Friday, July 13, 2018

Alley Cat. by Mick Rose

People typically leave Alcatraz one of three ways.
Strapped to an ambulance gurney. Zip-locked snug in a body bag. Or somehow they manage to stagger through the iron door out front.
This joint’s got no windows. No glaring neon signs. Not a single piece of swag. Or a useless fucking clock. No Bud Light wanna-be-models waggin’ their silly tits in your mangy face—pretendin’ they’d love to suck your dick—while strippin’ you of your cash. Just four bleak cinder block walls: painted black as cinders. This haunt squats even darker than any carnival fun house, but without any ghastly mirrors. So night or day it looks the same. Like the land that time forgot. Alcatraz delivers a message. The outside world ain’t welcome here. And the patrons are loyally committed—
To drinking their lives away.
No one knows I own this hole. And that’s the way I want things. But ownership has its percs.
Like usin’ the alley entrance. When I step in from the night, the steel door closes with a whoosh. Once you’re on the inside, the door glides open with a push bar. Not much here that will readily burn. The floor’s concrete. Tables, stools and bar top are all green metal army surplus. The electrical wiring’s up to code, and only two years old. But the fire marshal insisted I build an Emergency exit. Besides, the door might save my ass if Murphy and his damn law incinerate the odds.
“Piss tap’s runnin’ low, Dekes.”
I nodded dutifully at Scooter, one of my three unwitting barkeeps—though they all work separate shifts; and sloughed my backpack at the table where no one’s allowed to sit. The table leaves my back guardedly against the wall. And gives me a clean look at the iron door out front—as well as the bar top to my left—and the nearby johns. A constant view of the johns is critical at all times. Don’t need no foolish patrons shufflin’ down the hall, which ends at that alley exit.
Cuz when sellin’ your own moonshine you keep your head down: and both a your eyes open. I pay legitimate corporate taxes. Feel no need to cook the books because I keep my overhead low. I’m a fool in many ways. But I know not to screw the pooch.
Casually, I scanned the bar through a blue tobacco haze. No new faces here this evening. Twenty-four in all. Though this rock can cradle forty. Eighteen faces belonged to men. The other six to women. But as expected, no one’s talkin’. They’re all just killin’ time … each fulfilling their life sentence. Don’t know a single one by name (other than scrawny pinch-faced Scooter). But they’re all veterans of some war—whether they’ve served Uncle Sam or not. And anyone who drinks at Alcatraz has likely fought that fucker too.
Before I change the tap, my next line of defense is to check out both the johns. One door’s painted brown; the other a dark gold. I used bright red neon paint to identify each one. The gold door’s labeled, Hoses. The brown one’s labeled, Holes. And Holes is unisex. I fashioned the doors myself after the saloons you see in Westerns. They sit on well-oiled hinges, and part silently down the middle—offering just enough privacy to go about your business. If you’re six-feet tall like me, the tops start at your sternum. And the bottoms reach your kneecaps. Meanwhile the doors are slatted downward, allowin’ light to filter through.
I designed everything at Alcatraz with efficiency in mind. And I checked out Hoses first—since there’s no place inside to hide. Like you find at football stadiums, a long black latrine runs sleekly east-to-west, and fills the back north wall. A coiled green garden hose hangs handily on the left wall. An identical one hangs in Holes. The floors in both heads are hand-poured concrete: with a drain in the center. Every night I hose them down, while splashing lots of bleach. No need to push a mop.
The walls opposite these trusty hoses sport industrial stainless sinks, plastic soap dispensers and sturdy electric hand dryers. I salvaged all these items from a burned-out chemical factory. Though besides me and my barkeeps, the soap and dryers don’t get much use.
Regardless of the weather, I never remove my trench coat when I’m killin’ time at the rock. And tucked inside that right coat pocket, I always carry a Glock. As well as a Derringer on my ankle. Since there ain’t no place to hide, I got no need to enter Hoses. Leanin’ against the doorframe, I simply peeked in from the side: not a soul in sight.
