From the archives: MAX PAINE

It was dark, dark like the thoughts of one of those 17-year olds on Barney who think about what a real life would be like, dark like when you have your eyes close, like when you’re asleep. The scream, a scream like the sound of a dying emu, like the sound of an cheap Wal-Mart brand alarm clock with AM, FM settings and dual alarms going off, pierced through the dark darkness that hid the light. My eyes cracked open, open like a 7-11 at midnight, or a fat man’s fly at an opera, and then I saw the truth. It was late, late like the insulin for the dead diabetic, late like 15 minutes late. Dag.
The water laced into my skin like millions of little tiny bullets, if the bullets were made of water and were heated to about 90 degrees. It felt good, like taking a shower in the morning, that’s cause that’s what it was, a shower, in the morning. I grabbed the soap, hmm, soap, a block of Irish Spring, like a refreshing burst of fresh air. Nice. The lather washed the grime off my body, but could it ever cleanse a man’s soul? Can 6 types of anti-bacterial agents and a fresh smelling scent ever truly free me from the screams of the dying? Of the dead? Of the flesh wounded? Probably not, that was my pain, and no creamy smooth lather could take that away from me. I got out and toweled off, the water dripping off my body off my body like drool dripping off the chin of a heroin addict who’s taken one too many visits with the white lady, the guy everyone looks at on the street, and says “ugh, I hope my kids don’t end up like that, maybe I should get him some hel- ohhh STARBUCKS!!” I put on my clothes, the 100% pre-washed cotton slid over my body, shielding my flesh from the dangers of chilliness and mocking. I was ready for the day.

I grabbed a breakfast bar off the table. It tasted like sawdust. Sawdust on the floor of a timbermill. The sawdust that all the big burly lumberjacks stepped on with their mudstained boots and spit on with their big thick beards that scratched their flannel shirts and itched their wife’s mouth. I ate it anyway. The woman told me I “needed the nutrition”. The harpy, I could tell she was just after my money. After my $49.13 you could see it in her eyes, she was just biding her time, waiting for the bar to lodge in my throat and kill me. Wouldn’t happen, my body was strong, like and ox, or the breath of someone who just ate onions, hmm onions, I could go for some onions right now, especially if the were slapped on top of some steak, medium, with some steak sauce, bold and spicy steak sauce, and maybe some fries, Idaho potato fries, nice. Then I got into my car. It was what my friends, those little weasels with their polo shirts and Gucci imitation suits, called a POS, whatever that meant, it started just fine. It purred, like a cat with emphazima from smoking too much, but purred none the less. I talked to it, soothing it calming it down, getting it ready for another week in hell. It was time to go. Past time, I floored it. Got it up to 45. Nice.

I pulled into my space. It was waiting for me, like a mistress, like a puppy dog waiting for a treat, here you go boy, who’s a good dog? You are!! Yea, you are, yes you are, oh daddy loves you so much, come give daddy kisses. GOOD dog, such a cute lovey doggy, ok say bye bye now. Bye bye!! Time for work.

The sun broiled the concrete like a number 2 combo. Tar and asphalt did the sticky dance on my two shoes as I stepped into poultry-scented plate glass cathedral of El Pollo Loco. Spanish for “The Crazy Chicken.” Crazy chicken for crazy people, in crazy times. Desperate times. Times that fit the man.

I put on my apron and started frying the bacon. Those early morning vultures were ready for me, staring with lusting eyes at the strips of dead pig I simmered over a dirty grill. Their eyes burned into me like fire, like something really hot, I dunno, maybe a pint of lava disguised as rocky road ice cream. Rocky road, like the road of my life. Rocky, with some marshmallows and maybe chunks of fudge, man I was hungry. They pulled me out of the soft-serve machine, covered with vanilla chocolate swirl, babbling endlessly about some sort of fairy land where rabbits were the tyrannical monster rulers and were worked as slave in the ruby kingdom Saskatchewan. I needed a drink. A stiff drink, stiff like the starch in a dry cleaned collar, stiff like some dead guy, which are sometimes called stiffs. Now my co-workers were glaring at me, glaring like the headlights of a 1998 Chrysler La Baron on blinders. My head hurt. They said something about “too many similes and metaphors”, but I wasn’t listening, my mind was in another place. It was having tea with the Sultan of Brunei and the Duke of York, Earl Grey tea, with lemon, my mind liked it with a cube of brown sugar and a tiny pinch of parsley. They were talking about current developments in the economy of Eastern Europe and how the creation of the European Union will turn Europe upside-down. Heh, Europe is a funny word, funny like….

Then they bashed my head in with a tire iron.

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