Sunday, November 16, 2008

A murderous planet pt. 6

When I got home I sat on my bed. I opened the window at the head of my bed and laid down. My mind went over the events of the last day. The death of Kanbergs, the harassing brass, the meeting with Moussa, and seeing Joe at the water. The pieces shifted around in my mind like autumn leaves in the wind. My eyes closed and I fell asleep.

When I awoke it was dark. My hand groped at the blade resting under my pillow. My fist clenched it while my other hand reached for the small night stand light. The lamp illuminated the room. My hand waved the knife around the room cutting the shadows caused by the night's darkness leaking into my bedroom and the small bedside torch. My body ached as it rose out of my bed. The clock on the wall announced that it was 9:13 pm. There was still time to kill before trying to meet with Blackwell. It seemed as though there was always something that needed to be killed.

My wardrobe had seen better days. My work clothes were the best of my rags yet they would not be suitable for my passage into the night. I dug deeper into my closet and found a wrinkled dress shirt that had a small hole under the armpit. After slipping it on I put on a pair of gray slacks whose cuffs had turned black from the soot that was constantly being kicked up from the ground. The converse all stars that were slipped on my feet to complete my outfit had been acquired just a month ago yet already were falling apart. I looked at myself in the mirror, my small band aid seemed to highlight the rest of my face. I furrowed my brow and stroked my chin. Several days worth of beard growth rested on my face, it wasn't quite itchy enough to demand shaving but was long enough to make me look unkempt.

The walk to the down low took fifteen minutes. I walked down shattuck avenue, hiding under the bright streetlights that blazed the streets. I walked down into the lounge and paid the attendant a five dollar note to gain entry. I ordered a gin and tonic from a mustached bartender and let my eyes run to the stage. The small platform at the end of the bar was occupied by two people. A medium sized guitarist with brown hair and a gray suit strummed away while a brunette in a strapless full bodied dress and long gloves sang. The singer was doing a rendition of " Put the blame on Mame," an old number that had come back into fashion. She slowly removed her gloves as she sashayed her hips and her vocal chords rang out the slow, luxurious words of the the song.
She sang:

When they had the earthquake - in San Francisco-back in 19`6
They said that old mother nature - was up to her old tricks.
That's the story that went around, but here's the real lowdown-
Put the blame on mame boys, put the blame on mame
One night she started to - shim and shake-
that brought on the `Frisco quake
So you can, Put the blame on mame boys,
put the blame on mame.
They once had a shootin' -up in the Klondike when they got Dan McGrew
Folks were puttin' the blame on - the lady known as Lew
that's the story that went around, but here's the real lowdown-
Put the blame on mame boys,
put the blame on mame
Mame did a dance called the Hichy-koo,
that's the thing that slew McGrew
So you can, Put the blame on mame boys

As she went into the second chorus she stripped off one of her black gloves and tossed it to the crowd of onlookers. She looked directly at me as she finished her last lines and threw her hair back. Her long brown hair waved through the air slowly and majestically.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A murderous planet pt 5

I ate it on the corner outside the bakery musing over Moussa's information. The wind blew gently, tossing the newspaper along the deserted roads. The roads had been empty for a long time after the gas hikes. My old man used to tell me about days when gasoline was only 30 cents a gallon. When he was in the military and the price rose up to 50 cents a gallon, the lieutenants went ape shit. His particular section wasn't cut back but others were, the sections got smaller and jobs were displaced. Since graduating high school gasoline had jumped 300%, a few years after that when the recession really started to settle in gasoline rose in cost by 200%. Despite endless promises politicians couldn't lower the prices, the market had too much demand and not enough supply. The gas hikes and the bursting of the credit bubble had sunk the US economy. In just two years the US economic hegemony slipped away, quickly being replaced by contesting markets from asia (specifically china) and western europe (the united nations).

The lack of vehicles made being a pedestrian much more popular. Those of us with panache became thug flaneurs on the streets. No one walked without a little bit of gear on them; knuckles, a short knife. The poverty of the economy was highlighted by an increase in urban violence.

My eyes scanned the sidewalks, watching the shifting movements of the bums, and occasional pedestrian. Having time to kill til attempting to interview Blackwell I went west towards the water. The bay was grey and dirty with endless pollution caused by industrialization and the unfettered growth of capital. I lit a cigarette and pulled my coat tighter around my body, cursing the weather, with global warming I should be warm.

