Jan. 6th, 2016

jack_babalon: (Default)
Off work early for all the wrong reasons. Hit Oxford comics to cheer myself up, blew bill money on a few pages of men in tights, and currently smoking a cigarette in the Lindbergh Station parking lot reading them openly. First cold of the winter with nothing between my skin and it but office dress code.

"Lemme get one of those cigarettes," a voice demands and rising out of a technical color brawl exploding from a two-page spread find myself face to face with some kid dressed for the Taun-Taun races and looking at me as if I had forgotten a large sum of cash owed to him.

Behind him not but a running kick away and dressed for what I could only imagine was some sort of local sports-ball match being held in the Antarctic, stood the kid's entourage. Five deep and not a one an inch under 6 feet.

"Sorry," I smile customer-service helpless to the kid, "I've only got a few left to hold me 'til payday."

"I didn't ask how many cigarettes you had," the kid tells me after giving me the once over, "I just told you to give me one."

I laugh. Fat-boy, baldhead, comic-book reading in public me. Playground punching bag me.

"Something funny?" The kid asks eyes bulged in savage appraisal, arms lowered, spread apart from the hip ready to launch fives and tens.

"Yeah," I smile taking what I'm guessing will be my last drag, "it's just I've been on the been on the phone all day with assholes bitching in my ear and so it's probably that I'm not hearing too well right now, but... I don't remember hearing a please."

Flashback: Lil' Jackie Babalon sitting at the kitchen table with a bag of frozen spinach over a black eye. Dad and Mom Babalon sit there while I explain my latest ass-whooping. Both parents agree that I don't address any school authorities about it - Dad Babalon a recreational drug user in his secret identity, Mom Babalon an ex-fuck the police 60s radical. Squealing was a cardinal sin. Dad Babalon gives me a lecture about the nobility of man, how it is the duty of those who know better to do better and not resort to the animal violence that makes a horror show of the front page. Mom Babalon, later that night, tells me my father is right, but that said, to give as good as the world takes from you.

But I'm no good at fighting, I protest.

You don't have to be able to give everyone who deserves one an ass kicking, Mom Babalon insists, you just have to remember not to be afraid of taking one.

Flash-forward: We're doing this... I'm stepping backwards, I don't Kung from fucking Fu, but I know I got a moment of shock for my words to register before everyone moves in and plan on using it to put as much distance between myself and their fists as I can. Heart pounding. Instinct says run, experience tells me their faster. Plan, swing blind, swing fast, and focus on whatever damage you got to give on the kid.

Shit, I'm still holding the fucking comic book in my hands.

Too late. The kid's back in the game, his ensemble as well, their stepping forward out in an arc around their boy...

... when between them and us a maroon hatchback screeches to a halt. Blaring out of its rolled down window is the Exploited - live - with Wattie chanting "You never give up in the army!" and accompanied by a fog-machine dense cloud of pot smoke.

Bud leans out the window, his Mohawk not spiked but draped in devil lock over a single eye, he makes no effort to hide the blunt lit in his lips nor the firearm in his hand. "We got a problem here, Jack?" He asks aiming that free eye at the kid.

Ladies and gentleman, my ride has arrived.

I look at the kid in some John Woo approximation of hard-man stoic and ask with a single wag of eyes ask whether we do or not.
The kid's looking at me, he's not looking at Bud, he's not looking at anything but the iron in my friend's hand when he gives his answer - "Naw, man... no problem here."

The kid steps back, the entourage stand their ground not fully aware of how much the game has suddenly changed, and I pass them all feeling their glare burn on the back of my neck before getting in on the passenger seat.
Before I can buckle in Bud tears ass out of the parking lot and passes me the blunt.

I hit it, sputter a few coughs, hit it again and because he insists I hold on to it in order to catch up with him on a narco-ontological level.

"You're off early." He tells me.

"Yeah," I croak holding a hit in.

"They suspend you again?" He says gunning through a yellow light and cutting off a yuppy tank with a flip of the bird out the window.

