Red woke up in his old cot and sleeping bag which he called a bed. It was some time in the morning -- he could tell by the thin streams of light coming in through the cracks between the boards in his shed. He didn’t need a clock -- the small luxuries of the unemployed. But he saw the lights, rubbed his eyes with his scrawny arms, and sat up. He looked down and let out the usual whispered “Shit” that started all of Red’s hung over mornings. He struggled to his feet and shifted toward his small butane camping stove. He turned on the gas and lit it, and opened up his cooler that held his beer and bologna. He opened the pack of bologna, popped one slice in his mouth cold, and then put three slices onto the pan on the stove. Then he sat down in his folding lawn chair and waited for it to cook. When it started to sizzle, he turned the flame off and took the pan off the stove. Holding the handle in his left hand and a fork in the right, he ate his breakfast. When he was done he set the pan back on the counter and stood up, stretching. Red grabbed the half-empty bottle of Rye and turned toward the door to open it. He braced himself for another trying morning of drinking and relaxation on his front yard of his lot in the trailer park.
Issue 1 - April 2011
Red pushed on the door, but it stopped abruptly with a little thud. He pulled the door back in, and then pushed it out again. There was the same bang when the door hit something, probably a rock. So Red pushed harder, leaning all his weight into it, and felt whatever it was slide. When the door was halfway open, Red slipped out and looked at what had blocked it.
“Well fuckin A-”, said Red as he looked down. Sitting there in front of his door, head and limbs curled inside his shell, was a tortoise, maybe two feet long. After staring for a minute or two, Red got down to the ground. He looked and saw the tortoise’s big black eyes staring back out from inside the shell. A big stupid smile came across Red’s face as he said, “Look at that. I gots me a pet turtle.” After a moment of what some might call thinking, he said “I’m gonna call you … Dooley. Why? I don’t know. But I do know I got a great idea.”
With that, Red went back into his shed, grabbed the folding chair, and set it down out on the front of his lot, facing out towards the street. He then went back to Dooley, picked him up, and carried him over the left of the chair. Red sat down and took a long drink from the bottle. Then he screwed the top back on, and put the bottle down on top of Dooley’s shell.
There they sat. Every now and then Red would reach over, grab the bottle, took a sip, and then put it back on Dooley’s shell.
A while later, a car drove by, and stopped. In it was Joe Hawkins, the park supervisor. He rolled down the window of his beat up maroon ’87 Grand Am.
“Redmund!” He shouted out the window, to no response from Red. “Redmund! I know you can hear me, Redmund, ain’t no way you passed out this early.”
Red turned his head side to side, looking over his shoulders. “Who you talkin' to?” he yelled back. “Ain’t no one here named Redmund.”
“You, dumbass. On your lease you signed Redmund, so you’re Redmund.”
“For the hundredth fuckin' time, I’m Red. I was born red, I’m called Red, I eat meat red, I vote red, and I bleed red. God dammit I'm Red!”
“Well Red, or Blue, or whatever you call yourself, your lease is what matters. As of today you’re two months behind. That’s $400!”
“$200! I’m only on half the lot, so I only pay half lot fees. That’s how shit works,” he said “You’d know that if you weren’t so fuckin' dumb.”
“I’m dumb? I’m smart enough to read your lease, and it says $200 a month. Can you even count that high!?”
“Oh look at me, I’m Joe Hawkins. I’m so smart cuz I went to high school, and I drive my car around and yell at people.” Red sprang forward, “Well guess what asshole, I didn’t go to high school and look at me, I’m just sitting here, being happy, having a few drinks and hanging out with my friend Dooley all day. So why don’t you just go fuck off!”
“Oh yeah, a few drinks. And who’s Dooley?”
“He’s my pet turtle and he’s sitting right…” Red turned to look to his side, but there was nothing there. In all the arguing, he hadn’t realized that Dooley had finally come out of his shell, and was now slowly crawling across the yard, bottle still sitting atop his shell. He’d easily made it ten yards.
“Doooolleeeyyyy!!!!” Red cried out. “Dooley get the fuck back here with my bottle.” Red tried to stand up, and clumsily made it to two feet. He steadied himself, took a step, and then collapsed onto the ground.
“Jesus, Redmund! It’s 11 AM.”
Red turned his head back toward the car and yelled, “If it’s eleven it means its after five, I know that much!” He yelled as he flipped Joe the bird.
“Just get your shit together Redmund, and get my money by the end of the week.”
Red watched as the Grand Am drove away, then turned his attention back to Dooley. The tortoise had made it another five yards by now, and Red took pursuit. Steadying himself on his hands and knees, he began the slow crawl across the sand toward the tortoise. “Dooley you sonofabitch get back here with my bottle. Dooley!!!” Red stopped to pant for a few seconds. “Well, you’re fast for a turtle. Guess you’re like that turtle in that story, always goin round, winning races.”
He made it across the yard, and when he was a few yards away, Red stopped, pushed himself up with all the strength his scrawny arms had. He leaned forward, and made three leaping steps before falling forward in a dive, arms reaching out. With that last bound, he reached the tortoise and planted his hands on the bottle, catching it like an overthrown football.
“Touchdown Red Team!!! The crowd goes wild!” he yelled to no one in particular. The tortoise, feeling the sudden weight, curled back into its shell.
Catching his breath, Red turned to the tortoise. “Woo, nice try Dooley, but I win this time. I win.” He rolled over, placed his head on the shell, curled up with his Rye and went to sleep.
Issue 1 - April 2011