Sunday, December 6, 2015

Writer's Block: Goon Story

This is an incomplete story about the Goon, everyone's favorite hillbilly stereotype. Still working on it, and it's a little rough, but I haven't posted any writings in a while, so here you go. The piece was inspired by a trip to my local IGA, though, contrary to popular belief, I am not the Goon.

The Goon steers his ancient pickup truck into the parking lot of Al's Grocery and puts it in park, his right eye twitching, the great mole that rests in the center of his forehead peering out into the sodium light like a cyclopean sentry. A cigarette smolders in between his fat lips; on the stereo Hank Williams plays, his voice cracking and surrounded by universes of static distortion. There's a gun in his glove compartment, a thirty-eight caliber snub-nosed revolver that he stole from an acquaintance at a party. He has fired it only a handful of times, testing it out at his buddy Troy's house, shooting the small weapon at a series of cans lined up before a hillside, five yards back, and missing all but once. “You can't hit shit with one of those,” said Troy, blaming the design and the caliber. Oh well thought the Goon at the time. He wasn't counting on being accurate at five yards. Outside, the air is cool, frosting on the windshields of stagnant vehicles, the moon shining bright through the darkness of the winter evening. He turns down the heat and leans back in his seat, watching, waiting, a cool detachment coming over him like a marijuana fog. Wednesday night. Nothing to do. He wonders what she's thinking of behind the register, wearing a smirk on her face as the patrons shuffle through, purchasing lottery tickets and cigarettes. God damn woman he thinks, a bit of anger swelling up like heartburn, acidic and burning. He'd been cheated on before; he'd cheated on a couple of girlfriends himself. But this was different. How, he didn't know, but he felt it, felt that he'd been terribly wronged. A part of him whispered that seventeen year-old girls don't know any better. Whatever. He opens the glove compartment and takes the pistol, hiding it in his sleeve, and gets out of the truck.
            “Hey buddy,” says a voice behind him. He jumps, turning around with his fists raised. It's a girl, pale, clad in sweatpants and a sweatshirt, her eyes possessing the glazed stare of a methadone addict. Jesus. There are people behind her, other young people, younger than the Goon, all of them methheads by the look of it.
            “You got a cigarette?” asks the girl.
            “I don't smoke,” says the Goon, taking the cigarette out of his mouth and tossing it onto the ground.
            “Looks like you do,” says the girl.
            “Nu-uh. I just quit.”
            They walk past him, marching like a horde toward the grocery store, perhaps planning on shoplifting. She'll know what to do with 'em thinks the Goon. Their kind inhabits the town like an invasive species. He doesn't like their being in the grocery; they are an unpredictable element, although the Goon isn't exactly convinced that he is going to do what he has planned on doing. He's told himself repeatedly that he is going to do it, that he is going to take the pistol and press it up against Trevor Billingsley and blow a hole in his guts, but who knows what will happen. During his twenty-four years on Earth he's learned that you can tell yourself that you are going to do something and you can still fail to do it. Were he more philosophically-inclined, such an observation might prompt the Goon to consider the nature of will. Though his hands have started to shake somewhat, he does feel like an automaton, a mere passenger along for the ride.
            He steps forward, moving through the parking lot, his eyes fixated on the entrance. At the sliding doors a kid smokes while leaning against a pile of street salt, a little dark-skinned kid about fourteen or fifteen, maybe Hispanic, though the Goon can't tell. The kid eyes him with an unwavering stare, a plain challenge, his boldness a product of the same hormonal changes that have sprouted a pencil mustache above his upper lip. The Goon wonders how quickly that stare would change if he pointed the revolver at the kid, but he doesn't do it; instead, he stares right back, his spastic eye trembling. The sliding doors open; still he looks at the kid, who has yet to cease staring at him. He's seen this kid around town before, sometimes walking with other delinquents, but mostly moving by himself, shuffling down the sidewalks, always on the move, always looking for something to do, something to distract him from his meaningless existence. The kid lives up in those cheap apartments on the hillside next to the park. There used to be a gazebo in the park, but they tore it down because the teenagers used it as a haven for pot smoking and screwing. The insolent look the kid's wearing makes the Goon want to shove his face into the concrete. What's wrong with these kids, he thinks. He wants to say something, wants to do something, but his mission prevents it, and once again, he's powerless, fighting against impulse, an impotent lug with a mole on his forehead and an inaccurate hand cannon hiding up his sleeve. Maybe he should turn back; maybe this was a terrible idea. Finally the kid blinks and looks to his right, out at the street, and the Goon takes the opportunity and vanishes into the grocery store, banishing his thoughts.
            Lucille is at the register, her hair skunk-like, black and streaked with white. She shows no look of recognition as he walks past. The methheads gather in front of the deli to order chicken gizzards and day-old macaroni; one of them has a poorly-hid package of hamburger emerging from his back pocket. As he passes, he gets a good whiff of them, their stench a mix of onions and rotting garbage. The milk of human kindness, he thinks suddenly, confused, rambling toward the dairy aisle, his gaze fixed ahead, searching, looking for him or her. She smokes out back; that's probably where they are, sharing their break together amongst the insipid pools of trash water and stacked bins, their noses pinched, their hands entwined, their lips speaking cliches and making no attempts at poetry. Not that the Goon has any use for poetry; he never did very well in English class back in high school, and his last encounter with verse dates back to Junior year. He never understood the purpose of poetry; it seemed such a silly thing, the jumbling of words. Nothing more than a waste of time. His boss, old Sam, divides activities into two categories: things worth doing, and things that ain't worth doing. Poetry fits into the former.
            As he rounds the corner of the dairy aisle, the Goon almost collides with a motorized scooter. Its occupant is a morbidly obese woman with great baggy jowls and thick, club-like feet, her eyes hidden behind a protruding, corpulent brow. The flesh of her arms sags like plastic bags full of water; her sleeveless t-shirt is covered in stains. A reek hangs in the air, a putrid, gangrenous odor that twists into the Goon's nostrils and doesn't leave. What is this he thinks, staring wide-eyed at the creature before him. He looks at her, trying to see through the layers of filth and fat, vainly attempting to find a trace of humanity hidden within this bloated body. The spindly cartography of a varicose vein on her left leg catches his eye, purplish, standing out from the pale meat of her atrophied limb. He can't take his eyes off of it; he swears that it twitches and pulsates, throbbing with its own backwards heartbeat. She says something to him, a slurred invective, her lips parting to reveal brown chipped teeth. Watchu want he thinks she says. The Goon doesn't know; he's rendered dumb and catatonic, unable to tear himself away from this monstrous woman. What does he want from her? An explanation? How are you the way that you are he wants to ask. The gun in his sleeve slides out into his hand, the cold barrel touching the insides of his fingers. Someone asks if he is alright; it is a man with a ragged beard, clothed in a tattered Metallica t-shirt. The Goon nods his head, finally taking his eyes off of the woman. Everything has slowed down, time having turned into molasses. I'm okay he tells himself, staggering away from the dairy aisle, his elbow knocking over cereal boxes. The woman yells gibberish, vestigial arms waving like mutant flippers, while the methheads stare at him, yellowish rings around their red eyes. Toward the back he goes, finally stopping at the butcher's station where raw steaks, hamburger, and chicken cutlets sit in saran-wrapped death. There's nobody behind the counter, of course, just a black void resting where a person would normally be, and the Goon stare into that void, trying to recoup his energies and recover his focus. You have been wronged says a voice. He turns around to make sure the fat woman isn't behind him.

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