Bob turned the corner onto 1st street, frustrated, as was tradition.
Two tall boys of Heineken clanked inside the plastic bag he held, desperately waiting for their curtain call inside his apartment. His headphones blared with aggressive guitars and driving drums, guiding the rhythm of his steps as he faded between suppositions about nothing much at all. So entangled by the undergrowth of his mind, he paid no attention to a bicyclist closing in on him from behind. As he passed, Bob caught sight of a floating black mass that was his friend, Spencer, in a jet-black hoodie. He nearly pissed himself in fear.
“Holy shit!” he exclaimed, removing one of his earbuds. “Dammit, Spencer! What’re you sneaking around for?”
“I was calling out your name the whole time.”
“Bad form, Spence. Bad form.”
He chuckled, “My bad, man. You headed home?”
Bob began to calm down, “Yeah, just finishing up my walk.”
Spencer stepped off of his bike and walked along, “How was it?” he asked.
“Eh, it was fine. I found a $100 bill on the sidewalk.”
“Yeah? There’s some good luck”
“I didn’t keep it.”
Bob shrugged, “Figured there was probably someone else who needed it more than I do.”
That is not what happened.
Spencer narrowed his eyes, “You got weird didn’t you?”
Bob exhaled, “Yeah, I got weird.”
Thirty minutes earlier, Bob stepped out of the corner store with his beverages. He retrieved a toothpick from his front pocket and placed it between his lips. This was the best he could do in the absence of a cigarette. This was his third – no – his fourth, or maybe his fifth – frankly, he’d lost track of how many times he’d tried to quit, but he had toothpicks this time, so surely, it had to stick. He sucked on the stale sliver of wood and looked down at his phone, relieved to find that nobody had tried to contact him. Correspondence of any kind made Bob uncomfortable. As he stuffed his phone into his pocket, a woman with a shirt two sizes too large and jean shorts approached him. She walked as if she’d just taken her first steps, a pathetic display of coordination not brought on by handicap, but rather years of aggressive drug use.
Don’t talk to me, he thought, don’t talk to me.
She talked to him.
She said something intangible that Bob couldn’t make out through his headphones. The gestures she made were exaggerated and suggested that he wouldn’t be able to simply ignore this person.
He reluctantly removed one of his earbuds, “What?”
“Sorry, I know I look fucked up, but I swear to God, I’m completely sober.”
Fantastic, he thought.
Her jaw danced from side to side, and she didn’t blink like a normal person. A curious sight if nothing else, like a defective robot trying to act human. “My dickhead boyfriend just kicked me out and he – and he – he locked me out.”
Bob stared, “Okay.”
“All my shit was in there. My money, my phone. I make so much money, man,” she seemed to have lost track. “I don’t need to sell this pussy, man. I’m a hustler, that’s just what I do.”
Bob sucked on his toothpick, “Okay.”
“It’s fucking bullshit,” now she was beginning to cry. “I busted my finger, man. That prick slammed it in the door, look!”
She shoved her mangled mess of a finger into Bob’s face. He felt like he could smell it.
He jerked his head away, “Yep, looks like he got ya.”
“Guys are such dicks! I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
Bob started to distance himself from the crazy, “Well, good luck with -”
“Can I use your phone?”
“I’m sorry?” Bob knew what she said, but asked anyway as a knee jerk response to delay the inevitable.
She scratched anxiously at her arm, “I just need to call my sister and have her pick me up. Do you know where I am?”
Bob hated his life.
“I haven’t the slightest clue.”
“I just need to call my brother.”
He tilted his head, “I thought you were going to call your sister?”
“Fine, I’ll call her too.”
“No,” Bob held up his hands. “You know what? My phone just died.”
“Yep. Super dead.”
She pointed to his freely hanging earbud, “How are you listening to music, then?”
Bob grabbed it and put it to his ear, “Yeah, nothing. Sorry.”
“I can hear it!”
The music was, in fact, playing very loudly.
Bob was caught. He looked around the parking lot, then back at the problem and sighed. “I’m gonna go.”
“You’re a prick, man!” she shouted.
Bob walked away, “Okay.”
She wasn’t done, “I was gonna suck your dick through your asshole, man! Discount and everything!”
“Too bad you’re a little pussy-ass-bitch!”
