Said she was a slut with a slit. Said she was a real stupid cunt. Said she couldn’t find her ass even if she fell in a hole in the ground. Said she was a hopeless miserable bitch who he wished would die. Even if he had to kill her himself. It was the most eloquent shit I ever heard him say. But he talked about it a lot, so it was almost like he was a poet. Shakespeare and Travis Bickle, together at last. The bastard was a real piece of work.
Four days a week, at 10:45 PM, Digger would pick me up in his beat-to-shit taxi and shuffle me off to work at the plant. My job was to police the silence of nighttime and midwife it into daybreak. I read a lot of thick, impenetrable books and tried not to fall asleep. Come quarter to eleven, if I wasn’t down on the street waiting, Digger would lay on his horn like he had just been shot execution-style and his head had found its final resting place in the center of the steering wheel. After I’d get in, careful not to blow my knees out rushing down the stairs, he’d carp, “Goddammit, Smecks, you know I hate the Puerto Rican doorbell. Why you make me do that shit?” I’d catch his eye in the rearview and throw a sneer at him, but I always ended up grinning like a doofus. The guy was an asshole, but at least he was a punctual asshole.
On a typical night, Digger would floor it, peeling out like a teenager who had just seen his first Steve McQueen flick. This might be the only time he ever approached what you would call happiness. Digger was a sour man, bent and twisted by life. He didn’t have any illusions. There was no happy ending off in the distance. I imagine he saw his life as one long complaint – a self-perpetuating gripe as deep and wide as a galaxy, and twice as old. Digger enjoyed needling his invisible enemies endlessly, as if he were engaged in some sort of joust on the astral plane. He unfurled many a winding tale of seething annoyance, narrating all sorts of mundane details from his irksome existence. It could be exhausting, but undeniably entertaining, especially when he jabbed at some vague figure’s character, drawing on all his powers of description to launch a pitiless attack. To sail the unassailable. It was glorious, in a pathetic way. But he saved the real hatred, the bloodletting fury, for his poor, dear mother. The bitch. The cow.
“Y’know what happened the other day? I got up to piss in the middle of the night, as I often do. I’m gettin old. My bladder was bursting. I tripped over some fuckin box on the way to the john, nearly broke my goddamn neck. Anyway, I’m leaning on the wall, letting it fly, when what do I fuckin see? Of course, you guessed it, Einstein, I saw my cunt of a mother’s face in the bowl. That stupid smile she used to walk around with. Like nothing was wrong. Like life was peachy. Like God gave a fuck about her. So I drain the whole lizard on that whore’s face, but then I feel a little rumble down there. A gurgling, y’know? So I hadda seat. I start pushing, really pushing, like I was giving birth to twins. Some fat fuckin twins. Comin out shoulders first, too, I might add. We’ve all been there, right, Smecks? You’ve shit out your share of kids, I bet."
An unwanted image of Digger on the toilet, straining with the might of a demi-god -- red-faced, near heart attack -- comes barreling into my mind’s eye. A hint of a gag, but I manage to subsume it with a swig of lukewarm joe. God damn you, Digger, you’re already halfway towards ruining my night.
“I tell ya, Smecks, I can’t remember what I ate that day, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a leg of lamb with a side of lasagna. It hurt like a sumbitch, lemme tell ya. Felt like it was stuck up there, wedged in hard.”
Flash on an image of a soldier during World War One. A frightened teenage infantryman stuck in a trench, surrounded by his dead comrades, pinned down by enemy fire. Sweat and blood rolled down his filthy face. The soldier was Digger’s obstructed nugget of shit, and all I can think is, Lord, if you are there, please take this unfortunate soul to heaven, his time on earth is complete.
“Smecks, I’m telling you. I was contemplating doing a C-section on myself. Has anyone ever C-sectioned their guts to remove a giant piece of shit? A half hour must’ve gone by -- I tried reading a titty mag, I tried doing my taxes in my head, I recited the London Bus Driver’s Prayer a few times over, all sorts of crap. Nothing doing, but no way was Ma gonna get off that easily. Not again. Not this time. She had it coming. She was gonna eat my shit if it was the last thing I did. I was willing to pull an Elvis if it meant that Ma had to swallow it. At least I could die happy.”
Digger kept glancing into the rearview, trying to gauge my reaction. But by this juncture in our relationship, I knew it was best to remain mute, body language included.
