A Town Called Edgar
by Jon Vreeland
Edgar was an old man with a long gray beard. He wore a black top hat and he painted
black circles around his old wily eyes. His black coat swaddled to the ground and his black pants covered half of his black boots.
“Change, spare some change?”
“Sorry old timer, all I got is a twenty.”
“Well fuck me then,” he said with a giant grin followed by a whiskey drinker’s laugh.
“How about a drink old timer?”
“I could always use a drink,” he said grabbing the bottle of vodka I had stashed in my leather jacket.
I sat down next to him on the bench in front of El Ranchito, a Mexican restaurant on Main Street. We passed the fifth of vodka back and forth for about an hour. Edgar kept reciting poetry. Probably his own, it was really bad.
“Take me Satan you’re the one
The one who dances on the sun
The one who tucks me in at night
The one who fucked my mother right”
Despite his awful form of poetry, I didn’t have anywhere to be that day so I stayed with Edgar. He was born in Poland; his mother and father were POWs; Edgar had a giant nose.
“What are you doing out here kid? Aren’t you supposed to be in school or something?”
“I don’t go to school. I am thirty years old.”
“Well what the fuck do you do then kid?”
“I’m a piano player.”
“Is that right, and what kind of music do you play?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well where do you play?”
“Everywhere I guess.”
“Name one.” He started to look skeptical.
“Gallagher’s, House of Blues, right there at the Electric Chair.”
“Well maybe sometime we can collaborate or something? Ya know, write some witchy tunes?”
“We’ll see Edgar, I’m kind of busy.”
I couldn’t bear one more minute of his Satan worshiping, ingenuous words he called poetry and I was getting kind of cold so I headed back to my van to tie off for the third time that day. It was parked on Huntington Street.
I had parked it there the night before when I didn’t feel like staying at my friend Tony’s. He had just got a little dog that pissed in my hair the night before when I was sleeping on the filthy floor and I could smell my bangs as they slid down my nose and onto my lips. He was an old neighbor of mine; I used to live in the townhouse right behind his with my wife and my girls. Tony had a girlfriend named Kim and she had three children of her own and they all lived there in the townhome. It was congested with teenagers and dog shit.
The van was cold and the blanket and pillow that I had slept with were still strewn across the oil stained carpet but I had cleaned the van the day before so it was spacious and I was able to sprawl out like one does when creating a snow angel. I felt comfortable in my apartment on wheels. I had driven it cross country with “the boys” when we had gone on little national tours, riding across the desert listening to the Doors, the Damned, T.S.O,L.—anything that could serenade a murder. I lifted the piece of carpet that I hid my needles under and kept the newest one. (All of the others were bald because my oily hands had inadvertently rubbed off the unit numbers on the twenty-nine gauge syringes.) Off goes the shirt; off goes my belt; in goes the needle; off goes my head.
After a couple of hours of nodding out on the floor of my van, spiraling in and out of sleepless dreams, I opened the door to let some fresh air in and to have a smoke. I sat and watched people walk their dogs and each other—provisional lovers holding hands and walking under a violet sky amid a white grin and cars speeding by headed to dinner and to their homes to hug their children and ask them about their day.
The sun was almost down and the street lights were on so I closed the door of the van and cooked up another shot of heroin. I noticed a bump on my left arm growing like a zit from hell, turning purple by the hour; despite my skin’s change in color, I shoved the needle directly under the bump and found “old faithful.” As soon as I saw red, my right thumb pushed the plunger, derailing my train of thought, guiding me to a much anticipated sleep where I could dream of a place that is anywhere but in this desolate van.
. . .
I was sitting in a bar. Smoke floated around the room, swirling around green, blue, purple, and black hair soaked in egg whites. I could hear the crack of pool balls and smell the stench of booze and cigarettes and the occasional whiff of vinegar that crept under the bathroom door and into my untouched nose. The place was wonderful.
“What’ll it be kid?”
“What do you want to drink son?”
“Do you have Sailor Jerry?”
“Of course son.”
He put the glass of Jerry in front of me and then walked away. When I reached in my pockets, I found that they were empty; I pulled balls of lint and an orange cap of a syringe that fell to the floor. I was broke.
“I’m sorry sir. I can’t drink this,” I called out to him as he stood and wiped a glass.
“And why is that?”
“I don’t have any money with me.”
“Money!?” the fat bald bartender said while he laughed.
“Yeah I’m broke.”
“Everyone is broke son, drink up.”
I couldn’t figure where I was. The booths had red upholstery where people sat in groups and the walls were painted a flat black and there were pictures of famous people that were painted about the place. Marilyn, Darby, Jim, Tolstoy, Jack Kennedy, Anton LaVey, Jesus. The bar was made of black granite and had a mirror behind it. And from the jukebox cried Robert Smith— serenading the gothic setting as he talked about killing an Arab.
“You want another kid?”
“I don’t have any money sir.”
“I said don’t worry about it,” the bartender said raising his voice and enunciating each word.
“Well then sure,” I replied with a jumbled smile.
Then, the fat bald bartender, put the whole bottle in front of me, patted me on the head, and laughed like a drunken Santa. I turned to the person next to me to ask why I just got a free bottle and there sat a gorgeous woman: blue eyes, dark hair, plumpish lips, in her forties.
“Hey there sugar,” the woman said.
“Hey there,” I replied drinking straight from the bottle.
“New around here?”
“Yeah I guess so; where the hell are we?”
“A town called Edgar.”
“Really, and why do I not have to pay for this here bottle of Sailor Jerry?”
