Marmalade Moonlight

by Brett Richard Morrison

The first store Trevor came to was past Kazarshteina. It was a relic of the velvety, pre-revolution days, the shelves a faded mahogany, the ceilings high, the chandeliers dusty and faded. He entered through the creaking double doors and walked into a heady fog of grotesque odors. They brewed from myriad plastic trays filled with rotting, mercury-laced fish half-submerged in metallic sewage water. Grimacing from the nauseating smell, Trevor made it to the alcohol counter and asked for a bottle of beer.

Behind the counter was an embittered walrus bundled in musty yarns and a stained, rose-colored apron. Gruffly, she pointed her chubby finger toward the entrance of the store and fired out a terse array of peasant wisdoms from her gold-toothed frown. Trevor didn’t understand what was going on. Was she telling him to leave? Behind the walrus’ hefty mud flaps of blubber were row upon row of warm beer bottles lined up like a negligee-clad chorus line of lovers for hire. Irritated, Trevor turned his head to see what the walrus was pointing to. There, near the entrance to the store, was a small control booth of sorts with an old walrus locked inside doing a crossword puzzle. Inside that inane animal cage was a cash register. The old bag behind the counter vehemently motioned for him to go to the crossword lady. Lev Bronshtein, Trevor grumbled. Now he understood. Pay first, then get a receipt, then give the receipt to the walrus, then get the warm beer.

Trevor shuffled up to the small window in the control booth feeling like a prisoner in Dostoyevskian detention. He asked for one beer. 15 rubles moved from Trevor's hand into the small money exchanging dish between the two parties.

“How much is it?” the lady grumbled.

“The beer?” Trevor asked. "I don’t know. It’s your store."

“Which type?”

“Bochkarev.”

“Yeah, great. Now, how MUCH is it?!?”

“From where would I know?”

“Lena!” the woman bellowed to the hefty tort behind the counter. “How much is the foreigner’s beer?”

“What beer?”

“Bochkarev!”

“13.50!” (30 cents American)

Angrily, the woman punched the numbers into the turn of the century register. Trevor's change and small receipt were flung to the money exchange dish with disdain, like a maid throwing away a used balaclava and an empty bottle of Mad Dog found on the crisp, stained carpet of a cheap motel room. Trevor took the receipt, the ruble, the 50 kopeks, and walked back to the other walrus behind the counter.

“One beer, please.” he smiled.

“Receipt!” the walrus tersely demanded.

She had just watched the crude, ill-mannered foreigner pay for the beer at the control booth, but still she demanded proof of the transaction. Viciously her puffy eyes scanned the small paper slip of cuneiform idiocy.

“Okay then. What type of beer?” she demanded to know.

“How about Bochkarev.”

“Light?”

“But of course light.”

The walrus reached for a warm, dusty Bochkarev from the top of the counter and sat it down in front of the crude, slow-learning American. She then placed the receipt down next to the bottle. The transaction had been approved, sanctified, and consecrated. It was now time to wed the goddess. Trevor opened the warm hops with the store bottle opener. It was tied to the counter with twine to prevent theft. Why, in a socialist utopia like this, would anybody steal a bottle opener? Trevor popped the cap off, the receipt and the bottle cap went triumphantly into the tattered, cardboard collection box upon the counter, and Trevor made to leave. Trevor toasted the ladies and began taking pulls as he walked out victoriously.

Outside on Nevsky Prospekt, the air was crisp and fresh with falling snow. The stench of room temperature fish heads gone loud graciously wafted clear of Trevor's sinuses. He headed northwest toward the city fulcrum lost in empty thought. Enjoying the crisp, arctic air, he brought the beer up for long, luscious pull after pull. The beer got colder and colder with each step. Trevor was weakening every day, growing skinnier and skinnier, yet he felt good and strong. The beer coming up and washing down like sweet nectar, his legs working and ambling along the endless miles of epic Peterburgian boulevard, he began to hit stride and float, a heady second wind of sorts that one encountered when pounding the avenue and lashing at the drink.

