Unsatisfied, Paul nods and drives on. He makes a right on
Tibbs. An oil-stained street. Jamie's not there and nothing's out of the
ordinary. Not sure what to do next, he drives the rest of the route and then
continues to the office.
Rooster sits and sips his morning beer. Overdriven guitar
sounds thunder in his head. He'd been playing Mudvayne all morning. He turned it
off a minute ago, but can still hear it. He can do that. It is one of many
things he can do that others cannot. He's special. He knows he is. But he's not
happy. Having gifts is not the same thing as happiness. His mind roils in
simulated guitar fuzz he doesn't want to think about
in thereuntil he hears the van drive up outside.
Tad lumbers out of the panel van clutching a sixer of Blue
Ribbon and the reload, the day's second round of food. This time it is
McDonald's as directed. He approaches the house, the eyesore of the
neighborhood. The paint is falling off in flakes and long curls, and only the
windows on the side and those of the room down the hall are freshly painted.
Black. It is what they'll call their "music studio" if anyone asks. But no one
does. This is the house the neighbors wish would just go away so property values
Tad enters, pulling off dark sunglasses and sliding them into
the chest pocket of his flannel shirt. The living room is dingy. Carpet that is
lentil in color and texture, and secondhand green and orange sofas that have
gone decades without a re-covering fill the room.
Fast-food sandwich boxes and wrappers litter a dinette area.
Rooster sits on a spindly chair across from a dormant twenty-year-old color
television with tinfoil bunny-ears antennae that rests on a milk crate. His eyes
are on the dead screen and he rocks slightly in rhythm to music that seems to
fill his head from an unknown source. He is shirtless.
"You are one lazy bastard."
Rooster's eyes don't leave the television as he gives Tad
"You got no work ethic at all."
"You speak to Riggi?" Rooster asks as if Tad has just entered
the room and the previous comments had never occurred.
"Shiftless. Look at you."
"I've already been in there two times since you been gone,"
Rooster says. Flat. His eyes, also flat, turn to Tad, stopping him up. "You speak
"Two times? Bullshit, two times . . ." Tad gets his breath
back. "Yeah, I spoke to him."
"What'd he say?"
Tad puts the beer down among the rubble on the dinette table.
He opens one for himself and chucks one over to Rooster.
"Mr. Riggi said he needs it for Thursday."
Rooster opens the new beer and takes a delicate, probing sip.
"Yeah," Tad begins, enjoying his partner's discomfort, "he's
got it arranged for Thursday, so you better get cracking."
"Yeah? I should get cracking? Whyn't you take a turn?"
This silences Tad for a moment.
"No thanks. You're the pro."
Rooster nods slightly, pleased, then kicks a pill into the
back of his mouth, drains off a few ounces of his beer, and wearily stands.
Vicodin. When you're in physical pain, it takes away the pain. When you're not
in pain, it takes away other things. He gathers himself and walks purposefully
down the hall toward the back bedroom door.
Tad occupies the chair in front of the television, leans
forward, and turns on cartoons.
The sound of a lock being undone from the outside and the
door opens, allowing a crease of light into the ugly, darkened bedroom. The
blacked-out windows are nailed shut and have metal grating over them on the
inside. A sheetless bed is the only furniture. Rooster reaches up and tightens a
bare lightbulb into its fixture, illuminating the room. Balled up between the bed
and the wall is a tearstained, violence-shocked flash of skin. The man's face
sets in a mask that expresses neither frenzy nor madness. The boy's face forms
its own mask of pain, and fear, and incomprehension, and so far below the
surface as to be invisible, fury. He doesn't even say no but weakly tries to
scrabble away from the man.
Amazon cuts off 5200 affiliates in Minnesota(Jun 19 2013) With Minnesota's online sales tax law due to take effect July 1, Amazon has played a familiar card by cutting ties with 5,200 members of its Associates...