“Smecks, c’mon man. Nothin?”
Then Digger ripped a massive fart, nearly fatal in its repugnance. Motherfucker was engaging in biochemical warfare. I cover my entire face with my shirt and yell out, “Not fuckin cool, Digger!” But my voice is muffled and Digger is staring into the rearview, laughing his ass off.
“Can you at least look at the fucking road, man?!”
“Smehhhhhhhhhhks, c’mon, guy, you’ve smelled worse. I saw your last girlfriend.”
At this, he lets out a bellowing guffaw, and I curse his mother for not having smothered this piece of human garbage in the crib. I look out the window, but all I see are long shadows cast by telephone poles and hulking factories looming over the city. Everywhere seemed doomed, like it barely even had a chance to actually live.
“Hey, it’s not like I haven’t smelled your shit. Remember? Do I have to remind you?”
“No. Of course not.”
My name isn’t “Smecks.” Only Digger called me that, and I tolerated it.
Because Digger saved my life one night.
It was back when I used to drink like a fish who thought he was gonna run out of water. I drank whiskey like water. And sometimes rum. Even though I hated rum. Rum is for fucking parrots and flamingos and crocodiles. Or the human version. Regardless, it’s disgusting and it made me careless and detached. Even more than normal.
The night in question, I was careening home, my legs trying to run off without my torso, when these three kids, who must’ve been extremely bored, or maybe it was a gang initiation, who the hell knows these days. It doesn’t matter. They beat the shit out of me. They threw me down and just started kicking. 1-2-3 and a 1-2-3, the only thought that I had was my brain trying to lock down on the rhythm in which they were pummeling me. It wasn’t quite 4/4, but it wasn’t a waltz. It might take two to tango, but it takes three to put a lush in a coma. I was only a block from my apartment, but I might as well have been a million miles away. I felt myself giving up. I blame the rum, but really I just wanted it to be over. All of it.
Call it fate, call it what you will, but Digger and his hack came squealing around the corner, probably on a drunken joyride. When his headlights flashed on the power trio beating the life out of me, he slammed on the brakes. From within his car, with the windows up, Digger could hear the kicks landing on my prone body. To Digger, safe inside his machine, it sounded like SMECK SMECK SMECK. He later told me that he was struck by how fake and cartoon-y the sound was -- even the sight of these teenagers kicking the crap out of me seemed staged, like some goofy reality show. None of this stopped Digger from rolling down his passenger-side window and pulling the Saturday night special out from under his seat. He pointed it at the startled kids and said, with a measure of convincing bravado, “One more smack and your mother goes to a funeral next week.”
Sometimes I think I made this part up, but with the brief respite in blows, I was suddenly aware of the world at large, not just the self-pitying part of me that wouldn’t mind slipping off this mortal coil.
After dragging me into his taxi, Digger rushed me to the hospital at nearly 100 mph. He didn’t seem to flinch when he realized that I had lost control of my bowels. During the beating, I had shit my pants. Gooey, runny shit-stuff ran down my legs and pooled in my shoe. My socks turned from black to brown. I smelled like a corpse who had let loose his last load. Digger didn’t mind.
He even came to visit me in the hospital. When I got out, he offered to drive me to work at a generously reduced rate. I couldn’t refuse. Despite his noxious character, he had a heart of gold. A heart of gold and a stomach full of putrid waste, locked up tight.
“I’m pushing and pushing and pushing, picturing Ma’s ugly mug at the bottom of that toilet bowl, big smile on her dumb face, getting ready to gargle this huge turd working it’s way out. I was straining so bad, I pulled a muscle in my chest. Don’t ask me how, but I felt it kinda snap, and then it felt like someone knifed me.”
We were almost at the plant. It was going be a long night.
“Christ, Digger, what the fuck are you telling me this for? I already know how much you hate your mother. Why don’t you call her up and tell her this shit? I’m sure she would appreciate it more than me.”
“Oh that ain’t gonna happen.”
“Why the hell not?”
“Cuz she died.”
“What? How? When?”
“Giving birth. To me.”
He hit the brakes. We were right outside the plant.
“Digger, I –--“
“Shut the fuck up, Smecks. Seeya tomorrow night.”
--originally appeared in Expatlitjournal #2
--originally appeared in Expatlitjournal #2