Corin Reyburn- “Rabbit’s Foot”

Pigeon hasn’t said a word to me in five days. But that’s not unusual.

By now I know the signs so he doesn’t have to bother with talking. A slap of his wide palm on the side of his chair means dim the lights. That clucking noise he makes in the back of his throat means close the window. A grunt means change my fucking man diaper.

“You done eating, Pigeon?” He looks off in the distance, so yes, he’s finished with his tray. His big black eyes shut and he exhales slowly out of his nose. He hears me though. He’s one of the few people in this dump who hears alright. He listens, too.

“JW,” Pigeon mutters with his eyes still closed, breaking his silence.

“Only got red label this time—hope that’s good enough for your fancy ass. I’ll come by later. Got a shit ton of other inmates to check on,” I say, raising my eyebrow so he gets my joke. I remove his bib, give him a pat on the shoulder, then head out to finish my rounds.

Pigeon pilots his chair over to the tray table where the remote’s sitting. He turns on the game as I shut the door.

I’d rather stay and hang with Pigeon. Really not in the mood to listen to Mr. Carson tell me for the eightieth time that his roommate’s trying to kill him, or talk to Lora in my shitty high-school Spanish about her three dead poodles and her two sons who never come to see her. My shift’s over in forty-five minutes though, then I can go home and play Call of Duty.

I’m standing in front of the slow-ass elevator. I could take the stairs, but why bother? It’s not like I’m training to be an Olympic athlete or anything. I’m skinny now and I’ve always been skinny—everyone calls me Sop. It stands for string of piss. Dad started calling me that when I was in Little League. He was the coach. I was gangly, he was ticked off all the time. The name just stuck.

The elevator doors open and my sister steps out with Mrs. Gunderson clinging to her like a lifeline. Mrs. Gunderson’s hair is purple. Why do old ladies have purple hair? Like, why is that a thing? She smells like stale bread and Febreeze.

“Yosef wants to see you in the kitchen,” my sister says. She walks around like she’s hot shit. Probably comes from when we were growing up, how all these little old Japanese ladies from my mom’s side of the family always told her she’s pretty. They never tell me I’m handsome, they just say we look alike.

My sister’s hair is purple, too. But not the same purple as Mrs. Gunderson’s. Steph’s a LPN, which means she’s a step below a real nurse or something after a year of online school. I’m a certified caregiver which means I took a ten-hour crash course and I’m not really qualified to do shit, like I’m not supposed to do anything medical. Not that anyone around here gives a flying fuck. I have the keys to the pharmacy just like anyone else.

I make it through half my rounds, then head down to the kitchen to see what Yosef wants. Yosef is a Jewish black guy who weighs, like, 800 pounds. I shove my way through the heavy kitchen door past five staffers—four Filipino girls and one of the Latino guys. He’s from Argentina? The Dominican Republic? He’s telling a story in Español that’s apparently hilarious.

“Where’s Yosef?”

“Out back,” says one of the girls.

Yosef is standing outside by the dumpster, where he belongs. He coughs for about half a minute straight and I smell the joint he’s choking down. He passes it to me while he’s still coughing, not saying anything. I take one hit, then another, cause it’s my weed and he was supposed to wait for me anyway.

“Good shit, man,” he says.

“It’s shit shit,” I say, “but you wouldn’t know the difference.”

“Fuck you, man.” His eyes are all squinty and smiling. For someone his size you’d think it’d take more for him to get high. After a few more pulls we’re both smiling and digging into the junk we brought from 7-11 cause the food here is crap. That’s right, crappier than 7-11.

“Shit’s so good,” Yosef says. His hand is stuck in a Pringles tube. He has muddy brown skin and a Jew ‘fro. He’s the weirdest looking motherfucker I’ve ever seen. His stained apron is on top of a Raiders jersey that’s on top of a long-sleeved undershirt. It’s fucking cold here in the winter and it rains all the time.

It starts to rain a little now.

“Gotta go,” I say. “Catch the fucking ferry back to the island before it gets dark.”

“Bitch, you’re lucky you don’t live in Oakland. Heard so many damn gunshots last night that once I fell asleep I dreamed I was a wolf…and like these fuckers were hunting me down, but I was too fast.”