I got to the Berkeley marina around sunset. I walked to the edge of the water and looked north west across the bay into the city of San Francisco. The golden gate bridge stretched across the water, still in good repair due to the financial interests of the wealth in Marin County which lay north of the city. The urge to have a cigarette came over me and my hand went to my lighter when the voice behind me called out behind me. My body instantly whipped around. Joe stood behind me and a little further down from the edge of the water. Joe was one of the servers at Jupiter. He looked at me with his slightly bearded face, and shaved head. He was smoking a cigarette as well and slowly inhaled.

"What are you doing," he asked me.

"Looking out into the water. In the daylight you can see sectors of the a city that are to some extent decipherable."

Joe laughed and continued to smoke.

"Do you have a lighter," I asked. He handed me his lighter and I lit my cigarette. I handed him his lighter back which he slipped into his pocket.

"I still can't figure out why I ever moved here. Now I don't know where I should go," his voice trailed off as he inhaled another drag. He blew out a slow cloud of smoke that dissipated into the air. "You hear about Mike?"

"Something happened to him," I said.


"If I knew anything I'd probably keep it to myself, don't want the screws coming down for any reason."

"His body washed up not too far from here today. His head was blown off. I went to the morgue with his wife to identify the mess. Police said that it was drug related. You ever know Mike to do any drugs."

I shook my head.

"Me neither. Death is a haunting thing. Mike was always anti-social but we were friends. We lived together for a while back when things were different. You have any people die on you yet?"

My shoulders shrugged themselves while I looked at my coworker. I focused on his clothing which was worn and then at the black leather gloves he was wearing. The gloves were new. I wanted to take the glove, to weigh it and calculate how much it weighed in comparison to my own torn cotton scraps.

"I've had people die on me. Who hasn't? Everyone is dying, dropping off likes flies. Nothing stays the same. The world changes more rapidly every day; and day after day we produce it. We produce the bodies, the greed, the scum in the water. Everything. Fuck. When are things going to change." Joe threw his cigarette onto the pavement and stamped on it. He snatched another cigarette from his pocket and lit it up. He calmed after the first inhale. His chest rose and fell at a slower more even pace. "The things that the city tries to patch things up are just band aids over fractured lives. It bugs me that Mike is dead. That his body just washed up here. Fucking drugs!? No fucking way. This shit reeks."

"You ever hear of the Weltschmerz, Joe?" Joe shook his head and I continued. "Its pyschological pain caused by the realization that your personal weaknesses are exposed to be part of the cruelty of the world. If you stay out here much longer you might see more bodies wash up. Thanks for the light." I walked home.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A murderous planet pt 4.

I rolled out of bed at noon. My head ached. Bad habits, too many bad habits, I thought. The bathroom mirror showed my slightly beaten face. The mirror was grainy, my reflection murky, hardly clear enough to see my mug. My bathroom had seen better days, as had the building. The small house was on the border of the badland. Every day it seemed closer to the barren stratas in the city, inhabited only by decay. One month the poverty and the security force would push the muck south, the next month the new players in town would move with "white collar" crime up north, either way the house was eroding.

My fingers went over my cigarette burn. It was blistered. I considered popping it like a zit, letting the watery pus drain out but opted instead for a small bandage.

Information was a need. Things weren't clear enough. The possibility of the brass fingering me for Kanberg's unfortunate demise filled me with annoyance. The cops were just shaking me down I thought but my mind wondered what happened to the body. What would James do? I wasn't due back at the bar for another day or two so my schedule was open to do some sniffing around.

My kitchen was as empty as my belly. My stomach rumbled as I made the long walk to Jess' Bakery. There were two things to get at the little cafe, scones and info. Jess had opened the cafe a few months before the rioting and had some how managed to scrap by. Part of it was no doubt because it was the best place for picking up intel. It served as a kiosk for black market knowledge with the dishwasher, a young man named Moussa, keeping track of all the goings on in town in his computer like brain.

The cafe was dimly lit with a row of neon bulbs affixed to the ceiling. They didn't help to highlight the various baked goods in the cases. The natural light from the glass windows of the buildings facade provided most of the illumination and created most of the shadows. Jess, a medium sized woman with long black hair was mixing a cake in the back when I swung the door open. The door jingled as I opened it, the little bells attached to it announcing my arrival. The few tables in the cafe were half occuppied. Two men sat over a couple cups of coffee and some pastries quietly discussing business while another bald man with a small goatee sat in the corner. The bald man had a newspaper in front of him. The days headlines announced the increase in unemployment, another food riot in Oakland and a recent purchase made by one of Berkeley's large corporations of a plot of land in south berkeley. The bald man obviously had no interest in the paper. He eyed me up and down and nodded.

