The Consubstantial Man
by Edward Ahern
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
Frankie Witt crawled out of a stupor and into a hangover. The crust inside his mouth crumpled like a wasp’s nest as he puckered. Aghh. Again. Head feels like it’s oozing pus. You stumblebum, just die and be done with it.
Frankie shambled into the bathroom, drank a glass of off-color water and weaved into the kitchen area of his one-wide trailer. The sink and countertop were overgrown with dirty dishes and food remnants. Eat or drink? His churning stomach kept time with the agony in his head. Both.
Where’s the blender? Frankie’s eyes crawled over the mess. Aha! He grabbed the blender, and sloshed water into it, brightening the margarita scabs inside it.
Put the vodka in last. He tossed in a vintage pizza slice, two dried-out hot dogs and mildewed strawberries, topping up with a slug of the brownish water and half a pint of vodka.
The blender complained, sparking, but ground out a dung-colored mix. Frankie ignored the bubbles forming in the slush and swallowed a mouthful from the blender. Ouph! Damn that’s nasty. Alum and mold.
His sinuses reflated as if they’d been stented, and Frankie felt snot slithering down toward his throat. He was blowing his nose on a stained paper towel when his guts and muscles cramped and he dropped to the floor.
Frank Witt Dossier, NSA field excerpt: The well water is contaminated with animal fecal matter, microorganisms and lead from the piping. Unfortunately none of the biological contents of the blender remain for analysis, the blender having baked in the desert sun when Mr. Witt tossed it from the trailer. Analysis of the residue revealed traces of arsenic, gold and mercury in addition to the expected levels of lead, iron, and calcium. Twenty-seven unclassified microorganisms were discovered on the food remains in the trailer kitchen, as well as two previously unknown species of fly.
Frankie came to three hours later. He winced out of habit, then realized that nothing hurt. Why do I feel so good? My mind, it’s like I hadn’t had a drink in days. He stood up without staggering, walked to the sink and drank from the faucet. I’m starving. Wait, take care of the concoction first.
He began rinsing out a tequila bottle. The back of his right hand swung into a rusty steak knife, the blade penetrating almost through his palm. Frankie cursed at the pain, pulled his hand away, and stared as the wound stopped bleeding and closed back up. In three seconds there was nothing on his hand but a faint pink mark. Sweet Jesus Murphy! Must be DT’s.
Frankie pulled the steak knife out from the dish pile and stared at it. The blade showed smears of his blood. I wonder. He took the knife by its handle and jabbed it into and out of his left palm. Blood welled out for a second and then the skin healed over. It hurt, I must be awake.
He poured the contents of the blender into the tequila bottle and recapped it.. Then he put on pants, t-shirt and shoes, and walked through the trailer park and across the road to Bernice’s Oasis, a bar masquerading as a diner.
Two all-day drinkers perched at the far end of the bar. Bernice Stanton stood at the other end, shifting her attention between her cell phone and a shopping channel on the television. “I didn’t think you’d make it this time, Frankie.”
“Bernice, I’m starving. Please, a burger and fries?”
“And you don’t have any money.”
“You already owe me two hundred.” She sighed. “Hell, all right. Better food than booze. Save your liver from the freak show.”
Frankie set the tequila bottle on the bar, the gelatinous contents quivering. “Okay, I do owe you. I’ll give you a shot of this stuff. It’s incredible what it’ll do for you. Once you see how good you feel, you’ll wipe out the two hundred.”
“Two-o-five counting the burger. Get that slimy looking filth off my bar. I’m not drinking it.”
Frankie looked her over fondly. Bernice was zaftig, hard to budge in body or opinion. But she’s wrong. This stuff is the water of life. I should be charging $2,000 a pop, not $200.
“Okay, Bernice, you win. But I want to show you something before you cook up that burger.”
Frankie took a folding knife out of his pocket and, without hesitating, sliced a line down his right forearm.
“You rotted-out alkie! You’ve lost it.”
He said nothing, holding the arm over the bar so Bernice could watch the wound close.
“Well, jack up my sagging tits!”
Frankie pushed the bottle toward her. “Please, Bernice, you’ll feel better than you have for a long time. Better sit down first, though.”
“Not a chance, Frankie. You’ll probably be running from both ends in a couple minutes.”
Ten minutes later, Bernice delivered a burger, fries and beer to his table and sat quietly with him, working things out. “That’s some brown slime you got here, Frankie.”
“Yeah. I’ve been thinking too. There’s maybe three-quarters of a quart in the bottle. If I’m stingy, that’s twenty shots. I should be able to get five, maybe ten grand a shot, easy. Problem is, I don’t know people who’ve got that kind of spending money.”
She patted his arm, avoiding the mark left by the knife. “You know I do, from before, but consider, Frankie. If that stuff works, your golden goose will squat out twenty eggs and then you’re got no income.”
