by Christopher Lane
The wallet was like the sinner in the lyrics of Amazing Grace – lost but then found. Actually, it hadn’t been lost. It had been stolen. The difference was circumstantial and academic, a matter of semantics. His wallet had been there when he stepped into the shower, safely tucked into the left back pocket of his favorite jeans – 32x32 Levis that had once been bright red but were now almost black with greasy filth. When he emerged, it was missing. How it managed to go missing didn’t matter as much as finding the damned thing.
Yesterday, his jacket had been stolen while he slept. The day before that, someone had stolen his bike – snapping the cable lock with some sort of wire cutters. He had vowed, on both occasions, out loud, with great enthusiasm, to kill the mf who did it. He now vowed, in an even louder voice, his rage echoing off the tile walls of the bathroom, to kill the mf who took his wallet!
He didn’t, of course, say mf. He said the real words – words he employed in nearly every sentence he spoke. Sometimes in jest, sometimes in common conversation, sometimes when describing his favorite rap artist, sometimes when talking about his latest girlfriend, occasionally, like this morning, in a fit white-lightning anger. The two words were among his favorite in the entire English language.
Having left school to join a carnival at the age of 15, his vocabulary was not extensive. (When he told people about the two years he traveled the Midwest assembling carnival rides, they usually thought he was making it up. It sounded like bullshit, like something out of an old movie or novel. But it was true. He had been an integral part of U.C.I. – United Carnival Incorporated – sleeping in shabby trailers, sharing fried food and drugs with the family-like crew, and screwing every girl he met. If it hadn’t been for a felony conviction along the way, he liked to think, he would still be a proud and highly accomplished “carnie” happily putting a wrench to the Tilt-A-Whirl.) Among the words and phrases he did know, mf had a unique and wonderful flow. It possessed edges, color, rhythm. It was the perfect blend of profanity and linguistic beauty, and could be employed in almost any situation.
In this case, the mf who stole his wallet was going to die. He was going to kill him, beat the shit out of him. Make him regret touching his mf-ing wallet.
While he was outraged at the theft, he somehow didn’t connect it to the loss of his jacket and bike, and also didn’t attach it to the fact that he was currently residing in a homeless shelter. The reason the wallet was missing, he felt certain, was that some mf had pointedly focused his mf-ing bad mojo on him, targeted him, come after him on a personal mf-ing vendetta. And now, he was going to seek out that mf and inflict a severe revenge. A revenge this mf could never even imagine and would not see coming.
The reason for his inability to recognize the risk inherent in his situation was a mystery not just to him, but to his mother, the only living member of his family with whom he was still on speaking terms. Everyone else – from his biological father to his three step-fathers, to a slew of aunts, uncles, step-aunts and step-uncles, and even step-grandparents – wanted nothing to do with him.
On the outside, he appeared quite normal: an average-sized, 29-year-old who let his pants hang down under his ass and wore his baseball cap backwards. In the eyes of some women, he was considered moderately handsome. He could also be quite charming. All of this proved confusing when he behaved as he did – namely, like an imbecile. Had he known this word and its meaning (which, of course, he did not), he might have agreed. He indeed knew there was something wrong with him. He just couldn’t quite understand what it was or see how it affected his behavior – choices and actions that were most often inappropriate, immoral, and/or illegal.
His mother knew about his problems. She had been instrumental in getting him diagnosed with ADHD at the age of six, with oppositional defiant disorder at the age of eight, with bipolar and OCD at age nine, and landed him on the autism spectrum by the time he was 10. She was also aware that, while he had been prescribed great mountains of medications, he had seldom complied in his treatment programs and, at about age 12, had begun selling his pills on the street and using the profits to purchase alcohol and marijuana. When he was 14, he began to experiment with meth and at 15, while touring with the carnival, experienced the glorious effects of cocaine, PCP, and various opioids.
His mother had reems of paperwork filled with unintelligible scribblings from all manner of specialists, a file cabinet full of evidence testifying to the fact that he had serious issues: learning disabilities, mental illness, and low intelligence. Yet she still did not know why he did some of the things he did or said some of the things he said. It was baffling and more than a little alarming.
On this particular morning, as he put his pants back on and continued to swear at the mf who took his wallet, railing, ranting, and describing how he would “eff him up with a knife and leave his bleeding mf-ass in the gutter to die,” he was on no prescription medication whatsoever. He was, however, still appreciating the effects of the previous night’s meth and marijuana, the two drugs he most enjoyed and abused on a daily basis.
The fact that he was homeless and had little money did not keep him from getting high. Despite his various ailments, he was quite clever and exceptionally skilled at bargaining, bartering, stealing, and otherwise finding ways to get what he so desperately wanted and needed. He was now sometimes without a place to sleep, routinely found himself without food, and the meager supply of clothing items in his small backpack was dwindling as he wore out and/or lost items and couldn’t afford to replace them. But he was never without drugs.
