Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The Big Pinch by Lee Blevins



The Big Pinch 

Nathaniel felt something push against the side of his boot. He looked down to see Brent pull his shoe back.

“Right,” he said, and he stood.

William looked up. He was hunched over the scale with half a bud in each hand.

Nathaniel told him, “I need to pee.”

“I’m out of toilet paper.”

“That’s okay,” said Nathaniel. “It’s just pee.”

Nathaniel walked around the coffee table and into the hallway. William’s bedroom door was open. 

The cat was napping at the foot of the bed.

Nathaniel went into the bathroom. Dull light crept in through the window. He closed the door behind him and found the switch. 

The door didn’t have a lock, just a hanger latch. He hung it closed.

He walked over to the toilet and flipped up the lid. Stared down at the bowl. It was a lot cleaner than theirs. He looked towards the window. There were two panes, the bottom one pulled up under the top. 

A golden latch lock.

Nathaniel unlocked it.

Then he loosened his belt and unbuttoned his jeans button and lowered his pants and underwear. He held his shriveled cock and tried to piss but couldn’t. So he put it all away and flushed the toilet.

He washed his hands and dried them off on his pant legs and unlatched the door and went back into the living room.

Brent was unrolling a sandwich baggie sprinkled with small buds.

“Wanna match one?” he asked.

William pulled out his phone and checked it. “I got to get going. I’m meeting my mom for dinner.”

Brent rolled up the baggie.

“Must be nice,” he said. Then he stood and slipped the weed away.

“Well,” said William, “I’ll catch you guys later.”

“Yeah.”

“See ya, dude.”

Nathaniel followed Brent to the front door and outside. He closed the door behind them.

Brent lit a cigarette and gave Nathaniel one, too. Then they went down the little walkway and onto the sidewalk and got into Brent’s truck.

“Did you do it?” asked Brent.

“Yeah.”

“Alright.”

*

Brent pulled out the scale as soon as they got back to the trailer. Nathaniel kicked off his boots and walked into the kitchen and opened the cabinet. He had saved half a pop tart for later. He took it back to the couch.
    
Brent laid the last bud down on the scale. It read 3.4.
    
“See.”
    
“That’s only one whatever-you-call-it short,” said Nathaniel. He pulled the crinkly wrapper back and bit in.
    
“Yeah,” said Brent. “But last time it was three and the time before that it was four and who knows how much it was before then. This shit adds up, Nate.”
    
Nate swallowed a sugary mouthful.
    
“I don’t know.”
    
Brent stopped packing the pipe. “I thought you were onboard,” he said.

Nathaniel took another bite. Chewed.

“Maybe it’s like you say but maybe it isn’t. We used to be, though. Friends, I mean.”

“That was when we could get stuff he couldn’t. Now he doesn’t need us anymore. Except to line his wallet.”

“More than that.”

“Look how he treated you last time. At the bar.”

“He was with a girl,” Nathaniel said.

Brent raised the pipe towards his lips. “What does that make you?” And he took a hit. Lowered it. Said, smoke rolling out of his mouth, “Frankenstein?”

Nathaniel sat the rest of his pop tart down on the table. He looked over at the pipe and lighter that Brent held to him.

“A freak?’ asked Brent.

Nathaniel took the pipe and lighter and then a hit of his own. He lowered them and swirled smoke around his mouth like mouthwash. Exhaled.

“Yeah, okay.”

Brent took the pipe and lighter back. “We ain’t nothing to him but money in his pocket. He’s a hipster, bud, super cool. Son of a bitch.”

“I said okay already.”

“Yeah,” said Brent. “But you said that last night, too.”

Nathaniel picked up the pop tart. “I’m in,” he said. He rolled the wrapping back to take another bite. “You know I’m in.” 

He looked over at Brent. 

“I got your back,” he said.

Brent grinned. 

“Screw you.”

*

They smoked and watched music videos until Brent told him to get changed. “I don’t want you leaving grass clippings everywhere.”
    
Nathaniel changed. He saw that Brent had put on a hoodie when he walked back into the living room.
    
“What is that?” Brent asked him, eyeing his lower half.
    
Nathaniel tugged the hem of his sweatpants. “In case we have to run.”
    
“Discrete, Nate. You’re not wearing big blue UK sweatpants. Put on some goddamn jeans, dude.”
    
Nathaniel went back into his room and put on a pair of old Levis instead. Then he tried again.
    
“Better?” he asked Brent.
    
“They’re covered in cum stains.”
    
Nathaniel looked down. Brent laughed at him.

*
    
Brent drove by William’s house to make sure he wasn’t home. The Honda Civic was gone but a light was on in the living room.
    
