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Inheriting Dust, Chapter 4
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serial

I brought Kay into the room and slammed the door shut. She went weak in the knees and crumpled just inside the door, but I grabbed her from behind and managed to get her to the bed. Felicia went running under the bed--I always made sure to stay at places where you could get under the bed, just for her--and I undid Kay's shirt and threw it open. Her eyes were glassy and bloodshot, and I could hear her heart beating at well over a hundred beats a minute. She was coked up, which maybe was good, because maybe she wasn't feeling much.

"Hold still. Can you hear me?"

Her eyes focused on the wall, then on me, and she nodded. I looked at the wound. I was wrong. She hadn't been shot. She'd been stabbed. The hole was a nice, neat slice, in and out--she must not have been expecting it. The blood had mostly stopped, which was a good sign. She wasn't about to bleed to death at this rate. But I had to get her calmed down before she had a coke-induced heart attack, and get the wound clean.

"You're gonna be okay. Just try to take deep breaths, all right?"

She focused on me again and took a deep breath. "Jake . . . "

"It's all right. I'm just going to get a towel and clean you up some, okay?"

"Okay." She took another deep breath and coughed. A red bubble floated up through her wound and popped, releasing a trickle of blood which flowed across her scarlet-crusted stomach.

I went into the bathroom to grab my towels and paused at the toilet in case I needed to be sick. I took a deep breath and looked at myself in the mirror. I was as pale as she was. The tan I'd gotten in the south had drained from my face. I ran hot water and soaked one towel, then went back into the room. Kay was looking at the TV blankly, her hands visibly trembling. When I put the hot wet towel on her she jumped, but I got most of the blood off her skin.

"Are you going to tell me what happened?" I asked when I was done.

"I'm not sure I really know." Her eyes were darting across the room.

"Focus," I said. I'd gotten used to dealing with coke addicts.

"Sorry," she said, and tried to keep her eyes on me. "I need a drink."

I did too, and so I grabbed my half-empty bottle of cheap scotch from the cupboard, unscrewed the top and handed it to her. She took a long swallow, choked on it a bit but held it down. She held onto the bottle, and I could feel the scotch burn warm her. A bit of color flowed back into her face almost instantly.

"Here," I said, and took the bottle from her. After a quick drink, I took another towel, poured a few shots of scotch on it, then put the towel in her hand and placed it on her wound. Her back tensed and she yelled, but she bit down on her lip to keep it in and held it there. "Hospital?"

She shook her head. "No fucking way."

"All right, I'll go down to Randall's and get some gauze and shit when they open at seven, so just hold that there and tell me what happened. The last time I saw you you were throwing us all out, now you got a fucking hole in you."

"Is it bad?"

"You'll live. How do you feel?"

"I feel . . . hungry. Really fucking hungry."

"I'll make you something," I said, and I put water on the hot plate for instant soup. She wanted me to go out and bring her back a couple of Whataburgers, but I told her soup would be better for her, and by that time my adrenaline was starting to fade, and I just wanted to sleep. But I made her soup while she told me the story of this, her third knife cut. Once was by a boyfriend who left a scar across her left tit in a wild drunken swipe; another time was a customer who had stuck a penknife into her ass as she walked by--it still hurt when she sat for too long, she said. And then this.

"I was just walking to my car. He must have come up on me from behind, but I never heard him at all."

"You'd had a couple of blasts?"

"Bump or two was all. But I was still exhausted, just wanted to get home. He came up as I got my keys out, the first thing I felt was him grab for my bag, and I felt this sharp pain and this warmth; I guess that the blood as it started coming. You were the closest thing I could think of." She was looking almost normal again, just a bad, shell-shocked normal, her stringy black hair spilling over the pillow. Despite the scotch in my hand and in my gut, I was as sober as I'd been for a long time.

"Why didn't you go to the hospital?" I took a slug from the bottle and passed it to her. She drained it.

"Christ, all those bright lights, that would have killed me for sure. I could still drive, I figured I wasn't about to die. Is it still bleeding?"

I shook my head. "What did he get?"

"Just my tip money tonight, still, sixty fucking bucks. I don't know why the fucker had to cut me, though, Jesus." She turned and grimaced. "Thing is, I heard him toss my bag down, so he must have just grabbed the cash and run."

"What else was in there?"

"Just my ID and shit, I was thinking I'd drive back down there and grab it. I feel pretty good, actually."

"When the coke wears off, you're gonna crash for a long time," I said.

"I guess, but I don't want to have to replace my ID and all that. I'll come right back." She started to get up, but I took her shoulders and set her back down. She didn't fight me, just looked at the scotch bottle and tipped it up, hoping for a last drop. I went over to the counter and opened another bottle and handed it to her.

"I'll go. Give me your keys, my car's out of gas."

She took a solid pull on the bottle and looked at me, her eyes bright with relief. "Thanks, honey."

She gave me the keys to her Cutlass and I left with a strange feeling of desire and irritation. I was surprised to see that my hands were shaking so bad it took me almost thirty seconds to get the key in the ignition.

The drive was short. At 4 a.m., I took residential streets and blew through stop signs. When you have a complete set of fake identification, you don't worry much about traffic tickets much anyway, and I made it to the Showdown parking lot in about ten minutes. It didn't take me more than thirty seconds to find her bag; I saw it in the arc of the headlights as I pulled in behind the bar. It was a simply canvas book bag type thing, and I grabbed it and drove back to the motel, another ten minutes at most.

The reason I would later spend so much time thinking about how long it took me to get her bag is because I would always be amazed at how quickly she was able to get dressed, find my stash of weed and cash, take it all, and hot-wire my car. And she and someone else even had time to smoke a cigarette each--one Camel and one Parliament were smoldering in the ashtray when I got back. They even took the rest of my liquor, except for three cans of Busch, which I cracked and promptly drank as I checked her bag and found it full of lipstick that had never been used and a wallet that still contained the picture of the model family it had had when she bought it.

I lay down on the bed with my second tallboy when Felicia decided to pop out from under the bed and let out one of those long meows that sounded exactly like "you fucking dumbass."

end of essay
Joseph G. Carson Portrait Joe was the original guitarist for the now legendary Clark Schpiell and the Furry Cockroaches without Butts, playing two chords in a four-chord song under the assumed name of Jason, which he has taken to be a metaphor for his existence (the two chords part, not the Jason part). He has contributed several long pieces to CSP, including the crime novels Danine and Inheriting Dust, the latter of which is still in progress. He has also written the occasional humor piece, movie review, and political essay. | more essays by Joseph
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