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This Job I Had • by Brian Beatty • Minneapolis, MN

About the Writer
Brian Beatty's jokes, poems, reviews and stories have appeared in numerous print and online publications, including All Music Guide, Conduit, elimae, Exquisite Corpse, Fresh Yarn, Gulf Coast, Hobart, Juked, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Monkeybicycle, The Quarterly, Rain Taxi, The Rake, Seventeen, Spout, Yankee Pot Roast, Word Riot and Zygote In My Coffee. He has performed stand-up comedy at the Brave New Workshop, Bryant Lake Bowl, Fitzgerald Theater, Northrop Memorial Auditorium and the Improv in Hollywood. Brian grew up in Brazil, Indiana, the hometown of Scatman Crothers, no matter what Wikipedia says.

Brian also performs stand-up and reads his writing in public whenever given the opportunity. He lives in Minneapolis.

In high school I got this job working for a slumlord/used car lot owner who thought nothing of sending a teenage kid to collect overdue rent from a lunatic stripper and her ex-convict boyfriend.

“If they try giving you any shit,” my boss explained, “tell them I’ll repossess that hunk of junk Chrysler I sold them so fast their heads will spin. Then I’ll call his probation officer. Seriously. Those ignorant mother fuckers ought to know better by now than to buy drugs with my rent money.”

School was out for the summer, so I drove right over that same morning. Maybe I’d catch the boyfriend still sleeping off the previous night’s partying. That was my wishful thinking, anyway.

Fifteen bucks an hour, paid in cash at the end of each day. That was our gentlemen’s agreement.

I pounded on the front door like my boss had said to. I pounded until my knuckles were raw purple. I tried peaking through the dirty yellow windows.

I didn’t threaten that I was the police like my boss had also suggested. I was just seventeen years old, but that seemed like the worst idea in the history of the world.

Eventually, a woman sauntered around the side of the house in a mismatched bikini at least two sizes not big enough for her. Her mirrored sunglasses were crooked on her acne-scarred face. It was difficult to imagine that guys paid money to see her wearing even less than that pitiful swimsuit.

“I was out back working on my tan,” she said. “You’re lucky I had to go inside to take my meds.”

The cigarette haze surrounding her was so thick I choked when I tried to explain why I was there. Doubled over coughing, I almost didn’t notice the gangly dude with all the tattoos and the gun.
           
“I told that asshole Kenny he’d have his rent this weekend!” the dude with the gun shouted. He wagged his weapon in the direction of my car. “Get out of here, kid. Unless you mean business.” 

“Goddamn it, sweetie. You’re scaring him to death,” the woman said. “Put that thing away!”

 I wondered if the gun was even loaded. What kind of idiot would stand out in he middle of his front yard in broad daylight waving around a loaded gun?

 “I’m not going to shoot anybody,” he promised her. “I’m just trying to make a point here.”

Then he shot out my car’s back passenger side tire.

He gave me a look. “How fast can you change that?”

He gave the woman a look, too. “You’re done sucking strange dick to cover our rent every month. There’s nothing wrong with me selling a little weed.”

I’d never changed a tire before, so it took me forever. The two of them watched from the porch like Norman Rockwell’s worst nightmare come to life in 1987.

When I got back to the used car lot, I tried to tell my boss everything exactly as it had happened — in case he wanted to notify the authorities.
He didn’t want to hear any of it. He was clearly disappointed with me. “I bet you never got around to saying that I was coming for that piece of shit Chrysler if they didn’t fork over today. You didn’t, did you?”

“He had a gun!” I said. I pointed to the lot. “Did you not notice the ridiculous spare tire on my car? That could have been me, Kenny!”

“Bullshit,” my boss said, reaching into his desk drawer. “I’ve got a gun, too. You can take it with you when you go back for that rent you didn’t get last time.” 

***

 “Kenny said to tell you if you don’t hand over twice the amount of this month’s rent in weed right now, he’s coming for your car. No blowjob, no bullshit. This is business. What’s it going to be? The weekend is not an option. Is it me or do things seem to be going differently now that you’re not the only asshole with a gun?”

I kept rehearsing what Kenny had said to say.

I looked tough at myself in the rearview mirror. Getting twice the rent due was my idea. I deserved a cut — for my trouble. Nobody was going to know the difference, anyway. But at a corner where I was supposed to turn left, I took a right instead and headed toward downtown.

The money I got for Kenny’s gun at the pawnshop bought a new used tire and a warm case of beer. 

 
       
 
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