A Handful of Decades

The city bus makes about thirty stops before it brings Skip to jail.

There have been times where Skip was able to afford a car but then his bills would come and his work would dry up and he’d have to spend all of his time reinventing himself, often shut in a room with the lights dimmed and his stereo vibrating off the top shelf of his kitchen pantry that doubles as a TV stand. Some random flurry of time always passes and he has very little money, no car and no work that anybody wants for anything but free–which Skip is all too happy to comply with. Skip is an artist. He makes things out of words and images, light and sound. While a bit of a Renaissance man, he is still one of a billion. He’s also on his way to jail, of his own free will.

Skip has been called upon by an old friend who is infinitely more successful than him, despite their growing up in the same honest neighborhood with the same nine to five parents while attending the same public schools and state college. It’s all about luck, and sometimes you are born cursed. Cursed to slap things together and demand affection, to create and then think of the word “create” and then imagine yourself to be some kind of minor deity while all the while ignoring the fact that pregnant squalls and pork chop chomping old men with chronic diarrhea “create” and that to “create” something is only as special as the eyes of the beholder. Most people need glasses, through no honest fault of their own. Skip wears glasses, with lenses thick enough to be bulletproof. You’d think that means something, but it doesn’t.

Hopping off the bus, Skip snaps his fingers and lets loose a roaring curse as he realizes he left his briefcase at home. It didn’t really contain anything more important than a few rambling lines of notebook paper, but he likes carrying the briefcase around with him in public. He finds it inspiring, and as a bonus, it would provide some level of comfort, as he angles his head up to the stuffy looking building with Police Precinct etched across its front in big bold boring letters. What bums Skip out is that the building looks like it was recently renovated. Some designer, some creator in this day and age, actually produced this miserable thing.

Without going further than three steps into the building, Skip finds himself in a metallic cage of a room with glass paneling along one wall protecting a scowling black policewoman. The policewoman is sitting hunched over in front of one of those uncomfortable intercoms they have at the bank. For a few brief seconds Skip wonders if this is all a trap, and if his old buddy Christopher Rodriguez has been in secret communication with Skip’s ex-wife over Facebook. Maybe they’ve hatched an elaborate scam to straighten Skip out, to press him into adulthood and responsibility and working a job with the types of wages where you can afford a car.

As the woman grills Skip on why he’s here, his mind wanders. The damn thing always wanders, it can’t be helped. It’s helplessly uncontrollable. Sometimes Skip wonders if it’s some sort of alien parasite that crept in through his open bedroom window one summer night when he was a boy—as if something slipped into his ear and has given him all the vivid dreams that still plague him now to the point that every night he sleeps (or every mid-morning to afternoon that he naps) Skip gets to truly live, as he never has and never will.

“Okay sir, are you feeling okay?” the policewoman all but snaps her fingers. “Who are you here to see?” The woman’s sighing–she’s been sighing this whole time. While Skips true thoughts have been wandering the void, his mouth has been flapping and he has been going on and on about his appointment that was technically twenty minutes ago.

“Russel Rodriguez,” Skip answers as he switches off of his blithering auto-pilot.

“We don’t have anybody here with that…” Oh, yeah, the cop, she meant the cop, a buddy of Christopher’s that Skip’s been sent to.

“Oh, sorry that’s the kid locked up. I meant Mark Luis.” Skip’s useless brick of a cellphone is half dead. The woman tells him it’ll be just a moment, and then she asks to see his I.D. When Skip hands it over the woman’s slit eyes squint further, like that of a serpent’s, and then she tells him that it’s expired, but it’ll do.

A minute passes that feels like twenty and by the time the door at the other end of the corridor opens up, Skip’s consciousness is well into skipping alongside a roaring river that doesn’t exist anywhere on earth, as he plays with ideas for his next project. He wants to create a story that comes to you through text messages throughout the day, piece by piece, but more than a story it combines with fictional news stories broadcasted all over the web.

