Rain slammed against the pavement and collected into a puddle in front of Kevin Haller’s back porch. His lips clutched the filtered end of a Marlboro cigarette and he inhaled, filling his lungs with smoke and Nicotine. He slipped his index and middle fingers around the body of the cigarette and pulled it away from his mouth. When he exhaled, a cloud of smoke gusted from his lips and swirled in front of his face. Gray—the perfect word to describe his zombie-like state of life.
The hems of his pants were saturated with rain water, making the blue denim appear shades darker than the rest. Going indoors would serve no real purpose. There was no electricity inside, no heat, and no other person to share in his misery.
Lola had gone and she had taken every ounce of his happiness with her.
Kevin supposed it was his own fault. Without the drugs, the drinking, and the parties, he was half the man he used to be. Work seemed even longer, even harder when he was working to pay bills rather than to blow it all on Coke, Speed, or Meth. He was a shell of his former self; a hard, corroded, foul-smelling shell that apparently had not looked good hanging on Lola’s arm. She’d found someone else—someone younger and better looking— who didn’t need to rely on one of those little blue pills to bring his “A game” into the bedroom.
Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets.
“Well, screw ya, Lola,” Kevin said aloud, his voice cold and gruff. “I hope you get Hepatitis.” Then again, Hepatitis was too good for her. “I hope your insides rot up and fall out, you stupid cu-”
The sudden ring of the cell phone lying next to him surprised him. It wouldn’t be long before the battery died with no way to charge it. Kevin picked up the abused piece of metal. His fingers glossed over the various scratches and scuffs it had acquired over the years. Several buttons were on the verge of falling off. It wasn’t fancy, or pretty. It was barely decent. But it was useful and served its purpose… most of the time.
It was him as a cell phone.
He pressed the phone against his ear, wincing slightly at how cold it was. “Yeah?” He hoped it was a bill collector. There were little things better than the much needed release of tension upon some poor college kid’s ear. Screw it. If anything the kid would learn to pay their own bills on time when he had some lonely, old, bastard screaming at him about how he just doesn’t have the money.
“Kev, you okay, buddy?” a concerned voice asked him from the other end of the phone.
“As happy as a virgin on prom night,” Kevin answered when he heard the familiar voice. It was Vincent Engler, the one person Kevin owed the most money too that wasn’t trying to collect on it or bash his skull in. Kevin had known Vincent since the two of them were fourteen and sneaking booze out of father’s bedroom drawer while he lay passed out and naked with barely legal women draped over him like living sheets.
“Glad to hear it,” Vincent replied. “A couple of guys and I are thinking about getting into something fun tonight. You in?”
“Not tonight, Vinny-boy. I have too much on my mind. I’ll catch the the next train.”
“Come on, Kev. It won’t be the same without you. Get out the house. Unwind, play some poker. Have a beer or two. I’m worried about you. You haven’t been the same since…” Since Lola left, Vincent silently finished.
“Later, Vince. Win a few hands for me, buddy.” Kevin ended the call and dropped the phone next to him. It plunged the short distance from his hand to the porch, smashing against the old wood and earning yet another scratch.
Kevin knew that Vincent was worried about him, and rightly so. It was no secret that he had the semi-automatic locked, loaded, and ready to go just in case life got too shitty for him. He was no stranger to taking the easy way out. He dropped out of school when he was sixteen. He gave up on the GED program when the coursework got too difficult. What harm would a bullet to the brain do him? Well, it would kill him, but what would be the harm in that? He’d be free from a life of never having anything, never being anything and never becoming anything. Born alone, die alone, as they say.
The cell phone rang again, a shrill echo of bells and melody in the calm of night. Kevin growled and snatched up the phone. “What?” he grumbled into the receiver, his fingers squeezing the cool metal in a viselike grip.
“Hmph, I thought you’d be dead by now,” a feminine and aloof voice stated when she heard the annoyance in Kevin’s tone.
“What the hell do you want, Lola? Done sucking the life out of that kid already? Damn you move fast.” Kevin smashed the cigarette onto the side railing of the porch. Ashes fluttered in the air like wings of a butterfly.
“Well, I’m certainly done sucking something that’s for sure,” was Lola’s taunting remark. “I can’t find the necklace my grandfather gave me. You haven’t seen it in that wasteland of a house of yours, have you?”
The necklace in question hung on the left bedpost of Kevin’s bed. It was a fourteen carat gold rope chain with a gaudy dragon charm whose eyes, tongue, and tail were rubies. Lola had always talked about how much she loved that charm. But she couldn’t have loved it that much if she had walked out without it. Finders keepers, losers can go straight to Hell.
“Haven’t seen it,” Kevin said
“You’re lying. I know it’s there and I’m not afraid to take you to court,” Lola threatened. “I’ll take you for everything you have, which is absolutely nothing. And how ironic, it’s also what you’re worth.”
“If you try, you’ll be even dumber than you look.”
“Is that what you go for, honey? The dumb ones?”
