‽ ‽ ‽
The oldest consistency Corin could recall in his life was a terror of going hungry. As far as he was concerned, the soul was fear of going without. It left him swallowing the wrong way at meals, and disgusted others. Especially in more recent times, he would bolt down his meals and zigzag around town like a flea; straining himself for beans and pittance. Just to keep his hunger off.
Fasting was a solemn act to him. Stoics instilled discomfort in him at their mere mention. Even in his worst pains he would still chew down whatever he could grasp. He thought little of the persistent rawness of his stomach. Ulcers could line it's walls but so long as there was a cherry in there he felt chipper. With his chances, they already did.
So now he deigned to pump himself full at a food stall on the far end of town. The pavement leading up to it was uneven, and stank of gasoline runoff. In the street four automobiles cooked. He sagged onto one of the four swivel stools facing the cook. He took paths he was less than familiar with, keeping his paranoia tame long enough to eat. It was catchy under a new wash of amphetamines. Though they staved any desire to eat, he still sought to fill his stomach. He had not eaten since yesterday afternoon. The stall he ended up in listed onto the adjacent wall. It overlooked the surrounding brick and stucco houses. Corin could not recognize the cook's face and neither could he. He liked that.
The change of clothes in his car and water from a spigot along the way did him good. He consigned the soiled jeans to a road where snakes sunned. He imagined them to find more comfort in his stitches than he.
The cook's stout frame occluded a most of his workspace from Corin. He sashayed to the left and right of the flat top grill, working it's knobs and drains. Grease spat sharp enough to trouble Corin in making himself heard. He flapped his arms around the cook's peripheries to get his attention. The man waddled up to the counter in his frayed smock. Even though Corin sat hunched, the tip of the cook's head could not have surmounted Corin's teats. He barely had enough leeway to peep over the bar at Corin.
"Skirt steak," said Corin. The manikin of a man bobbed his head and set himself to scrape down the grill. Corin scantly ducked far enough to eschew the residue flung past his head and onto the gully. Some of it caught him in the ear.
Apparently the man was only just starting up the grill, he wanted to put on the whole works for Corin. He poured on more grease, straight from the drawer. The tanks were clogged up. Gasoline and oil spewed from all directions. He had to give the door on the side a little kick, to let it all channel out into the street. The steel frame quaked. He probed it with the scraper. There were a series of explosions. Corin gripped the counter; to tie himself down and not fall off. Twice fire broke out, before he had even put on the meat. It was quickly extinguished. Finally it gave one last shudder and started to turn over again. The man turned to Corin and smiled. "I think she's warm now friend, coming up."
The meat served was marbled enough to put statues to shame. What was not gummy was charcoal. He had thoroughly singed the rice, but left it soft and giving in the center. The beans were little more than black nubs on his plate.
There was no mercy. He had to take a good swig of his red wine just to keep it down. After the dish he sat still for a moment; meditation helped his stomach. The cook did not even try to dilute his embarrassment with chatter. He kept the back of him rolled towards Corin and set himself on the grill again. No entertainment from him whatsoever.
The low fences on the houses gave him a nice little leisure. All around he could see into the courtyards that snaked down the avenue. Top to bottom, each one had heads popping out: big ones, bald ones, bushy ones. All of them hummed with squeals, gripes and whistles. Someone upset a watering can, tipped it and made it fall down the big stone steps. A pot of rosemary slipped down with it, and flopped onto the alley. The owner came bounding out of his grotto and flung his cries out into the void. The whole line of houses rushed into an uproar. Every single one of them balanced precariously on their windowsills. They spewed fire. They spat at each other and threw challenges. They all yelled at once. Corin couldn’t make out who was in the right. He's not wont to hover over these scenes; the drumming voices always demoralized him. The arguments stuck to the bottom of his ear and rotted. Even without his involvement, the clamor made his head ache. This once, however, it picked him up. The clash below put his attention off the food and the torrid summer air. He would rather sink into his mind than to watch the nameplates melt off their handles.
The affair with Sedano was turning in a bad way. He had not expected such a cool welcome from Aldrete, especially after divulging news of Sedano's passing away. Aldrete knew that he used, habitually at that. Still, as long as he had kept by Sedano and made his rounds, there was little to be done to him. Purportedly, Sedano was uncle to one of the founding members of their group. They could not just toss him off. He still meant something to someone, who though Corin had not the slightest. With him gone he teetered on what to follow up with. His old fears had sprung up and led him to hunt for food, in spite of his gumption's protests.
Aldrete hardly tolerated his presence with the butcher around. He could already see the oncoming kidney punch: peeled, salted and hung on a post to dry. For two weeks the post would hold him. They would turn a small profit from the leather he would make. Though Corin racked his brain and lingered on every encounter he had had with him, Aldrete remained equivocal to him. It just stood to question what hassled him more, putting up with him or putting him down.
