Happy memorial day weekend, everybody! Aren’t 3 day weekends the greatest invention of all time? I mean, they’re also a satanic tool used to trick you into thinking you’ll have enough time to finish your projects over the weekend, because you’ll have a whole extra day to work on them, even though you’re still going to leave it all until the last minute, but the idea of them is still delightful.
In my case, my professors were kind enough to spare me the last-minute scrambling at the end of the weekend, and instead gave me end-of-week scrambling, as both my revised 1st chapter for BotG and an essay on Heisenberg in post-WW2 German were due today. But, nevertheless, I persevered, and I have a new thing for you to read this week! And for the first time, it’s not an entirely new thing—just a new bit for an old thing. Behold! More of my Aladdin story! I have no idea where this is going, but so far, so good. There’s even a hobo in this bit. His name isn’t terribly exciting, though. John Hodgman would be ashamed.
I’ve actually already written a bit past what I’m going to post today, so it’s highly likely that you will get even more of it next week. Hoo-rah?
Aladdin (part 2)
When I woke up, it was with a stabbing headache fit to drown out a banshee’s screams. A bright line of light somewhere above me pried its way under my eyelids, making me wish for death, but I would never be so lucky. I tried to remember what happened, how I had gotten there, where “there” even was, but it was all a fog. After a sufficient amount of creative swearing and feeling sorry for myself, the pain finally subsided enough for me to sit up and look around.
I was in the alleyway behind Cave of Wonder, now with a thin layer of snow coating its filth so it looked almost pristine in the morning light. I was only guessing that it was morning by the lack of overly emphatic bass lines that usually dominated the streets well into the night, and the stark grey light that was streaming mercilessly down upon me. My fingers stung as I pulled myself to my feet, clinging to the dumpster with one hand while the other cradled the side of my head, where a brand new lump had formed just above my ear. Fabulous.
As I started to shuffle out of the alley, my foot connected with something metallic. It went skittering through the snow, hotly pursued by a god-awful clanging noise.
“Jesus!” I whimpered, clutching my ears against the intrusion. When I was sure it had finished, I crept hesitantly across the alley, half afraid of what I might find.
It glinted venomously, as though mocking me, daring me to touch it—a flask. I started at it in bewilderment, trying to remember where I had seen it before, wondering why anybody would abandon a thing so lovely. It was a bright, gleaming silver with delicate gold lettering in a language I couldn’t understand, and all along the border were tiny green stones that might have been real. With a quick glance around, I snatched the thing from the pavement and tucked it into my jacket, the cold metal sending chills right into my heart.
My head ached too much to give it any further thought. Mumbling to myself, I staggered home.
Home, for me, isn’t the sort of place you would call “sweet.” In fact, it’s not a place most people would even dare to call “home.” It’s perched at the top of a crumbling warehouse in the industrial district, between Johnson’s Pale Ale Brewery and what I think use to be a stadium. I think it was originally a shoe factory, judging by the amount of leather scrap scattered about and the way the bottom floors still smell like burnt rubber, though all the usable shoes have long been picked up by vagabonds. The whole thing is ringed by a rusting barbed wire fence, as though there were something there worth protecting, but if there is I’ve never seen it.
There’s a hole in the fence ‘round back of the place, just big enough to crawl through if you’re not too bulky and you don’t mind getting a little mud on your jeans. That’s how I got in—me and my roommates. On that particular night, as I stumbled onto the factory floor through the half-opened double doors, I came much closer to one of them than I generally allow.
“Al?” he muttered, glossy eyes squinting at me through the dusty air. “Is that you?”
It was Singin’ Sam, as most people called him—a skinny, stoop-shouldered man with a stump where his left arm should have been, who looked much older than he actually was. But then, they all look older than they are. So do I, I suppose.
Sam use to be a concert violinist. At least, that’s what he’ll tell you, whenever he’s lucid enough. The story of how he lost his arm changes constantly, depending on what sort of a mood he’s in, but he’s always quick to finger his ex-wife with the blame. He likes to sing about her suffering in hell, which can actually be pretty funny. Most of the time, though, he’s so strung out on heroin that he’s not entirely sure where he is, much less what he’s saying.
“Hey, Sam,” I said, unsure yet which Sam I was addressing. “How’s it going?”
“The fire-breathing harpy bitch took my kids again,” he told me cheerfully. “I’m gunna strangle that cunt-bucket, just as soon as I get my arm back. Do you know where it is?”
I grimaced. It was not the first time he had asked.
“Sorry, buddy.” I told him, “but I’ll keep an eye out for it.”
His face fell, that dark shadow I was all too familiar with passing in front of his eyes. “Oh,” he said. “That’s okay, I guess.”
I wanted to help him. Instinctively, I reached out a hand to pat his shoulder, but stopped a few inches short, my hand shaking slightly in the space between us. He didn’t notice. He was too busy peering across the floor, presumably in search of his missing limb.
I took a deep breath and withdrew my hand, tucking it safely into my jean pocket where it couldn’t betray me again. Then, with a curt nod that I’m sure he didn’t even notice, I strode away, making for the rickety stairs on the far side of the room. Somewhere behind me, I could hear him humming, a weak tune with no rhythm to it, a song without lyrics. I hurried up the steps and through the steel front door of my room, latching it firmly shut behind me.