Third Story Slice

“Tell me, is there any madness left in the world?” he said idly, staring off into the dark night. He produced a lighter from his pocket, and was about to light the cigarette between his teeth, but instead reached into his jacket. A moment later, he clutched a green lucky rabbit's foot, kissed it, and then held it over the lighter's flame, rotating it slowly. The smell was something between plastic and boiling rotten meat. After a while, it caught on fire, and then, he lit his cigarette with the foot. Then, he spit on the flaming foot and tossed it away.

He looked off to the distance as he deeply inhaled, watching the street lamps glint off the rolling, graffiti-covered train cars clanking along the overpass. They stretched from one black horizon to the other, rattling with a rhythmic, metal heartbeat of clank-kerkerker-clank-kerkerker...

“You mean like a place? A place where there's some madness left?” said the woman to his right. They both sat in folding metal chairs that had a permanent residence on the porch of the third floor of the rickety, leaking, leaning apartment building they slummed at. Christmas lights hung from the tin roof on the porch and they twinkled through the grimy glass tubes in the April air. The gal reached down to a stack of books next to her chair and picked up a thin novella.

“Sure, a place," the man responded. "Maybe on some field somewhere, with two guys fighting with one knife, or a dog with a fully-belly watching a human starve whose got too much compassion to eat the mutt, or some guy mixing his cabernet with the ashes of his dead wife and drinking himself real stupid.” While the man went about his little speech, the woman turned the pages delicately until she found what she wanted, smiled, then ripped it out. She dropped the defiled book back to the ground.

"I always loved this part," she said. "This guy here, in the book, he's a boat captain, sailing along, and he gets blood on his shoes, so he throws them overboard. He doesn't even think to clean them."


"No, just thinks they're now worthless."

"You can clean a little blood."

"Not really," she responded. Then, she started folding the piece of paper slowly, neatly, creasing every edge. "Can't fully clean it. You feel it sticky sometimes, when your hands are in your pocket and you're not thinking, you wipe your hand on your leg, even though it's got nothing on it." She kept folding. Smaller and smaller.

"Is it gonna make you smarter?" the man asked, flicking his ash to look at her.

"No harm in tryin'," she smiled back and then popped the folded paper pill in her mouth and swallowed hard. She sighed a moment later with watery eyes and a hoarse cough. "Won't hurt me none anyways."

"Imagine the madness of some guy reading a book you've half eaten and thinking that the book was pristine, as the author intended, and he's sitting there flipping page to page asking himself 'what the hell am I reading?' Think he'd get something good out of it?"

"Maybe. Still thinking about madness, huh?"

"Think there's any left in the world?"

“I think it’s like home.” A pause. “Home’s where the heart is, y’know?”

“You’re saying I’ll find the good ol’ madness where I see fit to make it?”

“I’m sayin’ somethin’ like that.”

"I like that idea," he quipped back. "I got a chance to find the party then." He stood up, unzipped his pants, moved to the edge of the porch, spread his arms wide, and fishes his dick through the slats on the porch rail. As he started to urinate, he began to scream as loud as he could. "Take me out to the ball game, take me out to the crowds!" He looked over his shoulder to the girl, smiling, cigarette dangling from the side of his mouth.

"Let me see what spring is like on...Jupiter and Mars," the girl sang back.

"Wrong song," he said back to her, still whizzing away. The steam rose in front of him in the humid air.

"Not in my head. I see no reason why they have to be."

"Fine. How does it end then, this song of yours?"

"And the home of the brave," she said confidently.

"And the hoooome, of theeeee, braaaaave!" the man screamed, clutching onto the hanging Christmas lights. He stood for a moment, dick out, watching the train cars pass in the distance. Smoke teared his eyes before he spoke.

"Man, we need a kid," the woman said before the man could start.


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