When Trevor reached the snake of frosted obsidian that was the Fontanka Canal, he took a left and leisurely strolled southward down its dimly lit banks. On both sides of them, he and his compatriot beer, tall and proud façades slumbered in the night, caked in generations of dirt, soot, and car exhaust, illuminated only by the feebly languid flickerings of apartment windows or the mind numbing marmalade haze of the concentration camp flood lamps sparsely strung up over the miserable black swathes of oily, tortured earth.

In front of a small shop on the Fontanka Canal, Trevor stopped to polish off his beer. The empty bottle went to the snow covered guardrail of the canal for someone to pick up and exchange for a ruble. Taking great care not to lose it to the icy, black jaws of the Fontanka, he placed it securely in the snow upon the worn pink granite, proudly on display, a trophy on a mantle.

Inside the breathless, cramped store, a worn, frail girl in a dirty, blue apron moved apathetically to fetch Trevor a beer. Her skin was pale, her dark mascara lazily lacquered around her sunken eyes. She had been on starvation rations for a week in order to be slim and “beautiful.” Her face scrunched up like a prune as she struggled to open the beer with the store bottle opener. This one was tied to the counter with plastic string. Trevor, in no mood to dillydally, took the beer from her anorectic limbs and fired the cap off himself. The girl stared at him contemptuously. Trevor winked and held up his beer as he left.

Back outside, the Fontanka provided a perfect crescent path for nocturnal strolling. The alcohol stores on it were equally spread about, as if by benevolent design, so that as soon as one sucked down the last remnants of bargain basement hops, they were right in front of another purveyor eagerly negotiating the next dalliance. It was serendipitous and startlingly luxurious. Trevor stuck with the Fontanka, looping in and out of its gloomy courtyards, zigzagging about in careless amble, until finally he came to the startling, dark gravity of the Trinity Cathedral. It loomed foreboding and massive under the sooty, marmalade sky. This needs to be investigated further, Trevor said to himself.

On the Trinity Cathedral's neglected, domed crown of midnight blue was a light powdering of snow, accentuating swaths of powdered sugar dripping and snaking downward like the legs of a ghostly octopus, the tentacles spindling round the sphere like a specter of doom clamping down onto the collective mind of the earth. Trevor walked around the blue globe like a satellite on legs, beer cargo weightless, easy tow, mind cool and clean in the frigid, icy vapidity, a strange netherworld of silence in a black ocean.

Trevor was surrounded by 4 million people, more or less, packed away like termites into their miles of crumbling honeycombs, but there, floating around the Trinity Cathedral, he felt as though he were all alone in the universe. Most people would have been scared or uncomfortable to be cast adrift in the fervent unknown, and this normally would have included Trevor as well, but not tonight. The booze, the city of dementia, the detachedness; they had crept into Trevor and numbed him. He felt calm and at ease, as if swaying in a hammock. The millions of monkeys had finally stopped chattering, and he could serenely drift off to bask beneath the cool canopies.

Working effortlessly at the beer, Trevor circled the great blue Trinity planetarium, gazing at the ghostly octopus perched on its north pole, its menacing eyes rhythmically pulsating into sight, only to fade back in cruel gestations into the shadows. Below this malevolent entity, sucking vampirically upon the earthly pearl of blue midnight, stood the massive columns and hovering capstones of Babylonian alter. Through these columns of haunting mystery blew the chilling whispers and echoes of a holocaust not worthy of remembrance, a grand, sweeping flood of destruction that ravaged the land, raped and murdered the people, devoured their spirits through ravenous, saturnine jaws, and drown their souls in the black tars of nothingness. It had happened, but it hadn't really happened. The victims, and remembering the victims, were simply not important to the grand scheme of things. None of them, none of the countless tens of millions, not one woman, not one child, was worthy of homage, remembrance, pity, or grief. They were not of the elect, and their meaningless, miserable lives were not recorded nor even noticed within the great annuls of the Duat, the ledgers in the sky, or the musings of the gods. They were simply the pile of bones on the floor at the end of the table - the scraps of gluttonous feast, only to be trampled upon, swept to the garbage, and fed to the snarling, merciless dogs of night.

