Gonna Have A Good Time (R)

His gentle growl of a voice usually had a calming influence upon those who heard it, it was one of the big man’s secret weapons, but it provoked an extreme and opposite reaction from his uninvited guest. The blindingly fast meeting of the robber’s gun-butt and Albert’s temple rung like a muffled pop inside his skull. Albert was slow in bringing his head back into place, it wobbled and swiveled on its post, anchored as securely as one of those bobbing big-head toys you get at a Phillies game. He blinked his eyes rapidly to argue the encroaching darkness away and resolved somewhere in the fuzz and static between his ears to keep his mouth shut from here on out.

“Shut up, mothafucka, jus’ – jus’ shut up,” the thief gruffly spat back in a weird, obviously disguised voice. “Shit!”

It was one word, just four syllables that gave him away. The way he said it: “mothafucka.” And Albert knew. It was a sad, heavy certainty. Surprised? Again, no. He remembered that day in the junk yard, they were in fifth grade maybe, when they were all practicing cusswords. Shitgoddamnpussyfuckin’pieceo’mothafuckin’shit!! Trying their damnedest to sound tough, to sound street, to sound all grown-up but they just sounded like fifth graders. Albert tried to catch the thief’s eyes in the reflection, even behind the windows of the black-knit ski mask he would recognize those eyes. They danced, they hid, but they were his. Albert shook his head.

“Why’re you doing this, Donald?”

This time the blow fell even quicker and Albert was out before the pain arrived.

“Buck-buck one comin’!”

Torn, stained mattresses and rusted-out water heaters.

“Buck-buck two comin’!”

Splintered old chairs and broken bikes.

“Buck-buck three comin’!”

Mufflers and carburetors and engine blocks.

“Buck-buck four comin’!”

Doorless refrigerators and diapers and chicken bones and shattered TVs.

It’s my turn. Ain’t far to run. Gonna break ‘em. My turn now.



Slowly. Blood orange light fuzzing and focusing, eyelids pain­fully opening in resignation. Albert came to with the shudder of an electric transformer blanketing his skull. It took him several seconds before he could recall why it was that he was hurting like this. Around the same time he discovered that his wrists were now bound behind his chair with what felt like electrical cord. Donald was still here, stacking what could be charitably described as Albert’s “valuables” on a hand dolly by the door. With his shrieking head still slumped forward, Albert watched his old friend critically examine his belongings, turning them over with twitching, jerking hands.

“Quasar?! Nigga ain’t gonna do me no good with this sad-ass shit!” The voice was unmasked and its high, screeching tone was just as Albert remembered.

Timidly lifting his head and aware now of a small line of blood running from his forehead to the side of his mouth, Albert slurred just a bit as he spoke.

“You finally got a real ski mask.”

Albert was smiling on the inside, just briefly, as he recalled those young days in the schoolyard and the junk yard and Donald’s improvised bit of winter wear: an old knit cap of his father’s rolled down over his face as far as it would go and those ridiculous eyeholes he’d cut out himself. It looked so stupid but it kept his ears and cheeks warm. Like a lot of the kids they grew up with (and like their kids as well, the ones Albert handled every day), Donald’s folks were welfare cases too preoccupied with their own drunken brawling to register the needs of their children. Donald learned early to take care of his own business.

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