an inch from the edge

STRAIGHT INTO THE LAND OF JUST BECAUSE AND DISBELIEF, JUST BECAUSE THE COLLEGE KID THE FOREMAN DROPPED…”

 

by ed markowski

 

UP UNTIL THAT MOMENT WHEN THE POWER WENT OUT AND THE MAGNET LET GO, THE MOVEMENTS

OF THE MEN, WOMEN, DUST, AND CLOCKS IN THE STEEL WAREHOUSE RESEMBLED A FOUR WAY RACE

BETWEEN A SNAIL, A TORTOISE, A GLACIER, AND A BOULDER.

ME AND MOSQUITO WERE SITTING ON A STACK OF STEEL PLATES THAT MEASURED 4′ X 4′ X 8 INCHES THICK,

SHOOTING THE PHANTOM BREEZE THAT BLEW THROUGH OUR MINDS, RIDING THROUGH THE NIGHT ON A WIND

THAT WASN’T. THREE HOURS INTO THE FOURTH OF JULY, THE NEEDLE ON THE LOADING DOCK THERMOMETER

WAS SUPER GLUED AND FUSED ONTO THE NUMBER NINETY – FOUR LIKE MY LIPS ON HER LIPS, AND THE AIR

WAS THICKER THAN THE SWARM OF COPS THAT ORBITED AMY’S DONUT DYNASTY, “WHERE THE DOUBLE GLAZED

CREME FILLED DONUT STICK IS KING AND THE DONUT HOLES ARE ALWAYS FREE,” A BLOCK DOWN MT. ELLIOT

FROM THE WAREHOUSE.

OK, SO MOSQUITO AND ME START ROARING AND ERUPTING ALL OVER OUR TOPIC OF THE DAY, AND OUR TOPIC

OF THE DAY EVERY DAY AND TWICE AT NIGHT WAS AND IS, JENNY….. CHICKS….. LAURA….. BABES….. LUCY….. FOXES…..

MONICA….. HONEY HIVES….. SALLY….. JAM JARS….. MONICA….. BALLOON BUNNIES….. MARCIA….. MUFF MUFFINS…..

SANDY….. SUSIE….. VICKY….. JAN….. JANE….. AND, THAT JUICY FRUIT THEY ALL SHARE IN COMMON.

WELL, THAT NIGHT WE FLIPPED THE SWITCH FOR AWHILE AND TRASH TALKED CAMEROS, MUSTANGS, IMPALAS, VETTES,

BONNEVILLES, COUPE de VILLES, RIVIERAS, CONTINENTALS, AND BOTH ME AND SUPER SKEET’S FAVORITE SWAMP,

THE DOUBLE DUECE HALF DIME. SOMEHOW THOUGH, THE WHOLE PENDULUM OF BULLSHIT ALWAYS SWUNG BACK TO

ALL THE PRETTY PRINCESSES WE TWO GUTTER SNIPES CHARMED AND ROCKED IN AND ON THE FRONT SEATS, BACK

SEATS, BUCKET SEATS, TRUNKS, HOODS, AND MOON ROOFS OF OUR MAGIC CARPET RIDES. IN THE MIDDLE OF

ALL THAT HIGH HEAT AND DEAD AIR, ME AND SKEE TOE’S LETTING THE HORSES RUN AND THE PARAKEETS SQUAWK

STRAIGHT INTO THE LAND OF JUST BECAUSE AND DISBELIEF, JUST BECAUSE THE COLLEGE KID THE FOREMAN DROPPED

ON US, “SO YOU TWO HOODLUMS CAN SHOW HIM HOW NOT TO DO THIS FUCKING JOB,” STEPS OUT FROM OUR

SHADOWS AND IS STANDING THERE WATCHING OUR SHOW.

