She went in the bathroom, I unlocked my door, then remembered I needed to check messages. (For various reasons, I had my own phone line.) I was listening to them when she came back out of the john, walked into the middle of my room, and said in horror, "What in God's name is that?"
I looked around the room, trying to figure out what had her so startled.... And realized she was staring at my Dwarves poster, the one from the "Blood Guts & Pussy" album.
"Um, that's a poster for the Dwarves first album. Didn't you say you graduated high school in 1990?"
|Dwarves - Blood Guts & Pussy, 1990|
"And, you said you were 'into punk rock' back then, right?"
"How the hell did you miss the Dwarves? They're from San Francisco, they played live constantly all over the Bay Area, and that album sold like crazy!"
"That's the most awful thing I've ever seen in my life!"
I thought she was joking. "Yeah, two naked women, one naked dwarf, lots of stage blood, and a stuffed rabbit. Bergen-Belsen or the Rape of Nanking ain't got shit on that."
"I can't believe you'd have something that disgusting up on your wall."
"Um, we've met before, right? I know this is the first time you've ever been to my house, but come on. It's just a band poster. I'm sorry if it freaked you out."
A head poked in my open door. It was Mimi, sporting a tri-hawk and the identical pink hair color as Rook. "Hey cutie!" (Everyone was "cutie" to Mimi.) "Wanna go in on some Whippets? We've almost got enough for a case."
"You doing 'em up tonight?"
"Hell yeah! Can't leave that hippie crack sitting around."
It was worth a try. "Hey Becky, we still really haven't decided what we're gonna do tonight. Wanna just hang around here and get cartooned on Whippets?"
Becky looked confused and asked, "What are Whippets?"
I frowned and said, "You went to college and you don't know what Whippets are?"
Mimi leaped into my room like a superhero, landing in a crouch at Becky's feet. She looked up at Becky and said, "Whippets are fun, that's what Whippets are. A canister, a balloon, and a release valve, and you're off to la la la la la la la la la la la la la land." She looked back down and said, "You have nice legs."
"Can I lick them?"
I burst out laughing, grabbed a copy of the East Bay Express off a table and began whacking Mimi on the head with it, yelling, "Bad bisexual! Naughty half-dyke!" Mimi screeched and laughed, and crawled back to her and Even Littler Steve's room on all fours, doing a somersault to cover the last few feet. I timed it right and whacked her on the ass with the paper as she rolled through the doorway, causing Mimi to yell, "Fucking tease!" at me, then crash the door shut. A loud sing-song chant began coming from the room: "Whiiii-peeetttsss.... Lee-eeeggss.... Whiiii-peeetttsss.... Lee-eeeggss...."
"Hush ye, Munchkin!" I yelled at her door --- Mimi was only 4'10", which made Even Littler Steve, at 5'4", a happy man --- and closed my door, still laughing.
Becky had re-installed her confused and horrified look on her face. Standing in the middle of my room (and facing away from my Dwarves poster; I guess the show flyers or John Cleese poster didn't bother her) she asked in a slightly accusing tone, "What the hell was that?"
"What? Aw, that was just Mimi goofing around. Oh, that reminds me, were you up for just doing Whippets and kicking it here tonight?"
"You never told me what they are. Are they some kind of street drug?" Yeah, she actually said "street drug." I'd have to explain to her at some point that there is no such thing: you'll find heroin addicts and crackheads with ten million dollar jobs.
"A-heh! No, Whippets are.... Well, you know what nitrous oxide is, right? Whippets are little canisters of nitrous used for whipped cream canisters in restaurants. They make these valve things for 'em so you can fill a balloon up. You just take a big lungful in from the balloon, and for about ninety seconds you're, um, you're off the fuckin' planet, really. It's a short-lived psychedelic experience. I'm surprised you never came across them in college. So you wanna throw in? If they're getting a case, there'll still be plenty when we get back from wherever."
"Well.... How much?"
"Good question, lemme go ask."
I went across the hall and pounded on Mimi's door. "Hey Mimi!"
"What's up?" she yelled back.
"How short are you for that case?"
"HOW - SHORT - ARE - YOU--- Oh, just open the fuckin' door!"
"Can't! I'm masturbating!"
"Well cover up, I'm coming in!"
