Bad Road Ahead: The Story of Willie and Sister Fran

Read the suite in order

by Don Robishaw

II. Blood Usury

Fran, my new friend from the shelter and I hit the streets. Cash a twelve dollar check at a multi-purpose package store in West Roxbury. Get a sawbuck back. Blood usury. Two dollars. Bullshit.    

  Clerk with sad brown eyes reminds me I have a daughter somewhere. Touches my palm, turns it over, scans my life line, frowns, and shakes her head. “Bad road ahead, Willie.” Never charges for coffee, never says thank you for your service. She could be Amerasian. “Have a nice day, Willie.”

  “If I were a young man.” She smiles and hands me the Java and a brown paper sack. Good kid. The owner would fire her ass in a Boston minute if he caught her giving away free stuff.

  Fran and I loiter under the dark gray skies, outside the packy sipping coffee. A half hour later Louie the creep, owner of the multi-service package store, taps the picture window and mouths something.

I lift both hands in surrender and say, “Come on, man. Public vagrancy, big bloody deal.” Asshole.

  “What are we going to do, Willie?” Fran says.

  “Get fucked up.”

  Fran laughs and whacks my arm.

  “Loss of blood and cheap wine sometimes causes more flashbacks, though.”

  “Here for ya, baby.”

  We leave the shopping plaza and find an abandoned black Chevy, in a vacant lot on a side street, with four flat tires and no windows. I open the door and slide into the grubby backseat. My ponytail catches broken interior roof light wires. Fran puts her hand on my knee. I help her get in the car.

I fumble taking my gloves off one finger at a time. I reach deep into the peacoat I found at the shelter and fish out an old friend. Remove alcohol from the sack, unscrew the cap, and for fun fill the flask I bought at a yard sale for a buck. “What’s the word?”

  Fran says, “Thunderbird.”

  “What’s the price?”

  “Thirty twice.”

“How’s it sold?”

“Good and cold.”

  I raise the wine and twist my face, “Ah, The American Classic. Nit, nit, nit, ah. God-damn that’s good shit, aye. Ahoy cruel world.” Pass it to my friend. She digs the stuff. We’re having fun.

  “Does the alcohol warm you up?”

  “No, wanna see what will, sister?”

Fran’s hand is still on my knee. Make out. Time goes by so fast. Not the best neighborhood. More clothing on than we need. Don’t feel the cold anymore. A rare moment, as we explore each other’s bodies.

  I’ve missed this. Not on top of ladies’ hit parade these days.

Cop kicks the door. Shakes his head. “You know, youse guys can’t be here.” Hands me a five-dollar bill. “Go get a coffee.”

  Walk to the ‘dry’ shelter. “Ah shit, you drunk again? Can’t let you in, bro.” Says Sonny the night guard.

  “Hear ya brother.”

  “Wore that coat you’re wearing for three years, mate,” and slips me a five-dollar bill and shuts the door.

Man, give Fran some cash. She waited over an hour outside the blood bank for ya. It’s late November with a wicked chill in the air. We shiver and stagger towards tent city along the Charles River. A thirty-minute walk, turns into fifty. She can’t stop chatting.

Thin, short blond hair, can be a pretty girl if she’d fix her teeth. “Still cold, Willie?” I imagine her with a makeover, a trip to the dentist, and well dressed.

Stop to make love on hard ground under the bridge over the bottomless river. I try to give her a ten-spot for waiting in the cold. She misunderstands and refuses to take it. She blesses herself and cries. We don’t look at each other and stare out at the muddy river.

  There is a bottom, and it looks like Fran and me. She rubs her hands back and forth on her fake leopard skin coat.

  “Who is Malcolm?” She touches the portrait on my forearm.

  “Sorry darlin’ never talk about him.” I put my arm around her shoulders. She shoves it away. For Christ’s sake, just keep your mouth shut, will ya.

I stand, put my gloves on one finger at a time, and wait for her to take my hand. She hesitates, shakes her head, smiles, and grabs my hand. We continue on to Tent City.

back to the 2020 FLASH SUITE Contest

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