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Chapter 5 – Tibbar Etihw

May 8, 2012

Chapter 5 – “Tibbar Etihw”

Now – Greenwich Village, New York, New York

“Well, there’s Urge, the Cock and the Hole.”

Schneider paused for a second before replying. As with many such instances of social 3-D chess he was unconsciously attempting to make a joke, get more information, and speak aloud to ensure he had heard correctly all at once. It was sometimes such a move working on multiple levels at once that baffled people.

“Well, I don’t know which to pick. I’ll take one of each, please!”

The two young gay men he had stopped for local bar advice burst into laughter. They were a couple, one with a white t-shirt and one with a black one, and had been very helpful and friendly. Eli had happened upon them in mid lip-lock and waited patiently for them to come up for air.

Now that they were turned to him, he could see the print on the t-shirts. They were identical except for being black-on-white and white-on-black: “HIV Positive, Loving Just the Same.”

Which reminded him, it was approaching the end of fiscal. He needed to get some checks out for write-off time.

He’d heard some recent talk about a cure which had only a year previous been thought impossible. Preventive vaccines, sure, but once that undead strip of genetic code got inside cells and inserted itself it was thought impossible to get rid of it. In fact, that paper might not be about purging it, per se. Schneider hadn’t gotten around to reading it because he other things on his mind, but the summary mentioned gene therapy.

But here was one solution to living with it at least. Two people had found each other and, with the proper care, were there to help each other through the difficult parts. It was insane how quickly the damn thing had spread, was spreading since it first appeared confirmed in the 50s aboard a British naval vessel.

“Go to the Urge. They’re nicer there, it’s more fun.”

He thanked them and moved on. The other two places sounded like where he’d have gone four decades ago. Now? He could deal with a fun place but didn’t think raunchy was what the doctor ordered, especially since the doctor in this case was himself. A night out was what he needed. The pressure and craziness was getting to him and he needed to dance, laugh, drink… hell, just live a little and do something that wasn’t business-related which even golf and handball often devolved into.

Eli walked into the Urge Lounge past the bouncer outside, and through a curtain that obscured the inside view from outside. He found it was not quite as cozy as he expected. There was a rectangular bar at center. In the middle, three bartenders and two bar-backs ran around taking shouted-in-their-ears drink orders, necessary because of the music volume.

The music was not just for the listening pleasure of the varied patrons. There were at present four young, well-built young men dancing on the bar, moving clockwise from patron to patron. Whoever wanted to get a little special attention could slip a single or a five in the speedo, underwear or jockstrap—there were examples of all three—and either get a closeup of the clothing or get to grab a little skin.

He was enjoying watching Jockstrap for the moment. If only he could get Louis to do that at home…

An older African American woman was slipping a dollar bill into Jockstrap’s waistband. She was smiling along with her blond friend. They erupted into laughter after Jockstrap moved on. A little drunk, a little embarrassed, but also entertained by it, they were having a great time.

At first Eli had to just stop and stand there, mouth open, wide-eyed. He was stunned. He wondered for a moment if he had somehow been transported to another Universe, one where Maya had not died.

As his eyes adjusted more to the light, he could see that it wasn’t Maya. (Of course not. Impossible!) There were some subtle differences. This was close to how she would have looked, though, were she alive today. His heart began to slow back down and he considered talking to the lady.

He asked a young man sitting nearby what he was drinking and ordered the same for himself. Apparently expecting Eli was buying him one, the young man looked disappointed when Eli walked over to the couch toward the front and sat down without doing so.

He wondered how to approach the woman and if he even should. He was a murder suspect after all, under investigation for financial improprieties, and there were other issues. So far, no one had recognized him though.

Eli was still thinking about it when the woman said goodbye to her friend and walked out right past him. He stood up to follow, but stopped because he felt dizzy.

“Odd.”

He had had three martinis before going out, but had felt fine. The drinks were not on an empty stomach and that had been hours ago.

He regained his balance and headed outside. He nearly bumped directly into a shorter, younger man, well-dressed and in a long black fur coat. He thought he looked familiar somehow but was more interested to see where Maya’s twin had gotten off to.

“Ah!”

She was still at the street, thank goodness. She was waiting for a cab.

“Excuse me, Madame…”

She turned and smiled. It was not a smile quite like he’d seen in the bar. Nor had it been the way Maya smiled at him…would be smiling at him were she alive, he was sure.

“Yes?”

“I was wondering if…”

“Yes?”

“Sorry. I’m feeling a bit dizzy. My apologies. That drink must have been stronger than I thought.”

“Well, maybe you should head home.”

He rubbed his forehead. There was something wrong with him, he knew. Had he been poisoned? He found himself answering the woman without thinking.

“I’m not really sure where that is…”

“Don’t know where your home is? Dressed like that? I doubt it. Anyway…”

“Sorry, don’t know why I said that.”

“No problem, Heathcliff.”

He shook his head. Had he heard that correctly?

“I’m sorry what did you just call me?”

“I don’t think I called you anything. I said, you can grab the next cab if you like.”

“No. No, thank you. Have a pleasant evening.”

Eli walked away as upright and smoothly as he could. He tried to channel Clint Eastwood. He heard at an after-party once that the man was ten feet tall in front of the camera and five feet behind it. It was presence and poise switched on when he needed it and energy conservation when he didn’t.

He managed to get around the corner and he collapsed against a mailbox. Then he leaned over and vomited.

He felt better for the moment. Just then, a young man stumbled out of the bar across the street and tried to cross over to Eli’s side.

The young man had his cellphone in hand as he did so. He was trying to read a text and walk and was barely in any condition to do either.

