Dog tired on a Friday night. Nerves crackling like fuse wire anxious to burn. Sid cranks the stereo loud enough Paulie starts dripping blood out one ear. He laughs it off, or seems to, no one can hear the sound over the music. Tell-tale thrash metal anthem proclaiming the dead have risen to rock 'n' roll, cut fools for trying to keep us down; and who is this us? Anyone who feels electric run through their veins at the sound of rusty notes chugging a murdering train 180 mph.
Paulie passes a vial of coke into the backseat. Like I said, dog tired, but I'm doing fine with music and coffee so pass it over to Chris. He inhales enough for both of us.
Been a long time since I saw either of these guys, and I'm remembering full well why we don't hang out. Paulie and Chris always bear bad news. Some people just have that kind of talent. Problem is I think these two enjoy it, especially considering they always make things worse.
Right now is probably the best example. Heading to Mr. G's after work Sid and I see Paulie and Chris already at the bar. They're standing out front. Haven't been allowed inside since that attacked Mike Beaver with a box cutter. Mike maybe had it coming, sure, but fuck-all, two cokehead rhinos against one sarcastic squirrel is some cowardly bullshit you ask me. Thing is Sid and I know, the second we see them, the two are waiting for us.
Before we even say hello Paulie says, "You guys hear about Eddie?"
Shake my head, "Nope. What about him?" -- and hate myself for asking.
Chris chimes in, "He got shot by a couple of Russians over by the river south, in the Wasteland."
"Why'd they shoot him?" I ask.
Paulie shrugs, lights a joint, "Some bullshit."
Exactly the none answer I expect. Knowing Eddie the way I do he probably brought it on himself. Aware I won't ever get the true story I ask, "He okay?"
"No, he ain't. He got fucking shot," Chris says.
"I mean is he in the hospital, or dead."
Chris says, "Oh, well, he's in the hospital. 3 bullets in him, but he gonna be aight."
God just can't help saving the losers. Feeling thirsty, not caring a tick, I start inching towards the bar. Sid notices the trajectory, follows suit.
Paulie, looking stunned, says, "Where're you goin'?"
"To get a drink," Sid replies.
Paulie rolls his eyes, "I don't believe this. Dudes, Eddie got shot. We gotta do something."
Pointing back and forth at Sid and myself I say, "We don't have to do shit."
Chris says, "You owe him. Eddie saved your ass back in the day. Remember when he drove you to the hospital?"
"Yeah, after poisoning me with his shitty drugs."
Folding his arms across his chest Paulie says, "Then I'm calling in a favor. You're coming with us."
"You banged my sister, and I never killed you."
"I banged your sister?"
And the conversation circled that point for a few more minutes until Sid declared we were never going to get a chance to relax until we helped these two idiots with whatever madness they intended to perpetrate. So we piled into Sid's car. Paulie acted as navigator though the Wasteland is easy enough area to find.
Head east until you hit the river then go south. When everything looks water damaged and decayed like the whole town got transplanted up from the bottom of the river yesterday you've arrived. Populated by an assortment of river rats, gators, and meth addict rabbits, the Wasteland is a guaranteed glimpse into humanity's darkest region. Cruising the main drag a pimp slaps a sixteen year old mother of two into the back of a purple Caddie, while Ukrainian women hurry off a nearby apartment stoop to collect the kids before they too vanish. Glancing down an alley I see eyes shining in the dark, though that doesn't mean they belong to animals. On the corner a liquor store is burning down. Firefighters battle the flames to the expensive booze then rob the place before ditching out, letting it turn to ash. A junkie sleeps in the gutter two needles stinking out her arm.
Paulie spies a neon sign advertising Nevskoe Imperial. He says, "That's the place."
Sid pulls up in front of the joint. It's the only place untouched by graffiti. Broken glass litters the street like snow except in front of this place. The name above the door reads Strelka.
"Now what?" Sid asks.
Chris laughs, "We give 'em hell."
Reaching into his coat he pulls out four large knives like Tyranosaur teeth. He hands us each one.
I feel the need to say, "So we know these guys have guns, and you want us to stab them."
Paulie sneers, "They won't be expecting us, and if we all hit hard and fast, it'll be over before anyone knows what happened."
"Sounds like a plan," Sid says. I give him a You-Gotta-Be-Kidding me look. His response is, "Don't be a pussy. Trust me."
Chris punches Sid in the shoulder, "That's the spirit."
As we get out of the car I whisper to Sid, "Are we seriously doing this?"
"Just follow my lead."
At the front door Sid suggests Paulie and Chris head in first. The two rhinos think it's a good idea. They want first blood. After dusting up, they go in white nosed.
Sid says, "Let's go."
He's back in his car before I realize what's up. I jump in the passenger seat, and Sid peels out before I even close the door. We speed out of the Wasteland never to hear from Paulie or Chris again. Hell of a start to the weekend.