“Dumbass. Only live out in Bay Farm cause my dad works at the airport. It’s a shitty place to live. Smells like asparagus. It’s a fucking landfill, you know.”

I listen while he tells me more of his dumb wolf dream story, then slap my fist against his big palm and peace out.

It only hits me when the ferry’s about to dock that I never went back to see Pigeon. Never did bring him his JW.

With any luck, he’s forgotten all about it.

#

My mom sits in the kitchen and stares out the window, just like Pigeon. If I didn’t know better I’d think she was blind, no reaction to anything that passes in front of her—the blue sky turning into a storm, a hawk sweeping down to kill a mouse, my dad yelling from twenty feet away about the dead flowers and the fucking aphid colonies. It’s not like he even cares how the yard looks, he just wants to get on someone’s case about it.

Mom’s American-born-Japanese but you’d think she was from the old country with how low she keeps her head bowed. My dad, on the other hand, won’t admit he’s wrong even if the horse he’s betting on comes in dead last.

“Mom. What’re we having for dinner tonight?”

She’s gone. Just sitting at the table like a silly little doll. She looks just like Stephanie, but without the purple hair and the bad attitude.

“Mom.”

“Fish,” she says, finally looking over at me. “Did you get taller?”

“Dad outside?”

She goes back to staring out the window, to where dad’s tearing up tomato plants or some shit. It’s early. The sky’s still pretty dark.

I go outside and stand behind my dad for a good couple of minutes before he notices me. He looks exactly the same as he did the last time I saw him, which was three days ago. Same brown shirt, same jeans. He probably hasn’t showered in a while.

“Hey. I’m off to work.”

“Thought you said you’d help me clear out all that crap in the back room,” he says, not looking up. “That just hot air as usual?”

“It’s all grandma’s junk anyway. I wouldn’t know what to keep and what to toss.”

“You said you’d do it.”

“Sorry.” I scuff the dirt with the toe of my sneaker while I’m having this thirty-second conversation with my dad’s back. “I’m out.”

He keeps tearing up plants. Mom keeps watching him from the window with her blind eyes. I wonder if she hates him.

I don’t even know how they met. How does a white guy from Alameda meet a Japanese woman who hardly ever speaks? Tom and Tracy. Sounds so fucking suburban. Nobody talks.

I’d be the black sheep of the family except I don’t think anyone ever had any expectations. I’m not a drug dealer and somehow I finished high school. If my parents had feelings they’d be over the moon.

Pigeon doesn’t talk much either, but I don’t get that feeling like he doesn’t care about anything. You can just tell. If someone gives a shit they wait for you. Pigeon doesn’t have anywhere to go, but it doesn’t matter. He’s a guy who waits.

When I get to work, Pigeon’s in the game room, where nobody plays games but there’s checkers and Boggle and Chutes and Ladders and Yahtzee and Sorry! and a Monopoly board with all the player pieces missing except the fucking wheelbarrow.

“Got something for you,” I say, right next to Pigeon’s ear so he can hear me.

He doesn’t say anything, just reaches for the joystick on his chair and pilots it to his room. I follow a few steps behind.

He drives over to the only window, the one that overlooks the parking lot. Sometimes you can see the planes, and you can always hear them. The Oakland airport is shit.

“Thought you were coming by yesterday,” Pigeon says. He kinda sounds like Johnny Cash, if Johnny Cash mumbled even more than Johnny Cash and was missing most of his teeth.

“Here,” I say. “Black label.”

Pigeon smiles. It’s so small and quick I don’t even really see it, but I know it’s there. He takes a long swig.

“You’re Chinese, right?” I ask.

“Taiwanese.”

“Isn’t that the same thing?”

“No.” He takes another swig. “You know, one of my grandmothers had blonde hair. White skin.”

“You’re so yellow you oughta have a name like Chee Chow Wong or something. But no, you’re just some bird that shits all over the place.”

“I used to be real good-looking,” he says. “Very handsome.” He doesn’t talk with a Chinese accent, he talks like any other guy who grew up in San Francisco.

