This wonderfully wild and pulpy novella is set to be released on November 1. We know you can't wait for a chance to read it, so here is a sneak peak of the first five pages--just for you, our loyal readers of lowlife literature:
REVENGE IS A REDHEAD
by Phil Beloin Jr.
by Phil Beloin Jr.
You see some that are real skanky, man, not worth a dollar for nothing, but the redhead up there had something the others didn’t. Her skin was popping with freckles, the legs stretching long and hard and that chest was mocking Sir Isaac. She meandered over to where I was lounging. Don’t know why she took so long. The only other fella in there was an old dude who looked like my grandpa right before his ticker blew.
“Hi ya, sailor,” she grinned.
I wasn’t no sailor. I was just one of the millions of jobless losers still struggling after the Big Banks, Wall Street, and the paid-off politicians conspired in greed. The fucking idiots. What good would all that money do if the United States collapsed? A lot of fools—like my dad— wanted to lay sole blame on our current, inept President, but, shit, I had a conscience and an unshakeable memory.
“Hey, you,” I said.
She squatted on them beatific legs, did stuff to herself with her hands that I wished my hands were doing, all the while staring into my eyes. Hers were like emerald isles, something I ain’t ever seen on nobody.
“Name’s Cherry,” she said.
“Had I known I would have ordered one instead of a beer.”
“You got one right here. Right now.”
“You’re too damn hot to be shaking it in here, Cherry,” I said.
“Just trying to get by,” she said, “with what I’m good at.”
Her hands alone were making me implode as she pinched and rubbed and explored, a fingernail sliding through her tweaked red hair, slow like she had an itch, couldn’t quite find the culprit.
“Buy me a drink after my set,” she said.
“Screw the drink,” I said. “Let’s just get out of here, you and me.”
“Oh, you’re naughty,” she said.
“Not the word I was thinking of.”
“How ’bout just a little taste of this?” Her legs inched apart. “A lap dance for seventy-five in the VIP room in back.”
“I’d be surprised if I had seventy-cents left, lady.”
She licked those lips. “Then I better move on.”
She grabbed my last crinkled bill, there for her.
“See ya around, sailor,” she said.
Watching her crawl towards that geezer, I saw myself in one of the mirrors set up all around the stage. I didn’t much care for what I saw coming back at me—dirty hair, scruff that wouldn’t grow out to a beard, a worn stare staring into a worn stare.
Cherry didn’t give that oldie a heart attack, just a mini stroke. Or two. I was nursing my draft, sixteen ounces of piss warm piss bad brew. I wasn’t lying to that redhead when I said I didn’t have much left. The change in my pocket wouldn’t even get me a rubber from the bathroom vending machine.
Yeah, that’s me. Rich. A lazy shit for nothing, living off the welfare of others. Well, that was what my dad called me right before he ejected my ass over the scrawny porch and into the frozen patch of dead front yard. He was a cop and enjoyed roughing up driftwood like me. I had been too tired to fight with him anyway, too tired looking for jobs that didn’t exist.
I didn’t have nothin’ but the hoodie on my back, a few bills in my pocket, and the Olds, which leaked precious fluids but still ran somehow. I backed away from home with a half tank of fuel to take me somewhere else.
Didn’t go far, a titty bar protruding into the street a few blocks down, the UPSIDE CLUB. Never had stopped in. Today seemed like a prime time.
And there I was, slouched on my stool, an hour or so later, when a heavy paw pressed down on my shoulder.
“You buyin’ another?”
A hole like this didn’t spring for half-dressed waitresses taking whiskey sour orders. I turned my head, got reacquainted with the bouncer. He had checked my I.D. when I came in. I had been twenty-one for a month now. This dude was pure Angus badass, came with a growling goatee. And if that wasn’t friendly enough, he had shaved until his cranium showed and glowed.
I didn’t give a damn what he looked like. His hand didn’t belong on my shoulder. I carried a switchblade, deep down in my pocket. I pictured jamming it in his throat—see how tough you look with a tracheotomy mutherfucker.
“I said…” Angus went on.
I moved my shoulder so his hand would fall away.
“I heard you, dude. Get your hand off me.”
“You got a problem, buddy?”
“Don’t have to grab me,” I said. “That’s all.”
“We ain’t running no free peep show. Buy something or I splatter your ass all over the floor.”
Cherry had left the spotlight anyhow. Some skinny crack junkie had taken her place, marionetting about the stage like a decaying skeleton.
I chugged the swill in the bottom of my glass and left, the bouncer’s eyes never leaving me.
The motor in my Olds was clicking like a bomb had been shoved under the hood by terrorists. The sun was turning down for the night, leaving behind a colorless city resorting to its baser instincts. Was that a muffler backfiring or a gunshot? Were those juvies shuffling across the street looking to score, or mug some outcast like me? And what about the happy couple complete with twin tots screaming at each other?
Bliss. Harmony. Peace and goodness.
Get the Olds going Rich. Time to hit a shelter.
