My Attempt to Emulate Palahniuk's Style
“The first thing you gotta learn, Jack, is that if you get away with it, it never happened.”
So says my mentor, my crack-slinging teacher. The best education in Brooklyn stands right in front of me, wearing a wifebeater that used to be white and a steaming cancer stick drooping from his lips.
“And trust me, we’ll get away with this.”
Cold sores on his lips, sunken cheeks and one helluva fat chin with a big-ass crack in it. That was the way you recognized Danny Boy from a distance, from his ass crack of a chin. Danny Boy’s his name cause he left New York for about ten years after “college”, fulla way too many goddamned ideas and his pockets filled with drug money.
“No one’ll even be there. The lock’s easy to smash open.”
Not that the drug money lasted long. Guy like Danny Boy’ll be flush one day and poorer than the dirt under his fingernails the next with jack shit to show for it. The poor man’s curse, I call it. Forever staying down no matter what you got.
“So, you in?”
All you want is a lookout, I ask, that it?
“Yeah, yeah. You just yell and we all run.”
Yeah, right, is what I should be saying. But shit, it’s damned hard to resist the tug of easy money while the streets decay around me.
“C’mon, Jackie. Don’t be a pussy.”
As if calling a kid a pussy is anything new for Danny Boy.
So, yeah. I’ll do it, I say. I wish I could tell him to be his own damn lookout but shit’s complicated. When you’re sixteen and a skinny motherfucker built like a starving cat skulking around back alleys, you listen to the guy who’s six feet tall with trucker arms.
So where was my choice in the first goddamned place?
Danny Boy grins, he’s happy. Infected lips split and ooze nasty shit into that damn ass-crack chin shining with a vertical smile below him. Bastard gives me the creeps.
He claps a hand on my shoulder and I try not to wince.
“Knew you’d come through!” He’s grinning, he’s good. I’m good. I’m safe.
Two weeks later, I’m screaming and shooting blood out of my nose as the ground rushes up to meet me just as fast as the pipe hits my face.
Fucking faggot, that’s my name. “FUCKING STUPID FAGGOT! I’LL FUCKING KILL YOU!”
Crunch crunch crunch crunch.
There’s nothing but pain and fucking faggot being spewed as quickly as my blood can flow.
I never thought that being gay would bring this much shit down on me if I never told nobody.
Stop, I moan, stop, please stop.
I don’t think I have a nose anymore.
“Stop? STOP? So you can run to the fucking cops and tell them who BROKE YOUR FAGGOT FACE? Fuck you!”
This time the pipe cracks into my ribs and I hear snapping, taste blood, feel several bones break. Shit; now I know I’m done for.
This room looks like a pretty damned good set for a slasher flick; nightmarish streaks of blood from my face, crimson puddles and the dead body slumped halfway underneath the bed.
The dead body.
Take a deep breath.
Count to ten.
This is what I say to the panicking store owner of the Best Bargains pawn shop.
You gotta be calm, I gasp.
I need a deep breath myself.
They’ll be done getting the money soon, I say. You’ll never see us again.
But I don’t say this.
Danny Boy and the gorilla he hired for the robbery. Danny Boy raises the pistol I thought he wouldn’t have. He grins.
That damned ass-crack chin. Beaming like a goddamned second mouth.
Danny, what the fuck are you doing? This ain’t right, I say.
The gorilla’s one of those big fucks that you find on the street looking for money and kicks. Jobs with Danny Boy, well, they pay out both.
He holds the wrench that broke open the money box.
I glance at Danny Boy. He’s wearing gloves.
The first blast from the gun cuts down the owner of the Best Bargains pawn shop with a sharp snapping cracking booming sound. His brains become a fresh coat of paint along the back wall of his shop.
Danny Boy doesn’t stop there. He shoots shoots shoots until there’s no more bullets left in the gun. The gorilla grabs me roughly and Danny Boy forces the gun into my hand; my fingerprints are linked to a murder weapon.
“I never liked you, Jackie. You never seemed to show the proper amount of respect to me. Don’t you hate not being respected? When you’ve got nothing, absolutely jack shit, you want some respect from SOMEONE. Even a runty little fuck like you, Jack.” Danny Boy snorts suddenly and spits a thick wad of mucus into my face. I don’t move.
Danny, I plead, don’t do this. You can get rid of the gun.
“FUCK YOU, JACKIE! Fuck… you.” Danny Boy lays the gun down next to the dead shop owner. He draws a pack of cigarettes from his jacket pocket.
“Now search him. Get his wallet. Hey, Jackie, give him your fucking wallet.”
I scramble into my pocket and whip out the shitty wallet I bought from the thrift store down the street from my house, hand it to Danny Boy. I don’t even think about it; I figure I’m fucked now.
Flipping though my wallet, Danny Boy quickly finds the cash and stuffs it into his jacket pocket with his smokes. He rifles through the piles of receipts and suddenly freezes.
“What the fuck is this, Jackie?”
He holds up a card for a gay support group. He bursts out with laughter.
“I don’t fucking believe this, Jackie. You a fucking faggot?”
The gorilla’s eyes have narrowed down into piggy excuses, little black beads.
“You know, Jackie, Bruno here hates faggots. Fucking hates them. I don’t know if I’ll be able to stop him, buddy. I just don’t know.” The goddamned ass crack chin widens and smiles at me.
With that, he leaves, the bell hanging over the entrance tinkles, and Bruno smashes his fist into my face at a hundred miles per hour.
He drags me across the ground by my hair. He drags me to the back and tosses me into the bedroom at the back of the shop. The place is shitty, a real rathole. Pipes thread themselves across the wall at awkward angles, skewed and dented.
Bruno wrenches one of these pipes from the wall.
He advances towards me.
Raises the pipe high.
For the first time in seven years, I close my eyes and pray.
A sinking ship is filled with sailors thinking of themselves.