The carrot cake sits atop an overflowing garbage bin. Sheltered by its scuffed, opaque lid, only a sliver is missing. The dingus halts mid trot to inspect for disapproving passersby, then furtively snaps it up, opting to share it with aunt: Mary Agnes. He is certain she will enjoy the cake, and if asked its origins he will lie. The carrot cake is set on the kitchen counter and the dingus glides his favorite knife through it, watching it bounce fluffily as it taps plate. He takes his modest helping to a tidy living room and leaves the television muted, preferring the sounds of his lips smacking to an obstreperous commercial. His choking interrupts the beautiful stillness of the apartment when he tries swallowing the first bite. It is not the cake he pulls from his windpipe, but a broken plastic wristband that reads: Jozef Borychowski (d.o.b: 2/7/1941). A memento to remember the good fortune of finding the cake, he stuffs the bracelet into the front pocket of his lumpy university sweatshirt and finishes the slice. Having sampled the cake and deeming it edible for consumption by non-bottom feeders the dingus adorns the carrot cake’s scuffed lid with a terse, handwritten note urging its reader: “EAT.”
Weekdays means aunt: Mary Agnes is volunteering at the local Catholic middle school emptying ashtrays, so the dingus has the house to himself. As he stretches into the stale cushions of the sofa he overhears the ululation of baseheads for their base, children for their mothers and police for their snitches. As he imagines their contorted faces, respectively, the flickering images of the muted television stimulates his imagination of a realm he will fail to remember…
A huffing and puffing aunt: Mary Agnes reaches the seventh story landing and sets down her sack of ash to mop the nook of her helmet forehead with the tattered sleeve of her gray volunteers smock, trying to outrun the insults still echoing from the first floor’s sixth graders…virgin, faggot, retard…They do not need to be innovative or even true to leave welts on her self esteem. Tears mix with sweat to form a new sadness as she swings the giant sack over her shoulder and proceeds up the remaining three flights. Even minus the taunts volunteering is a trying ordeal, though she mustn’t lose sight of the reason she does it: to watch ash scatter in the wind as she dumps it off the roof.A simple pleasure certainly, but one which has been well earned, especially after thirty years as a civil servant, taking narcotics survey’s amongst the homeless, often pulling overnight shifts beneath the overpass, or behind dumpsters in the parking lot.
Aunt: Mary Agnes never married, never dated, never knew how…she was taught to wait, promised that Man would step from his comfort zone into hers. It happened once, the date a spur arranged by her mother when she was in her twenties. Unremarkable, as dates are concerned: She went out with the neighborhood dingus and then he walked her home, standing with her on the sidewalk outside of her house, hoping to get a kiss during obligatory post date chatter. She needed to pee however, but was too embarrassed to tell him, so instead she walked inside briskly, without saying goodbye, leaving him stranded and confused on the sidewalk. So long ago, that she can’t even verbalize the relief she felt on the toilet that afternoon. A dash of honesty with a side of pleasantry would have guaranteed her a follow up date, but instead she moved in with her sister, (a closeted lesbian) and grew old, spending nights and weekends in front of public television documentaries and a Chinese movie bootleg streaming service until her sisters’ very recent passing…
A warm updraft rises, blowing the ash from the day’s final rooftop dump into aunt: Mary Agnes’ face, turning her volunteer’s smock a deeper shade of gray. She stomps home at midnight, taking timid steps through her familiar dark hallway, suppressing her presence like a cat burglar. She finds her way into the kitchen, keeping the light off, feeling along the countertop until she grazes against an unfamiliar object. She quietly opens the fridge for some light, removes sign and lid and cuts herself a stealthy sliver that alters no physical appearance of the cake. Though she can’t sense the dingus she keeps her woeful slobbering to a minimum to maintain her clandestine presence. Another half sliver and she keeps the lights off and television muted, ending another day in front of her flickering comfort square, disoriented from the decadence of the carrot cake’s cream cheese frosting.
The dingus dips tiny cigars in embalming fluid, fighting an innate urge to get wet with Jackie Cheese, who sits cross-legged on Sam’s uncle’s musty sofa nearby, facing an open window. The workspace is temporary; Sam’s uncle is out of the house for once, visiting his supportive sister and conceited nephew in the countryside. Yet tributes of his madness are everywhere: unswept porcelain shards pepper the kitchen and bathroom floor. The moldy carpet is hidden beneath a moldy carpet of unopened mail, accumulated throughout years of unemployment, an onset of his alcoholic depression. He is usually found sulking in his underpants on the musty sofa.
An avuncular turbine blows skin flakes onto Jackie Cheese while he takes a test drag from his stash. Jackie Cheese is a narcotics adept: he inhales deeply until his lungs fill and holds his breath for thirty seconds (usually conversing and showing no signs of asphyxiation). Then he exhales a nearly invisible plume, repeating twice until he reaches the filter of the tiny cigar. Jackie Cheese has legendary tolerance, so if he can rotate his head, hear the ghost bells ring and spy the faint outline of a dragon whelp weaving through the branches then it will be potent enough for Manny to make the purchase.
