“Jack! Jack, that’s your name isn’t it?” said a familiar voice. “Wake the hell up buddy. How long have you been sleeping for anyway? Hey bud. HEY!” He started to snap his fingers.
“Huh. Ugh. Oh. OH SHIT—Boss I’m sorry, I was just—uhhh.”
“It’s not your Boss. It’s Mike. Now, wake the hell up man, look at the time.”
“SIX O’CLOCK?! PM?!”
“Yeah… Here’s your flask you dropped it off the edge and it hit me on the head,” he laughed, scratching his head. “I noticed it was yours because I saw it peeping out of your pocket when we met this morning. Anyhow, you hungry?”
“Uh, yeah I’m starving…”
“Yeah, I bet your pretty parched too after all that drinking,” Mike grinned. “Hell, your lips look like the Sahara. HAHAAA!”
Jack made no response.
“All right now, stand on up. Here, I gotcha’.”
Mike grabbed him by the arm and jerked him up. “Yup, there we go! Up and at ‘em. Yep. Ahh. Let’s get ya’ outta’ here ya’ drunk bastard.”
The two walked down the long steps of the building and fled back into the quiet city streets. Jack’s arm was slung over Mike’s shoulder. He carried Jack down a long road that was riddled by flickering darkness. No traffic crowded the streets, not one car.
Jack was rambling to himself in a drunken stupor. He kept echoing the words, “Goin’ off the edge. Goin’ off the edge.”
“Lonely out here, huh? When you walk alone, I mean,” Mike interjected. “Man, I remember the days when these streets were flooded, people yelling. The smell of burning tobacco, mhm, the good life. I use to pass through this road and pick me up a cheesesteak or a crape on my way home every-single-day. What the hell happened to this place? Only God knows…”
“At least all the homeless have homes to hide in.”
They both laughed.
Jack started again, half mumbling, “Hey, man, I just wanted to say thanksh an’ all, but I—I think I got it from here.” He slid his arm off of Mike’s shoulder and stumbled over to the sidewalk. His boot caught the curb, then, the rest was black…
* * *
“Man oh man, how many times am I gonna’ have to wake you up tonight? Come on now, dinners ready. You feel okay there, bud?”
“Yeah. Agh.” Jack felt the large bandage on his forehead. “Oh man, did I—ughh.” He looked around the unfamiliar room for a clock.
“Clock’s behind you, above the door.”
Jack turned his head around and saw the yellow clock that was molded into the shape of a sunflower. It read quarter to ten. He grabbed his head as it was aching sharply. It felt as though someone was hammering nails into both of his temples. He caught a whiff of Mike’s cooking that was wafting out of the kitchen; the pain subsided for a moment, and then returned. His house was bright, cheery colored. He helped Jack up—once again, and asked him to help set the table.
“Sorry for making you go through all this shit man, I—”
“Ohh, I got nothing else to do. Way I see it, you brightened up my night.”
They shared a chuckle and started to dig in. Their spoons clanked against the bowls and both slurped their stew loudly like a couple of mutts.
Jack’s eyes wandered around the room. The walls were a bright blue. A windowsill hung just above the kitchen sink, on the sill was a trey with balanced rocks stacking four high. The counters were soft yellow, marble-top. A eucalyptus plant rose inches away from the ceiling in the corner of the room. A pot of daisies rested in the middle of the table.
“So, tell me Jack, what’s your line of work at the construction site—I mean, besides gettin’ drunk? HAHAAA!”
“Oh, nah it’s ridiculous.”
“Can’t be worse than what I do. I hang off the side of the building with a harness attached to my hips all day. Shoulda’ signed up for the war if I wanted to risk my life every day.”
“Well, I went to school for engineering right, graduated top of my class. I wanted to be a construction engineer, don’t know why. When I got hired they told me they would find a suitable position to match my degree. Guess what? The only thing I’ve had to do since I got to Migration ERA is paint God damn walls and God damn signs. I really don’t think the Boss even gives a damn because every time I ask to do something useful he tells me all the positions are full. But in reality he’s just a fuckin’—”
“Hey man, I get it. I wanted to be an astronaut, believe it or not. Even went to Purdue, look where that got me. Thought I was gonna’ be the next Neil Armstrong. I got a full ride for aerospace engineering. Before you knew it, I was training to be sent into orbit. But, ya’ know, shit happens,” his head fell, looking at the ground. “Anyway, why don’t you stay here for the night, I can’t let you walk home in that state, and unfortunately I don’t have a car, sold my gas-guzzler a week ago. Trying to shift to electric. Ya’ know to help the world out and what not.”
“Oh no, I can’t do that. You’ve already helped me out too much.” Jack started to slip on his jacket.
Mike stood up and insisted that he must stay. “Come on now, Jack. If you black out again, I won’t be there to wake your sorry-ass up again…”
“Take the couch. Besides, weather report said it should be snowin’ any minute now,” he checked his watch. “Yup, eleven o’clock. We’re supposed to get a blizzard tonight. Well, I’ll catch ya’ in the morning. Goodnight! OH, there should be a blanket next to the fireplace.”
He started whistling a familiar song and made his way up the creaky stairs. Right when his bedroom door closed, hail and snow started to batter against the windows.
Jack couldn’t help himself against performing an escapade around the house.