The man that frees Skip from the hall looks more like a lawyer than a cop, but maybe that’s only because he’s wearing a tie. The handshake Mark delivers Skip catches him off guard and Skip’s left wanting a re-do, confident his grip would be tougher on a second try. Of course, there aren’t often second chances–unless Skip can remember when they shake hands goodbye later, but he’s not counting on his mind to cooperate with him. Not when there’s the distraction of a jail cell and its prisoner up ahead.

“Chris said he was sending a specialist,” Mark says through a shit-eating grin that Skip forces himself to match. Mark smells like coffee. What’s a cop do in the office all day? It must be like second-rate secretarial work with filing and phone calls and reports. The guy is a Lieutenant, whatever that means.

“I’m just trying to get fed, Chris said he’d treat me to dinner,” Skip says as Mark leads him down a long hallway that reminds him of high school; with hallways covered in motivational posters and corkboards full of information (only here there are a few Missing and Wanted posters, too) and signs along the ceiling labeling locker and lunch rooms. The tiling on the floor and the fluorescent light bulbs overhead probably does it, too. Government funded buildings, they’re one in the same, even if the outside has impressive stone gargoyles and great marble Greek pillars of self-importance beneath a sloped rooftop with words scrawled about like anybody has half an interest in what they mean. Skip understands and cherishes a great many arts, but architecture is disheartening. You build something beautiful, but you don’t get to decide who lives in it or soils it. There can be nothing more bittersweet, other than inventing a religion.

“I’ve got a little boy, you know, and seeing kids like this…” Mark’s so self-inclined to pull his phone out of his pocket and show Skip a background screen saver of a grinning little kid who’s missing two of his teeth and wearing a catcher’s mitt on his head like a hat.

Skip doesn’t know what to say when people talk about their little offspring or siblings or wards of the state, so he ignores the display of humanity and asks how long the significantly older boy has been locked up. “About four hours, give or take. They were going to transfer him to the bigger tank we share with Sasparillo Ave but I got my guys to leave him here…As you probably know, he’s technically free to go but Chris said he wants him to stay put, at least until you’re done talking with him.”

“A captive audience. I don’t know about you but this could be fun.” Skip feels bad that he kind of brushed off the picture of Mark’s son. He can’t stand children when he thinks about raising one, but from a distance somebody else’s kid is a nice concept. Like any budding person, they really carry all the possibilities in the world within their little undeveloped minds.

“Well, scaring him hasn’t done the trick. Trust me, I made sure last night’s mean stinking mess was locked up in the same cell as him, before that bastard’s poor mother posted bail. The kid wasn’t fazed. I really don’t see how he’s Chris’s, if you get what I mean.  How long have you known him, anyway?” They’ve come to a metal door with a sort of porthole over the center of it. It’s almost like the door to a kitchen at a restaurant. Skip can almost taste all of the metal in the other room. Skip wants to tell Mark he’s known Chris his whole life, but that’s not entirely true, if you ad up the nine months at a time Skip’s gone without speaking to him, even though they live in the same city. Time flies when you’re being productive, attempting to pay your bills, and actively procrastinating.

“Oh….so long now that we only really pop up when we need each other.” It comes out colder than it sounds, but Skip does remember the last time Chris wrote him a little startup check. Skip did pay him back, eventually. It’s starting to dawn on him that Chris probably gets drinks with this Mark every few weeks. What is Skip, a jealous lover, what’s it matter? He’s here right now, that’s what counts.

“Yep, yeah he’s mentioned you as a his famous buddy and I always thought he was busting my balls but here you are. When’s the last time you saw Russ? Kid’s got more tattoos than I can count…must be horrible for a parent or someone that watched him grow up to look at all that…” Skip knows Mark’s trying to figure out who he is. Mark’s definitely close with Chris’s family.

