The Congener Interludes, Op. 1: Sonatina of Intrigue, No. 1

I wake up stiff and dehydrated with questionable bruising, telltale signs of a drunken battle from the night before. My feet find ground and close the distance to the bathroom so I can fix the leak that woke me up. Sleepy hand-eye coordination is no match for that stubborn sprocket. By the time the leaking has stopped, my socks are soaking in a puddle made fresh on the floor.

The cat box will provide cover to inquiring noses until it’s discovered that its asshole owner left with its asshole owner. Meanwhile, the commercials say if this thing lasts longer than four hours, I may have an emergency. I’ll keep that in mind, but for now, I’ve got bigger problems.

Over to the coffeepot for round two of yesterday’s brew. I’ve said the same thing for the last four days now, let’s not get into semantics. Also, fuck math. It’s better we don’t talk about it.

What we should discuss is how that whore of a wife I have won’t sign the Jesus-fucking papers, even though she is now a he that insists on my calling him Tank. I’ve taken more shit from lesser men. That’s something that happens when you can’t fight.

Tank’s parting gift was this angel-deucin’ seven-gallon Brewmonster that requires power tools and computer literacy to put in fresh grounds. Hence, my being forced to drink a matured version of what he left me with six days ago. I lean towards thinking he wouldn’t have left it at all if it wasn’t media-equipped to show that stupid video every time it turned on. It’s the one of Tank doing sixty-pound curls while psycho-eyeing the camera and snarling, “Zip it up faggot, it’s time to put in work!”

The friendly reminder serves to inspire my productivity so that I can make maintenance payments on the pair of Cambodians we went halfsies on while we were still in love. People tend not to run numbers into the future when the single adoption agency willing to work with them calls to say they’re running a one-time-only, buy-one-get-one-free special for the next six hours. Stupid fuckin’ math!

The business I’m in carries more dilemmas than trying to earn a Tumbling Patch from a Catholic Boy Scout leader before your body loses the limber edge that it was gifted by adolescence. And similarly, I’m forced to navigate a gauntlet of dicks end-over-end for weeks at a time to remain in my parents good graces and continue receiving an allowance. It’s also not uncommon having various forms of contraband knuckled deep in my anus, depending on the task at hand. Not that I’m one to complain.

Our paths meet at a quaint little hole-in-the-wall with a sign on the entrance illustrating Shotgun Tacos. Waiting in line for the Korean behind the counter to call my number, she catches my eye as a crack appears from the door to the crapper. She is washing her face when a goliath emergency squeezes past her, forcing her to evac for safety.

I know she has me in that first exchange.

“Funny,” I say, “And here I thought this joint got its name because of how quickly they served the food.”

“No, sugar,” from between the freshly moistened lips of a cracked smile, “It’s because it leaves the barrel with a wide spread and high gauge at mach velocity. I would know, I used to be a physicist.”

“Tell me then, in your professional opinion, should I be concerned that I just ordered the Number Two, extra risky?”

“Oh darling, you may need a friend. It just so happens I’m in the friend business. I suppose I’ll get us a booth. Find me when you get your food.”

A tray full of tacos arrives wrapped in advertisements for an emergency medical service of the unusual sort. Thoughts drift from pictures of a gerbil wearing tights and a stethescope to the fact that it’s not often I walk with confidence to a table seating the sexiest lady in any establishment. It crosses my mind that this is a set up, I’m not on anyone’s bestie list this month. I have to further consider this possibility.

Proceeding with an old interrogation technique that involves the element of surprise, I sit down with a smile, cut a fart, and get right into it, “So, care to tell me who sent you?”

“Oh my! Cautious and carefree, I didn’t think it could be done. How do you do it, stranger?”

I cheese again, “You’re either a daydream or a nightmare, lady. I’m looking to pass the bullshit and get to the nocturnal emission. What’s your story?”

“But, what if sharing my little secrets encourages you to get up and walk away, leaving my tender heart all broken?”

“Look doll, number one: My wiener doesn’t pass judgement based on backstory. And two: Those farts weren’t exactly carefree. Believe it or not, I have some major concerns going on back there lately. As far as I’m concerned, we’re in this together now.”

“And suppose I trust you enough to let you in on my being in some kind of trouble?”

