This story was plotted using the Wise Sloth Formula Plot Template. This is a rough draft.
5 minutes later Gepetto bolted upright in the chair he’d passed out in. He gasped for air and got it, but his body reamined in panic mode because something was smothering his face.
Jimmy stood over Gepetto holding a dingy white respirator mask over his face pumping air into his lungs along with a few miligrams of adrenaline and vitamins. Gepetto coughed violently and tore the mask off his face almost knocking Jimmy off the roof.
Jimmy caught his balance and turned the mask off. “God damn old man. You think you can just die and get out of that case of beer you owe me? Don’t get me wrong. I can’t wait to scavange all the shit you got laying around here, but I need you to watch it a little while longer while the value of these fine antiques appreciates.” Gepetto hunched over and let out full bodied round of hacking. In a slightly more serious tone of voice, Jimmy added, “So what’s the deal? You okay or what?”
“Fuck….Oh crapola. You would not believe what I just saw, not that I’d tell you anyway, but oh, good God. You’re not supposed to see that kind that of shit.”
“What do you mean? Like you were hallucinating or is there something fucked up going on down the street that I need to know about? Jimmy picked up the gun he’d thrown down in his scramble to get the medirespirator from downstairs. He pointed the gun toward the ridge down the street and wobbled his head to see around the cage.
Gepetto motioned for Jimmy to sit down even though Jimmy had his back turned to him. “Sit down jack ass. I’m pretty damn sure it was a hallucination, but I haven’t taken anything today. I haven’t even had my medicine.”
Jimmy slung the gun over his shoulder and turned around. “Oh yeah, today was newspaper day. You open it up yet?”
“Uh, yeah. I spilled my breakfast on the paper. The quantity looked a little short maybe. So I was saving it for later.”
“Okay, first thing. If it was short you need to let Blackness know. He’s a reliable businessman. I’ve known him for years. His shit weighs out. If the paper boy is skimming his deliveries Blackness’ll fix that, and if you let the kids get away with it it only encourages bad behavior. Second, a lot of fingers touch a lot of products in that guy’s warehouse. One of my best trips I ever had I didn’t take nothing. I just touched some residue on a wrapper. I thought I was smoking the best shit ever. Turns out the hash had nothin to do with it.”
“I’m glad I know where to turn to for sage advise. I suppose I’ll talk to Blackness. In the mean time I think I’ll order a medical screening.”
“Oh, that’s cool. Hey, if you’re gonna get a med test, I gotta site. I get bonus points if I refer a customer.”
“Thanks, but I got a site, and they give me discounts the more stuff I buy.”
“I save your life and this is the thanks I get. Forget about it. Hey, I’m gonna let you get some rest and go order your Commie med test. I’m gonna go yell at dumbasses on the internet. PM if you need anything or just to let me know you’re dead.”
Jimmy left out the front gate, and Gepetto re-armed it behind him. He went back inside and fumbled in the kitchen cupboards until he found a deep ice tray with a USB cord wrapped it. He plugged the tray into his chair and put on his mask. He called up his medical records from his profile page and requested a medical screening. The next few screens walked him through which bodily fluids to put in each compartment of the ice tray. Obediently he filled the trays and the site downloaded the data through his chair. When the download was complete the site asked him if he would like the economy medical screening, the super sized value screening or the executive package. He looked at the economy package, blinked twice, and $620 was transferred from a server on one side of the world to a server somewhere on the other side.
Gepetto took the mask off and cleaned the ice tray in the sink. After putting away the tray he picked his utility vest off the coat rack bolted into the wall by the front door. The vest had a camel pack sewn into the back. Gun holsters were velcroed at an angle on either side of his abdomen. A stun baton was hidden in a pouch that ran the length of the zipper and could be pulled out from the bottom. Hidden armor plates protected his vital organs, and various other survival tools were hidden throughout the vest. Once he got the vest on he reached back to the coat rack and grabbed what he called his “Jedi Cloak.” He put it on and unlocked the gate. Stepping outside he pulled the hood over his head to protect his face from the harsh ultraviolet rays and adjusted the cloak to make sure it hid the guns on his side.
He exited the cage, which locked behind him and let out an angry buzz telling him the electricity had been reactivated. He walked down the street slowly but with purpose so anyone watching him could tell he belonged there, he knew what he was doing and he was comfortable and confident on these streets.