I opened the door as she was wrapping the lower half of her body in a blanket. "Hey, orgasm addict, how shy are you for that case of Whippets?"
"Umm.... About $25 or so."
"I think me and Becky can cover most of that, we can probably throw in ten each. Is that square?"
"That'll work, somebody will come up with the last five. Now please split, I was working my way up to a real awesome one."
"No problem, see you later tonight. You enjoy yourself."
"Oh, I am, I am!" I wasn't all the way out the door before a familiar buzzing sound started up.
I went back to my room, where Becky was still just.... Standing there, frowning at my wall of show flyers. "So you want to throw in a tenner?"
"Yeah, that's fine. Um, did I hear her right? She was in the middle of.... Umm...."
She turned red and said, "Yes."
"Yeah. She's kind of our bisexual house pervert. She has a mind like a porn movie, one with lots of girl-on-girl three-ways. Don't worry though, she wouldn't actually do anything. She was just jokin' around, yanking your chain." (Despite her constant innuendo and behavior, she was fiercely dedicated to Even Littler Steve. As a couple, Steve and Mimi were very tight. No matter how many crude and lusty comments came out of her mouth, she would never act on them: she was with Steve, dammit, and quite in love with him. The closest they got was her finding other pint-size bisexuals and having three-ways --- Steve, Mimi, and the girl they'd brought home --- much to the burning jealousy of every guy in the house.)
"Seriously, she really was.... You know...."
"Rubbing one out? One-hand watusi? Solitary happy-times? Jacking it? Engaged in autoerotic behavior? Yes, she was."
"Oh my god."
"It's really not a big deal. She felt like coming, her boyfriend isn't home, so she took care of things herself. Besides, at this time of day, she's gonna almost expect to be interrupted. You can't be too bugged, I've seen your toys. It's normal human behavior, so long as you're not on public transit. 'Sides, she covered up when I went in."
"I'd hope so!"
I laughed. "Becky, we've got twelve people and one bathroom in this house. We make half-assed attempts at preserving modesty, but it's accepted we're all gonna see each other naked --- probably multiple times --- at some point or another. Hell, you hadn't been here five minutes and you got to see one of my roomies naked. She dropped her towel, big deal. It would have been weirder if she didn't bother to retrieve the towel, so she could show off her landing strip."
"I do not want to talk about this."
I realized she was seriously annoyed.... And why, I had no idea. Obviously I'd seen her naked --- and whatever else might be said about Becky, by God, she could give a dead man a hard-on. She had at one point given me a bit of a "show" involving her own devices, self-pleasure was hardly foreign to her (and while she didn't shave, she trimmed, which struck me as odd: shaving would be faster, if nothing else) .... I could only guess she had some sort of latent shame issues, despite her having provided me with an exhibitionist demonstration for her pleasure and my entertainment. (I remember holding up my left hand and saying, "See, guys are lucky. All we have to worry about is this," and began joining in the fun, so to speak.)
I said, "Ooo-kay then. Look, I really need to talk to Chuckles, he's in his shack out back. I'll only be five or ten minutes. Stereo and music are over there, books are on those shelves, and comics and fanzines are on that shelf. I'll only be a few, promise. Anyone comes looking for me, just tell 'em I'm in Chuckles' shack, okay?"
"All right. Lenny? Please hurry back!"
"Uhhh.... Yeah, no problem."
I'm not sure what she expected to happen. She was certainly aware there were a couple people in the house who had a very low view of her; perhaps she was expecting to be attacked. On my way down, I wadded up a twenty, opened Mimi's door, stuck my arm through, and threw it in the general direction of her bed. Her voice panted, "Thank.... You.... " and I closed the door.
I went back downstairs, and was vaguely aware of Mookie being crammed into the "doorway" to Rook's cubby hole. As I walked past Hawk, he said, "Hey."
I looked over. Four firearms in their cases, two to go. "Yeah, Hawk?"
"That woman is out of line."
I paused and looked at the floor for a couple seconds, and replied, "Yeah. I've been learning that."
"Rook heard her."
I went back over to Rook's cubby hole, stuck my head in, and said, "Hey, all." Rook was against the back wall, with Glare lying at her side stroking her arm. Mookie was wedged sideways against the wall opposite the door. Rook was smiling vaguely now, but it was obvious she'd been crying. She sniffled and said, "Hi Lenny."