Kevin snorted and scooted further back onto the porch. The rain went from unforgiving to downright tortuous. It chose wind and fallen leaves as its allies and the three of them went around beating up the ugly, green, dumpster next to his back door, making the lid bang repetitively against the side of his house. “I went for you, didn’t I?”
“And where did that get you?” Lola asked.
A tired sigh escaped Kevin’s lips. He’d be lying to himself if he said he didn’t miss Lola or the sound of her voice. Even as a tweaker, Lola was beautiful. She dyed her hair to whatever color her mood reflected. She was blonde when Kevin had met her while working security backstage at a Rob Zombie concert. She was eighteen then and had no business being at a concert like that, but there she was; eyes like emeralds, hair the color of sand, and skin that looked like the moon had been melted to create it. Kevin felt like he’d won the lottery the first night she slipped between the sheets of his bed, and the second, and the third.
“I ain’t seen your necklace, Lo. Sure you haven’t traded it to some dealer for a fix? You probably wouldn’t remember if you did though, would you?” He snickered while his eyes followed the path of a cockroach crawling its way onto the porch, undoubtedly trying to get away from the rain.
“You’re so pathetic,” Lola said, her voice a mixture between anger and despair. “Since you can’t have me, you want to hold onto the one thing I love more than anything in this world. You’re a loser, Kevin. You were then and you are now.”
Kevin plucked the cockroach from the porch and squint his eyes, watching its crackly, little, body go sailing through the air. At least he wasn’t the only one having a bad day.
“It was nice to hear your voice again,” Kevin admitted. “But I’m done with it just like I’m done with you. Try not to overdose. And if you do, try to do it while standing in front of a wood chipper.” He pressed a single button to end the call and finally stood up, ignoring the sounds of his knees popping. Half the time when he stood up or sat down, his joints sounded like someone opening an old door with rusty hinges.
He thought about everything that Lola had said and knew that she was right. He could have been the mature one. He should have been the mature one. He was the oldest, both mentally and physically. Why hold on to someone who doesn’t want you anymore? Why think about them? Dream about them? Why care? Kevin couldn’t figure out the answer to any of those questions. And if he couldn’t figure out a single answer, what was the point? It was time to do what he did best.
When the going gets tough, get the hell out of dodge.
His footsteps were quiet but sounded heavy with nothing else to drown them out. Cheap candles from the dollar store lit the path from the back door to his bedroom. The gun was where he’d left it, resting atop his nightstand next to his bed. Lola’s necklace hung several inches above it.
Kevin grabbed the necklace and let it dangle from the palm of his hand. With his free hand he picked up the gun. He sat down on the edge of his bed and closed his eyes. He wasn’t afraid of death and he wasn’t sure if he believed in Heaven or Hell. And as far as he was concerned, if they existed, well, God and Satan could fight over his soul if they wanted it.
The gun was just about as cold as the cell phone had been. The same cell phone that he’d left outside on the porch. Not that he gave a crap about it. He let his fingers dance along the steel, feeling each individual groove as he weighed his options. Option number one was the hardest. Stick it out and be a man. Go to work. Pay bills, pay loans, pay co-workers, pay friends. Waste away to nothing but a man who lived to work and worked to work. Option two was death. Short, simple, and easy. A pull of a trigger, the blaze of a bullet through his temple, blood as warm as a hot spring rolling down the side of his face, and finally peace.
Kevin put the gun to his head and closed his eyes. He waited for awhile, but wasn’t quite sure what he was waiting for. Perhaps he was waiting on a sign; a sign to end it all or a sign to keep going on with his so called life.
“Ya’ got five minutes,” he said to no one in particular. “If you don’t decide, I’ll decide for you.”
The minutes ticked passed and not a single thing happened in the dark quietness of his bedroom. Annoyed that the decision was left up to him, Kevin sat the gun back down on the nightstand and rose up from the bed. He stood there in his bedroom, staring at the single candle that gave off the only source of light and sighed quietly. Still holding onto the necklace, he walked over to his closet and found a gray duffel bag.
He moved over to his dresser drawer and shoved enough clothes inside it to last him for a week. He grabbed his leather wallet from off the top of the dresser and tossed that into the bag as well. Finally, he tossed the necklace and gun inside of it. He made sure to empty the gun of its bullets first, letting them fall onto the floor and roll beneath the bed.
His first stop would be the pawn shop at the corner of 6th Street and Hardy Avenue. He’d sell the gun and the necklace and use the money he got for them for a bus ticket. He didn’t have a place in mind. It didn’t need to be someplace extraordinary. It only had to be far enough for him to forget that he ever existed in this town—a new state, a new town, a new home, a new life. It would still be running. He would still be taking the easy way out. But hell, it wasn’t like he’d asked to have so many problems and it wasn’t his fault that he’d ended up being so good at running away from them. Why mess up a good thing?
He had an hour to get to the pawn shop before they closed and a glance out the window told him that the rain had stopped. If the bus was on schedule it would be there in less than ten minutes. He had a dollar and fifty cent in change in his back pocket. It would cover the fare for a one way trip on the city bus. Kevin considered that as good a sign as any other.