White Pain and Dark Heart

I guess by the end I really had it coming. It would have been nice to have had a shot at redemption though. Not that I’m entirely sure I would have ever taken that road, seeing as there were a good ten years between the beginning and my end, and fixing my moral compass never occurred to me in all that time.

It’s a long story, and it ain’t pretty, but I’ve got nothing else to do in this boring dump so I’m gonna tell it. You can listen if you want, or not - can’t say that I care either way. But I guarantee you my tale is helluva lot more interesting than that article on The One Hundred Most Important Americans from the Autumn 1990 issue.

Way back in the summer of ‘99 I was your typical eighteen year old kid in a small town, getting into harmless trouble with my buddies, drinking booze borrowed from unlocked liquor cabinets, and chasing skirts - the shorter the better. None of us had a hope in hell of making it into university or college or even a public library and we were cool with that. We were just happy stumbling along the road to nowhere.

Some of the parents had different ideas about their kid’s future but that was none of our concern. My Pops had bailed on me and Mom the day after I became a teenager and she had traded discipline for the bottle in pretty short order. So I was pretty much free to do as I pleased.

Hey, don’t think I’m blaming my parents for the way things ended up for me. I was old enough to know wrong from right; I take full responsibility for my actions. I ain’t one of those punks that go on those talk shows and blame mommy and daddy for every little thing that went wrong in their life. Those people got no backbone. Frank Leben’s got enough backbone for ten men.

Anyway. So the summer was coming to a close and the rest of our graduating class was getting ready to ship out to school and not a single one of us had a job that paid anything but minimum wage. You don’t get chicks working for minimum wage, man. You can’t buy nice cars, you can’t move out of your parent’s basement, and thrift shops are the only stores you can afford to go looking for threads in.

The four of us were lounging outside Maggie’s Coffee Shop on a Saturday night in late August, smoking cigarettes and talking big. There was me in my dirty white t-shirt and torn blue jeans; Jake with his shaggy red hair, freckles, black tank top and sweatpants; Carlos under the same damn Yankees cap he wore every day of his life, a shirt for some college basketball team he’d never watched play, and grey board shorts; and Terry sporting at least two months’ worth of growth on his face that he was trying to pass off as a beard, wearing an unbuttoned polo shirt, and blue jeans.

We were probably cooking up some terrible plan to get rich quick and retire in the tropics when Terry’s cousin Jerome pulled up in a brand new Beemer with the windows down and his system pumping Puff Daddy’s latest CD. That shut us right up, I’ll tell you.

“Yo cuz,” he said after turning the stereo down a couple notches, “long time no see.”

“Hey Jere, nice ride man. Who’s the sorry chump you stole it from?”

“These wheels are mine, little man. Paid for up front in cash.” His smile was full of the confidence only money could buy. We were in before he even asked the question. “If you ain’t got nothing keeping you here, I’ve got some work that needs to be taken care of in the city. You boys interested?”

The End

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