Authors: Adam Rapp
On top of everything else, Boobie’s got the clap. On Highway 53 he couldn’t stop swallowing screams. It got so bad he had to pull over and get out of the car. When I checked on him he was backed up against a telephone pole pouring Gatorade down his pants like some kind of scientist.
Curl kept going, “What’s he doin’, Custis? What’s he
I guess he thought them vitamins and nutriments would cool that burning. The Gatorade was green like Martian blood. I never heard someone scream so loud in my life.
Curl’s got the clap, too, but she quit crying after we changed to Highway 38. Her face went soft and dreamy all of a sudden. Them towns like Maple Park and Elburn and Cortland went by all quiet and spooky with their fields and cows and farm machines.
“Look at that big dumb cow,” Curl kept saying. “And that one, too. Look at him. He’s so big and dumb.”
Curl says you get used to the clap after a while. She says living with that burning’s like breaking in new shoes.
I’m in the front seat scouting pigs.
Pigs get crafty on the highway and you gotta concentrate. They go undercover and paint their cars and tint up their windows. On Interstate 80 a pig car might be red and it might be blue. I seen one once that was yellow like a banana. It’s all about them big antennas. If it’s got one coming off the trunk and it’s a Impala or a Caprice Classic, you can bet your spending money it’s a pig.
I got my gat in my pocket and my hand’s on top of it just in case. It’s been on top of my gat ever since we skated. It feels like my fingers is all grown into the trigger.
Curl’s in the back seat trying to name the baby. She’s got her new dress on. It’s green with this big sunflower down the front and when she sleeps she keeps her hand on the stem like she picked it in a field. This rich man from Joliet gave her the dress. Them rich suckers is always coming off the Harrah’s gambling boat walking all tall and supreme like they ain’t never gonna have no pain.
The radio’s broke so Curl keeps singing Pepsi-Cola commercials and making Pigmy feet on the window; that’s when you press the side of your fist up against a steam blob. If you press it right it looks like a little Pigmy foot. You can make toes with the tip of your finger.
Whenever Curl’s fiending for bazooka, she smokes Boobie’s Basics, and whenever Boobie’s tapped out she makes Pigmy feet.
She’s been counting blackbirds, too. She thinks that if she counts enough of them it’ll clean her bazooka habit. Sometimes she counts them even though they ain’t in the sky. Her voice gets all wack and desperate like someone’s chasing her with a stick.
This morning there was this whole flock of them flying south. It looked like a big black flag flapping around in the sky. Curl got so excited she pressed her face up against the window and smeared all her Pigmy feet. She said she counted forty-seven of them, but I only counted eighteen. She spent the rest of the morning looking for them blackbirds like they was gonna come back and ask her for her telephone number.
Since then I’ve only seen three more, and one of them suckers was smashed to the road. Boobie pulled the car over so he could study it. Even though it was smashed you could still see its face. It looked like it was screaming.
Curl ain’t been eating none lately either. You used to always see her with a fish sandwich and some French fries. Curl’s crazy about fish. You stick some meat in her face and she won’t eat it, but if you show her a live fish she’ll cut its head off, clean it, and cook that joint up like she’s been starving for the longest.
She used to go fishing in Bolingbrook with Old Man Turpentine. Old Man Turpentine says the best fish east of the Mississippi swim in the Des Plaines River. Him and Curl would drop their lines right next to those niggers with the straw hats who drive up from Kankakee in their old broken-down cars. Skankakee niggers, I call them. Even though they got their own river all to themselves they still come up to Bolingbrook. Old Man Turpentine says all they talk about is how rotten and little the fish are down in Skankakee.
Curl uses this old bamboo pole she found under a bridge, and even though it’s all warped and smells like foot fungus she catches carp and bullheads and cooks them up in the barbecue pits over at Renfro Park.
I ain’t never fished with Curl, but Old Man Turpentine says she catches more fish than them niggers from Skankakee, and that’s all they do.
Curl keeps promising Boobie that she’s through with bazooka, but you know she’s still fiending. You can see how them froggy eyes of hers slide to the left like she thinks she can smell it cooking somewhere, like she can picture it getting scraped out of the pot and trimmed up on the kitchen table. And you can see that yellow starting to crawl where her eyes is sliding, too. Naming the baby’s the last thing on Curl’s mind.
Boobie wants to name it, cuz you can’t sell no baby that don’t got no name. He wants to call it Eugene or James or some shit. One of them rich-sounding names from New Lennox or Frankfurt or the west side of Joliet.
I knew this kid from the west side of Joliet called Wallace Henry Walters. He lived on Western Avenue, and he had a pool in his backyard with two diving boards. He let me live in his tree house for a few days cuz I stole him a calculator from the RadioShack on Larkin. It was cool cuz it had this window and you could watch squirrels and shit. He said I could live there as long as I wanted, but then his pops — this big sucker who looked like a anchorman — caught me pissing in the bushes and called the police.
Wallace Henry Walters.
Rich people like a name like that.
If you ask me, the more names you use, the better chance you got of selling a baby. As long as it’s got two eyes and all its fingers and it ain’t no nigger. That’s what I keep telling Curl, but she just shakes her head and sets them big froggy eyes on me and tells me I’m evil.
“We’re lucky he ain’t no nigger,” I’ll say. “We’re lucky.”
“You a evil boy, Custis,” she’ll say. “You evil like a priest on Monday.”
Curl thinks I got evil in me cuz of Bob Motley — this fat man who used to own me. He was keeping me at his duplex over by the Rockdale water tower. I stayed in the room where Sergeant Dick used to sleep. Sergeant Dick was his dead pit bull, and you could see where he was trying to chew the door up. Sergeant Dick’s room was cool cuz it was warm and I got to sleep on top of a real Sealy Posturepedic mattress. Even though it was on the floor and it smelled like dog spit, it was the first real mattress I slept on since I stayed at this halfway house in Lockport, and them mattresses was all skinny and wack.
In Sergeant Dick’s room you didn’t care about the pit bull smell so much cuz at least you was warm and them Rockdale vagrancy pigs wasn’t gonna fuck with you.
Bob Motley found me at the mall when I was stealing half-Cokes from the food court. You can get pretty full on half-Cokes if you drink them fast enough. You can swallow air in between so it makes you feel fuller, too, but sometimes that gives you ass failure, so you can’t swallow too much.
That day in the food court I wasn’t wearing no kicks cuz I left them in that tree house on Western Avenue. This security guard tried chasing me but I hid behind them caramel corn ladies with the big fat stomachs.
“Hey, ladies,” I said. “Let me mop your floor. I’ll do it for free.”
“How old are you?” they asked, smiling like big, happy dolphins.
“Old enough,” I said.
“How old is old enough?” one of them replied.
I was like, “Eleven, twelve, thirteen. Twenty-seven.”
They just thought I was cute and let me mop their floor. They didn’t even notice my bare feet.
“What’s your name?” the fattest one asked me.
I was like, “Ronald.”
They laughed and laughed.
I stayed behind the counter and ate caramel corn while the water was filling up the mop bucket.
“Make sure you add some bleach to that water,” one of them ladies said.
“Oh, I will,” I promised. “I’ll add some bleach.”