“How green of him,” he said.

*
    
Brent parked the truck a street over. He killed the engine. They sat there in the dark with their cigarettes dangling from their lips. Then Brent pulled the key back to turn the radio on.
    
“He might not stay long,” said Nathaniel.
    
Brent tapped his ash off. “He usually does.”
    
Nathaniel looked over at the house they were in front of. A short grapevine tree sat on one of two stone pillars that flanked the porch steps.
    
“What if he comes back early?” He turned to Brent. “What do we do then?”
    
“Nothing. We just leave.”
    
Nathaniel smiled sharply. “Yeah. That’ll go real well.”
    
Brent stubbed his cigarette out in the space between all the other butts. “He won’t tell anyone that matters. He can’t incriminate himself.”
    
“This is a bad thing, Brent.”
    
Brent placed both hands on his steering wheel and looked down the little street lined with trashcans.
    
“You either take it or you get took.” He reached down and turned off the ignition. The radio died. “Fuck with me, I fuck with you.”
    
Brent pulled the keys out and slipped them in his pocket. He raised the hood of his hoodie and picked the flashlight up off the dashboard. He opened the driver’s side door and got out. Looked back in.
    
“Wait here if you want. I’ll be back quick.”
    
Brent swung the door closed and walked to the truck bed. He picked up a deflated backpack from it and swung it on both shoulders. Then he crossed the street and turned up the sidewalk.
    
Nathaniel took one more drag and then he opened the passenger side door and jumped out. He slammed the door behind him and ran across the street to catch up. Somewhere along the way his cigarette fell out his mouth.
    
“Thanks,” said Brent.
    
Then they turned into the overgrown yard of a run down house and walked, one behind the other, towards the short fence in the backyard.
    
There was very little yard between the fence and the house on the other side. Nathaniel couldn’t see much through the bathroom window.
    
Brent hopped the fence in one smooth swing. Nathaniel mounted it like a sawhorse and pulled himself over. Then they crept up to the back of the house and stood there breathing heavy.
    
“Maybe,” said Brent. “We should check the front again.”
    
Nathaniel nodded.
    
Brent walked along the back wall of the house and turned the corner. His footfalls grew softer and softer until Nathaniel couldn’t hear them anymore. A car with a deep bass a-bumpin’ cruised down the street behind. Then Brent was sliding back around the house and up to him.
    
“We good.”
    
Nathaniel turned and pressed his gloved palms against the bottom pane of the bathroom window and pushed upwards. It cracked open with a crunch but the rest of the way was smooth enough.
    
Nathaniel turned back to Brent.
    
“You first.”
    
“Hold this.” 

Nathaniel took the flashlight.
    
Brent pressed a shoe tip against a panel of siding and then he pulled himself through the window and dropped out of sight. He popped his hoodied head above the window and smiled.
    
“I’ll hold it now,” he said.
    
Nathaniel gave the flashlight back. Then he put his hands on the edges of the window and lifted himself. He bent forward and pulled and placed one hand down on the bathroom floor. He crawled the rest of the way inside.
    
Brent had walked into the hallway. He turned the flashlight on and off again.
    
“We really didn’t need this.”
    
Nathaniel followed Brent down the hallway and into the living room. The lamp in the corner was on, casting orange light over the furniture. The big mason jar wasn’t on the coffee table but a couple pipes and a baggie were.
    
“Okay,” said Brent. “So he put it back.”
    
Brent reached down and scooped up the baggie. It looked like an eighth.
    
“Are you gonna take that, too?” asked Nathaniel. “Maybe we should leave him a little something.”
    
Brent looked over and shrugged and put the flashlight in his hoodie pocket. Then he reached in the bag and pulled out a bud and sat it back down on the table.
    
“You’re a coldblooded mofo,” said Nathaniel.
    
Brent grinned and rolled the baggie up.
    
They went down the hallway into the bedroom. William had turned that light off so Brent got to use his flashlight a little. They could see well enough from the lamp in the living room, either way.
    
“Where would you stash it?” Brent asked.
    
“The dresser,” Nathaniel said. He was already pulling the top drawer open. He rifled through boxers and socks. He checked the second drawer, all paper and envelopes. The third drawer held cables and cds. And the fourth drawer was mostly porno.
    
“The closet, actually,” said Brent.
    
Nathaniel whirled around. Brent stood shining the flashlight up at a shelf above the clothes rod. The mason jar was two-thirds full. There was a black lockbox beside it.
    
Brent turned off the flashlight and put it away. Then he reached up and pulled the jar down. He walked over to the bed and sat it there and swung off his backpack and unzipped it. Stuffed it inside around a towel he’d put in for insulation.
    
