I often start stories, but don’t finish them. LIKE A TRUE SLACKER. Here is one of them. Will I finish it, will I not? Who knows? But I wanted to post the first part since I was sick of looking at it in my Google docs folder.
“I need to get to the reservoir.”
Kevin was sitting on the floor, staring at the ceiling. He was holding a small glassine bag containing two pills, one red and one yellow.
“I need to get to the reservoir.”
Jim paced around the room in their apartment on Allston Street, occasionally stopping to look out the window.
“I need to get to …”
“Shut the fuck up, Kev. Shut up, shut up, shut up.”
“I need …”
“One more time and I am going to punch you in the face.”
Kevin opened his mouth. He looked at Jim.
“My fist in your face.”
Kevin shut his mouth.
“Thanks,” Jim said. “But seriously, we need to get to the reservoir?”
Jim and Kevin had been in their apartment for almost two straight days.
“Do we have any beer left?” Kevin said.
“One. And it’s mine.”
“Is it a High Life?”
“From the case of High Life I bought?”
“So? I gave you money.”
“I am the older brother,” Jim said, “and am claiming last beer as is my right.”
Kevin got off the floor and opened the door that led to the small balcony outside their apartment. He sat down on a small, wooden chair and lit a cigarette. It was noon, and while he usually didn’t smoke during the day, he figured today was a special occasion. Jim walked to the fridge and grabbed the last beer.
Kevin looked down from the balcony at Allston Street. No cars. No people. There hadn’t been any of either all day. He leaned his head toward a broken glass panel on the balcony door.
“We’re still on lockdown, right?” he said.
“According to my girl on Channel 7 News, yep.” Jim took a sip from the can of beer.
“She say when it’s going to end?”
“Nope. She’ll let us know when she finds out.”
Kevin took a drag from his cigarette.
“I need to get to the reserv …”
“I fucking know you need to get to the reservoir! You have established that you need to get to the reservoir. Christ.”
“You don’t have to get hot about it.”
The lockdown had started Monday night. They had walked, well, stumbled into the apartment after spending a few hours at the Banshee, a local dive. Jim had nearly gotten in a fight on the three-block walk home. Some college kid walking behind them had the nerve to yell, “I’ve never been this drunk in my life!” Jim responded with, “I remember my first night drinking, too.” That did not go over well. After a bit of back and forth, things ended when they aggressively yelled “Have a good night!” at each other.
When they got into the apartment, Kevin said he was going to put on a pro wrestling DVD. Jim told him to wait until he used the bathroom, so Kevin turned on the local news. Jim’s “girl,” the weeknight anchor, was on. She said:
“… Boston is on lockdown until further notice. Schools, including all colleges and universities, are closed tomorrow. Everyone has been asked to stay inside. We’ll give further updates when we get them from the mayor’s office.”
“Did you hear that?” Kevin said. He heard the toilet flush. Jim walked out of the bathroom.
“We’re on lockdown.”
“Shit. They say why?”
“Nope. Since when do they tell us why? Just said that schools are closed tomorrow. Including universities.”
Jim taught an 8:30 a.m. class on Tuesdays.
This wasn’t the first lockdown. They happened … not frequently, but once every few months. Generally, however, it was a 24-hour thing. A report would come out telling everyone to stay indoors. People who could, worked from home. People who couldn’t lost a day’s pay or took a personal day. Small businesses suffered, but there weren’t too many of those in Boston at this point. Eventually, there’d be an announcement that the lockdown was lifted, everyone was now safe. Bars would fill up.
“Do you think the girls across the hall have extra beer?” Jim said.
“Why would they give it to us if they did?”
“To be neighborly.”
“Would you be offering beer to them if we somehow had an abundance of it?”
Jim opened the fridge and started to move stuff around, hoping somehow a can was hiding behind one of the containers of leftover Chinese food or some other item of food that should have been thrown out weeks ago. He closed the fridge. Opened it again. Then slammed it shut.
“I’m gonna ask them.”
“Go with God.”
Jim walked out of the apartment. Kevin once again pulled the glassine bag out of his pocket and held it in front of his face, inspecting the yellow and red pills inside. The door to the apartment opened, and Jim walked back inside.
“They gave me two beers!,” Jim said. “One of the girls also said an unknown number had called her and asked if she knew anything about the two guys across the hall.”
“Wait, really? What did she tell them?”
“Just that we were a couple of drunks.”
“So she said.”
“We need to get to the reservoir. Soon.”
“I know. But let’s drink these beers first.”
Whenever a lockdown was lifted, there’d be talk that two people had gone missing. One time it was a bookstore owner and her husband. Another time it was a pair of ushers who worked at Fenway Park. The last time it was a doctor and the patient he had performed a heart transplant on the week earlier. None of the combinations made any sense. None were reported on the news, either. You’d see people talk about it on social-media sites, or you’d talk to someone at the bar who knew someone who knew someone who vanished, but nothing was confirmed. Kevin and Jimmy heard about the Fenway ushers from their cousin, who had season tickets to the Red Sox.
“Wait, does this mean they’re coming for us this time?” Jim said.
“Why do you think I’ve been so adamant about getting to the reservoir?”
“But how do you know?”
“A hunch. Which I think was confirmed by our neighbors getting a phone call.”
“You have a hunch that we, in a city of millions, will randomly be the next two people to ‘disappear?’ Does it have anything to do with those pills you’re always carrying around? Because I have a hunch it does.”
“Not all hunches are equal. Let’s get moving.”
They stood in the lobby of their apartment. Jim brought a bag of trash down with them.
“That would be your priority right now,” Kevin said.
“Our apartment smells.”
“Our apartment always smells.”
“But now it will smell slightly less.”
Jim walked through the door that led to the garbage pails in the back of the apartment. After a minute, he returned.
“So I’m thinking we should run from here to the reservoir,” Kevin said.
“Because the reservoir is like a mile and a half away.”
“That’s not far.”
“It’s mostly uphill.”
“How about we start off running, then adjust.”
“If by adjust you mean walk after running for a block.”
“This is potentially a life-or-death situation.”
“Me running more than one block is, yes.”
Kevin lifted up his head, looked directly into the sun and sighed.
*** TO BE CONTINUED ***
— Brian Cougar