That time I blew up a car
At 5:52 Leo stood up, nearly toppled over, and said that he should get going. He thanked Curtis again for taking apart the car. He would come back for the wheels the next day since Jerry didn’t work on Sundays.
From Curtis’s apartment building he walked to his own. He smoked a cigarette, realized he had two missed phone calls from his girlfriend, promised himself he’d call her back later (would he though, really?), and found his brother’s phone number in recents.
It took a couple of rings for him to pick up.
“Leo?” He heard his brother’s voice. “How much do you fucking want, I’m busy.”
You’re always fucking busy, he thought.
“Two—actually, no—three.” He was fucking rich now with thirteen-hundred bucks in his pocket and more to come tomorrow. “Make it three.”
“Make it my ass. Alright. Three. When you gonna swing by?”
“Fifteen minutes, does that sound okay?”
“Sounds fine but don’t be late or else I’ll shove that blow up one of my hooker’s asses, got it?”
His brother hung up. Leo fished his earbuds out of his pocket and plugged them into his phone. He listened to some pop music as he walked to his apartment building.
His apartment building was neighbours with the bar at which he worked—The Flying Pint. It was made of dirty bricks and stood about ten stories tall. Vines had begun to hug one of the sides. The front door opened without any key or intercom system (before there was a key, but then the door sort of just started opening on its own) and the elevator was broken from the day Leo and his sister moved in. Candy, who was a longer-time resident and lived directly in the apartment above theirs, told them stories of the working elevator that sounded like fairy-tales.
“Unlike the rest of the building,” she told them. “The elevator actually didn’t smell like shit.”
His car was parked out front. It was a small parking lot but it fit all the tenant’s cars because not every tenant had a car. Not every tenant was also a legitimate tenant.
He walked to his car—grey sedan–and slipped inside. Unlike all the other cars he drove around, this one wasn’t stolen—it was bought, very legally. He decided that driving around a stolen car as if it were his was not the brightest idea.
He plugged in his keys—which sat right next to the jiggler keys—and started the engine. He tugged the earbuds out of his ears and turned on the radio, which was pretty much the same thing he had been listening to. He checked the time: 6:06, all good.
His brother, Damian, lived in South Los Angeles. He could’ve walked there but it wasn’t the kind of area that’s nice for walking. Not that West Adams was much better, but better nonetheless.
He wasn’t late. He didn’t fucking dare to be late. Most of Damian’s customers weren’t allowed to come anywhere near his house, but his brother was the lucky (or maybe the unlucky) exception. Leo promptly parked his car across the street (even if there weren’t any cars in the driveway he still wouldn’t park his car so close) and walked up to his front door. His brother lived in a neat bungalow that was once a crisp white but was now turning a faded yellow. He could hear voices inside, as always, and he hesitated before ringing the doorbell, as always.
The voices didn’t stop until a couple of moments later. Leo took this time to look over to the neighbour’s house where an old woman with tight, grey hair stared—literally fucking stared—into his soul. He gave her a small smile (which wasn’t returned) and turned back to the door just in time for when it opened. Damian—tall, broad-shouldered, dark-haired—stood in the doorway. His head was still turned and he was talking to the people inside about some shit Leo didn’t care about.
“Alright let’s make this quick,” Damian said to Leo without flashing him even a glance. “Two-eighty, give it up.”
“Two-eighty? Not two-forty?”
“Remember what I said about the blow and the hooker’s ass?”
Leo sighed. He slipped out the cash and gave his brother the cash. Some of it was in coins because he was an asshole (and because he had change from last time’s grocery shopping).
Damian counted it over (which Leo found slightly offensive, he always gave him the right amount) and then passed him a small plastic bag filled with cocaine. It was tied off with an orange rubber band. Leo slipped it into his jeans—between his phone and the pants’ fabric.
“Thanks,” Leo said before the door was shut in his face.
