Randy scratched his bristly cheek. Got to get me some nose candy. Need money. Standing alone in the kitchen he shared with three roommates in Poway, California, he ate pungent tuna out of a can. A diamond stud pierced his nose, and a purple ring looped through an eyebrow. Tattoos of crabs and scorpions decorated his arms. His black hair was greasy, his pupils dilated and the odor of stale cigarette smoke clung to him like a film of mist.
His girlfriend of five years had left him three weeks earlier. A man she met on the Internet seduced her, convinced her to give him all her savings in bitcoin, then disappeared.
When she had confessed to Randy, he quoted Forrest Gump. “Stupid is as stupid does.” He wasn’t sorry to see her go.
Randy had served a four-year prison term for attempting to smuggle drugs from Mexico into San Diego. During his six-month curfew, he stayed at home from ten at night to six in the morning. He completed the required community service hours, told his parole officer he wanted to change his behavior and believed he could achieve it. Seven months later, Randy was taken off parole after getting the parole officer’s recommendation, the supervisor’s recommendation, social services approval, and a judge’s order.
Finally, I’m free of the government’s fuckin’ shackles. Reporting at the parole office was a load of shit. Sitting for hours to splatter my stinky piss in a cup. Terrorized every time I got a phone call, thinking it’s the parole officer. Shitting my shorts when someone’s at the front door.
Randy threw the empty tuna can into the sink. He wiped his tuna-smelling hands on his loose briefs and pulled them up, not noticing they were inside out and back to front. In his bedroom, he dressed in a black polo shirt, stained jeans, a black baseball cap, and a denim hoodie. He put a switchblade in his back pocket.
As the haze of mid-day heat smudged the horizon, he rode his rusty bicycle for a mile, leaving his run-down neighborhood. He searched for a home without cars in the driveway. In a wide, quiet street with single-family homes, he stopped at a house with a high fence, tall overgrown bushes and no visible security cameras.
He checked his phone: 1:30.
Anyone home for lunch should be gone. Any kids should still be in school.
He propped his bicycle behind a bush in the front yard, then walked at a leisurely pace to the front door. He knocked. If someone comes, I’ll ask for directions to a 7-Eleven.
No one answered. Randy strode to the back where he found an open window. He looked inside, scanned a bedroom and climbed in. He hurriedly searched in drawers, spilling underwear and condoms onto the floor. Opening a small box with a clasp, he discovered five bags of grayish-white powder. Score.He placed the bags in his pockets. Seeing a marble urn, he removed the lid. Empty.
“Get out,” a high-pitched voice shrieked. “Get out. Get out.”
Randy turned to face the bedroom door, his heart thumping. Stepping back, he took out his knife and pressed the switch. The blade sprung open. He did not see anyone and did not hear footsteps.
“Get out,” the voice screamed.
Has some cocksucker called the goddamn cops? He hurried to the open window.
“Yeah. Get out.”
Randy jumped out and ran toward his bicycle. He slipped and stumbled, tried to steady himself but fell to the ground, grazing his hands and groaning. He got up, cursed, hobbled to his bicycle and raced home.
In his bedroom, he opened one of the bags of powdery substance and put it on his gums to check the purity. He spat out the grainy material.
“Ugh, son of a bitch.” What’s this? Ash? From that empty urn?
He hesitated, rubbed his bloodshot eyes, then scratched his thigh with gnawed fingernails. Was I almost in felony shit again?If he had been caught breaking into a house and burglarizing, he would be imprisoned again. No more dumb shit now.He stared at his trembling hands, then called the California Drug Abuse Hotline and spoke to a counselor about getting help.
Randy never discovered the shrieking voice belonged to a Salmon-crested cockatoo.
Fifty-five stories by Clive Aaron Gill have appeared in literary journals and in “People of Few Words Anthology.” He tells his stories at public and private gatherings. Born in Zimbabwe, Clive has lived and worked in Southern Africa, North America and Europe. He received a degree in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and lives in San Diego.