(From my novel, THE GENUINE, IMITATION, PLASTIC KIDNAPPING from Down & Out Books)
An hour later, Tommy and me are sitting on the St. Charles streetcar, at the stop by the zoo down by Club 4141, watching people get on in the front. The last two on are a young tourist couple in matching yellow Bermuda shorts.
“Cool,” Tommy said. “Tourists. They’ll have cash.” He took a drag from his cigarette. He was sitting directly under the “No Smoking” sign, but held it outside the window.
I didn’t disagree. There were maybe fifteen people on board, not counting us and the motorman. This was looking better and better. Might get as much as a couple of thousand out of this crew.
“See that?” Tommy said. I followed his eyes which were locked on the buxom female member of the tourist couple. She was a looker.
“So this.” He brought his forearm up, pretending to take a bite out of it.
“You wish,” I said, grinning.
“Yeah, well I got something her boyfriend ain’t.”
I laughed out loud. “Right, Tommy. Ugliness. But I think she’s maybe one of those weirdos goes for brains and looks. At least one of those.”
Tommy turned and gave me a look. “I’m talking technique here,” he said. “I got this technique.”
“What… you got a cute way of gettin’ on and off?”
“Naw, man,” he said, shaking his head like he can’t believe how dumb I am. “That’s like a big dick. Everybody’s got that.”
I snickered. “I don’t recall you was so blessed in the big wang department, Tommy.”
“Yeah, well I was cold that time. We just got out of the lake, for crissake. See, Pete, being a champion at sex is like being good at basketball. You got to be able to go strong to the hole.”
There was a young gal behind us who I could see was trying to ignore what Tommy was saying. She squirmed in her seat and studied the scenery out the window, them mansions sliding by.
I was dying to know Tommy’s ‘technique’ and asked him.
“I piss in ’em,” he said.
The gal behind us grabbed her purse and sniffed, loud, got up and moved three rows back to the last seat.
“Fuck you, lady,” Tommy muttered. “You don’t like the conversation, relocate.”
I couldn’t help smiling. “She did. What’s this pissing thing?”
I saw the street sign flash by. Coming up was where we planned to do our thing. The corner where St. Charles turned onto Carrollton, by the Camellia Grill. Three blocks from where we’d stashed Tommy’s Nova to make our getaway.
“Never mind,” I said. “Here it comes. You ready?”
“I was born ready,” Tommy said. He stood up and reached his hand into his waistband.
The gal who had relocated screamed out, “This man has a gun!”
The streetcar went nuts. Pandemonium erupted—passengers screaming, brakes screeching as the conductor slammed the car to a half. Tommy lost his balance and recovered. The tourist woman in the front screamed one long banshee scream—Ayyyyeeeeeeeaaahhhh! She’s just one long scream, punctuated only by the times she has to draw breath.
Eeeeeeeeeaaaaaayaaaaah! Ayaayaaya! Aaaaaayaeeee!
“Shut up!” Tommy screamed. “Shut the fuck up!”
He looked down at me where I was just kind of sitting, pretty much in shock.
“You on a break here, Pete?”
I just gawked at him. This wasn’t what I’d envisioned. His eyes left mine and I followed his stare to the gal who’d blown the whistle on us in the rear seat. She had a gun out, trained on him with both hands, just like they do on TV. I couldn’t move. My entire life didn’t flash before my eyes, but about twenty-six years and three months of it did.
“I’m throwing up in my mouth, is what I’m doing,” I said. What had I got into?
“You’ll wanna brush your teeth before you kiss any girls, then,” he said.
Tommy brought his own gun up to bear on the woman in back, same two-handed grip she had. Mexican standoff.
He turned his head slightly down to me, still keeping his gaze on the woman. “Shoot her!” he said. This was just completely fucked.
“You got the gun, Captain Marvel,” I said, finally. “You shoot her.”
Instead of answering or shooting her, he began to back up toward the front door, his piece still trained on the woman. I got up to follow him. It got worse. Four people in the back pulled out weapons and pointed them our way.
“Shit! Shit, shit, shit!” It was all Tommy could say. My sentiments exactly.
I had to hand it to him, though. He didn’t lose it.
“Look, folks,” he said. “We’re gonna just get off now, leave all you good people be. Everybody just stay calm.”
One of the male armed passengers near the back door stood up. He said, “Like hell. I’m taking you out, cowboy.”
I felt like I was going to pass out.
The conductor opened the back door with his control and stood up. “Let ’em go,” he said. “I don’t want no blood in my car.”
The guy with the gun didn’t like what he was hearing. “Aw, man,” he said in a whiney voice. “You can’t just let criminals roam around. We got to take a stand. This is New Orleans, not Fucking-Pansy-Ass-New-York-City. We don’t take no prisoners in this town.”
“Listen, Dirty Harry,” the conductor said. “This is my streetcar. I make the rules. Siddown and shut up and let these folks pass.”
Tommy ran for the door and I was closer than his shadow behind him, leaping off a nanosecond after he did, scrambling as fast as we could across the street.