Sometimes, that meant trading food stamps for money. Sometimes it meant staking out a street corner for handouts. Occasionally, it meant performing sexual services for men in exchange for cash. Sometimes it meant sneaking into his mother’s home and snatching money from her purse. The means wasn’t terribly important to him. Only the end.
He roared profanity as he pulled on his shirt, suddenly recalling the nearly $100 that had been in his wallet. He had worked for a couple of months the previous year, spending just enough time clearing tables at a Waffle House to file taxes and get a little something back. His mother had cashed the check for him, given him four crisp twenties and a ten just the day before, and he had earmarked it for meth and marijuana. He had planned a party and was taking this freaking shower in hopes that when word got around that he could afford drugs, a few of the local women would be among those who congregated for a hit, and he would screw them.
The only thing he liked more than drugs was screwing women. Before he had been kicked out of his mother’s house, he had used it as his own personal bordello. He had set up dates nearly every day of the week with stupid, desperately horny women who were trolling hookup apps, and he had concentrated his efforts on screwing as many as possible. This resulted in two STDs and at least one pregnancy. But before the effects of any of those unexpected outcomes could be fully realized, he had found himself homeless.
It was his mother’s new husband’s fault. Her fourth husband – his newest stepfather – and the biggest asshole of the bunch. Everything had been fine for almost 18 months. He had come to live with them straight from a short stint in prison and rehab following a drug-related felony. Free to experience life again, he relished the opportunity to self-medicate with drugs and sex. With no job and no responsibilities, other than occasionally having to clean his room in the basement, his life had been one long party.
But then the asshole began to nag him about getting a job. The asshole began objecting to his endless stream of f-buddies. The asshole said he didn’t want drugs in the house. The asshole came downstairs from his bedroom one night and found him frantically screwing a scrawny blond on the living room couch, both of them out of their minds on meth. The asshole confronted him. A screaming brawl followed. The police were called. The party was over.
One of these days, he planned on killing that mf-ing asshole.
From there he began dodging warrants, sleeping on a friend’s couch for a couple of weeks, sharing a motel room with a down-on-their-luck couple from Nebraska for another couple of weeks, and then… resorting to a homeless shelter.
There were several things he didn’t like about the shelter. Having them talk incessantly about Jesus was one of them. But even worse was the fact that they made everyone get up at 7 in the morning. 7-freaking-AM! The food was okay. The beds were okay. He didn’t even mind sharing bathrooms and showers. And he was kind of getting to where he could tolerate the “praise the Lord” banter. But getting roused at 7AM… Those mfs!
He stalked out of the shower area and back into the big bunk room. It was 7:23AM and a few men were still sleeping, despite the wake-up call. Others were sitting on their shabby cots, muttering to themselves or smoking (which wasn’t allowed but everyone did it anyway). A few were pacing and mumbling – the crazy mfs.
He stood there, his hair still dripping because he had no towel. Shoes in hand, he glared at the collection of mutants. They were ugly mfs, dumb mfs, freaking loser mfs. And one of them was a stealing mf!
Leaping onto the nearest bunk, he shouted, “Which one of you mfs took my mf-ing wallet, you dumb-ass mfs…?!”
A few heads turned his direction. The sleepers continued sleeping. The mumblers mumbled.
“I will kill whichever mf stole it!” he threatened, making a fist and then spitting on the floor. When no one confessed or volunteered information or even responded, he swung his fist and put a dent in the wall. MF! It hurt his knuckles like an mf – might have even broken one – but he didn’t care.
Sinking to the mattress he had been standing on, he pulled his cell phone from the right back pocket of his jeans, thinking, Thank God that mf didn’t steal my mf-ing phone. I would have mf-ing destroyed his mf-ass to hell.
He hit the button, waited, heard the line ringing, waited, and when a voice answered, he shouted, “One of these mfs stole my mf-ing wallet!”
He repeated his news, verbatim, with the same exact emphasis on the same exact words, as if playing back a recording.
“Did you tell anyone?”
“I’m gonna kill the mf!”
“Isn’t there a guard? Do they have cameras?”
“I will kill the mf and then kill his mf-ing ass again.”
“Honey, relax. We’ll find your wallet,” his mother consoled.
“ I’m gonna kill the mf!” He stomped to his bunk, threw his shoes on the floor, and then noticed something sticking out from under the bed. Leaning down, he reached and took hold of it.
“Well, f-me. Nevermind. I found the m-fing thing.” And he hung up.
About the Author
Christopher Lane is a novelist and author of several books of children's fiction.