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slimeball supreme



The wash was automatic but one-at-a-time. No wax. So majority were manual cleans, by hand, teeth-gritting sh*t. Right off the avenue onto the turnpike in fly-swatting weather while you’re wearing rubber gloves and an all-blue uniform and scrubbing and scrubbing and scrubbing and scrubbing and scrubbing.


He wasn’t right now.


There’s only so much work you can do with a parole violation and six or so years in the can. There’s only so much pity the man on the other side of the desk is going to give you. So you take what you get. Squeaky! Hands On Car Wash didn’t exist a couple years back, but it stood here and now, got ran by a guy named Hector who was some shade of brown but certainly not white. Was Hector even his real name? Old, thin graying man with some kind of accent who - and he didn’t like to think of it like that - took pity. Because there’s only so much work an ex-con can do.


And Hector saw Johnny, and Johnny saw Hector. And that’s what Johnny saw. And Hector saw the tattoos and the scars and the hole-with-no-piercing and that look on his face like he’d gone to the principal’s office. Johnny didn’t remember when that was; but he was here now.


And he took off his hat and beat at the air and sighed hard and went for a break.


Break meant a couple of bottles of water and some folding chairs out in the parking lot.


Jorge was around Johnny’s age, maybe younger, maybe way younger for all he knew but he had something resembling crows feet and one of those moles only old people got with the grey hair and this moustache like a couple straight lines on the upper lip, lips that were always parted like they were chewing something. Said he was from Costa Rica and came up a long time ago and had similar problems and similar answers to Johnny. Similar problems like possession beefs and similar solutions like getting work at a car wash in the ass end of the state across the river from the Lennox Island junkyard and maybe a mile away from the highway. And he knew he wasn’t gonna drive a Benefactor after washing a couple, and sh*t, Johnny knew that too, but he knew that there weren’t much else you could do.


In ‘04 or ‘05, Jorge got caught with a baggie of weed in his jeans - and you know, f*ck it, a good time is a good time - but he got busted in Donald Love’s Liberty City were the cops were okay with the occasional stop and the occasional frisk. So be it. You do a couple months and thank your lucky stars.


In ‘94, Johnny Klebitz killed someone by accident but got an okay sentence instead of a bad sentence because of the grace of character witnesses and the pledge he’d rehabilitate. Violating parole isn’t exactly rehabilitation, but really, if you’re asking for a year or two without a bike or spending those years in the joint, Johnny wouldn’t be going to work in a cage.


A metaphorical cage.


He was okay with a real one.


Alderney Department of Health says you can’t smoke indoors. So you twist the rules a little and smoke outside while the smog and the humidity beat at your lungs.


And Johnny laughed. “Would be better if there were somethin’ stronger, eh?”


And Jorge said “No doubt, man, no doubt.”


“You watch football?”




“I don’t.”




“No, we ever talk about sports or nothin’?”








“Nah, it’s the money for me.”




“Yeah, man. You think about that. You get it through your head, you know, you- how much are these guys gettin’ paid? A sh*t-ton, right?”


“Is isn’t what I- you know--”




“Is the game. Tha’s all. I’on really care about that stuff, man.”


“I do.”




“There’s that f*cked up part a’ me. I don’t know. I just can’t stand it.”




And there was this twitch. Always this little twitch. And Johnny looked up. And looked down. And put the smoke back in the lips and huffed and saidI don’t know what I’m saying. And he felt like he’d said it a million times. And maybe he had.


Jorge looked back at him and shrugged and said “So you see no games?”


“No. I don’t watch, I told you.”


“So… you know. What’s up?”


I don’t know what I’m sayin’.”




“F*ckin’ humidity.”


Chuckled, “Y’eh.”


“Yeah. f*ckin’ heat. You know.”








Every second crawls by. It shouldn’t. But it does.


Facing the road. Craned his neck and bit his lip and looked at the-- “You got those tattoos.”


Blink. “Yeah,” Johnny said.






“That one. Skull one. Ear one, you see-” pointed, “you see? Yeah?”


“I got a few skull ones.”


“Ear one.”




“No, I no see no often, no?” Blew smoke again, “They got meanings?”


Johnny thought. “Often. Yeah, sure. Usually.”


“What’s the skull?”




Inhaled, “That one with a one of the no meaning?” Exhaled. “Or no?”


“No, it’s got meaning. It does. I got it with a friend a’ mine, something like that, it don’t matter.”




“See, I got the skull, you know. And he got the wolf. Yeah? And the skull- well, it don’t matter, but- you know. Yeah. It was me and this guy.”


“When you wer--”






“I don’t remember, I don’t know.”


“You don’ remember you get no tattoo with?”


“I don’t know. Something like that. No, I used to- tattoos is tattoos. You know. You get ‘em because you get ‘em. Like you got paper out and you gotta fill that paper. It’s like, you see something, you see this spot - you gotta fill it. I got this one on my chest, actually.”


“I see that one.”


“Yeah, but, you know. Hold on-” pulled down the undershirt and undid the polo buttons and let the air in. Sweat and ink. Looping.


“Yeah, I seen it, like some tribal sh*t.”


“I mean, kinda. We had this guy in the club who’d do some of it sometimes at his place, and it was like- like, uhh, club designs mostly. Like the eagle. That’s the club thing.”




“Conan. That was- yeah. Conan. But he’d actually just kind of f*ck around, you know, he’d draw this stuff and they were like some mad f*cking sh*t, brother, and it didn’t have no significance except it was a Conan Original. That on my chest is a Conan Original. He did these stars down the ears on that guy with the wolf tat and it always looked kinda… y’know. Botch job, that one. They weren’t all good. But they were Conan’s.”


“Was Conan good?”


“Is my chest tat good? This eagle good? I think they’re good.”


“You still know him?”


Johnny took a breath. Not really, forced that out. “Not anymore.”






“You still friends?”


“Friends as anyone else, dude. Broker? I don’t know. Ain’t spoke a while.”


“He ain’t dead?”


“I hope.”




“It’s, yeah- it’s funny you say that. That he died. Why you think he died?”




“They didn’t- they all didn’t die or nothin’, man. People get shot but they- you know, it ain’t like that.”


“Some of them were dead.”


“That happens. I don’t know. That happens. People die. Whaddya’ want? It weren’t about that. They didn’t all go. It wasn’t about that.”


“It doesn’t don’t not have to be, man.”


“It’s nothing.”




“Anyone gets shot. What? That mean it about that? That mean it was all people did? Was die? Don’t think that, man, don’t get that- don’t think that.”


“Did you kill nobody?”


Fast - No.”  Blinked, eyes met. “No.”




“I don’t know nobody that’s killed a soul. Get that straight. I knew people that killed people but they weren’t people and they sure as sh*t weren’t my brothers. The only people- no people died. Okay?”




“We rode to ride. We rode because we had something. I don’t know. What the f*ck do you want?”


Jorge squinting now, I don’t want nothing, man.


“Then forget it.”


“Just askin’.”




“I’m just curious.”


Johnny blinked. Stared out. “Everybody thinks this sh*t is about something when it ain’t. That’s all. It’s about the bikes. Everyone knew bikes. That’s what got us together, was riding. Was what we had. Never leave nobody behind sh*t. All the other sh*t was second and dumb kiddy game bullsh*t and it’s all some people wanted.”


You could tell Jorge wasn’t quite sure what he was saying. “I like bikes.”


“Bikes don’t let you down. A lot of things let you down. Bikes don’t.”


“Some’ like that.”


“We all knew the gear sh*t. We were all gearheads and we all knew how to work it. Conan could work a bike. Everyone could work a bike. I work mine still, I don’t wanna get rusty, but- you know, it’s about the metal. Y’know. ‘f*ck you’ to everything else and just--the f*ck?




Jorge, “What?”


“What the f*ck?!Stood up. “What the f*ck?!


Eyes on the road, down the parking lot. Down past the cars and the worker-bees who looked up from the wash to see the commotion, looked left to Johnny and looked left to him stomp-stomp-stomping down shouting What the f*ck is wrong with you?!


Everyone looking at Johnny.


Johnny looking at the road.


Ashley was dressed down in denim and looked like sh*t. Sallow, baggy-eyed, weak in the knees like she couldn’t stand if her knees weren’t together. Scratching and walking but slowed as soon as Johnny saw her.




What the f*ck?!




How’d you find me?! How the f*ck’d you find me?! What are you--




What the f*ck, Ash?


“Johnny, babe--”


You f*cking- Ashley! Ashley!


He was close now. Arms-length.


Everyone staring.


Ashley reached out, palms out, smiling, smiling weak and smiling soft and doing kitten eyes and-- no. Johnny grabbed at her, grabbed her by the forearms and by the wrists and held them up and kept shouting, How’d you f*cking find me?!




“How the f*ck did you f*cking find me, Ashley?!


“Please, John--”


You f*cking idiot! You f*cking idiot! What the f*ck did I tell you?!”




What did I?! Stay away from me! That’s what I said!




Don’t babe me, don’t you f*cking babe me. You f*cking skank. You f*cking skank.


Her eyes were wet. Her big eyes were wide and wet and the tears were going and Johnny didn’t f*cking care.


He clutched the arms tighter and threw her.


She fell. Toppled to knees and hands flat on the asphalt and Johnny was redfaced, You dirty f*cking slut. The f*ck I tell you! The f*ck I f*cking tell you?!


Johnny, please…


Who told you?!




Skank. You f*cking skank. You busted f*cking used f*cking sh*t.


She was sobbing now. She was staining the blacktop.


People were staring.


Johnny snarled. I’ll hit you.




You wanna get it? You f*cking bitch?




Do you?!


Walked up. Marched up. Kicked the goddamn air and kicked again and got her flinching, got her cowering, scampering, pleading; “Johnny- Johnny--


Some noise in the background. Shouting.


Johnny turned.


Hector arm waving. Hector screaming. Hector screaming something foreign or something so fast and so mashed up Johnny didn’t know what it was or how it mattered. Turned back. Turned back to wipe his face with his forearm and got closer.


Kicked again.


She jumped.


She backed off. Backed toward the pavement with pleading eyes and God, Johnny was thinking, f*cking God, what was he doing? What was he doing? His shouts interrupted, Whore. Whore. You whore. Go back passin’ yourself around. Who you take me for? Who the f*ck you take me for?




You come back here- felt something in his throat tighten, felt the words get higher in pitch and the sounds well deep,-you just don’t f*cking come back here. Don’t you come see me again. 




You ain’t that for me no more. You ain’t my baby no more. You’re nothing. You’re sh*t.












Stay the f*ck a-f*cking-way from me, my f*cking--”


“--I just need--”


You f*cking junkie. You go. YOU GO! YOU GO!


She went.


She tumbled on the floor like the heel broke and fell on her ass and pushed off and warbled and left. Eye contact stayed.


She kept staring.


And then she wasn't.


Johnny stood stupid in the parking lot staring at nothing staring back. Eyes on him - civilian eyes, employee eyes, Jorge eyes. Hector eyes.


Hector said something about something that Johnny didn't hear when he turned around and stomped back to the break area. Pulled a smoke and pressed his fingers to his temple and didn’t even light it when he passed.


Put it in his lip and inhaled even though it weren't lit. Closed his eyes and let it go through. Closed his eyes and let nothing go through.


Heard shouting.


Filtered it out.


Ears rang.





Dirty ‘Derney bar in Ferrie with the wood-slat walls and the Fraktur-looking neon sign reflecting onto wet-pavement street. The Red Pedal. Choppers parked outside.


Blue-white striped twin-cam Hexer crooked; parked up by the wall where the rain wouldn’t wet it.


Side by side - blue Western, purple Western.


Bar was a hard-hat kind of bar when it weren’t an asshole kind of bar, but it weren’t crowded most the time and even on a good night you could still navigate. Stale water-beer pilsner type sh*t on tap and the ‘tender went by Liz. He was not a woman.


Johnny scratched head-stubble and slid the hand down past the beard onto the t-shirt collar. Rubbed his neck. Let the drink sit in the dim-color light from the brand neons pasted onto the behind-the-counter brickwork. Benedict Light. Jakey’s Benchmark.


Wasn’t sure what he was drinking.


Terry still had the leather-cut vest, kept a whole bunch of them and used to buy a new one every so often so he had spares around. Guy could sew like a motherf*cker, used to joke he’d work at a tailor before he got steady pay watching the doors at a titty bar. Still wore the vest. Motherf*cker liked vests.


Still sewed.


Clayton left the cut back-when. Dropped the flags and called the mother-club and helped arrange some sh*t, whatever; you don’t let the brotherhood down even when the local charter goes. Politics. Clay always had a thing for politics when nobody else did, used to give Billy the run-around about the guys in Montresor or Lenapia or Couira or down in Florida but Billy used to always go Who gives a goddamn motherf*ck?Billy had some thing with his cousin and there were the meetings- ah, what does it matter. No point in remembering.


Crowdog took a pause from the story to chug half the glass and wheeze something fierce. Half a cough, half something deeper. Said he’d been going to see a doctor about some sh*t and was getting tests but kept it close to his chest.


Freed his hands, -and you had to f*cking see it. Griff’d always say dink pussy was the best kind of pussy and she had the f*ckin’ knife to his f*ckin’ throat and I tell ya’ he weren’t f*cking cummin’ then.”


And Terry laughed and wentWhat then?


“And all of us are like, we see it. These chicks are all on us and we see the blade go up to the chin and we just laugh, man. Because he hasn’t got his wallet on him and all his cash is in the rubber band ‘round the chick’s thigh--”


“So she’s just robbing--”


We don’t know why the f*ck she went and did it! Coulda’ been a kink.”




“I don’t know.”




“Griff f*cking pissed himself and was just blubberin’ and jabberin’ and one the guys got up and she’s just whispering in dink at him. And my lord, I mean- we don’t know none that sh*t and then Barry just tackles the f*cking woman.”


Johnny kinda laughed. Terry got it so hard he spilt liquor on the table and jumped at it and tried catching the glass and was still laughing when it got on his jeans - Goddd- f*ck--


“Excellent, dude.”




“John, you got a- tissues or some sh*t or somethin’ or--”




Liz came with a rag and a scowl.


Hours ticked.


Johnny thought.


Johnny thought.


Johnny rubbed his eye and asked You guys seen Angus?


Heads shook. No.


I don’t get the goddamn cell phones when you call with them sometimes, Clay went. “It’s f*ckin’--” moved out the way while Liz went to work on the bartop muttering, “His thing with the high schools and the outreaches and the speaking and whatever.”


“He still do that?”


“It’s money.”


Johnny kinda chuckled, Could.


“Could what?”


“Could do it, Clay.”


“Who? You?”


“Yeah. I don’t know. It ain’t skill-based work, dude. It’s just talking.”