“Fire in the Hole,” I announced, when parting those brown gates like Moses his Red Sea.
Since I own this joint you can bet your ass I ain’t cleanin’ toilets. But despite its bleak existence, Alcatraz is not a pig sty. Instead I got two port-a-johns like you see at construction sites. A major difference bein’ neither one has regular doors. Standin’ all the way in the back, the portables face each other from their opposite corners—so no one inside either can see me when I enter. And if anyone has a gun they can’t take potshots at me neither—they’d have to step out first. To righteously tilt the odds further in my favor, the modified plastic doors swing out in my direction: but no more than forty degrees. And like the doors to Hoses and Holes, they have no tops and bottoms. So I see anyone comin’ out before they ever catch a glimpse of me. Only fools would invite a shoot-out. But the world is fulla fools.
“Just me,” croaked a woman’s voice. Though I got no clue who “me” was.
I walked to the drain in the center—just far enough into the room to safely inspect the portables. The one to my right stood empty. The floor on the one to my left revealed a pair of oil-stained work boots, and danglin’ just above them filthy wrinkled khakis. Barely visible from the top, a woman’s matted hair … cut just like a guy’s and tucked behind the ears.  
I hedged six feet to my left; then sidestepped through the entrance. Leaned against the wall two feet from the door. She stumbled out a minute later. Hadn’t washed her hands. Bellied back up to the bar, and mumbled somethin’ to Scooter—who refilled her paper cup.
My security check complete, I strode behind the bar, where another keg of Natural Light already sat in place. While Scooter ain’t too bright, he’s right to call it piss—it’s the cheapest beer I can buy. I offer just two beverages here at Alcatraz: my moonshine and the piss. And both these brews get served in wax-coated paper cups.
There’s no glass in this joint anywhere. So patrons can’t shatter a thing, and use the shards as a weapon. Or cut their bumbling selves by accident and decide to sue my ass.
Here at this humble rock, I got my own definition of drinking responsibly. Since the cups I use are paper—instead of glass or fucking plastic—no water gets used to wash them; so not a drop of dirty water winds up producing sewage. And no hot water used cleanin’ drinkware means less electricity burned. My paper cups don’t litter streets by blowin’ out of trash cans either. Nor do they take up space in landfills, because I burn them all each mornin’ usin’ a drum out back of the alley. To encourage all my patrons to drink responsibly as well, I charge ten cents less per drink: so long as they’re refillin’ their original paper cup. They seem happy with this arrangement. And, knock on wood—nobody here has stolen anyone else’s cup—at least not yet. Give fucking Murphy time, and such shit is bound to happen.
The fresh piss now in place, I checked the cigarette supply. While I do allow smoking, I got one rule folks have to follow: you buy your smokes from me. I got an Indian supplier who grows his own tobacco. And I make the smokes I sell with a cigarette machine. I charge twenty-five cents a smoke—and include one wooden match: I want folks to buy my booze—not waste their cash on butane lighters, or a cigarette off the street. The ashtrays are simply clam shells. Once again no fuss, no muss. After the shells’ve all been emptied, I soak them in cold water overnight.
The cigarette stash looked good. So I checked on the cigar box. It sits longside the coin holders we use for makin’ change. Folks who drink at Alcatraz don’t carry a lot of bills. We rarely see a twenty. Ain’t never had a fifty—let alone a hundred. To keep the green from pilin’ up, my barkeeps have their orders: any bills ten or larger get slipped into the drop safe. The cigar box should never hold more than twenty dollars in fives—and as far as singles go, twenty-five’s the limit. All additional bills get dropped in the safe as well.
I riffled through the cigar box and nodded in satisfaction. Scooter was doin’ his job as usual, which is why he’s still employed. While there’s no way to watch my barkeeps every minute day and night, to reduce the risk of sticky fingers, none of them are allowed to wear shirts or pants with pockets. So Scooter wears plain tees—and those crazy vinyl pants that women call “swishies.”