"Yeah," I say I exhaling a stream of smoke out my window.

"What'd you say to them this time?" He says swerving around a MARTA bus and remembering to tuck the gun back under his seat.

"I may have inadvertently informed a customer with an especially negative attitude the folly of threatening to kick my ass unless I cancelled his subscription when I had his address in front of me and would be more than happy to show up one night on his lawn to give him just that opportunity."

"Uh-huh... and what else did you 'inadvertently' say?" We race past a row Jack Shacks and Head Shops promising no end of happy endings to the weary Terminus commuter.

"I may or may not have also mentioned that I would take him by the back of the neck, bend him over before friend and family alike, before proceeding to sodomize while calling him 'Sally'."

"Yeah... that just sounds... what d'ya call it?... homoneurotic."

"You're thinking of 'homoerotic' but yeah... it's homoneurotic too I'm sure."

"So how long they suspend you for this time?"

"A full week... it's my last warning too."

Bud whistles with wouldn't-want-to-be-you awe and takes a turn without slowing down causing a cascade of blaring car horns behind us.

"I haven't told Violet yet."

Violet Panick was counting on me working this week to make the rent after she missed a few days at her office job because I insisted we trip balls the weekend before.

"Shit," Bud shakes his head, "that's no good."

"I know, man, I know..."

"You think maybe you want to leave those comic books in the car with me when I drop you off?"

"No," I say looking at the comic book, now crushed in my hands, "she deserves to know the full fuck up she's involved with."

"How much you need?"

"Two hundred," I say and I'm cut short when Bud slams the brakes sending me lurching forward.

"Let me ask you something?" He turns around looking at me all serious.

"Uh... yeah," I say not so much afraid but confused, but yeah a little afraid
also, not for me but for the attention we might be drawing sitting here in the middle of the street.

"Would you let me buy those comic books off you?"

"What?"

"You heard me,... will you let me buy those comic books off you or not?"

"These?" I say holding up the comic shop bag with five issues in it not counting the one crushed in my hand.

"You see any other comic books here, fool?"

"Uh..."

Bud reaches into his front pocket and pulls out a pimp wad of bills and peels off a thin stack off them .

"Here," he hands me the stack of cash, "I'll give you $200 bucks for the ones in your hands."

"But... but they're nowhere near worth that much..."

"Well, maybe they will be in a few years..."

"But.."

"No buts, man, you take the fucking cash, you give me the fucking comics, you give the cash to Violet, and if you're smart, which I fucking you know you are, you don't turn around and blow it on more comics or weed or dancing at the vampire clubs. Now do we have a fucking deal or are we going to sit here all day?"

I take the fucking cash. Bud throws the fucking comics in the seat behind him and peels out.

I say thank you and he just nods focused on delivering me home with as much mayhem as he can inflict on the streets while doing so.

I ask him not to tell Violet about this, he agrees so long as I don't tell his woman about this either.

We drive in silence for a few miles before he bobs his head to the back seat, "Do I at least have any Wolverine or Punisher's in there?"

"Uh... no, I'm more of a DC guy. Their heroes strike me more as archetypes rather than grim gritty 'realistic' heroes and because of that their adventures have mythic overtones."

"Great," Bud rolls his eyes.

We drive in silence a little while longer.

"How 'bout Batman?" He asks as he pulls into the driveway of Violet Panick and I's North Avenue apartment, "You got any of him or is he too grim?"

"I got Batman...," I smile triumphantly, "I mean, that is to say you got Batman."

"Cool," He says as if it was some small measure of good news.

I get out of the car. He pulls off in a screech and cranks the Exploited back up.

A smile, a blink, a return to reality...

... 2016 damn near 20 years later and here I am standing in front of Lindbergh Station enjoying a last smoke before entering the MARTA hump.
In my hands a different comic book with a story that's very much the same I'm sure.

Finish the smoke, tuck the comic away, turn around and walk back into a world a little less mad, a little less beautiful, a little less noble than the one I left behind.

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September 2016

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