Mark is gentler than a cop should be. He’s more of a social worker than a police officer, and even before he had kids of his own he was probably cutting people a break if they were honest and respectable. Mark probably has a steady list of TV shows he regrets missing on his late shifts that he makes his wife record so they can watch them together. He seems like a golfer, like one of those people that are never in a rush. When he leaves work every day, his mind is free. In that sense, perhaps he is the perfect cop. Skip has never met a stranger. He’ll in the gaps for everybody’s story, if he has to.

“Last time I saw him he was wearing baseball mitts on his head.” Skip would feel out of place if it weren’t for what he’s here to do. Hell, maybe there’s a career to be made out of this, talking to troubled youth about how bad they’re screwing up. The thing is, though, nobody in trouble wants to hear any bullshit from anybody. Talking is useless, because, obviously, it’s only done at face value. Russel’s going to nod his head and mutter curses in the back of his mind the whole time. Skip could be the president, it wouldn’t matter. Logically speaking, using some woman or man Russel finds attractive would be a better bet for convincing him of anything. Skip knows the only way he’s going to convince Russel of anything is by making a scene.

“Mark, I’m going to have to ask you a favor, to sell this.” Skip whispers before they enter the room with the holding cells. “It might be kind of noisy.” Skip grins and as usual for cops (who tend to have seen pretty much everything this mad world can conjure up) Mark merely raises his eyebrows and then lends his ear.

 

The biggest problem in the world is that nobody can agree on one. Human concern is fractured. There are so many battles crisscrossing the worry waves, charities, and acts of genius and depravity defining the conflict scale, that they all often intersect and amount to nearly nothing, as resources and ideas are scattered and fall short, without any true support. Sometimes the only way to ensure a victory is to fight on a smaller, personal scale. When Skip is dragged into the nearly empty stretch of jail cells, he is howling.

Mark’s coffee breath is roasting Skip’s nostrils and turning his stomach as the cop easily drags him by his shoulders toward the same, spacey, semi-drunk tank that Russel is locked up in. Mark refused to put handcuffs on him, which is a shame because Skip always took police officers for the playful sort, given how serious their job is too much of the time. Mark’s not a very good actor, either, as he slides the cell door shut with a great squealing click and then walks away, grinning and smiling too wildly. Skip tries to make up for it by cursing, “You roast pig motherfucker!” His voice creaks from the strain. He can’t remember the last time he screamed, beside the occasional night terror that embarrasses him, even when he’s in bed alone.

“Motherfucker!” Skip repeats when Mark closes the outer door to the holding area. That has been his favorite word since Samuel L. Jackson taught it to him in the fifth grade. There is a silence in this part of the precinct, as if there is nothing else beyond these cement walls and iron bars. There’s something so isolated and internally reflective about it that Skip wouldn’t mind being locked in one of these things on his own one day.

There is art carved along the walls. Skip wasn’t expecting that. There are names, sure, as well as curses and poorly drawn penises, but there is also art. There are birds and flowers and octopuses and nooses. Russel’s sitting on the floor, wearing an orange reflective vest over a white shirt. He has a black eye that snakes down to a fat lip. His belt buckle’s undone and he’s missing a boot. Above his shaved head is what looks like an airplane, like one of those World War II bomber planes, and there is a second image of a curvy girl riding a tiger along the side of a plane. Skip has always admired those pictures of combat planes with painstakingly sculpted decals on their wings and side panels. Even in the ugliest of conflicts, there is a sense of human beauty.

“Fuck,” Skip curses again, because people in jail don’t usually save their swears for the perfect little sentence enhancers they’re meant to be. He leans against the wall opposite Russel and nods at him. “What are you in here for?” According to Russel’s dad, somebody always seems to get in his way and make him lash out. This is the second time he’s been arrested and 5he umpteenth time he’s suffered consequences for fighting. This time he’s not in a hospital, at least.

“I know my dad sent you,” Russel snorts, curls up one knee and looks down into his crossed arms. Well, Skip never was much of an actor. He was always more interested in set design, the script or the orchestra, never the people mumbling around on stage.

Chuckling because he’s been caught and also because Russel isn’t a total dummy, Skip invites himself to take a seat on the cold and presumably bacteria riddled floor. They probably hose and sponge the cells down every now and then, right? If they do it in subway stations, they’ve got to do it here.

