March 03, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day, Tamara Johnson

By Dave Peterson © 2009

I stood in front of the mirror in the bathroom in the stuffy apartment above the Korean dry cleaners in Arlington, VA. I shared the place with Frerrichs and some fat dude whose name I never bothered to learn. My pupils were the huge. I needed to get a grip and it was slipping.

The apartment met all my the requirements -- it was cheap, available and walking distance from Whitey's Broasted Chicken. They had live music and all you can eat chicken for $8.95.

I had a head full of acid and had just run out of beer and smokes and felt like I was going slowly insane. I decided that the apartment needed guarding, no telling what kind of freaks were on the street on a night like tonight.

I stripped down to my boxers and an OD green T-shirt and went to retrieve my pistol. It was then that I realized the stamp on the back of the holster: PROPERTY OF CAMDEN COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT.

This seemed strange but I was getting used to strange, so I buckled up and made the rounds between my room (the living room) and Frerrichs' room (the sun porch). I turned off the lights and the stereo. I wandered back and forth, dodging the trash and the roaches and the empty beer cans along the way.

I pulled the pistol from the holster and noticed the pistol still had serial numbers. Fuck. I owned a stolen cop gun. I was going to jail. Or maybe just hell? I found some sandpaper and started in on the serial. It was a shitty job but it seemed to be working. When I noticed my finger tips bleeding I decided that the gun was now officially untraceable and I resumed patrol amongst the scent of dry cleaning fluid, kim-chee, and garbage.

Around 2 am I heard activity on the stairs. I moved behind the door to investigate and possibly kill someone. I figured I was ready. The deadbolt lock was sprung with a soft – click. I heard keys jangling, a girl's voice laughing, and then the handle turned. I leveled the revolver and pulled the hammer back.

Frerrichs to his credit, had the courtesy not to make eye contact or even turn his head. The skank was still in the doorway when he said, "Peterson? Whatcha doin?"

There was a pregnant pause while I remembered that I could speak.

"Guarding," I grunted.

"You know it's me right?" said Frerrichs, who was a calm bastard, even when he was scared.

After another pregnant pause, the bar skank was agitated. "HOLY FUCK does he have a gun?"

We both ignored her.

"Yeah, I know it's you."

"How about you put the gun down man?"

I considered his request for a moment and lowered my pistol. I let them both in, and the skank gave me a dirty look as Frerrichs introduced me. Frerrichs was kind enough to toss me a half pack of Marlboro reds before retiring to his sun porch.

After the incident with Frerrichs, I promised not to bring the pistol out when we were partying. That was a lie.

I had never hated anyone more than my friend Louis Dooley. He was a dreadful soldier and only joined the Army because he got bounced from the football team at McNeese State, where he'd been a starting defensive back as a freshman. He always brought attention to himself and was Ill mannered with an easy Louisiana drawl and short by Honor Guard standards. I don't know why I hung around him, but he gravitated to me for some reason. Within minutes of meeting me, he gave me the nickname "jolie blanc" and refused to tell me what it meant.

We were all lit one night, and the apartment was full of military dudes and civilian women. I caught Louis in the kitchen feeling up the girl who I was after. She resisted his advances and he was being an ass about it. I finished my beer and waited for him to return to the living room when I decided to get chivalrous.

I stood up and swung wildly at him. He saw it coming a mile away and commenced to beat the shit out of me. I took blows to the head and the gut before I collapsed. Louis stood behind me and twisted my neck until it popped once.

"Live or die bitch," he said but he didn't yell.

I didn't respond.

"Jolie Blanc I axed you something!"

"Fuck you, Louis!"

"Fuck Me? Where did you go to public school Jolie Blanc? Who do you think is in control here?"

"FUCK YOU LOUIS!" which came out in a whisper since he was crushing my windpipe. He twisted his grip... another pop.

"Last time Jolie Blanc! Live or die?"

It was a spectacle. I was crying. It hurt but I wasn't giving in. Instead, I gave out for a minute. I guess. Or maybe he let me go. At any rate, my chances of getting laid that night were none. I was drunk, stoned, pissed and pissed off.

I picked up my pistol and went out to the fire escape and sat in the cold, quiet night watching the rats in the alley go from dumpster to dumpster when Louis joined me.

"You gonna do it?" he asked.

"Do what motherfucker?"

"You gonna smoke yerself?"

Until that moment I didn't know what I was planning. In that instant I thought I would.

"I dunno man. Fuck you."

Louis stared at me for a minute before he said, "Listen Jolie Blanc, I'm sorry I kicked yer ass back there but you need to learn some respect and all I'm sayin' right now is that if you're gonna kill yerself, I wanna see that shit."