Before going back to his car, he showed his middle finger to the door and glanced at the old lady one last time—she was still peering into his soul.
In the car he used his car keys to pick up a little bit of the white powder and sniffed it. “Just a little bump” as his girlfriend would say. He smiled a little and as the numbing sensation traveled up his nose; forcefully released dopamine into his system.
Next on the hit list was work. Work and call his girlfriend, but he decided (once again) that he could afford to hold off talking to her just a little bit longer.
He worked at the bar squished to his house. It looked slightly comical next to the lofty apartment building, and the bright blue flickering lights—The Flying Pint—occasionally gave up and stopped working. Then Eddie would make Leo’s sister go out in a short skirt, wave around a neon sign and yell, “We’re open! C’mon in for a FLYING PINT!” She looked like a fucking idiot and they’d all make fun of her for that later.
He parked in front of his building and went upstairs to his apartment on the fifth floor. The old woman by the elevator asked if he had any extra cash, and although he really wouldn’t classify his money as extra, he gave her a twenty-dollar bill. She told him he was a cheap-ass piece of shit, and he told her that he was sorry.
He took the stairs, said hi to the pot-smokers standing in the third-floor hallway, and made his way to the fifth floor. He fished his keys out of his pocket—shit-ton of keys, he knew—and opened the door. He and his sister shared a small apartment—three rooms in total: the living (a couch, an old-ass T.V, coffee table), the bathroom (two cabinets, but Libby took half of his), and the bedroom (two beds on opposite sides of the room).
The light was on in the bathroom, but he still decided to be annoying.
“LIBBY!” he yelled, closing the door behind him.
He could hear something being knocked into the sink. This was followed by swearing and his sister poked her head out of the bathroom. She had good eyeliner on one eye, and the other kind of stooped down.
“Jesus fucking christ, Leo, you asshole!” she exclaimed.
He grinned and went into their bedroom. The walls in the entire building were paper-fucking-thin so communicating wasn’t an issue… and neither was getting some audio porn at night.
“By the way,” she yelled as he hid the money into the bottom drawer of the dresser between two pairs of boxers. “The place is mine tonight!”
Oh fuck no, he thought. “Place is mine tonight” meant her small-cocked dumbshit boyfriend was spending the night… and probably the next morning… and probably the next afternoon…
“C’mon, seriously Lib’?” he retorted. “Didn’t he come over like two fucking days ago?”
“Well, I put up with the Cunt, don’t I?”
The Cunt, as all his friends (with the exception of Hailey) referred to, was his girlfriend. Her real name wasn’t the Cunt (shocker), but Charlie.
Leo didn’t respond. In his humble (or not so much) opinion, it was only a matter of time before her small-cocked dumbshit boyfriend (or Peter-love, as she called him) hit her.
He slipped out the plastic bag of blow (and beauty) and stared at it for a moment; it almost sparkled.
I promised Candy, didn’t I? He thought and put it back in his pocket. He tied the black half-apron around his hips and made sure it covered the pocket with the blow. It wasn’t uncommon to get robbed in The Flying Pint.
Before leaving, he patted his apron to make sure his fake I.D. was still there (habit). It was there, as always, and he glanced at it as if to double-check he was still twenty-two. Eddie didn’t really give a shit if Leo was nineteen or twenty-two, but better safe than sorry. On that basis, he could also think that perhaps it’s better not to shove drugs up your nose or steal cars, but now he was just overthinking it.
Right, he told himself.
“See you later!” he called out to his sister who responded with a “mhm”, still busy applying her make-up and getting ready to see motherfucking Peter-love.
He met Candy and Hailey (who didn’t even work there) at the bar. It had a rustic interior and one of those stylish brick accent walls behind the bar that could use a wash (or a scrub). Eddie allowed people to smoke inside, so by eight p.m. you could barely breathe. Even when he entered at slightly past six, it already stunk of booze and every chair at the bar was occupied. Eddie was behind the counter serving drinks, his growing belly protruding over his apron.