Nathaniel glanced down the hallway then back at the bed. Brent was in front of the closet again, reaching up to grab the lockbox. He brought it down and sat it beside the backpack. The key was still in it. Brent turned it and opened it up. There was money inside.
    
“Yeah,” said Brent. He closed the box and put it in the backpack, too. Then he swung the backpack on and turned towards Nathaniel and placed both hands on its straps. “We should bounce.”
    
Nathaniel pushed the fourth dresser drawer closed and then he walked out of the bedroom and into the bathroom. Brent was right behind him, taking off the backpack.
    
“Hand this to me,” said Brent.
    
Nathaniel grabbed the backpack by its top strap.
    
Brent swung out the bathroom window a little less gracefully than he’d swung in. He landed soft, though. Then he turned around to reach in. Nathaniel let the backpack slide out of his grasp.
    
“Where’s the cat?” he asked.
    
Brent stood there with the backpack clutched against his torso like a baby. “What?”
    
“Marbles.” Nathaniel looked around the bathroom. “I haven’t seen him.”
    
Brent put the backpack back on. “He’s probably asleep somewhere.”
    
Nathaniel poked his head out the bathroom window and looked down at the ground below. “You don’t think he jumped out.”
    
“No, I don’t. We should get moving. Don’t have time for this.”
    
Nathaniel pulled his head back in and stood straight. He looked down at Brent through the top window pane.
    
“I’m not leaving without the cat.”
    
Brent blinked. “You want to kidnap the cat?”
    
“No, goddammit - it can’t run away on our watch. Give me a minute to look around. Make sure it’s here somewhere.”
    
Brent shook his head. “Screw the cat.”
    
Brent turned and walked quickly towards the fence. Nathaniel watched him hop it and then disappear into the darkness on the other side. Then he remembered he was standing in the bathroom of a house he had just robbed.
    
“Kitty,” he said, turning the corner. He paced down the hallway and into the living room. Searched around. Under the couch and behind the TV. Then he checked the kitchen. Reached to open the refrigerator but stopped short.
    
“Retard,” he said.
    
Nathaniel ran down the hallway and into the bathroom and basically jumped out the window. He landed hard and stood with a wince and crossed the little backyard in two giant steps. He swung up on the fence and pinched his thigh and looked back in pain.
    
And saw the cat slinking around the outside of the house, rubbing its cheek against the cream colored siding.
    
“Jesus, Marbles.”
    
Nathaniel climbed back down the fence and walked slowly over to the cat. It didn’t run from his touch.
    
“You messed me up, man.”
    
He carried the cat over to the bathroom window and then he reached in and dropped it onto the tile. Marbles didn’t hiss or nothing. Nathaniel reached up and grabbed the bottom pane of the window and pulled it down until it was barely cracked. Then he adjusted his handholds and shut it.
    
He walked across the yard and went over the fence and then he jogged across the other yard and turned down the sidewalk. Brent’s truck wasn’t in front of the house with the grapevine tree.
    
“Shit,” said Nathaniel.
    
A pair of headlights framed him in backlight. He turned to see the truck pull up beside him. Brent was staring straight ahead.
    
Nathaniel opened the door.
    
“I found the cat,” he said.
    
“Get in the truck, goddammit.”
    
Nathaniel did.

*
    
Brent unlocked the trailer door and went inside. He crossed the living room towards the hallway.
    
“Where are you going?” asked Nate.
    
Brent turned. Nate was still by the door.
    
“Now don’t get suspicious, dude.”
    
“I’m just saying,” said Nate, “Maybe we should do this before you take the backpack back there with you.”
    
Brent held his palms outwards. “This is me we’re talking about.”
    
“Well,” Nate said as he walked over to the couch and sat, “William was William.”
    
Brent smiled and joined him. He took off the backpack and put it down on the table. “To show you how much I trust you, motherfucker, you can count the money.”
    
Then he turned around and walked down the hallway and into his bedroom. He closed the door behind him. He walked over to his bed and knelt. Pulled a shoebox out from under it. Flipped open the lid.
    
Brent reached back behind him and pulled out the holster he had stuffed beneath his hoodie. He laid the pistol down in the shoebox. Closed the lid. Then he slid it under the bed.
    
He went back into the living room. Nate held a stack of bills in his left hand.
    
“There’s two hundred and six dollars.” Nate put the money on the edge of the table. “I counted twice.”
    
Brent sat. He pulled the mason jar out of the backpack and held it in both hands. He looked down at the weed within.
    
“I want to weigh it,” he said.

-End-

Bio Lee Blevins lives in Lexington, KY. He was born with a webbed toe. You can follow him on Twitter @BleeSevens.
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