Griff continued walking down the bright streets of Los Angeles on this particular hot day in August, regarding the leather in his boots splitting open and absorbing the heat beating down on them. He turned the corner towards the shopping center across the street from Farmer’s Market on the corner of Third and Fairfax. He wore a black sleeveless t-shirt which was getting hotter and wetter as the day struggled on.
He liked going to Irv’s Cafeteria, which catered to the seniors in the neighborhood because it was regular, non-fancy food at low prices. Before he could get to the entrance, however, he saw something that made him stop dead in his tracks.
“Griff, is that you?” a run-down man in overalls and a horn-rims with one cracked lens asked him. Jesus, Griff thought, startled by the sight, it’s my trumpet instructor, Jeffrey Chandler.
“Jeffrey”, Griff stopped dead in his tracks, “What’s up, man? Long time, no see”.
“I know, Griff. Things haven’t turned out so well for me. Listen, buddy, could you spare a few bucks, I haven’t eaten in awhile”.
“Um, sure”, he kicked down five dollars and handed it to him.
“Thanks, pal. I’ll never forget this”, he jammed the singles into his back pocket.
“What happened?” Griff never saw him like this before.
“I lost the apartment, but before that I got robbed, you know. Hollywood, right? They stole my art supplies and shit. Some of my instruments got stolen, too”. Jeffrey solicited prostitutes in the neighborhood and he’d bring them home. That probably accounted for his pad getting boosted. “I hurt a woman, she only wanted to take care of me and I was just bad to her, just bad. I’m an awful man, just awful”. He shook his head, and I noticed he was missing two front bottom teeth.
“That’s bad, Jeffrey. Sounds like you got a tough break, man”.
“Speak quieter, they can hear us”.
“It might be too late. Oh, god. I gotta get to a phone booth. I gotta make a call”, Jeffrey started pacing around nervously as Mexican and Russian housewives walked by giving him dirty looks.
“Jeffrey, man-“ He noiselessly mouthed words to himself, completely ignoring me.
“I’m going to make a phone call, I’ll talk to you later. Yeah, um, wait-“ Jeffrey not only solicited prostitutes but refused to wear a condom, contracting syphilis in the process.
“She won’t forgive me, she’ll probably hang up on me. Maybe if you talked to her she’ll listen to you, yeah, that’s it, let’s go find a phone booth!”
“Jeffrey, I gotta go-“ I waved at him, turning away.
“No, come on, Griff, it’ll only take five minutes, seriously”. The sun got brighter and brighter and hotter and hotter.
“Take care, Jeffrey”, Griff broke into a quick walk.
“Griff!” Jeffrey called after him.
Griff woke up on the cold bedroom floor to the odor of his brother Patrick spraying the room with a garlic-bleach compound. He rubbed his eyes quickly.
“Hey, what’s up?”
“Gotta clean the place, man”, Patrick walked around the room, squirting away from his plastic bottle. “Keeps the mosquitoes away”.
The last thing Griff wanted to wake up to was the stench of bleach mixed with garlic.
“Hey, you want to grab some breakfast?”
“No, I gotta study”.
“But it’s Saturday”.
“Yeah”, Patrick sprayed away.
“Well”, Griff rubbed his hair around his head. “At least the phone’s plugged in again”.
Almost as if on cue, the phone rang. Patrick ran over and picked it up.
“Hello? Who? Griff? There’s no one here by that name”. He slammed the receiver down.
“Who was it?” Griff asked.
“I don’t know. I have to study”, Patrick put down his bleach spray, sat down and grabbed a book. The king of his castle, the master of his domain, he loudly ripped out a fart that almost penetrated the odor of garlic and bleach. Almost.
Griff threw his clothes on and left the apartment.
The LA Neurotics, one of the biggest punk bands in town, were playing The Glitter House that night. Griff went by himself to let off some steam and hear some great punk rock. The club was packed and The Neurotics were up on stage playing their toughest tunes, “I Gotta Headache”, “Buzz Buzz Killer Bees”, and a punk cover of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Salt Peanuts”, re-titled, well, you know.
As The Neurotics played their noisy, ear-splitting set young guys were in their most primal hardcore element, skank dancing on the dance floor, bum rushing the front of the stage for five seconds before diving into the crowd. A big mosh circle spun like a tornado in the middle of the floor, mostly guys with a few brave girls jumping into the fray for a few seconds before returning to safety by the sides.
The singer grabbed the mike and hollered, “Buzz Buzz Killer Bees, Stiiinnnnng Meeee!” spitting all over himself like a spastic. “Buzz Buzz, Mom and Dad, Stiinnnnng Meeee!”
The band all wore astronaut-style crew cuts and all looked like Republican real estate brokers from Garden Grove. The guitarists wore pained expressions on their faces as they played which either expressed ejaculation or constipation.
The problem with the show besides the fact that the club oversold the place and posed a serious fire hazard was that The Glitter House normally didn’t put on punk shows, so the bouncers didn’t know how to handle the rapidly growing crowd. As a result they were unnecessarily rough on the kids that jumped around the dance floor.
Griff took the best course of action, which was stand towards the back of the room with his beer and rock his body to the music.
“I WANT TO DEDICATE THIS SONG TO MY PSYCHIATRIST. WHAT A BITCH!” Gussie Neurotic, the lead singer yelled into the mike, the drums kicking in to their theme song, “I’m A Neurotic”. The kids all started leaping and moshing faster than ever. Punk kids dove off the stage and some were crowd surfing, riding on a sea of hands through the crowd.