Trevor orbited round and round this domed power structure, stuck in a strange, satellite trance. That great, malevolent octopus continued to pulsate slowly upon the blue dome. Its tumultuous, reddish hue flooded and shifted about between ashen moon and the bloodiest of red like the eye of Jupiter. Above it, the great marmalade sky billowed about in menacing conflagration, like billowing plumes of underwater volcanoes, pink and candied mandarin swathes of great celestial nebulae, brooding and auspicious dark alignments of constellations, the endless sea of forever pulsating in gaseous cauldrons of burning inferno.

Finally, Trevor stopped and shook his head clear of the macabre visions. He stood there, motionless, for a moment in the frosted shadows of marmalade. What the hell am I doing, he thought. He was walking around this stone conductor like a lemming at a pagan power box, circling and charging the meteoric prisons of Shiva towards unknown ends. Trevor worked off the beer and stared contemptuously at the dome of shadows. What is this thing, he wondered. A pile of timbers leaned up against one another in the Eastern Woodland forests, headdresses and chimeric demon masks bandied about, the great halls of granite, the poured concrete bastions, the lacquered wooden shrines, they were all the same - a collection house. But for whom and for what, Trevor had no idea. What creator of the universe couldn't hear pleas or receive praises of the simple mortals without a mortal-created amplification device of domes and minarets, graven images and golden idols. I’m asking too many questions, Trevor thought. Let’s turn off the mind. Flipping up his collar, he pushed off for Ismailovsky Prospekt.

Working his way back up north to get on the Fontanka booze line, Trevor stopped off at a phone-booth-sized kiosk and negotiated a bottle of Nevskoe. Working at the warm hops, Trevor quickly realized a mysterious procession lying before him on Ismailovsky, an odd assemblage of dark actors in a ceremony of night. The creatures, in shadowy, feathery robes, were lined up along Ismailovsky Prospekt like black vultures poised on slumping telegraph lines. Their oddly choreographed, equidistant spacing was peculiar in a city bloated and listing in disequilibrium. Roughly six royal Egyptian cubits from one another, these macabre figures tightrope-walked disjointedly under cloaks of foul, ruffled plumage. Up their scissor legs climbed knee-high, pseudo leather boots armed with 6-inch platform heels. Chimney soot smeared across their eyes like harlots of the Nile, odd wigs of merlot, jet black, and platinum blond stapled to their skulls like Madam Tussauds, their faces lacquered in waxy mortician's paint, the skin stretched across their skulls erupting in festering seas of open sores and red splotches, like a wedding cake dropped in a gravely path of crushed lava rock.

Near the turn of the century, over 2,000 inhabitants of Peterburgian paradise had been night whisperers officiale, plying their trade in one of the nearly 150 sanctioned parlors of powdered and perfumed lust. Hundreds, perhaps thousands more, freelanced the backstreets from Ligovka to the Hay Market to the Sands without the famed “yellow” passport, tenuously prowling the entrepreneurial shadows, heavily perfumed and powdered party sacks, their spacesuits thrown into overdrive , hooked up to the whirling roller coaster that would quickly sling them from young and taut to sagging, worn out, toothless and diseased, offering up their last few services in garbage-strewn alleys before their ravaged vessels were thrown without ceremony into a muddy, communal grave northeast of town under an icy rain.

A hundred years had passed, nearly the entire city had been starved, slaughtered, and shot, and here they were, the stage weary and trampled upon, but the actors and the script perniciously the same. There were improvements in medicine, prophylactic, baby flush pills, but it made no difference - not to this continual stream of women on the fast track to tricks on the River Styx, pumped out by some unseen, cruel factory on the Vyborg side of the city, scooped up and rendered by nets cast far and wide throughout the villages, summoned and seduced from every nightmare childhood and broken crib; they were as bad off as any whore, in any part of the world, and at any time in history. The narrative of the pleasure puppet. Throughout the millennia, it was an unchanging, unshakable dirge of sorrow. Trevor walked up to the first dusky jewel and sized her up like looking at a piece of rancid meat in a third-tier grocery store in a fifth rate hick outpost.

“Hello.” Trevor said in English, seeing to what effect the foreign tongue would have when lapping against her lizardly flesh.

