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One For The Road by Ira Rat

One For The Road
By Ira Rat

It was the biggest check Frankie had ever seen, and he turned it all into cocaine almost immediately. He sat in a chair in his bedroom with his recent spendings piled high on desk, snow white and powdery.
To say that Frankie’s rise to popularity was meteoric would seriously put a speed limit on the force that gravity put to heavenly bodies. Though he must admit that after a decade of punching the rock n’ roll time card, putting out two albums a year for as long as he could remember, that the last couple of years were definitely in an upward turn. Promoters weren’t trying to pay him off in Blue Ribbon tall boys anymore. Well, some did, but that was part of the image.
You can’t be a former member of the Fuqs, and not be perceived as a drunken buffoon. It was kind of a package deal. An image that he worked hard from many years of touring to cultivate. Nothing denotes the classic “punk rock” ethos as well as crawling on your hands and knees to the van after a thirty minute show where you played 35 songs, followed by thirty-plus empty soldiers littering the bar top.
Most stops the band only got a few dollars to eat off of, and get enough money for gas from their merch table. If they were lucky. Other times they got their complete nutrition from the bar. Would this drink ticket cover one of those pickles from the dusty jar over there? The one with the expiration date somewhere in the early 80’s? Tonight, alone in his two-bedroom house that he was able to afford just recently, but only with a roommate, he swore that he could still taste the acrid brine when the thought about the awful food that he had to endure for all those years.
These days it was nothing but the best plastic fast food, from whatever chain was still open at eleven o’clock on a Wednesday. A half cold burrito was seriously better than whatever he could scrounge up at the venue. Sure, after his first solo album he was now big enough that most places fulfilled the rider, but was it fair to the intern that as enviably sent out to get a bottle of Black Label, dope and make him make a “run for the border”?
Frankie didn’t think so.
Most cities that pimply-faced teenager was lucky to come back alive, so much so when $50 was missing from the budget for a quick half and half, all it really meant was that at least the kid had a good time crossing the tracks. He probably would have done the same, if the roles were reversed. When the kid would later meet them as they drove up to the venue in their rented bus, still reeking of hooker sweat, all he would think was that his job here was already half done. Corrupting the youth of ‘Merica, one poor soul at a time.
That was the deal right? At least that was the motto that he put on his signature on the message boards that he would frequent in the years leading up to this plateau of simple carnal pleasures that he found himself at. The world was his oyster, if it was the bottom oyster in the bucket, slightly toxic green and already passed over by dozens of others. It was all his though, and nobody could take that away from him. Unless he gave any credence to what the head in the mini-fridge had said to him the other night while he was tripping on three tabs of Sunshine he found dusty in the green room couch at the Sinkhole in St. Louis.
Another shot, another line. He didn’t have time for pause and deliberation about some half-remembered hallucination from nearly a week ago. Even if it was the face of his best friend, Jimmy, who had died on their first tour out of the states.
What had the death doctor called it? Death by misadventure? He was even half tempted to call the Fuqs’ next album that until better taste prevailed. Fucking Death had such a better ring to it, and lent itself so well to the Misfits-esque cover of a point of view shot of someone ejaculating on the luscious tits of lady death.
You know, artistic license and all. Anyway, what was so misadventurous about falling out of the back of a speeding van?
What had Jimmy said about the end coming soon? Fuck that.
More booze, more coke.
Put it out of your head, he thought to himself as he started flipping through the bubble jet printed proofs for his next album that his manager, Gary, had given him earlier that night. Should he have thanked Jimmy on this one? It had been years, but maybe he should have.
After all, he wouldn’t be where he was today if the insurance money that Gary had taken out on the band for that first tour. It paid for the upgrade in studios that the band was able to afford. A thousand dollars doesn’t seem like that much now, but when you’ve been recording in some rando’s basement on a four-track, going somewhere where they had those little foam fingers on the wall made him feel like he was recording at Abbey Road. They didn’t even have those luxuries at Sun, he had thought to himself as they recorded in their first “legitimate” studio.
Fuck, Sun Studio!
He remembered taking that tour. He was six when he dad brought him there, because it was local, and because “ if you’re so wrapped up in music you should know the history!” attitude his father had had. And well, it was also a way to pass a court-mandated afternoon for under $10.
He could remember his father’s hand on his shoulder, reeking of bourbon, while the tour guide flipped switches on and off to simulate blinking lights on a picture of The Pelvis. Even at six, he realized quite frequently when he was surrounded by fuckheads, and this was just such an occasion.
What was it that half-wit had said to him? Something about how he was a little “rock star”, and “oh how cute” or some shit.
Frankie was sure that that was his opening line to all the prepubescent boys. Scratching himself, he noticed another pocket of puss, just an inch away from the base of his cock. That skank in Dallas strikes again. He knew something smelled off about her, but it was his first out of state show.
His suspicion was only that she looked twelve, though she pinkie-swore that she was “legal”, whatever that meant in Texas. He knew he should have just split, but beggars are pretty far off from being choosers. He wondered how many groupies he had given it to. The gift that keeps on giving, every few months or so.
What was he thinking about? Oh yeah, that tour guide with child-snatcher eyes.
“You’ll be huge someday, all you have to do is give up your soul,” he had said.
Even at six Frankie had been well aware of the old blues cliche and just rolled his eyes.
He was also aware that the 1980’s were a time of reason and that the only soul that existed was on a divider at WaxWerks down at the ped mall, though deep in his heart he knew that he would gladly give away any fictional or nonfictional part of his being to be even half as cool as  Jerry “The Killer” Lee Lewis looked in that picture on the wall. Cousin fucking be damned, he sure did radiate that thing that Frankie so wanted.