He found no need to respond. He was just going to continue on, like the pussy-ass-bitch that he was. Thankfully the walk signal was still illuminated at the crosswalk, and he wasted no time getting as far away from that human dumpster fire as he could. He wondered when he had become a magnet for the weird. Life wasn’t always like this for him. Naturally, he found someone to blame other than himself. It was Josh, an old friend that found Bob to be relatable. Josh was a strange guy – a good guy – but a strange one, and his predisposition to the bizarre must have rubbed off on Bob somehow.
As he travelled the weathered sidewalk, something caught his eye in the grass. It wasn’t your usual debris, like a receipt or a discarded mask, but something more recognizable. Was it? No way. Bob looked around, finding nobody in sight, and looked back to the grass. It surely was. Lying seductively alone was a $100 bill. He inched closer, and after a final scan of his surroundings, Bob reached down and snatched the currency. He shoved it into his pocket and walked along, all too conspicuously. Before he could make it three steps, his thoughts formed a funnel cloud that began to surround him.
What if the wacky woman from the corner store dropped it? What if the guy that had violently disfigured her finger was a pimp, and in the confusion of their conflict, didn’t see her steal the money?
Oh shit. He could come looking for it, he thought.
He would definitely notice a c-note missing. No question. He would go looking for her, and on his way stomping down the sidewalk, he would find Bob. Just regular ol’ nobody, Bob.
“Hey man!” he would shout. “You seen my bitch?
“I – I don’t know who your bitch is.” Honesty is often the best policy.
“Skinny girl. Real fucked up finger.”
Bob would shudder at the thought of that disgusting, mutilated appendage.
“So you’ve seen her.”
“Yeah, it was gross.”
He would point down the street, “Corner store.”
The pimp would stand firm, cold blooded, and stare through Bob’s soul, “Alright man. Thanks.”
Bob would be ecstatic, thinking he was getting away with it, “You’re very welcome.”
“Oh, one last thing.”
Shit, shit, SHIT, he would think.
“I saw you pick up that hundred dollars.”
Bob would take a step back and begin to wonder how fast he could run with a plastic bag acting as a scrotum sack to his two beers. It wasn’t very far, he figured.
He would elect to play dumb, “Huh?”
The pimp would shake his head in disappointment, “That’s not cool man. What if that shit belonged to someone else?”
“Yeah dude, people like you are what’s wrong with the world today. Only thinking about yourself. Selfish.”
Bob wouldn’t be able to help but protest, “Okay, hold on, you’re hardly in the position to lecture me about morality.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You’re a pimp!”
“You basically beat women for a living.”
The pimp would take offense, “Hey! I do not touch my women!”
“Yeah? What about homegirl’s crippled finger?”
“That was THE DOOR.”
As the two would argue, a tiny boy, no older than seven and cute as a bug’s ear, would roll upon them in his electric wheelchair.
“Um, excuse me, fellas?”
Bob and the pimp would pause their argument for a moment and look down at the precocious, severely disabled child. His voice would be a higher pitch than normal, which in no way would be funny at all.
“I’m, well, I, um, I’m s-s-s-s-SIMON.”
The pimp wouldn’t be patient, “What is it, Simon? Spit it out.”
Bob would glare at the pimp, “He has a stutter, dude.”
“No shit? I thought he was hypin himself up.”
The child, stricken with a Silly Putty skeleton, would continue, “I, I, I don’t know if you’ve s-s-SEEN me. I sing sh-sh-sh-SHOW TUNES on Main Street. It’s the b-best I can do to help my d-d-dest-dest-DESTITUTE mother pay rent.”
This was all very sad.
“I was on my way to pay our em-em-emmm-EMOTIONALLY ABUSIVE landlord, but I th-th-think I dropped one of my hundred dollar b-b-B–B–B-”
“Bills,” Bob would finish.
“Yes! Have you s-s-seen it?”
The pimp would gradually turn to look at Bob.
Staring directly into the handicapped child’s eyes – which were magnified by his Coke-bottle glasses – Bob would say to him, “You know what? I haven’t. I’ll keep my eyes peeled.”
The physically limited boy would hang his head, discouraged, “Oh, okay,” he would say, before raising his spirits. “That’s alright, I’m, I’m, well, I’m sure it’s around here s-s-s-SOMEWHERE.”