“You look alright for an old-ass Chinaman in a wheelchair,” I say.

Pigeon’s about halfway through the bottle. The sun’s setting outside and it looks like it’s gonna rain again, all over the Bay and Alameda and this shitty airport island. Dad says we’re lucky to live here.

“Hey, take it easy. You’re a fucking alcoholic.”

“You’re just a kid.” He takes another swig, stays quiet for a while. “Don’t be like the rest of them—those other kids out there,” he says.

“I don’t care if you drink. Hell, my dad’s an alcoholic. Beer mostly. Long as you don’t get all pissed off and start hitting people and shit it’s fine, whatever.”

Pigeon doesn’t say anything.

“Hey, I gotta go. Just stopped by to bring you your firewater. Sorry I forgot yesterday.”

He tips the bottom of the bottle towards me in thanks. When I leave, he swings his chair around instead of keeping his back to me. I salute him on my way out.

“Don’t do that,” he says.

He looks sort of happy, but not really.

#

Pigeon always talks about this Malay chick, the one that got away. After they eloped she ran off with the entire contents of his bank account, or something like that. I doubt Pigeon ever had much money to steal. No one who’s stuck in this place ever had any money. And now they’re old and broke and don’t have any rights.

I’m nice to the old crocks if they’re nice to me. I’m mean to them if they’re mean to me. It’s that simple.

There’s a lady named Mercedes who runs the place. She’s always looking for ways to cut costs, which is why pigs eat better than the residents here and we’re all pulling the workloads of at least three people. Fucking labor laws or human rights laws or whatever be damned, we’re all just dollar signs. Mercedes drives a white Mercedes. That shit cracks me up and pisses me off at the same time.

Mercedes is the kind of bitch who’s mean to every other chick. Her favorite person to pick on is Eileen. Eileen’s a tall, skinny Filipino girl who talks real quiet and has long brown hair down to her waist. The kind of girl who’d never say anything mean to anyone. She’s both pretty and plain, smart about some things and dumb about others. She knows a lot about reptiles and fish—she must watch a ton of Animal Planet or something.

Mercedes hates her. Eileen, you didn’t follow the format I specifically went over for these new med charts. Do you have trouble with English? she says to her. You’re not allowed to switch shifts again this month. Do you think you’re special? Better than everyone else here?

Eileen hasn’t done a damn thing. Sometimes she makes suggestions for how shit could be slightly less crappy—new games in the rec room, activities for the residents other than bingo and movie night, stuff like field trips so they can go out once in a while. Mercedes shuts her down. You want to fund it out of your own paycheck, then fine. I’m stretched to the limit here—you have no idea how to run a business. I have years of experience. You think it’s so simple? You just try doing my job for a day, all the shit I have to put up with. You’d quit within an hour.

We call her Viper Lady.

Eileen and I hung out once. She came over and we drank beer and played Madden—she plays at home with her brothers so she’s pretty good. She has like, seven brothers and sisters that she lives with. She’s the second oldest. No dad, fat mom. They live in a two-bedroom apartment in Emeryville. I don’t know how they all fit in there. Must be like a clown car, people toppling all over each other to get to the microwave.

That night I tried to get her drunk enough that she’d be cool if I tried something, but nothing happened. Girl can hold her liquor.

Viper Lady said she wants to see me, so I’m waiting outside her office for her to stop yelling at some poor bastard over the phone.

Viper Lady’s office matches her and her car, everything white and sterile and smelling like the kind of perfume that makes you sick. She wears this white pearl necklace made of natural pearls, meaning the pearls are all lumpy and look like white Raisinets. Like little white rat shits. She’s always got a perfect French manicure and her face looks like a porn star who’s gone home to visit her parents and is trying to look classy.

She motions through the window for me to come in. There’s bars on the window that kind of look like jail bars.

“Derrick. Have a seat.” She sighs heavily, stroking some weird metal fixture on her desk with her long fingers. Her hands are uber feminine and sorta big, like a drag queen’s. She leans forward on her elbows, pressing her arms against the desk so that the skin below her elbows presses into folds.

She looks straight at me. “We need to talk about Mr. Cao,” she says.