Public speaking, Johnny.




Terry chimed in, “They say- you got the list of things people fear and at the top of the list: it ain’t death or spiders or nothin’, it’s public speaking.


“That ain’t true,” said John.


“Says you. You ain’t never public spoke before.”


Yeah, I have. Gang sh*t. Meetings.”


“That’s different.”


I held church with half the f*ckin’ brothers on the coast, dude. Lenny boys came in while Billy was out. Church every week. Billy weren’t even holdin’ church some weeks, I did. I mean--”


“That’s different. Ain’t preschooler motherf*ckers.”


Might as well be!




Might as well be.


An awkward silence.


Had to say it.


Had to say it.


Started slow, How’s Henry?


Terry, “Cross coast.”


Blink,Cross coast?


“He got got and moved.”






“He didn’t--”


“Nah. Called me.”


Johnny mumbled, “Huh.”


Called me from f*ckin’ Allenwood when he got out and was asking how Billy was and- heh… you know. Yeah.”




Hadn’t said it.


“I saw Ash,” Johnny said.


Penny dropped.


Clay smiled. How’s she?




“How’d you- how’d you, y’know--”


I don’t know--


Terry, “She still… yeah?


Johnny just looked.


I ain’t seen her- Clay kinda stopped himself, laughed, “Said she was at rehab, right?”


“Yeah,” Johnny said.


“She get through good ‘n that? How’s she?


Johnny didn’t say nothing.


Didn’t last, maybe,Clay said.


“No,” Johnny went. “Didn’t stick.”


That’s too bad. Spark, that girl.”




“She tell you what happened?”




Terry was scratching by the eye with worry-eyes. He felt what was coming. Clay kicked on, “Rehab- I mean, for me, for Billy. For anyone, that sh*t with the AA and that is all kinna’ f*cked up. With the godliness is cleanliness sh*t, too. They don’t show that in the movies none.”


Johnny, “What?


“They’re in that religion sh*t. They keep talking about Jesus and the sh*t above and Heaven. And--”


I don’t care.


“She say that?”


“Told her to f*ck off, Clay.”






“Oh,” went Clay.






“I told her I don’t want to see the skank none no more and I got antsy and I kicked at her and I told her to get. What’s there to say? I’m done.”




“Yeah what, Clay?”






“Yeah, Johnny,” Clay said. “‘Sa shame.”


“They got her with coke at the rehab and she said it weren’t hers or nothin’ and she’s- you know, she’s bad f*ckin’ news. I’m done, man, I’m finished.”


Kinda just cold.


And f*ckin’ Terry’s f*ckin’ quiet.


“What I say, John?”








“C’mon, what?”


“Nothin’. You said nothin’. That’s the point.”


Terry just shrugged.


Silence stewed.




Didn’t say nothing.




Stared at the neon.



TV babble.


Johnny sprawled on the corduroy sofa felt the springs under his back not listening. Half-eaten microwave popcorn bag on the floor and the lights off and the eyes up at the ceiling roof in the trailer. Fingers scraping on the carpet floor. Pacing up and pacing down.


Needed to shave.


Got up.


Needed to shave.


Sat on the sofa staring at the door and squinting and dug his fingers in between the seat pillows and felt the springs and the fabric and the crumbs piercing into fingertips and- ahh. Yep. Yurp.


Pulled the six-shooter .45 Stud out and dug ‘em into the waistband of his boxers and had the handle sticking out over the tank top. No reason for it other than the securities. No reason, other than the securities. Habits die hard. 


Got up and moved and dug a hand through the head stubble and marched on past the ironing board and the kitchen roach fridges and cupboards and speckled vinyl flooring and into bathroom. Bathroom tiles and bathroom grime and mirror.


Hair was coming out. Dirty blond below-buzzcut length and beard growing brown-strong. Looked into it. Saw death in it. Got the buzzer.


Shaved. Dug trenches in his scalp but kept staring to his eyes and right through ‘em. Clumps of it falling into the sink and down the bridge of his nose. Stopped. Head gone bald and the beard still there.


Got the shaving cream.


Stared into himself.


The f*cking tattoos.


Fox. Eagle. Curling carved snarls.




He weren’t getting buried in the family plot. No tattoos in a Jewish cemetery. They’d have Michael with the star-stick in Arlington, they’d have the parents somewhere nice. Johnny just hoped wherever he ended up after he went weren’t cold.


But the buzzer down. Kept staring at the reflection.


Put the gun on the sink.


Sat down on the toilet.


Pulled the underwear down with the shaving cream smeared across jaw and under nose and boxers around ankles and staring out at the darkness.







Edited by Cebra


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slimeball supreme



Winnie’s house was a sty.


There was this rust stench that stewed through the place. Rot-wood walls and windows boarded up; particle board and plastics strewn on the front lawn by the street where the grass grew brown and jagged. Cut up by lawn mower, sure, but cut up inconsistent, cut up with patches and scars. Weeds grew and coiled around the staircase and found their way into sidewalk - into driveway turning dead from the wheels rolling over and crushing.


Winnie’s house was a sty.


Winnie Nest was letting the smoke fester into the air, let it seep, let it absorb. Let the oxygen burn and burst and bubble and the tobacco turn breathing to cough. 


Kept smoking. Moved the Redwood from his lips to his ear to his lips again and let the spanners clank and the metal clink. He was delicate. You’d think otherwise, you’d think the big bearded f*cker with the headband catching sweat with his back to the dirty floor was anything but sensible, anything but cautious. But that’s if you didn’t know Winnie.


Winnie loved that f*cking bike.


Winnie saw Johnny in the doorway.


Johnny the Kid was turning 30 this year and the crew’d decided they were going somewhere to savour it. Johnny was this big lanky motherf*cker with big arms, worked out, new-wet tattoos dotting the bare arms he was in with the tank-top, sleeves of his plaid-lumberjack rolled right up past the elbow. Skinhead Johnny Klebitz.


Skinhead Johnny watched.


Winnie smiled. “You like?


“You got a talent for it.”


I do. I try.”




Thing is, cowboy - and some the guys, they don’t know this, thing is,” Winnie rolled hisself from underneath. “You ride to ride, maybe. Maybe. But the thing’s gotta last. Brian never got that. Brian’s chopper always f*cking drips. You keep that thing drippin’, and I mean, what the f*ck. Right?”


Johnny just kinda smirked. “Yeah.


Winnie had fastened a cooler and some other sh*t to the back of the bike with tape and tarp and yadda-yadda. They’d all tried - the bikes were parked outside and leant on the garage wall, but the innards of Nest’s nest were for his baby. Souped up custom Western he’d had since Eighty-something with green-sheen and green-stripe. 


Winnie picked at his nose, not in; at. Scabbed up from some sh*t or another. “You wanna- I got some sh*t in the fridge. Chickens stripped. You mind--”


No prob’,” said Johnny.






Johnny turned for the house.


Brian and the new guy, Terry, were the only ones ‘sides from Winnie who bit at the idea. Terry was this young-buck kid from upstate, around 27, came up and down and up and down from Canada or Montresor or some place on account of his aunt and some sh*t in the armed forces. Whatever.


He’d camped out in the cramped kitchen by the table - sat with the chair turned back. Was talking to Brian. Brian laughed: talking sh*t, always talking sh*t, “Jew-man.




Hey, Winnie good?


“Yeah. Bike’s his bike.”


You gotta hear what f*ckin’ Terry was goin’ on about, man. Seriously. Terry--”


Yup.” Shy-guy reclined into the wall with the blond mop-top running back down the scalp. “Yep.”


“Yep what?” John went. “What does yep mean?


“Nah, he’s gone all quiet ‘cause--”


I’ll f*ckin’ tell him,” kid went.


Brian just shrugged, “It’s funny.” Picked at his ear, “I mean--”


It’s this joke.”


“Yeah,” said Brian.


“Then spit it out,” said Johnny.


Nah, but--


Brian cut in from Terry and just said “It’s a little racey. You’ll get it, man.”


“What? It about Jews?”


Terry edging, “Well--”


Yeah,” said Brian. “Nah, we was talking about the box Winnie’s got and how we’re gonna- you know. On the road. Smoke up. Because Terry’s got the thing and if any f*cking pig pulls us over, I mean, that’s more than just ice for the icebox, Johnny.”


Johnny chuckled. Johnny looked at Terry. “So it’s a Jew joke?


“Yeah,” said Terry.


“Lay it on me.”




This ain’t Hebrew school, brother. Come on. Lay it on.” Pulled over a chair and said, “I heard them all before. Nah. I wanna hear what you got.”


“I ain’t heard it,” Brian said.


“Well, you know,” Terry said. “It’s just--”


“I don’t give a f*ck. Tell me, c’mon.” Sat, “I don’t care. I get enough a’ that sh*t from Brian on- like- you heard this motherf*cker--


C’mon,” Brian laughed.


Johnny put a fist up playful-like.


Yeah, right.


“So lay it on me.”


“Okay,” Terry said. “Okay--”


Brian, “All this f*cking build-up--”


Listen. So - Jew walks on a bus, right? Jew’s like, let’s say he’s 38, 40; and he’s got this duffel bag, like this big f*cking thing under his arm. And the Jew, he goes up to the bus driver, and he says he wants the senior discount. Bus driver looks him up, looks him down, asks for ID, Jew refuses. And like, they’re f*cking arguing and going back and forth and, bus driver gets so f*cking mad he grabs the goddamn bag and throws it out the bus and the thing rolls down the hill. What does the Jew say?”


What?” went Johnny.


Terry smiled a little, “He goes ‘the f*ck?! Just ‘cause I won’t pay full fare, you try kill my f*ckin’ son?!’”


Brian laughed.


Johnny kinda did, kinda looked confusatory, asked “So what do you mean? What’s the joke?


“Like- he’s got his kid in the bag. Won’t pay for the kid’s ticket.”


Yeah,” sniffed. “I ain’t heard it, but probably for good reason.”


Brian laughed harder.


Terry scoffed.


“It’s a good joke, Johnny.”


“Brian, it goes too f*ckin’ long. You lost me. Like- the simple sh*t is killer. Like, uh… why do Jews wear kippahs, right?”


“Why?” asked Terry.


Half the hat, half the price. Like that.” Kinda chuckled, “It’s- it’s- I mean- it’s funny. I heard ‘em all before, man. I mean, the brothers give me this sh*t all the time- I’m sure--”


“So it’s too smart for you?” Brian said.


Sure, f*ckhead, it’s too smart for me. Too cute. f*ckin’ duffel bag. What was that about the ice, though, what about it?”


“What you care?”


We hit the road, I mean- what the f*ck are we doing for 90% of that sh*t? We’re f*cking just driving.


You’re gonna ride high?


“I done it before, man.” Got up, “You really think there’ll be pig riders out in the middle of the desert? Or- or- or they’ll notice? It’s good.”


Brian rubbed his temple, “I mean, yeah.


“I just wanna know where we’re puttin’ the stuff, man. You ain’t just gonna smoke up- what the f*ck you askin’ are we gonna ride high, anyway? You rode f*cking high before--”


Brian was laughing hard now, “I mean--


“You just bust people’s balls for the f*ck of it, Brian?”


Brian still cackling, “It’s about how people justify themselves, Johnny.


Justify. Justify. You f*ckin’ hear this sh*t, Terry? We got Detective Jeremy out- out here,” kinda laughing himself, “-and we don’t do the breathalyzer right then we gotta stay in the motel room! Get the f*ck outta’ here.”


Come on, John.


“You’re gonna f*cking light up the moment we stop. And then when we get on the f*ckin’ bikes, Brian, you’re still gonna be f*ckin’ high.”


Grinning, “Maybe it’s short.”


Do you think we’re gonna buy sh*t ice, Brian?


sh*t ice, sh*t ice, we’ll get ice on the road and you’ll haggle ‘cause the good ice is too expensive.” Laughed at his own joke, little snort, “I- is there a Jewish word for being a cheap f*ck? Being a Jew. That’s the word.”


“Astute, brother.”


“I’ll f*ckin’ astute you. I’ll f*ckin’-” knocked back a bottle on the table, “-astute. What you mean?”




“Cl- uh, yeah, whatever. I got,” sniff, “I’m keeping the good sh*t on my- I mean, we do some commie sh*t and split the load but if a cop pulls me over--”


They won’t,” said Johnny.


“Don’t discount it,” said Terry.






You know what,” Johnny cut, “You’re right. f*ckin’ cops’ll pull Brian over for sure.”


Brian laughed, “Screw you.


“There weight limits for cycles on the west coast?”


“Bite me.”


It’s fun talking with you f*cking clowns,” Johnny got up off chair and dusted himself off, “but I’m gettin’ winded already. We go on the road like this--”


Pussy Johnny’s on his period.”


Johnny just looked bewildered.


Kinda lulled.


What the f*ck did- where the f*ck did that come from?”


Brian tried thinking a moment.


Just put his hands up and chuckled. “Don’t know.


Don’t know.


Johnny laughed it off and let it be.


Guys kept laughing and chatting and drinking and Johnny moved on through the mauve-and-green insides of the nest up to the kitchen. Everything sorta dusty, everything grimed up with weeks worth of trash bags piled by the backyard exit. Used cups and cans and little notes on the cupboards.


Guys kept on.


Johnny found the fridge. Industrial. Gunmetal. Pulled the thing open and got the ice chipping off - about six layers deep, a forest of frozen white.




Brian said something that Johnny didn’t hear.


Sure, man,” John said.


“That weren’t a question.”


“I didn’t hear.” Dug deep into the cold and found nothing ‘cept the ice going grayer and… yup.


Chicken strips.


Chicken strips packet so f*cking coated in ice the plastic colors where chipping.


Halfway stuck.


Nice, John.


“Winnie wanted me to get him some chicken strips for his f*ckin’ cooler.”


“How the hell he keepin’ the cooler on the bike anyhow?”


“Gaffe tape.”


He’s f*ckin’ great with the bikes.

“Yeah,” Johnny said. “But what’d you say?” Yanked the strips out and dislodged a hunk of ice and had it fly out and reveal another plastic pack of frozen peas probably overfrozen.


Brian kinda smiled a little at it all, but Johnny couldn’t see. “I got some of the goodies on myself,” he said.


So I’ll stay away from that.


Laughed, “f*ck you.”


“No thanks.” Turned over and started headed garage-ways, “Terry?


“I mean- y’know, it- I learnt a couple tricks because when you’re goin’ up and down the interstate, I mean, you got your stash. And state troopers get trigger happy. But that was with a cage. And it’d be junk and it’d be speed. I was ferrying the brown up for my brother, actually.”


Johnny, “Your brother deal?”


“No. No, he bought. I was picking up sh*t outta’ town and bringing it back while he was on house arrest.”




