Wanting More, by Mark Mika.
He watched them all through the open car window. Strolling down the sunny sidewalk lined with palm trees and those insidious coffee houses every five feet, giggling and happy, smoking their little asses off. Billy was muttering something from the driver seat beside him; he could give a crap less though.
“Jeezuz-fucking-mugeezus, does everybody smoke in this town?” Cursing in creative new ways had become his way of battling the scraping, constant craving that pulsed out of every pore of his body. “I doubt anymore than there was three days ago Ollie.” Billy said it like he was explaining sentence structure to one of his students, never taking his watery old man eyes from the road as he drove.
“Yeah, well it sure as sugary shit seems like it.” Ollie was scratching at the small shiny patch on his arm. “And these things itch like a case of crabs from Medusa.”
With the patience of a saint and love in his heart even Billy was growing weary of the constant tirade. “Yes, well- I’ve known you 30 years and you’ve never had crabs — and Medusa was a gorgon, not a hooker.”
Oliver always pouted after being corrected about anything, so they drove in silence and prepared for the upcoming visit. Billy stealing occasional glances at his friend, clouds of thoughts passing in his eyes, and then returning to the familiar neighborhood road, the restaurants, clubs and shops they both knew.
They still had over an hour, neither one had been able, in the rush of the morning, to eat anything for breakfast and the gurgling moan from Oliver’s stomach was audible over the soft radio playing some old Bing Crosby.
“Stop scratching that thing; you want to get some lunch at Ambrosia before? We’ve got some time.”
Billy couldn't see the look on Oliver’s face as he stared out the open window, still absently picking away at the patch.
Christ, he’s still pouting about Medusa, Billy thought tensely. “For the love of God, STOP SCRATCHING; unbelievable that a crotchety old goat like you gets even crochetier without his smokes.”
Oliver stopped scratching and he and Billy glared briefly at each other, then the silent words only longtime friends and lovers can know were spoken; the air lost the mist of anger, temperate memory taking its place.
“Do you want Ambrosia Ollie?”
“Do you want McGee’s? French Onion and some beef’s… good stuff.”
“What DO you want?” Billie’s cracked old smile was soft and good. “Besides a cigarette you old fart.”
FOR YOU TO SHUT THE HELL UP almost escaped his mouth but after a moment, with calm surrender, said, “Let’s just get there, get it done, and get out. We’ll grab something afterwards; that’s what I want.”
Fifteen minutes later they both sat silently in the car as it idled by the wide-walked entrance.
“I’ll come up with you Ollie.” Oliver pulled the door latch and began pouring his body slowly out of the car.
“Nah...Won’t take long. Can ya run over to that Rite Aid, get more patches for me and some of that buffalo butt tasting gum. I’ll be done by the time you get back.”
Billie watched him shuffle down the white-paved walk, pass without looking back through the whoosh of the sliding doors and into the cold, sterile air. He began frantically hitting the search button on the radio, trying to find something he wanted to hear as he drove off.
The gift shop was empty and Oliver was in and out, purchase in hand, within a minute. He stepped through the sliding doors and had to adjust his eyes to the midday glare. The spot where Billy had parked before was occupied by a large black Cadillac, a man and women in their 30’s gingerly helping a cotton haired woman into a wheelchair; a small green overnight bag clutched to her chest. It took a bit but he spotted Billy’s old Ford parked in the lot across the median.
Ah Billy; beautiful, calm, educated Billy. He thought as he walked slowly towards the car. What would life be without you?
Billy watched him approach from the rearview mirror. His hands were buried in his trouser pockets and Billy could see he’d taken that damn patch off his arm. He was glad he’d asked the counter person at Rite Aid if they had a brand that was less of a skin irritant and she had obliged with something that was at least advertised as less itchy.
He didn’t see Ollie take the cellophane wrapper off though, or peel pack the foil, didn't even hear the lighter through the open window.
Billy’s eyes brimmed over with tears; his heart felt like it was bleeding as Ollie sat in the car, smoking with calm, luxuriously sad satisfaction. The smoke wafted around his face and head and the sound of the red-fire tip when inhaled was deafening.
“Doc said he wouldn’t do the chemo — wouldn’t do a finger fuck bit of difference for me — and that I should make some arrangements.” Ollie said through the puffing cloud.
The question shimmered through the tears in Billy’s eyes.
Ollie answered. “Six months, maybe less.”
Mark Mika resides in Southern California with his patiently loving girlfriend and equally loving, but lazy, cat. They frollick by the sea on a daily basis. He works as a freelance writer of non-fiction. This is his first published work of fiction. He is also a screenwriter-in-progress. Contact him at his website http://marlinmark.wordpress.com.
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