Urban Decay -- Prelude

Turn Left This Light

by Michael Friedman

Note: This story contains some strong language. You've been warned.

Bad things always seem to happen to me. I don't know why. It's not like I'm a bad person. Well, I wouldn't really say that I'm all that good either, but I'm not bad, strictly speaking.

As I sat in my car, the turn signal blinking quietly into the night, cars flew by in front of me, kicking up the rainwater from the wet asphalt.

The storm had come through quickly, as southern cloudbursts are wont to do. It doesn't cool down the heat. It's just enough to make everything sticky.

I propped my arm up on the door and rubbed my forehead repeatedly, wondering what I was going to do. And then I looked over at the passenger seat...at her.

Her head sat quietly against the rolled-up window on the humid summer night. Sweat rolled down her neck. Even though she was in bad shape, she looked so peaceful... God, she was beautiful.

She rested there quietly and I didn't even know her name.

The first day I walked into my job at the Simon City News, I knew it was going to be a bad day. Nothing like starting over again. A new town. A new job. Seems like it happened way too often for me.

The last job I had was not what I would call the most friendly environment. In fact, it was down-right hostile, if you ask me. Of course, I was the one they dubbed "hostile".

Have you ever hit your boss? I did, and I must admit it was one of the most liberating experiences I have ever had. That fat-ass jack-off never knew a good review if it jumped up and bit him in his oversized rear end. What do you expect from some one who still has a thing for Barry Manilow?

So, let's just say that things didn't exactly go "well" at the Valley Post. And that's when I hopped the nearest bus to lord-knows- where. It's not like I really cared.

And it's not like I had any reason to stay. I didn't have any one who really cared for me in Dawsonville. And it wasn't like I had very many worldly possesions, that I couldn't get up and move away whenever I bloody felt like it.

I jumbled up a bunch of my dirty clothes into my duffel bag, along with my CD walkman and my CD collection. That was really all I needed. And I really didn't care at that point. I just wanted to get out of that pit of a town.

My career was going nowhere, anyway. So the bus led me to Simon City. My new city. My new life.

Somehow, between hanging out in the lobby of the Sleep-4-Less Hotel and walking the streets, looking for smack, I managed to land a gig at the Simon City News.

Although it has an mainstream-sounding name, the Simon City News is actually a small alternative press. I felt right at home when I walked in the door for my interview. It was a place where true journalism actually lived. It wouldn't be found in the corporate-run mainstream press. I could tell it was my kind of paper.

When I walked in for my interview, everything just felt "right". The same kind of feeling you get when you're in love, when nothing can change your outlook on life.

I knew I had the job in hand when Kyle, the Editor-in-Chief, admired the fact I actually had the balls to hit my old editor.

"Shows tenacity. I like that," he said.

Tenacity. Never really thought I had that, but if he wanted to believe it, it was perfectly fine with me.

He told me I had the job before the interview was even over. I was the Simon City News' very own club-scene beat reporter.

It's amazing how things change. That was a while ago...this story is supposed to be about my first day, and how I knew it would be a bad one.

You see, I had managed to scrounge up enough cash before that fateful day and bought myself a car. Well, you could call it a car. I happen to think of it as a piece of crap.

A 1987 Hyundai Excel is what the dealer liked to call it. I still can't believe I sold off most of my CD collection for some garbage on wheels.

And on my first day of work, wouldn't you know it? Overheated. A leak in the radiator. Wonderful.

So I managed to get my clothes torn and dirty trying to fix the damn thing. It never happened. The tow-truck was nice enough to take my $100, though. They're nice people, those tow-truck guys. They'd be perfectly happy to take your money and screw you up the ass at the same time.

By the time I got to the Simon City News office, the music editor had already left. I got the feeling he was as big a slacker as me, though. He left a note at my desk, welcoming me to the job, saying he didn't really give a shit that I missed my first day.

"You Derrick?" came a voice from across the small divider that separated my desk from the one right in front of me.

