Chapter 29 – Catchin Up With Mikey
The last time I’d seen my buddy Mike before the start of the pandemic had been in late December of 2019 when I met up with him and three more of our buddies from growin up over at the Chipotle in Park Ridge. Over the years, as tends to happen, our lives’d taken us all in different directions and we no longer hang out nearly as much as we used to back in high school. In fact, before this get-together, I don’t think we’d all been in the same place at the same time since our buddy Bill’s wedding a year and a half beforehand. No matter how much time may pass, however, some things never change.
“Hey,” Mike said, “check out that cop over there in line gettin ready to order. He’s by himself. No partner.” I glanced over to see the uniformed officer standin with about three other customers in front of him before he’d reach the counter. “Whattaya think would happen,” Mike continued, “if you four guys went up and each grabbed a limb, and I grabbed his gun and got everyone’s attention and told ‘em they couldn’t leave – that they hafta sit there and watch as I pull the guy’s pants down and start fuckin him in the ass right there in line? How do you think everyone would react?”
We all got a good chuckle outta Mike’s sick little hypothetical and the conversation kept flowing. Although I didn’t have the time to analyze it in the moment, lookin back on this memory, I don’t understand exactly what about takin turns buttfucking a stranger against his will in front of an audience made me laugh. What is it that made the idea of committing a brutal rape so funny in this instance but so not-funny in others? I’m havin a really hard time figuring it out as I sit here and write this right now.
Like, for example, in 2016 I spent a week in Honduras, right? And that country has a reputation of bein one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Based on all I’d read and heard, I was a bit nervous crossing over the border via bus from Nicaragua, but didn’t wanna write off an entire country before having experienced it myself, ya know what I mean? So, I went for it. And, well – what can I say – Honduras lived up to its reputation. In that week there, I not only had the pleasure of sittin next to a group of threatening-looking tatted-up drunk guys one morning in a cramped little microbus who’d been smokin cigs and talkin loudly about all the putas they’d fucked at the whorehouse the night before while all the other passengers sat in complete silence staring straight ahead the entire time, but I’d also been fortunate enough to see a random dead body layin on the side of the highway somewhere outside San Pedro Sula. And yes – you guessed it – I’d also stumbled upon a rape in progress.
I was visiting a place called Copán Ruinas on the far west of the country near the border with Guatemala. To be honest, it’s actually a charming little town with cobblestone streets and friendly people, and when I arrived there one afternoon, those things put my worried mind at ease. I spent the evening in the hostel talking to people and walking around the little square in the center of the town, and it was an all-around pleasant experience. The next day, I woke up, did my morning routine, and walked a kilometer outside of town to go see the ruins of the ancient Mayan city of Copán. The site was well-kempt and the ruins were pretty cool – some of which I had the pleasure of climbing on – and the best part I’d say is that I practically had the place to myself. There might’ve only been twenty other people there during the hour or two I spent exploring.
Anyway, the sun was starting to get pretty hot and I decided I wanted nothing more than to get back to my room and spend the next couple hours layin in front of a fan and sippin from a big bottle of ice-cold water. So I left. I started the walk back to town. Like I said, it’s only a kilometer, right? I’m definitely not expecting anything out of the ordinary to occur. I’m walkin along on the right side of the road and there’s some harmless-lookin local dude heading in the same direction as me, maybe a hundred feet behind. I don’t think he has any sinister intentions, but I glance back every now and then just to make sure. About halfway back to town, somewhere in the bushes off the right side of the road, suddenly a woman starts screaming. I look back at the guy behind me. He starts runnin towards where the screams are coming from. I follow suit. Somewhere in this shrubbery, we encounter a young woman on the ground with her shirt all torn-up, bawling her eyes out. We run past her towards the fleeing assailant who’s got a massive head start on us. No way we’ll catch him. We turn around and head back towards the girl. She’s not where she was in the bushes. She’s now walkin back into town on the side of the road just as I’d been before hearing the disturbance. She hasn’t stopped crying. The other guy who’d run to her assistance continues his walk back into town at a fair distance behind the girl and has no intention of trying to console her. I again follow his lead and give the woman her space as she continues to sob and wail for the whole rest of the walk back into town. This instance of sexual assault had decidedly been not-funny.