He would roll away down the sidewalk, and the pimp would be disgusted, “You’re a real piece of shit, dude, you know that?”
Bob would wave him off, “Would you relax? Give it a second.”
After the child had created some distance, Bob would call out to him, “Hey Simon! Hold on buddy, come on back here.”
The two would wait patiently as the little boy turned his chair around and rolled back. It would take some time, the batteries were probably running low.
“W-w-what’s up, fellas?”
Bob would pull out his wallet and fetch the hundred, “Here you go, pal. Go pay that rent.”
The boy’s eyes would light up, made even more obvious by his ridiculous fucking glasses, “Oh, j-j-jeez, Mister. Are you sure?”
“Don’t get it twisted, kid. He picked it up off the ground,” the pimp would announce.
Bob would glare at him, “Seriously, dude? Why do you gotta go and do that?”
Simon wouldn’t understand, “Why would you t-t-take something that d-d-d-DOESN’T belong to you?”
Bob would roll his eyes, “Give me a break, kid. I didn’t know it was yours. Would you just take it?”
“Depends,” he would respond, pulling out a handgun, “what else you g-g-got in that w-w-WALLET?”
“Come on, Simon,” Bob would protest, “You can’t be serious.”
“I think he is serious,” the pimp would say.
“Would you stay the fuck out of this?”
With the gun pointed at Bob’s gut, the child-turned-threat would begin to make demands, “Hand it over, p-p-p-PUSSY.”
“Wait a minute, kid, let’s think about this.”
“Waste him, Simon!”
“Why are you still here?!” Bob would shout.
Simon would still be crippled, but determined, “Nobody messes with my ch-ch-cheddar. Eat, eat, eat -”
“No! Simon! Come on, man. Please!”
“Eat lead m-m-m-MOTHER FUCKER!”
Bob then imagined himself being shot repeatedly by a child in an electric wheelchair, who would then roll off with the hundred dollars and his wallet, along with a morally ambiguous pimp. He produced the money from his pocket and stared at it. Was it even real? Who just drops this kind of skrill? What if it was a trick?
His thoughts continued to race, and suddenly his hand began to burn. Perhaps he was just imagining it, or perhaps some sadistic madman was covering $100 bills with corrosive chemicals and leaving them around the valley to strike back at a superficial and materialistic society! Perhaps the psychotic character lost his wife to cancer when he was unable to pay for treatments, and this was his cruel revenge.
Jesus Christ, he thought, I’m doomed.
The chemical wouldn’t take long to eat through his flesh, spreading up his arm until he would be forced to seek immediate medical attention. Bob had been to the emergency room before, and there was always a wait. This wouldn’t be able to wait. He had a foreign agent turning his skin into the consistency of melted cheese. He would have to rush past the security guard, grab the first doctor by the collar, and beg for help! But the mystery chemical would probably spread to the doctor!
Oh shit! Bob panicked, I didn’t even think about that!
The doctor would drop to her knees and scream in agony, her flesh dripping onto the floor like Belloq at the end of Raiders of The Lost Ark. Security would have Bob surrounded, guns drawn and pissed.
“Let her go you son of a bitch!”
“Get on the floor, freak!!”
Bob would be distraught and out of control.
“I’M A MONSTER!!” he would yell.
With his last ounce of strength, he would lash out at the security guards. They would open fire, paranoid and afraid, unloading their clips into Bob as he collapsed to the floor, a bloodied and melted spectacle.
Bob shook his head as he looked at the money crumpled in his hand. He was tired. He was overwhelmed. It was all too much. He finally released his grasp and let the money fall delicately onto the concrete.
Not worth it, he thought.
“So, long story short, I left it,” Bob concluded.
Spencer rubbed his eyes and laughed, “Wow, dude. Yeah, that’s called anxiety.”
“Probably,” he chuckled. “I’ll catch you later, man.”
Before he could break off, Spencer gave him a friendly pat on the shoulder, “Hey, you wanna smoke some weed?”
Bob stopped and thought about it for a moment, “Yeah, I’m down.”
Spencer grinned, “I got you, man.”
The two walked together back to Bob’s apartment as the sun disappeared underneath a horizon of traffic lights and telephone lines.
“Did that chick really say she was going to suck your weiner through your butthole?”