“Uhh…English no.” she said under the heavy confusion of alcohol, pills, moondust, nightmares…

Her eyes languidly wobbled and rattled inside her head like pinballs. Minutely, she swayed to and fro, gently, the creaking timbers of a ship barely held together in the mother morphine moonlight tides.

"Dai cigaretku." her lips drooled, stained the macabre purple ambrosia of a gothic undertaker.

Give me cigarette. It was terse and tactless etiquette, spewed forth in a discomforting familiarity. Trevor grimaced as he dug in his pocket, flushed out a Gauloises, and handed it over. Her black gloved hand clutched at it like grim reaper clutching at scythe.

"Summertime...." she slurred boozily. "And living....iz...eeee..."

She popped the cigarette into her lacquered mouth and leaned toward Trevor as he lit her up. Her head knocked back in syrupy ecstasy as she cast out a movie star exhale up to the marmalade haze.

"Fishies jumping....fishies high..." she continued her disjointed serenade.

Trevor stared in disbelief at her singing, his forehead scrunched up and eyebrows raised. Gershwin? Alright then, Trevor mildly chuckled, have a good one. But the girl took no notice of his words.

Only a few paces further north and Trevor was already drawing into the icy, tractor beam gaze of his second shadow walker of the night. She eyed Trevor coldly like some unsettling chimera, an Egyptian amalgam found only in the dank passages to the Duat, a werewolf standing disgustingly upright, hair shaggy, long, and mangy, but where a canine head of Anubis belonged, there sat the strange, diseased skull of Nefertiti, mummified in waxes, adorned with the headdress of a plastic, raven black wig that cut sharply to her chin. Stoically, she stood there under the buzzing, low-wattage cellar lamps of tangerine.

“Good evening.” Trevor said.

“Good evening.” she echoed, her voice deeper than his own.

"What a night for a stroll."

“Yes.”

Without request or prompt, she peeled open the ribs of her costume carcass to reveal to Trevor and the bitter night her anemic, skeletal infrastructure, dry, meatless ribs absent of any breast, skin a milky moon alabaster, cold, like the far reaches of space, or the mortician's meat locker, hips and pelvis a collection of hard protruding bones like those of a malnourished cow listlessly limping through barren fields and dirt roads in India, her legs two stilts stuck into knee-high black leather, putrid and foul, her face an acne-riddled, fleshy bowling ball smeared in oily pancake batter and stuck upon a pike. Red dots, sores, oozing, festering rashes swam across her skin like schools of tiny fish bumping up against the side of an aquarium, staring blankly out the glass, mouths mechanically opening and closing like dumb baby robots.

“That's quite alright." Trevor informed her, holding up a hand and averting his gaze. “Cigarette?”

He began reaching into his pocket to fish out a token of friendship.

"Beer, give me." the woman tersely growled.

The creature reached a claw out toward Trevor’s bottle. Trevor slapped it away, the way a Sadducee would have the withered diseased limbs of a leper.

"You're nuts, baby!" Trevor balked. "You know what? You just lost your cigarette."

"Give me cigarette!" she bellowed as Trevor took leave, resuming his push north. “Bastard!”

The next two phantom girls Trevor ignored. Their faces were the same as the others; rancid, haphazard collections of greasy, diseased oil paint and Cydonian orange foundation dust-stormed on by the heavy hand of a half-blind taxidermist. Like buoys in the night, they floated chained in the darkness to the exact spots where Trevor left them, bobbing listlessly up and down in the falling snow and the simmering heroin.

While the rest of humankind hunkered in warm, egg carton coffins flickering blue and white from the crackling hearth of starlight boxes caressing their minds, murdering their eyes, baking their brains into macaroni and cheese casseroles, these girls were out in the wire brush, icy wind and slushy, aborted snowfall every night, chained to invisible posts, waiting in the darkness like shark bait. They turned an underwhelming menagerie of tricks, nodding out on strange sofas and filthy rugs, asses in the air, orifices lathered in lubricant, arms on automatic jack pump like a crude Japanese robot at the 1963 World Fair, eyes rolled back to stare at their frontal cortex in the pitch, lugubrious darkness of poppy kisses and rat poison.

