Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The McReynolds Trade Was a Bad Idea by Mike Lee


The McReynolds Trade Was a Bad Idea

I.

In April of 1988, two workers arrived to clean out apartment 3G. After several hours of scraping and scrubbing, and bagging up the uncollected belongings of the previous tenants, they took a break for lunch. One of the workers, weary of back-to-back twelve hour shifts, despite the overtime pay, was a little upset. He would have rather been picked for a different apartment. This place gave him the creeps, because of what he read about what had happened here in the tabloids several days ago.

He put a mask on it all. "Hey, how'd you think the Mets are doin'?" He did care how the Mets were doing, and it was, by asking that question, the wall he used to shield himself from his surroundings. These walls take precision in construction, and he was learning.

The other worker mumbled a reply, mentioning the latest trade, adding that everything went to shit ever since they got McReynolds for Mitchell. "Fucking dumbfuck deal," he said, munching on his ham and egg sandwich, mopping up his face with one of the wipes they used to scrub the tile work in the kitchen with.

The Mets fan was worried about a lot, and confused. He had a thing for guys, but was too afraid to act on it. Instead, he bought battered used porno off the street at the thieves' market on St. Mark's Place and Second Avenue, and when he got home jerked off to the pictures of nude men and shemales. That was as far as it went. He was afraid to go to the bars, and more so of the bookstores. You could catch something bad in those filthy booths and he was also scared of running into someone he knew. This didn't stop him from thinking about it, and he looked forward to coming home. He also disagreed with the other worker about McReynolds, but he only answered by nodding.

"After lunch, we have to do the bedroom and then call for the garbage crew to take this stuff away," said the other worker, wiping mayonnaise from his moustache." He pointed to the red vintage telephone on the floor, cord still attached to the outlet. "The telephone is still on. I checked it when we came in. We have to wrap this up by two."

"That's good news. Us getting off early." The Mets fan was happy. He can come home early to play.

"We have to. The cops won't let us go into the bathroom and the hall closet. That's why they are still taped."

After lunch, they finished the job and got out early.

II.

By the end of the spring, the Mets fan had eventually lost his fear. He woke up one day, and said, let's do this. All went well for his newfound summer flings and was progressing quickly until one night it was one popper too many and he had a seizure in a booth at the Vault, dying on the floor.

McReynolds hit a three-run homer that night.

The other worker was working doubles to save for the fall semester at Borough of Manhattan Community College. After moving on to City College to finish his degree in Social Work, he found employment at the city's Department of Human Resources and transferred over to Housing while getting his masters at Brooklyn College. It was fulfilling, but a layoff spree did him in, and though he was encouraged to continue, his spot on the furlough list was too low for redeployment so he dropped out and went briefly into construction. There was time to come back, he believed.

III.

The apartment they had cleaned had been rented to a young woman, a student at NYU. What she had for looks and brains was crowded out by poor taste in men. Her name was Linda. The last bad boyfriend was named Bill. He was also an NYU student, and sort of kind of moved in with her, which despite her misgivings, she relented to.

Things were never very healthy between the two of them. One night Bill bashed Linda's head into the porcelain sink until it shattered into large pieces and he fled the apartment. When the super finally got into the apartment with NYPD in tow, there was nothing they could do.

Linda was too messed up for an open casket, but the framed high school graduation picture on the stand sufficed, and it was printed in Newsday, The Post and The Daily News. A story about the case also made The Times, and was picked up by wire services. The parents created a scholarship in her honor and a shelter for at-risk women was named for Linda in her hometown in southern New Jersey. Despite an extensive search, which included one of the most-watched episodes of America's Most Wanted, Bill was never found.

IV.

Bill had taken the coward's way out. After murdering his girlfriend, he ran into the night and eventually jumped off the Williamsburg Bridge. A cab driver crossing in from Brooklyn saw him do it, but only saw a flash while driving by so he did not report it when he arrived at the garage or to the police, though he suspected it was the madman who murdered the student. He had recently emigrated from the West Bank, and hated anyone in a uniform. While in the Middle Eastern cafes on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, or in Bay Ridge, the cabbie kept up with the story of the search of the madman named Bill, but as time passed, the night faded to a moment added to others he wished to forget.

V.

Bill's family were horrified about the situation that their crazy son had forced them into. His mother appeared on television pleading for her son to turn himself in. It was bootlegged and inserted into an underground compilation of murder porn. For a time, the video was circulating for $29.95 for the audience who wanted to be bad, and those with the morals of insects.

Bill's end was as a corpse floating face-up and bloating in the East River. The current gently carried him close to the shore; passing Governor's Island and was moving toward the abandoned docks in Brooklyn's Red Hook district. Two punks sitting on the dock spotted something in the water.

"What the fuck. Looks like a body."

"Nah. That doesn't look dead," said his companion. To prove his point, he picked up a broken half of a brick and got up. He went into a wind-up and threw a sidearm at the floating body, striking Bill's corpse in the back so hard, his body turned over.

"Got the motherfucker!"

"Wow, a perfect fuckin' pitch, dude." They had scored some rock before coming over, and pulled out a pipe to finish it off as Bill, faced the eternal deep.

By dusk, Bill floated into Inner New York Harbor. In the darkness, he was unseen, and so when he was caught in the wake of an empty container ship leaving from Bayonne, no one witnessed him being pulled into the propeller, grinding him into unrecognizable bits. Fragments of Bill washed up on the Rockaways, his lesser-rotted remains eaten by seagulls.

VI.

Apartment 3-G was rented briefly to a couple. They broke the lease immediately after discovering who the previous tenant was. After a sublet in the Flatiron District, the husband was transferred to San Francisco. Less than a year later, their home was destroyed in the fire after the 1989 earthquake. They swore they had been cursed until they received the insurance check. In the meantime, the cab driver saved enough to bring two brothers over, and they opened a dry goods store in South Brooklyn. They rented from an Orthodox Jew, and neither had any problems with the arraignment. The landlord had a brother who built car bombs for the Irgun in 1947 until he crossed the wrong wire. There is a small street named for him in Tel-Aviv. The brothers sometimes wire money to a cousin in Syria, who belongs to a group that put car bombs into jam boxes. He listens to Madonna and has a poster of her on his bedroom wall.

VII.

The workers leave apartment 3G. One listens to the Mets on WFAN on his Sony Walkman and goes home to masturbate while wearing his mother's old dress and a pair of women's shoes he found during another apartment cleaning. The high heels are a size too small and hurt his feet. After an orgasm, he feels a twinge in his chest, but he thinks he pulled a muscle. He feels very tired.

VIII.

The other worker gets on the train home to Brooklyn, reading a Jim Thompson novel on the way. He looks up to see a pretty Ukrainian girl, blond and dark eyelashes, looking she came off the plane from Kiev. He thinks about her at home while listening to jazz. He wished he were a poet so he could write about her, and vowed that maybe someday he shall be.

IX.

That year, the Mets won the division.

-End-

Bio Mike Lee is a writer, labor journalist and photographer based in New York City. His fiction is published and forthcoming in West Trade Review, The Ampersand Review, Paraphilia, The Roaring Muse, The Airgonaut, Sensitive Skin, Reservoir, The Avenue, Easy Street, The Corvus Review and others. His photographs are currently on exhibit at Art Thou Gallery in Berkeley, California. Website is www.mleephotoart.com.

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