The other side of the tracks
Meanwhile, on the other side of the tracks . . . where the future looks less bright, Grady sits in the tattoo parlor chair, scowling and twisting his face into a rictus. Getting ink done, emblazoning the date across the thin skin of knuckles. Three days from now in his personal history is an anniversary he’ll never forget. One year ago on the dot, Gracie met with an untimely death. One hour to the minute, he lost his lousy $8.50-per-every-miserable-hour job pumping gas—something about losing his temper and running his mouth to his college-bound boss. The morning began with take this, and by late afternoon Grady was shoving it.
Grady grimaces in pain as the needle draws blood and drabs ink globules in lines across his knuckles. The tattooist, a thick burly man with a precision hand, is wiser than to care or ask any questions.“All right dude, you’all done.”
Walking out of the parlor, Grady gets in his car. Turning the ignition, the radio plays but the engine sputters. With vivid clarity he sees Gracie hovering just before his face, an apparition. Light-headed and dazed, she haunts him again as he spot-checks the mirror’s hind view. He clears his throat and tries the ignition again.
Unable to revive his Monte Carlo, Grady kicks the tire before he sits down on a slab of boulder rock, face down, and cries a silent one over life’s injustices. The image of her was alive even if she were not. Giving up on his wheels, he is in no hurry to get home. He’d scratch past the tracks at the intersection between Pinecrest and Mountainview. Just as well, that Monte Carlo drew disapproving looks all over where JohnnyBoy! lived. He knows better than to knock on the door. That mug of his is not a welcome sight.
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Skip along. Hip hop strut. JohnnyBoy! is moving a little faster with an added scot-free wiggle to his walk. Meanwhile, somewhere beneath his knees, all the way down to the bottom of his left foot, under the loafer, the sole of the shoe is growing increasingly perturbed and beginning to make little vocalizations to that effect.
Johnny’s sole calls out to the purple wad of chewable goo. “Hey, you!”
“Err heerm. You talking to me?” Eyes flare to bubbles beneath thick purple skin. They now protrude as invisible eye molds.
“Yeah. I happen to be talking to you. Who else is causing such an unwelcome wrinkle in my step?” says sole to goo. “You’re an unwelcome cad to my loafer, now off and away with you.”
“Are those fighting words I’m hearing?” Purple Mike is getting a little revved, a touch of anger about to launch from one of his giant bubbles. He quips, “On the bottom of the likes of you is not the choice of where I want to stick!”
Now with the birth of eyes, Purple Mike easily adds a little sauce to a newborn attitude.
“Oh, yeah?” Remarks the sole, getting a little bubbled himself beneath Johnny’s toes.
“Yeah-z.” He floats an all-of-a-sudden stiff upper lip as an additional morph characteristic. No longer such a goo, Purple Mike inherently learns more about his kind; sporting eyes and a mouth, too. But guess what, Purple Mike, you can grow some hair, if you like. Make it a little spiked while you’re at it. In this world of powerful matter and quantoretta, little understood by ordinary human notions, you can do anything you set a thought to; e = mc2 and all that, y’know. Why you’re a little scamp, a morph that can travel far and wide. Into parties and living rooms, through monitors and TV screens and even poke your head into topsy-turvy pink and satin bedrooms, melding between TV stands; you’re a bubble that can morph into any shape or size, even squeeze between a doorknob and its screw. It’s your destiny to spread far and infect wide.
With this added information, Purple Mike morphs a bubble head and is ready to challenge yet again. “Hey sole. Psst. It’s you-know-who. Make no mistake about this purple goo as you’re overlooking above me. Let’s see what you can do besides clip, clop and stomp. Take a look to the top tower of you-know-who . . . the head of the kid who’s feet you adorn . . . what I can do to him, his mind, I can affect a lifetime. This kid, he could be driving, flying, or diving, and suddenly, I can make his head swim pink and yellow with blue bunny rabbits, too. And besides all of this . . . know who my daddy is? Hee hee?” Eager to go on a tangent, Purple Mike chatters on . . . “Why, how long has it been that you’ve been put out of the shoebox, looking for a home for your high top? You look pretty new. Couldn’t have been thumping the street very long? And in case I haven’t made myself clear, my daddy, even you must have heard of him! He’s the MackDaddy halluSINogen, get it! The all-powerful, mind-bending, thought-stopping drug! Within a single hour he can completely wipe your mind like a dry-erase board. He can make walls breathe if he dares to. So forget you, who’ll be long worn and forgotten by the time this boy hits 32. I’ll still be here—on a blot, postage stamp, aspirin tab—anything you can add a quick-drying lick to. Why, I could even be a piece of bubble gum that’s already been chewed. Doesn’t really matter—I’ll be here forever, tripping up the natural molding of minds—and not just here on this 49th intersection between Pinecrest and Mountainview. Got brothers in the heart of country fields and smack dab in the middle of city dens. Urban, rural, royal and broke, I’m not selective with which school grounds, concerts and parties I scope. If you look hard enough, I’m in your face, or one of my kind from coast to coast or right here in Anyplace. Hee hee.” Purple Mike finishes off with a satisfactory huff, morphing a barrel-shaped chest for added effect. “Don’t make me morph a finger to wave a sharp Tsk! Tsk! It’s always a mistake to underestimate!”
Put in his place, the sole clears his pebbles and shifts his weight away to the pressing clip clop of the foot.
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