Free Extreme Fiction

If-1

    Timmy exhaled like she hadn't dared breathe the entire time we were stopped. The kids in the back seat whooped with delight.
    "Party, here we come!"
    "There ain't going to be no party," Anthony said. "Didn't you hear that cop? They're closing that party down."
    "He don't know what he's talking about."
    "That party's going on all night."
    "The fix is in."
    "That party's going on all tomorrow night."
    "You were great, lady," Tanysha said to Timmy. "We like you!"
    "I sure could use a beer right about now," was Timmy's reply.
    So over the West Seatrailia Bridge we went, then up and over the hill that would take us to West Seatrailia itself. I saw a 24-7 Quik Mart. I saw a gas station. Again, traffic every-goddamn-where, in spite of the fact that it was only an hour or two before dawn. We had to stop at a streetlight, like, every thirty seconds. Storefronts lined the street, although, for the most part, they weren't outlets for national chains. I saw a Starbucks, of course. I saw a Wendell's Donut Shop. Mostly, though, I saw places with names like West Seatrailia Books and West Seatrailia Toys 'N Things. Local places. They looked like they'd been there for years. The buildings themselves looked like they'd been there a good many years beyond that.
    "How much further we got to go?" I asked.
    "We're almost there. It's just ahead of us. See it?"
    "The church?"
    "It's not a church anymore. It's a community center. It's where people go to have meetings and weddings and things."
    "Really?" Because it sure looked like a church to me. It rose two stories in the air with a bell tower rising another two stories beyond that. It looked constructed of gray brick, of granite. I saw stained glass windows. I saw double doors that rose to a point at the top. Hell, there was even a bell up there in that tower. This was a church, man. It sat in an odd lot, too. This street we were on, this arterial, split off into two directions at forty-five degree angles directly ahead of us. This church, or community center I mean, sat in the triangular lot where this split was made. Behind the church was a hell of a parking lot, and behind this parking lot was a hell of a lot of trees, like a forest's worth of trees. In  the middle of a metropolis of some million-plus people, a goddamned forest. Well, that's West Seatrailia for you.
    "I wonder how close we can park to the front door?" I asked.
    "That shouldn't be a problem" Timmy said. "You should have seen this parking lot a couple of hours ago. I had to park waaaaaaay over there."
    We wound up finding a spot not thirty yards from the front door. "Everybody out!"
    The air, again, smacked me like a fist of ice. Here came another coughing spasm. My lungs just plain didn't want any of that frigid air. I coughed so hard I started to lose my grip on Trey. "Christ," I muttered. "Someone's got to get this baby out of my arms before I drop him." No one did, though. Everybody was already on their way to the front door. Trey himself was totally zonked. I passed a trio of people all gabbing frantically at each other in the chittery-chipmunk style of the cocaine drenched. I passed a pair of young women, one standing, the other squatted down, and...and...Jesus, what was she doing down there?
    "Hey!" she snapped when she saw me staring at her. "Keep your eyes on the road, motherfucker! This ain't no goddamned peepshow!"
    Christ. The bitch was taking a pee in the middle of the parking lot. Talk about lowlife. What, she couldn't wait until she got inside the building?
    I passed a huge wooden sign that read CLAUDE C. WORTH COMMUNITY CENTER. Timmy and Anthony held the double doors open for Trey and me. Once inside, I found I had to go through another set of double doors to get to the community center itself. A young black man and a much larger man whose skin color made me think he was a Hispanic guarded this second set of double doors. This second guy was as large or larger than the barbarian we'd left behind with Carl, but this guy's gut was much bigger, and his arm muscles looked flabby and underdeveloped. The smaller black man wore clothes that fit him perfectly and that complemented each other perfectly so that they created an overall impression that, even for me, someone with the fashion sense of a blind dog, was pretty damned impressive. This wasn't just a guy who dressed well. This was a guy whose entire being, whose entire sense of self, depended on dressing well and looking good. I saw not a hair out of place on his head. His fingernails glistened, not because they were coated with polish, but because they'd been manicured so well and so often, and you want to know the craziest thing? I didn't even think he was gay. I got the overwhelming impression that this guy was perfectly straight.
