By Luke Ohlson
The van says, “DIPIETRO PLUMBING – When You’re Pipes Aren’t Running, We come Running to You!”
That doesn’t even make any fuckin’ sense. He thinks.
The Cook scoots himself up in the wheelchair.. A man in a navy blue jumpsuit gets out. He rubs on his hands, coughs clouds, walks up to the neighbor’s door.
Fuckin’ amateurs. They think they can go down to the Army Navy store and pick up a fuckin’ jumpsuit and I’m gonna fall for it? Huh!
He wheels himself into the kitchen. He slides open a drawer, shuffles through the matches and straws and pen knives and rubber bands and-
I can hear you, she shouts down from the bedroom upstairs.
He slams the drawer shut.
And don’t be slammin’ things in my fuckin’ kitchen! You’re a half-dead wreck and our daughter dies of cancer and you’re gonna smoke? I’m gonna go talk to your friends in the van if you don’t get your fuckin’ head out of your ass! she says.
And tell ‘em what? he says.
You know what, she says.
I wish you would tell ‘em he thinks. That way I could die in prison. And they have cigarettes.
Make it fit, Mike says.
You want me to bend it half? says the Cook.
No, just move some stuff around. Here-
Mike puts his cigarette in his mouth, tosses out the spare tire, shoves the bigger painting in.
Great. That’s great, says the Cook. God forbid we get a flat tire.
What the fuck? We’ll call a tow? Jesus Christ, says Mike.
And tell ‘em what? Watch the trunk there’s a Dutch masterpiece in there? says the Cook.
They’re paid to tow the car not look in the trunk, says Mike.
The Cook turns away, looks up at the blinking sign. A red lobster tail flicks up and down, the red neon alternating between three different positions. The Lobster has a rough blue line of a smile on his face.
Why the fuck do they always make the animals smile at these fuckin’ places? Smilin’ chickens. Smilin’ fish.They’re fuckin’ dead. They should have x’s on their eyes and their tongues out. I didn’t have a smilin’ fuckin’ anything on my place.
They get in the car. They drive. They don’t get a flat.
You did what? she says
I just sold the extra pills, he says.
You can’t do that! she yells.
She’s getting hysterical. Prison’s a relief after this one. Christ.
Our daughter’s dyin’ and you’re tryin’ to hustle like your fuckin’ 18 again. Get your head outta your fuckin’ ass!
The Cook says nothing.
Oh so what? You’re not gonna talk now? Well, 40 years too late! she yells.
She stomps away. He reaches into the pouch in his wheelchair, fishes out a cigarette, lights it.
He thinks about his daughter. He thinks if five million dollars would be enough to keep her alive for another year. He thinks if there’s anyone around anymore to make good on the threat if he collected.
We’ll chop off your balls and stuff them down your throat, they’d said.
He’d done things like that. Hit guys’ kneecaps with hammers. Broke a guy’s legs with an aluminum bat. He knew tides of rivers and trash collection schedules, the ins and outs of making people disappear.
He thought of the paintings. Some of them gone. Some of them hidden, rotting in the dark.
Luke Ohlson is a writer, filmmaker, musician, and activist living in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
You can find his work at lukeohlson.com.
Illustrations by Brett Wintle