“I think I remember you,” Russel says, and Skip realizes his face isn’t entirely buried into his arms. His eyes, however nearly swollen shut one of them is, are peering out from his muscles. This is good. Skip thought he would have to do the talking–which would have made him sound like he was preaching.

“Don’t try too hard, I hardly remember you and I was an adult, at the time.” Skip implies that he may not entirely be an adult anymore. It’s always good to catch yourself.

Russel ignores the humor. “No…no I remember my dad showing me a picture of you. You made something and won a bunch of money and some kind of award.” The kid’s voice is low, to the point of sleepiness. He’s tired, surely. He may even have a concussion. This makes him ripe for inspiring. Now if only Skip had ever inspired somebody before.

Skip wants to explain that he didn’t “win” anything. He earned whatever half-forgotten and potentially shiny award he received but such picky things aren’t worth raising anyone’s blood pressure over. There are bigger issues to get all dramatic about. “What was it for? Painting?” Russel’s more concerned with getting his memory right than the actual information it contains.

Skip snorts. “No. Definitely not for painting. Nobody makes any money off that. Your dad and I were friends when we were around your age.” Skip figures Russel’s in his mid-twenties. As Chris’s friend Skip should know how old the guy’s son is….“I’m cursed with doing and being interested in doing too many things, so I’ve achieved remarkably little in the artistic field but I’ve got thousands of tiny accomplishments.” Skip suddenly feels like slapping himself in the face. Here he is, about to spin on and on talking about himself. He’s well aware of his ego, when it comes to talking to other people. This isn’t just a talk; it’s not meant to be any sort of show. Skip needs to tap into the thick and impenetrable. He needs to find the color in the deep, infinite black.

“What’s your art?” Skip clasps his fingers and uses his thumbs to play with the stubble growing along his chin.

“I don’t get you. I do get my dad making me ride it out in here. Fuck it, I’ve got to pay a fine I’ll pay a fine, those guys aren’t pressing charges–I’ll tell you that.” Russel tilts his neck back and Skip gets a good look at a tattoo snaking up from his chest to his throat. It’s dark green, almost like some sort of vine. There’s something wild about Russel’s eye that isn’t swollen shut, like he’s hungry for an argument because he knows he’s right and everybody else is wrong. “I’m not a bum that needs a social worker, I’ve got my life together.” Then Russel laughs like a bulldog. Obviously dogs don’t laugh but if a bulldog could, it would sound like him. Wait, are bulldogs even a thing?

“Sides last night. You don’t know what happened. Mark likes to think he knows what happened but that’s only because I finish what other people start and I make sure to win. I’d rather be here than in the dirt, getting my ribs kicked in.”

“I don’t care.”

Skip shrugs and runs a hand through his somewhat greasy hair. “Listen, fuck y–”

“I mean, I don’t care that you’re here or how you got here or….” Skip shrugs again, then readjusts his glasses that he often forgets are on his face. “Whatever. I’m not here to judge you or make you not bloody your knuckles. Hell, I want you to help me. I’ll give you…” Shit, Skip has nothing much to give. He raises a finger indicating Russel should wait a second and then he reaches into his front pocket for his wallet. There’s a fat stack of cash inside but its mostly just ones from when he last got tipped out bartending. Assistant bartending, if it can even be called that, Skip was just helping out his buddy whose coworker didn’t show up for his shift. “Okay, I have forty-nine bucks. You want forty-nine bucks?”

Russel looks uncomfortable. “I guess.”

“All you have to do is just…talk to me, a little, answer some of my question or, you know, if you don’t want to answer, then chuck me the bird and I’ll move on. Figure we got maybe fifteen minutes before Mark gets back and lets you out of here. I don’t know what kind of allowance Chris…your dad has you on but–”

“Okay.” Russel nods and uncrosses his arms just a little. His shirt pulls slightly down from his neck and Skip see’s that it is indeed a vine of some sort, stretching up from within him.