He’d learned how to blend into his environment and not draw attention as an outsider when he was stationed overseas in the military, and he hated that he had to use those same survival skills in his own country. Even though they’d won the war, this made it feel like they lost.
Gepetto quickened his pace not because he was in a hurry but because he needed to walk off the feelings rising inside of him. He forced himself to think about a scene from one of his favorite cartoons as a kid- an adorable baby chicken saying, “If you can’t think of anything nice. Then don’t think of anything at all.”
He cleared his mind and walked the rest of the 6 blocks around the tire dump to a bunker made of tires, covered in dirt. The street outside had been elaborately spray painted with the word, “Blackness.” The text was framed by graffitti depicting an elaborately dressed pimp performing various sex acts on an exotic assortment of nude women.
Gepetto stopped briefly to admire the work before approaching the giant metal door to the compound. Someone had painted a bright “X” on the ground 10 paces from the door next to a sign saying, “Stand right the fuck there.”
He stood on the X and 2 peep holes slid open on the door. A gun barrel slid out of one, and an eye appeared behind the other. A loud speaker in the roof echoed the voice of the person behind the door, “The fuck you want?”
Gepetto raised his hands casually and shouted, “My name is Gepetto. I live down the street. I’m on Blackness’s paper route, and I think my delivery might have been a little short. I don’t reckon Blackness wanted it that way. So…I just thought he might like to know.”
Gepetto stood there in silence for almost a minute before the loud speaker barked to life again, “Put your damn hands down. You look like a rat about to fly away. Stand your ass right there and don’t move. I’ll be back. Holla.”
A few minutes later the door opened up. A huge black man in black leather pants and a black leather utility vest loaded with impractical knives appeared in the doorway and told Gepetto, “Give me all your guns and don’t trying nothin foolish. You gonna talk to Blackness. You plan on bullshitting Blackness, you best know he don’t bullshit back. You get me?”
“I get you.” Gepetto handed over his guns slowly and allowed himself to be led to the throne room in the back of the compound. Blackness sat on a purple, designer comp chair sourounded by shag bean bags and naked women. His afro was big enough to hide a toddler in, and he wore a gold zuit suit that matched his teeth.
Blackness stretched out his hands and greeted Gepetto warmly, “Gepetto, my man. What it is? How come you never come see us? What can I do for you today?”
“Good afternoon, your blackness. Thank you for inviting me into your lovely home. I’ll just get right to it then. I got two things. First, my delivery looked a little short this morning, and my neighbor, he’s a customer of yours too, he suggested I should let you know in case it’s skimmed…because I know your shit weighs out.”
“Okay. I understand. So you weighed it then and it didn’t weigh out?”
“Well, point in fact, I haven’t done that yet.”
“Is that what you need help with?” Blackness turned to a naked blonde sprawled out beside him and said, “Geenie, go get this man some scales, sweethart.”
Gepetto’s face flushed bashfully, but he spoke confidently, “Point in fact, I don’t have it with me either.”
Blackness waved his hand dismissively at Geenie and then folded his hands together patiently on his lap. He leaned back and said, “Mmmm. Hmmm. I value my customers, and as a business man I believe in mutual respect. I would hope my customers appreciate that my time is valuable as well. So I ask you, what is this bullshit you’re bringing me here?”
Gepetto took a deep breath and spoke matter of factly. “Here’s the rest of the situation. I had a hallucination this morning after picking up my delivery. It was pretty bad, and there’s no reason it should have happened. I’m pretty damned old, and I’m falling apart. So it might have something to do with that. I ordered a med test before I came over, and I had my mind on that. So that’s why I forgot the hash. I was just wondering, hoping actually, that it might have come into contact with something else here. If that were the case, it’d actually ease my mind a bit.”
Blackness stared blankly at Gepetto, and everyone else in the room stared at Blackness waiting for a cue. Finally Blackness blurted out playfully, “God damn, son. You walk in here and tell me my product is short and poisoned. And yet I’m not mad at you. I like you old man. You obviously got no reason to bullshit me. You’re probably gonna be dead on your own before I could do anything about it anyway. So look here, my man. Here’s what I’m gonna do. Why don’t you chill out here with my ladies and me and we’ll smoke the good shit. My secretary here says you’re subscribed to the economy delivery service. I’ll post a reminder in the locker room what happens to delivery boys who short, and you let me know if you ever have any problems again. If that happens, could I ask you as a friend to do your due diligence first though? Does that sound square?”