“We had the farm so he had time to roam and dad put him up to sh*t but you know. I mean, I made it a habit. And I’d go down and pick up a package and then I’d go back up again.”


“Hick sh*t,” said Brian.


“My momma, Brian, was from Quebec. So you ain’t wrong.”


“Quebec’s Canada, right?”


“Yeah. And I got into bikes with some of the guys and you know, I couldn’t ride with a bag on my person because the super troopers’d stop you and ask to see the interior. And they got x-ray lazer beam sh*t so they can see the inside a’ them anyways.”


“No they can’t,” said Johnny.


“They got ‘em in airports now, too. They’re gonna have cameras that can tell a cop if you’re gonna commit a crime in a few years, they’re tapping all the f*cking phones- I mean, you stay careful, I don’t know.


“But they can’t see inside the bag, Terry.”


“What, they don’t give a f*ck. Waco, Johnny.


Waco. What about your--”


“I’m just saying. They put the f*cking pyramids on the dollar bill with the eyes. I don’t f*cking know, they’re taunting us.”


What about your brother?” Johnny said. “Where was you hiding it?”


“I mean, I kept it in the jeans or I- and I’m gonna be doin’ this on the ride, you keep ‘em in the seat. I got tapes and I stick the baggies on. If it gets any worse, Colin taught me this trick where--”




“My brother. Colin taught me this thing where you pack the sh*t into the insides of other sh*t. So dad’d come up the steps to his room and he’d look for his stash, and my brother got his brown on everywhere. He started stashing in dad’s room for the f*ck of it.”


Other two laughed. “Crazy f*cker,” Johnny said.


“Determined. I say determined. I respected that. I don’t respect the issue - I get high, we all get high, but it ain’t an issue.”


“Hear that.”


“Yeah. Colin went the f*ck outta control with it. And he was gettin’ on that sh*t every day, every hour - you’d find him in the coop or in the field or in the attic or under the kitchen table or wherever and he was always f*cking… you know.”


“Well, it ain’t like that for us.”


“Yeah,” said Brian. “Yeah, it’s recreational.”


“I’m not saying that,” said Terry. “I’m just gettin’ giddy. I ain’t rode this far and f*ck if I’m registering my heaters. You know. Soon as you do that the soon as they track you everywhere you go. Satellite sh*t already does that with GPS sh*t so I mean, you know.”


Brian, “I ain’t been out the state--”


“You been to the city,” John went.


“That doesn’t count. I ain’t been out for a while. John, we went to Maryland that one time--”


The f*cking water park, yeah.


“Yeah. Good f*ckin’ time.”


“Yeah. And you had the f*ckin- yeah. Nah. Nah, Terry- I’ll, that’s for another time, but no- I wanted to say.”


Terry edged a little, “Yeah?”


“Your dad ever beat the f*ck out your brother?”


What do you think?


Chuckled, “Yeah, ‘cause… well, okay.”


“Okay, what?”


Johnny kinda smiled a little and walked back to the table and put the chicken strips on the counter to melt. Scratched his cheek, “I used to deal pot out my house.


“This f*ckin’ story,” went Brian.


Shut. Shut. I was dealin’ pot out my house when I was still livin’ up with my parents. And my brother, Mikey - he was off… I don’t know when this was. I think he was at military school. Some sh*t like that. Fort Leavenworth. Goddman Virginia-prick Army-man f*cking idiot.




Fascist,” Johnny went. “But whatever. You know. He’s havin’ fun, I hope.”


“Where’s he at?” Terry asked.


Johnny just shook his head. “Hm. Whatever. I was dealing pot from my house. And it was mostly school guys and dropouts and these f*ckin’ idiot white kids I used to see around temple or whatever. That kinda’ thing. And my dad- my dad is Abe, this big strong f*cking burly guy. He’s like- I mean, I work out, but he’s massive. Barrel chest, he’s got the f*ckin’ beard, and he never worked out. That was just him, dude. But he was the most devout guy you’d ever met in your life.”


“Jew-boy Johnny K.”


And he’d smack the sh*t out of you. He was- he studied the Kabbalah and sh*t.”


“f*ck’s that?”


“Jewish bible,” Terry said.


“Not quite. It’s- it’s bullsh*t. That god phoney bullsh*t sh*t is just that, dude. Just bullsh*t. But I was gettin’ sloppy and he found where I was keepin’ some saran-wrapped sh*t, this BC packed dirt weed I was dealing. And he came up to my room with a belt.




And he f*ckin’ whipped the sh*t out of me. And I ain’t never cried with him. You know? I ain’t never gotten myself to that. But he f*ckin’ hit and hit and hit and he threw me the f*ck outta’ the house. You remember that, Brian?”


“Yeah,” said Brian.


“And I came to your place and--”




“Good night.”


“Nah, Terry - his face was f*cked up. He was all kinds a’ f*cked up.”


Terry screwfaced, “I mean, sucks.


“It happens,” Johnny went. “And I never took sh*t from him. I stopped sleeping at the ‘house and my mom’d get all f*cked up but it’s not like dad cared. f*ck he said? I don’t know, ‘two outta three ain’t bad’. ‘Cause it was me, Mikey, and my kid brother Dan who- I think he’s in Fierro right now or some sh*t on the west coast. f*ckin’ Seattle. But he comes to visit. You know, he’s fine.”


“Your brothers sound like f*ckin’ cockeaters,” Terry said.


“Mikey is. Danny sorta.”


We gonna see Dan when we get to SA?


“Nah, Brian, he’s- it’s like north and south. He’s a pussy, anyway. So whatever. He’s- I mean, we get to Del Perro for the meet and then it’ll have been, like, couple week journey or less or more. I don’t know. I don’t wanna.


“Why not?”


Johnny shrugged. “Don’t know. Just don’t.”


And,” Terry went, “if we hit San Fierro in Lost patches we’ll get swamped by half the deadbeats in the state.”


Johnny went back for the chicken, “Yeah, that too, sure.


Picked it up.


Don’t know.


Winnie was grateful for the chicken. Patient motherf*cker he is.



Wind was ripping through Johnny’s clothes.


They were off to Del Perro.


Annual meet-up of biker guys who swamped the avenues and rode upways and downways. Tens of thousands. That kind of meetup. Where you got leathers near the pier sign takin’ pictures and honking horns and the beer and the t-shirts and the patches.


Johnny’d always wanted to go. Winnie went twice. Brian thought it’d be fun. Terry came too.


Billy would’ve come. Billy got sanctioned as the charter president and was still mopping up the legalese after what happened last year. Harper woulda’, but Harper was picking up slack for Terry while he was out of town. The Fitz had his parole officer whining saying he weren’t gonna let that fly, so he had to bow out.


So there were four.


The four were on I-78.


Wind was ripping through Johnny’s clothes. Through his jacket, through his cut. Wind was ripping and the air was restless and the open road beckoned and f*ck if he weren’t one to heed that call.


They were just outta Alderney, crossed the Delaware into Pennsylvania: unkempt grass and billboards and potholed highway and rurality. Trees by the dozen and fresh air, cow sh*t air or landfill air in between, but it sure as hell weren’t city air.


It weren’t rotting garbage bags and piss-stench. Eyes were clear. It was air.


They’d slowed up near Bethlehem.


Mini-mart gas station place. Terroil. Local convenience chain. 


Four riders pulled in.


Winnie led the pack because Winnie was Vice President. So Winnie had the eyes on the prize. Winnie got up and got off his big f*cking chopper rigged up with boxes and bags - so much sh*t you couldn’t understand how it stood on its own.


Choppers got gassed up and Winnie headed inside.


Johnny trailed Terry and Brian and followed the guys around to a bathroom outside the store; sick truckstore bathroom sh*t that smelled awful and felt awful. Brian pulled out the pipe. Pulled out the baggie from out the jacket sleeve.


Johnny felt dirty.


Johnny was dirty.


Johnny was dealing with the flies and the dim light. An ungodly amount of flies - flies attracted to the shine and the dirt on the mirrors and the stench from the stalls.


Flies landed. Johnny slapped. Flies landed. Johnny slapped. Stench burned the nostrils and fumed brown and Johnny looked at Brian pulling the pipe and went “I’m good.


Terry went “Huh?”


Johnny went “Yeah.


Brian went “A’ight.




“Yeah, Johnny, yeah.”


Smells like f*cking sh*t.


“And that put you off?”




Johnny left.


Door pushed open. Heard laughing.


Brushed it off.


What was outside?


Outside was Pennsylvania nothing. Mowed grass mowed in that way where the lines dig deep and change color like stripes. Green, light green, green, light green. Outside was passing cars and a strip mall and a wall of trees behind a billboard for Mollis and a big tall highway wall like a border.


Chain link fence. Cracked asphalt parking lot. Empty propane canisters. Alderney with more grass. Alderney with better smell.


Maybe not. Smelled like gas.


Started walking toward the bikes and had a thought and turned around and went into the mini-mart and heard the ding-dong door and searched for Winnie.


Found Winnie.


Passed by Mystaspot bottles and condiments and came to Winnie by the freezer section with a six pack under bear arm and the other stroking the beard of his dropping down basically to the chest and a smirk that came on.


Silence a moment.


Winnie, “You tweakin’?”


Johnny, “No.”


“That sh*t rots you.”


Johnny shrugged.


“We all party though, huh?”


Johnny smiled. “That's the point.”


“Is it?”


“Partying. Road. This.”


Winnie looked over, “This?


“Brothers, man.”


Nodded, “Good.” Closed the fridge door leaking cool air and nodded again, “That’s it.


Six pack was yellow AM Beer sh*t. Backed off and let Johnny pick a second and saw Johnny pull a Normandy 40 ounce out and stop when Winnie gave him sneak-look.




Winnie pointed with the free hand, “How you carryin’ that?”


Can I put that sh*t in your cooler?


Winnie shook his head.


“Why not?”


Classifiato, dude.


Johnny lifted brows and put the bottle back and pulled a bottle of rum out instead. Ragga Rum dark sh*t with the cork in the top and Winnie nodded for the inspired choice and moved on.


Johnny grabbed some gum and a couple Redwoods at the register.


Dork attendant scanned ‘em.


Big men in leathers and pins looked him over.


Minimum-wager looked up.


Saw ‘em looking.


Eyes darted back to the produce. Winnie just laughed. John smiled. Scared little f*cker kept scanning.


They paid their way.


Halfway out the store with the bags and Johnny was thinking about how he’d carry the sh*t when Winnie stopped him with a big outstretched meaty f*cking arm and a sideways smile. Winnie was a big f*cker: 6’3, wide, smiling pocked face marked with age.


Party. Road. Brothers.


Johnny blinked.


Winnie again, “Yeah?”


“Yeah,” Johnny said.


Winnie chewed lip. “That ain’t right.


Johnny blinked again. “Okay?”


“What is it?”


“I don’t know, Horse.” Thought a second more, “I don’t.


Road. Brothers. That’s right. You always got road and you always got brothers.”


“‘Kay, Horse.”


But this ain’t about a party.


Johnny kept looking. “Yeah.”


Parties end, Johnny. Parties end.” Winnie lifted up his arm and bit the fingernail and kept looking and said again, “Parties end.


Johnny nodded. Nodded slow.




“Good,” Johnny said.


You gotta know when the party is over. And when it ends, it ends. If the party takes you, that’s it. You’re gone. But you don’t: you still got road, you still got brothers.”


Johnny nodded.


Winnie the Horse turned and led him out the store.





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slimeball supreme



Coffee and Pilsner got passed around.


Truck stop by the highway meshed in swamp-muck and cattail grass. Dark trees. Something septic about the mud and the big building down the road Johnny couldn't figure any purpose for. Semi-rigs passing and stopping and going frequent-like.


Coffee was truck-stop coffee. Black like the mud. Tongue-sour. Winnie drinking beer in the morning. Johnny not up for it.


Winnie went on talking, storytelling, legend-weaving: “Was we up near Boise and we was headed where-was. Just making a game out it. Weren't as serious back then.”


“Serious?” Terry asked.


“There's this business sh*t to everything now. When we’s went up Yankton for the thing there everything was kiosk-sh*t. Tourist sh*t. And this was in the Eighties, even. Eighties was rough and f*cking rugged and we still had that sh*t and now you go to a meet and it's 99% 99-percenter. What the f*ck, right?


Winnie said ‘f*ck’ like ‘fug’. Brian chuckled, sipped brew, “Billy ain't with that sh*t, though.


Winnie, “Ain't seen enough of Billy with the handles to know that.”


I was here before he got his patch, man.” Brian sniffed, “I'm just saying.”


“I know the kid.”






“f*ck he a kid.”


We’re all rotting, Brian.” Winnie all phlegmy, “Good times was old and y’all are kids the same. Billy’s 30’s. Tito picked up the mantle at forty-something. Half you the age a’ what we woulda’ done prospects for a while back.”


Brian sticking lips out. “Maybe.”


“Not maybe. Definitely. Frogskins Kurtz. Roman Lou. Tito. Billy. Of all the fellas who helmed the ship, who’s the one with the shortest beard and the ripest mind?


“You speakin’ all poetic now,” Terry went.


I’m speakin’ sense. Kid’s clever. Wild and clever. Tito too. Always liked Teets for that. When we was in Boise I remember it was the four’s of us. There was more and the fellas kicked and joined and dipped all-the-same but I knew ‘em the closest.


Johnny asked, “Was this before or after you all went to San An?”


Don’t matter. We zigged.”


“Horsie zigged and horsie zagged,” Brian sang.


Little ways outta Boise on I-84. That’s all patchwork country. Wheatyworks and the like. Cropfields and corn circles or whatja’ got. This dive we stopped out with a couple brothers for some ruckin’ and that. These husked-out fellas all inside-like and the rattlesnake boots and sh*t like that, cowboy sh*t, f*ckin’ wild west sh*t. Little fellas. There’s something about that.


“‘Bout what?” Johnny went.


“We ain’t halfway out the east-board, yeah. And it’s still all these familiarities. Y’know?”




“And there’s a point where it’s all the same but the sh*t’s all different. I mean, you know, all looks the f*ckin’ same out the f*ckin’ highway on the road with the wind’n all. But’ja slow a moment and it’s all yellow. Here it’s f*ckin’- uh… green. Murk. Never gets dry-hot, always humid.”


Johnny got it. Brian just went “So?


Winnie changed the subject like it was nothing - “Bar had these roughskin motherf*ckers in blue-jeans cheaped out. We’re halfway black and deep colors and these hickf*ck motherf*ckers are all chewin’ cud and lookin’ funny and Kurtzy heads to the pool table on the immediate. Goes, f*ckin’ hollers ‘Y’all ain’t-the-f*ck readin’ types, right?!’. f*ckin’ echoes.