So, back to the Chipotle question. If it’d been a woman cop in the hypothetical scenario, I’d hafta say that the joke wouldn’t have been funny. Or if it’d been that same guy out-of-uniform and standin there in line with his children instead of by himself, I don’t think the joke would’ve been that funny either. Now, if it was that same guy out-of-uniform without his kids at his side and Mike’d suggested the same thing, I probably would’ve laughed a little bit at the absurdity of the proposition to strip the man of his dignity in such a graphic way for no reason at all, but it still wouldn’t have been as funny as the scenario involving the gun, the badge and the uniform. Like, I dunno – it just feels like there’s so much more at stake that way. Like, even though I support the police as an institution and believe that law enforcement is a necessary part of any functioning society, there still is a part of me that resents their authority. I think that maybe the idea tickled my funny bone because it was less about publicly raping some random guy in the ass and more about regaining a sense of power from an institution that, although necessary, feels oppressive to live under. A joke like that kinda makes it easier for me to come to terms with the fact that the long arm of the law has the ultimate say when it comes to my freedom. Or, of course, there’s always the possibility that I just think it’s funny because I’m a sick twisted fuck and so is my buddy Mike, and that’s the reason why we still choose to hang out together twenty years after having met one another. I’m not sure. We’ll just hafta leave that up to the shrinks to decide.
During the first few months of the pandemic, I’d only seen Mike a couple times. He stopped by and dropped a bag of Tony’s subs off on my porch a day or two after my dad died and’d also stopped by a time or two after that to have a quick smoke while on his way home from his side job, but not much more than that. He’d occasionally text me in the middle of the week and say somethin like, “I’m free Friday night, let’s watch an episode of (the original) MacGyver,” but nothin ever became of it. Sometime in June though, Mike called me up and told me he’d recently gotten a hot tub in his backyard and asked if I wanted to come over for a soak. I told him I’d like that very much. He said to come over around 9. I told him that I’d be there.
After having ridden my bike over to his place, I entered the backyard and saw Mike sitting on the patio next to one of those cheap inflatable hot tubs that you get from WalMart. He was messin around with some sorta control panel when he looked up at me and said…
“Hey, there he is!”
“What’s up, guy?” I said in return.
“Same old shit,” he replied as he continued to play with the panel.
“Whatchya doin there?” I asked.
“Ehh, I think this fuckin heater’s broken already. I’ve had it runnin for a couple hours now and it won’t go past ninety degrees.”
“Fuck man, that’s warm enough for me.”
“Nah. It should be ten degrees hotter – ten at the very least. I actually like it up around one-o-five.”
“Isn’t that dangerous?” I asked. “I mean, I know it’s not hot enough to kill ya or anything like that, but don’t they say that water that warm can cook your testicles – like, it’ll just turn ‘em into a sterile and useless pair o’ meatballs or some shit like that?”
“I never heard that,” he said. “I don’t think so. But ya know, I don’t know what could be wrong with this fuckin thing. I was just in there with my wife and kids the other day and we had it over a hundred.”
“Huh, that’s weird,” I said. “But uhh…this thing have some sorta filter system or are everyone’s butt oils and dead skin just floatin around in this water right now like a fresh batch o’ people soup?”
“Nah, it’s clean. I drained it and scrubbed the walls and put fresh water in this afternoon, so it shouldn’t be gross at all.”
“Oh,” I said. “Okay.”
A moment of silence passed as Mike continued to play around with the heater.
“What would you do,” I asked, “if you came out in the morning and found a big fuckin human turd just floatin at the top of your hot tub?”
“I dunno,” he said. “Eat it, maybe? Or put it in my freezer, wait til it gets hard then use it as a dildo to stick up my ass. I dunno. How bout you? What would you do?”
“Well, I don’t have a hot tub, so…” I shrugged. “But would you suspect it was your old landlord from your place in Logan Square continuing to torment you with his infamous mystery dumps?”
“Man, fuck that guy.”
“He used to sneak into your place when you weren’t there, right?”