“Because this town has abolished capitalism, everyone here is an anarchist; we live by the rule of having no rules.”
“Yes I understand what it is…?” I paused realizing I did not know her name.
“Alycia, and you are?”
“Johnny,” I told her extending my left hand, showing the A that I picked on my hand years back.
“Well nice to meet you Johnny. Are you staying awhile?”
“Not sure. Not sure of anything right now.”
“You seem content.”
“What’s your story?” she asked.
“Still working on it.”
“Oh me too; I am an artist. I draw.”
“That’s nice. I play the piano and write.”
“Write huh? What do you write about?”
“Oh I don’t know, the usual: sex, drugs, rock n’ roll, punk rock, heroin, meth, coke, weed, God, the Devil, dicks, vaginas, life, death, depression, misery, graveyards, ghosts, spirits, vampires, witches, reality, rehab, illusions, hallucinations, suicide, the piano, the organ, my organ, music, humanity–and its decline, the word nigger and its malice, cops and robbers, schizophrenia, retardation, her, him, them, my kids, old friends, new friends, enemies, now….ya know, stuff like that.
“What about now?”
“What about it?”
“What if we went in the bathroom and I sucked your cock?”
“That’s something to write about.”
We closed the door of the bathroom and flipped on the blue light that hung from the ceiling. The bathroom was as magnificent as the bar room itself. The walls were covered with flyers from old shows: Black Flag and The Germs, T.S.O.L. and 45 Grave, the Grabbers and the Bombs. Pictures of Ron Reyes and Jeffrey Lee Pierce and Lou Reed and Nico. Alycia had on a little black skirt with a ripped up Cramps shirt with no bra and I could see her tiny breasts winking at me through the side of her shirt so I reached inside and slipped off her panties with my other hand. She sat on the bone colored sink and showed me her smooth vagina so I pulled out my dick and slowly put it inside of her. I moved it in and out, slowly at first, then thrusting, until we both soaked each other in each other’s come, and ended with a long, slow, kiss. When we headed back to our stools at the bar the bottle was still there—untouched—so I took another swig and sat down and lit a cigarette. I didn’t want to leave…but I had no choice.
And so the sun was down and the night was black; heedless to the time, I didn’t care. My phone had been dead for a couple of days and I was glad. Nobody wanted to talk to me anyway even though I badly wanted to talk to them. How was I supposed to survive without my family? My kids whom I had hugged almost every day of their little lives and driven them to school and tucked them in and said I love you too a thousand times a day. Life before them is just a warm up for the real thing.
And not even all the heroin in the world could mask the pain of missing the two people that matter most to me in the entire world. Two souls that are intertwined with mine. Two souls that are as flawless as God could have conceivably made. Even the toughest man in the world would cry, just like me, if he had to fall asleep without the three sweetest words from the two sweetest souls. I know they missed me too. I could feel it. But, as you know, I didn’t want to feel; so I cooked up my last shot of dope, watched the water turn black as it bubbled small bubbles, drew the murky water into my now numberless syringe, pushed it under my more purple bump, then floated hastily away…to a town called Edgar.
$8.00…and Some Change
a story in tweets
We were driving his old beat up Mazda hatchback.
Between the four of us, we started the night with only thirty-two dollars, a pack of smokes, and three warrants for our arrest.
She would give the money to a tall white man in Costa Mesa in exchange for some black tar and two syringes that had been poked in the skin of God knows who.
(It is hard to fret about something like H.I.V. or hepatitis when your skin feels like tin foil).
Sweating under the blanket with chills, drenched in cold, brown, sweat.
We hadn’t yet noticed his skin. It was hastily changing color as he sat in the passenger seat of his own car. We were enjoying our absence from the world—from God Himself.
We headed northbound on Beach Boulevard.
In the backseat we kissed, ignorant to everything around us.
The twenty-five-year-old art student slowly slipped into a place that could only be reached when He sends for you—even when your relationship has disintegrated, and there has been very little contact, or none at all.
Nobody wishes for a slow and painful death when it can be done in five minutes.
Slumbering in the deepest, most painless coma your subconscious has been yearning for because you discovered the hastiest way of killing the pain, and creating an unspeakable amount. Simultaneously.
On that dreadful night, not even twenty minutes after our money was spent, the driver, my good friend Dave, started slapping the student in the face as he barreled through a red light going fifty miles per hour.
A form of CPR that only people like us were familiar with. It often worked.
I screamed at Dave, “Drive to the hospital!! GO GO GO!!!”
I took over the responsibility of trying to bring the student back, so he could have another chance at life.
I grabbed him by his chin and the top of his head, by his sandy blonde hair.
I tilted his head into the back seat as the car screamed up Beach Boulevard. To the nearest hospital.
My red stained lips to his. I blew as much air into his lungs as my body would allow, as she pounded vigorously on his sunken chest.
We arrived to the hospital. Dave ran inside screaming for help as we continued to blow air in his lungs and slap him to try and wake him up to save his contemptuous life.
Five minutes later a female nurse walked slowly through the automatic door.
Staring with a look of indifference.
He died in my arms—tears of anguish, remorse, and envy slowly rolled down the skin of my empty, pale-face.
Jon Vreeland was born in Long Beach California and raised by his parents in Huntington Beach, where he became an accomplished musician and struggled with addiction most of his life. His writing paint a picture of the struggles he faced and eventually overcame. Vreeland now resides in Santa Barbara where he attends City College and is a father of two beautiful daughters.