Friends, Romans, Hound-dogs, it is with much delay and supple tension that I present to you this short story about friends.
by B. Tyler Burton
I had a rich hippie friend who’d made millions in the fresh juice business, enough to buy himself an old house in the Upper Haight where the Dead once stayed for a week-end. A stain of Jerry’s vomit had been preserved under glass in one of the second-floor hallways, the tile around it ringed off with velvet ropes. And when my friend was feeling low, he went to it, and asked of it favors, offering it sacrifice tributes of blow and stray pubic hairs in brass dishes.
He had everything, but was still unhappy, he said. So I stole his car.
He railed against the lack of love in this town, but another showed up in its parking space just like that. He had no girlfriend to steal or I would’ve taken her too.
“That’ll show them. What’s money,” he said, “if you don’t spend it, sometimes?” My friend had also said I couldn’t stay there with him. That I had to go out and make it on my own.
“The world is not kind to quitters,” he told me. So I stole his new car, and his little dog sat shotgun. I took a picture before I set the brick against the accelerator and sent the car flying off the sea cliffs at sunset. The splash was nothing to write home about. But my friend he was in tears when he showed me the picture of the dog’s last panting stare, and I almost waffled in my commitment, until he tells me how much “it” cost him and I see that’s why he’s crying. He hadn’t even given her a name, he just called her “the dog,” or “it”. “I’ll never get one of those again,” he sobbed. And I knew she was much happier with the Kloomps in Marin, where her name was “Sadie”, and they brushed her because it pleased them, not because they had to.
“Why would someone do such a thing?” he asked.
And I told him, “Maybe they’re just trying to teach you a lesson.”
“Maybe,” he said. “These guys think they’re such hot shit, huh?”
I noticed the next time I came over that the dog was new, and the Jag was new, and the flood lights and camera system too.
“It cost me quite a bit,” my nervous friend said. “But I’m safe now. Even Jerry agrees.”
On my way out, I disconnected the surveillance camera before I stole it. Then I was free to get the new dog and the new car. The video-tape showed nothing out of the ordinary before it went blank.
My friend was distraught.
I was almost ready to tell him who was doing this, but then he says to me, “John, you want to live here? I can’t sell the place, not for a few years; but I have to move. Just don’t think you can park your car out there.”
“I don’t have a car,” I told him.
“Yeah, I forgot. You’re lucky. Keep it that way. … You’re lucky,” he said, again and again. “I’ve got so much to worry about. You don’t even know. I’d probably be happier if I’d never made a cent, but you can’t go back, huh?”
“No, you can’t,” I told him. Mawkishly, he hung his head at the sound of the taxi outside.
Once he was gone, the first time I got sore in need of cigarette money I stood over that puke with a spatula. I got an offer, ten grand for it, on eBay. I threw parties. I realized it was cheaper than buying hookers. Then one day I heard the floorboards groan above my head with the weight of the footsteps of hipsters, and into the trash-can went the rest of my money.
The stairs creaked as I climbed them, knowing full well I had just better empty the trash and forget about it before I thought too hard about my decision. These kids, they’d steal me blind if they knew I had a cent to spare…