301 Moved Permanently

301 Moved Permanently



His legs aching from the walk, Daniel found a bench in the park across from the Legislative Building, lit a cigarette, studied the grey haze of storm clouds that had been promising rain for days. It was too hot out for him to be wearing his jeans, and wet patches appeared in his t-shirt. The adjacent field was peppered with the red and blue jerseys of a pickup soccer game, and a bride and groom across the street were posing for wedding photos. Daniel blinked slowly, exhausted but restless. His mouth was dry.
A brunette and a blonde approached him to ask for a cigarette. The brunette was the more aggressive of the two—the other just glared from a distance. The brunette had marvelous chubby breasts partially covered by a spaghetti-strap tank top. Her hair was parted down the middle with little care or imagination, and her mouth was too wide thanks to evenly-spaced gaps between her teeth. It was a young face, young but cute. The blonde’s face looked older and was much too serious for a girl her age. She was bony and flat-chested, and her hair was bunched with a clip so errant strands would stick out like spokes. Sylvia used to wear her hair that way. Both girls shone from sweat. They drank blended iced coffees. Daniel guessed them to be sixteen years old. If he was right, he had ten years on them.
Daniel handed the brunette a smoke, asked them what they were up to, what they were drinking. The brunette laughed at his jokes, twisted the strap of her tank top. Daniel never learned their actual ages, and he never learned why the blonde was so standoffish.
The brunette said, “We’re going to The Streetlight tonight.”
“Cailey…” The blonde said the name slowly, more of a sigh than anything.
“Jess, what?” the brunette answered harshly.
The blonde didn’t answer, so Cailey continued. “Anyway, do you want to come meet us later?”
Daniel used to drink at The Streetlight back when it was called Hype. He understood the club promoted itself to a younger clientele now, a lot of first-year college kids, a lot of 18th birthday parties. He wondered if she had a fake ID.
“Sounds like fun.” He suppressed a sudden urge to yawn, rubbed his eyes. The pills had fully worn off and he needed sleep.
“Give me your number in case there’s any changes.” Cailey keyed the number into her phone and took a photo of him for the contact info. “See you around 11:00,” she said.
On his walk home, Daniel called Harmon, who never checked his texts. No answer. He could usually be reached on Saturdays. Maybe he was at a Bomber game, or was hung-over and sleeping in, so Daniel left a message. He trudged languidly up the steps of his Carleton Street apartment and crawled into bed, hoping for a full day of sleep.
It only took a minute and Daniel was out. Ecstasy’s fickle nature often kept him awake through many days and nights, and he’d struggle for sleep. He woke in the early night, bed sheets tousled, eyes adjusting to the dark room. His cell phone was ringing. “Hello?”
A man’s voice asked, “Are you sleeping?”
“Yes. Who is this?”
“It’s Harmon. You called me.”
“What time is it?”
“10:00. I just got in from the beach.”
“Hell.” Daniel felt around for his smokes in the dark and lit one up, hoping it would clear his head, but it didn’t. “You happening?”
“Just pills. I’ll be home in ten minutes.”
“Okay. I’ll see you then.” Daniel hung up and killed his smoke with two more drags, then kicked the sheets off his legs, which were sticky from sweat. Hot, musky air drifted in through the window. Sirens howled. He stepped under a cold shower.
He smoked while toweling himself off and gathered what he needed — pants, a nice fitted shirt, some comfortable dress shoes, a hundred dollars, and condoms.
Harmon lived five minutes from Daniel, on Kennedy, in the kind of shabby house one might expect of a drug dealer, with peeling paint, overgrowth of lawn, a rusted mailbox, cracks in the walkway. Daniel knocked on the door and there was some rustling at the curtains before the deadbolt clicked and the door swung open. Harmon made a hideous grin, his face tight and red from too much sun, his beard filthy. A half-smoked joint burned between his fingers.
“Danny. What’s shaking? Grab a seat.” Daniel did, noting the stains of too many things spilt on Harmon’s couch. The house smelled like dope and garbage. Patches of old wood paneling peeked through peeled paint and the carpets looked smeared with grease. Some generic cop show played on an out-of-place 60-inch flat-screen TV. Harmon offered some of the joint, but Daniel said no.
“So what can I get for you?”
“Five pills.”
Harmon crushed the roach into an ashtray and escaped down the hall to wherever it was he went to count and weigh out stock. He returned with a baggy and handed it over. “Hey, I ran into Sylvia yesterday. Do you still talk to her?”