I looked the case of scones, cakes, cookies, and muffins over.

"Hey you got any macaroons," I asked, raising my voice slightly so Jess could hear me.

"Nope, we do have coconut truffles though. They're real good," she replied.

I nodded to myself. "Got anything with espresso in it?"

"Of course, what kind of town do you think we live in? Everyone needs there fix of something. Caffeine is a cheap commodity, a low rung," Jess said laughing. She dusted herself off. A slight cloud of flour filled the air as she moved to the storefront. "We have some delicious coffee cakes, a slight sprinkle of cinnamon, a heap of brown sugar, a dash of espresso. I used organic eggs, flour, and real vanilla. Would you like one?"

"Yeah sounds delicious."

"Here you go. That will be four dollars, fifty cents," she said as she handed me a small coffee cake. The cake had a nice visual appeal, certainly more luxiourous than the paper plate she handed it to me on.

"Thanks," was my answer as I handed her a twenty. "I was wondering if you'd seen Moussa at all today."

She looked at my bill, and shook her head.

"Oh I'm sorry I thought that was a ten dollar bill, I must have just given you a single." I forked over another twenty dollar bill. She nodded and put some money into the cash register, the rest into her apron.

"Jono, show this young man something about soccer would you?"

The bald man in the corner got up and motioned me to follow him. We walked out of the cafe and around the back of the building. He unlocked a small gate and motioned me through. He stood by the gate and pointed me down a little alley.

At the end of the alley two identical twenty something year old males sat on crates watching a soccer game. One of them drank a forty ounce bottle of malt liquor while the other smoked a spliff. The back street was filled with the pungent aroma of marajauna.

One of the men looked up at me. I nodded and stood behind the men as they watched the game.

"You know anything about the game," the one on the right said.

"Nah, not much. Can play alright if a ball is kicked to me, but don't do much in the way of following."

"They say that back in the 2nd century in China football started off, but it wasn't until the Cambridge rules imposed in 1848 that the game really got standardized. Let's say that's the starting point, back in the late 1800s. Its over two hundred years later and these fucktards still can't kick a ball worth my old e induced diarrhea."

"Things never really change do they?"

"Fuck nah," said the one on the right. He turned to me. "My name's Moussa, whatcha want?"

"Was curious about what the local brass do these days about bodies," I said.

"Hmph. What kinda cake you got there?" Moussa pointed at the paper plate that I held in my right hand.

"Coffee cake. I haven't had a bite yet. You want a piece?"

"All that caffeine gets me tweaked out. What about you Oussman?" The man on the left shook his head. "What's that about bodies? You talking live or dead?"

"The still kind."

"Depends on who made the body. Where you talking about?"

"I didn't come here to get pumped, I came here to get some gas."

"Ain't a one way street here. This alley is a dead end."

I stared at the game for a few minutes, mulling over my words.

"Last night one of the waiters at Jupiter the downtown restaurant bit it. The local brass came in. They gave the boys a shake down and let us go. The girls working were waved off. What's the protocol."

It took 15 minutes for Moussa to reply. He got caught up in the match. One of the teams changed their formation making offensive maneuvers. The game picked up pace and came to a crescendo with a goal. Half time was called and Moussa lit up another joint.

"Well the days being the days and all, and business being what it is, a downtown joint like Jupiter probably wants to keep things under wrap. The brass will take care of a body these days for a few. Service for both the business and the brass. The town looks clean and the restaraunt profits ain't hurt. Ain't nobody hurt but that body. Usually they dump it over in the marina. Sometimes it float on to the shore, but usually when it get called in they just tag it on some Oakland shit. Who working?"

"Myself, kid named Strong, some girls."

"What the girls names?"

"Amanda, Chelsie."

"Those Blackwell girls. You should look her up. Might find out why that body a body."

"You know where Blackwell spends her free time?"

"She move around at night, watching over her product, keeps an irregular schedule. Might want to try Beckett's up on Shattuck. Heard she's having problems up there with the merchandise being sassy." Moussa laughed.


"No problem. You enjoy your coffee cake."