Johnny chuckled. Could see Terry was barely following, “What did Frogskins read?”


Nothin’,” Winnie went. “Training manuals and the pamphlets and when we’s was up in San Fierro-... nothin’, y’know. The Bible. They’re lookin’ at one of the guys we got with us, this little skinny f*cker we picked up Midwestern, he’s Mexican and he’s got skin that’s dark as f*ck.”


“You’re Puerto Rican, right Brian?”


Brian looked at Terry kinda skewed, “Does that matter, man?


“Your moms, right?”


“Nah, it don’t matter.”


“Don’t matter,” Winnie said. “We called him Mex. They look at Mex funny and Frogskins goes ‘What, you ain’t f*ckin’ read before?’ Little short hick comes off the counter and asks where we’re from, Frogskins pulls the classic. ‘We ain’t from nowhere, brother. We’re the Lost.’ Slick as you-know. Hick don’t take that well and asks if us’n the spic can split. And Kurtz tells ‘em to apologize.”


Got the fellas laughing. Johnny said “What?!


I’m dead. Told him to say sorry.”




“Kurtzy was intellectualic like that. Hick says no. Kurtz chuckles, goes to say something, stops himself mid-sentence to f*ckin’ POW- right with a f*cking headbutt to the guy and stomps him the f*ck out with a f*cking stool.”


Reaction: mutually agreed, the hick got was coming. Voiced over laughter and drink-clicking.


Drink clicking petered out.


Winnie sighed.


It’s good times. I’ll f*cking miss that f*cking cocksucker. I miss Tito. Miss Lou and Mick and the whole--”




Winnie looked at Johnny.


Everyone looked back.






“We had--” Winnie got taken back, Vice President getting chided by his men. Men stopped and stared and repeated.


Repeated “No.”


“Mickey’s dead,” Johnny said. “Mickey we don’t talk about.”


Got a sniff.


Brian, “f*cking piece of sh*t.


“We had good times,” Winnie said.


Johnny bore eyes into Winnie, “When he did what he did he set the memories alight. He f*ckin’ sh*t on ‘em. That’s it. He ain’t a brother to nobody.”


And that was that.


That was that.





Their pitstop in Harrisburg was an old friend of Winnie’s. Rank part of town: a couple blocks away from a baseball field and a couple few more from a cemetery. Kinda dour. Crumbling.


Bikes rumbled in the night when they passed the church. Headlights screaming out onto dark roads and the blinds closing past the little houses and the SUVs parked out. Church had flags bare and a veteran’s thing going.


Terry made a joke about it to Brian; one Johnny didn’t hear.


Winnie put a hand when they hit the spot. Pulled to the curb.


It was sketch.


Grass growing through the cracks in the cement by a unit townhouse with red brick and chipping paint. Across the street - vacant lot, demolished, Primo with only two wheels on the road and a couple fellas by a garage.


Winnie kicked the stand and got off and signaled. Shouted something over the bike-growls at another guy - big white fella in a stained wifebeater. Clean-shaven, paunchy, cracked yellow teeth Johnny got a look at reflecting the headlight.


Johnny got off to see Winnie the Horse hugging the guy. Extending a hand for Brian to shake, moving onto Johnny: “Hans Conzelmann,” Win said.


Johnny shook. “Pleasure.


Hans had two leather fingerlesses on and nails stained black by car-blood.


Winnie joked, “Weather’s peach weather. Peach weather for the f*ckin’ peaches. Like Georgia. Cottonmouth-f*ckin’-you-know peaches, yeah?”


The Lost laughed along though it weren’t very funny and weren’t much a joke neither. Followed Hans. Hans laughed - Hans had a wet voice, phlegm-stained, choky. Weren’t talking much sense and got Johnny looking back while he followed the guy.


Winnie was unstrapping the cooler on his bike. “You remember Georgie, Hans?


Hans chuckled, “Yessir.”


Garage was stripping some T-body sedan down to the skeleton. Another guy near the back in coveralls with a rat face and ginger hair and scrap-thin facial scruff plugging one nostril and blowing snot onto the floor. Gave a look but didn't speak.


Office that smelt like rotwood.


Empty bottle of whiskey and a Sing-Song Sally Salmon. Hans chirped, “You seen this?


“Talking fish,” Johnny said. “Sure, dude.”


Three men stood in the shadow of the doorway as the big man walked up, pressed the big red button, and let the fish sing.


I want to know, won’t you tell me

I love to stay


Fish turned its head.


Take me to the river

Drop me in the water


Hans was beaming with crooked teeth. “My nephew got it.”


Just blank faces. Terry kinda chuckled. Brian leaning against wall, eye cocked.


Winnie came with the box.


Take me to the river

Put me in the water


Winnie laughed. “The trout thing.


“Funny?” went Hans.


“Friend a’ mine got one wid’ the YMCA song, you know. Sure.”


That’s nice.


“I don’t got no office or nothin’.”


Hans nodded.


Winnie plonked the cooler on the desk.


Lifted lid.




Johnny came out the doorway to get a side view, view of mysterious box, untouchable box now touched: road sh*t, beer, chicken strips still frozen. Squinted, thought, realized when Winnie pulled the honeys out to show.


Two .45s. Knockoff Studs.




“What, John?”


John kinda blew out the nose - got a “Huh?” from Brian who peeked over but didn’t get a look on the immediate. Got it when Winnie placed the gat on the wood-top to show. Got Hans rubbing hands, picking the thing up, checking the works. “This clean?


“You got that thing on, I came through, I know a fella--”


Horse, what the f*ck?




Said this weren’t no business trip, no business--


“You see the f*cking title?”




“Don’t you f*ckin’ talk to VP like that, motherf*cker. Mister f*ckin’ Treasury.


Staring off.


Y’all good?” Hans went.


Johnny cut, “We needa’ talk outside.


Winnie, “No--”


Brian, “I think we f*ckin’ do.


Got Hans putting two hands up - “Okay.


Winnie weren’t okay.


Winnie broke the quiet front and stormed out first scowling and muttering and clenching and unclenching his tattooed hands - knuckles going white, knuckles reading L.O.S.T. on the left and D.O.N.T. on the right. Breathing like an angry bull. Air weren’t cold but it was frosting out at the breathing and Winnie hit the pavement and half-shouted “What the f*ck is y’all f*ckin’ problem?


Johnny got out and had the lamplight beaming off his dome. “You f*ckin’ dragged us off the route to goddamn Harrisburg for a f*cking gun deal?


“What’s it matter?”


And you ain’t told us, Horsie?


“Yeah, I ain’t f*ckin’ told you.”


Brian now out, “Where’s the loyalty?


Johnny, “You disclose club business. We do something, you tell us. This ain’t a business trip. We make a little f*cking extra money, sure--”


Who is your goddamn superior?” Winnie was roaring.


Brian f*cked off, “Politics, man, god--


“These are the rules,” Johnny said. “We keep it legit--”


Legit can f*ck a donkey, John.


John had his eyes drilling holes into Winnie. Brian was looking off, Terry the kid looking at. Terry piped up, “We gotta think about the taxes.”


Winnie, “The taxes?!


“Tax the boss cuts, tax the club cuts--”


You barely got your f*cking patch yet you little hillbilly motherf*cker!


Terry stormed up, got Johnny pushing a palm to his chest, “Goddamn f*ck you say?!


“Heard me.”


Johnny, “Win--


This ain’t club business,” Win went, “it’s my f*cking business. It’s a goddamn sideline. We’d be through town either way, highway runs through here; Hans used to live in Dukes before he relo-move-a-cated, you pansy little kike.”


John stopped.


Never seen Winnie so mad before, but stopped.


John looked him even closer.


You don’t say that to me,” he said.


Winnie sucked cheek in.


You don’t,” John repeated.


The old man cooled down. Face wasn’t red anymore, just normal Winnie-ass ruddy-red, not rage red. “I’m sorry,” he said.


Damn sight,” John went.


Winnie breathed.


You dragged us along to sell guns and you ain’t even told us you had them. We got pulled over, we’d been f*cked. Were you gonna spring it on us now? Or’d you think we wouldn’t figure out why we pulled up here?


Winnie didn’t speak.


“You’re cutting us in,” Brian said.


“I know,” Winnie replied.


“You got anything else planned for the road?”


No,” Winnie said. “Nothing planned.”






“On this?” Johnny asked.


On the way. I called. Whatever. Hell you care for?”


‘Cause where’s the f*cking trust, man?


Win stopped.




Just didn’t,” he said.


“Just didn’t?”


“Just didn’t.”


Johnny breathed. “Okay. This a thing for- I mean- c’mon. C’mon.”


“We got some extra steps,” Win said. “Some fellas down the way, Allison Hill, block-boy types. Wanted the pieces. You can stick, but I gotta go.”




“Just do.”


Terry just laughed.


Win looked at him. Glared.


I’ll come,” Brian said.


John just said “Whatever.” That meant ‘me too’.


Club was making appearances.





The bikes stopped at an intersection of bypaths: Daisy Street, Ella Alley. Road barely wide enough for the five.


Five riders. Hans had his own chopper, big chopper with the big handlebars and the big exhaust pipe like open jaws. Wheels grinded gravel and broken pavement and rusted out cars lying ragged in these mossy lots. Some guys up a dirty dirt pathway with a pickup and a parasail and plastic chairs drinking something out a cooler in the night.


Winnie had his own back on his green Western.


Passed these townhouses. These rotting, ugly brownstones: some populated, the cleaner ones, some not-so with boards covering windows and doors and graffiti and broken off AC units lying on the porches.




At the half-end of the street - the last house on the street before a giant pile of crushed rock and concrete and a crane reading HVY - were one of the more well-kept homes. There was a sports bike outside. Dinka Single T wrapped top-to-bottom in Atomic livery, yellow rims, blue-and-yellow everything else. A bike helmet hanging from the porch column.


There was a teddy bear on the first step. Black man on the porch in black Heat sandals and black jean shorts and a black tank top and tattoos up the arms. Looked at ‘em funny.


Johnny thought he was the buyer until he looked a little further up the street and saw a bunch of guys in baggy t-shirts hanging out near a stop sign. Couldn’t discern the skin, just the white clothes and the white ball caps and the smoke from cigarettes or joints or both.


Hans kicked the stand and got Winnie to sift through the box. Pointed to Terry - beckoned with two fingers.


Johnny and Brian stayed behind.


Overheard. “He ay-pologized,” Terry said. “Some sh*t.”


You come along,” was the gruff response Hans gave.


Win rubbed sleep out his eyes and nodded a nod that said ‘stay’. Left the two in his stead. The man trudged on with his hands grasping paper bag, gat bag, not looking back.


Man in the black shorts stared.


Felt the air burn flesh.


Brian pulled Debonaires out his pocket and popped a cig-stick and fumbled for a lighter and scratched his chin and looked out to the fellas by the sign. Heard murmurs, heard talking, heard something they weren’t privy to.


Johnny clasped his hands on the belt buckle.


Kinda stumbled to the porch.


Looked up the man in black, looked down to the Dinka bike.


Nice ride,” John said. Didn’t really think so.


Man on the porch had nothing to smoke. Just looked at the skinhead and looked at the bikes.


“You want one?” John went.


Porchman squinted under lamplight. “Mhm?


“You want a smoke.”


Brian looked over through four-eyes with the ciggie balanced on the lip and brows in a scowl. Breathed out his nose like a bull.


Porchman said “No.” Porchman paused, “I don’t smoke.


“I don’t ride imports,” John said.


Porchman looked.


“That girl hard with the maintenance? Heard you need to fix the f*ckers up all the time and they need these fuels and all that kinda sh*t I ain’t for. You ride American?”


Porchman, “What?”


“You rode a Western before?”


Porchman didn’t speak.


Because, y’know, a crotch rocket leaf blower is one thing, you stick it out in the colors. But machines purr, you know.”


“It purrs.”


Hey, man, it’s preferences.”


Porchman didn’t speak.


“It’s MeTV sh*t. I get it.”


“Get what?”


“It’s fast.”


Bikes are fast,” said Porchman.




Porchman squinted.


Johnny stared.


You out here for drugs?” Porchman said.




“You guys drug dealers?”


Johnny’s turn for silence.


Those guys down the street- y’all out here for what reason? It ain’t window-bike-f*ckin’-shopping.”


“We’re in the neighborhood,” Johnny went.




John lost the warmth in the eyes. Weren’t looking friendly, just looking. “The bike give you trouble, man?”


Porchman didn’t reply.




That was that.


Johnny turned his back and asked for a smoke.


Lit up after a sec and looked over the shoulder at the porch. Fella in the shorts had gone inside. Brought the teddy bear with him. Weren’t his business. Porchman’s business weren’t what Johnny was doing, and Johnny’s business weren’t what Porchman was doing.


Exhaled. “I give hot-plastic motherf*ckers the time of day,” John said.


“Jig neighborhood.”


What, Brian?


“We’re whitey in a bad neighborhood. They don’t trust that.”


You think Billy gonna like the talk like that? Clay? Fitz was here--”


Whateva’.” Brian pulled in the smoke, “f*ckin’ drag us ova--” wheezing. Coughed a little ‘cause he talked with the smoke in his throat, coughed more.


Johnny laughed, “Nice one.


“You think that’s funny.”


“I do.”


Winnie got me all f*cked up with this gun sh*t, man. Asshole.”


Johnny didn’t reply. Pursed his lips for the smoke-stick and pulled it out with two fingers around the tip: “Don’t call him an asshole.”


“Called you a kike.”


You call me Jew-sh*t, Brian.


“Yeah, bub,” Brian giggled. “I’m the only brother who can.


Exhaled, “Winnie’s been-” Johnny stopped himself. Thought. Watched the deal: deal in conclusion with hands and daps and nothing-shouting with the words obscured. “Sentimental,” he finished.




“The memories and the spec-a-f*cking-whatevers, Bry.”


“Yeah. You know. It’s a good ride. Long ride. You got the bikes, the brothers,” snorted, “Nostalgia. I don’t know, man. He’s old.”


Johnny nodded.


Who knew?


Winnie and Terry walked back to the bikes while big bad Hans stayed to chat. Winnie smiling; Winnie with a wad of cash replacing the bag. Terry behind with hands in leather jacket pockets.


Wordless until he got within smelling distance.


We got spending money,” Win said.


“Okay,” John nodded.


Now’s I make it up to ya’ for the whole thing here.


Damn well better.





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It's nice but I find the presence of way too many filler sentences really distracting.