“You mean Pigeon,” I say.

She ignores me. “A little birdie told me you’ve been sneaking whiskey to Mr. Cao,” she says in that manager voice that sounds like she’s talking through a reed. She leans back in her chair and stares at the paperwork in front of her, looking disinterested. “Tell me why I shouldn’t fire you right now.”

“Aww, c’mon. Can’t a poor old man have one little vice?”

“I’m short-staffed,” Viper Lady says. “Otherwise we’d be having a more terminal conversation. You know, your sister recommended you. I thought I could trust her.”

“Stephanie doesn’t have anything to do with it.” I shift around in my chair, one of those cheap folding metal ones. Viper Lady has a white desk chair from Office Depot. It’s not that nice, but at least it has a fucking cushion.

I don’t really care if I lose this job.

“This is your last warning,” she says. “I swear to god, I’ve had it up to here. No one around here seems to be able to follow the most basic set of rules. Don’t give liquor to the residents. If something happens, you know who’s liable? I am. Me. Not you, Me.” She points to herself with her manicured finger and bites out the words, practically flicking her forked tongue out at me. Then she picks up her Samsung Galaxy—the latest model, and starts flipping though it—probably looking at real estate ads or scheduling some shit cause she’s already done talking to me before she’s done talking to me.

“Is that it?”

“Close the door on your way out,” she says.

I shut the door behind me. I’m not hurting anyone. If Pigeon wants to drink that’s his business, he’s a grown fucking man. He’d get it himself if he could.

I’m just helping the guy out. It’s called being fucking decent, something Viper Lady wouldn’t understand.

#

Pigeon’s by the window again when I come in with his meds. The Three Stooges are on the TV but the volume’s soft. Background Stooges.

“Hey, man. The queen bitch found out about our speakeasy,” I tell him.

Pigeon’s quiet for a while. Then he says, “She just hasn’t gotten laid in too long. Turns everyone into a bad person.”

“Even if she was getting some she’d still be a bad person. Did you know she told Eileen she couldn’t have Thanksgiving off, even though she asked a month in advance? I asked just last week and she said it was fine.”

“Miss Flores is good-lookin’. S’no wonder Miss Mercedes is mean to her. Some people, the older they get, the meaner they are to the young, pretty ones. Reminds them what they used to be like.” Pigeon sighs all long and slow like he’s remembering them, the pretty ones from his past.

“Eileen’s, you know, naturally pretty,” I say. “Mercedes wouldn’t be hot without all that makeup, not even when she was younger.”

“You didn’t know her back then,” he says.

“Hey, no more firewater for a couple of weeks, ‘kay? Gotta keep a low profile so the viper don’t bite. If I lose this job, I’d just be at home looking at my parents all day, and nobody wants that.”

“Could be worse,” he says.

“You got kids?”

Pigeon exhales out of his nose, glancing away. That means yes, he does.

“Where are they?”

“Don’t know,” he says. His eyes get really old. “My son looks a little like you. His mother’s Filipino.”

“I’m not Filipino, I’m Japanese. I’m not even Japanese, really. Just a funny-looking white kid. My mom’s Japanese.”

Pigeon wheels over to the TV. It’s one of those old-timey sets with silver knobs. The parts that aren’t plastic are made of wood. All the furniture here is even older than the residents. I wonder where the hell they find this stuff.

“Does your son know you’re in here?” I start to feel like I should leave, and also like I should stay.

“How old do you think I am, kid?” he asks.

“I don’t know. Eighty?”

“Sixty-eight.” He smacks his lips together. “Lots of men my age are still out there fucking around.”

“You look older.”

“My legs are older,” he says.

I don’t ask Pigeon what happened to his legs. I don’t ask him what’s wrong with him. Everyone in here has something—osteoporosis, arthritis, high blood pressure. Pigeon could have some neurological disease, he could be a war vet, his muscles could have atrophied due to some degenerative condition. He could just be lazy and want people to feel sorry for him, but I don’t think that’s it. I bet he’d be running around right now raising hell and chasing women, getting drunk off his ass and waking up on the sidewalk in a puddle of his own vomit if he could.