YOU’D NEVER KNOW BY LOOKING AT US, BUT, THE SULTAN OF SCRATCH, ME, AND THE COLLEGE KID ARE THE SAME

AGE. THE ORNAMENTS THAT SEPARATE US ARE THE COLLEGE KID’ S MANNERS, THE COLLEGE KID’ S DISCIPLINE, AND

THE COLLEGE KID’S TALENT. FOUR MONTHS BEFORE THE POWER PEOPLE WHO RAN THE SHOW AT CASS TECH COULD

SPIT US BACK OUT ON THE STREETS, ME AND MISTER ANOPHELES DROPPED OUT, SIGNED ON AS CLOWNS WITH THIS

DEAD END CARNIVAL, BOUGHT A TEN – THOUSAND ACRE ROCK FARM DIRECTLY BEHIND AN EIGHT BALL IN THE MOJAVE

DESERT, AND WE’RE STILL TRYING TO PLANT THE FIELDS WITHOUT SEEDS, A HORSE, OR A PLOW. WHEN WE WERE AT

CASS TECH TOGETHER, BROTHER BUZZ AND ME WEREN’T EXACTLY BEST FRIENDS WITH THE COLLEGE KID. WE HAD ONE

CLASS TOGETHER. EVEN THE DEAFEST OF THE DEAF COULD HEAR THE GENIUS THAT FLOWED FROM THAT BOY’S LONG

SKINNY FINGERS INTO THEM KEYS AND THE SHEER BEAUTY THAT DANCED DOWN, ALONG, AND OUT OF THOSE VIBRATING

WIRES.

BACK TO THAT NIGHT….. YEAH WELL, SKEETS STANDS UP, HE POKES A FEW HOLES THROUGH THE WAREHOUSE ROOF.

HE’S TELLING ME AND THE COLLEGE KID ABOUT THE NIGHT THE COPS YANKED HIM IN OVER A JACKSON OF JAMAICAN

AND AN OFF BRAND PINT OF PAINT THINNER. THE DEET MEISTER SAYS FOR CERTAIN THE WHOLE SCENE WAS GUIDED BY

GOD’S GREAT HAND BECAUSE, “WHEN THE MOTHERFUCKERS TOOK ME TO THE HOLDING PEN BEFORE I GOT ARRAIGNED, I

MET MY WIFE. SHE HAD A RETAIL FRAUD TAIL PINNED ON HER JACK ASS, AND A DISORDERLY PERSON TATTOO UNDER HER

RIGHT EYE. TO THIS FUCKING DAY FELLAS, THE GIRL’S THE BEST THAT’S EVER BEEN. SHE COULD’VE STOLEN JESUS RIGHT

OFF THE DAMN CROSS AND NO ONE WOULD’VE SEEN HER. DO IT.”

OK, IT’S LIKE THIS, EVEN THOUGH WE’RE AS CLOSE AS THE BUZZ AND THE SLAP, I CAN’T LET THE MALARIA MAN TOP

ME, SO IT’S MY TURN ON STAGE. I SERVE UP A PLATE OF RAMONA AND ME ROASTING, BASTING, AND TASTING EACH

OTHER DOWN IN THE BASEMENT, THEN IN A CONFESSIONAL AT OUR LADY QUEEN OF HEAVEN DURING THE CHRISTMAS BAKE

SALE. WE’VE EATEN THE APPETIZER, THE ENTREE WAS SWEET, SALTY, AND SPICY. THE FORK’S SUSPENDED IN MID AIR,

MOUTH LEVEL, AND I’M ABOUT TO LICK MONA’S MOIST, LUSCIOUS….. WHEN THE PULLEYS SCREECH, THE LOADING DOCK

DOORS RUMBLE UP, AND A PETEERBUILT HAULER WITH PEARL HANDLED SIX SHOOTERS STENCILLED ON THE DOORS, DIRECT

FROM CAPONEVILLE, ILLINOIS, ROLLS INTO THE BAY LUGGING SIXTY – THOUSAND POUNDS OF COLD ROLLED STEEL BARS, A

BUNDLE OF ANGLE IRON, AND THREE STEEL PLATES, 4′ X 4′ BY EIGHT INCHES THICK.

THE MOSQUITO AND ME, WELL WE’RE READY TO STRIP THE PEEL OFF THIS BANANA JUST TO PUSH THE HANDS OF THE

CLOCK A LITTLE CLOSER TO DAYLIGHT BECAUSE WATCHED POTS THAT DON’ T TICK AND WATCHED CLOCKS THAT DON’T

BOIL IS DOUBLY SLOW WHEN YOU’RE STUCK ON THE MIDNIGHT SHIFT ON A HOT SUMMER NIGHT AND THE BLOOM OF

YOUR YOUTH AIN’T NOTHING MORE THAN A FADING PAPER POPPY HANGING ON THE REAR VIEW MIRROR.

SKEETS SAYS HE’LL HOOK UP THE FRONT THIRTY K, I’LL SORT AND STACK. I’LL HOOK UP THE BACK THIRTY, HE’LL

SORT AND STACK. MIKE THE CRANE OPERATOR FLASHES THE A – OK CIRCLE. THE COLLEGE KID IS STANDING ON THE

STEEL PLATES LETTING IT ALL SINK IN LIKE BUTTER ON TOAST. I FIGURE TWO HOURS MINIMUM TO OFF LOAD THE FIRE

FROM THIS DRAGON’S MOUTH, AND THAT BREEZE WILL BLOW US TWO HOURS CLOSER TO SOME BREAKFAST BOOZE

AND NINE BALL AT FAT FANNY’S FANTASY CLUB.