Daniel frowned. “Not if I can help it.” He handed over the fifty dollars and examined one of the pink pills, feeling its granules between his fingers. A little footprint design had been stamped into it. “These are different.”
“They’re new,” Harmon said. “They’re good.”
“Have you tried them?”
“Not yet. Good source, though. Same as before.”
As far as Daniel was concerned, if the pills were weak he could always just crush them up and rail them. Daniel waved so-long, stepped out and lit a smoke, ready for the club. He took Portage to Main, thumbing at the baggie in his pocket, considered downing a pill now, but decided against it, should he and Cailey or whoever else peak at different times.
He reached the club at 11:00. The air was thick with the heat of too many people packed onto the patio. He crouched down to tie his shoe and slipped the baggie into his sock, then got in line. The man working the door barely looked at Daniel’s ID. If Cailey had used a fake ID, it had a fair chance of working.
The club was already punishingly hot. The flashing red and blue lights above the DJ booth made him dizzy, and for a moment Daniel wished that he had some of that joint back at Harmon’s place to take the edge off. The bass rumbled in his chest. If he had popped a pill fifteen minutes ago, he might be feeling some of that beautiful nausea in his stomach around now. He made eyes at some chick wearing a halter-top and fishnets, but only got an angry glare back. Some other girl smiled at him. She had plucked away all her eyebrows and drawn them back on, only too high and asymmetrically, so she looked surprised and confused at the same time. Daniel found her ridiculous but kept his options open, so he smiled back. He spotted Cailey across the room, on the dance floor, having a wild time thrusting and flailing to the song, downing the last of her vodka cooler. A group of dancers crowded her, that blonde grouch Jess from earlier in the day, a few other lookers, and some guy who was either gay or a boyfriend to one of them. Or both. Daniel ordered a beer for himself and a vodka cooler for Cailey. He stepped through the circle of dancers and waited for Cailey to recognize him.
“Heyyy!” She tossed her arms around him and kissed his cheek. “I wasn’t sure you were gonna make it,” she said, cotton-mouthed. Daniel laughed, amused by her drunken slurs, and held out the cooler for her. “Oh my God, I love these. How did you know?”
“I’m perceptive, I guess.”
She smooched a wet spot on his cheek again. “Did you just get here?”
“Wanna go out for a smoke?” She had to pronounce every word with great care.
Cailey looked at her dumb blonde friend, used two fingers to pantomime smoking, and pointed to herself and Daniel. Daniel guessed there was some tension between the two, and that it involved him, because Jess scowled and Cailey responded by grabbing Daniel’s hand and led him to the smoking doors. They pushed through the swarm and onto the gated patio. There were drinks and cigarettes and sly handshakes and baggies and powders and pills and chatter and music and dancing. The heat was brutal, almost as humid and stuffy as the dance floor. A cold downpour of rain would do this place some good.
Cailey lit her smoke. “I’m glad you could come.”
“I haven’t yet.”
“Nothing.” Daniel put a smoke in his mouth and monkey-fucked the ember from Cailey’s cigarette.
“I do have a lighter,” she said.
“Yeah, me also.”
Daniel crouched, discreetly opening up the baggie and dumping two pills into his open palm. He stood back up and motioned Cailey toward his hand. “Hey. You want one?”
Cailey’s eyes widened. “What’s that?”
“What do you think?”
“Ohhh.” She turned this over in her head a few times. “Is it E?” Daniel nodded. “I should probably talk to my friends.”
“Go ahead, but I don’t have enough for them.”
“I don’t know.”
In an understanding tone, he said, “Look, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. I thought that you’d want to. It’s a really sexy drug.”
The slightest smile escaped. “I like being sexy. Is it safe?”
“It always is.”
“You sure?”
“I’ll show you.” Daniel popped a pill into his mouth. It was bitter and chalky. He chased it with a swig of beer but that didn’t make it any better. “Too late to go back, right?”
Cailey hesitated, took a last drag and stomped out the butt. She snatched the other pill and put it in her mouth. She finished off her cooler and glanced around, scanning for witnesses, her eyes registering playfulness and embarrassment. “I’ve never taken E before,” she confessed.
“What should I expect?”
“It’s called ecstasy. It makes you feel good.” He tossed his smoke. “Let’s get you another drink. After that, your body’s not going to want any more alcohol.”