Frankie could sense relays clicking in his mind, amazed that he could again think more than two steps ahead. “Yeah, and if I get the government to believe me, they’ll confiscate the bottle, lock me up as a lab rat, and bleed me every so often.” He exhaled slowly, calculating.
Bernice went behind the bar, poured a triple shot of cheap scotch, and brought it back. “Here, your hangover must be pushing your eyes out onto your cheeks.”
“Thanks. It’s weird, but this is the first morning in months that I haven’t felt like a bad death.” Frankie downed the drink in four swigs and frowned. “There’s no pop, no jolt. It’s like the stuff is neutralized as it’s running down my gullet.”
“You want another?”
“Don’t think it’ll do any good. Look, Bernice, I need someone like you to front for me, to be a cutout from the buyer. Here’s the deal. You become like my agent, ten percent for helping set things up.”
Her smile stretched almost to her jaw line. “Crap. Fifty percent or no deal.”
“Sugar, don’t rely on our two-backed beast act, this is business.”
“Look, Frankie, I’ve got almost no money and you’ve got none. You’re going to need cash to get rolling, that means selling a shot or two cheap. But the people I know, first thing, they see this works, they’ll want to muscle in, maybe take the bottle. You’ve got to be smart to play on their turf. Got to sell this stuff like a street drug. You only know booze.”
“Okay, fifteen percent.”
“Twenty, and you’ll still have the option to get a shot.”
They didn’t bother to shake the hands that’d previously explored each other.
“Run my tab up a little further?”
“What the hell.”
“Bottle of Cuervo to take home. And a mini-bottle of anything. Need to figure out how to stash the mixture.”
Bernice pulled the bottles from behind the bar and handed them to Frankie, then watched him walk away. Two Cuervo bottles. Is he smart enough to work a switch? Not Frankie. Oops, not the old Frankie. This guy knows when to change his underwear.
Frankie surprised himself by setting the real tequila bottle down unopened. Don’t think I can get smashed anymore, and that’s all I know how to do. Think, you drunk, how are you going to handle this stuff?
He went into the bathroom and knelt on the floor next to the toilet. Opening his knife, he pried up a floor tile. The tile had been glued to a same-sized section of cut-out plywood flooring underneath it. Below the opening the toilet drain pipe ran down through two feet of air and into the ground.
He pressed his cheek against the base of the toilet bowl and reached down through the hole, knife in hand. He scraped off an inch of dirt and animal droppings, then pulled his arm back out of the hole and dropped the knife. He stuck his arm back down and grabbed the screw cap of a five-inch diameter PVC tube. Frankie wiggled the tube back and forth to enlarge its hole, then pulled the tube up through the floor hole.
Sweat dripped down his body, moisturizing a five-day accumulation of drinker’s funk. He unscrewed the PVC cap, dropped the Cuervo bottle into the tube, and screwed the cap back on. Frankie shoved the PVC tube back into its hole, and scraped debris back over the tube cap. He looked pensively at the result, then grabbed a paper cup, scooped water from the toilet, and sprinkled water over the disturbed dirt until he couldn’t tell any difference from its moldy surroundings. Time to celebrate. He took a small nip from the remaining bottle. I thought so; it doesn’t have any more kick.
Frankie found some soap and showered and shaved. The rusty razor blade nicked him several times before he was done. He chuckled as the cuts snapped shut.
His clothes were all soiled. He wrapped everything in a sheet and walked outside and over to the laundry room trailer, then paced back and forth naked until the machines were finished and he could put on clean pants and shirt.
Once back in his trailer Frankie’s body commanded him to take a nap. It’s like the install needs to be completed, he thought, drifting off. The banging on his door woke him up. “Frankie, get your skinny ass out of bed.”
Frankie opened the door to see Bernice, sweating in the desert heat. “Jesus, Frankie, its eleven in the morning. I got news. Come over to the diner.”
The diner’s air conditioning whacked Frankie as he entered. Goose bumps started popping, but within two seconds they disappeared and he felt comfortable. Man, I got a professional grade thermostat now.
“Talk to me, Bernice.”
“Okay, I made some calls while you were passed out. Nobody believed me, but one guy, Harry Crispen, owes me a favor and says we can seem him at three. Then I fired up the laptop and put in some search words. Frankie, you wouldn’t believe how many thousands of flaky web sites there are. But I answered some questions on a couple sites that looked sane.”
“You didn’t tell them where we are, did you?”
“Come on, I’m the smart one, remember? I just lurked. Well, maybe a hint or two. We gotta go if we’re going to make the meeting on time.”
“Where’d you set it up?”
“A little restaurant I know. Crispen should be there.”
Copyright © 2016 by Edward Ahern