“You got a girlfriend?” he asks.

“Had one like a year ago.”

“What happened?”

“I don’t know. We kinda just stopped seeing each other.”

“It’s cause you’re too damn skinny. Girls don’t want a guy who looks like a branch they could snap in half.”

“I’m wiry,” I say. “Anyhow, what do you know? When’s the last time you got any action?”

“I get sponge baths,” he says, chuckling.

“That doesn’t count.”

Pigeon talks like he’s a ladykiller, like back in the day they just couldn’t keep their hands off him. I don’t know whether it’s true or not. He does like to compliment girls, though, and they do like to be complimented. He doesn’t sound sleazy when he does it.

“Hey, I’ve gotta head home. Promised I’d help my dad out with something. I’ll bring you some good shit when I can…once the decency brigade starts slacking off and finds something else to be pissed off about.” Before I leave, I adjust the blinds so that the glare from the sun coming through the window doesn’t hit the TV. “How’d Mercedes find out, anyway? You know who snitched?”

“I bet it was your girlfriend, Eileen,” he says.

“Bet it wasn’t.”

On the way home I wonder if Pigeon and I are alike, if someday I’ll end up the same as him.

It’s not great, but not terrible. I suppose it could always be worse.

#

Stephanie’s friend Lauren is smoking hot. Really pretty green eyes. A 34C at least.

She and my sister and some other bitches are shrieking over by the picnic table in that high-pitched women’s cackle I can’t stand—worse than nails on a chalkboard, like someone stabbing my eyes out with a burning safety pin.

I’m so high I can barely move. The picnic table is blue. Stephanie’s hair is purple. Lauren’s lips are red, painted like a fire hydrant.

My dad comes outside. It got late, it’s been dark for hours. He’s pissed, drunk off his ass and probably about to howl for someone’s blood. I just hope it’s not mine this time.

The girls are loud, but not as loud as the lame ass dude bros that came with my friend Sean, who I’m not talking to right now cause he’s an asshole who brought a bunch of other assholes over to my house without asking first. Things are bad at home, he says. Like things are just great around here.

My dad ignores them, walks over to me in three strides where I’m just drinking a Coors, watching the girls and not giving a fuck.

“Do you know what time it is?” he says. “Fucking cops’ll show up if any of the neighbors complain,” he slurs into my ear, half-assed mushy choppy barks like a tired old dog with his mouth full of food.

“Not my problem,” I say.

“Like hell it isn’t. Tell that douchebag friend of yours and his other douchebag friends to get lost.”

I tell them pretty much exactly that. They finally leave, but only after some “Hey man, we’re cool,” bullshit from Sean and his asshole brigade.

It’s time to annoy my sister.

“Steph, you got any more weed? Just smoked my last bowl.”

“Too bad for you, loser. You know I don’t share with you cause then I’d have nothing left. Go down to Green Light tomorrow whenever your skinny ass rolls outta bed.” She says “with you” like “wit-choo,” like she’s a fucking chola even though she’s fucking not.

“I’ve got half a joint,” Eileen says.

Damn. I forgot she was even here. Been staring at Lauren all night.

“Sweet,” I say. “Let’s blaze it.”

Stephanie flips me off and I flip her off back, but neither of us really gives a shit. We’re siblings. That’s how it works.

Eileen and I go out into an area of the yard where it’s just trees and dead grass. We sit on a log that’s kind of too small to sit on and pretend we’re not freezing our asses off, passing the joint back and forth, not saying anything. I hope it doesn’t start pouring, but it’s always a little misty in the Bay. Always foggy.

“I wanted to be a veterinarian, you know,” Eileen says. “When we first came here.”

“You still could be.” I pass her the joint, scooting a little closer to her. “Why not?”

“Can’t afford it,” she says.

She kisses me and it isn’t magic, but it’s nice. A little cold, a little messy, but it’s fucking kissing a chick I’ve been into for like almost a year now so it’s awesome.

She puts her hand on my crotch and unzips my jeans, starts rubbing at me. Her warm hand is the best thing I’ve felt in like, ever—she’s got these rings on. When I feel for the button on the front of her jeans, she stops me.