The next thing I knew I was violently propelled backwards onto my back, being held to the floor by a pair of fishnet-covered knees, and the collar of my shirt held very tightly around my neck. Mookie had launched herself at me, and was now looking down at me as if trying to decide whether to punch the front or side of my face first.
"You. WILL. Get that fucking CUNT. Out of this HOUSE."
Mookie and I both looked over to Hawk, who had spoken. "It's not Lenny's fault that chick's a bitch. He didn't even know she is."
It was my turn to speak. "Um, Mookie?"
"This is starting to hurt."
"Shit! Sorry. So why do you say that, Hawk?" Mookie said, getting off my chest.
He balanced the rifle butt on his knee. "Because I don't think they have a real relationship going. I guess that all they do is eat dinner, fuck a few times, sleep, fuck some more, eat breakfast, and that's all. Heh, it's better than microwave burritos and beating off, for both of them, but that's about it."
"Just barely," I muttered under my breath. Out loud, I said, "Um, Hawk, you kind of nailed it. What I wanna know is, how do you know all this?"
Hawk shrugged and said, "Because you never talk about her. The last three weekends you go down to Santa Clara or Cupertino or wherever on Saturday afternoon and come back late morning on Sunday. We've asked, and you just said, 'seeing a woman I met.' No explanations, no talking about her like if you're actually dating.... She doesn't occupy any space in your head. So your only real knowledge of this broad is probably the most efficient way of making her come, and that's about it."
"And she likes Thai food."
Mookie said, "Okay, you know she likes Thai food and you know how to fuck her. How'd you two even meet?"
"Ugh, long story short? I was in a yuppie bar in South Bay, supposedly hanging out with friends. No party clothes, but I still didn't blend in. In fact, I was in a shitty mood. She comes over and starts talking to me on a goddamn dare from her friends. We talked, with me trying to be as aggravating as possible so she'd go away. I didn't really care about her, or the topic of discussion: I just wanted to be left alone.
"She asked me something like, 'What are your hobbies?' So I told her, 'Listening to Big Black and fucking, speaking of which, why don't we go to your place and fuck?' I figured that was my hole card, that she'd slap me and flounce off. No. It sounded like a great idea to her.
"Never, in my entire life, have I picked up a woman in a bar until four weeks ago. Yeah, I've met women in bars, and gotten their phone numbers, and had real dates with them later, but I'd never just met a woman, said 'Let's go someplace and fuck,' and actually have it happen. So.... I figured, What the hell, let's ride this out. So the last couple of weeks I've driven to South Bay, had a good dinner, followed by mediocre sex and the world's worst blowjobs. I keep telling her, it's called 'sucking cock' because you suck on it, and it just doesn't sink in." Hawk and Mookie cackled with laughter at this.
Hawk and Mookie looked at each other. Mookie said, "So you didn't know she could be such a bitch?"
"I never would have guessed she could be so cold-hearted and uncaring. I mean, that was some Ayn Rand-level shit right there. I'd always seen her as.... She's not dumb, but not all that quick, either. It's like, she's got brains, but considers using them to either be a hassle, or some kind of social faux pas. I know she went to college: maybe it was one of those weird-ass ones back East where they teach you.... I dunno, ballroom dancing and which fork to use when, that 'how to be a proper lady' shit. Christ knows, showing you have smarts is one of the things they train you right the fuck out of.
It would actually explain a lot. We've never had a conversation that I didn't start. Now, that is an uncomfortable feeling. It would also explain the.... Oddities during sex. She can't suck a dick because it's been hammered into her that 'nice ladies' don't discuss such things. I dunno if it explains other aspects, though. Sometimes she's pleasantly aggressive: like we'll get to her place, get inside, and as soon as the door is closed she's grabbing for my dick with a horny smile on her face, saying shit like, 'Oooh, my favorite toy' or whatever. You know, bein' nasty in a good way. But other times she's like.... Corpse city. Just totally uninvolved.... And this will be on the same night! She'll be a total cold fish, and I'll ask her, 'Did I piss you off somehow? Do you want me to go? Please, talk to me.' And she'll say, 'Absolutely not, honey, please spend the night. I guess I'm just a little drowsy.' And in the morning, wham! 'Morning, baby! I need you to fuck me cross-eyed with that big cock.'"