“Yeah,” he replied. “We’d be outta the apartment for no more than a couple hours then come back and find that all our beers were gone, and then go in the bathroom and see a big piece o’ shit sittin at the bottom of the toilet with no toilet paper in there.”
“Ah yeah, that’s right. I remember you sayin that he never wiped his ass.”
“Yeah, never. He’d sit on our toilet while drinkin our beer, take a shit then not wipe his ass and leave the apartment before we got back. And of course he was gonna say it wasn’t him. But like, aside from me and Brendan, he was the only one who had keys to our place, so…”
“Yeah, it had to be him.”
“Yeah, it had to’ve.”
Another moment of silence.
“Yeah, well,” Mike eventually said while standin up, “this thing’s fucked.”
“That’s too bad, dude. How much you pay for it?”
“Few hundred. I know it’s not a good industrial-strength hot tub, but it should last more than couple weeks for that much money, ya know?”
“Yeah, I hear ya,” I said. “That fuckin sucks. But fuck it though. Let’s just hop in and soak. Ninety’s plenty hot for me, bro.”
“Nah, nah, nah. Hold on,” he said. “I’m gonna go inside and start boiling pots of water. I’m also gonna go in the basement and hook the hose up to the hot water tank and empty that out into here. That oughta put us over a hundred.”
“Dude, really? We haven’t hung out in I don’t know how long. I was thinkin of only stayin for an hour. I got work tomorrow. Who gives a shit about the water temp?”
“I do,” he said. “It’ll only take a minute.”
Resigning myself to the will of Mike, I sat down in one of the chairs on the patio and began fuckin around on my phone. About five minutes later, he emerged from the basement door with the kinked end of a hose in his hand.
“I took the four biggest pots I could find in my kitchen, filled ‘em with water and got those goin on the stovetop. We’ll get this hose goin in the meantime.”
“How hot is the water in your hot water tank?”
“I dunno,” he shrugged. “One-thirty? One-forty? I’m not sure.”
“Dude, that’ll make it too hot,” I was bein a bit of a pussy. “I mean, you already got kids so I understand if you don’t give a fuck that your balls get cooked, but what if I still wanna get someone pregnant at some point, ya know?”
“Nah, cmon,” he said. “Don’t be a bitch. The tank’s not full. We run the dishwasher and the washing machine and take showers here. It’s probably only half-full right now. So, I dunno – fifteen, twenty gallons maybe at a hundred and thirty degrees ain’t gonna do shit to this water. This tub holds more than two hundred and fifty gallons.”
“No shit. It holds that much water?”
“Huh, wouldn’t have guessed it.”
More silence. Mike went to light up a smoke while I looked over into the yard adjacent his.
“Your neighbors ever let you swim in their pool?” I asked.
“Yeah, sometimes. It’s a young couple with kids about the same age as ours. We get along pretty well. At any rate, they like us a lot better than the people we bought the place from a few years back.”
“Oh yeah,” I said, “I remember you tellin me about that dude. Wasn’t he like, a big fuckin freak or some shit?”
“Yeah,” he replied. “Big time. It was his mom’s place and he just lived here for free – never worked or anything.”
“How old was the guy?”
“Middle-aged. And yeah – the neighbors say he was a complete psycho. They say he used to fuck with their pool – well, not just their pool, but all the pools on the block. He’d hop into their yards at night with a big knife and cut holes in their liners.”
“That’s fucked up.”
“Yeah. I guess he was into hard drugs and always had young male prostitutes comin and goin from the house. And uhh…the neighbors say sometimes they’d look out their front window when it was rainin out and this dude’d be dancin around in the middle of the street with his shirt off and his arms up in the air, lookin up at the sky. I actually sometimes worry that he might come back here to the house when I’m not home or somethin.”
“Yeah, that’s kinda scary. Dude sounds pretty unbalanced.”
“Yeah,” he sighed. “Didn’t you have some pervert across the alley from you while growin up?”
“Yeah,” I smiled. “Big Jamey D. He died a few years ago. I miss him. He was pretty fun to make fun of. I would see him walkin his little puppy around the block and – in that molester voice of his – he’d say, ‘Bless you, Fred,’ to the dog when it would sneeze. He was a fuckin weirdo.”