Finally time to set up camp.
I poured myself some moonshine, carried the drink back to my table. Rummagin’ through my backpack, I fished a journal and two pencils, along with a plastic sharpener. And a spiral notebook. Tossing back a belt of shine, I decided to take a whiz before makin’ myself comfortable. But walkin’ outta Hoses, I sniffed a whiff of trouble—
Chanel No. 5 cut the tobacco haze. And wafted from my table. A scent about as welcome as an athlete’s sweaty jock.
I used to have a taste for fine Asian women. But they got a way of flashin’ innocence that hides a pack of lies. Got doubts about that? Watch hard-ass Jason Statham in his first Transporter flick.
The one who’d invaded my space had pulled a chair up to my table.
Long legs primly crossed: a black leather skirt—that cut mid-thigh. Blue-veined skin so pale she practically glowed fluorescent white.
“A man shouldn’t drink alone,” she chided, hands folded on her lap.
Keeping my back against the wall, I slid into my seat—and swept my left hand towards the bar. “I look alone to you?”
“I know it’s been a while … but why you gotta be like that?”
Despite myself I grunted. Three fucking years? Yeah, I’d call that a while.
“Take your pussy elsewhere. You got nothin’ that I want.”
“You loved my pussy once.”
I stared coldly at her wide brown eyes … pitched downcast ever-so-slightly towards the dull green tabletop. The way they learn real young—like they attended Geisha school. The sleeves on her red silk blouse fell just above her elbows. And didn’t hide the needle marks. But I had to give her credit. She’d pulled her black hair in a bun … and not a strand stood out of place.
I likely loved her pussy about a thousand times.
But before she pimped that pussy in a thousand different places.
I choked back a laugh—as tears rolled down her cheeks. Who else but a broad could cry on demand?
“I don’t want to be alone, Dekes—you’re the only one who understands.” Her voice quivered like a cello, emoting the saddest notes.
I jabbed a finger at the front entrance: “Best you be leavin’ now.”
“You’re still my husband, Dekes. You know what night this is. And no matter what you think of me … she was my daughter, too.”
I jacked the table over—my shit spillin’ to the floor. “Don’t you dare say her name.”
I snatched her shirt behind the collar and her skirt by the leather waistband. Marched on down the hallway. And treatin’ her like a battering ram, I mashed her deserving skull deftly against the push bar. The Emergency door sprung easily with its customary whoosh.
But instead of swingin’ open a dull thud met my ears and stopped us in our tracks. Barring a forearm round Lee’s neck, I let go of her leather skirt—which left the heels of her black stilettos teeterin’ above my toes—as I slipped that free hand in my trench coat.
Lee flailin’ like a scarecrow caught in a summer squall, I held her as a shield, and backed us up two steps. I glimpsed an emerald ring as the dude behind the door nabbed the edge to swing it open. The ring belonged to Rico, our two-bit local pimp.
A smart man woulda been standin’ to the opposite side of the door. But if Rico was a smart man he wouldn’t a been a meth head, let alone a pimp. I didn’t bother pullin’ the Glock. But by the time he filled the doorway grippin’ a pistol with two hands, I had me plenty a time to plant four bullets in his flesh—includin’ his dumb ass.
Like I said earlier: people typically leave Alcatraz one of three ways—
I kicked his gun aside. And steppin’ over Rico, I heaved the rent-a-pussy out into the alley. Soarin’ through the air she shrieked like an alley cat.
God damn bloody Murphy and his fucking law.
Times like this, I gotta tell ya—it’s good to be a cop.

A hack musician and photographer, Mick wanders the United States in search of the perfect pizza. He’s turned his hands to writing fiction—and dabbling in poetry. The kind folks at Near to the Knuckle and Horror Sleaze Trash have sullied their pages with his stories. While Black Petals and Better Than Starbucks have generously accepted his poetry. Want to say, “Hello?” You can visit him on Facebook:

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