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slimeball supreme
On 6/23/2020 at 8:31 PM, DownInTheHole said:

way too many filler sentences really distracting.

if you mean stuff johnny's mumbling in c1, you should. johnny after the events of tlad is a different man than he was at the start: he's broken, working a straight job for the first time in years, scrounging a living 'eating dirt for money'. the chapters post-2008 are about him rediscovering himself, if only for a moment, and right now he's driving through a dark tunnel with the headlights off

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Another great piece from the makers of Red Triangle. I love the fact that someone decided to re-discover the Johnny era storyline with a concept writing. I feel like Rockstar sentenced him to unjust feat. It's really a shame tbh. It would nice to see how to he goes from a straight working job to a total meth-head by the time GTA V's storyline unfolds. Keep it coming guys. :^: 

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Woke to the sound of the fan rattling again. 


Eyes opened all blurred. 






Johnny looked up at popcorn ceiling and popcorn ceiling looked back. Ceiling fan rattled, jangled, spun a bit too rough off its axis with the pull chain swinging wild. He’d tried to fix it, used the Philips head on the light fixture and tightened - done it at least a half dozen times.


F*cking thing always broke again a day later. Least it woke you up gentler than an alarm.


Stayed in bed a while, spread-eagled naked in the middle of two twin mattresses with the springs that squeaked when you planted your ass too firm sitting down. Sheets got thrown on the floor overnight. Kept happening. Last night he just left them there.


Eventually sat up. Checked the bedside clock alongside the beer cans and loose ciggies and a book never been touched with ash all over the cover, saw half past eight. Sleep schedule’d been f*cked for a while - didn’t know whether he went out at midnight or four hours past.


Got up.


Johnny trudged past plastic blind-covered windows with the pieces missing and picked up underwear on the way to the living room and put them on as he saw he’d left the old CRT on overnight and the f*ckin’ signal’d gone at one point and now the No Signal was burnt into the screen in the top left.


F*ckin’ A.


Trailer had the living room and kitchen in one, just separated by the linoleum. Sink was full of dishes, sink’d always been full of dishes, but John went for a coffee mug in the cupboard and didn’t find sh*t and said f*ck it and now became the time. Squeezed the soap bottle over pots and pans and plates caked with food-sh*t - hardened mustard and solid fries and now-sogged hotdog buns.


Miracle there weren’t no bugs pattering around.


Let the water run.


Had a feeling.


John pulled the cord for the blind above the sink. Lifted.






Window looked into the gravel driveway running alongside - usually empty ‘cept for the odd visit ‘cause the rental contract said you couldn’t park on the street at all. Too many visitors? Tough sh*t.


Was a Rhapsody with its rear still sticking out into the main drive.


Was a girl all too familiar with the black hair in the sun and the low-cut top sitting in a plastic chair on the grass.




John turned the water off and put palms flat on the counter. She didn’t see him, couldn’t see him, was busy nibbling at fingernails and looking up at the sky. Nerves.


How long’d she been there?


John sighed. Went “Goddamn it.”


He breathed and moved faster than his heart wanted him to and went back to the bedroom and grabbed a T-shirt and jeans off a laundry pile didn’t know if it was clean or not. Probably not. Didn’t matter.


Went back to the living room - walked slow now, slow into the entrance next to the coat rack, took a breath.




Opened and stayed in the doorway.


Didn’t take long before she noticed - rushed from the chair and took a couple steps ‘fore tempering it. “John.”


Let her come closer. Careful steps. Gentler now: “Whaddaya want, Ash?”


Stopped short. “What’s up, Johnny?”


Voice was gravel. John saw half a dozen smokes on the ground around the chair.




“Just let me in, will you? Just- I just wanna talk, John. Can we talk?”


Looked down the street - car slow-rolled, old lady across the street always tending her sh*t tended her sh*t. Tulips.


“We can talk, Ash.”


Spoke quick: “Inside?”


“If you want.”


Didn’t wait. John went back in, turned the TV off from behind on the way. She followed. Knew she’d follow.


She closed the door behind her. “John.”


He was standing behind the couch, hands on the back. Spoke with words more measured now, on the level. “How’d you find me, Ashley?”


Chewed nothing. “Asked Angus.


Didn’t mean to laugh. “Angus? You still got his number?”


Chewed some more. “I mean, sugar, Angus don’t--”


Still gentle turned firm, “Ain’t got no right calling me that.”


“John, it’s just--”


“Angus. I know. Always liked you, Ash, didn’t matter how f*cked up things got.”


“Yeah. Yeah. Things got pretty bad, huh?”


John swallowed. Wasn’t the right thing to say. Redirected, “You wanna drink or something?”






Went to the dishes.


Angus is fine,” John said. Weren't a question.


“He’s got this thing--”




I’d a thought- I dunno.”


“Yeah,” Johnny said.


“And things with you--”


Ground the faucet on. Got it spraying hard and then twisted tap to get the water trickling. Didn't reply.


Ash jittery. “And Terry. He's got this Broker… yeah. And you know what he does. With the chapter. And everything.”


City’s dead,” John said.


My mom’s dead,” Ashley said.


Took a second to sink in.


Johnny standing in the kitchenette with a newly-rinsed mug with the water beading down the sides.




“My mom,” Ashley went, rubbed neck, “She, uh- she’s dead, Johnny. She died.”


John put the mug down.


Sighed. “When?”


“Two weeks- almost three. Ten days, I think. You wouldn’t guess but you lose count. It was, uh- they said it was an aneurysm. You know. Just like that.”


Picked the mug back up, flipped tap back on, let it fill slow-like with the cold building.


Built up.


Walked over to her.


Handed it over: “Just like that.”


She wrapped her fingers with the gnawed-down nails and the black polish chipped around the mug. “That’s what they said.”


“I’m sorry, Ash.”


“I know, Johnny boy.”


Somewhere a clock ticked.


Thought it was broken.


Ashley drank. Johnny sat and she followed suit, sat across on the rickety papasan next to the TV.


“Never really saw your parents, huh?”


She shrugged. “Not much- well. There was the one time. When they came down from upstate, you remember? And they wanted to take us into Algonquin--”


Wanted me to drive the car. Yeah, I remember.”


“And you didn’t wanna.”


“No, I didn’t.”


“But you did.”




Sipped water.



What’s the play, Ash?


Didn’t say it. Let the smile die down and the silence ebb, cicada drone started outside through windows never kept the noise out too well.


Thirty seconds passed. More. 


She wasn’t looking anymore - looked into the mug, at the hardwood, her knee - but not at Johnny.


“I, uh,” he started and regretted, “-you know the story with my parents, Ashley. They wasn’t--  Donna was a sweet woman.”


“Yeah,” she went. “We never talked that much, y’know? Every couple of weeks. Always was like that - just that it was okay to go without talking too much. ‘Cause I knew she was there anyway.”


Was running out of things to say so John said it again: “I’m sorry, Ashley. I am.


“I know, sugar.”


Let it slide.


She got up. Put the cup down on the coffee table.


Came around and sat down right beside. 


Girl reeked of cigarettes but nothing else. The worst times had it where she’d go days without a shower too far gone into that f*ckin’ hole ice bath teeth-clenched nails-into-palms mindset, too far into the binge to think let alone do.


Now girl just reeked of cigarettes.


“Whose car you got?”


Just came out.




Repeated. “Cage out there in my driveway. You don’t drive.”


“I drive.”


“I drove.”


It’s been a while,” she said.


“Maybe,” Johnny said.


“I been good. Really, I been good. I got work. For a while. I’m looking again. I got- I mean- way we all was--”


“A while?”


“A couple things. And I did odd stuff. You know. I’m okay. I was okay. I am okay. And it’s not great work because it ain’t, but- but I mean, what is? I, you know-...”


Trailed off because Johnny weren’t saying nothing. Just looking blankly at her. Hands on tabletop and eyes emptied.


Ashley smiled again. “John.


John cold. “Lady.”


Smiled a little less.


John again, not stern: blunt, level, “So whose car is it?


Ash nodded. “My friend Marianne.”




“I met her at the clinic, John.”


“She know it's gone?”


“She--” Ash stopped herself, closed her eyes, breathed a little harder, “Yes she knows. I asked.




Why you even ask that, baby?


“Ain't the first time you borrowed nothin’, and you ain't one for asking permission.”


“Well, I asked.”




“How’m I gettin’ out here without a car, anyway?”


“License still revoked?”


Didn't even flinch, “Sure.”


“So what the f*ck?” John went.


You carry yours on you all the time? You wear a helmet? You worried for my safety.”


It ain’t that. It’s stupid. Just stupid.”


Cooed, “I ain’t got you to drive me.


“Been that way for a while, Ash. Good long while.”


“I miss it, Johnny. I miss it. Arms around you, tie my hair up, wind ripping through--”


“Don’t need you to paint me a picture.”


“You like it?”


Like what?


“Like the picture. You like the painting?”


Johnny screwface, confusatory: “Treat me like a f*cking idiot, Ash. You act a f*cking idiot, Ash.”


Still smiling.


The message never got through.


John shook head a little, thought. Spoke, “What you want?”


Ash did her smile. “You.”






How long’s it been?


Ash didn’t speak.


Again, “How long I ain’t spoke to you?”


Ash looked. Looked warm. Let her eyes wet.


Years. Okay? You- what you want with me? What you want?”




Ashley locked eyes. Stopped the smiling. Didn’t stop the warmth - just the smiling.


“Terry and Clay are heading out,” she said.


John hesitated. “Where?”




John spaced out. “Yeah?


“Hook up with the chapter in Couira. Maybe head out a little more. Delisle City, maybe. Colorado. I don’t know.”


Johnny was looking out but weren’t looking anywhere. “Mhm.


“You going?”


“No,” John said. “I weren’t told.”


Ash all quiet, “Okay.


“I call them,” John sighed. “They don’t call me.


“Not how I remember it.”


“What’s that?”


“Don’t gotta hold back with me anymore, sugar, that’s all.”


“Ashley, what the f*ck are you talking about?”


Scratched her neck, was getting jumpy, “It’s just- I got family out there John, alright? I got some people out there. Good people.”








“And- and Johnny, I got nothing here no more, y’know? I just- it’s memories. Bad ones. And out there, it’s my mom’s cousin, my aunt- out west. It’s a fresh start, right?”


Mocking. “Fresh start?”


“Yeah, a fresh start. What I still got here, Johnny boy? I’m lost.”


“And you f*ckin’ come to me?”


Didn’t say it with the scorn he meant.


“Whaddya mean?”


“You come to me. What’s the f*ck to stop you from takin’ Marianne’s beater, Marianne’s cage out there right onto the interstate ‘til you can’t even look back? Go to Couira, go to Omaha you feel the fancy. But you don’t need me.


She made eyes.


The eyes.


“Yeah I do, Johnny.”


“No. You don’t.”




“And don’t John me, Ash. This is the same-f*ckin’-old, times get tough and you come on runnin’. You ain’t got the right to play me anymore. Not any ways.”


“I never played you. Don’t say that.


“Played with my emotions, Ash. Played me for a fiddle. When I loved you. When I didn’t no more. Give me a f*ckin’ break, sweetheart.”


There it was.


Eyes lit up.


Johnny preempted, “Don’t say nothing funny.”


She didn’t say nothing funny. “Don’t tell me you don’t miss this, Johnny boy.”


“Don’t I- what?”


“Miss this. This is old times. You was always tough on words but it was just ‘cause you cared. I always knew that. You still care.”


Johnny stood - didn’t know where to go.


Just looked at her. “This is too f*cked up, Ashley.”


“What? Don’t say it ain’t so. We can go west, sweet, you and me and whoever. It don’t matter. You’re my ticket out, Johnny. Always were.” Stood up alongside. “Just say yes.”


Said “No.”


“It’s one last thing, Johnny. You and me and the road and nothing else. I just need to get out of here, I need-- we get out west, to Couira, then you don’t gotta worry about me no more, alright? One last party.”


“Don’t call it a f*ckin’ party.”


She was out of lines. “Just let me tag along, Johnny. And then I’m out of your hair forever, that’s what you want.


“You don’t--”


John buzzed. Lightheaded - palms rubbed eyelids and five seconds passed or a minute and past his hands Ash picked up the coffee mug and brought it up and when he opened his eyes she was looking right back.


John went “f*ck it.”




F*ck it.


“F*ck it, Ashley.”


“What’s that--”


“F*ck it, Ashley.”


She let it sit and watched his eyes for what it meant, mug still on offer.


He took it.


“A lotta’ f*cking ghosts, lady.”


Walked for the sink and dropped the mug and put his elbows on the counter and let something hit. Ash watched. Ash silent, let the gears in Johnny’s head turn, Ash with a hand clutching an arm and the dust particles in the light.


“I ain’t gonna call my boss,” John said.


“Your boss.”


“My boss.”


Weird hearing you say that.


“I had a boss my whole life. I ain’t had a boss pro’lly once. Weren’t a good month.


“No,” Ash said. “No.”


“Might call him on the road,” went on. “I’m seeing what’s what.”


Could feel Ash smiling with his back turned.


I gotta get my stuff,” John said.


Smiling more. “You got--”




Ash walked out the door.


Johnny didn’t watch her do it. Just listened.


Got off the counter.


Watched the trailer glide past like a treadmill on the way and had it all blur. Blur gray.


Knew what he was looking for.


Bedroom. Closet. Clothes. Toiletries. Toothbrush. Jacket.






Still had leathers.


Oh man, did he still have leathers.


Closet had two. Rocker and no rocker. Patch and no patch. Leather vest with no buttons and no names and no nothing he kept for the hell of it, ‘cause he liked it. Second jacket was memories.


Second jacket had the patch.


Lost MC. TLMC. I Rode Mine, Los Santos, 2004.


Turned it around.


The wings. T.L.M.C. Liberty. Vice President. Loyal.






Meant something.


Was a ghost he had to keep.


Had an armful of sh*t, not much sh*t, wouldn’t-last-a-day-sh*t, but all his cash was in his wallet and all that was here was sh*t. He’d pay upkeeps by mail. Something. Anything.


Goddamn it.


He was f*cking doing it.


Was Acter the original chapter? No. Maybe. f*ck it, it was the mother club after they moved it from the city or upstate or Pennsylvania. Seventies. Mother club - Acter club - died and moved Midwest. Mother club was in Illinois.




Walked out onto the porch and saw Ash by the car with the key and saw her turn and saw her blink and saw the thoughts in her head say f*ck it.


Marianne could get the car herself. She’d find out where it was.


Johnny didn’t care.


Trailer driveway had his baby under wraps. Tarp. Toolbox and maintenance sh*t, f*cking worker-bee sh*t, only rode it when he had to or when he felt the urge and always ‘round rinky-dink suburb.


He was doing it.


Pulled the tarp off.


His baby.


The only one in the world. 2032cc twin cam, 6 speed, stripped down motherf*cking pillow chopper baby. Blue and white.





Johnny rode with his girl on his back for the first time in years.


The girl.


Not his girl.