“What was the story with the one kid – your neighbor – that would like…ya know…tease him and flirt with him or whatever?”
“Oh shit, Kevin?” I said. “Yeah, he was like five years younger than us. He was always out in the alley all day every day playin basketball when we were kids. And like, since Jamey used to send out a little newsletter about his life to all the neighbors, everyone knew what he was into sexually.”
“He’d write about what turned him on and send it to you guys?”
“Yeah, when he got outta jail he came onto our porch and hand-delivered this pack of stories he wrote. All weird shit. Some of it was nonfiction about how when he was in jail after whatever he did to some kid that was his little brother in the Big Brother program, the prison guards stuck a cotton swab in his penis to check for STDs or some shit, and then he also had these short stories included in there. And one of the stories was about this creature that was half-man, half-TV whose nipples were the dials and how he’d get turned on when you’d change the channels. I’m tellin ya, the guy was weird as shit. But he also wrote about how nothin turned him on quite as much as young boys wearin high socks. That was his thing. And after he’d sent his newsletter out, everyone knew it. So like, when Kevin was out there in the alley shootin hoops and he’d see Jamey’s car comin around the corner, he’d pop his shirt off and pull up his socks and wait for Jamey to come drivin by.”
“That’s so fuckin weird.”
“Yeah, it is,” I said.
“How old was this kid at the time?”
“Like twelve or thirteen.”
“And the guy?”
“Probably in his late sixties at the time.”
“Yeah. And so…then when Jamey would get close to him, he’d stand in front of the car so he’d hafta stop, and then he’d walk around to the driver-side door and tell the guy to roll down his window. And he’d bend down and lean his arms there on the door and start flirtin with the guy. ‘Hey Jamey,’ he’d say. ‘How’s it goin? What are you up to? Oh, you got groceries? That’s cool.’ Ya know, shit like that. Just tryin to get the guy all hot and bothered for some shit he’ll never have.”
“That’s uhh,” Mike laughed, “that’s some pretty sick shit. What’s that kid up to these days?”
“Well, he’s too old to tease molesters, I can tell ya that much. They’re no longer interested in him – he’s past his expiration date, as they say. But yeah, I think he actually owns a two-flat not too far from your house somewhere around here. Lives there with his girlfriend. Pretty normal life, ya know.”
“Yeah, yeah, sure,” Mike said, puttin out his cig. “I’ll be right back,” he added and disappeared into the basement.
I stood up to go look at the tub’s thermostat. Mike came back out a minute later.
“What’s it at?” he asked.
“Okay. The heater’s almost empty. Maybe a couple more minutes. Hopefully that’ll take it up another degree or two, then I’ll go get the pots of boiling water.”
“Yeah, okay,” I said. “I actually think I’m just gonna go ahead and get in now and you can keep doin whatever you’re doin in the meantime.”
“Yeah, sure,” he said. “Go for it.”
I popped off my T as well as my socks and shoes then walked over to his garage which I briefly entered to change outta my shorts and into my swimsuit.
“Nice motorcycle,” I said to him when I came back out.
“Oh,” he said, “you haven’t seen it yet?”
“Nah, you were tellin me about it, but that’s the first I’ve seen of it.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty sweet,” he said. “When you want me to pick you up and take ya for a ride?”
“I don’t,” I replied. “You used to pick me up on your scooter back in high school and that was enough of a thrill for me. I don’t need to be on somethin that can go fifty miles per hour faster than that.”
“Nah, cmon. It’s safe,” he said. “It’ll be fun. I’ll let ya wear my helmet. You can even try drivin it if you want.”
“No thanks, man. Really. I’ve tried drivin motorbikes two different times in my life and crashed both times. It’s just not for me.”
“When was that?”