Even so Corin held some reserve about flying off. He doubted the old man's body would be rightly done away. Three weeks into his stay called him in for a drink. It was holiday season. He said he wanted a cremation.
"Jus' keep off the theatrics," he had said to him. "There wasn't much I did or didn't do when I was here. So's I'd be better off on top the earth you see? No, no you don't and I'll tell you how. Down there I'm mulch, but up on the wind I can clog up their faces. Plug 'em up from the in's out!" He chortled. Corin couldn't help but join in that night. He was running high on the deal he had made earlier.
Whether anyone else besides Corin knew was open to question. He had no blood relations alive, at least none Corin knew. Keeping that one promise checked him from leaving straightaway. It left him aground and questioning his next action. However that had not prevented him from loading his car with both his and Sedano's personal effects. As he took control of his belly once more he settled on keeping the situation as placid as possible. The butcher would have his wish, but until then Corin would have to keep his head down and lick whatever palms he needed to.
Corin had ambled less than three blocks out when he felt it, a sudden prickling awareness that someone was trailing him, and very close. It was all he could do to not surge off and keep a mask of bored vacancy on his face. He casually strutted to the nearest convenience store and hung back on its reflective windows. With his hands in his pockets, he faked interest in one of the beers nestled under the ice of a cooler. Staring at the water beads roll off the convex bottles left him wishing he had chosen a less tempting object to covet. Amphetamines or not, he strongly lusted for one in the heat he stood in. He held focus. With his left hand he fingered the spare change down in his pocket. And pressed his right hand against the bulge of his weapon under his clothes. Without lifting his head, he raised his eyes and scanned the reflection of the passing crowd.
Behind students in short-sleeved khaki and dark hair. Tall and wearing a tan gas station jumpsuit, with a face that didn't go with the look of an attendant. It was a face Corin had seen once before, working the lines in Aldrete's workshop. He kept his eyes trained on Corin as he made the fake motions of searching for cash in his clothes. He tilted his head skyward, pondering. He held it there for the count of five. Then he was running, bent low and dodging between bodies.
His chest felt scalding by the time he stopped. Sweat coursed down his ribs and back in steady streams. Not one person attempted to waylay him as he ducked into alleys and side streets. He doubled over against his knees and spat out the thick saliva in his mouth. If Aldrete had already decided to get his stock back there was little Corin could do short of driving off. His car was still some distance away from him. "Sorry old man. Hope the house burns down for you."
He wiped the sweat from his face and cast a glance at the nearby corners and intersection. He had lost his tail. Satisfied, he skulked his way toward cluster of houses where he left his car. He skirted the fence on his right and moved in long, purposeful strides. Two blocks left. Corin tossed glances to everyone in eyesight, swerving his head left and right like a crank.
His feet had taken off into the air before he felt the knee drive into his back. Thick cords of muscle wrapped themselves around his arm and head. The musk of perspiration lodged itself under his nostrils. The tan sleeves of a jumpsuit scratched into his face. His fingernails dug into the arm, trying to pry it loose. He convulsed, writhed, and flailed his feet in the air. He bit off chunks of the sleeve. He kept on with the dramatic motions. Across the way, a wiry lockkeeper spat tobacco juice and watched on.
With a wicked twist he bashed his heel into the man's pecker. He did not even flinch. Apparently he had a cock without equal, built like seventeen biceps. All that earned Corin was a hurl to the fence. The bruiser of a man was het up with him. He took hold of Corin's head and grated it against the chain links. Back and forth, the fence flayed open Corin's cheeks. His legs were pressed tight against it. His thigh a snag, and the gun caught on one of the links. While the man went to work upstairs Corin splayed his legs, and pushed the trigger onto the link. Ping!
The handload lit out through his pants. It drove itself into the sidewalk at their feet. The bruiser dropped him. Surprise had taken him. Concrete wedged the hot bore against his thigh. Corin sprung forward and dug out the heated gun. He left three potshots careening behind him, and dashed for the car. The recoil had hurt his wrist. He dove inside and slammed the keys in. Down the way he saw the bulge of a man standing on the corner, tracking him. Corin went off on the first road out of town he could find.
There was little ceremony in his departure. Once the sun began to wear thin, he let off the gas a little. He only stopped to feed more water and gas into the protesting engine. This he did by hand. The canisters in his trunk would last him another day. He could scarce make out where the road led. South by his bearings.
He had slid the gun on the passenger seat and had not touched it since. It was a belly gun, a .357 magnum with the barrel sawn down to stump. The front of the trigger guard had been pared away and the grip had been wrapped with layers of varicolored masking tape. The tape was old and shiny with dirt wherever the gummy underside peeled away. Every so often Corin would add a new layer of color to the grip. There were still two handloads and four shells left in the cylinder. Corin kept bright and untarnished cartridges in his front pockets, with several more and a few speed loaders strewn around the car.