“Ah, Rhodes!” he exclaimed once he saw Leo walk in. “Get in here, kid. You’re on drink duty till ten, then you’re dealin’.”
Leo awkwardly squeezed in behind the counter as Eddie was trying to get out. He was immediately bombarded with what felt like three hundred orders and second-hand smoke. Candy was serving drinks too, but she was wearing a very deep v-neck and had her blonde hair tied up, so she was mostly there to attract attention. She flashed him a small smile—it’s on tonight, got it?— and went back to leaning over the counter and laughing too loudly at shitty jokes.
Hailey didn’t work there, but she often offered to help out for an hour or two carrying drinks. Leo would make a batch of drinks, put it on a cheap plastic tray and pass it to her.
“To that table over there, to the guy with a mohawk,” he’d say, pointing. She’d nod and carefully carry the tray over. Normally by nine p.m. (maximum) she’d get sick of the catcalling and the occasional slap on the ass, so she’d say she was tired and leave. That night, she left at seven because she had a dinner reservation with Curtis.
“Have fun,” Leo told her, a free cigarette he got as a tip hanging from his lips. “Where are you guys going?”
“To that Greek place on Halpert.”
She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and gave him a hug. He hugged her back. Her cotton shirt felt nice. She had the best hugs.
“Take care, baby,” she said and left. He watched as the front door closed, opened, and she disappeared down the street.
At ten p.m. he took his break which was allowed to last only fifteen minutes. He glanced at Candy. Candy glanced at him. He turned a corner and went down the hall to his left. There the music was muffled and the lights flickered. It was like a fucking haunted house.
He waited for Candy. She appeared momentarily and buttoned a couple of buttons on her shirt. Her ponytail was coming apart and strands of hair were stuck to the side of her face. Her cheeks were flushed and she sounded out of breath.
“Did you get it?” she asked, arms crossed.
“Yeah. I got it. C’mon.”
They slipped inside the staff bathroom (another key in Leo’s pocket) and the door automatically locked behind them. The staff bathroom was only fancy in its name—inside it was about half the size of a gas station washroom and had one really shitty light. No matter how many times they changed the light bulb, it still illuminated jackshit.
“How much?” she asked, huddling to Leo. He could smell her cherry perfume mixed with sweat.
“Three grams. Good?”
He took out the blow from his pocket and they both did a bump from his car keys. When Candy did hers, she pressed one finger to her nose and walked around the bathroom in a circle, tilting her head back.
“Oh that feels good!” she exclaimed, giggling. “Another! Let’s do another!”
“We’ll do plenty tonight—” The sweet release of dopamine. He knew he’d want more in thirty minutes. “Peter-fuck is coming over.”
“Again? Wasn’t he here like two days ago?”
“That’s what I said,” he chuckled and tied the orange rubber band back around the plastic bag. “So does that mean I can crash at yours tonight?”
“Don’t wanna go to your girlfriend’s? No?” she teased. Leo remembered he forgot to call her back—fuck. “Of course you can crash at mine. We’ll steal some booze, order a pizza and play Call of Duty.”
Sounded fucking perfect.
For the remaining ten minutes of their break they went outside and Candy smoked a cigarette. Leo took one drag. At fourteen minutes Eddie’s head popped out from the back door and he told them to bring their asses back inside (“What am I paying you for?”). Leo said that they’ll be back in “momentarily”, slipped out his keys (Candy knew where this was going and she grinned) and they both did another bump. Sometimes thirty minutes was a stretch.
Technically, they weren’t supposed to work past two in the morning, but Eddie decided to conveniently ignore those hours and made them stay until they looked like they were on the brink of death… or snuck out. That night, Candy grabbed a bottle of booze and slipped out the back door at two-thirty in the morning. Leo met her there at two thirty-five.
“Bogle Chardonnay,” she said, holding up the bottle of wine. “Let’s go.”
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