Tom Giles was propped up in his bed reading the paper. Out in the living room his roommates and a couple of friends were whooping it up, drinking beer and whiskey. They cared not at all about Tom or his sleep. Ever since Tom had stopped drinking and hanging out with his roommates they treated him like a stranger. In fact, they had recently begun to make things hard for Tom, hoping he would move out. They wanted Tom to move out so that their pal Grant Sneed could move in. Grant was out there in the living room now, his was the thin voice and the high, manic laugh.
It had been fun, hanging with these guys, drinking too much. But Tom had been late to work twice due to hangovers and if he was late again it would mean he'd be fired. So he had quit the drinking. And here it was one in the morning and the party was getting louder and Tom was reading the paper. He was very sleepy, and as he read an article about people making methamphetamine out of cold pills then dumping the toxic byproducts down the drain he dropped off to sleep.
Asleep. The newspaper draped over his chest and the bedside light burning bright. Tom was sound asleep. He needed his rest; he was a waiter at the coffee shop over on Marles street. The Howltown Coffee shop. They did a brisk business for breakfast and lunch, and Tom did his share of manic running.
Meanwhile out in the living room a plot was being hatched, a plot to make Tom move out. As the roommates and their cronies got more drunk they got closer to the point where they would carry out their scheme. Already they were tittering with glee at the thought.
A few blocks away, in the Rosewood apartment complex, Mary Trent couldn't sleep. Mary was seventy two years old, and very lonely. Poor Mary had noone left. She was beginning to get a little soft in the head, and sometimes late at night like this she would think she was once again a little girl so lonely and scared in bed. When she was a little girl she used to wander down the hall to her brother's room and get in bed with him.
There had been several nights when Mary Trent had wandered the streets in her nightgown, wandering, looking for her brother's bedroom or for some sort of solace, some doorway to a better world, a world that wasn't so lonely, she was so all alone day after day and night after night. So alone. And she'd wander. A couple of times she had been picked up by the police. Once she had been menaced by a couple of Creel Street punks, but mostly she just wandered until she came to her senses, more or less, and shuffled on home. Home? There was no more home for her. There was just the efficiency apartment with the rowdy neighbors and a telephone that never rang, except to sell her something.
Mary couldn't sleep, and she was getting delirious with loneliness.
Now Tom's roommates were at it. They were all drunked up and not at all mellow or kind. The two roommates, Dean and Sal, along with Grant Sneed, Larry Wolks, and Evan Jones, were creeping into Tom's room, laughing in quiet, stifled spasms at the spectacle of Tom sound asleep with the newspaper spread over his
chest. The five of them picked up Tom's narrow bed and carefully carried it into the living room, where they put it down. Dean opened the front door of the duplex and rushed outside to laugh. Then all of them were out there, laughing. When they had calmed down they went back inside and lifted the bed once again.
Tom rolled onto his side and muttered, but didn't wake up. Here they were, the drunk roommates and friends, red faced and holding the rails of the simple single bed, staring at the sleeping Tom. It was wildly absurd. Emboldened by Tom's apparent heavy slumber, the party carried him outside, now laughing a little louder. They took him down the sidewalk to Creel street. They laid Tom's bed down in front of the Hair Today salon, under the streetlight. Tom was sound asleep, his eyes twitching with dreams. The roommates and their friends went back to the duplex, laughing louder, drunk with their deed and the drink. They went back inside to drink more and await further developments.
Tom was dreaming. His roommates had taken him back into the fold. Tom and Dean and Sal were together at the Mack Burton Arena for the Lurch-capades. What joy. What happiness, to be at the Lurch-capades, to be part of the gang, laughing so loud and so hard at the spectacle of the amazing and world famous Lurch-capades. Groups of tall men dressed in black suits with heavy boots came zinging down the ramp at the far end of the skating rink, all of them skating upside down on a single skate strapped to their foreheads. In tight formation, skating in a swan-dive posture, they'd come off the ramp at high speeds and break into amazing patterns which would spread apart then criss-cross and reform and break apart again, and when they ran out of momentum they'd fall over onto the ice, their skates still strapped firmly to their heads. The windshield wipers on their high-tech goggles would be slapping at a mechanically unnatural speed. And as they sat there for a moment before getting up to take their bow, there would come Lurch's voice over the public address system, saying, "You rang?" Then the Lurches would walk off the ice in their heavy boots and another group of Lurches would come hurtling down the ramp. Everyone was howling with amazed laughter at the wonder of it. Dean and Sal and the people all around were laughing. Tom was laughing. Then the dream changed.
Tom was in bed alone in the next dream, and a woman came to him.
Mary Trent was out again, wandering the streets in her nightgown, looking for her brother's bedroom. "It should be right down here, just down this way a bit," she kept thinking, in a sort of trance of despair. The world made no sense after so much time with noone there to confirm or deny what was what. She moved slowly, on down Torrey street. At the corner she turned and walked up Creel street. And there he was. She knew she'd find him. She knew she was right; there had to be a way. And there he was, of course, her brother, asleep just as nice as you please. Mary Trent came scuffing up in her powder blue slippers and climbed in bed next to her brother. Ever so gently, carefully. "Don't want to wake him," she thought, "he gets cross when his little sister comes and gets in bed with him."
She climbed in the narrow bed so softly, so quiet. And she was happy for the first time in years. The top of her head felt light, tingling. Her brother. She'd found him.
Now the dream changed again. Tom dreamed that his roommates were making a new drug out of hair dye and isopropyl alcohol. Heating it on the stove, distilling and working the chemicals. It stank. It stank so bad. But there was no way to get them to stop. They were fiends for the drug. It was a new drug sweeping the city. Once the cooking and all was done there was a fine powder which his roommates put in a glass pipe and smoked. Then they swole up and got this mad grin on their faces and they were catatonic for a couple of hours. The trouble was that with all the people cooking this stuff there were a lot of accidents, explosions when a pot of pure alcohol and hair dye got too hot on the stove. Not only that, but the byproducts from the production of this new drug were incredibly toxic, and there were so many people making the stuff and pouring the toxins down the drain that alarming evidence of bad trouble with the water supply was being seen. Men were growing breasts and seven year old children were reaching puberty.
And then there were the people bursting. When a person had been smoking the stuff too much they would burst open. It wouldn't happen at the time of the overdose, but several hours later. Sometimes a person would be in a grocery store or at work and they'd split open. Now Tom was dreaming that he was in a lawn chair on the sidewalk, under a street lamp, and a passerby suddenly sank to his knees in agony and began to split open. Tom watched in horror as the man's side split and the guts came out. But the guts weren't pink or red or purple, they were black and gray; fried by the drug. And as the man opened up there came the sound of a two-way radio, a police radio coming from inside the man, so weird, so ghostly. The more the man opened up and his gray and black guts spilled out, the louder the radio got.
"Unit to base, we have a six forty two at 2341 East Creel."
"Base to unit, proceed."
Tom woke up when the Officer poked him with the flashlight. He was surprised to find that although he was safe in bed, his bed was out on the sidewalk and there was an old lady in bed with him.
COPYRIGHT 1997 DOUGLAS CLOUD ALL RIGHTS RESERVED