Mookie asked with a perky look on her face, "And do you have a big cock?"
I knew Mookie well enough to know that particular subject wouldn't go away until I answered it. I described Mimi as a pervert: Mimi's favorite activity was her, Even Littler Steve, and any girl (not too tall) that liked to go both ways at the same time. Plus, some light B&D: handcuffs, spankings, dirty talk and mild verbal abuse. Everyone else in the house was "vanilla" when it came to sex. Even Mookie, despite her job, didn't take her work home with her. I had the feeling that any guy she was dating who asked her to wear her gear when fooling around would get a solid 'NO' and his association with Mookie would be ending toot sweet. However, I also knew that her sex drive had a turbocharger on it: she dated a round quite a bit for practical reasons: she was searching for a guy who could keep up with her.
I sighed, gave Mookie a look, and said, "Above average, no porn star. Just shy of seven inches, and apparently rather wider than whatever normal is. Women seem to be happy about the width---- "
"Ooohh yeah." chimed in Mookie. I gave her another look and continued.
" ---- and I'm happy about the length. Ain't met a woman yet that enjoys having their cervix bashed into."
"Testify, brother!" This was not Mookie, but Glare, who had come up silently behind me.
Hawk frowned and said, "I thought women really liked big dicks."
Both Glare and Mookie burst into laughter. When they'd calmed down, Glare told Hawk, "Okay, you're probably thinking of porno dudes that got ten inches of wood. Guess what? Fuck. That. Shit. No way. That'd be fun to play with, but no way would I have sex with a dude built like that. Not on purpose, and not more than once.
"Okay, say women were built different. Say you go so far into a woman's puss, there's a bone or something there that bends your dick at a ninety-degree angle. Uncomfortable, right? Yeah, that's what it's like to get fucked by a dude with a long dick. It just plain fucking hurts.
"There's a reason why guys' dicks are the size they are: because that's what fits in a girl's pussy! Hawk, if you're worried about the size of your dick, do yourself, your girlfriend, and women in general a favor and fucking stop it. You're fine."
Hawk cut off this line of conversation with, "You were explaining about this woman."
"Oh, are we done discussing my penis now? I thought we'd get a few more people in here, maybe I could put up some diagrams."
Mookie said, "No! We need photographs!"
"I'll Xerox it for you at Kinko's, okay? Anyway....Hell, we're passing the time together. We always go out to dinner and chat about our weeks --- each of us thinks the other is insane for doing what we do for a living --- we'll hit one of her lame-ass yuppie bars, she has a few drinks and giggles with her friends --- and being the yuppie-ass lamos they are, they're scared of me, they think I'm some kind of mutant --- then we go to her place and fuck the night away. Excluding her inability to suck a dick, she's actually okay in bed, and you've gotta admit, she's got a hell of a nice body on her. This is the first no-strings-attached relationship I've ever had, dammit. I figured I'd at least play out the string. Her saying what she said about Rook never would have ent--- oh fucking hell, Rook! How is she?"
"She's doing okay, better now. She heard... What's her name, Bonnie?"
"Well, she heard Becky talking and thought we were gonna listen to her, turn her over to the cops or whatever. Shit, she's got plenty of abandonment issues, the shit that bitch was talking was a total trigger. After you went upstairs, Glare came home and asked, 'Why is Rook in her hole crying?' I never heard it. So me and Glare went in Rook's hold and managed get her calmed down, convinced her we weren't gonna listen to Becky, that we weren't gonna turn her over to CPS. Speaking of, where is that goddamn cunt?" Mookie had sprouted a Grinch-like smile.
"She's in my room and please do NOT go up there. I've gotta go talk to Chuckles, and then we're leaving. You decking her will only guarantee she's around longer. Plus, I can also guarantee she's a cop-caller, so if you did lay her out, we'd end up with P.D. here. I promise you, the only time you'll see her ever again in your life will be her backview as she leaves here tonight."