What Griff saw next shocked him. A spotlight travelled from the band to the crowd, picking out a rowdy kid pushing his friends in the mosh pit. Like a nature film, five bouncers raced into the crowd like lions, grabbing the smallest kid and pulling him out of the club. The spotlight followed the entire thing as if that were the real show instead of the group playing on stage.
“What a bunch of dicks”, Griff grumbled as the bouncers dragged the kid ten feet away from him towards the fire exit, the spotlight following them all the way to the back. The spotlight briefly hit Griff in the eyes, so he cupped them with his right hand.
Griff walked closer away from the fire exit as he knew what was going to happen next. More punk kids got pounced on by the huge bouncers and dragged out the back, the spotlight following them all the way to the exit as it did the first time.
“This is so fucking stupid”, Griff tore the label off his beer bottle. “Who cares if we ever play here? This place sucks”.
“AND NOW, OUR LAST MASTERPIECE – ‘COUGH COUGH KAFKA!!!!’” a racing barrage of distorted guitar began “Cough Cough Kafka” and the place went crazy. Kids were jumping around even worse than during “I’m A Neurotic”, the sound was deafening and the room was stifling hot with bodies of people pressed together. It was so crowded it was hard to relax.
A spotlight then hit the mosh pit and the bouncers all ran into the crowd like linebackers at a football game, which is probably what they did before they got jobs at The Glitter House. They all jumped a skinny punk kid who tried breaking free from them, but they grabbed him by the arm. He kicked one really hard and slipped away. They then shoved everyone out of the way and all dogpiled this kid, five jocks on one spindly punk kid. The spotlight then showed the kid getting dragged out of the club in a choke hold. The kid’s face was turning shades of blue and purple as they dragged out of the fire exit.
“That’s enough”, Griff cussed as he went out the fire exit. Coughing to get some air back in his lungs, the kid was cornered by a circle of huge bouncers. Griff rushed at them.
“Hey, what the fuck do you guys think you’re doing?” Griff yelled at them.
“WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT, ASSHOLE?” a big black football monster yelled at him.
“Leave the kid alone! What is this shit? He was just goofin’ around”.
“DO YOU WANT SOME OF ME, ASSHOLE? DO YOU????” the bouncer screamed in his face.
“He’s not bothering anybody! Quit fuckin’ around with everybody, you fuckin’ jocks!”
“GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE BEFORE WE JUMP YOUR ASS, MOTHERFUCKER! STUPID WHITE BOY!” He shoved Griff while the other bouncers were thinking about jumping him instead.
Caught with their pants down, the bouncers simply ripped the kid’s drink bracelet off his wrist and shoved him away. “Get the fuck out of here and don’t ever come to The Glitter House again!”
It was a minor victory. That’s all we have left.
“Thanks for letting me sleep over”, Griff smiled at Pierre, remembering his offer to let him share his apartment. “You’re a stand-up guy”.
“Bro, this is gonna be awesome!” Pierre laughed, “You won’t be sorry!”
Pierre’s place was actually nice and clean for a guy who did hard drugs. It was a classy Thirties art deco apartment in Koreatown with ceiling fan lights and a friendly gold Abyssinian cat. The furniture was in good shape, and after awhile Griff deduced that Pierre came from a good home and probably didn’t pay a cent for anything.
“Yeah, so where were you staying at? Your brother’s place? Was it harsh?”
“He was totally harsh. He just got out of the Army and slept with a gun under his pillow”.
“Hell, he sounds like a drug dealer!”
“Too uptight”, Griff sat back on the couch as Pierre turned on the TV. There was a special on Jim Morrison. “Oh, it’s him”.
“Make yourself at home, man”, Pierre said. He walked over to this dresser and pulled out a dime bag, grabbed some matches and sat down on the sofa. A beat-up spoon and syringe were on the coffee table.
“You don’t mind?” Pierre asked. “This shit doesn’t freak you out?”
“Not as much as garlic and bleach”, Griff responded as Pierre laughed, cooking his works on the coffee table.
“Hey, I tried to call you today, and this guy, your brother? Man, he hung up on me”.
“He was busy cleaning his gun”.
The works finally cooked, Pierre hummed “Light My Fire” as Jim Morrison crooned in the background. He tied his arm with a necktie his Mom bought him for Christmas and plunged the needle in a rapidly collapsing vein. He loosened the tie and laid back. “Oh shit!” he gurgled.
Pierre ran into the bathroom and quickly threw up. “That’s some pretty pure stuff!”
The Abyssinian cat walked up to him as he laid back on the sofa.
“Pure stuff, huh Thunderball?”
“Thunderball? Your cat’s gold. Why don’t you call him Goldfinger?”
“Goldfinger? No way. That’s too obvious. Hey, I saved some for you. Have a taste on me. I mean, seriously bro”.
“No, man, I don’t do that stuff".
“Ahhhh, it’s casual. Hey, are you gonna talk to Mykela for me? She’s so hot”.
"Pierre, you know, about Mykela-"
"I know...I'm trying to stay clean for her...but it's hard, man...I got to make her proud of me..."
Thunderball jumped in Griff's lap as he stroked his furry head. His golden slitted eyes looked at Griff and then at Pierre, noting that he was now passed out. Jim Morrison was on the set screaming his head off in his leather pants and big beer belly.
Griff walked over to the kitchen and sat down by the dinner table. He saw Thunderball jump up on the window sill which overlooked the parking lot below. Griff leaned over the table to grab a cigarette, reach for an ash tray, light up and then looked over to the window sill.
The golden cat was gone.