I take a moment of careful deliberation to consider the kind of trouble she’s capable of. Possibilities of a pimp or estranged boyfriend, credit card or bank fraud, maybe some kind of high-dollar theft…

Never underestimate the situation. This I’ve learned over the years. It also helps to refrain from putting people in boxes. Asians don’t all know karate, bleached buttholes don’t all belong to women, heterosexual power-bottoms do exist and the woman of your dreams might just end up being a psychotic, steroid fueled, revisional tranny, rape artist searching for the perfect victim to marathon mindfuck.

All this considered, I know I’m in before I know what it is I am in.

We finish the tacos and let the tears dry while the Korean proprietor grows anxious for us to leave.

Standing up to walk her out, my guts are alerted they have access to legs. I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve shit myself in excess of any number of times. It’s a lesser-known fact that an underwear derby is classically underrated as a defense mechanism, typically good for many types of situations. My instinctual ability to perform rapid assessments informs me this is not one of them.

Never underestimate a woman’s need to test a man. It would simply be odd if my grimacing behind a waterfall of sweaty tears didn’t provoke an, “I just need a minute with the Lady’s Room to collect myself.”

My wanting to clarify it is actually a unisex free-for-all shitter lying twenty-seven paces from the booth she picked — knowing damn well as a messiah-crippling physicist this moment would arrive in the future — somehow translates into the puckered screeching of, “It’s no problem, I can handle danger”

I dismount the throne still partially blinded by what I thought was Heaven’s welcoming light and realize only as the Korean is demanding an additional fiver that I have been “Splash Mountained.” His camera’s ability to recognize the precipice of pain and fear while cresting above a heart-wrenching drop — cushioned by open water’s smooth sailing — is uncanny. Never underestimate the business acumen of a diversified entrepreneur.

The asshole cat showed up around the same time as our little Cambodians. The day after we brought them home, I found Fister trapped in the tiny hand-me-down barbecue we use to moodlight our romantic encounters. The timing of his arrival and location of his discovery rang bells of suspicion. Tank’s downplay noted that I should be thankful Fister didn’t find a way into the microwave, the fork in his head could have spelled disaster.

Keying in the code to the front door, I’m plagued by intuition a fickle one-eyed monster is lurking about. My instincts are confirmed before the door has finished rolling up. He’s pissing nonchalantly on my favorite childhood blanket while drinking from the bowl of cereal I had locked in the cooler. Under normal circumstances, I would be pissed, but home has been lonely, lately. In truth, I’m just happy to see him.

“Hey Tank, you’re looking good. Say, is Fister with you?”

As a married couple, our communication was always lacking. Anymore, despite being generally used to elicit a plea for mercy, my ears perk up at even the slightest grunt of aggression. When you stop appreciating the little things, it’s time to walk away completely.

I’m fortunate in that picking up on the subtle cues of body language is a necessity in my craft. The skill comes in handy when navigating the minefield of a dysfunctional marriage while trying to decipher the degree of your partner’s homicidal intent. Currently observing one hand rubbing a fist straight into his eyeball and the other finger-pistoling our makeshift table, I assess it’s best to appear nonthreatening from a seated position.

I pull up a milk crate to the big neon “N” I adopted after the family business was court-ordered to undergo sensitivity training and make a minor adjustment to our DBA. I brought it home and found it could “do business as” a six-seater if laid on it’s side. That kind of resourcefulness in my trade is also a necessity.

Tank leans against the stack of crates he has prepared opposite of me — a move to establish my inferiority from an elevated position — smiles, breaks wind and snarls, “Who is she?”

“Baby, I…uh, tacos,” is punctuated by the hard slap of a man resenting being called “baby” on account of it crossing the lines of gender neutrality into a feminine leaning danger zone.

A long silence performs measurements of my being I can’t begin to comprehend. No more grunting. No more words. I’m left to be alone in my feelings again, and without the hope of my wife seeking reconciliation.

Nothing mends a broken man like the comfort of a reasonably medicated mother figure.

My folks should be up moving around as soon as the sun has fully set.

Right now, Mom is likely to be lining up her dailies in order of granule size, color and drip bite. Dad is probably waiting for Mom’s mix to take before stepping out of a sensory deprived, meditation chamber and going right into a Texas Ranger kata.