“Well, the first one was in southern China. It was a place called Yangshuo. I rented ‘em with a couple buddies to drive around and explore the area. At one point I was drivin along the far right side of the road and headin straight for this parked motorbike. I figured I didn’t wanna swerve left in case there were cars there, so I decided to hit the brake instead, but I fucked up and ended up accelerating right into this bike and bowling it over and damaging the rental I was on – a big piece cracked off of it. Then the next one was in Sapa in northern Vietnam. I guess it’s normal that people hitch rides on passing motorbikes there or somethin, and as I was goin along, some older local lady was flaggin me down. I figured it woulda been rude of me not to stop, so I pulled over and she got on. We were kind of on a hill – I was ascending, ya know – and then when I hit the accelerator to go up this hill with the lady on the back, I inadvertently popped a wheelie and the bike flipped over backwards.”
“Shit. Did the old lady get hurt?”
“No, but she seemed kinda pissed off though. I think she assumed I knew what I was doin,” I said. “So yeah, I just don’t like motorbikes all that much. The thrill isn’t worth the risk for me. I don’t have any sort of insurance and need a strong healthy body to be able to keep workin on roofs and ladders and shit, ya know?”
“I hear ya,” he said then walked over and started fidgeting with the hose. “I think the tank’s done. I’m gonna go put this thing away.”
“Alright,” I said. “I’m gonna hop in.”
Mike again went into the basement and I climbed into the tub. The thermometer said ninety-eight degrees. The water felt great – didn’t need to be any hotter for me to be able to enjoy it. While Mike was off doin whatever he was doin, I spent the next couple minutes lookin up at the stars and enjoying the sensation of the jets blowin against my body. At some point, Mike came back out with a pair of oven mitts on and a big pot of boiling water in his hands. He approached the hot tub and was ready to dump it in until I said…
“Wait, hold on – what the fuck, man? Lemme get out real quick so you don’t fuckin scald me with that shit.”
I hopped out and he dumped it in. He told me he’d be right back with the other three pots, so I just decided to stand outta the water and wait until he was done. It certainly hadn’t been the hottest night I’d ever felt, but it also wasn’t cool enough to make me shiver as I stood there dripping wet. By the time he finished dumpin all the pots in and the water had been thoroughly mixed around by the jets, the electronic thermostat kept fluctuating between ninety-eight and ninety-nine degrees.
“Son of a bitch,” Mike said. “We didn’t hit a hundred?”
“Nah man. Looks like those pots didn’t do shit. But seriously, just fuck it. Get in there, it feels great.”
“Yeah, okay, fine,” he huffed. “But I’m gonna go put this last pot away first.”
I jumped back in the water. Now that I was a little chilly from standin out there in the air of the night, immersing myself once again made it feel warmer than ever. A minute later, Mike came back out and hopped in the tub alongside me.
“Not too bad, right?”
“It’s okay,” he replied. “Hundred woulda been better.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” I said and he went to dunk his head under the water.
“So,” I began askin him once he’d resurfaced, “how’s the job been?”
Mike is a firefighter in the city of Chicago.
“Well,” he replied, “lotta the same old shit. I’m a bit sick of it to be honest.”
“What sorta shit? Just dealin with people?”
“Yeah, in general, ya know. I mean, it’s a great job and all, but doin that and the side job, and tryin to do renovations around this old house, and tryin to spend time with my wife and kids…I’m just fuckin tired. And then at the firehouse when we get a call in the middle of the night to go clean up another dead body, it’s just like, ‘Okay, can we just scoop this fuckin guy’s brains offa the sidewalk already so I can go back and try to get a couple hours of sleep? Like, I gotta go spend the whole next day doin the side job so I have enough money for the mortgage and the kid’s tuition and all this bullshit, and don’t care to hang out at this accident scene any longer than I have to.’ I mean…I dunno. That’s why I bought the motorcycle, ya know? To just go take a ride every once in a while to get away from it all.”
“Hmm,” I said. “I feel ya. That’s tough. You seem to have a lot on your plate.”
“Yeah,” he smirked, “but uh…this is actually pretty funny. There’s this one big huge fatass that lives near the firehouse and, I swear, every day I’m on shift – every single day – this fuckin guy calls 9-1-1 to have us come to his house and help him get his pants on and off.”
“What!?” I laughed. “No way. And you hafta respond?”
