46th & Mercury — Excerpt: “The Trigger”



It’s the kind of bad news no one ever wants to get. Whether it’s a pink slip on the desk or a closed door, hushed conversation in the boss’s office, nobody ever wants to hear the news that they’re fired. But that was exactly the kind of news Lloyd Mayes was trying to wash down tonight.

What he was trying to wash it down with wasn’t even the good stuff — he had to watch his budget now, after all. So what if he was falling off the wagon head first? He was doing it smartly, wasn’t he? And so what if he was doing it a gulp at a time out of a half gallon plastic bottle in the park, instead of shot by shot in a nice, warm drinking establishment?

The way Lloyd figured it, he wouldn’t get another job as good as the one he’d just cost himself, so getting sauced in the park might become a regular pastime. He didn’t even want to think about what his change in vocations was going to cost him — the short answer was: everything. Therefore, according to the thinking of Lloyd Mayes, fuck it.

He combed his fingers through his short black hair and cast an eye toward the edge of the park. A police cruiser glided along the perimeter of the lush green grass, then peeled away and back out onto the street proper, apparently having entirely failed to notice him and his markedly unsanctioned recreational activity. Lloyd’s stomach felt cold and heavy, as though it was playing host to a thick cake of ice.

He took another big slug of cheap whiskey in the hope that he might eventually warm it back up again. The stuff was plainly awful — it probably wasn’t even actually whiskey but rather that mixed crap. He looked down at the label with eyes reddened by mental and emotional fatigue. “A blend.” he noted. “Ugh. Yeah. Spurious.”

He upended the bottle again, anyway. There was nothing else to do, except go home and explain his day to Liz, and that was the last thing he wanted to do in this heavy funk. She’d scream at him. And then the kid would start in. God, how he hated that kid.

It didn’t help that the kid would probably turn out to be a faggot. Lloyd felt a bubble of defiant hate rise up, thick and viscous like black sludge, every single time he thought about that kid. Donnie wasn’t even his kid. Plus, the little bastard was eleven years old and still playing with toys. Worse yet — fuckin’ dolls.

So okay, they were G.I. Whatever dolls — but you throw an Army costume on a doll and it’s still a fuckin’ doll, right? “Right as a ruler.” Lloyd muttered to himself in reply, then downed another fiery gulp.

But Lloyd had put a plan into motion — every time the kid went over to his little gook friend’s place on Saturday afternoons, those fuckin’ dolls had been going bye-bye — one by one.

Where had they been going, you might ask? Lloyd started to laugh, sitting there on the park bench. Wherever random place had caught Lloy’d eye at the time, was the answer. The first one had been “relocated” purely on impulse. Lloyd had picked up one of them from the living room coffee table.

He’d walked out onto the balcony of the Mayes family’s three bedroom, 23rd story condo with it. Stared at it for a moment with a scowl of distaste. And then, just… threw it. As hard as he could. Launched it right out into the chill night air over 82nd Avenue, watched it arc silently down and out of sight. It had felt good.

“Felt damn good!” Lloyd nodded at no one, then lifted the bottle and took another drink. “This feels damn good, too, how ‘bout that!” He looked out at the streets beyond the park once more. This time yesterday, he’d felt like they were his streets. He’d been the Company Man; not exactly a captain of industry or whatever the great men of old were called, but he’d been doing All Right.

And now what was he? His face darkened as he pondered that. Here he was with a bottle in his hand instead of just a tumbler. Coasting — not on fumes yet, but he’d get there. You didn’t cost your company as much as Lloyd had and make a lateral career move. No, sir. When a man screws the pooch to the tune of several times his yearly salary with his employer’s brand name attached to the deed, well, such a man’s career is hellbound in a hurry.

Tonight, those streets looked quite a bit different to ol’ Lloyd — now instead of being his, the tables had flipped, and it looked very much indeed like Lloyd would soon enough belong to those streets instead. The setting sun cast the age and stress lines on his face into deeper relief. He was done no kindness by the sun’s embrace. He looked at the bottle, though, at the fiery amber liquid within, now very nearly down to the halfway point. The sun wasn’t making him look like any kind of prize, but it sure did make the whiskey look fine. He took another drink and sighed, then pushed himself off the bench.

Things at home were going to be an explosion. He could feel it already. A steady tension knotted through his arms and legs, up from his balls to his throat. He felt it twist and tighten with each step he took toward the Mason. Twenty three floors worth of elevator ride, and then the explosion would come.

No point putting it off any longer.


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