Stories

Outtake from the Novel “Venice” – T.J. Larkey

   I wake up in an alleyway just off the boardwalk in the center of Venice Beach. 

   The smell of death and sea-salt. 

   Nose feeling like it might collapse into the top of my mouth. 

   I decide I should probably go home now.

   

*

   I wake up to the ground shaking. 

   It’s early. 

   Feels like I might not be fully awake. 

   The gray light from outside makes everything seem cartoonish. 

   But it’s real.

   I whisper to myself, this is real, over and over to myself, until the earthquake stops. 

   Then I look around.

   Everything in my room has shifted slightly, and I feel like I should do something.

   What does one do after an earthquake?

   Are there protocols?

   Reinforcements?

   No.

   I feel ridiculous.

   And solve it at once by talking to myself.

   Everything goes on now, I say, just the same as before, just a little closer to death.

   Put your bed/mat under the doorframe tonight.

   And hope you’re swept out to sea on it.

*

   I wake to the sounds of Reggae music coming from the window adjacent to mine.

   It’s maybe nine, nine-thirty in the morning.

   But I slept maybe one, two hours at best.

   After entertaining the idea of murdering my neighbor, his last scene being my detailed explanation of why his music is far inferior to, say, that of American Hip-Hop, I decide to jog-walk to the sandwich place down the block.

   I haven’t had food in days, coffee in months, but food and coffee and a morning jog-walk seems right.

   A new me.

   A fresh start.

   A better tomorrow.

   Delusional, yet content in the dream.

   Inside the sandwich place, the music isn’t much better.

   But the display of bread and meat and veggies all look beautiful.

   “It looks beautiful,” I say.

   “Okay, but what do you want?”

   The man behind the glass counter picks everything up and places it on top of my bread, laugh-sighing at how enthusiastic I am.

   Then hands it over with pride.

   “Thank you,” I say.

   “Enjoy,” he says.

   “I will.”

   Sitting down in the back corner of the restaurant, looking out onto Main Street, I enjoy my sandwich, my coffee.

   I don’t even mind the upbeat pop music on the speakers overhead.

   I decide I will allow myself luxuries more often.

   Maybe even apply for a job here.

   Dig in.

   Work hard.

   Die old and miserable.

   The normal way.

   I take a bite and contemplate, looking out at traffic.

   A car pulls up by the sidewalk and the man inside looks distraught, a little sad in the eyes.

   I want to run out and give him a hug.

   Tell him he’s not alone now, that I live here in Venice and I too am a little sad. 

   But together we can make a life here.

   Settle down.

   Be kind to each other until death comes.

   He puts his hands on the steering wheel, and peers into his rearview.

   Then he starts screaming.

   His voice is muffled but I can make out a few of the words he keeps repeating.

   “Don’t shoot!” 

   “Fuck Fuck Please Don’t shoot!”

   Down the street a ways, red and blue lights appear.

   Followed by an elevated, robotic voice.

   “Down on the ground!” 

   “Out of the vehicle! And down on the ground!”

   The man stays inside his car a few moments and the voice gets louder.

   Closer.

   Louder.

   Then from behind the man’s car I see two officers walking half-crouched with their weapons drawn.

   “Get out of the vehicle and down on the ground!”

   The man finally obeys and the officers pounce upon him without hesitation.

   Knee on neck.

   Cuffs tightened around his reddened wrists.

   As they drag him away, I finish up my sandwich and look over at the employee that just made it, giving him a thumbs up.

   “Well done,” I say.

   “Yeah thanks I totally thought they were going to shoot him,” he says. “Dude looked nuts.”

   “A shame,” I say. “Maybe in another life.”

   “Huh?”

   On the walk home, I sip my coffee slowly and enjoy the morning weather.

   And by the time I’m back in my room, the neighbor’s music has stopped.