SKEETER’S UP ON THE BED HOOKING THE CABLES AROUND THE FIRST FIVE TON BUNDLE. I’M ON THE DOCK WAITING

TO GUIDE THE BUNDLE INTO THE STOCK TUB, AND HERE COMES THE FOREMAN ROLLING UP THE AISLE ON A FORK LIFT

YELLING, “STOP! STOP! STOP! GODDAMMIT STOP! HERE’S HOW IT’S GONNA GO DOWN MISTER STEP AND MISSUS

FETCH IT. I DON’ T GIVE A FUCK HOW YOU DO IT, BOTTOM LINE IS YOU’RE GONNA OFF LOAD, SORT, AND STACK

IT ALL IN FORTY – FIVE MINUTES.” THE FOREMAN TAKES TWO STEPS TOWARD THE FORK LIFT, TURNS AROUND, AND POINTS

HIS FINGER AT ME, “IF ONE OF MY DAUGHTERS BROUGHT YOU HOME, I’D PUT A FUCKING HOLLOW POINT IN HER TEMPLE

AFTER I PUT ONE BETWEEN YOUR EYES.” THEN HE YELLS AT SKEETER, “AS FAR AS YO AND YO PEOPLES GO, MISTER

MARTIN LUTHER GUTTER GOD, I THANK MY GOD EVERY DAY FOR HAVING BLESSED YO AND YO BRO’S WITH THE FUCKING

ABILITY TO SHOOT EACH OTHER DOWN LIKE DOGS. I LOVE SITTING BACK WATCHING YO AND YO BROTHA’S TAP DANCE TO

YOUR FUCKING GRAVES.” BEFORE HE HI HO SILVERS AWAY, HE YELLS TO THE COLLEGE KID, “DON’T LISTEN TO ANYTHING

THESE LOSERS TELL YOU TO DO AND GOD WILL BE GOOD TO YOU.”

SO, MY RUNNING BUDDY….. THE MOSQUITO, SKEETS, SKEETER, THE BUZZ, THE BITE IN THE NIGHT, MISTER MALARIA,

THE ITCH MASTER, THE COWBOY KING OF THE REPELLANT RODEO….. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN PLEASE WELCOME ALL THE

WAY FROM ABILENE….. THE ONE AND ONLY ANOPHELES KID, MIKE THE CRANE OPERATOR, AND ME, STRIPPED THIRTY TONS

OF STEEL OFF THAT DRAGON IN THIRTY – FIVE MINUTES FLAT. EVERY BUNDLE SORTED AND STACKED, EVERY PIECE OF ANGLE

IRON IN THE BED WHERE IT BELONGED.

MIKE LOWERED THE MAGNET DEAD CENTER ON THE THIRD PLATE. HE BROUGHT IT OVER THE DOCK STEADY AS STONE. THE

PLATE’S HANGING TEN INCHES ABOVE THE SECOND. THE FOREMAN YELLS TO THE COLLEGE KID, “MOVE THAT FUCKING

SPACING BLOCK IN ANOTHER INCH FROM THE EDGE.” LIGHTNING FLASHED, THUNDER CRACKED, THE SKY SPLIT IN TWO.

THE POWER WENT DOWN. THE MAGNET LET GO. THE PLATE FELL…..

AND IN ABSOLUTE SILENCE, ONE OF THE TWO HANDS THAT HAD LIFTED THE COLLEGE KID OFF OF THE TATTERED LOVE SEAT

THE THREE OF US HAD FOUND IN THE ALLEY BEHIND WING HAN’S CHINA MOON ON THIRD STREET, AND SET HIM DOWN

ON A MAHOGANY BENCH SET BEFORE THE GLEAMING KEYS OF A BABY GRAND PIANO AT JUILLIARD, STILL RESONATES…..

IN THE SMALL, DARK HOURS OF THE MORNING, I CAN HEAR AND FEEL THE VIBRATION, IT’S ALWAYS IN THERE…. AND THERE….

JUST ABOUT AN INCH FROM THE EDGE.

Originally published:
Issue Sixty-Three
April 2012

 

(illustrations: kurt eisenlohr)


Ed Markowski lives and writes in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Much more from Ed Markowski can be found in the Vault of Smoke.

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