When the carton is finally re-packed Jackie Cheese dials Manny, who is often posted up on his stoop, suited up in all red street clothes: fitted, dew rag, an XXXL t-shirt, baggy sweats and fresh pair of red kicks. His five-year old gives chase to a red plastic bag as it wafts down the block like a tumbleweed while Manny blows red smoke from his red mini-cigar. This time he is out back looking for scorpions when Jackie Cheese rolls up to make the dump, so one of Manny’s five-year-olds accepts the carton on his behalf. This five-year-old is Manny’s own, and has grown up alongside the scent of embalming fluid, so he’s as good as any base-head when detecting it. His glare expresses reproach towards Jackie Cheese’s untrustworthy, pederast’s smile, but he still delivers the carton to Manny, who will not even find evidence of a single scorpion.
The dingus follows Jackie Cheese around the corner to the alley between the local Library and live feed store, across from the popular night hot spot. Master and intern commence loitering, trying to pull suspicion from undercovers. Jackie Cheese is equipped with his trendy, new outfit: scrubs, platform flops and a scorpion tattoo on both his right and left hand’s dorsal side. The dingus is a sharp contrast: wet bathing suit, lumpy university sweatshirt, flip flats. The undercovers are too easy to spot: they always chill outside, cloying in desperation with dorky outfits, scoping loners for cigarettes.
The pheromones of a scumbag are irresistible, and once the undercovers get a whiff they drift away from the booming club. The dingus takes cover from afar as a man dressed in a camouflaged trucker hat, an orange polo, aviator sunglasses, ballet flats and…sigh…orange parachute pants approaches.
He leans close, like a coquette: Any cigar minis?
Playing along: How would you like to find out?
Jackie Cheese takes the hand of the undercover, leading him to a secluded basketball court. Prescient of their moves, he holds a mini cigar between thumb and forefinger above his head so the undercover can snap at it. The officer plays his Pavlovian part, kneeling and pulling cock out from behind the scrubs, poised to blow Jackie Cheese. Upon completion the mini cigar is received; the undercover sniffs it lengthwise and smiles as an unnoticed glob of cum glistens on his lower lip. Jackie Cheese remains smiling when the badge is flashed and the cuffs come down and his face meets the pavement. He looks better with a chipped tooth anyway.
With the elocution of a bro: Snitch, and you’ll walk…
The riot squad always comes in the night because they know that is when Manny is home. They bang his front door and ring the bell and he pokes his head out of the window and facetiously invites them upstairs. But the riot squad is conditioned to take such invitations very seriously, and use it as an excuse to barge his front door and storm inside. They find the carton of cigarettes sitting on his countertop, alongside a barrel of cash and bucket of embalming fluid gel caps. Manny’s own five-year-old observes silently as they strip him of his red striped vintage pajamas and hogtie him to their battering ram. The riot squad is having trouble lifting and hooking the battering ram into the slot in the rear of the bariatric ambulance they have converted into a criminal transport unit. Manny gazes across his wide belly and spies the dingus perched on the stoop across the street, jotting notes in a notepad. Manny’s five-year-olds stare down from the nursery, confused and afraid, while an inconsiderate neighbor holds a pocket camera to his face, panning down a seemingly endless body as he gazes into it with despondent doe eyes. During a moment of reflection and before a tear can roll down his cheek Manny accepts his fate as just that time in the cycle again. The ram finally clicks in place and the back door slams on Manny as the transport unit hurdles against traffic towards central booking.
Day is breaking. The dingus takes cue and leaves to apply what he has learned from his internship with Jackie Cheese by following up after his dishwasher’s audition in person. This is the best play because it keeps him ahead of the competition and could qualify him for a call back. He lingers by the dumpster in the restaurant’s parking lot, stifling his pheromones with the stench until it opens. The assistant hiring manager is seated in an uncomfortable folding chair, behind a yellowing folding table. By the buckling look of confusion and fear in his face, the man has already forgotten the face of the dingus, who wordlessly crawls beneath the table, unbuttoning the assistant hiring manager’s pee-pee soaked trousers. Before he can begin a hand comes down on his shoulder, stopping him. The dingus looks up from below the belt, and is met with a smile that splits the lips of the assistant hiring manager.
Fatherly:We value initiative here. My intern will be in touch for your call back.
Certain the job is his and eager to share his exciting news, the dingus goes to surprise aunt: Mary Agnes on the stairs of the local Catholic middle school. He spots her waddling woozily up the sidewalk, noticeably winded, so he sits hunched on the steps, head face down in his lap, pulling the hood of his lumpy university sweatshirt over his misshapen cantaloupe’s head. When he hears her shuffling slippers inching closer and stop, he peeks through a gap in the hood before raising his head to reveal his identity. She gasps out a ‘hello’ and they greet each other with great bear hugs.
