Thursday, November 01, 2012

NaNoWriMo Day One

Those who passed by the party in the gravel lot - the errant college student and a fellow townie or two - could place the leader of the group by his apron, which said "Kiss the Fucking Chef."

Jeff Chalmers had the apron custom made. He designed it himself and ordered it online from a site that specializes in personalized outdoor event items. They also sold spatulas and other grill gear with pre-made pithy sayings and a variety of fonts to choose from. Such was the state of affairs in the United States of America in 2005. Every niche had a market. If you wanted anything, ANYTHING, it could be found on the Internet.

Chalmers manned the grill. He didn't fancy himself any grill expert. He almost ordered the poofy chef hat, that would have been nice in retrospect, but some small part of Chalmers respected the importance of uniforms. And, not being a chef, he thought the hat, a primary accoutrement of being one, was a bit of an affrontery. Of course, he may not have given conscious thought to this line of reasoning. If asked why he didn't order a chef hat, Chalmers would be likely to say, "because the fucking hat looks gay." The apron was just another gesture to gain attention. The way he spoke was one as well, always with a little extra volume, as if he was speaking to a deaf relative. And there was almost always a lilt of insinuation. Everything he said had a "Fuck You" undercurrent. And he often uttered that phrase. "Fuck" and its many iterations were a favorite element of the Chalmers lexicon.

On this day, the last day of August, the last Sunday of Cornfest in sleepy college cow town Bonneville, IL, was, in Chalmers' words, the "fucking kegger of the year." It was a goodwill gesture to his neighbors, a chance to get to know, or at least size up, the new crop of college kids who'd moved in, and to let the world know just how cool and kind a neighbor Jeffrey Beaudean Chalmers could be. In addition to the two kegs of domestic swill lager and burgers and brats with all the fixings, Chalmers also sprung for a couple ounces of good weed, a couple bottles of whiskey and vodka, a little bit of blow, some crystal meth, and not before the public eye, but for the discriminating customer, of course, a few tabs of heroin. Chalmers was the local dealer, a man in the know, connected to Chicago, of course, a big time operator in Bonneville, but a mere foot soldier for a larger cartel.

This was Chalmers' third annual Cornfest-closing kegger and more than immediate neighbors had heard of its reknown. Every down and out rummy who rarely ventured away from the path to liquor store and back to fleabag room, teetered over to make an appearance. They hung out in back, nearest to the keg and the bottles of harder stuff being passed around. Circles gathered in the main dining room inside the Augusta Inn to smoke weed. Downstairs is where things got crazy with the meth and heroin, which were both smoked, given the communal nature of the party.

The newer neighbors, the errant college student or two, and neighbors who either provided their own beer or were just hanging around because they lived there, hung out on the front porch, nearest the grill, and nearest to Chalmers. So, in a sense, geographically, there were two parties going on. The needy, the users, friends of users, and the simply unknown, stayed out of sight and out of confrontation range of Chalmers. They were his customer base, willingly enjoying the beneficence of his generosity, but not caring for his company, either because they were in the owe and feared his wrath, or were so focused on feeding addiction that it would never enter their minds to veer from a source. Also, because of the harsher nature of this crowd's addiction, food was the last thing on their minds. The tantalizing smell of cooking meat wafted over to them, but none ventured through the side yard to grab a plate.

The only one to mingle between the groups was Sven Gorskie, the Colonel. He was a short, wiry man, shirtless, showing off long scars across his chest and belly, 63, staggering drunk already, even though it wasn't even 5 p.m. He was wearing the leather frontier cap with feather and confederate star in its floppy brim that gave him his namesake. For while the Colonel had served in the military, and as everyone knew from repeated recitation, that he had served honorably in the Vietnam War, alas, the dear handle-bar mustachioed Colonel never rose above the rank of staff sergeant during his four year stint in the U.S. Army.

The Colonel barked out as he came to within sight of Chalmers. "Hey! People in the back need food, don't they? Don't they, huh? Don't you think you should bring a plate or two and some fixin's back to them?"

"They know the deal, old man," Chalmers said. "The food's all up here. Look around. No one's hungry. Tell 'em we've got plenty. Them rat bastards think the keg's gonna walk away. Sure as shit it ain't."

"What?!" said The Colonel. "Am I your messenger boy? Tell 'em yourself."

"You came to me, Sven. Do what the fuck you want." Chalmers waved his spatula at The Colonel as if to dismiss him. The Colonel stood there, leaning forward, chin out, as if he was about to fall over, and glared at Chalmers. But Chalmers had turned aside and told his friend Benji, a tattooed, shirtless skinhead with a swastika tattoo on his right shoulder, to run inside and get some more supplies from Misty, Chalmer's girlfriend. The Colonel eventually turned himself around with a quick pivot, nearly falling over, and muttered a few choice epithets before sauntering over to the porch.