I travelled across the city, the Olds’ heater puking oily tepid air into my face. The streetlights that weren’t shot out lit up a neighborhood six feet under in filth. I didn’t bother looking at my dad’s row house. He wasn’t dirty enough to afford anything better. Lights would be on, he’d be chowing a frozen dinner in front of the tube before heading off to the night shift. Mom was long gone. Another man. Another life. Blame dad. Blame me. I don’t give a damn. She just ain’t here.
Further through the mire, I turned into this vacant lot next to a brick building that had once been a two-story department store before the whims of capitalism turned it into a homeless shelter. Some windows were cracked, others boarded up. The sign above the door proclaimed Jesus Christ as Our This That and some Other Thing. There was a line out front as if the Son himself had finally come on back from the right hand of his Pa. Talk about a lazy fuck—2000 years to get off his ass.
No choice but to join the crowd.
“They got good grub,” the hobo in front of me said.
He smelled of rotgut and other miseries. His clothes had been handed down so many times they were resorting back to the plants they had been spun from.
At the front of the line by the entrance, a chubby lady sprouting a few dark whiskers about her fleshy chin greeted me at the door. She was short but her heft made it difficult to guess her age. Thirty? Forty-five?
“How are you today, young man?” she said.
She smiled and her double chin disappeared.
“I’ve seen better days,” I said. “Truth be said.”
“We all have,” she said. Her hand touched my arm like I was worth something. “But you’re here now and we’ll take good care of you.”
Fact was, my stomach had been running on empty for hours, that sole beer only making me hungrier.
“My name is Pastor Rachael Kind,” she said.
I nearly giggled when she said her name.
“I run this church and shelter for the downtrodden with the Almighty’s blessing.”
Downtrodden? Couldn’t remember the last time I heard that one. “I’m Rich.” And my stomach growled so loud, she could hear it.
“After your dinner, Rich,” she said, “we need volunteers to help unload the truck of food donations.”
“Count me in, Pastor Kind.”
She nodded and beamed that warm smile again. “Bless your heart.”
I wasn’t sure I had one.
But she did.
We filed into a large hall, a bit drafty, a bit rundown, but filled with the aromas of steaming food. Before we ate, Pastor Kind stood before us and said a prayer, thanking the Big Guy for his bounty, the good folks who had donated our food, and finally for the guidance of our elected officials, that they wouldn’t overlook the plight of those who had fallen on difficult times.
I was ready to get my food and dig in but the Pastor cranked it on then, going off on some proletariat tangent I didn’t listen much to. It was all a bunch of hooey, anyway. Nobody cared about us. Most would say our fate was our own fault, though I believed that we were playing 5-card stud and the rich were holding all the aces and lobbying the pols hard for the kings and queens, too. What you gonna get with a jack? Jack shit is all, which was exactly what was coming out of the Pastor’s mouth to begin with.
After a meal of decent mush that reminded me of my high school cafeteria days, I got caught in a flatulent stampede heading out back to the awaiting U-Haul. A wind had kicked up, blowing litter and sand across our exposed skin. If it wasn’t for supper, I mighta froze like a berg. As it was, the cold had the bite of anger.
Ms. Kind stood in the back of the truck, clapping her hands sharply. She wore gloves with her fingertips exposed and a thick coat that made her look obese. The mob quieted down and the Pastor suggested we move quickly into a Chinese fire drill formation. The work would warm us like food, she said. I got sandwiched between a thick black man with shoulder length hair and a swarthy guy who had B.O.
“New here, huh?” the black fella said from behind me.
“Look here, man,” he said, “you wanna bed down in the back sleeping room.”
“Why’s that?” I said.
“Unlike most shelters, Pastor Kind leaves the doors open all night, okay? It’s damn cold right now. How ’bout midnight, two in the morning? Guys be coming in from the street all…”
“Watch this one,” the guy in front of me said. His grimace said it all.
Unlabeled, sealed tight with packing tape, the box felt like two hundred pounds of bottled water. Twisting with it, my lower back tweaked.
“Shit,” I said, “this is a bitch. Careful with it.”
“Wooo,” the black guy said. “Thanks for the warning.”
“You were saying about where to sleep?”
“What’s your name, friend?”
“They call me Bobtail ’round here, ’count my hair’s so long. Guy in front of you is my best amigo, Arturo.”
Arturo nodded his head, said nada. I pegged him as Italian or Albania.
“Back room’s small, Rich,” Bobtail was saying, “once she fills up, no one new is coming in, bumping around, tryin’ find no bed, waking everybody up.”
“Half the time,” Arturo said, “they drunk as hell, too.”
“Where do the women sleep?” I said.
The recession had been an equal opportunity destroyer. I had seen women and kids in the supper hall. Some were in the work line, inside, out of the wind, storing the boxes in the kitchen. Others were carrying boxes down a flight of stairs.
“The old lady?” Bobtail motioned his head toward Pastor Kind, who was working as hard as her flock of bums. “She locks the women upstairs, see. No men allowed up there. Not even their husbands. Don’t blame her none at all.”
Arturo giggled. “Yeah, she a smart one.”
“Soon as we’s done with this shit, you get yourself in a cot, Rich, it’s yours for the night, don’t let no one kick you out of it.”
I said thanks for advice and we keep up the heaving.