The dingus keeps his emotions bottled, choosing to dramatically delay his announcement for the roof. To keep it from leaking, he distracts himself by asking his aunt: Mary Agnes if she sampled any of the carrot cake as she takes him through the first set of classrooms on her ash collecting routine. She lies with a curt ‘no’.
Not yet to the fifth floor and the sack is already at its limit, so aunt: Mary Agnes takes the dingus to the roof to demonstrate for him the most rewarding moment of her job. Before they take one full step from the fire escape the dingus blurts out his potential good fortune. Aunt: Mary Agnes is reticent, equal parts excited and saddened she knows he can’t stay a dingus. The passing of her closeted sister only multiplied her habitual retirement loneliness, making any shred of “life” unbearable for the infant senior. The phantom company provided by the dingus proved mutually beneficial. They still need each other, so she extends her welcome and he, empathetic of her plight, graciously accepts, knowing it will be unnecessary. Aunt: Mary Agnes waddles to the roof’s edge to dispose of the ash and beckons the dingus to follow. The beauty of the scattering ash is mesmerizing, and together they watch it float, softly re-blanketing the lungs of the children as they arrive to school.
Jackie Cheese is released from central booking and returns to Sam’s uncle’s house after snagging a sack of dumps in C-Town. The door to Sam’s uncle’s bedroom is left open, like always, so Jackie Cheese rummages through his dresser drawers, looking for his whiny mobile, instead discovering Sam’s uncle’s wet stash. He snags a mini cigar, dumps the dumps with hot water on the stove and joins Sam’s uncle on the couch. The baby is back to his self- inflicted routine: sprawled asleep on the stale sofa in his wet underpants, unconscious from a sulking binge. A competitive cooking show is not muted, and invades the dreams of Sam’s uncle, who subconsciously interprets them as a reason to sulk harder upon awakening.
Jackie Cheese mutes the television then sucks hard on the mini cigar until Sam’s Uncle wakes abruptly, causing his underpants to deepen in grey moisture. Before words are spoken in agreement, Jackie Cheese has a lit mini cigar against the lips of Sam’s uncle, who sucks it hard without hesitation, like an infant to a warm bottle of milk with water in it. His mind loosens, his attitude ebullient and passionate as self-pity dribbles from his lips. As his inchoate sulking matures, themes of repressed sexuality and missed opportunity produce a concoction that causes his pale body to turn slick. Jackie is in the thick of it now, the time for him to savor his life’s own injustices are over. Staying at Sam’s uncle’s house has run its course; the place is just not the same when occupied. It’s that time in the cycle to seek new housing, and besides, Jackie Cheese sorta misses the dingus.
While Sam’s uncle is tripping through his depression, only capable of self-centered grievances, Jackie Cheese collects his share for the pre-order of the carton from the secret cash spots in the top dresser drawer. Before stalking the dingus to his aunt’s house, Jackie Cheese puts in a call to suicide’s hotline, reporting to the stack the self- harming of another wet man. Snitch blood through his veins he alerts wet house officers for an unpaid anonymous tip and a callous satisfaction of which he has grown desensitized…He leaves the door open the way he found it, leaving Sam’s uncle’s soul to plunge hopelessly in his filth.
Jackie Cheese’s fetish does not discriminate. He hardens through betrayal of friend, intern and acquaintance alike, choosing to exchange a small unit of dependable friends for an inexhaustible network of acquaintances. Friendships take time to ferment, but an acquaintance is like a door, whose knob needs a slight wiggle before it opens to a room full of them. Though acquaintance is his preferred mode of professional socializing, it has also polluted his private social life, leaving him with nobody to rely on. Jackie Cheese often wonders what could have been, recalling a mournful memory of the time before smoking was allowed back in the classroom…
In Mrs. Anselmo’s second grade art class six tables were arranged in two rows of three, with six students randomly assigned to each. A watercolor mural featuring each table’s chosen animal was required by the semester’s end. The year was young, and friendships were still budding, but Jackie Cheese’s table had unanimously elected the dolphin to be their centerpiece, an indication of the group’s intrinsic chemistry. The sketches began as usual, each child politely drawing and naming their own dolphin, making mundane chit chat until someone jokingly sketched a dolphin turd. Restrained laughter filled the table, as the group knew they could never succeed with such blatant profanity in the mural. Yet the envelope was continuously pushed as the semester continued: one turd after another; sketched, and erased. Ultimately it became impossible not to see the outlines of turd erasure, and thus another important decision was made: to paint them in classic watercolor brown.
When it was time to hand the murals to the district wide art fair it became clear upon unveiling that the turds had become the centerpiece. And yet the turds were representative of far more than the group’s delight in repulsion: it became symbolic of new friendship, outside the confines of mural stipulation. Though the table was invited to the award ceremony, none attended; beyond art class dolphin shit they remained strangers. The premature yet natural drift that followed left an impression of no sacred relationships…why learn about a mutual love for dolphin feces when they won’t even learn your last name?
Deadlines are my enemy…I need to work faster. NaNoWriMo begins at midnight. Stay tuned.