75 Bucks

“Gimme seventy-five bucks!” Asmarelle shouted through the tenement door. She gave the cheap wood a pounding from where she sat on the carpet. “I could bust through this door,” she went on. “You do it,” her mother shouted from inside. “Just you try.”

“C’mon MOOOOOMMMMM!!!” Asmarelle wailed. She turned to Merit, who was standing next to her. He was about as tall as an action figure. “Y’know Az, don’t worry about it,” he said in his little tinny voice.

“What? I can never hear what you’re saying.” She said. He cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted, “NEVERMIND!! I’m good!!”

She stared at him. “Oh, no, you’re not,” she said, picking him up. “We’re going to get you that alternate head. And maybe one more arm. No problem.” He looked down at himself. “Well, that would be awesome. But I’m just saying you don’t have to.”

She set him on her shoulder and got up. Together they went down the stairs, Asmarelle playfully holding the banisters to skip a few steps at a time.

Outside they walked up the cobblestones to Larry’s Swap Shop. Asmarelle went to the counter and pounded on the bell. “Come on! Come on Larry!” she said. “Don’t make him mad,” Merit said, standing on the counter. He picked up a ball-point pen and leaned on it like a cane.

Larry came out and picked up Merit, taking the pen out of his hand. He inspected him, adjusting his bifocals to get a good look. “What, you want another head?” he asked. “How about two more arms? You’ll have four arms like the goddess Lakshmi- you know who that is?”

“I just need one more arm. And one more head,” Merit said. Asmarelle grinned and gave Larry her trademark sexy look. “So can you do it, Larry?”

He set Merit down. “That’ll be seventy five dollars,” he said. “I told you,” Merit said to Asmarelle, sotto voce. Then to Larry: “We ain’t got it, Larry. We’re plum broke. Our Mom’s won’t give us money neither.”

Asmarelle fondled the ball-point pen. “You look blue, Larry. Is there anything I could do… to put a smile on your face?” She looked deep into Larry’s eyes. He stared at her, momentarily entranced. Then he snapped out of it. “No, Asmarelle. I got a wife. Gotta pay the bills.”

The next second Asmarelle was over the counter stabbing Larry in the face with the ball-point pen, blood spattering everywhere. Larry choked, gargled blood, spun his arms around while crashing into everything, and died. Asmarelle stood over him, the bloody pen in her hand. “Come on, Merit. Let’s get you some body parts.”

Merit stared from the counter, frozen in shock. “But—,” he started.

“But what? He wasn’t going to give us anything,” she said. She wiped the pen on her cargo shorts. “But, uhm, who’s going to attach them?” Merit asked.

“I will,” she said. He started to say something but she cut him off. “I’ve taken a few classes on the computer.” He was silent when she carried him into the dark back room. She set him on a drafting table and switched on the drafting light. “How about some light on the subject,” she said. She adjusted the light so Merit was fully illuminated. Then she went off and puttered around in the back, opening and closing drawers. “I can’t see shit,” she said. “Oh, here we go,” she laughed. “I got you a good arm. Whoops, shit.” She banged around. “Here, wait, I’ll get you another one.”

Soon she came back to the table and set her findings down beside him. There were a few small arms, a couple heads, a hypodermic needle, some fishing line, and some bottles of colored liquid. Merit walked across the table and inspected the body parts, still wet with preservatives. “How about this head,” she asked.

“That one? No…” He rolled it around. She laughed. “Okay, this one,” she said.

“That’s better,” he said. “Okay, let me put you out first,” she said, picking up the hypodermic needle.

“You’re sure you can do this?” he asked. “Sure, sure, sure, sure,” she said. “Sure.”

“All right. Fuck it. Let’s do this,” he said. She plunged the needle into his abdomen and he went limp.

When he woke up he was down on the floor, lying in blood. He got up slowly, seeing everything on two screens, like in a video game. He felt his head and discovered simultaneously that he now had two heads and three arms. A forth arm was half-sewn on and hung at his side. He looked around for Asmarelle and saw Larry’s stabbed face not two feet away. He realized the pool he stood in was actually Larry’s blood. A radio crackled and Merit looked up to see a bunch of cops standing over at the counter. He got up quietly and ripped his forth arm off, tearing the thread and half-bonded flesh. He dropped the arm into the blood pool. Then he snuck along the wall, staying in the shadows. He made it to the front of the shop, being very stealthy, and made a run for the open entryway. The policemen were rifling through paperwork and stirring cappuccinos and he made it by unnoticed. “Why do you think she did it?” he heard one of the cops ask. “You can’t keep looking for explanations, Pietersen,” another one answered. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, there ain’t any.”

Merit scrambled back out to the cobblestone, relishing the use of his new head and arm. He took off running, as the wail of an ambulance got louder and louder.

Copyright © 2008. All Rights Reserved.

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