This wasn’t exactly true. They nursed the next round as best they could, but four songs after setting down their empty drinks they were craving more liquor, so he bought another round. Under the assumption he’d been sold bunk pills, they each took another. Then they got a third round and returned to the dance floor, deliberately distancing themselves from Cailey’s friends. With each song, Daniel and Cailey danced closer, clumsier, more beautiful. He held her hip with one hand and his beer with the other. She wiggled her ass into him. The orange and blue lights made patterns from the shadows against her face and neck and curves. Daniel felt the pangs in his abdomen. His stomach had developed a wonderful queasiness that he had over time learned to love, and his beer was harder to drink with each sip, and he asked Cailey “Are you feeling anything?” and she nodded her head slow so they went out for another cigarette.
Cailey’s friends must have seen them leave for the patio because they had joined the couple and that chick Jess pulled Cailey aside and said something Daniel couldn’t hear and she had a scowl and Cailey just laughed and gave her a smoke and Daniel blurted “You don’t smoke!” and Cailey just laughed harder and even though she was laughing she was still dancing. Daniel rubbed his eyes because it felt nice, then rubbed his cheeks, kneading his fingertips into the soft putty skin and rubbed softer, his prickly chin tickling his palm and Jesus Christ he loved this song and a cool breeze drifted past and Daniel sucked in every last molecule to refresh his ever-limbering body and exhaled everything it didn’t need and when the breeze was gone Daniel became aware of a tickle buried in his throat. “I’m thirsty!” he announced.
Daniel and Cailey shared a bottle of water and a cup of ice to suck on and to cool each other off with. While they danced, Daniel clutched an ice cube in his hand and let the cold water drip and splash onto her shoulders and run down her breasts, and every time he did it she’d smile and press herself against him a little harder. He slid his fingertips up and down her side, even during the fast songs. Cailey’s friends stayed on the other end of the dance floor and with it packed how it was they couldn’t even see each other and Cailey’s ass still felt really good but the lights stung his eyes and the peak had passed and the euphoria was already wearing off. Gone.
Cailey danced slower, less conscious of the beat, going through the motions without the feeling, like a soulless automaton moving a half-beat behind the music. Her neck had become elastic and she was rubbing her forehead and Daniel asked “Are you still having fun?” and she said something that might have been “Yes” and Daniel asked “What’s wrong?” and she just shook her head and rubbed it even harder trying to mute the music that was once wonderful but was now abrasive. He asked “Are you sick?” and she said “It’s my stomach” and Daniel muttered “Jesus Christ” and then tried to say something that might calm and comfort her but while he struggled for words she said “Hold on” or something like that and pulled away from him and he watched her lurch toward the bathroom and Daniel said “Goddammit” and went the other direction to the smoking doors. He didn’t know if she was sick because of the pills or the drinks or the heat or the dehydration or the intense dancing or if she was just being dramatic so he lit his cigarette and rubbed his stomach expecting the nausea to build uncontrollably and if there was any reason he hadn’t thrown up yet it was because he’d developed enough tolerance to keep the vomit suppressed. While he smoked he caught sight of goddamned Jess in his blurring peripheral and she said “Where’s Cailey?” and Daniel said “She’s in the bathroom” and Jess asked if Cailey was okay and Daniel said “What am I a fucking doctor or something?” and Jess said “You’re such a prick” and Daniel said “Fuck you Sylvia” and Jess said “Who the fuck is Sylvia?” so Daniel flicked his smoke at her face and walked back inside.
He couldn’t see Cailey on the dance floor and he assumed she was still sick so he barged into the ladies’ room to see if Cailey was still alive or what. Through the reflection from the giant mirror at the sink the girls watched Daniel stumble in and holler at the stall doors “Cailey are you still breathing?” and none of the girls except for one seemed to care very much that there was a guy in the gals’ room because this is the bar and this kind of shit happens all the time, but that one chick yelled “Get out of here” and Daniel told her to eat another Sausage McMuffin because even though she wasn’t fat she looked like she had confidence issues and one of the girls at the sink laughed and Daniel said “You like that?” and then he banged on one of the stall doors and yelled even louder “Cailey! Fuck!” and someone else pointed at one of the stalls and said “Someone sounds sick in that one” and the loud pissy chick said “Get out” again so Daniel flipped her off and the girl stormed out saying something about security and Daniel laughed even though Cailey still said nothing. Daniel knocked on the one stall and more gently than before he asked “Cailey are you in there?” and he heard the click of the stall door being unlocked and there was Cailey keeled over the toilet which was splattered with pink vodka cooler. Daniel asked “Are you sick?” and her reply was a dry-heave into the toilet and foamy white bile dribbled from her lips and Daniel made a sour face and considered what would happen if someone found out that he had supplied her the ecstasy that made her sick so he asked “Can I do anything for you?” and she shook her head and he offered to buy her a bottle of water but she just heaved again and Daniel figured that this would be a bad place to get caught by security so he told her that he would wait in the corridor outside the bathroom.