Then, like broken, abused dolls running on cheap batteries, they simply collapsed, falling apart to a point where not even a few kopeks could be wrought from their semi-necrophiliac services, that strange, almost human-like quality that made their arms jack pump, their lips and tongue somewhat lacquer and smear saliva around, their voices to emit weak, little, fake moans and murmurs, it dried up and went away somewhere. Once that was gone, that profit wielding, animated spark, well, it was off to the canals little girl, where so countless many in St. Petersburg went, from the first slaves who dug the streets from the diseased swamp, to the tagged livestock blown up by shells and leveled by starvation and disease during the last great Caucasian bloodletting. Nameless and never known, as brittle bones these whores settled on the murky, muddy beds of the slaughterhouse sewer – the Fontanka Canal, Canal Griboyedova, the Moika, the Kryukov, the Obvodnyi; all of them a steely network of watery grave, all of them waiting with cold, black arms to embrace their newest, eternal acquisition.

Under meager sail, Trevor moved toward the vaguely Atlantean, concentric circle of the Fontanka Canal, legs shuffling numbly, crunching away on automatic plow through the orange-cream-sickle snow. He was just beginning to make headway, when suddenly the orange and bitter black street filled with the glowing, prowling eyes of a menacing, metal shark. Lev Bronshtein, Trevor spat. Shark attack.

Like cold, white scalpels, the shark eyes peeled the night apart cruelly as they stealthily swam down Ismailovsky Prospekt, rousingly smelling blood in the water, honing in on easy prey. Without even a thought, Trevor instantly peeled off the sidewalk of Ismailovsky and into the muddied snow courtyard of the Neva Children's Theatre, scurrying like a bony rat, desperately hoping the bitter, barren branches of the courtyard's anemic trees and its rice paper shadows would cloak him from the shark's merciless sonar.

Running up the stoop of the Children's Theatre, Trevor pressed himself anxiously into the darkness, a hairy, alcohol reeking chameleon trying to become soot-covered brick and blackened masonry. Coldly the blue, metallic shark cruised down the shopping aisles of Ismailovsky, its matchbox wheels squeaking like a inbred redneck's ill-maintained go-cart, its gills rusted and rattling like an old refrigerator kept in the garage to house only the cheapest of beers. They used to be called Black Maria's. They came at night to cull the herd, to extract for the jaws of Baal, to whip the chattel onto the slavery plantations of Pharaoh's Siberia. Long ago, it used to be that the locals were only abducted by Turks, Mongols, Swedes, and the like. Now, they were abducted, raped, and murdered by their own dear, black magic Moscow. Nothing felt better than eliminating the middleman, and putting a few extra shekels in one’s pocket. Why outsource kidnapping and rape? Why not roll up the sleeves and do it yourself?

The Black Marias used to dress up cheekily as bread trucks, milk trucks, ice cream trucks, and flower delivery trucks (well, as if they had those services in the Soviet Union - let’s leave it at bread trucks). Disguised as benign painted wagons of utopian commerce, they quietly shuttled away the Russian peasant by the heaping boatload to the great sacrificial alters of the bullet hole basement or the snow-swept bonfires of the Siberian steakhouse. The Kremlin Khazars toasted in late night drunken debauches as all the collection rounds were made.

At the dawn of a new millennium, they weren't called Black Marias. And no, they didn't make the rounds picking up kindling for the fires of Moloch. Instead, they were just simple, blue and white, obtuse tuna cans on wobbling, funny-car wheels. They weren't cynically disguised as special education buses or newspaper delivery vans bringing the citizens of Birkenau fresh copies of the "truth". On the contrary, these vile meat wagons were unashamedly branded by the words "militsia" - police - for all the world to see. There was something refreshing and unpretentious about the externalization of the hierarchy. Yes, we're the police, we're going to fuck you, and we're not going to put forth one ounce of effort in trying to conceal it. Bravo. Now, get in the back.