Didn’t know what to think.


He took the scenic route.


Scenic route was through Westbound County, through Alderney City, through Liberty.


Seeing it all.


Sordid. Rotten. Gone. Dead.


Did the math in his head, and he did it ‘cause he had to. Did the math with the Broker chapter taking the horns and the AOD sh*theads in Lower Easton with their cutesy f*cking townhouse f*cking security-cam goddamn documentary hell-house.


Went through the tunnel.


The Booth Tunnel. Went through the Booth Tunnel and the hell-construction and The Aqueduct with the tourists gawking on the renovated train-line onto Union Drive West. West River. Golden Pier. Meatpacking and Westminster and wow, had he been here.


Wow, had he been here.


Felt like he would never be here again.


Felt it was good.


Felt if he had to ride through this goddamn city, this piss-stench goddamn maze and these f*cking concrete highways and f*ck-off parks and f*ck-off nothing again…


It weren’t good for him, this town.


Bad juju.




Felt the arms around his waist and felt it weren’t right. Felt it shouldn’t be. Felt like an echo from a distant past, felt like an anachronism. He didn’t know the word, but that’s what it was. A nothing.


She nuzzled her head on him down the highway. Wasn’t driving ragged, wasn’t riding hard.


Wind in her hair.


Wind against him.


Up Union Drive West.


Up past Purgatory, past the West Side, past Varsity Heights and Holland and the overpasses and the onramps and memories. The f*cking bar those Angels used to hang with near the Tom Hickey. The f*ckin’ Northwood projects with the jap-bike cronies. All those f*cking guys.


South Bohan, over the Northwood Heights Bridge. Looped around for the belt-route hugging the borough with eyes on the Swingers Stadium and the construction works and Charge Island and those f*cking projects with the rec center where he went a couple dozen times.


Over the bridge they was building into Bohan Industrial. Charge Island. The Xero place.


Ash said something but Johnny didn’t hear.


Speak the f*ck up!” over the wind ripping.


Shouted this time, “Good, Johnny?


Yeah,” John went. “I’m good.


They was nearly out of Little Bay into Northern Gardens. Northern Gardens where Clay’d dug a space, or his brother had, or something. Something Ashley said and he half-recalled from a couple rides but had never been to. Clay had his own pad over the West River he kept clean and empty when it weren’t neck-deep in pussy.


Something to think about. Guy was always edging like that.


Rode past the co-ops into low-rise housing; rode past the low-rises into the little houses. Unit-housing, brick housing, hedge bush housing, pebbled driveway housing. Rode off an avenue, onto another avenue, onto a road.


The road was newly paved and the pavement had weeds growing through the cracks.


Two bikes in a driveway of a two-family unit.


One was being tended to by a white fella kneeling down with a box opened and tools for fixing. Leather vest on; leather vest said Lost MC. White sleeveless. Wrap-around glasses ‘round the back of his head.


Johnny stopped the bike.


Up the steps to the front door were two plastic chairs: one occupied, table with a jug on it and two glasses. Occupied chair was a black guy in a knit cap and a green button up and this toothy f*cking grin John could make out from nearly halfway-across the street.


Ash got off first.


Johnny followed.


Terry by the bike turned and nodded.


You f*ckers don’t tell me sh*t.


“John,” said Terry.


“Two a’ you woulda’ went halfway to where - f*ckin’ Couira f*ckin’ City - leave me here for a bunch of sh*tty weekends.”


Clay got up - “Knew you’d come.”


“Who’s place is this?”




Orville. Clay’s brother. “How’s the niece?”


“Inside,” fella went. Fella started walking down the steps, “Lemonade, sh*t like that.”


“Yeah. Good.”


“Saying goodbye. Giving the f*cker the last couple bucks I owe him. Tellin’ her I’ll call or she can visit or that kinda’ sh*t.”


Johnny just stood on the mouth of the driveway while the man walked toward, tutted under breath - “How the hell’d you think I was coming?


“You got your ways,” Terry hollered from the way-back.


“Ain’t an answer.”


We weren’t gonna leave ‘less we were 100% sure you weren’t coming.” Clay up close now. A couple days without shaving, a couple days without much of anything. “Been crashing here. I get my state pension. Give a couple here and there to the kid. Won’t go until I have to and won’t stop paying ‘til I can’t.”


“Ever-f*ckin’-charitable, Clay.”


The girl was hugging Terry. Talking something John couldn't hear. “‘Byeah,” went Clay.




Johnny the funny motherf*cker.


Some silence a moment as the two near the garage chattered. John looked over. Felt Clay’s eyes on him. Was making a face like ‘yeah, I know.


Clay said “She’s on for this, right?


Johnny nodded.


“Thought you said she was a skank.”


“Somethin’ like that.”


“And you’re gonna be ass-to-c*nt for seven hundred miles.”


Johnny stuck tongue to tooth, “Somethin’ like that.


Clay chuckled. “Could never stay away.”


She couldn't. I can. She sticks.”


“You don't mind.”


She got family in Couira, too. Aunt or a second cousin or that kinda’ sh*t.”


And Clay went and chuckled again, and Clay pat Johnny on the shoulder, and Clay said “And we got brothers.


And Clay strode off to Ash and Terrence, and Clay said something, and Johnny weren’t listening. Stood there feeling stupid, stood there with hands on his hips and brow to the ground and f*ck.


He was leaving and he ain't even told the folks at the trailer park.


Screw it.


He’d taken everything of value with him.


Looked up to the balcony.


Twenty-something girl brought the lemonade jug inside. Snuck a glance. Niece. Glance lasted a second, two.




Screen door shut.


Went back to the bike to wait before the quartet kicked dust.





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  • 4 weeks later...
slimeball supreme



They were technically on the outskirts of Carlisle. Stopped by a diner off Route 11 but it weren’t for eating: just plotting. This red-roof little place shilling peach cobbler with a big parking lot lying down next to a big, big field of browning grass at knee height.


Truck rolled by and honked at something. Maybe them. Maybe these four bikes with the stands down and these four bodies on top of ‘em sharing a scrunched up paper map.


We go 81,” Win said. Tapped the big red-and-blue Interstate crest and followed the line with his finger down to Maryland, down to the border of the sheet. “My mind, we switch on I-40 into Nashville, make a day oudda’ it. Memphis on, Little Rock on, OKC on.”


“But we was headed up I-76. Then onto 70. We hit OKC either way to Sannie but--”


Johnny scoffed, “Sannie, Terrence?”




Who the f*ck calls San An ‘Sannie’?


“I heard it.”


“Heard it where?


Movies, John.”


Movies,” pfft. “You’re all movie-minded, friend.”


The point is,” Terry went gruff; like he was pulling the words away, “we’re gonna miss the meet if we spend a cuppa’ f*ckin’ weeks in Memphis or whatever.”


“Hell of a thing though,” Brian said. “Imagine?


“So why not?” Win folded map - they were near an offramp to 76 but wouldn’t be much effort rounding away to 81 - “I got business in--


Woah.” That was Johnny. “Business?


“Business, yeah.”




It’s club business.


“This ain’t a club run,” went John.


Who’s the f*ckin’ superior officer?


“You don’t break no f*ckin’ rules. We already have. Already done enough. We got enough cash.”


“Yeah?” went Winnie.


Yeah,” went Johnny.




Cold, hard stalemate.


We hit 76,” said John.


“I said otherwise--”


We take 76. Let’s do a f*ckin’ vote, Win.”


A vote. I’m VP--”


John got off the bike, got dramatic: “All in favor, heed this, all in goddamn favor of takin’ the bikes to Memphis, disregard previous f*ckin’ plans, say aye.”


Winnie said aye.


Brian thought. Almost did. Didn’t.


No one else did.


Johnny got back on the bike. “We take I-76 onto I-70 through Columbus. As planned. No goddamn rock and roll excursions.


Winnie was mute. Not even angry silence, just mind-blazing nothing. “Okay,” he said.


Was a quiet few minutes of nothing.


Winnie got off the bike because he forgot his smokes at the diner.



Brian wanted to tweak at the hotel. Terry too.


No time for relaxation. Just tina.


So they had a party with her that night.


You toke the pipe and you feel like a million bucks for a solid second. That second lasts half an hour. Just rush, just flight, just soaring as the blood courses through your veins and through your head and through everything.


Winnie didn’t smoke.


Johnny did. Johnny felt it. Johnny felt tina and tina felt Johnny and man, did it feel f*cking good.


Johnny argued about f*cking TV shows for four hours and then crashed and fell asleep.


That was it.


That was the high.


It f*cking rocked.


John woke up in the bed out the covers with his shirt off but his jeans on. Sprawled. Sweaty. Eyes caked. Felt the low. Felt this deep, ugly feeling in the eyes and the throat and the lungs and felt this love taken away.


Tina was good tonight. Last night.


Got up. Palms pressed against eyelids. Checked the room. Terry was on the other bed. Also sprawled. Mop top hair a f*cking mess. Clean shaven f*cking kid. Little boy was restless; restlessly moving and shifting like he were barely asleep.


Brian was in the corner cleaning the window. Fully clothed, thank god. Didn’t want to see that ugly f*cking back tattoo. Going hard on grime with a handkerchief he was wetting with spit and rubbing into the corners.


Johnny squinted to get the wet out his eyes. “You still high, Bri’?


Brian didn’t respond.






“You still high?”




“You gonna- f*ck, you gonna smoke before we hit bricks and kick f*ckin’ dust?”






“Window’s dirty.”


“Yeah,” Johnny said. “You do that.


It was maybe a little before dawn. Lilac light through the windows. Johnny shifted, searched the floor for a shirt with his ass still on the bed barely cognizant. Found it. Black-on-brown tee. Buckled his belt.




Stretched arms by bending down and getting palms parallel to knees and oof, f*ck. Felt the cartilage crack. Had his shirt tucked. Untucked. Weren’t intentional. Got a glimpse out the window.






Winnie was on the balcony with his arms crossed on the barrier just looking out. No smokes, no nothing. Just silently watching the parking lot and the gas station and the highway and the road and the trees. Legs kinda crossed with the bootstraps showing and the jeans whipping in the wind.


Johnny thought.


Dusted himself off and left.


Door number 6 open and shut and Johnny turned and saw Brian still scrubbing the f*cking window and spitting on the cloth and licking his fingers and rubbing and rubbing and rubbing and you had to admire the commitment.


Johnny cleared his throat.


Winnie didn’t reply.


Lilac light.


Johnny got a little closer, said “Alright, man.


Winnie all quiet, “John.


And John looked at Winnie. Tongued through the gaps in his teeth. Leaned down on the railing. Joined him in looking.


Lilac light.


I remember when we was finally patching in Brian,” Winnie said. “Before your time.”


“Was he always a fat f*ckin’ piece of work?”


Chuckled, “Somethin’ like that. sh*t. It was one of those national runs with the whole club. You know that sh*t. Acter’s the mother because Tito’s the boss because old Lou was the boss because of Frogskins Kurtz. Politics. But you know. Everything happens Upstate or Midwest these days.”


We gonna meet up with the other charters?


Winnie thought. “Maybe.”


“What’s the route again?”


Sniffed, “We went down 81 we coulda’ gone to Tennessee. Kentuck’.”


“Yeah, well we didn’t, Horse.”


We didn’t.


“And that’s fine.”


Win snapped, “Clubs up the assf*ck around here. I don’t know. You wanna talk to the guys in Indianapolis, you’re my f*ckin’ guest, but they’re on this f*ckin’ thing I heard because of f*ckin’... they was runnin’ some wire room in Lima.




Not in f*ckin’ Peru, John.


“I know.”


You know how this sh*t is with the regionals and the f*ckin’ management. I handle that sh*t. Billy’s s‘posed to. I’unno. Billy’s got sh*t on his plate. You f*ckin’-getcha’ with it. You know. And the Angels here.”


“It’s all a mess.”


“It ain’t. This ain’t club flags sh*t. Not these days. Ain’t the eighties. You saw Jim talking about the f*ckin’ what’s-it-f*ckin’-... f*ckin’ web pages. With the kid from upstate and Harper.”


Johnny thought a sec. “You mean Terry.




Disappointed “Brother--


“What?” Winnie was confused, adjusted himself.


“I mean, it ain’t--”


Clicked in his head, Winnie nearly said ‘oh’. He’s new. Gives me f*ckin’ rider dork vibes. Buts’a thought the same wid’ Sue. Rest him.”


Aw, that kid.


“Y’all f*ckin’ tweakin’ in there. Y’all girlfriends wid’ Tina. f*ckin’ put Sue to memory.”


Dirty Sue didn’t smoke,” John laughed, hit his forearm with his fist a beat, “He you-know’d and drank like it weren’t nothin’. Liked his nothing highs.”


I didn’t know the kid.


“Sure,” John said. “But I did. It’s funny.




“It’s funny because sh*t happens and it’s gone. Y’know? You do something f*cking stupid and you’re gone. And that’s it, man.”




“I ain’t spinning a yarn or nothin’ like that--”


No,” Winnie soothed. “No. No.”


“And Sue did what Sue did and that kinda’ sh*t happened and then it didn’t. Like that, dude. Just there. And then bzzt. I’m as old as he is. f*cker should be here. f*cker would.


“f*cker wouldn’t be tweakin’.”


He’d be lickin’ the f*ckin’ windows with Brian and shouting at sh*tty Wrath games or some sh*t. He’d be doin’ something.”


“Yeah,” Winnie said.


Two stared.


Lilac light was dissipating. Becoming bluey. That light bright fluro blue where you start to see the outlines of the clouds. Johnny smelling gas fumes, gas fumes gas fumes gas fumes and looking out the road to see grass. Not even town. Zanesville was grass and trees and overgrowth and TRUCK ENTRANCE signs and the Burger Shot. 


And the gas fumes from the trucks.


The gas fumes from the two gas stations. From the Ron depot nearby and the Globe Oil a little further.


Maybe the gas fumes from the bikes. From the highway.


Sky was mauve.


I hate to f*ckin’ smoke,” Winnie said.


“I know,” Johnny replied. “You said.”


Smoke puts the mind up full steam, yeah? You go full steam then the tracks and the everything and the sky all meshes up together and it becomes this big f*ckin’ nothing. That’s what it is to me. Coffee, too,” laughed. “Coffee too.”


Johnny smiled and nodded but didn’t let nothing out.


That old lady a’ yours in the city,” Horse went.


Johnny was quick now, “Yeah?”


Stopped. “Easy, ‘poke.




“I had a thing like that,” Win exhaled like he was smoking. He weren’t smoking. “Long time ago. When it was all movie magic. When it was still Bobby Kurtz and me and the fellas and them. This funny f*ckin’ story. We was out San Fierro, way back. When the Angels weren’t the Angels really. You know.