He paced the little corridor when the Sausage McMuffin chick returned with security like she promised and she told the bouncer This Guy blah blah blah bathroom blah blah shut the fuck up and the bouncer said is this true and Daniel just said I don’t know what you’re talking about and the bouncer said something else but Daniel couldn’t hear him because his stomach was turning into acid and dynamite so he said I gotta go to the fucking bathroom and the bouncer just stood there while Daniel hurried to an unoccupied stall in the men’s room and yakked his fucking beers all over the rim of the toilet. The bouncer followed Daniel into the bathroom and said “Hey if you’re puking you gotta go” but Daniel already knew that, and he was sure that his chances of fucking Cailey were shot for the night so he said “Fine, let me finish.” There was some kind of commotion outside the bathroom door and the bouncer told Daniel he’d be right outside and when he left Daniel puked again. He went on heaving until the spasms finally stopped and Daniel had crumpled to the floor a big rumpled mess, and he kept spitting into the porcelain bowl until his mouth was too dry to make new spit. Once he felt strong enough he used the toilet seat to lift himself up.
Daniel wobbled out of the stall and washed his face and his hands with soap and cold water and he cupped the water and lapped it up from his palm like a dog. The water trickled down his throat icy and slow and it stung his stomach but he held it down.
He smoked a cigarette in front of the mirror and decided to sneak back into the gals’ bathroom, pull Cailey to her feet and cab them back to his place. The bouncer had gone, and so Daniel went back in, only this time it wasn’t funny and there were different girls at the sink, and Cailey’s stall door was open while Jess looked on, phone in hand, like she was on hold. Cailey was still doubled over the toilet. The pink vodka cooler in the bowl had turned deep red.
Jess erupted at Daniel, “What were in those pills?”
“What pills? Cailey, let’s go.”
“Go where, asshole? She’s throwing up blood. What were in those pills? She told me you gave her something.” Daniel started to defend himself, but Jess shushed him and said into her phone, “Hello, yes, we need an ambulance at The Streetlight on Portage, I don’t know the address. My friend was given some pills,” eyeing Daniel, “and she’s vomiting blood. We can meet you out front.”
Cailey heaved violently, and small gobs of red wormed out of her mouth.
Jess pocketed her phone and slowly pulled Cailey to her feet. “Give me a hand,” she said to Daniel. “Help me carry her out. Grab her purse.”
Daniel took the other shoulder. Cailey groaned and tried to pull away.
Jess said to her, “Cailey, no. We need to get you outside.” To Daniel, she said, “You’re a real piece of shit, you know.”
“I didn’t mean it.”
Some bar patrons cleared the way for them, but most of them gawked. Daniel thought about Jess speaking with the paramedics, maybe even the police, about Daniel and Cailey and the pills. She could describe Daniel, go on about how he drugged an inexperienced underage girl, regardless if that was the whole truth. She could help them track him down. She had his phone number keyed into Cailey’s cell. She could identify him by the picture Cailey took. With his free hand, he rummaged through her purse.
Outside, the ambulance was arriving. Daniel handed off his end to a paramedic, clutching Cailey’s cell phone in his fist. Even half-conscious, hanging off Jess and the paramedic, Cailey looked good. Daniel wasn’t proud he noticed that. He told Jess he was sorry. “Do you have her parents’ phone number?” he asked. Jess nodded. “You should call them.”
Daniel shoved Cailey’s purse into Jess’s hands. He turned abruptly and walked, quickly as he could without sprinting, away from the girls, from the club and the ambulance, turned at the next intersection and into a back alley where he smashed the phone into a half-dozen solid chunks and stomped it into fine plastic pebbles, and then fished the remaining pill from his sock and dumped it down a sewer grate.
Afraid of going home, he lingered in the alley, waiting for rain that didn’t come.

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