I went out back through the yard to Chuckles' shack. When he opened the door, I immediately clicked on the fact that he looked.... Different, somehow, something I couldn't put my finger on. New piercings? Nah. Hair? Same as always: natural color, medium length, his beginnings of male pattern baldness. Admittedly, he and I didn't see a lot of each other, due to his location and different work hours. It had been over a week since I'd actually seen him.
Then it hit me: his eyes. They were normal. No manic glint, and his pupils weren't dilated. Chuckles was not high. To me, this was a Halley's Comet-like event.
"Yo Chuck, we got the paperwork from Berkeley USD. I guess now it's just a matter of filling out the forms and deciding which of us will be Rook's uncle."
He smiled gently and said, "That's good news."
"Umm.... Chuck, you feeling okay? You seem a little.... Off."
He smiled, a little more strongly, and said, "I quit ecstasy. I've been off for nine days now."
I gawked, then nearly knocked him out of his chair hugging him. "Dude, that's just --- that's totally wonderful! I'm proud of you, man!"
He made a "pfoo" noise. "It's been easier and harder at the same time, y'know? I haven't had any issues with depression --- just feeling a little 'blah, nothing is interesting' --- but I can deal with that. I wasn't ready for the lack of energy, though. Heh, you wouldn't believe the amount of coffee I've been going through every day at work. That, and um, I have no sex drive. Zero. It's a good thing I'm not seeing anyone right now. Hell, I haven't even knocked one off for eight days. I just don't care."
"Not even with the porn?"
"Nope, not even then. I've popped a few tapes in, watched about a half hour of each, then dismissed each one: 'Bah, it all looks the same, just the usual shit.' No rise at all." (Chuckles, while not obsessed with pornography, did have a strong appreciation for the Adult Entertainment Industry and its many fine products. We Silo residents had been known to have "Movie Night" with Chuckles' videos as the viewing choice. Basically, it was us Silo residents watching your standard suck-and-fuck movie, drinking beer (or soda), eating chips, and riffing on the movie a la Mystery Science Theater 3000.)
"Day three was the worst; that was the 'somebody kill me' day. But every day things get a little smoother, less coffee consumed, less disinterest in.... Well, everything. But I'm not gonna promise myself, or anyone else, that I'll never do MDMA again. Remember Lucky?"
Lucky was a bassist and party gladiator who, after years of abusing anything available, decided to get clean. Went to NA meetings, avoided his old party pals, the whole nine yards. He stayed clean for nine months.
Then, for whatever reason, Lucky went on a heavy binge, Friday through Sunday. He overindulged in literally every drug he could find. On Monday he decided he hated himself so much for slipping that he drove to Golden Gate Fields, stuck the barrel of a revolver in his mouth, and pulled the trigger. No matter how many years go by, losing Lucky makes me sad and angry.
Chuckles said, "Yeah, that's why I'm not making any damn promises to anyone. No NA. either. I'm gonna try to not use at all, but if it's the weekend, what the hell, why not. I won't beat myself up over it."
"So what brought this on?"
"Oh, god. I was at Amoeba Records, and I found all this cool shit I wanted, including stuff I've been hunting for for a while, and I remembered, 'Oh, wait! I can't buy this stuff, I have to score my Ex for the week!' And it hit me like a brick: I was gonna sacrifice all this cool stuff, that I had the money for, so I could buy drugs instead. And I told myself, 'Fuck. That. Shit.' and bought my CDs and vinyl. Okay, not quite true. I kept out the money for a single hit, as sort of a last hurrah thing. That was it though."
I congratulated him again, with true sincerity, and we got down to business. All the forms were straightforward enough, it really did come down to who was gonna be Rook's uncle. After much bantering --- both of us wanting to commit a felony for Rook's sake --- It was decided Chuckles made more sense for this bit of chicanery. While he had more piercings, he also had really "normal" hair, thinning on top (and thus adding a few years to his age), and a better wardrobe. We didn't expect to need a tie and blazer, but he had slacks, dress shoes, good-looking dress shirts.... Without the piercings, Chuckles could have passed as an entrepreneur or a paralegal or something. Hello, I'd like you to meet Uncle Rook.
A glance at the clock told me I was running a bit late: the ten minutes had turned into thirty-five. If I took too long, she was sure to come to looking for me.... Which would be disastrous. Hopefully she got absorbed in my comics or fanzines.