Living together on opposite sides of unknown spectrums, my procreators call home the house attached to my apartment. Even though they continue to run the same skip-trace outfit they started in another time, I worry of their ability to function at full capacity. We agreed it couldn’t hurt if I kept an eye on their well-being from the French studio that came with the house. That gives them the space they need to escape the embarrassment of having a live-in babysitter, and, for the last nineteen years, it’s an inconvenience I can tolerate.

Tending to them daily can be a fulltime job. For that reason, I’m careful not to let other responsibilities tie up my schedule. After the name-change, Pops suggested I switch occupations from lead consultant at Run Bigger, Run! to CEO of a secret philanthropy operation. It’s completely off the books. The official job description my parents have outlined is to “do good things that can never be traced back to the family business.” Wayne Enterprises does the same thing with Batman.

“Hi baby! How’s Karen?” is the first thing I hear from my mother.

“Why? What did you hear? Am I in danger?”

I hear my father’s footwear approaching before I hear the sound effects he adds to all of his upper body movements. He says the gear fell off of a Swiss army truck, but hints of their origins speak more towards Nigerian arms dealer. The ankle purse and shin rack are made from Superbowl jerseys proclaiming a losing team has championed.

“Boyo! Come give your old man a hug. I knew I heard you weeping. Shew. Shew. What have we told your mother — fwit, fyeeew — about calling her Tank now, huh?”

Just two strong men embracing.

I don’t correct his improperly pronouning the wife because the time one gives to details is always better used elsewhere.

I quickly deduce Mother hasn’t any new signs of stroke. Evidenced by Dad’s not wearing pants is his keeping jungle instincts sharp.

Straight to debriefing the need-to-knows: I’m doing “good”, I need money and tech, please pick up if the phone rings.

Waiting to see her for the second time today, I reminisce of the last time I went to an evening circus.

I know the choice of venue is of significance relevant to her recent troubles.

A good rule of thumb is to always take extra precautions in the event an emergency extraction is required. There is no problem too big or small to ask for help running away from. With this in mind, I feel no shame having asked Dad to lend me a handcuff key and emergency beacon for Mom to index in my hole-a-dex. In fact, this has been something of a family ritual since I was a free-range seven-year-old. And, unless your captors get off by watching you sit in your own filth, they’re easier to access than one might imagine. With a little extra creativity, one can even work around the “unless.”

I followed her instructions to a back entrance and have been waiting under a sign suggesting “Performers Only” will be permitted access.

Another rule of thumb is to dress appropriate to the occasion. While I have a plethora of apparel and nuances to match, I felt it wise not to change out of what I woke up in. Reaffirming this decision is an Amish tollbooth signalling groupies into the tent, “You too, cockholster. The freak show is starting without you.”

“Thanks, but I’m not here as a sideshow attraction.”

“Really? Because the dickhole you got burnt into the back of your trousers tells me you’re the slide-bone stash-magnet.”

“Not today,” thinking quickly, “I’ve been promoted.” It’s obvious I’m dealing with a professional.

Tollbooth bites the line.

The scents and sounds of wild animals being held captive has awoken my primal instincts. Knowing this is strictly a recon mission, and not in any way meant to be romantic, I can’t help but consider how the thrill of a shared adrenaline rush might offer potential for a well-crafted segue into a parking lot tryst.

“I’m not going to fuck you,” is the first thing she says walking up, “The swing was the closest thing I had to any kind of performance gear at my house. Grab the stirrups, we’re tandem trapeze artists.”

We begin to make our way through the tent and notice the smell of horseshit and hay bails transitioning into hard liquor and burning tobacco. We find a poorly lit corner stacked with holding cages and assume it to be where the little people are kept.

Something is wrong. A poker game has been recklessly abandoned with a cigarette still smoldering in an ashtray, a lipstick-stained meth pipe lay freshly puddled by an exercise wheel, the wheel still spinning as if haunted by the ghost of a massive tweaked out hamster.

I watch her heart break as she states the obvious, “They must have known we were coming.”

Nothing makes a man feel vulnerable like an inability to take action. These are the moments when you have to re-evaluate the situation and focus on maintaining morale. I do my best to salvage the integrity of our mission, “Why don’t we go back out to the parking lot and talk this through while the adrenaline settles?”

Five. Six. Seven rings.