There was some shame in him for not being able to cremate Sedano's body. The old man kept to himself most the time, made himself useful when needed. He was handy for a laugh from time to time. Corin could do little but grouse now. He would rather take a drink of warm blood than head back and be drawn and quartered. He shifted his mind elsewhere. Aldrete had stocked him up enough to keep his reserves going for several months. Silver lining in the gunmetal packets. Moreover, the bullet hole was a tiny smolder in his pants, and left only a short singed trail on his inner thigh. His cheeks took a bit more work. After he scoured the patina of cuts with cleaning agents, he had haphazardly patched up the deeper cuts with thin strips of gauze. Other than a few scars, not much other than a bad memory would be left. Even that he would later revisit and twist around to where he would always come out with the final say. Already in his mind he was holding down the bruiser from earlier at gunpoint.
However, he was still good for another hitch of bad luck.
The clattering vehicle juddered violently. Corin stooped forward to listen. The machine gave a loud BWAH! It knocked off his hood. He lost sight, and swerved. Down he went, into a wayside ditch. His seatbelt gripped his chest tightly. The fall had upset his provisions. Cigarette ash, empty water bottles, torn food wrappers and crumbs straddled his lap. He brushed his legs off and exited to the front of the car.
Heat waves shimmered off the exposed engine. A couple thin plumes of smoke snaked out of web work an into the open air. Corin clasped his hands behind his head.
He had a good two hours of light left. While being tracked down by Alderete posed a tangible danger, the dark evening held its own. Corin feared flying by night. He knew the enormousness of the desert nights well. Roads and trails meant little; the darkness swallowed them up. Without light he would be running annular. Straight into the maw of a buzzard.
That appealed to him more than the alternative.
He shouldered as much as could be fit into his bags. With head swaddled and arms full, he made his way away from the car. The impedimenta made the trudging all the more cumbersome. Corin strayed from the road, just far enough to where he would be able to keep tabs on the traffic. If Aldrete came down for him, the rolling environment would provide ample cover. He crept through soft-sifting sand, dipped into dry rivers, and about sharp-edged plants. His shirt sleeves drooped next to his face from their resting place atop his head. Sweat spluttered out of him. It left him delirious. The lack of sleep was catching up to him. Things seemed to vibrate. The mesquite danced away from him.
All his passages were blocked. He coughed up dust by the basinful. The dirt and grime caked his face and hairs, gave them the look of fine licorice. Though the sun stood on its final legs, it still burned him up. The heat was bubbling him alive as he pushed up a long slope. He topped a sharp ridge and looked down into the shade. Dilapidated train tracks curled between a cluster of overturned shipping containers. In the brazen light they looked like giant pats of butter coated in flies. Corin slid down to them.
They were coated in drifts of dark sand. The rusted metal seemed to reel away from him. One of the closest containers held a wide rent in its side. It was shred open, hastily it would seem, to get at the insides. Corin let his bags slip off and onto the ground. He drew the his gun, now fully loaded, and held it at the ready. He tapped the hull with his foot and listened.
The inside was darker than he anticipated. Bulges in the container peered back against the opposite walls. His eyes formed slits as he waited for them to adjust.
"Darker than ink in here," he said into the hole.
his head whipped sideways to face the voice. A fist dug into his side and doubled him over. His leg caught one of the jagged protrusions of the container. He landed backwards with a hollow thud. He made to lift the gun, but stopped as he laid his crosshairs on a ruddy cheeks of a girl face. She swiped away his arm. The gun flew off like a piece of suet. His hand palpitated. She stepped over his legs, and took it in her own. The suggestion of brutality offset the delicacy of her jaw and the quickness of her smile.
"Thank you kindly," she drawled. "For these generous proportions." She lifted his hand to her cheek and held it there. Her chubby little nosed slid down to his forearm. She kissed it.
His veins crabbed up as she gnashed her teeth into his arm. A voice sounded far from Corin's ears. It took him a few seconds to recognize it as his own screech. She held on as he dug into her face with his free hand. He battered it with a clenched fist until she released. Hunched over, he clasped down on the sputtering wound. Looking up, he met he eyes. Her face puckered as she opened her mouth slowly. Blood bubbled down her chin and onto the front of her shirt. She let out cough and fell to her knees. With her shirt she wiped fervently at her mouth. Her face looked as though it were on the raw edge of vomit.
Meant to get this up yesterday but I had some relatives drop by unexpectedly. >>169234 >he wondered how much more it would take to make the cartridges in his jacket pocket explode.
You already had one mate. >>169244