"Yes," I replied, with no inkling to whom I was speaking.

A red haired woman decided to pop up from behind the divider. She smiled at me. I found her quite attractive.

"Hi there," she said, sticking out her hand to shake. "I'm Rita. I'm the music news columnist."

I wasn't thinking for a moment and didn't take her hand to shake. I don't know what my mind was on, although I had a pretty good idea that it had something to do with her body.

"Oh, I'm sorry," I finally acknowledged her. It seemed like it was an eternity since she put her hand out into the open.

I tossed my torn suit jacket onto the desk and accepted her delicate shake.

"Nice to meet you."

"It looks like we're going to working together," she said, as she sat back softly into her chair. It seemed like she was floating on a cloud the whole time.

"Well, I certainly wouldn't mind that," I answered, though looking back I probably came off like a total jackass.

"Anyway," she continued, probably ignoring my assanine comment, "Barry told me you'd probably be by."


"Our boss... oh wait, that's right. You never met," she replied. "Barry's the music editor. He just started last week. Kyle hired him right after he fired Jack. Whole big stituation, really. Cleared out most of our depeartment. I'm lucky I still have a...well, you don't really care about that, do you?"

Not really. I was too busy staring at Rita to really notice what she was saying, but apparently, I had met Jack during my interview. I can't remember. I'm lousy with names.

So Rita showed me around the place. Of course, I immediately forgot everybody she introduced me to. Like I said, I'm lousy with names, which really isn't too good for a reporter.

By the time I got back and settled into my desk, the big man, Kyle, handed me my first assignment.

"Normally, you'd get this from your editor," he said, tossing a flyer onto the desk. "But since I'm always here anyway, he gave it to me so I could give it to you. We figured you'd be in some time today."

He laughed. I didn't find it too funny. Still, I was happy they cut me some slack on this. I think the torn coat and grease spots gave some validity to my story.

As Kyle walked away, I looked at the flyer.

"Stonefish," I said, reading aloud.

I was supposed to go to the 7:50 Club to check out this new band called Stonefish. Sounded like some punk college outfit from the flyer.

Still not knowing the area, I had to spend another $1.75 at the service station for a map. Why not? They already basically raped me for a new radiator.

"No money this week, I guess," I thought to myself. "What a great way to get a new start, huh?"

What I actually meant, though, is that I didn't have enough to support my little habit. I had to live off nicotine another week while I scrounged up money for the heavier stuff. I only hoped I could hold out long enough before I found myself doing one of this city's seedier occupations for some extra cash.

I'll leave it up to you to figure that one out. In the meantime, it was time for a show...

Stonefish was already on stage by the time I made it to the club. The club was practically empty. There were about fifteen people sitting around, and half of them had to be under 21.

I began to find out why as I watched the band up on stage. These guys didn't just suck, they brought new meaning to the word. Seeing as I basically already knew what I was going to write, I blocked the music out of my mind.

I wandered over to the cigarette machine in the corner and attempted to jimmy some Blue Pear Lights from the dispenser.

"Do they even keep this thing stocked?" I thought to myself as I gave it a bang. Nothing appeared.

After several other choices, I finally ended up with a pack of Winston 100's. Not my favorite brand, by any means, but it did keep my mind off of all the crank I'd be missing.

I nestled up to the bar after lighting up a smoke and ordered a Red Clock Ale. I sat for a little while, deciding to give the band one more song to catch my fancy.


I was out of that dive. I meandered out the door, making sure that they knew I was "too cool for this place." It was more of a strut, actually.

The bouncer was a little surprised to see me leave, after I had spent a grand total of eight minutes inside.

"Later," I said to him, with a stupid smirk on my face.

I wanted to piss him off... let him know that his club sucked. It's not like I would ever be back.

I walked around the corner and down a hill toward the parking lot in back. As I passed the dumpster, I noticed something next to it, on top of several garbage bags.