Benji and another dealer, Tyler, were in charge of loading up the various pipes out back and in the basement. Misty stayed inside the Augusta Inn, in a large bedroom off the main dining room, watching TV with her and Chalmers kids. She, and she alone, had a key to a closet safe where the money and drugs were kept. No one, not even Benji or Tyler, but Misty and Chalmers knew of this safe. "Chain of custody, chain of command," Chalmers told her. "Just you and me, babe. That way, if anything goes to shit, it's your ass."

When Benji knocked on her door, she opened it enough to see who it was and closed it shut quickly. These parties made her nervous. The only way she got through them was with a few needlefuls of good crank and staying in the inner sanctum. The kids, all under age 5, occupied themselves with a cartoon movie, and were oblivious to the doings of their parents.

Chalmers was alone at the grill, turning over the last of his supply of brats and burgers, grateful because he was more than ready to get his swerve on, when the police cruiser pulled into the driveway. Heads peaked around the back corner of the house. Sensing trouble, some of the rummies, those with outstanding warrants, scattered, stumbling in a zombie lurch to avoid the eyes of the law.

But Chalmers stood his ground. And cursed under his breath. He knew what this visit meant. And he knew the officer in the car, Detective Roy Hartwig, was after only one thing.

Hartwig was corpulent. Although assigned a beat, he was near retirement, and the frequent visits to drive thrus had taken their aggregate toll on his flesh. He did everything he could from the seat of his car. People joked, not inaccurately, that Hartwig could only be seen walking from home or the donut shop. The automatic windows whined open and Hartwig motioned Chalmers over with a meaty wave. Chalmers, ever the recalcitrant child, rolled his eyes, took off the apron, tossed in disgust onto the table next to the grill, and walked over to the squad car. Everyone on the porch stopped what they were doing to watch the proceedings.

"It's been awhile since we've talked," Hartwig said as Chalmers leaned over the window, his arms resting crossed atop the door of the squad car.

"Not long enough, I suppose," said Chalmers. "Fuck, what is it this time? I can only guess."

"Why don't you? We'll make it a game. A pretty simple one at that."

"You need someone." Chalmers said, making eye contact, searching for an answer first in Hartwig's glance.

"Bingo! You know how these numbers work out. Gotta have something to justify the program." Hartwig cracked the wrist of his left hand by holding it with his right and circling around nonchalantly. After one loud crack, the bones crunched and grinded soundlessly.

"Okay, okay. Fuck, man. Let me think. I usually have somebody in mind. It's just that nobody's pissed me off lately."

"Used to be I let you know what's what after the fact. I was just bored today and decided to give you the courtesy of a choice. It might save you and I both a little in the long run, right?"

"Okay.. I got this guy over by Greek Row, smart ass fraternity fuck nug, all geared up for the weekend, packing too if I remember right. Tom Higgins. No priors for all I know. Keep the heat on the other side of town."

"Packing, eh? Should we expect any heat?"

"Fuck if I know. No priors, right. I don't think he has a death wish. He works out, though. If he's on steroids, there's no telling what a roided out fuck'll do."

Hartwig nodded his head and smiled. "Well, I guess it's no matter. The task force likes a challenge now and then. The Higgins boy seems like a good choice. Is he rich? Suburban like most of those frat boys?"

"Boy can roll. He's got some bling. You'll make a decent enough haul."

Hartwig frowned, "You get me wrong, dear boy. I could care less about any kind of 'haul,' as you put it. Pesky lawyers usually attend the well-to-do."

"That could be something. I don't know nothing about that."

"Okay, Chalmers, all I need is an address and we're done here."

Chalmers gave it to him. He crossed his arms as he backed away from the vehicle. Even someone as unscrupulous as Chalmers knew that when you messed with another's life, even on the sly, it could come back to bite you in the ass someday. Karma sometimes takes the scenic route, but she always comes home to roost. Chalmers knew the wrong he was doing and hated Hartwig for making him do it. But anyone of any criminal enterprise in Bonneville knew that the price of doing business meant keeping men like Hartwig happy. The Chi-town folk liked the arrangement too, so Chalmers had to make do.

As Hartwig backed out of the gravel driveway, he opened the passenger window and leaned over. He said, loud enough for the porch partyers to hear,"You better keep things together around here. If any more complaints bring me back, someone's going to jail!" Hartwig furrowed his brow for emphasis, but he was in shadow so no one saw.

After the car rolled away, Benji approached Chalmers. "What did Tubbo want?" he asked.

"Fucking A, do I have to do everything around here?!" Chalmers yelled. "All these fucking burgers and shit are burnt all to shit. Hey, turn that fucking music down. Somebody complained about the noise. Goddamnit if I need the po po popping round back any time soon."

This seemed to satisfy Benji, and as if to placate Chalmers, he grabbed a plate and put the remaining grill items on it. Chalmers nodded at Benji and frowned. "I need a fucking beer, stat." He took off down the shaded sideyard to the back, towards the kegs, which were buried, side by side, in a blue trough full of ice.

Total words: 2,021

1 comment:


I'm really digging this piece, PARTICULARLY the dialogue. Keep it up!