He tripped and fell into the path of an oncoming cab. The phone fell and went one way while the back and battery went another. The cab honked and swerved missing the young man and his wayward electronics.

Eli grabbed the phone and parts and then helped him up. He moved him over to a power pole and let him lean against it.

“You alright?”

“You’re trying to…to…take advantage…”

“Oh, no. I’m not like that, really. But I won’t lie. You are handsome.”

The young man laughed.

“Eli. Um. Business type.”

“Jason. Grad student.”

“Ah. Subject?”

“Creative writing.”

Without warning, Jason grabbed Eli’s face and planted a kiss on his lips. Then he stepped back and looked in his eyes. Then the young man slapped him.

Eli let out a nervous laugh.

“So, what was that?”

“Hazards of habitual storytelling…”

Eli walked back around the corner and headed east. The young man headed for The Cock.

F***ing English majors…

*****

Eli emerged from the next bar with a fifth of scotch inside his coat. He had had to pay the bartender $50 to get it, but as liquor stores were closed, he didn’t mind paying extra to get it at all.

He overheard part of a conversation outside the door as he passed. There was a young, nice looking and seeming Connecticut blue blood type (Schneider guessed Yale) chatting with a short, balding-yet-pony-tailed kinda hippie type. He reminded Schneider of undercover cops he’d seen on television and in documentaries and also of a former SchneiderCorp employee who got fired for using the company phones for sex line chats after hours.

“… in Alaska, we go hunting a lot. Know a guy, shoots red foxes all the time. Hangs their tails on his hat.”

The man looked at Schneider as he finished the sentence and smiled.

Schneider smiled back, intending to ignore the remark, but then unexpectedly—even to himself—retorted.

“F*** you, Company man! Don’t you dicks have something better to do?”

The man turned away and went inside.

*****

“What is that smell?”

Even intoxicated, Schneider recognized the odor: rotten meat. A moment later an odd looking truck drove by, brown liquid dripping out the back.

He ignored it and shuffled on.

*****

The cloud of smoke seemed to roll out of the apartment complex. Eli ran over and grabbed his cellphone at the same time. That appeared to be the only exit apart from the fire escape and it looked old and in disrepair.

As he approached he saw that the cloud was coming from a pickup truck. Three men were in it, looking at him in the rearview and side mirrors.

They laughed as they pulled away.

*****

“Thanks…watch out for the sharks, man.”

“What do you mean?”, Eli asked after starting to walk away.

“I mean there’s that guy in…I don’t know, South America…his son got eaten by a shark. Then there was that black chick, got eaten, too.”

Schneider immediately regretted handing the homeless man the $100 bill. He had felt generous and somehow like life was fragile and too short, so he decided to go nuts.

*****

Eli checked his wallet. He was certain that there had still been $380 in there. He reached to grab his phone and call a cab. It was gone.

“Goddamit…”

The nice Italian man he’d had the conversation with about European vacation spots had taken both, but left him his cards.

Eli laughed for a moment. Then he got angry, but it was late and the thief had been kind enough to leave the cards and not having a phone, he decided not to call NYPD.

*****

“We…we’re alcoholics!”

“Excellent. Then we shall be able to easier re-enact some scenes from H.M.S. Pintafore…”

Eli pulled yet another bottle from inside his coat. The three homeless men didn’t know the numbers from that particular musical, but they followed him into the park anyway.

Rain came quickly. It was a warm, hard rain with large drops. Soon Eli was stumbling alone.

*****

Street lamps went out as Eli passed near and under them.

“I am death!”

He ran to see them go out faster as he passed.

*****

There was a plane that Schneider imagined was Air Force One as he sat on a hilly clearing in the Park. The plane was headed directly for a cloud that looked like a shark with its maw open to swallow it, which it did.

*****

“Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks!

“Hahaha… Blow!!!

“Cataracts and hurricanoes, drown the cocks!

“Hoohoohoo…ho!

“Thought-executing fires, strike flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!

“All—hee—all germens spill at once!

“Off, off, off with their heads…”

Eli was now giving the sky the finger and for some reason thought that was hysterical.

“Spirit in the sky… Goin’ up!

“Guided by a signal…in the heavens…

“I’m coming now…I’m coming to reward…”

Eli’s eyes rolled back in his head and he passed out. The rain subsided some and cooled as it hit his unconscious face.

*****

“That’s it. All teams stand down.”

Mendoza waited for the affirmatives before packing it in himself. He had what he needed.

He had half hoped the old fart would somehow get himself killed. It happened sometimes. He’d heard stories of the old days. An ex-spy dosed with LSD might blow his brains out, jump from a height, or drown himself.

Or, when not desirous to go gently into that good night, be thrown out a f***ing window, or hung while manacled with padded handcuffs which are removed after the fact. Cops always go with the simple: suicide.

Christ.

CIA had the highest suicide rate of any governmental body, and the flatfoots never asked questions. Especially when the apparent cause was auto-erotic asphyxiation. But then neither did Congress.

It was the way of things. Sometimes they would just discredit, like in Schneider’s case.

A defense contractor that was as loose-cannon, gone this far off the reservation, that was another matter. It was in one small paragraph, but sanity was a contractual requirement. Who cared if the cause of the insanity was the contractee in this case? If reports were correct, he actually was mental. They had just brought it to the fore and captured it all digitally. It was open season. Schneider was fair game.

Now he just had to get permission to arrest him and they would have it all contained. So much for the Constitution. But then this was National Security and that always trumped things like maintaining the illusion of rights and a benevolent big brother.

—–

©2011 Christopher C. Knall

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