The sun shone harder and browner and longer than ever. Jamoke light misted in like fecal photons through the window and made everything hot and stink and heavy. It was only 8 in the goddamn a.m. and here it was already like a quilt of dung and fire had been thrown over everything and the universe expected you to get up and greet the goddamn day.
And here I am forced to get up and at ’em already and do the dirty, he thought and dabbed the tepid water that dripped from the tap on his eyes with thick fingers rinsing away the stick of sleep and sting of consciousness.
The stupid stupid stupid tit-for-tat this’ll show ’em detonation of big big big one in ’66 among all the other stupid stupid stupid things it “accomplished” screwing up the spin of the earth and adding what? 83 minutes to the day.
What’s the worst that could happen?
Well whatever that was no one sure as hell knew it’d add a hyper-tonne of dirty solar weight to the world.
Night became a paradise.
Curtain and blind sales went through the roof.
Everything had a tan. Everything. Including the face that stared back at him in the mirror, cheeks like chaps and a forehead forged out of buckskin and crows-feet baked in deep and solid from a lifetime of squinting against the blistering day. He massaged the creased skin of his face with fingers stained forever with linseed oil and blood and nicotine, the calloused tips stretching the wrinkles in a futile attempt to roll back time, roll it back to when business was simple and there were a billion and a half more sorry-assed souls walking around and not taking up all that real estate in heaven or whatever the heck you’d care to call it.
Not hell, though. That was here. That was now. That was this morning.
He pushed his hands through his blonde locks already thick with the sweat and the smog that filled every nook and cranny of every goddamn place no matter how hard you tried to keep it at bay. How many showers did he take a day? Six? Ten?
Okay, he thought as he placed the wicker crown on his head and the morning continued to lay itself on the world and he re-told the sad story of the two chairs and the stuck-up fat lady and the skinny stick of dun butter that he assumed was not her husband but some job-boy or whatever. But perhaps not, maybe it was love or something like it because who could tell these days seeing as nobody really knew what love was any more. Maybe he was just some lackey there to polish the chattels.
Strangely, he himself actually felt he kinda did though, know love.
He loved fine hand-crafted furnishings.
He loved his beard.
He loved the idea of love and all its digital reminders.
He loved art. Of course, everyone did. It was the law.
He picked wax from his ear and let his mind wander and went over the smooth, perfectly stained rattan weaving in his memory, beautiful chairs that existed to serve unconditionally. Both practically and spiritually.
Here, have a seat.
He saw in his mind’s eye how perfect the intersecting strands of wood would be how natural how integral as he had coaxed them into being. Like veins. Like arteries. Like bowels–
Speaking of, that goddamn Officer Turd and his partner Officer Turd II situation was still yet to be resolved.
The two turd cops, one dumb the other stupid both mean heartless turds forcing their way into his workshop and his life and then bracing him to go out of his goddamn way to put his goddamn art on hold and go out and put the chop on some poor sap.
Just gotta have some lungs, King, just gotta have ’em.
You’re the King, King, that’s why we come to you.
Can’t won’t will not take no for an answer, King, need them new lungs, King.
Need them lungs, king.
Get us the freaking lungs, King you bag of piss.
You have the lungs ready to travel or we burn the place down, King, you useless piss bag.
Threatening his art got his attention. They knew it too. Playing with fire,that. Forced him out in the street in the rising heat of dawn to get his chop on and eighty-six a genuine customer and her perhaps whatever he was skinny butter boy.
The stupid cop turds were playing with stupid fire.
Triple tough crap, he said. Threaten him, huh. Threaten his goddamn art. Huh.
They were gonna get stupid burned.
He put on the shades. The arms sliding into the grooves worn into the tough baked hide of the shaved sides of his head and as the stank russet light was filtered to soothing black through the lenses, he combed his beard with his fingers.
Greasy. Real greasy. He needed to take a shower.
The shaded world before his eyes booted up and filled with well-organized clusters of soft digital juice. A comforting stream of clean and cool existence behind the electric curtain. His eyes flitted around making efficient work of the flow of data and after dealing with:
-a couple quick invoices
-a lunch menu
-an update on the ponies
-the weekend box office
-an amenities and movables trade expo announcement
-a who’s who of whomever was currently having sex with whomever else
-a very expensive very necessary ice order to be delivered later tonight.
Then he got down to brass tacks.
The turd cops did their idiot best to stay out of the gleam of the stream, doing all their dirty dealings in the digital shadows, flipping organs in a market blacker than black, so ironic in this post-darkness world but inevitable in a post-atomic one where cancer was as ubiquitous as white trash at the Indy 500. But King knew all the corners all the gutters all the toilets where turds like these turds dirty dealt.
Trading guts and limbs and eyeballs for hard cash and filthy favours.
But always careful to keep their stinky fingers off the art.
Nobody messed with that.
Because that meant messing with the Squad.
In a world gone brown where everything simply everything had already hit the proverbial fan and then blistered into transudating misery, bringing beauty into it was of absolute paramount importance.
We needed it bad. So very, very bad.
So craftspeople and artisans of all stripes became a protected class, their wares cardinal, and not to be corrupted. Or exploited.
Thus, the Squad.
A unit of hard police, above the ordinary cops, with laws of their own, keeping the art pure and honest, out of the dark and depraved depths, making sure it stayed in the light. As a beacon. As a reason. To live.
So now, to the task at hand–
His eyes sped back and forth the pupils doing their data dance as he tripped on down the electronic rabbit hole tracing a complicated path towards his quarry.
Threaten my art will you, he said.
Put the braces on him even after he had spent such a delightful time crafting what’s her name and butter boy’s chairs, something pure and beautiful and honest in a world gone brown and sad. And now it all was a bunch of artisanal pawns in a game of screw-you chess. And of course, survival.
Heartbreaking but worth it.
The dots began to connect.
The turds police conveyance on its way, now flagged to the Squad’s watchlist.
The lungs of the late poor Missus Fat Lady’s Butter Boy chilling in the cooler.
The Chairs with a back dated invoice reported stolen to the Squad by Missus Fat-Lady yesterday.
And then the anonymous tip that something harsh and violent had gone down at said residence of Poor Missus Fat Lady.
He felt a little sad at that. He really couldn’t afford to hemorrhage customers like this. But again, this was survival.
He had the chairs wrapped and ready, the lungs sitting on top, waiting on ice in a cooler, a note in King’s neat printing telling the turds that the lungs were as ordered and the chairs were a gift.
Thank you so much for not burning down my shop.
Peace be with you.
King smiled as he nudged the zeros and ones into place some here some there all where they weren’t before but now they were and as far as the universe was concerned that was where they were meant to be.
Freaking turds gonna get jammed up, he thought.
He smiled at the beauty of it all. A nice finely weaved screw-you almost as beautiful as a fine hand-crafted piece of furniture.
Speaking of finely-handcrafted–
Sure organ smuggling was bad. But the laws on the books about stealing artisanal goods were draconic.
Say what you wanted about the state of a depleted world depressed beneath a sky that laid on it like thick fudge but a genuine appreciation for art had become as freaking vital as food and oxygen.
Now, back to work.
But first, a shower.