“What’s your tattoo?” Skip’s aware his curiosity is beating out his half-baked objective but, well, Skip is Skip and if you being yourself can’t help somebody then you’re not the person for the job.

Russel rolls his good eye, stands and lifts his shirt up. Russel is consumed by a hungry flower. Purple with deep hues of blue running along the petals and the snaking vine tentacles that stretch from the heart of the bud at the center of his chest. The vine spreads along his entire body like some symbiotic of the natural world using his body to grow and blossom.

“Trippy.” Skip wonders if the kid even needs him. From what Chris originally said, this boy is another one of the lost. Those nine to five stiffs with only a lingering interest in the world of art that begins and ends with a picture on the wall, prime time TV, and the occasional Oscar flick.

“This girl I was dating drew it up….”

“What’s it mean?” Skip asks.

“It’s, uh, like it represents life and, it looked cool…” Russel flips his shirt back down. Maybe he is one of them.

“So what’s your art?”

“I don’t get what you’re talking about.” Russels staying on his feet, leaning against the wall, blocking some of the carvings on the wall.

“Art, like…some people play the trumpet, other people draw, write, sing and, you know, what’s your thing.” Skip could go on and on.

“I’m not into that. I like movies, I guess.” Here it is. A lie. No art… everybody has an art. Everyone. Skip shouldn’t be wasting his time with another spoiled American with first world problems…the people on Earth who are uneducated and suffering with daily twelve hour labor to support their family–those are the victims. Those are the would-be famous singers using their vocal chords to sell knife racks over the phones, the writers, directors, and master botanists that are being drained of their creative pursuits by the demands of life. This petty child in front of Skip is hardly even a consumer at best, and the canvas of “life” etched across his chest is some previous artists attempt to brand him with creativity if only because his brain is too thick to tap into his own wealth of it. Is this how ghosts are made, when the pent up energy of unfulfilled creativity leaves behind a specter of untapped ability?

“Uh, are you okay?” Russel’s asking as Skip realizes the kid’s approached him half way across the cell and is leaning forward to peer at him.

“Yep, sorry, spaced out, happens. What do you do for fun?” Skip snaps back to it but Russel just gives him a blank stare. So much for a conversation, more like a questionnaire, how to snap out of this, how to start talking? “What do you do after work, what makes you feel alive?”

“Listen, I’m healthy, man, I don’t know what kind of psychiatry your trying to do but this is stupid. I hang out with my buddies, relax, go out, explore places I haven’t before, just, I don’t know, normal shit. Girls, the occasional beer, like I mentioned, a movie, maybe some basketball. I like going to Cubs games.” Russel raises his hands and there’s a frustration brewing in him and Skip hears that well enough.

“You don’t do anything creative.”

“So?” Frustration is flicking to anger, he’s getting offended. Skip is failing, mostly because he didn’t have a plan, mostly because he thinks its impossible for him to ever understand someone of wasted potential.

“Why don’t you do anything? Because you work so much?”

“I don’t work that much.” Russels turning, walking to the corner of the room, staring at the walls. He wants to say something. He wants to scream and tell Skip to fuck off and now Skip’s wondering why he doesn’t just do that.

“When you were little did you like arts and crafts? Drawing pictures for mommy? Anything like that?”

Russel grins “Pictures….” And then he’s showing his teeth and that’s not a grin, no, that’s a snarl. “What the fuck’s wrong with you? My mom? Really? Fucking mention my mom? Jesus christ fuck you, fuck him. What would she think of me in here, right? Yeah? It doesn’t matter what she would think because she can’t think right now, she just sleeping and I can’t have that hanging over me, ruining me with everything I do and fuck you man, fuck your forty-nine fucking bucks…”

Skip finds himself tingling with the emotion that’s been delivered to his gut via a brass knuckled fist. The energy, the expression, the spittle flying from Russell’s lips. “I’m sorry…what do you mean about your mom?”