“Don’t,” she says, pulling away.

“Why not?”

“I don’t really like it,” she says. She laughs a fake-sounding laugh and sort of hides most of her face behind her hair, acting all shy, which I guess is normal when you just had your hand on someone’s dick a second ago. Or maybe it isn’t, how the hell should I know? Girls change their minds.

“Everybody likes it. You think I don’t know what I’m doing?”

“S’not that.” She looks all reedy and kittenish, even more girlish than usual. I didn’t know there could be degrees of girlness, but I see it now. Eileen’s just went up a few levels—her eyes grew wider, her lips got fuller. She seems softer and kinda like she’d break if I touched her.

“I like you,” I say.

“Don’t,” she says again, decreasing in levels of girlness. “I gotta go.”

She walks away, getting smaller and smaller as the air starts to mist. Soon it’ll be pouring. Girls say yes, girls say no. I never know why. But I try to listen to them anyway.

#

Pigeon’s a guy who used to have pride but gave it up a long time ago. That’s probably why he drinks, buries the pride in whiskey so he doesn’t remember what it feels like. His pride doesn’t see him and he doesn’t see it. They haven’t seen each other in years.

“So how come you’re stuck in this shithole?” I ask the next time I see him. “Don’t Asian families all like, respect their elders and shit? Even though my mom doesn’t say it, I know she expects us to look after her for the rest of our lives, and she’s not even that old school. Steph’ll wind up taking care of everything though.”

Pigeon stares at the TV and doesn’t watch it and doesn’t answer me. He’s got the kind of face that always looks like it’s smiling even when he’s really sad. He’s probably sad now. It’s hard to tell sometimes.

“If I was your kid I’d at least put you somewhere better than this. You get what you pay for, I know that, I’m not stupid. You got no money you get stuck in a dump like this, and you’re spoonfed Salisbury steak pulverized into soup, or sometimes not even that, stale bread like prisoners, and anyway not enough. Like fucking fresh veggies and shit is so expensive. I mean, I know they gotta make a buck but animals in the slaughterhouse get treated better than this, and they get treated like shit. Difference is, like, chickens probably don’t know what’s happening to them, like they don’t know it could be different, they don’t know they could have had a life wandering around in the grass eating feed that isn’t discarded ground-up bits of their own kind.”

I glance over at Pigeon, who looks like he’s not listening but I know he is, so I keep talking. “People in here, they know it could be different. They remember. Even if they don’t remember, they remember. They can’t say anything. If they do say anything they get ignored or yelled at, or talked to like they’re little infant babies. What happened to respecting your elders? I don’t get much respect, but I’m not hella old and most people think I’m a white dude, so I get more respect than you.”

I see it then. Tears in his eyes. Wasn’t me who put them there.

“You know, I try to get the nurse to come round and check on you, but she’s never here. Hardly none of us that work here are even fucking qualified to do anything ‘cept work at Spencer’s. You know what Spencer’s is? It’s a place at the mall where you can buy lava lamps and fake dog shit, stuff to prank people, plastic crap that glows in the dark. Sean and I used to go there like every weekend, just mall rats standing around laughing at stupid shit.”

Pigeon’s still quiet, quieter than ever with his sad sad eyes on his smiley face.

I feel like I should do something to make him stop looking like that.

“I can try to sneak you some pain meds. Gotta balance them out with the JW though. Mixing your party favors ain’t no joke,” I tell him. “Think it’ll help you feel better?”

He nods slowly. His chin falls to his chest and stays there. Is he asleep? No. He’s just pretending.

#

Here in the Bay it’s cold, shit stinks, and nothing ever happens. That’s what I tell people, and they say I’m lucky. I’m lucky to have a family, lucky to have a job. Lucky to have a bed to sleep in and lucky to have no one to fuck in it, cause having a girlfriend or a wife is just a pain in the ass anyway. I’m lucky to walk down the street in my waterlogged Converse and I’m lucky I’m not a bum—guys with their plastic cups and their dirty faces at every Bart station and around every corner. I’m lucky—like a rabbit’s foot. Cut off and lucky.