“Topper,” my uncle, Glen. Twin of my father, brother-in-arms.

Over the years, Glenn “Hightop” Zamboni has been my Alfred. That is, if Alfred is capable of combat ribbon dancing reservation-drunk, or able to perform under the pressure of having to place in a Wilt Chamberlain sexathon being held in ISIS-controlled territory.

“I’m in need of assistance.”

“To whom is the party of which I am speaking?”

“It’s your nephew.”

“Name, please?”

“Not applicable.”

“Still haven’t decided, eh?”

“I’m in no rush. You have the same Pappy as my father, you know that’s how the government gets you. Besides, Mom says names are cages that define the space of our being and it’s more fruitful to exist in multiple states simultaneously.”

“Fucking Heisenberg. Look, I’m kind of busy. Between Shark Fest and Shark Week… hell, I got sharks all up in my asshole! Also, the box sitting next to an entire cast of circus freaks is getting checked today. I almost missed a tandem trapeze artist last night. She’s super vulnerable right now and in desperate need of Uncle Topper’s Zamboni Service.”

Coincidence. The universe is trying to tell me something.

“That’s perfect. I’m going to need you to use your new connections and gather some intel. Call me when you come up for air.”

I took the nephew out a couple of nights ago to get Terry-Bradshaw-wasted. I’ve been turning his confidence up by having him snort boner pills while he’s black-out drunk. A couple of minutes in an industrial dryer and a bullshit story the next day keeps him walking on air between visits from that monster he married. It’s the very least I can do, and the most I’m willing to.

I saw him again last night at a traveling circus.

Hanging up the phone with him this morning, I was already apprised of the situation.

My returning the bearded lady was suppose to be the final send-off to a show of strange and unusual performances running from my bedroom this last week. Dropping her off, I spotted the two of them crying uncontrollably in the parking lot. Historically speaking, this was a sure sign they had just put their clothes back on. As an uncle, I was proud he finally scored some vag that wasn’t scientifically refashioned to fit inside his butthole. As a wild jungle cat competing for territory in the bush, I was relieved to overhear the tandem trapeze girl wasn’t crying from sex. I waited until she was out of his peripherals and one well-timed glide that toed the line of dance-walking was all it took.

I’m not the World’s Greatest Uncle, but I’m no heartless douchebag, either.

After careful deliberation, I ruled it would be irresponsible of me not to properly vet my nephew’s new love interest. I find it unlikely other justices would present dissenting opinions, in light of all we’ve been through with Karen. It’s no secret the boy has a knack for finding himself in trouble. He’s as lucky as Lois Lane to have access to my hear-and-see-all supernatural capabilities. The court has moved to uphold my motion and will allow me to proceed in treating the witness as hostile.

It took multiple hours of appraising the asset to discover, in intricate detail, two items of concern. The first was the people she mixed it up with. Having dealt with counterfeiters before, I know for a fact people dealing in bootleg midgets are a different kind of criminal. Generally speaking, they possess the brains to network black-market contacts and iron out logistical wrinkles accompanying traditional human trafficking operations, while also packing the brawn used to equalize any threat presented by a clan of angry little powerhouses who have been cornered into psychotic states with their sole purpose maintaining survival. Lucky for her, this won’t be notch one on my belt. On the unfortunate side of things, there is nothing I can do for a puffy vagina.

The underworld and Glenn have had an arrangement for some time now. It doesn’t show up on my doorstep trying to collect a down payment on child support, knowing I only ordered the bearskin rug, and I don’t advertise the fact that a whole library of Zamboni’s greatest hits are three feet from surfacing at any given time while I continue to learn more about this so-called Internet every day. It’s safe to say the calls I make don’t got unanswered.

As a prospect for eleven separate street gangs, three different motorcycle clubs and several miscellaneous chapters of the Anonymous variety, it’s seldom that I make my own coffee or go without a ride. I have contacts. It’s a thing.

Say ol’ Topper can’t get ahold of his brethren from the Falafel Dusters or Shinobi Stingrays? My personal roadie has a very helpful girlfriend. Together, they have no problem backing me up.

Did I fail to mention I’m a fill-in drummer for thirty-six equally amazing bands?

I wouldn’t say I run these streets, because leaders that brag aren’t sexy.

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