“Nah,” Johnny said. He didn’t.


“Weren’t no corporate then, I mean. Angels got a book about themselves they got pissed the f*ck off. But it was open roads and skies and hippy sh*t and breathing like a motherf*cker, yeah. And we was ridin’ around and there was this kid named Wheeler. Wheeler Sheffield. Oh man. And he was this scrawny little f*cker and he festooned hisself like he was a f*ckin’ hippy on a trip and acted all sweet on it. And we’d stopped in this place called Pleasance a time, a whole thing, and he tags along and tries to go prospect.”


“You guys have prospects and sh*t back then?”






“We rode that f*cker for everything he had and when we split we split and he’s probably still eatin’ f*ckin’ dust. But before then he tells us his poppy’s got this greenhouse with hydroponics. Or whatever it is. When you grow the sh*t inside. And we go holy f*ck. The place is in one of these little f*ckin’ towns on the brink of these hills in Venturas, Bone County.”


“You got weed?”


“We got weed. We got coca. We got this pretty f*ckin’ poppy seeds and coco f*ckin’ plants from these Fierro spics and Kurtzy had this other guy in Santos who stayed around and everything and- but yeah. I told you about the Santos thing, right?”


“Yeah. Gunthugs guys there. That guy Al Carter.”


Yeah. Long story but it don’t f*ckin’ matter- I get on my chopper. I follow pipsqueak cross-country. To Robada. No stopping like we’s doin’ now or nothin’ but I still got the big f*ckin’ box strapped to the f*cking back of the bike and wind’s whippin’ and man. Y’get. I hit snow, that sh*t was f*ckin’ brainbugs for the f*ckin’ tyres and I tell him since when the f*ck it snows in f*ckin’ San An-f*ckin’-dreas? Ha. Yeah. And- but you know, we finally get there. It’s desert. Town he’s packed in is desert. The greenhouse is all green and everything out on the side is this f*ckin’ dirt and you couldn’t even see the city. His pops is like, seventies. Eighties. Probably his grandpop. Checked up. We put him in the closet and we didn’t even lock it and he didn’t even f*ckin’ come out, man.”


Wheezed. Winnie had a wheeze-laugh. Johnny laughed along too.




Can’t grow coca in a greenhouse.


“Oh, I didn’t know dick. We just f*ckin’ hung the f*ck out. I can’t grow sh*t. All the plants died. We got the dope and the poppy okay and the dope was easy because Wheeler was already on with that sh*t but we didn’t no have ideas on no what the f*ck we was doin’.”


“How long’d you crash?”


“We’d come and go but not even a year. We dipped a while after that. Don’t know what happened. I say we go to Venturas, huh, we f*ckin- nah. Nah, I’m kiddin’. But imagine I did.”


Imagine you did, man. What time is it?”


Horsie squinted. “I’unf*ckin’know.


Ha. “Think we should hit the road?


“Nah. Chill a little.”


“Just thinkin’.”


Ain’t all business, John.


Johnny knew the irony in him saying that. Didn’t press. “It ain’t. Al Carter know we’re on the way up there?


“I called from LC,” Win said. “Yeah. My eyes is on them f*ckin’ roads. You keep your eyes on them f*ckin’ roads, Klebitz.


Winnie stopped. Looked at him and smiled and gave him these wet eyes and nodded.


Johnny nodded back.


“Roads got crickle crack and the bikes bump and you gotta keep your eyes on the bumps so they don’t throw ya’. All it is, brother.”


“All it is,” Johnny said.


My brother.


John nodded.


Rubbed his hands and headed back inside.





Johnny was pissing on a church wall in Indianapolis.


Church wall was opposite parking lots off of… Delaware Street and Allegheny something. Weren’t paying attention. Taken the bikes off the interstate into the city proper for some R&R.


Everyone was basing when they got to Indianapolis.


Sans Winnie, sure. Needed the point man, sober man. Meth kept your eyes on the road at all times. All the time. Turns everything sharp, makes everything hyper-there. Need the balance. Need the sober wet f*cking blanket.


Piss on his jeans.


God f*cking damn it.


“What, Johnny?”


He said it aloud.


Pissed on my f*ckin’ jeans, man.


“Hurry up.”


Brian on the bike with engine going and the exhaust pumping while Johnny’s did the same ‘cept driver. Brian getting antsy.


Hurry up?


“It’s piss, man. Just say it’s water.”


Don’t be a f*cking idiot, big guy.


“Y’right, y’right, y’right, just c’mon, let’s f*cking hit it, man. C’mon.”


Leaked out.


Zipper up.


John turned on an axis with a foot on the ground to face the bikes and jogged up and hopped on and revved.


And they rode.


Bikes out the lot. Paraded down Delaware. With the parking lot and the wannabe-skyline poking out the asphalt and the church. Big church with Latin engraving and these fruity pillars and a sign saying it was Methodist. Was a memory now. Bus stop, car caked in bird sh*t, outdoor garden: all memories.


Past a construction site and a faded brick-and-mortar advertisement. John over engines roaring and warbling, “He said we meet where?!


Brian, “Huh?


Louder, “He said, we meet f*ckin’ WHERE, Winnie said?


Oh! The uh… this f*ckin’ glass dome!




Glass dome! A f*cking steakhouse! Somewhere in f*cking Wholesale or some sh*t, I don’t f*cking know.” Passed a red light and turned the corner and John followed.


John went “Okay.




Okay, I said!” This avenue called Massachusetts with all these parked cars and stores was behind them with a park up ahead. Park fountain and park trees and turning onto Pennsylvania past a courthouse and Brian pointed right past Ohio.


Slowed at a red.


Market Avenue intersection.


Brick-paved road for a moment heading down a couple blocks, also headed up - up to a big f*cking block-sized monument. Fountain was to the right, a right Brian took onto the circle surrounding the thing.


Soldiers and Sailors,” Brian shouted.




Headed right. Pulled in. This blue fire extinguisher.




John followed.


f*ck we doin’?” John kicked the stand down and put a foot on the ground and turned the bike off while Brian looked up.


“We got time to kill,” Brian said.


“If you say so.”


Well, you know, John. Horse can have his fun. We can too. We can stroll, we can chill, you know, f*ck it. Been a while.”


Droll, “At the big statue.”


“Yeah.” Brain shifted, “What? You a stickler, Johnny? You stickling, Johnny K, f*ckin- buying yamulkes, that kinda’ bullsh*t?


“We gonna buy somethin’, now?”


Yeah, Johnny, we can go buy something. Markets and sh*t.”


“We got a f*cking O.O.T. and a Bean Machine and a Maze Bank. Star Junction, this is not.


“Walk with me a moment.”




“I’ll show you somethin’. Come with me. Then we’ll see Win. Guy can wait. We got time to kill, man.”


Not like John needed much in the way of convincing.


He followed.


Strolled through the circle back the way they came. Looped around the circle past the Bean Machine and all these logos. Logos he ain’t seen before, local sh*t. Midwestern regionals. Eyes drifting from storefronts to the fountain to the bronze plaques with vets or founding fathers or whoever on ‘em. And then right back to the storefronts.


“I think you gotta admire it,” Brian said.


Scrunchface. “Admire what?


“The sh*t up there, John, the fountain and the service.”


“The service.”


“Yeah,” Brian said. “The service.”


Come on, Brian. You’re smarter than that.”


“You know what the f*ck I’m saying.”


We’re killin’ people on highways, Brian. Civilians. That kinda’ sh*t.”


“And you’re sheddin’ tears for Saddam? He hates jews, you know that?


“It ain’t about Assad--”


“And them Bath party ain’t nice either.”


Don’t be f*cking dumb, man.


“It ain’t even about the wars they’re fighting. It’s the fighters. You know. They ain’t choosing where they’re going or what they’re doing it for. I don’t give a f*ck about the war, Johnny, you just gotta appreciate the service.”


You call up Michael, he tell you to spit this sh*t at me?


“You got this bullsh*t with him- I- I- you gotta get over that sh*t. I got my own problems, I don’t air ‘em out.”


Don’t f*ck me around, man.




“Terry asked you about the Latino thing--”


Well sorry I don’t want to say that sh*t to Jim Newbie. Jimmy Prospect.”


“He’s patched.”


For how long?


“He’s a brother.”


“For how long, Johnny? Is he Sunday Service? I see him at church. This is the first time--”


Give him a break, brother.


“I tell him my life story for nothing, yeah. Sure. I tell him Cristobal and my momma and my poppa and f*cking everything and I go ape sh*t.”


And John chuckled. “f*ckin’ Crissy.


“He’s fine.”


“I didn’t ask,” John said.


“But he is. Got the uh… the- he’s keepin’ with mama at the f*ckin’ ancestral home. The white picket on Howlett. East Liberty. He’s union now, it’s a whole thing.


“And he’s still speakin’?”


“Sure,” Brian said. “He’s speakin’. He always liked bikes, he ain’t got no beef with me, the kid.”


“And this fountain got you rememberin’ him?”


“It got me remembering- sh*t, I read on this thing and it’s nice. It’s nice, ain’t it? Vets get sh*t. My pops did tours and the vet paychecks weren’t nothin’ for the hospital bills. They don’t give a f*ck.”


Okay,” John said. No time for wisecracks.


Let the wind kind of envelop them.


They were at this local bank branch on the corner. Did a semi-circle. Looked back to the bikes and couldn’t see them. “I always wanted to serve,” Brian said. Stopped.


“You shouldn’t. I did, I grew out of it. You wanna be like my brother, play army men--.”


Your brother weren’t a grunt. He’s f*ckin’ army brat. Little prep punk, Johnny. Little Jew little prep punk f*cking sh*t. You know. He gets a pat on the ass and fifty f*ckin’ promotions every day for sh*t because he went to Virgina.”


Fort Leavenworth.


“My pops grew up in ‘Derney and f*ckin’ died there. And that was that. And your brother’ll get a f*ckin’ grave in Virginia. He didn’t go there, but he won’t get buried in Acter.”


“They’re pigs all the same.”


They’re not f*cking pigs, Johnny.


“They are.”


Your brother’s a pig. My pop ain’t.”


“Your pop’s a pretty pig.” Mostly joking, “His piglets got asthma and couldn’t follow suit.


“f*ck you, Jew. Your brother kosher?”


“Yeah, you care. Fat f*ck.”


They didn’t mean it. The insults were peppered with laughs.


Shot the sh*t on Meridan all the same.


Were a moment of nothing before Brian pointed. Brian was smoking, flick-flicked the lighter then snap-snapped the fingers.


ATM. Guy was at it a goddamn while and pocketed a goddamn lot.


“You think?” John went.


“Look at the face,” Brian said. “That’s cash-out face.


The guy, cash-out, was wearing duds. One of those assholes who wore suits with baseball caps - he was doing worse. Big white f*cking cowboy hat, big string, cutter creases on the top and a curved brim Doubled with these gaudy orange aviators.


Could spot the f*cker a mile off.


Goddamn Texan banker motherf*cker. Hell’s he doing?”


“Check him.”


Guy turned the corner.


Get it,” Brian said.




Followed on the parallel street for a moment when he turned and tried to check exits. Eyes popped immediately - alleyway off Meridan right in front, across the street. Cowboy was gonna pass it.


The two crossed on the uptick. Guy slowed for his phone. My god, f*cking poetry. Perfect.


Y’ello?” That was Cowboy.


The two bucked faster.


Brian pulled out a pair of brass knuckles out his leather jacket.


Hey!” That was Brian. “Yo, Ten Gallon!


Cowboy put his phone down a second.


Johnny grabbed him by the shoulder and got him by the arm. Brian got the other. Fella dropped his cell, little metallic gray Badger, got it bouncing mid-sentence. Cowboy was strongarmed, pushed into the alley.


Brian pushed him down.


“Wallet, cowboy.




Brian punched him in the face. “Wallet!




Shut up!


Johnny kicked him in the gut.








Johnny’s boot hit the guy in the tooth and Johnny felt the steel toe crunch something and he kicked again and again and in the throat and in the chest while Brian stomped on the legs and stomped and stomped and kicked in the face and punched.


Brian pulled his jacket off and emptied it and found a wallet - leather wallet - and got the loose bills inside drifting down like leaves off a tree.


Johnny swooped in for ‘em. Left the pennies and nickels that fell out and clunked on the ground and on the guy’s body. Kicked him again for posterity.


Brian took his hat. His f*cking cutter cowboy hat. Grinned like a little boy.


Stomped on his arm.


Nice watch. Nice watch. Crowex? Nice watch, man.”


“Hell yeah,” Johnny went. Matched Brian’s boot with his own and put the heel down on the forearm and ripped the f*ckin’ thing off. Gold plated. Tick ticking. “You want the Rimmers?”


“They’re broke.” They were. Orange aviators were smashed up. “sh*t, shoulda’ took ‘em first.


Johnny to Cowboy, “You shut your mouth, brother.”


Yeah queer ass f*ckin’ ass, shut your goddamn mouth.


Cowboy hadn’t said a word.


You say sh*t about us,” John went. “You ain’t gonna be speakin’ no more.”


“Yeah, man, no f*ckin’ speakin’ ‘cause we’s gonna put you dead in the mouth and knock your teeth out you f*ckin’ stupid little baby ass bitch--” and Brian f*ckin’ punted him in the forehead again.


Two jogged out the alley.


Ran back to the bikes.


Good haul.



The steakhouse weren’t a long drive. Two riders parked their bikes outside the place - had a guitar logo, some tacky Midwestern place they’d never heard of. Chain kinda place, high fructose kinda place. Loaded potato skin jalapeño popper kinda place.


Winnie and Terry were having a conversation in a booth. Looked like fun. Wings on the table.


Two walked up.




What the f*ck are you wearing, BJ?


Brian was grinning ear to ear with his glasses and his new hat. Big cowboy hat, pullstring down to the collarbone. “You like, huh?”


“Take that sh*t off.”


What, it’s my new hat.”


Terry, “Howdy, pard’!” Laughing. “We was talking about some--”


Winnie didn’t budge, “Take the dumbass hat off.”


“No, Win.”


“Where’d you get it?”


Johnny was edging on the periphery but came forward - “We was at that soldier’s memorial--


“You know,” Brian smirked. “You do what you do.


Any smiles Winnie woulda’ had dropped.


John, “We--”


Are you two f*cking kidding me?!


“We needed some dough,” BJ said. “Guy had a nice hat. Cowboy ass--”


You wanna f*cking incriminate yourself?


“Call it a trophy.”


‘S’my f*ckin’ hat, Horse.


“Your f*ckin’ boot is bloody.”


Johnny and Brian looked down at their feet.


Down at the shoes.


Their steel toes were dimpled with dried up red.




“Cost of doing business,” BJ shrugged.