“It’s yours.” He said to the man with the baby-buggering eyes.
Jesus, this coke was sending his mind into a tailspin. No snow, no show, right Eric? Even if there was no show, he just needed more to numb him from the stupid shit that it was bringing up in his mind. A vicious cycle. Was he doing more dope to drink more, or drinking more to cope with the Dracula white flakes he was inhaling through a rolled up royalty check. Cocaine is one helluva drug. Thanks Rick.
His door was open. Had he left it that way? Was his snooping, sniveling fucking roommate checking in on him again? Within two steps, he was able to reach the door and close it. The rock star life, he thought to himself. Maybe someday I’ll be able to afford a room with twelve steps to the door. This pun sent his mind reeling with self-congratulatory laughter. That’ll be the day. In his hand he noticed that the bottle was half gone, it was only midnight but stores had already stopped selling liquor in this town. Hopefully he could make it through til dawn.
Jimmy’s head was covered in sores when he saw him.
The same kind of pustulant bastards that he had given to half the girls he had ever met on tour. A trickle of blood had been in the corner of his mouth. The same way that he had looked when Frankie found him on the side of the road after running two miles to get there. The van’s breaks hadn’t quite stopped on a dime after they felt the wind blowing from the back doors. Doors that hadn’t ever opened since they started the tour two weeks before. Ones that once closed again, couldn’t be opened for the next two contractually obligated weeks. “The show must go on,” Gary had chimed over email. What a fuckhead.
Well, he wouldn’t be sitting in this miniature lap of luxury if it wasn’t for that half-wit. Both of them knew that. A fact that Gary wouldn’t let him forget, even in a minute long voice mail. Frankie was just the talent. Talent is as common as HPV.
Everybody’s got some.
Jimmy’s head had said more, but for the life of him Frankie couldn’t recall. Was it the drugs he was on now, or was it the drugs he was on then that was making the exchange so hazy? And why on earth did Jimbo’s eyes remind him of some half-remembered tour that he took with his father decades before?
Standing at the door to his room, he could feel a presence behind him like he was the narrator of some bad horror story.
It was just the booger sugar, he thought to himself. That shit always made him paranoid.
He kind of wished that he never did that first line the day after Jim’s death, but he needed something to ease him back on stage. It was the best show that the Fuqs ever played. It’s the one that got them noticed by a small European label that was the one that finally gave them their break. They never got paid for the two-thousand copies that had sold, but it seemed that every one of those copies would go on to become a back-slapping review that went viral across the internet.
The term viral made Frankie wince, as he took another big swig from the bottle. Reaching down to squeeze the head of the now throbbing sore in his underwear. Could he hear that pop, or was it just in his mind? The handful of puss wiped off easy on the outside of his jeans. Laundry day tomorrow, he laughed. With all this money maybe he could hire someone to do his laundry for him. He was never good at it anyhow.
He couldn’t shake that Lovecraftian feel that someone was behind him, watching his biological horror. He would turn around, but that would be giving into his fears. If he didn’t just stand here doing nothing, the terrorist nose candy will win. Looking down he could see that blood had followed the puss and it was now slowly seeping through the denim of his pants. Fuck me, he thought.
“Is it that time of the month already, Frank?” asked a voice from behind him, demanding his attention.
That was enough to get him to  finally turn around. Had he drawn the face of the Sun Studio tour guide in his Scarface mountain of cocaine, the first thing he had bought with the check? The resemblance was uncanny.
Well, that is if he was being drawn by an EC Comics cover artist. A ball was missing from the socket of his right eye, strings of ravenous drool hung from his slightly gaped mouth. He wasn’t a bad illustrator, but he was pretty sure he wouldn’t have been able to get that much detail out of the medium, from his string calloused fingertip.
A macabre, cartoon depiction of some creep from childhood inexplicably manifesting in his cocaine was enough to spook even Frankie.
“Hey there rock star, has this been fun or what?” asked the pile of cocaine, the Peruvian flake rendition of the tour guide’s mouth moving as it spoke.
The empty eye socket winked at him. “You and Sade should compare notes sometime, he would be particularly impressed with the creativity of what you did to that girl in Des Moines. Well, her and her mother.”
“Frankie,” he reasoned aloud to himself, “you have finally done enough blow to fry your brain. Cocaine doesn’t have a face, let alone speak. This is the really real world, and this kind of nonsense fantasy only comes from the minds of people who have completely lost it. This isn’t Alice in Candyland. You have finally done it to yourself, Bucko. Syd Barrett has nothing on you.”
“No, this is real Frankie, and now it’s time to shut the fuck up and listen. You’ve had plenty of time to get your rocks off. It’s time to tip the waitress and take your leave.”
Frankie stared uncomprehendingly at the pile of white powder. This is one of the occasions that the white powder stared back into him.
“You agreed to the terms of this long ago, don’t act like you’re surprised. From this point on it would be diminishing returns anyway. I know that you would make the argument that you never made your White Album, but you wouldn’t stand a chance of doing that anyway. And don’t give me none of that, what do I mean bullshit. You know full well what I’m talking about, you knew then what I was talking about and you agreed.”
Frankie resigned to the fate that had been dealt to him.
“Good boy.” The cocaine said to him. “Nice and easy, you wouldn’t believe how much shit Janis gave me.” The face laughed a cold dry laugh. “Since you are being such a good boy, how about another one for the road.”
Frankie was used to taking his orders from substances, so he pulled out the check and did a line slashing the face in two.
The pile of cocaine groaned in ecstasy as it went up Frankie’s nose, as if he were giving it head.
“I’m in you now,” echoed a little voice in Frankie’s head, the same voice that the cocaine had just spoken with.

“Now we’ll never be apart.”

This story was originally printed in Issue #1. Pick up the entire issue here:

See more of Ira rat's work here:


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