Gepetto relaxed his shoulders and said, “Very diplomatic of you, your blackness. Everything you just said is super squared.”
The bouncer left the room and Gepetto slid onto a bean bag where two of the girls, a red head and a brunette had beckoned him. The brunette handed him the hose to a hookah while the red head lit the bowl. Gepetto took a deep breath of whatever it was and exhaled contentedly.
Blackness snapped his fingers twice and Geenie obediently lit a spliff and passed it to him. Blackness took a dainty puff off it and pointed it at Gepetto. “Not that you need to know my business, but we don’t have anything here right now that do visuals, especially not the kind you gotta order a med test afterwards. So I suspect your problems are your own. But while you’re here with my home opened up to you, how about you tell me about this hallucination, and and I’ll tell you what I think.”
“The thing about that is…I can’t seem to remember it too clearly.” Gepetto lied, “But, uh, I do remember seeing a naked woman.”
“Shit. I wish I had something that did that. Not that I need it for myself, but I could sell that kind of shit right off the back of the truck. Anyway, so you’re old, you’re fucked up and you’re seeing shit that ain’t there. When you find out what’s wrong with you, you know I got the hook up on medicine? Hell, you could have done your med test right here. We’d already have the results, and I could hook you up with your pills or IV’s or whatever. I’ll give you a better price than you can get online. Plus you’d be supporting the local economy.”
Gepetto sucked in another lung full from the hookah and gave the hose back to the Brunette. “I’ll have to take you up on some of that offer when I get the results back.” The drugs in Gepetto’s system washed over his mind like an angel pouring milk from heaven on a mental sunburn. His inhabitions seemed silly, and he felt an uncontrollable urge to express his deepest emotions. “Shit, Blackness. You know, if the thing with the bag and the hallucination happened yesterday I probably wouldn’t have done anything about it. I would have just chalked it up to life and set the death clock on my profile page back a few months. It’s just that I saw that airplane this morning and some other stuff. Did you guys see that?”
All the girls nodded, and Blackness pointed his spliff at Gepetto again and said, “Yeah, man we saw the airplane. Didn’t know what it was all about till we checked it up on the news. That’s some fucked up shit to be going on here.”
“Right? I mean, that’s the point. We keep waiting on the world to change, and it just keeps getting worse, even after we think we’ve hit rock bottom. And it’s not just because maniacs got the most money and the best guns but because everyone who could do anything about it is waiting for the badguys to die of old age or a hero to save them, whichever comes first.”
“Oh, we get you man, but what the fuck you gonnao do? You’re old as shit. What the fuck we gonna do? We already doing our best just trying to survive, and you gotta look at the positive. We doing good here. Look, you came to me with a problem, and I’m helping you out like a good neighbor. Tell me that ain’t something.”
“You’re all right Blackness. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I realized today I’m going to die having left the world a worse place than I found it. Even if it’s not because of anything I did but just because of everything I didn’t do, I realized today that I have to take that to my grave. There’s not a call to action in that. I just needed to express…how I felt about that I guess.”
“You awwright too, Gepetto was it? Yeah, well, check it out. That shit you just said moved me. You gonna die anyway, so what you got to lose? Ture, you ain’t in any condition to do anything, but maybe if you tell the world how you feel, at least you could die knowing you said something, and maybe you’ll move some person able bodied enough to get their ass off their chair and get their hands dirty. What you think about that shit?”
Gepeto’s head swam with visions of grateful children thanking him for writing a eulogy so poetic and profound that it changed the world and saved the future. The red head and the brunette stroked his arms and nodded emploringly at him. He knew they were faking it because whores make it their business to make their customers feel like the king of the world, but he reasoned that they would want him to do something and probably did on some level even if they didn’t believe in him…or anything else for that matter. At any rate, they were whores living in a drug den and not teachers teaching classes like they should have been. These were the faces of the people he’d let down. These were the people he owed his debt to.
Gepetto shimmied off the bean bag and the girls helped him to his feet. Gepetto gave Blackness a respectable nod and said, “Well, thank you for sharing your blackness with me. I can see you’re a busy man, and I’ve got to get home to see if my results are in. So I’ll just hop off and we’ll be in touch.”
“All right, my man. PM me when you get your test reults. And Gepetto, stay black.”