I went back in the house and was greeted by Glare, who asked "Where is this girl? I want words with her." Hoo boy. Glare is normally the quietest, most peaceful of girls, now even she wants to put Becky through a wall.
"She's in my room, ready to leave, and never to return," I told her. "I'm getting her out of the house, and she won't be back."
"I still wish to speak with her."
This didn't surprise me. The whole house had a bit of a protective, older brother/sister feeling towards Rook, and Glare had a very strong instinct that could almost be described as maternal, no matter there was only seven years difference between the two. If Rook brought a boy home, Glare would always want to meet him. Several teenage boys were given the third degree by Glare before they could disappear into Rook's cubby hole to fool around; a few may have fled in terror after being grilled by a severe-faced girl with green dreadlocks and twin septum rings. (Nobody held any illusions about whether Rook was sexually active or not. We all had boyfriends and girlfriends, and those of us who were single would just plain get laid sometimes. Why shouldn't she have fun? We just wanted her to play safe and stay within her general age group --- eighteen and younger was what we encouraged --- and, ah, may the Lord have mercy on any guy that hurt her. Glare and Mookie would be first in line, baseball bats in hand. Actually, Mookie would have used her whips.)
Once again, I did more pleading on Becky's behalf. At this point I felt if I left the house without her for an hour, I'd come home to Hawk and both Steves digging a deep hole in the back yard, and Becky's head hanging above the front porch by her hair. "Glare, please. I promise she'll be leaving within five minutes, and she will never be back. I'm not going to defend her --- she pissed me off too, but good. If it's any comfort, even the people who don't hate her have the shit scared out of her. You know how Mimi will be a weirdo just for fun?"
Glare chuckled. "Yeah. She met Mimi?"
"Oh yes. Who offered to lick her legs. Then two minutes later loudly announced she was busy rubbing one out and couldn't come to the door when I needed to talk to her.
"So between Mimi playing with herself, Rook's nudity and pubic shaving, Hawk cleaning all his rifles on the sofa, and Mookie being dressed in her work clothes, I've got a pretty freaked out yuppie bitch up in my room, who I told I'd be gone for ten minutes and it's now been nearly forty. Oh, and she hates my Dwarves poster, said it's disgusting."
Glare laughed. "Well duh, that was the idea, I think." She looked at me. "She's really gonna get out and stay out?"
"Promise. If I see her at all, it'll be in South Bay. Her turf, God help us all."
"Mookie and Rook and Hawk all say she's, like, Queen Yuppie. How'd you hook up with her?"
I sighed and said, "Long story. A drunken one-night stand that got extended waaay too long. I wish I could say the sex was fantastic, and it is for her, apparently I'm the world champion of eating pussy, but for me it ranges between 'Okay' to 'Pathetic.'"
"Pathetic? What the hell?"
"She can't suck a dick to save her soul. Look, I've really gotta get up there. I don't want her leaving my room looking for me, Mookie will stomp her on sight. We'll be gone in five minutes, I promise. Please don't decide to wreck the Yuppie Queen on our way out."
"..... Okay. I'll go in my room until I hear you leave."
"Thank you. It'll just be simpler. And you'll never see her again."
I charged up the stairs and into my room. "Look, I'm really sorry that took so long. There were some, ah, complications."
Becky was sitting on my bed with comics and fanzines scattered around her. "I was starting to wonder. What the hell were you doing?"
"How honest of an answer do you want?"
"Um, be honest, I guess...."
"I was persuading several people from not throwing a boot party on you. Rook heard what you said about turning her over to the pigs, and had a meltdown. She's got some major abandonment issues, and she was afraid we'd take you seriously."
"And I still think you should. Why should any of you care about a fourteen year old kid? All she's gonna do----- "
I didn't out-and-out yell, but I got very loud. "Becky, you shut up, now. Do you have any idea how fuckin' insensitive, how cold-hearted you sound!? Rook is our friend. She's also kind of a little sister to all of us. I mean, Jesus fuckin' Christ, everybody that lives here, we all care about her a lot. We're the closest goddamn thing he has to a family, period. I don't give a ripe fuck whether you think we're weirdos or whatever, here she's got a roof over her head, she has food, and she's got ten or twelve people who will do anything they can to keep her safe and healthy and happy. There ain't a person here who wouldn't bust ass to keep that little girl safe and out of trouble. That's more than can be said about her own goddamn parents!"