Trevor pressed himself further back into the shallow curtains of darkness against the cold, miserable brick building as the marauding shark-mobile glided cruelly through the foul meridians of blackened snow. No, no, no, he said to himself over and over. You don’t want me. It’s too early in the night for a foreigner. With the fear beginning to buzz and tingle inside his ribcage, asphyxiating slightly his lungs and screwing up his arteries, he took a long, desperate pull on the beer. Panicked to a degree, he tried to think, what was his registration, where did his fake documents say that he lived? Getting prepped for interrogation, the ominous silence was soon shattered by the screeching metallic gnashing of teeth as the shark's worn out brakes clamped dryly on their moonlight drive. Although the sound was horrendous, and although the night was now partially soaked in the blood red brake lights of the rape van, the wonderful soothing exhale of relief washed over Trevor like a divine pardon. The shark had plowed directly into the thin school of night walkers chained to their pikes. It was here that the shark would satiate his appetite, thankfully, on heroin herring, and not on Yankee cod. Trevor reached in his pocket for a smoke as he gazed out from the shadows onto the bizarre stage play.

The night walker minnows on the periphery of the point of attack immediately began clicking their high heels against the icy sidewalk as they disjointedly skeleton-danced away. The heels, the junk, the toilet cleaner, the jangled marionette strings, this peculiar procession of Día de Muertos was not capable of anything resembling speed. Instead, they resembled stop-action animation drenched in buffoonery cocktails, opioids, and barbiturate. They didn't need to hurry, however. The pride of St. Petersburg had already chosen what girls to rape. Those on the periphery could have crawled to freedom like slugs and still made it out alive.

In an ear-ripping, creaking whine, the doors to the aluminum shark sprung open. The sound broke the night like two rusty revolvers being cocked intimately close to the back of one’s head. Out of the predator-mobile staggered two fat-body villagers, brainless and proud. Their bulbous chins were drooping and glistening in oil like sweating, cheap sausage in a room temperature display case. Their uniforms were like the stained rags of an auto-mechanic shop, rags that had also double-dutied as the death blanket of a street dog, served as swaddling in an impromptu childbirth by a gypsy lady, and in an emergency act of desperation, used to clean up a homeless man after he had involuntarily soiled himself whilst enjoying delirium tremens in a drunk tank. And what about the public, squat toilets at the Nicholas Train Station? Yes, they had been used to mop those up too.

As the two village rapists moseyed over to the sidewalk, guts swollen in decades of processed mystery meats, barrels of mayonnaise, strange, glue-like carbohydrate substances, and acute alcoholism, they were joined by a third specimen of adroitly crafted dogshit. He had bounced out of the back of the truck, where he had no doubt just finished preparing the bridal chamber in the only way he knew how - he had lain some cardboard down over the cold, metal floor of mud and cued up his favorite tape cassette of Foreigner on his knockoff, Chinese boom-box. Oh, and he had moved the spare tire and the crowbar off a little bit to the side, making the honeymoon suite nice and spacious. And, just to spice things up a bit, he had unscrewed the top to the gas canister, allowing for the playful and seductive aroma of hydrocarbons and raw fuel to fill the air.

Together, the triumvirate surrounded their two damsels and licked their fat, greasy lips. These three keepers of the peace, their faces were the sordid type of indistinguishable half-Russian, half-Asian, half-Turk, half-Kazak, half-mountain mule mongraloid that had eaten bullets like targets at shooting ranges as they raped and burned their way across Europe in a dirge of brutal, insipid destruction. They died by the millions, raped women and girls by the millions, and, unlike nearly every army of the past, they received nothing in return for their conquest. Instead, they were given a bottle of fingernail polish remover, a non-existent job, a small square sarcophagus to live in, and a life expectancy of fifty years. What did they do about it? They loved it. They said thank you, and drank the fingernail polish remover, and raped their wife as they recounted their days in the Pomerania and Danzig, raping the hell out of that sweet blonde, Anglo-Saxon meat before shooting it and leaving it on the side of the road to be blanketed in flies. This is who we were dealing with here. The creme de la creme of misguided, ignorant, and willing executioner.