The mouthy man and the woman in back opened up with their pistolas. I didn’t turn back to look, just kept running as hard as I could, but I heard glass shattering, people screaming, and the pop-pop-pop of handguns. Something whizzed just past my ear and I was pretty sure it wasn’t a mosquito unless insects came in calibers. I ran smack into a braking car, bounced off the hood, got up and kept on running. My side was on fire. Any second now, I imagined a hot piece of lead finding my skull or some other tender part. The regrets were coming as fast as the bullets and I kept wondering like you do in such times of stress when it was evident that God had dropped my case and went off to take a nap or something.
Ten seconds from our failed streetcar heist and bullets still whizzing randomly, I followed Tommy as he ran around a house, heard the shots cease.
“Fuck this!” I said to Tommy, who’d slowed down to a trot once we were out of sight.
“No shit,” he said. “Who woulda figured the Marines would be on that streetcar?”
We kept jogging until we were three blocks away and saw Tommy’s car up the street where we’d left it. We got to the car which was a good thing. I couldn’t go another step. I leaned over, put my hands on my knees, panted like I’d just run the kickoff back a hundred yards for a touchdown. At least what I imagined that to feel like. Getting my wind back, I twisted my head up to look at Tommy. “You kidding me? A motherfucker without a gun in this town is about as rare as a rabbi in a Santa Claus suit.”
We heard the faint sound of sirens up on St. Charles. Getting louder. Sounded like they were starting to sweep the neighborhood.
We headed out to Veterans’ Highway and the second we turned onto it, a siren sounded at a distance, coming closer. Tommy looked at me and slowed down and my heart speeded up.
The cruiser passed us and the second he did, Tommy tipped the beer can he’d been drinking out of, drained it, and tossed it in his back seat, which was already littered with about two cases worth of aluminum cans. He speeded back up.
“Some Indian,” I said. “This car oughta be reported to Pollution Control.”
“You don’t like it?”
Before I could say anything, he braked for the light we’d come up on. He got out, opened the back door and swept a mass of debris onto the street with his arm. It made a pile of at least two feet high. He jumped back behind the wheel… and ran the still-red light. Cars honked.
What an asshole. “I gotta believe you’re outta the redskin union,” I said. “Chief Sitting-Bull… Bull-shit, that’s you.”
He flashed me a shit-eating grin.
“Screw you,” I said. “That’s the last job I pull with you.”
“Oh yeah? What about Sam the Bam.”
He was referring to the debt I owed my bookie. It was a nut-crusher.
“I’ll get it somehow,” I said.
“Right,” he said. “Your favorite aunt’s gonna leave you her Coke-Cola stocks, right?”
“What I’m gonna do is quit betting the fucking Saints and their lousy-ass quarterback.”
He was quiet for a minute, then said, “Pete, you know I got the plan to get us right.”
“Oh, yeah. That genius plan with the supermarket guy? That’s your much-better-than-robbing-a-streetcar plan, right?”
He didn’t have an answer for that.
There was no way in hell I was going to do his supermarket kidnap piece of shit plan. I’d figure out a way to keep Sam the Bam off my ass until I could come up with what I owed. I just had to figure out an angle.
We ended up going to this hole-in-the-wall bar Tommy could run a tap in. He was going to talk and I said I’d listen, but I knew I wouldn’t. I could use a beer, though.
We’re sitting in this dump, knocking back longnecks, staring at the TV where a Giants-Mets game is going on.
A good-looking hooker with a serious hard body, got up from the bar and passed us on her way out. Her ass was flat-out bouncing.
“Now, there’s one I could definitely piss in,” Tommy said. “You just know she’d freak. Probably wanna get married.”
“What the fuck’s up with this pissing thing?”
“You piss in ’em. In their . . . whaddya-callit . . . their vagina. Their love tunnel. While you’re doin’ it.”
“Yeah,” he said. Said it serious as a heart attack. “Nothing to it, really, but you know how many guys do that?”
“My guess would be zero,” I said. “Why would you want to?”
He looked at me and the look he gave me was that he was sitting across from the dumbest son-of-a-bitch he’d ever known. “It drives bitches crazy. It’s like the biggest nut they ever felt. You ain’t been around much, have you, Pete?”
“Jesus, Tommy! It can’t be done, dude.”
“Says who? I done it lots of times.”
“I’m telling you it’s impossible.”
“And why’s that, Mr. Encyclopedia Britannica?”
“Yeah, moron. Squeeze your cock sometime when you’re pissin’. Use the tips’a your thumb and forefinger. That should be enough.”
Tommy sighed, like the burden of talking to such a dumbass was wearing him out. “‘A woman’s pussy ain’t that tight,” he said.
I had to laugh. “Yeah, well, I guess you got an edge there most of us don’t, Penrod.” I shook my head. “You know, your brain waves is in a perpetual brown-out, Tommy.”
“Crack all you want,” he said. Then: “Forget that shit. What’re we gonna do about Sam the Bam, buddy? I’m into him too, you know.”
Jesus. Sam the Bam. I stared off into the distance. “All I ever wanted to do was open me a lousy po-boy shop. Maybe win fifty grand on the Series. Giants losing…”
LES EDGERTON’s memoir, ADRENALINE JUNKIE is available for OUT NOW!