You wash that sh*t as soon as you can. f*cking r*tard. F*cking idiot.


BJ, “Stay f*ckin’ easy, chief. Just me and Johnny--”


Me and Terry the Kid, we spend however much waiting for you two goddamn dolts and you storm in with stolen goods. My god, we gotta jet. Crud-f*ckin’ sh*t.


“Not yet.”


“Get that sh*t cleaned and we’re headed onto St. Louie.”




C’mon,” Win repeated. Orders.


“Fine. Fine.”


And Brian stormed off to the bathrooms.


And Terry sighed. Kid got up. Dusted himself off.


Pointed back with a thumb to John and nodded and got everyone walking off.


Winnie the Horse put a hand on John’s shoulder - wasn’t gentle.


John stopped.


“Shoulda’ told me,” Win said.


“Y’got pissed at me for it,” John replied.


“How much you two haul?”


John stopped. Calculated in his head. “I don’t know.


“How much in notes?”


“Few hundred. Guy was at an ATM.”


Winnie smiled a little. Pivoted around with a hand staying on Johnny’s shoulder, grip loosened. Looked up at the ceiling, up at the sky, like he was convening with God. “How’s about a taste for Horsie?


John frowned.


Winnie gave him the look.


The look from the hotel. Wet. Those wet f*cking eyes.




Johnny pulled the wallet out his jacket and thumbed through the notes.





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  • 3 weeks later...



Johnny had his phone running half-outta’ juice at the place where they’d stopped for a second or two of nothing sacred. Been travelling up the course of the Humboldt River for… a while. Were on State Route 17 up until the Pennsylvania border: didn’t step into the state because Terry had a favor for someone on Interstate 86.


That, sure. That and the fact Pennsylvania was so boring the first go around in 2004 that they wanted some upstate flavor. Weren’t headed to Terry’s farm - that was near State Route 20 around Montresor on Lake Ontario. He hadn’t spoken to his father in a while and didn’t want to speak again until he had something to show for it, he said.


Johnny said it was fair. Hadn’t spoken to his father since he got outta’ prison.




“I am sorry, man. I am. And I know after the other day--”


You have to come back.


“It’ll be a week. Tops. I promise. I know Jorge covers the shift but--”


You should have told me, man.


Was treading pavement and tutting to himself and trying to think up excuses for Mr. Hector Car Wash about two states away. “I told you. I can’t.


“Where are you, Klebitz?”


Chewed his lip. “Nantucket. And I’ll be back in a week.”


And Hector sighed, hard. Cursed some sh*t in a foreign language: Greek, Turkish, some sh*t like that.Already?






I promise you. I’ll be back in a week, two, tops. My niece, man. I wish--




Gulped. “Fine?” John said.


“Fine,” Hector said. “A week.”


“Thank you.”


Just a week. You no come back a week, you no come back. But you come back, yes?”


“Yeah. Absolutely.”


“Tell me next time. I say yeah. Not a bad guy, me. You not a bad guy.”


Definitely, boss. Yeah.”


“Okay. Are you okay, Jonathan?”


Flinched a little when he said that. “Sure,” Klebitz said. “Yeah, I’m fine, dude.”


“You need to talk, you talk to me. Good luck with this thing, yes?”


“Yeah, man.”




Hung up.




He wasn’t sure why he lied.


Muhlenbergo’s downtown was this cramped little series of brick buildings and empty roads. Was out at this parking lot near this church and this parking garage and the river and concrete. Already felt a thousand ways away from Liberty City.


Headed back toward the bar.


In between the brick buildings a couple stories high was this squat black taco restaurant. Little outdoor eatery area the fellas had made themselves comfortable in the shadow of a massive mural - woman, flowers, glistening windows like stained glass. Weren’t much a bar, but it was a ‘taco bar’; a term that meant nothing but had the guys crossing fingers they served alcohol.


They did. Johnny weren’t hungry. Thirsty, yeah.


Crossed the road with hands in his pockets and minding the traffic. He’d crossed the road and lied about the call - didn’t remember who he said he was calling and he didn’t have nobody else to call - but you know, add another.


Fish tacos. This shared platter thing with nachos or some sh*t - salad, wings, something else. Johnny weren’t into that and the fact he weren’t hungry didn’t help. Clay and Terry were talking, some sh*t. Ashley mewed.


Ash got the salad.


Yeah,” John said. Hefted that out before seating himself.


“Work, right?”


Maybe Johnny didn’t lie at all. “Yeah.


“What’s his name, babe?”


“Whose name?”


“Your boss-man.”


Hector,” Johnny said. “He’s from Cyprus.”


“Where’s that?”




That’s cool.


Johnny sniffled. “Sure.”


“He nice, Johnny?”


Johnny thought. “I dunno. Kinda. Yeah. I mean, you give me a job, you’re either nice or plain f*ckin’ stupid. But I think that was pity.”


“Nah. Nothin’ to pity, John.”


“Don’t get me started.”


“What we talked about back in the day with everything,” Ash said. “This is nothing. What are they like?”


John stony. “Huh?”


“Who you work with. Marianne, she was always sweet. I think you need that. To get through this- all this sh*t that keeps happening. Friendly faces.”




“I never woulda’... rehab weren’t good for me, Johnny K.


“Where’d you work? You wanna ask, I ask you, Ash.”


Ash let it simmer a moment. “Bakery.”




“I was washing dishes. For a while. I wanted to wait tables because I used to but things caught up and I did that and I couldn't. And I met Marianne at the bakery after I stopped doing that and I kept that steady for a while but I lost it.”


“Why'd you get fired?”


“No, I lost it. I got pissed. Manager was a bitch.


Almost amused, “Oh yeah?”


“Don't give me that. Yeah. Fat bitch. I always do something f*cking wrong with her and she keeps pushing my buttons and you think I don't lose it but I do.


“I don't think that.”


It ain't nothin’ sweet with her, babe. Or them. Or that. And college passed me by like it was nothing so I had a lot of things. But then I had you. And that's all I want.”


Scoffed. Didn't reply.


“It's true, John.”


“You- I don't even wanna get into that.


“You moved on fine, though. I don't move on.”


That's right.


“I can't.”




“You can't neither. You don't say it but you can't.”




“Who'd you go with after Leila?”


“Don't talk about her.”


I'm just saying, babe.


Please,” John was serious, “Don't talk about her.”


And Ash was quiet.


Okay,” she said.


It weren't.


Leila had died a long time ago.


Birds went tweet.


Sparrows. Some sh*t. Little ones. Flew with the wind and the wings flapped over dancing trees.


Finger to the bridge of his nose.


“Marianne’s nice,” Ash said.


“I hope.”




“My guy at the wash is Jorge. I dunno’. I don’t know anyone at the place, really. And we don’t talk about nothin’. It’s all nothin’. All vapid sh*t. Weather and football and that bullsh*t, you know. Stoolie sh*t. He’s a nice guy, though. Costa Rica or something. Grew up uptown.”


In the Heights, babe?


“Yeah, the Heights. Guys there are mostly all Puerto Ricans or Arab guys. This guy Mehmet who used to work at a cell phone kiosk or something. These Persian brothers, he used to work with. They play that Righteous Slaughter game a lot.


“Oh, yeah.”


“Mehmet likes to use the knife in it,” John chuckled. “Does the little stab-stab at me. I don’t play f*ckin’ video games, sweet.” Realized what he said and stopped and stared. But didn’t correct himself.


Ash smiled. “Me neither.


“And this kid Kyle. He works there too. You remember… sh*t. You remember Jason?”


Ha. Yeah. Jason. Rest him.


“Yeah. That idiot. You remember when he- there’s this funny thing I remember. His cousin. His cousin uh… Caleb, I think. Caleb was gonna sell this car to this junkyard but Jay said nah, nah - Jason took it off his hands for a couple hundred. But Caleb, he don’t get the pink slip. So Jason runs, like, sh*t - eight f*ckin’ stop lights one day, he’s high as sh*t, he racks up double the price of the thing and then sells the f*cker to the junkyard himself.” Laughed again.


Ash smiled. “Clever.


“Clever dick he was, yeah. Got everything down to the club and got up on junk with the dumbass. Bitched about his cousin gettin’ up his ass about it like he didn’t expect he’d be pissed. Goddamn kidder. Kyle’s like that. Party guy. Stupid. Likes this sh*tty music.”


“What’s he like?”


“I don’t know, pop punk sh*t. Jason did too. Forget the bands. I never learned the dumbass bands, did I?”


“Marianne’s sweet.”


“You said, Ash.”


She is.


“Kyle’s a dropout with no damn prospects, Ash. Is that Marianne?”




“‘Cause she's sweet, right?”


Didn’t seem to pick up on the mocking. “Yeah. Yeah. She's always been nice to me, hun. She weren't like us. She isn't like us, I mean. I hope I see her again.”




Midwest is okay. I hope. I ain't been out the state much. You know that. I'm a white trash baby, sug’. We all are.”


“Clay’s black. And I'm hebe. But yeah. We are.”


Except Clay. You're different. You don't- I mean… your dad was your dad.”


Pfft. “f*ck’s that mean? My dad is my dad? What you on?”


“He was an asshole.”




“You grew up… I dunno’, sugar. I dunno’.


All Johnny could think was what’s new.


Terry and Clay cackling over some sh*t he didn’t hear. Wasn’t paying attention.


Birds chirped.


Johnny looked back at the table.



Terry’s favor was in Erie.


“So it’s not on 86?”


“No,” Terry said. “It ain’t.”


And Johnny sighed. And Johnny said fine. They were headed there anyway. Had these maps - a whole slew of them, a route done up with marker while his legs were crossed. Erie into Ohio. Henderson. Keep going on I-90 past Toledo. Ride for however long they needed, stop for a drink. South Bend. Gary. Couira City.


Whatever happened in Couira, is what happened in Couira.






They’d stopped on the 86 somewhere, somewhere where the Liberty green and little old upstate towns with stupid names all blurred together. Pulled up at a campsite. Johnny didn’t know you could look at maps on the phones, so he felt like a f*cking idiot - but Terry did. Terry got the smartphone, the iFruit, and pointed up at a place by a little lake off the expressway with no questions asked.


So no questions were asked.


They set up their bikes and Clay got bedroll from some goonie no-name with a trailer who bragged about the fishing. “Fish here is fantastic,” guy was saying. “You shoulda’ seen the catches, man. You shoulda’ seen them. My kid, my boy, he’s- you wanna see a picture? He’s around here somewhere but he’s catchin’ grubs with his sisters or something. Yeah, we’re from Henderson, actually--” and on and on and on and on.


Yeah, he said. I’ll loan you some blankets. The grass is this big ol’ mattress, he went. And the guy was this blond dude with freckles and concrete-face and he asked what club they were with.


And Johnny said “Huh?


“You ain’t got the rockers on, is all. My brother, he was with the Angels. Bad dudes. Like, cool. So I know that kinda’ sh*t, myself. Not to brag. I mean, we didn’t grow up easy, it’s Henderson, but--”


And Johnny said no. Just us. We don’t ride in a posse or nothin’.


Just goin’ nomad or whatever. Nah, I respect that, nephew, I respect that.”


The blankets were taken. Plaid.


They left for the bikes.


The bonfire.


Bonfire in a big pot-lookin’ thingy Johnny didn’t know the word for. Topped on four hunks of wood. Fire going ape sh*t up a couple feet with the embers crackling. Trees were black. Night was black.


Reminded him of ‘04. In the brush outside Albuquerque.


Johnny was cross-legged by a tree where the bikes were parked up. Ash nearby. Ash nudging closer every second and Johnny staying there and watching the fire and Clay and Terry on his parallel. Terry looking cockeyed at the mess of travel guides Johnny had scrawled on. Clay with a boot on a log.


Boot on a log. Boot on a log. “Denver, huh?” Johnny said.


Clay was zoned out - snapped back into it. Thought a second. “Yeah, Johnny, maybe. It’s what happens in Couira. With the charter.”


“You made connects?”


“I called people I done knew, John. You remember Willy?”


Johnny f*ckin’ chortled. “Yeah,” he said. “Willy Wetbacks.”


“He’s in Couira. Him and a couple the fellas who weren’t patched in. Some of the Broker cats. Monty, Leon, ol’ Bug Eye Tug.”


“They’re all up there?”


That’s the mother,” Terry said. “Mother now. You know that. Birds migrate. It’s to their headquarters or whatever. Some the fellas are there, some’s Montresor. Sprinkle a bunch in with the other charters dotting. Florida. Knoxville. You list cities off the noggin’, K.


“Gunthugs too, right?”


Terry pursed lips a little. “Hell was you doin’ with this goddamn map, John?


“I asked a question, Terrence.”


“Sure,” guy went. “Who gives a f*ck? They’re the support club. I don’t care. Some these guys weren’t patched, most the fellas got lit up with Brian or skipped or whatever. I don’t even know all them f*ckers.”


“Who flipped?”


“Yeah. Y’know, I always dubya-’ondered, man.”


“What’s that, T?”


“I always-” stopped himself and laughed at it, “How the f*ck that fat fa**ot get all that on him?


Clay, “Brian?”


“Yeah. Swear, s’like three quarters went. All their names. Who the f*ck knows all their names? Screwball. Hal. I don’t know.”


Billy,” Clay went.




“Yeah,” he said. “Billy. They weren’t with Brian for Brian, they was with Brian for Billy. You used to f*ck with him, right John?”


And John said nothing.




“Yeah,” Johnny said. “We was close.”


And Terry nodded.


“I was with- you know with my service sh*t how it goes,” Clay said. “Kid was always stupid but kid was always lickin’ ass, you dig me?”


“Yup.” John was stoneface. “We was okay.


Ashley was asleep.


John scooched over a little to her.


“Kid was patched a long time,” Clay went on. “Was always close with Bill, too. And Tito came up from Florida and that was a whole thing and the kid was always good for it. Ya’ sh*t talk him, but the kid was always good for it.”


John wanted to say something.




Not what he wanted to, anyway.


We killed Screwball, didn’t we?


Clay and Terry traded glances.


“Yeah,” Terry said. “We did.”


And Johnny was tapping at the dirt. Drawing circles in it. “And Hal. We killed more brothers… f*ck, man.


Clay, “What, John?”


“We did this for what?”


Nobody knew what to say.


“They were Sunday Riders,” Terry said. “You know the type. They’d- uh, they’d go work office work sh*t and they’d come and ride. None a’ them never fired no guns.


Johnny stared. Didn’t make a difference. “They were brothers,” he said.


“They weren’t when they rode with Brian.”


“Brian was a brother.”


“No he weren’t, man.”


Just put his heart with the wrong one, maybe, man.” Johnny scratched his forehead. “They weren’t greedy, were they?”


“Brian was.”