Pin lived in the alleyway under some corrugated metal but he showered at the Y and had a girlfriend named Slinky. In autumn the wind whipped down the Chicago streets but in the alley the air remained calm. One day when Pin was at a hardcore show he got knocked upside the head so hard he forgot where he really lived and ended up in that alley. He’d worn the same jeans and boots for almost a year now.
It seemed like his whole life was spent getting knocked upside the head one way or another. He was a fighter but not a very lucky one. Slinky met him in the doughnut shop one day. She’d run away from home and was happy to find him. They became petty thieves together, mostly of food.
One day the sky stayed grey and the traffic all around wouldn’t let up. They walked up the block as a few fall leaves floated down from above. What’s up, Casey? said a skinhead crossing the street towards them. Pin veered off with Slinky and they turned the corner but then suddenly the skin appeared right next to them. Pin turned his head just as the skinhead’s fist connected with his ear. He spun around and landed a punch on the skin’s eye but that only made the guy crazier and it was a mess.
Slinky stabbed the skinhead five times in the back.
Later that night the new tenant in the corrugated homestead was the skinhead corpse. Pin and Slinky decided to drive to California. They stole a car from Slinky’s aunt who lived in the suburbs and started driving. At night they slept in the back seat, waking up every hour or so just like they were used to doing in the alleyway.
You’re a good driver, Pin told Slinky. Slinky stared at the slushy road ahead as the windshield wipers cleared off cold rain every second. Mostly she didn’t answer him when he said things. She had an old hardcore cassette tape and pressed play.
You know, when we get to California I think we should listen to new music, Pin said. Slinky shook her head.
No, continued Pin. I don’t mean new music, I mean different music. It doesn’t have to be new. Just something fucking different. We’ll be in California.
Slinky mouthed the word “No”.
Slink, I don’t mean like the Beach Boys. I mean like something we like but different than this. Fuck this fucking shit. He hit eject and threw the cassette tape out the open window.
Slinky looked at him with intense violence in her eyes.
And then she laughed. And Pin laughed. And they drove with the wipers beating away.
Later they slept in the car alongside a big field of grain that rustled all night. You still have that knife? Pin asked. What knife? Slinky said.
The fucking knife. The knife. You still have it? Pin asked. Slinky nodded. When we get to the Pacific Ocean you should throw it in. Like off the Golden Gate Bridge or something.
We getting new knives in California? Slinky asked.
No, Slinky, Pin said. Slinky stared up at the roof of the car.
When they made it across the state line into California, Pin stole them two California Sunshine State shirts from a gas station. Slinky wouldn’t wear hers but Pin put on his right away. His old shirt had a picture of combat boots with red laces on it. It was grey and ripped. Slinky wouldn’t let him throw it away. She began using it as a pillow at night and always kept it close.
Finally they arrived at miles of beach extending in all directions. The setting sun turned the sky fuchsia and lit the water on fire. They crossed the beach, heading toward the water, Pin still wearing combat boots and rolled up jeans. Slinky was in her all black. There were a few families with beach towels and radios, soaking up the sun’s final rays. Pin took off his shirt and then Slinky took off hers, walking just in her bra. They looked like twins with their pasty white skin and tattoos and scars.
When Slinky looked back she saw what looked like two police SUVs moving silently across the sand toward them. They didn’t quicken their pace, walking straight for the water and then into the water. It’s colder than I thought it would be, Pin said. The next time they looked back the officers were fanning out across the sand. One of them started shouting orders into a bullhorn, sending the beach people scattering.
In the ocean with water up to their waists, Pin took Slinky’s face in his hands and kissed her a long, long kiss that didn’t end until they were being dragged apart by the authorities. By then the sun had gone down and it was a cold California night.