“The…” Russel’s good eye flickers then widens. “You know…” he waves his hands, his lips still curling with disgust. Skips blank stare indicates he doesn’t. “She’s sick and all….for years now…did my dad even send you here?” His confusion’s closing his mind even further. Tragedy, no one should ever forget tragedy. How did Skip not know? The few times he met Chris’s wife she was polite and full of the kind of ego inspiring questions about Skip’s career(s) that made him fond of her and everyone else like her. How long ago was that? Russell was little but, Skip’s talked to Chris on and off over the years. The years, how many years, exactly, have passed between Skip paying Chris back and now?

“He did…he….” Skip struggles for just a minute to remember what day of the week it is. Tuesday and it’s either the fourth or fifth of March. Life just gets so busy sometimes…there are so many things to do, places to explore, projects to research, begin, put on hold, resume. There are people to meet, yes, contacts and other creators in multi-fields and classes and sub-genres and social groups and there is so much to immerse yourself in. The years trickled into decades and you realize you forgot to call somebody back a few winters ago. “He sent me. But I’m not doing what he told me to. I’m just an asshole with forty nine bucks who wants to know you, a little bit, because you and me, I think, are completely different in every way….I’m not better than you, you’re not, well, maybe not better than me. Humor me. Humor yourself. I’m sorry about your mom. I’m a stranger, I know. No more bullshit.”

“Bullshit…” Russel begins, then looks through the bars at the steel door with a porthole that Mark will probably emerge from before Skip can achieve anything. “You think there’s something wrong with me just because I don’t make anything with my hands?”

“No…I just wonder how its possible you don’t. You do construction, right? You want to eventually own your own business?”

“I’ll take a promotion…I don’t care, really, it pays good.”

“You like money?” Skip asks. Russell’s frustration is coming dangerously close to an eruption.

“Who the hell doesn’t? You?”

“Nah, I love it, I just never seem to have it. What do you want to do? Your closer to thirty than twenty right? I’m not some fuckin life counselor, listen, I’m pretty much broke and I’m pushing fifty, out of life, just, I’m trying to figure out what you want but I don’t mean the future, just, when I do something, when I create something I am taking a part of me, full of emotion maybe, or curiosity, and I’m spinning it, shaping it into something that maybe somebody will enjoy immersing themselves in for just a little while. More often than not I create stuff I’m not trying to sell that I don’t care if anybody sees. It’s unlike anything else, it’s unlike fucking, drinking…” Skip raises a hand towards Russel’s bruises. “Fighting…that energy of yours is fierce. At the very least maybe you should take up boxing, but that energy, it could be harnessed, you could do something cool you’ve never done before.”

“But why? You’re saying that, my life isn’t fulfilled enough, and that I need to find something, do something to be happier. I’m pretty happy. I like making money, and I like spending money. I get into trouble but only because I don’t like people walking over me, and you know what I thought to myself after last night? I already figured out, on my own, that next time I just call out the assholes trying to make me feel small and then I call the cops myself. I’m not coming back here, you can tell my dad to worry about mom. I sleep fine. I am fine. One day I’ll meet a girl who makes me smile and I’ll have a bunch of kids and I will be as fine then as I am now. I don’t need to draw pictures or write books. I don’t need to be told what I need.”

“Okay, okay.” Skip can’t be defeated. This kid will hate him and they’ll both leave here today bitter and miserable but that is what it is. “Have you ever done anything ridiculous? I’ve personally, physically tried to fly on a bunch of different occasions.”

“That’s fucking stupid.”

“Do you like to read?”

“No.”

“Do you…career wise, in his professional life and not with what’s going on at home, do you think your dad is happy?” Here’s the question that actually achieves something. Some level of thought.

“I don’t know.”

“He seem restless, when he’s not taking care of things?”

“Yeah, kind of. He says he wants to hire somebody to run the firm, so he can semi retire. I think he’s scared of not working. You’re thinking what, my dad should take up arts and fucking crafts too?”