“Yeah,” he said. “This is what the job has become. It’s not like the days back when my grandpa or your dad were on. We’re firefighters and we’re not out there savin people who actually need it – instead we’re helpin 500-pound fatasses get dressed. It’s ridiculous. It’s such a waste of resources. It costs the city thousands of dollars every time a company is sent out on a run and given how many incidents there are like this on a daily basis all over the city, stupid bullshit like this ends up costing the city millions of dollars annually. It’s like…this guy doesn’t need the fire department. He needs a social worker that can help him find a caretaker to do this sorta shit for him. But nothin’s gonna change and we’re just gonna keep flushin tax dollars down the toilet doin this shit.”
“Yeah, that’s pretty obnoxious.”
“Yeah, you bet,” he said. “But other than that – like I said, Timmy – it’s a good job. It’s mostly EMS work, but we still catch a few good fires here and there, though not too many. Though last month with the George Floyd riots, it was a different story. I was on-duty during that shit and it was literally twenty-four hours of puttin out fires. We just went from one to another all day long. Huge adrenaline rush. It felt like the end of the world or somethin. Did you see any of it happening?”
“Nah man. Never seen any race riots in person. Only on TV. Unless you count the race riots we had at recess back when we were in grade school.”
“Race riots at recess?” he asked. Mike hadn’t attended the same school as me; his family belonged to the next parish over. “Whattaya mean by that?”
“Oh, I never told you about this shit?”
“Nah, what is it?”
“Well, one time me and about twenty other Juliana’s shiteads all put our sweatshirts over our heads at recess – think we were in fifth or sixth grade, so like eleven or twelve years old – and we marched across the patio chanting, ‘Kill the white man! Kill the white man! Kill the white man!’”
“Kill the white man?” he asked. “But all you guys are white.”
“Yeah, I know,” I said. “That’s why it was so bizarre. My theory is that we got the idea from the movie Black Sheep starring Chris Farley – remember that one?”
“More or less.”
“Yeah, well, ya know, it’s the scene where they’re at that rock concert – Rock the Vote, I think it was – and Farley accidentally walked into the room backstage where all those Rastafarian dudes were hangin out, and they were lookin at him all funny n shit and it was a super awkward moment until they offer him a hit of their joint and end up tellin him about all their beliefs of bein oppressed by ‘the man’ or by ‘whitey’ or whatever. And so then Farley walks outta their room all stoned and shit and somehow accidentally ends up on stage – like, it was supposed to be his politician brother up there who was runnin for governor doin some promo, not him. And so…at first he’s all frozen up there like a deer in the headlights and timidly says into the mic somethin like, ‘I’m not supposed to be here right now,’ and the crowd cheers wildly. Not expecting that sorta reaction, Farley feels the energy and starts talkin up his brother and sayin generic patriotic phrases, some of which he totally fucks up. Like, at one point he says, ‘That’s one small step for man, one giant…’ and he forgets the rest, but substitutes it with ‘…I have a dream!’ And once again, the crowd eats it up. So, everything’s goin well for him until he apparently runs outta generic patriotic phrases to say and decides to shout, ‘Kill whitey!’ into the mic, and everyone in the crowd freezes and there’s dead silence and the camera cuts over to all the black rasta dudes standin on the side of the stage, wavin their arms at him and saying, ‘No, no, no!’ It’s a great scene and I personally think that’s where the idea was from because that movie came out right around that time, but no one agrees on exactly why we started doin it. So, I guess we’ll never know for sure.”
“I see,” Mike said.
“Yeah. So anyway, we were doin that and then after marching and chanting, we’d break rank and run up to random kids on the playground and surround ‘em and then start shovin ‘em back and forth while yellin, ‘Race riot! Race riot! Race riot!’ in their horrified faces from all directions. I dunno, man. It was actually pretty fun. Maybe you just had to be there.”
“That’s so fuckin weird,” he said. “A buncha white kids…did you guys get in trouble?”
