Short Story Special
Above The Center Line
The coldest day of the year is all that went racing by in my head. The shear hell of another day at the deli was a footnote on a blistering February Wednesday. "Men, when the clutch is down, prepare for bumps, not just your left and rights" SGT. Malick always had said to them. Had he mentioned real world? Did he intend to? Where did it fit? Ever since the dawn of these days back in Buffalo, where were the signs of the progress another world gave them? Time was the only one with the orders now. God damn that 3 mile walk from Burbank down the almost deserted main road on Tusk was just about all that seemed ahead of me now.
When you have it in your grasp, you don't just take it. The code never changed. You take that understanding, if any has crossed you and the deed is done. Maybe our days were numbered. In Cooper City it wasn't an atmosphere. As far as a small town and as far as parties it was hit or miss. Some countryside you could find. City living was in the hunt if you looked enough. There wasn't anything to riding with Jerry listening to those great lines about some brown eyed girl he 'heard of" as I still heard him saying in my steady head. What exactly it was nobody had figured out entirely. The thing that had me feeling the love in that town truthfully though was the feeling of being whole. Completion was secondary to them, yet you felt it almost before you came to town if you knew it enough. The story was age old. My days weren't spent on it each moment, but it bugged the hell out of me time to time. What bugged me was just when I had it there, one time was all they permitted, the sky turned for someone elses day.
Order 76, then 77 and soon 80 up until 89. One hundred showed up right before you knew noon existed. You never guessed counting made you feel about as god damn soulless as it did. What kept me about as focused as could be, call it graceful bliss, was the woman just about any man describes in the sunshine with some summer basketball on, with some empty days at the bars, with the winning lot and nobody to share it with during black jack. Mellisa was mine. She knew it too.
Lovely times were for believers. Believers were for the books. What was to be told, was quiet. What was real was cold. Where we were was our judgement.
"Ace!" "Just about how long on the Mccoys steaks?" Shipped yesterday. Another day, another order. Thankfully, yes, the last one. The last fucking one in fact was about all we knew Munch appreciated in this world. Munch was about as sturdy as you could expect, but was as cool a headman as possible. He could be he understood only by the nighthawks. Heaven to him was the nighttime, an open grill also if possible. Closed doors after 5 and the cooler he used to keep in the back full of some Miller's and his daily bottle of jack also did some decent good. William J. Henry Link, my best friend named after the president William Henry Harrison in combat and childhood partner in crime, or living hell as we called the world since 14 and JJ, our junior high friend we knew from baseball used to enjoy those days as much as anything with Wendall, aka Mr. Bunch the Munch near the oven cooling off. It was the most heated part of the shop. "Hard workers and hellraisers were what we called ourselves." Daydreaming and bullshitting was the extent of downtime. The dreams of what was outside the world we never asked about. Unwinding was the point.
Where in the hell exactly was November? Nobody even knew the odds. Knicks were called for a 4-1 sweep and here is Rick Barry somehow doing what he does. 'Confession it is if this works out again boys." June we could taste almost during those days. We just liked it. We needed it. Sky didn't give away fast was great too I suppose.
A ship full of lost souls, a hell of a day ahead; a cooler was all that was left. The strut we felt was never better. "Ace, back in your quarters!" The ringing went on and on like a living hell doused in gasoline. Fuck it. Move on. Doing what you do here is all you do focus on. It was odd, but not unknown why. Pride was what drove some. Helplessness was another batch of reason. "Who was right and just who lost when someone was wrong" Mitchell used to always tell me in basic, wrestless in empty bunks. There were just bodies there. "Just what the hell was it all for?"" Just who in the fuck says THAT during all of this?" Yet you couldn't ignore the question. A thought for the days of constant unrest is about all i'd call it as I tossed and turned. Where exactly were the answers and who was he to try to call out his thoughts? Just another man with a wandering eye in the night was all. There was never an answer good enough was the stone, cold truth. Soldier misfortune was not on the minds of anyone, at least long enough to stop them from a battle, no matter how uphill. It was about something so much larger, so much more desolate, but nobody was superior in our rank.
What crossed my mind that day, was not God, was not the faces at home with beating hearts, but was the people getting so close to hell, there was no such thing as being frozen. Maybe something else. Minutes or hours we just didn't know. Just know that there's something ahead. Maybe she did too.