“No. Your dad was into cooking, back in the day. Really into it.”

“I cooked, when I was living at home, after mom… He’d make a meatloaf, sometimes.” Russell’s heard this story before; he’s waiting for something new.

“I mean, this guy was more than a chef. He would just make up recipes and see if they worked and half the time they didn’t but they were bizarre, man, and the few times they did work….what he did with pancakes, boy, I’ll never forget that. It came down to law school or culinary school on the east coast. He ever cook anything special anymore?”

“Oh come on. It’s cooking. He could if he wanted to; guy only works four days a week. He could but he doesn’t, because it’s not that important. I made posters for science fair projects and shit when I was in high school, I sampled the whole creative thing like everybody else and I have a right to be all set with that kind of stuff. Your saying you don’t have much money, why don’t you get a job that pays?”

“I’m too busy as it is….” Skip’s declined numerous offers to teach at some hack university. Teaching demands lesson preparation. If Skip were to strive to be a good teacher, and he always strives to be good, then that takes up time, time he needs for other things….There’s also that immortal, painful quote “he who can, does, he who cannot, teaches,” that has screamed in Skips brain every time he considered a humble adjunct position at the local schools. Skip’s mind starts to go back. There is one more thing, one last thing he needs Russell to understand about the artist.

“Are you religious?”

Russel raises a middle finger. “No.”

“Then you’re afraid of death?”

“Seriously?”

“I’m terrified, of everything not actually mattering. Of everything I’ve ever said or done being lost, of the people I’ve known flaking away to skeletons and ash. I am terrified of the nothing and being nothing and thinking nothing enjoying nothing ever again, of no more tasting, smelling, fucking life and this is why, you know what? This is why I think you should; I think everyone should be more of an artist. We get to break the rules, the artist exists beyond control, we get to break the boring, flimsy little rules other people structure their whole lives on. When the average person dies they leave beyond offspring at best, when we die our voices don’t! Our hearts, all of our energy doesn’t!”

“You’re fucking crazy.”

“No, think about it!” Skip rushes towards Russel-which causes his glasses to hang almost crooked off his face. How can Russel not understand? “You want money? Here, here take it!” Skip hurls a fistful of loose bills at the kids face. “Your mom is going to die and become a rotting pile of bones in the earth, your father, all of your friends…” Russel shoves Skip across the jail cell floor. The glasses go flying and the near sightedness sets in. With his nostrils flaring and his blackened eye scrunched up tight Russel’s an ogre, a big stupid angry ogre ready to rip Skip up.

“Art makes life worth it! Art is us fighting back, it’s the fight against not existing anymore! It’s you making yourself more unique than you ever have been, it’s your fucking soul, it’s who you really are!” Skip pleads, switching into autopilot; a dangerous move for a mind such as his.

Mark and another cop are rushing into the room and Skip and Russel are being screamed at and the cell’s squealing open and Skip is being helped to his feet and Russel, who’s crying, is being pressed against a wall. Skip’s glasses have been crushed, and they remain useless on the floor for somebody else to pick up. All Skip wants to do is tilt his head up to the dull grey ceiling and howl his lungs out. He needs to get home. He needs to make something, finish something. He needs to make up for all the people like Russel and Chris who have given up, who never even got started, who the blank, hungry world and the black void swallowed up before their voices could be heard. As Mark puts his arms around Skip’s shoulders he hears the other cop yelling at Russel about the “new graffiti on the wall,” and how he’s going to pay for it. Skip looks over his shoulder and meets Russel’s one good, tear streaked eye. He realizes some gods are just flashier, and whinier than others.

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About Nick Manzolillo 0 Articles
Nick's short fiction has appeared in over fifty publications, including: Wicked Haunted: A New England Horror Writers Anthology, Switchblade, TQR, Red Room Magazine, Grievous Angel, and The Tales To Terrify podcast. He has recently earned an MFA in Creative and Professional Writing from Western Connecticut State University. By day he is a content manager, editor, and writer for TopBuzz, a media app.

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