The blue dawn slants through the window and the sound of birds is everywhere. I’m lying on the floor. My skin feels crusted over and it’s very cold. I struggle to stand up. Old people are lying passed out all around me. The stench of something like burning carpet stings my nostrils. I have to get out. My chest feels tight. I feel like I’ve done something horrible. I look for Estelle. She’s in the corner, slumped against the wall, her shoes off and her lingerie twisted around her. Her false teeth are jutting from her mouth, a string of drool connecting them to her wrinkled chest. I nudge her with my foot. She snaps awake.
“I need to go,” I say.
“You can take my car. Keys are in the purse.” She waves her hand toward a gigantic orange purse.
I rifle through the purse until I come up with the keys. This smell is really bad. It makes me think there might be a fire somewhere in the house or apartment or wherever. I cross what I think is the living room but end up in another room almost exactly like it except there aren’t so many people on the floor. There is only a man in a wheelchair laughing and pointing at a small television. The only thing on the screen of the television is something in block letters that says:
PLOT IS A CON
I open the door to this room and it leads to the outside and a wooden landing that begins a steep and rickety set of stairs. It’s even colder outside and I wish I had a jacket. I forget exactly what Estelle’s car looks like and all the cars parked on the curb are huge. Most of them are unlocked. Some of them are filled with horrible things and stains and smells that come from some kind of insane underworld.
I finally find Estelle’s car and fire the engine. There is a blood stain on the windshield and I remember the man we hit in the parking lot last night. I wonder who he was. Before pulling away, I get out of the car and remove the license plates with a survival knife I find in the glove compartment.
I head for what I hope is home. Last night is hazy. I’m not exactly sure where I am. I’m not at all sure of what happened last night. We went back to Estelle’s place and she reached into her gigantic purse and pulled out a bunch of pills and said, “Here take these,” and I did and then I kind of blacked out. I think I remember chanting at one point in the evening. There may or may not have been a man there wearing horns. It might have actually been the Devil. I don’t believe in the Devil. But there was chanting and an orange strobe light and there might have been a sacrifice.
I’m shivering in the car. I turn on the heater. I turn on the windshield washers to try and get some of the blood off. I can never remember a time when cars were this large. Maybe when I was a very small boy. But that might have only been because I was so small and everything seemed larger.
Some memory suddenly washes over me and I remember being in high school, sitting in the passenger seat of Brandon’s car and two amazingly beautiful and absolutely ripe girls sat in the back seat and we were all smoking cigarettes laced with marijuana and laughing and the world seemed absolutely alive and open and stretched out before us. And I wonder what happened to that feeling. I wonder what happened to my best friend. I’m on the verge of crying so I turn on the radio. It’s an episode of Fresh Air and Terry Gross is interviewing cancer and I think that doesn’t really help very much.
Maybe I should go home and get my car before going to work. Maybe I should ditch this car.
A block away from my house I pull Estelle’s car into an abandoned house’s driveway, cautiously look around to make sure no one is watching me, and get out, leaving the keys in the ignition. I walk home with my hands in my pockets.
I get close to the house and see Buddy standing in the front yard in his underwear, his breath pluming out from the side of his mouth. There is a girl dressed in a black and white cheerleader’s outfit in front of him. She is crying and he is stroking her cheek with the back of his hand. She’s holding one black pom pom down by her knees. He kisses her on the forehead and she walks away, stopping to shove the pom pom into the sewer before catching a bus that stops at the corner. Buddy waves as she gets on.
He looks at me and says, “It is cold.”
I don’t know that I’ve ever heard him speak before. He sounds robotic.
“Agatha took all the coats,” I say. “Who was that?”
“What’s her name?”
Buddy stares at me and doesn’t answer. He turns and goes into the house. I follow him. I need to grab my keys. I go upstairs, thinking maybe I’ll take a shower to try and get this crust off me. Buddy is already in bed. There’s a trail of blood leading into the bathroom. I weigh myself, sigh, and hop in the shower. When I get out there is no towel. I let the steam out of the bathroom and walk through the freezing upstairs. I can’t find a towel anywhere. I use a t-shirt to dry off and then get dressed. I glance over at Buddy one last time and realize he is using all of the towels to cover himself. I wonder how I can get Buddy out of the house.
Someone has broken all of the windows in my car. The stereo has already been stolen so they took the passenger seat and replaced it with a mutilated raccoon. I open the passenger side door, grab one of the many fast food bags on the floor, and remove the raccoon. I think about shoving it down into the sewer but decide not to. I imagine the raccoon’s family coming along and finding it and deciding to give it a proper burial or perhaps a cremation.
The drive to the elevator factory where I work is freezing. I stop at McDonald’s on the way because I’m really hungry but also kind of sick and think McDonald’s will either fill me up or make me vomit. I once ate at McDonald’s every day for a month, trying to win their Monopoly sweepstakes. I really need a million dollars. I need to stop working at the elevator factory. I need to start playing the lottery. A few years ago I self-published a book called Dick Swap about two guys who ritualistically trade penises but, when one of the penises goes missing, an absurd bromance of epic proportions ensues. So far it’s only sold twelve copies and I haven’t written anything else. It’s not making me a millionaire. I haven’t even recovered the amount it cost to publish it in the first place.
I order the number two and eat it on the way to the elevator factory. I take a deep breath and go inside. I’m only an hour late today. I feel good about things.
The elevator factory towers fifty stories into the air. There is only one floor at ground level. The height is just an elevator shaft. There’s a warehouse part where blue collar men assemble the elevators. The rest of my coworkers are just people of various weights who take the elevator to the top and then ride it back down. Occasionally there are fatalities. My job is mostly to answer the phones and also clean the restrooms, which I don’t like to do and haven’t done for a very long time. When I go inside, the office manager is waiting for me. Her name is Candy. She looks like a man in drag. She tells me the boss would like to see me. I go back to his office and he opens the door and he’s not wearing any pants and his office smells like shit and I see actual piles of shit on his floor and I know it isn’t going to be good.