100. Sharp Dressed Man

(Donations this week have triggered this bonus post! Enjoy it, AND the Spin article will ALSO be coming soon!)

By the time I got home my hand was starting to throb and I wondered what exactly I’d done. OK: buy gloves, learn to drive, get health insurance.

I should have had the cab take me to the emergency room back when we were still near the hospitals. I was tired and didn’t relish the thought of sitting in a waiting room thinking about cops or The Block or anything. But I was thinking, and what I was thinking was there were two possibilities here: one, that at least partly as a result of me Ziggy’d developed an insatiable craving for man-flesh, or two, that maybe I hadn’t been his first at all. Maybe the whole thing had been a huge lie. I didn’t know what he was doing out there tonight, buying, or selling. What had made me think he wasn’t sleeping with other men if he slept with other women? I don’t know. I doubted everything right now. I took some aspirin and went to sleep.

I woke up maybe five hours later with thin winter light coming in the window and my hand throbbing. My thumb was red and swollen like I’d been stung by a bee and moving it hurt. I was still in my clothes and went to the kitchen to stick my hand in a bowl of ice water.

I was sitting there, half asleep with my hand aching in a mixing bowl (not that anyone ever seemed to mix anything in it), when Christian came downstairs in a bathrobe with some hotel’s crest embroidered on the chest. “Are you okay?”

“I don’t know.”

“I could hear you cursing.” He stuck his head into the refrigerator and came out with a triangle of cold pizza in tin foil.

“Cursing?” I didn’t remember cursing specifically. “Must have been when I was trying to get the ice cube tray emptied.”

He sat down across from me and ate the pizza. “What did you do?”

“Oh, I banged it on the counter until all the cubes fell out.”

“No, stupid, to your hand.”

“I don’t know.”

“Got in a fight?”

“I…” I couldn’t figure out what to say about that. “What makes you think that?”

He shrugged. “Maybe it’s the black eye.”

My other hand went to my cheek which was sore to touch. “Jeezusgod.” I put my head down in the crook of my arm and my face hurt.

Chris came around my side of the table and lifted my hand out of the water. He tugged gently on my thumb and I bit my lip. “It’s probably sprained. You want to go to a doctor?”

“I don’t have a doctor,” I said, my voice weak.

He sighed. “You really are beyond coping, you know that?”

I nodded. When I pulled my thumb out of the ice it was still swollen and the bruise looked like it went clear through from my palm to the back of my hand.

“Jeezuschrist,” Christian said. “I think we better get you to the hospital immediately, as in, right now.”

“It’ll be okay…” I said out of reflex, but he hit me on the shoulder hard.

“Don’t be a dickhead about this, Daron, just listen to me. You could be seriously fucked here, man, do you know what I mean? Shit, Sean caught one finger in the door of the van two years ago and he’s still totally fucking…” He put his hands to his temples and gritted his teeth at me to make his point. “Does it hurt?”

“Fuck yes.”

“Keep it on ice. I’m getting dressed and then St. Elizabeth’s here we come.”

“Okay.” He had already turned to dash up the stairs by the time my hand hit the water again. I knew it was bad when the jaw-ache pain of the ice itself was an improvement over the pain of the injury.

I was thinking about trying to put some ice cubes in a plastic grocery bag for the trip when the doorbell rang.

I couldn’t balance the bowl and open the door at the same time, so I left the bowl behind and went into the entryway, hand dripping. The front door never sealed well and I felt chilly air blowing on my stocking feet. The bell rang again and I shouted “One second!” while trying to remember what day of the week it was–did Fedex or UPS deliver on Saturday? Or was it going to be Jehovah’s Witnesses? I had a fleeting fantasy that it was Mills, come to make an unbelievable offer for a tape he hadn’t heard yet.

I opened the door.

Digger stood there in an unwrinkled three piece suit and trenchcoat. His hair was conservatively cut, but not trimmed recently enough. I could see a tie, expensive shoes. He had a briefcase in one hand and a small suitcase in the other. His eyes looked a little misty and he smiled.

I shut the door and stood with my forehead pressed against the wood. Maybe pain was making me hallucinate and he wasn’t real.

I could hear him on the other side. “Hey kiddo, what’s the matter? Somebody undressed in there or what?” He knocked and the door rattled against my skull.

Anger was starting to melt the ice block of my initial shock. The harder my heart pumped the more my hand hurt. “What are you doing here, Dad?” I shouted so he could hear me.

“Just passing through! Business!”

Christian came clomping down the stairs. He’d thrown his leather jacket on over an old sweatsuit and hadn’t stopped to tie his hiking boots. “What are you waiting for? Need help with your shoes?”

“Uh, yeah.” I motioned toward the door. “Chris, there’s…”

Digger rang the bell again. Christian cocked an eyebrow.

“It’s my father,” I said quietly, cringing.