Their black, beady, slanted eyes crawled over their boney catch as they warmed up their beauties with some polite foreplay about passports, registration, and so forth. It was like watching three bloated camp commandants, drunk and merry from a night of gluttony in the officers barracks, come out into the moonlight to finagle the services of a few typhus-riddled cadavers. Like two princely gentlemen, the cops chose one woman and together they lead her by both arms to the back of the truck. The women let out a small, barbiturate and opiate drenched shriek when she saw the cardboard mattress and the cloud of gas fumes hit her nostrils.

"Nyet!" she cried. "For what? You don't need! We have 'a roof'. We have krysha!"

Not amused by semantics, the two village boys stuffed her into the back and gleeful jumped in themselves, slamming the tuna can lid shut behind them to give them some courteous privacy. The other sweaty pig man stayed out with contestant No.2. He had her by the arm as well, controlling her, not that she would have been able to get away from him in neck-break heels, 20 calories in the gut, and a head full of poisoned kool-aid.

"Nyet, but please." she sniffled and begged. "Please, pozhalusta, let me go. Pozhalusta, pozhalusta..."

She wrestled her shoulders to and fro ineffectually. The slight and inept protests were still enough to arouse the vicious anger of this village drunk with a fragmented head filled with bizarre, suppressed, yet controlling memories of a drunk, abusive father, humiliation, beatings, cruelty, rape, violence, nonacceptance, and the usual merry-go-round of inadequacy and self-hatred.

"You want to take someone to the back? Take Soso! He's the boss." she pleaded.

Straightaway, the cop's fat, square-fingered paw flew across the girl's face and whacked her senseless. She instantly lost her balance, and stayed upright only from the cop’s meat-hook claw which bit into her arm like a bear trap. The air quickly filled with the charged electricity of violence, the timbre of the night became a unsettling hue of vapid, disturbing energy. The cop’s cruel, mongaloid face of pink, angered chubbiness and cold, chiseled eyes soon grew into an expression of joy.

"Ha, ha, ha!" he bellowed as he looked into the wobbling girl's face. "You bitch, Soso is the one who recommended you!"

He continued to chuckle as he admired his handiwork, taking no small measure of joy in the girl's newly discovered ability to remain silent. The aluminum party truck behind him began to creak and shake, jostling at times, vertically, at times, horizontally, periodically omitting dull thuds, booms, and knocks. It wasn't all too long before the back doors busted open again, exuding a charged, foul air, like the warm, jubilant rush as theatre doors opened after a rollicking performance. The sounds of laughter and shouting filled the night an odd juxtaposition. Then, abruptly, in surprise circus, the boney, emancipated, furred and booted ragdoll spilled out the two back doors into the cold, icy night. In a crash, she landed in the street runoff of black snow, brown sludge, grey gravel, and orange, sparkling ice crystals. This sendoff immediately incurred the reaction of the cop on the street and his bride to be, one of them erupting in boisterous laughter, the other in an ear-shattering shriek.

"You ready to go?" one of the rapscallion Romeos asked as he jumped down from the back of the truck, still buckling up his belt in a show of masculine prowess.

"You bet I am. Go ahead and get the car running. This one wants a moonlight drive."

"A moonlight drive!" the cop laughed as he drew closer. "You're in for a magical night, little princess."

He reached out to caress her face in the cruel, furnace-like glow of marmalade. The girl shrieked and shook her head back and forth as his fat paws played with her cheeks and lips.

"This one is feisty!" he exclaimed.

"They never learn, do they? These brainless bitches."

That said, the girl was driven, her arms pinned behind her back, to her awaiting chambers of chemical wedding.

"It’s moonlight drive time, baby!" the driver roared cheerfully as he fired up the shark and revved the lawn-mower engine in boyish glee.

Finding a bottle on the passenger seat, he picked it up, drained its foamy contents, and fired the bottle out the window.

"Let’s go!" he shouted as the bottle crashed, boisterous voices and yells joining him from the back of the van.

Faintly, just barely audible, well below the sounds of the spitting lawn-mower engine, the rickety wheels, the screeching joints, the laughter and revelry, Foreigner blaring from the boom box, one could just make out the screams of the woman, screams that were of course expertly muted by the professionally administered services of an oily choke rag.

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