“Oh yeah,” I said. “They caught everyone who was involved and made us have a special meeting with the vice principal. They sat us all in this empty classroom the next day during recess and had the VP come in – this old bag o’ bones named Mrs. Heidkamp. And she walks in the room, and she’s tryin to be all serious and shit, and goes, ‘In all my years as an educator, never have I encountered something so terrible – students marching around yelling “Kill the white man!” and attacking other students out on the playground. Such deplorable behavior. Really, it’s incomprehensible. And so I go home yesterday after getting the news about this, and I go to discuss it with my husband, and I say to him, “Well, Dick…”’ And dude…it was the funniest thing ever – the way she said ‘Dick’ like that with so much emphasis. And from the desk behind me I hear this poorly muffled laughter that emerged as a snort. It was this kid Bill. I mean, we all wanted to laugh, but we all held it in except for Bill. He just couldn’t contain himself. And Heidkamp stops her monologue to direct her attention to the epicenter of the interruption. ‘Excuse me, young man,’ she said. ‘Are you comparing your language to mine?’ And after hearing that, even I couldn’t hold in my laugher. Shit was just too funny.”
“What a buncha punks – buncha little jagoff kids you guys were over at St. Juliana’s.”
“Guilty,” I said. “But anyway…you were gonna tell me about the actual real life riots instead of this literal child’s play of which I speak?”
“Oh, yeah, well, there actually isn’t that much to tell. Like I said, it was just one run after another all day long. We couldn’t keep up.”
“Well, it wasn’t exhausting when we were working. I mean, I was very tired the next day. But like I said, we all had this massive adrenaline rush goin and…actually there is one funny story from that day,” he said. “Yeah, there was this one fire at some liquor store we got called to late in the afternoon and it was already burnin pretty good by the time we showed up. So, we took the hose in through the front door that some looters had already busted down before they set the place on fire, and I started hittin the flames on the ceiling and the walls while tryin not to hit any of these shelves holdin up – ya know – whatever bottles hadn’t been stolen by the looters. And my lieutenant’s right there watchin me, right? And we were already all so wired after twelve hours of bein in fires, and at some point he yells to me somethin like, ‘Go ahead and hit all these bottles and all those refrigerator units over there to make sure the fire doesn’t spread there.’ Ya know, the glass-front fridges they got in liquor stores?”
“Yeah, yeah,” I said. “Of course.”
“Yeah, he’s tellin me to hit those and I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Cuz like, there’s no way those things are gonna catch on fire. So I express my doubts, ya know? I’m like, really? You want me to what? And he goes, ‘Yeah, riots like this only come around once a generation. The last ones like this here in Chicago were in 1968. You’ll never have this opportunity again.’ And in spite of him sayin that, in spite of him givin me the go-ahead, I still don’t do it. But then he yells, ‘And that’s an order!’ And so, I wasn’t gonna say no to that. So…I got to shoot all these liquor bottles offa all the shelves and blast holes in all the refrigerator doors and then shoot all the cases of beer offa the racks inside there and, dude…it was so much fun. Like, I can’t even explain to you how hilarious it was to finally do the sorta shit we used to dream about doin back in high school.”
“That’s fuckin wild, man.”
“Yeah,” he said. “It was pretty cool. I mean, dude, I’m tellin ya – it’s a great job. Not because of a once-in-a-lifetime thing like that, but because we get good pay and excellent benefits and hardly do any actual work. Like, in the morning every day, we drill or do house chores for an hour or two, then the rest of the day we sit around waiting for calls. During that time you can do whatever you want – you can read or workout or whatever. Like, if you have a cool officer, you could probably even take mushrooms and bang hookers if you wanted. No one cares as long as you take care of your duties at the firehouse and do what you’re supposed to do on runs. I mean, sure, we gotta deal with some stupid bullshit like the fatass who can’t put on his own pants, but – given I only work like 90 days a year – it’s so much better than any other job you can find in the city of Chicago. Like, you get so much time off. You work twenty-four hours then you’re off for forty-eight. Then every two weeks, you get five days off in a row. On top of that, you get three 17-day furloughs throughout the year that you can use to go travel or do your dad’s window business on the side like he used to or just relax and spend time with your family if you ever have one. Like, seriously man, if the city offers another test next year like they’re rumored to, you really should try to get on the job.”
“Alright, alright,” I said. “Maybe I will.”