I pulled the hammer back and put the snub nose .38 to my temple for a few seconds and then the thought occurred to me that I could just kill Louis. I pointed the gun at him, less than six inches from his face. He laughed. Hysterically.

"Jolie Blanc, you're not a killer. You won't shoot me and we both know it so cut the bullshit. I don't really think you'll even kill yourself."

I lowered the gun for a second and then picked it up violently and Louis' eyes opened wide and I turned and fired into a dumpster in the alley.

Eventually, our fat roommate got pissed off by all the night partying, the drugs, the loud music, and the women who he could never attain. Frerrichs and I were forced to find a new place. We moved into a 3 story row house at 9th and T Street in northwest D.C. It was close to the base and the places we hung out. It was way too big for the two of us and too expensive so we picked the best rooms and found other roommates to cover the rest of the rent.

The main requirement for becoming a member of the 9th and T Street crew were simple; you had to have a high tolerance for the degeneracy that took place on a daily basis, and it helped a great deal if you also had first and last months rent in cash.

The house 9th and T Street was the base of operations for everything wrong with the military and some of the best times of during my tour in the Army. The 24/7 operation usually included someone fucking, fighting, laughing, smoking, or dosing. We were the only white people within twenty block radius. The grocers knew us. Our neighbors knew that we weren't crack dealers and we got along with everyone around us. I had found a good LSD supplier and we threw huge parties where carloads of college girls from Catholic, American and George Washington made appearances and they always seemed to have good weed.

The acid business was good to me, but I violated the prime rule as a dealer because I loved my own product. I tripped and tripped and tripped. I stood on the White House lawn, tripping balls and holding my own. A running supply of sid kept me in free drinks at my local bar. When supplies dried up I traded a quarter sheet for blow or ecstasy. It was easy until I got scared for the second time.

During the first week of February, I liquidated my supply. I feared piss tests and didn't sleep for nearly a week because of the illegal hand gun in my closet. During the second week in February, one of the squad leaders approached me. He was a lean, black dude who had too much confidence. He outranked me in title, but I was the one they called on for full honor funerals in Arlington. He was a rag bag, a slob, just padding his resume and passing through. He constantly needed reminding of protocol and ceremony and I could pull off a full honor funeral and make the entire attending family cry on twenty minutes sleep. This skill had value and he knew it. He was also keenly aware that I'd helped him pass all his inspections so he could stay in D.C (failing inspection would have had him shipped to the DMZ in Korea).

He called me into the squad leaders room and shut the door.

"Peterson, I hear you got a weapon you wanna get rid of?"

I didn't answer and had no idea how he knew about the gun.

"Listen man, I know this girl, Tamara. I met her at the club over in Hillcrest. She said she want a gun and wanna know if I know anyone and I know you."

"Sarge, you don't know me. You don't know anything about me other than I saved your skinny ass from going to Korea."

After a slight impasse, he just blurted out, "She say she'll give you 350 but you gotta include some rounds."

Every fiber of my being was telling me to deny everything and move on, but the idea of getting rid of the pistol in my closet in the event that I got searched and turning a profit at the same time was more than I could take.

Around 2 pm on Valentine's Day, I wiped off any traces of my own fingerprints and put the loaded pistol and holster in my messenger bag. I headed down the stairs and noticed a huge and half empty box of Whitman's chocolates on the table by the door. I dumped the chocolates on the table and placed the pistol in the box.

I walked out into a cold wintry day. The sun cast a pale yellow shade on everything. The cherry trees had yet to bloom and reminded me of sticks. I walked from 9th and T to the Metro stop at DuPont Circle. I considered walking the ten or so blocks to the rendezvous point in Washington Circle but decided against it. I pulled a well warn metro ticket from my jacket pocket and rode the train to Washington Circle where I waited on a bench in the cold sunlight.

I waited almost fifteen minutes when I saw the sergeant's BMW enter into the circle. It stopped illegally in traffic. A slight, dark woman stepped out and walked toward me. I noticed her stockings had a run in them. Her coat was worn and she looked cold. I died a little.

I sat there like Forest Gump with a box of chocolates on my lap.

"You Peterson?" she said.

She looked around nervously. She looked tired. No, not tired, something else.

"Yes ma'am." I said, even though she was maybe a year older than me.

"Here," she said and reached into her shabby purse and pulled out a wad of crumpled bills. "You got sumthin for me?"

I took the money and handed her the box and said, "Happy Valentine's Day ma'am."

"It's loaded?"

"Yes ma'am, I also have the holster."

"I don't want no holster, this will do."

She turned around and walked back towards the car. I overheard her mutter, "That's the last time that motherfucker lays hands on me."

David Peterson is an ex-soldier, musician, geek, degenerate, and a complete jackass hoping to one day get what's coming to him.

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