The next morning when I show up at Pigeon’s room, he’s gone. No one will tell me where he went. Gone usually means dead around here. I ask everyone what happened, everyone on staff today, which in total is three fucking people who don’t know shit. Yosef, that motherfucker, says they wheeled him out in a body bag this morning, but then he laughs, says he can’t tell one old geezer from the next. No one gives a shit.

I like to think his son came and got him, that he finally remembered he had a father he oughta be looking after and checked him out of this shithole, took him somewhere sunny, like San Luis Obispo maybe, one of those towns where there’s only college kids and old people. He’s sitting in his chair by a window somewhere that doesn’t overlook an empty parking lot, he can see birds and trees and all that nature junk. Maybe his son plays cards with him, leaves the Stooges on the TV when he goes out, drinks JW with him and laughs and gives him shit when he tells made-up stories about women he’s never dated. Maybe when he dies he won’t be alone in some shithole with nothing but the sound of oxygen machines humming and people shouting for people who aren’t there, nothing to look at but beige walls and the faces of people who never look back at you.

Mercedes calls me into her office around half past ten.

“Where’s Pigeon?” I ask.

“There’s a bottle of Vicodin missing from pharm lockup,” she says. “I know it was you.”

It’s true. The bottle of pills in my pocket doesn’t have Pigeon’s name on it. I can’t believe anyone around here can even tell when something’s missing. Just my luck.

Head bitch doesn’t wait for me to answer. “I should call the cops,” she threatens. She doesn’t though. She just fires me. “I don’t have time for your shit,” she says, voice like a steak knife, pointing at me with her nasty long-ass twenty-dollar-manicure fingernail. She tells me I’m a deadbeat, a loser. I’m trash, I’m good for nothing, I’m a piece of shit. Like I don’t fucking know that.

I’m out of a job and you know how I feel?

Lucky.

The only friend I had in this dump isn’t here anymore. There’s really no reason to stick around. I’m out of here with one last shitty paycheck and two good feet to stand on. Whole fucking world ahead of me.

It’s night before I know it. I’m walking along the water. The lights aren’t down in the city, they’re up and out. The bridge is shining bright in the distance. I’m in a little side area of the park where nobody goes at night if they’ve got any brains.

“Gimme two,” I say to a guy no one would ever shake hands with, and shove the bag he gives me into my pocket, cause that’s what losers do. I won’t get high tonight, maybe later. Now I’ll go home and sit next to my mom on the couch and not talk to her, just keep her company while she watches CSI. She loves that shit. The gorier the better.

When I’m ready to die, no one will think much of it. They’ll probably put me in a place like Pigeon, maybe even in the same room. I’ll sit there and stare at the wall and stare at the TV and not watch it, just hoping that maybe some dumb little shit will sneak me a drink once in a while. I’ll remember all the girls I got with even if it never really happened—a kiss can become a two-year relationship if you forget hard enough, everyone knows that. I’ll look out the window at the people walking down below, smiling and laughing, and I’ll try to forget. And I’ll try to remember.

My mom’s asleep on the couch when I get home. Her head’s bent to one side, tucked under her arm. The TV’s still on and they won’t find the killer till the exciting conclusion of the two-part episode, coming up next. She’s got a blanket on but it’s just kind of folded up over her legs. She’s cold all the time.

I fix the blanket so it’s spread out over her, and go to bed.

 


Corin Reyburn is from Northern then Southern California, and now finds themselves in Corvallis, Oregon where there are better trees. Corin enjoys transmuting cosmic energy, cats more than people, and the use of unconventional instruments in rock n’ roll music. Corin holds a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and Critique and is now working on an MFA in fiction, both via Oregon State University, where they also teach writing composition. Reyburn has work featured in places such as Medium, Jersey Devil Press, Subtopian Magazine, M-BRANE SF, The Molotov Cocktail, The Gateway Review, Free Focus, and Clutching at Straws, and co-produces the speculative fiction podcast SubverCity Transmit. Their debut novel The Rise of Saint Fox and The Independence, about a cryptocurrency movement fronted by a London rock band that gains enough follows to spark a revolution, was released in June 2018 by Unsolicited Press.