“Sucky time for a family reunion, huh?” Chris picked my denim jacket up off the back of the couch and held the left sleeve open. I slid the hurt hand through. “I’ll tell him you’re not always such a pathetic sight.”

“Don’t-—” I started but then he yanked the door open.

I went to get my shoes. They were in front of the couch like I’d sat down there last night to take them off, though I didn’t remember doing so. I sat down now, my back to Digger, glad to have a moment to collect myself before facing him. There was no time to fill Chris in on what he didn’t know or to stress that I neither trusted nor liked the guy now standing in the entryway.

I started talking to my shoes. “Gee, Dad, this is really a bad time. We’re just on our way out.”

“What’s this ‘Dad’ stuff, kiddo? Been so long you forgot?” He sat on the arm of the couch and I forced myself to tie my right shoe despite the pain in my hand. The knot was loose, but held.

“I don’t forget anything,” I said, starting on the other shoe so I wouldn’t have to look up.

He ignored the sharpness in my tone. “Where you boys headed? Can I give you a ride? Rental’s right outside.”

I stood up, readying some monumental lie about where we were going so early in the morning and trying to work in a feasible reason why we couldn’t leave him here alone in the house. But Christian beat me to it.

“We’re meeting some people for breakfast,” he said.

“Great! I’m starved. Hey, my treat.” Digger said this last directly to me. “You and your friend here.”

I just wanted us out of the house, thinking if we locked him out we could then ditch him in Boston traffic. “Let’s talk about it outside.” I held the door open with my good hand.

“What,” he said as he smoothed his trenchcoat. It looked like some kind of soft, pricey material. “You don’t want a free breakfast?” Christian and I stood on the front porch waiting for him. He stepped out with his briefcase but not the suitcase.

“Don’t leave that here,” I warned. “It’s… not real safe.”

“There’s nothing important in it,” he said with a shrug. “Some skivvies is all! I’ll get it before I go back to the hotel. Room’ll be ready around three, they said.”

Chris went ahead and shut the door and made “let’s go” eyes at me. “We’re a little late,” he said to Digger. “I’m sorry, Mister-—?”

“Digger, just call me Digger. Pleased to meet you–?”

“Christian.” They shook hands.

“Shit! You didn’t look so tall in the pictures. I didn’t recognize you with the ponytail neither. You’ll want to stick around to hear what I’ve got to say, then.”

“Digger, we’re late.” I coughed and suppressed the urge to hide my hand under my armpit. “Can we catch up with you later? We’ll be back by noontime.” God, I thought, I sound so calm, like I’m blowing off some Jehovah’s Witness and not barely keeping myself from screaming at him to go the fuck away. My thumb ached so bad I wanted to cry–but that was perhaps the one thing that could have made things more miserable than they already were, so I tried like hell to refrain.

Digger did not give up. Ignoring me again, he said “So, where are we going?”

Chris, god love him, tried to be a diplomat. “There’s a great place down the hill here, serves a huge Irish Breakfast for $3.99. I’m sure you’ll love it there.”

Digger looked like he was going to protest again, but he looked at me long and hard and I saw his face change as he decided to take the low road. “Yeah, sure, I’ll give it a try. You boys have fun and I’ll talk to you later. I think you’ll be very interested, Chris, in what I’ve got to tell you.”

Chris waved a hand as we crunched down the driveway toward the van. I wanted to put my hands into my pockets but couldn’t manage the left one.

When the van had swung the corner Chris said “Man, he’s a live one, huh? You told me you didn’t get along with him but I wasn’t sure how rude to be.”

“‘ts alright,” I said, my face and my jaw clenched but my eyes dry. “God, I can’t believe him waltzing up to the house like that! At eight o’clock in the fucking morning, too. How’d he know where to find me?”

Chris shrugged. “Ain’t like a secret, really.”

“I suppose.” He must have read the Spin article or one of the others that mentioned where we’re from, I thought.

Chris must have had the same thought because the next thing he said was “Didn’t look so tall in the pictures, shee-it. What do we do about him, boss?”

“I don’t know. Maybe he really is here on business and will be gone by tomorrow. Maybe I’ll tell him to get lost and he’ll listen.”

Chris didn’t sound any more convinced of that than I did. “Sounds like he’s got more on his mind than a family hello. I do admit I’m curious what he wants to say to me.”

“Probably something to humiliate me,” I said, and my throat caught on the last word. I looked at the passenger side traffic rather than let Chris see my face. The car on that side sped up and swerved into our lane. Chris laid on the horn.

“Dammit, Daron,” he said when we were back on an even keel, “as soon as your thumb gets better, we’re teaching you to drive, capeesh?”

I nodded. Anything to make me better able to get the hell out if I needed to.

(Primo content update: Donations for this week are up to $40 so everyone will get to see the Spin article! AND if donations reach $50? We’ll make Daron read the article. Not kidding. He wasn’t going to, but ctan will make him do it, if you cough up the dough.)


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