    And here Roger was, trying to gasbag his way past this candy-ass.
    "But Modesto knows me, man!" Roger pleaded. "I work for him!"
    "Sorry, no can do," the fashion-plate replied. "Modesto told me he's seen enough people for one night. Come back tomorrow for the game."
    "Yeah, but..."
    "I'm not letting you in, okay?"
    "But there's something I need to tell him!"
    "Whatever you need to tell him you can tell him tomorrow." Then the guy spotted the baby in my arms. "Trey!" He went to grab him. "Give me that baby!"
    "Hey!" I held on tight to the infant. "I'm handing him to his mother and no one else!"    
    "Bullshit! That's my nephew!"
    Christ. I looked at Anthony. "That true?"
    He shrugged like, what are you asking me for?"
    "Listen motherfucker, you hand me that...Fuck!" He whipped out his cell phone and hit a couple buttons. "Modesto? This is James. Some motherfucker just brought my nephew to the front door, and he don't want to give him up. I'm 'bout ready to beat on him a little. That work for you? He...yeah, sure." He looked at me. "Your name Jimmy Lomax?'
    "James Lomax."
    "Here." He handed the phone to me. "He wants to talk to you."
    "Well I can't just..." I fought to put the cell phone to my ear with the baby still in my arms. I looked at Timmy, like, help!
    "Here." Timmy took the phone and held it to my ear.
    "Yeah?"
    "Lomax?"
    "Why not?"
    "Quit fucking around. You Jimmy Lomax or not?"
    "Put it that way, no I'm not."
    There was a pause on the other end of the line. Modesto knew I was fucking with him, and it was pissing him off. I let him stew for a couple of seconds, then said, "It's been a long time, Modesto. What's up?"
    "You got my baby?"
    "Trey?"
    "Give him to James."
    "James who?"
    "Give that baby up right now while I've still got you on the phone."
    His request didn't leave a lot of room for debate. "Here," I said, and I handed Trey over to the guy with the great fingernails. Now I could hold the phone to my ear without a problem. "Hey Modesto, I need to talk to you about something, okay?"
    "Like something, what?"
    "Like something I need to know."
    "Not at my party, bro'. I don't want to talk about business at my party. I just want to party."
    "It'll only take a second."
    "Can't do it."
    "I got a single question for you. It..."
    "Yeah, and I got a single answer for you. It's no."
    "It's not that kind of question."
    "You know, you really can't be Jimmy Lomax, because the Jimmy Lomax I knew was never this big of an asshole." On his side of the phone, I heard this shrill, barking, yippety-yippety-yip.
    "Hey Modesto, that Poopsi?" which was my way of asking, "Hey Modesto, you still own the most annoying dog in the world?"
    No reply from Modesto, so I just went ahead and said, "Hey Poopsi, how you doggedy-doggedy-doing?"
    "I'm hanging up now," Modesto said.
    "Can't we at least come inside?" I asked. "I mean, Timmy and me, we went all the way to Bobtown to..."
    "...Put my man in the hospital. Carl's in Portview."
    "How's he doing?" I asked.
    "He's in pain, motherfucker, that's how he's doing. He's in pain because he couldn't get any back-up when the shit got thick."
    "We had to get Trey out of there before the cops showed up."
    "I thought Carl was your friend."
    "He is," I lied. "It's just..." Fuck! James tapped his foot with the baby in his arms, waiting impatiently for me to hand his phone back to him. "Okay, fine then. If we get a chance to talk we'll talk, okay?"
    "That ain't going to happen."
    "Great. Look forward to seeing you." I clicked the phone off and handed it back to James. "He told me you're supposed to let us all in," I said.  James shot me a look like he didn't believe me, but he didn't want to go to all the trouble of calling Modesto back, not with his nephew in his arms, so...
    "Fuck," he said, then pushed with his back through the second set of double doors. We followed right behind him. The other guy, the Hispanic, observed us all through eyes intense and untrusting, but he did nothing to stop us.
    So into the party we went.
    All six of us.
    And, Christ, Timmy was right. I'd never been to a party like this before in my life.  

                                                                                   CONTINUE