"Shit," I said aloud. I noticed that the something was actually a someone... a woman.

I dropped my beer as I staggered back, a little bit of fear had invaded my mind. I thought that I had stumbled upon a dead body, but the sound of glass crashing to the ground seemed to have an effect on the woman. She flicked her wrist a tiny bit in response and made a slight moan.

"Shit. Shit. Shit," I muttered quietly as I looked around. Nobody was there. I couldn't just let somebody else deal with the problem as I had done so many times in the past.

I walked closer and noticed how beautiful this woman was. She had a few brusies on her neck and arms, as well as a black eye, but I could tell she would put Rita to shame.

"Lady? Are you okay?" I asked, really wanting a response. She could say yes, and I could move along.

But, she didn't.

"You're going to need some medical attention," I said to her. I walked up to her, and tried to help her up.

I noticed that this woman wasn't just beautiful, she was perfect. Her tattered, tight red dress perfectly outlined her slender body, highlighting curves I didn't even know existed. She had short cropped hair that was dyed a yellowish-orange, and a nose ring that only added to her perfect face. I'm not even one for excessive body piercing, but it fit her so wonderfully, she just wouldn't have been the same without it.

As I propped her up, I looked around the dumpster for any hint of a purse, or a way of identifying her. No luck.

So I carried her back to my car and sat her gently into the passenger seat to at least get her out of the garbage.

"You gotta help me," I said to the bouncer upon arriving back at the bar door. "A woman... beaten... she needs medical help."

The bouncer just glared at me, like he wanted no part in any of my business. I was almost regretting my snobbish attitude earlier.

"C'mon man. She needs an ambulance."

"Probably just another junkie," growled the bouncer. "They're all around here. Just leave her, she'll be back asking for some more smack in the morning."

"Shit man, she was beaten," I replied. "Don't you get it? She ain't no junkie. I know junkies and she's not one."

"Sez you," the bouncer answered.

"Fuck you," I yelled out, trying to rush back into the bar to get somebody's help.

The bouncer stopped me -- hard. His fist hit me square in the sternum, and I fell backwards onto the pavement.

"Hey," he said. "There's a three buck cover."

"I was already in there," I yelled back, slowly getting up to face him once more. "You saw me leave for Christ sake!"

"Sure, whatever," replied the rather large man, pushing me back again -- more gently this time. He went into the bar and slammed the door shut in my face.

My day just got worse.

I wasn't much for hospitals. I spent too much time in detox to enjoy the place very much. You'd think since everybody talks about it, detox would actually work. I know from experience that it doesn't.

You just get sick as shit and then everybody acts all happy for you, like you just bought a puppy or some other inane crap. After my first trip, I was back shooting the shit the next week. I was pretty sure there wouldn't be a second trip.

I certainly didn't want to even risk it.

But I figured I had to get this girl to the hospital, no matter how much I hated it. But why couldn't I?

Which brings me back to where I began my little tale. The hospital was sitting right in front of me and I couldn't cross the street.

While I sat, the car sat and hummed a little, without a sputter. It was a noticeable silence. A good silence.

"It's much easier to fix cars than people," I thought to myself, smirking as if to let myself know how great a thought that was. I'm such an arrogant bastard.

But I looked at her again, amazed by her beauty, and my mind instantly focused away from myself to her. I stared for what seemed like hours -- yet it was only a matter of seconds -- until the silence was pierced by the sharp ring of a car horn.

Thoughts again moved away from her. It was back to me again. I was holding up traffic. It was time for me to move.

I did, but I didn't go straight. I turned left, and now I must face the consequences of my actions.

But that's another story...

Copyright (c) 1997 Michael Friedman, all rights reserved. Mike's Email Address: hrivnak@eyrie.org Homepage: http://havoc.gtf.gatech.edu/hrivnak Mike's Writing Page: http://havoc.gtf.gatech.edu/hrivnak/tini.html Copyright © 1997 Michael Friedman, all rights reserved.
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