Becky started to say, "But why--- "
I cut her off. "Why what? Why do we bother? Why do we care about some young teenage girl? Why are Chuckles and I taking legal risks over her? Because, duh, it's the right thing to do! Every single person in this house sees homeless teenage kids on a daily basis, all you gotta do is walk up Telegraph Avenue. Nobody gives a shit about them, and most have stopped giving a shit about themselves: their only concern in life is to get loaded, so they can ignore the fact that they're cold and hungry and their clothes are damp from sleeping on cardboard over grass, and the water seeped through.
"And Rook could have been right there with 'em, spare changing up enough for a forty of St. Ides, and maybe fucking some other gutter punk for no other reason than he has a sleeping bag and she won't be cold that night. We sort of knew her from Gilman St., and we weren't gonna let that happen. This ain't a palace, but dammit, she's indoors, fed, and she's got people who give a shit about her.
"So fucking drop it. She's part of this house, she's surrounded by people who love her, and she's safer here than she would be anywhere else, especially a fuckin' CPS foster care home. Here, she doesn't need to worry about being being beaten with a Bible, or molested, or raped. That's all she'd get outta CPS. Shit, she'd be better off at People's Park than a CPS house. So the subject is closed. Do not bring up what you think is best for Rook again. And by the way, Chuckles will be the one committing a felony so Rook can get in school. He's got more piercings, but he's got a natural hair color and nicer clothes.
"Have I made myself clear, or do you need a fucking puppet show?"
Becky was staring at me with wide, worried eyes. I'd said some pretty scathing things around her and to her before --- hell, me being a vicious smartass is what got us into bed together --- but I had never, not once, raised my voice in her presence.
Her wide eyes turned into a frown. "My older sister works for CPS."
"That's nice. Maybe you can ask her why it's such a shit-show."
"Nobody can be perfect."
"And I'm not expecting them to be. But gosh and golly, maybe they could filter out the psycho Bible-thumpers, and the child molesters and straight-up rapists. I'd like to think they'd pull off that bit of investigative work, so maybe kids don't get beaten and starved for not having memorized all of Corinthians or whatever, or that Uncle Bob who's on the Sex Offender's Registry does not have free range of the house. I don't think that's too much to ask at all."
Becky put her head in her hands and said, "I don't.... Know what to tell you. I was taught to trust government agencies, that they existed to help people like Rook. I don't have any fucking answers." She laughed vaguely. "All of you probably hate cops, too.
I looked at her for a few seconds, then sat down next to her and put my hand on her shouder. "'Hate' is a strong word. I'll stick with 'lack of respect' and complete distrust.' Whole different subject, really. So far as having answers, I don't expect you to. I'm not trying to attack you or your sister. But CPS is fucked up, just like the cops. All those street kids and gutter punks. I'd bet money that a large percentage were runaways or throwaways and went through the CPS maze, and split because of the reasons I've said. When I say CPS is fucked up, I mean that CPS needs major change, huge amounts of reforming. But until that happens, I trust them about as much as as I'd trust a pet cottonmouth. Same for everyone else in this house.
"Now do you understand why the very idea of having Rook even remotely involved with CPS is received with such hostility? Dammit, we may be a weird family, but for now we're Rook's family, and we love her. If there was an open room, she'd probably get it. Right now, her cubby hole is all that there is. Most everyone else is doubled up."
"You've got your whole room to yourself. She could stay with you."
I stared at her. "Um. Wow. A fourteen year old girl who has the body of a porn star, and suffers from attacks of the hornies just like everyone else, sharing a room with a thirty year old guy. I can see certain flaws in that idea. Do I need to point them out to you?"
I swear I could hear the gears whirring in her head before she came out with, "Ooo --- oohhh. Okay. Yeah."
"So. I have to get you out of this house un-maimed. Where shall we go?"
She suddenly brightened up and said, "Hey! Let's go to that Gilman place you're always talking about!"
And she thought my roommates were scary and mentally ill. Now she wants to go to 924 Gilman.
Perfect. Just fucking peachy.