continued to clean beer mugs with a questionably dirty rag, and not pay any attention to Sig.

“What’cha readin’?” a voice nothing less than nails on a chalkboard inquired behind him. It was a bar fly. Squatty, with a bit of a muffin top, she smiled like used car salesmen. She looked quite young and impressionable, but looks can always be deceiving. The hair dangerously close to being burnt by bleach and her clothes obviously the cream of the thrift shop spoke too much. They were loud, too, but Sig knew this was his foot in the door. She was the “bait” for whatever was going on around there.

Catcher in the Rye,” Sig replied, “I’m going through the curriculum I never got to read in high school.” He thumbed the pages of the used paperback. Some English student at a uni obviously needed some beer money, and decided to trade it in at his favorite coffee house. A dollar a piece for something so beneficial. If adjusted for inflation, he could only imagine the amount of chatter it would have caused 150 years ago. Coming back to Earth, he knew it was important to look drawn in to the lady.

“Oh, yeah!” She was obviously a bad actor, because there was something else on her mind. “I read that in high school.” Apparently acknowledging the reading level of the book isn’t enough to prevent from people restating it. Sig felt like sighing. He was fighting his ego, and unlucky for him, it was a heavyweight. The temptation was too much.

“So, how much do they pay you?” He said not looking up from his drink.

“I ought to throw this in your face!” She spat after an uneasy pause.

“Not like that,” he looked at the grimy bottles of hooch lining the mirrored shelves. “How much do they pay you for the guys?”

“What guys?!” She was genuinely stupefied. The woman wasn’t the keenest mind in the think tank.

“Really?” Sig thought it high time to throw down some serious cards, if he were to get anywhere with this conversation.

“That hairpin,” he said as his pupils rolled to the upper-right corners of his eyes, “costs $500 uptown and that sapphire ring is easily a grand.”

“Yeah, so?”

“When would a woman on this side of the river ever sport such merch?”

She screwed up her face as he flatly continued, “she sports them, when she knows she has protection.” His face slowly pivoted to meet hers, squarely.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Her indignation forced her to fold her arms quickly and neatly under her breasts.

“Really?” He took his largest gamble yet. “You mean to tell me some bar fly doesn’t know about people disappearing in her own haunt? You make a poor liar, ma’am.”

“The name’s Harley. I may be a terrible liar, but that doesn’t mean I have nothin’ to do with nothin’.”

“Oh, yeah?” He chuckled, because the biggest gamble was in the bag. “Who’s the goon in the corner that has been eyeballin’ us ever since you spoke to me? He’s the flagman. Isn’t he? You get your clients drunk. Lead them out to the alleyway, and Mr. No-neck over there calls in his crew. You get money and protection in return.”

Her face sat concreted in disgust. Who did this chippy, fat jerk think he was coming in on her turf and pulling the sheets right off the bed. Shewasfurious.

“Is that all they give in return?” He wanted to throw that dart in there, before it was time to boogie. The sting was satisfying.

“YOU ASSHOLE!” She screamed, and the green light came on in his head. Time to fly.

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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