Duke knew it was going to be a bad day, even before he got out of bed. He had a splitting headache, and a lump the size of a nickel bag on the back of his neck. He couldn’t remember where he’d been last night—or how he got home. Jill was nowhere around. She’d probably gone out to look for another part-time job.
Duke dragged himself into their tiny kitchen to get a bite to eat. But of course there wasn’t a single bit of food in the house—which shouldn’t have surprised him—there seldom was.
“Fucking shit,” he groaned, “now I’m gonna have to go out.”
He took the bike he’d “borrowed” from a friend down six flights of steps to the street. He was sweating and cursing by the time he finally reached the ground floor. Duke aimed himself towards one of the cheap Ukrainian coffee shops in the neighborhood and pedaled off. A bit unsteadily.
About five blocks from his building he smacked into a pothole. He saw it at the last moment and tried to swerve around it but a speeding New York Post delivery truck didn’t give him any choice. He broke a couple of spokes and bent the front tire.
“Fucking shit!” he yelled. He righted the bike and started to walk it in the direction of the restaurant.
“Well, my friend,” a guy in an army jacket said to him, “looks like you’ve got problems.”
“Yeah,” Duke mumbled, noticing that the guy had one hand stuck inside a brown paper bag.
“I’d like to use your wheels for a while,” the guy said.
“Go fuck yourself,” Duke replied.
“Hey, be cool, man. I got a gun in this here sack,” the guy said, grinning. He gave Duke a flash of metal. “And I want your cash, too.”
“It’s yours,” Duke said quickly, letting go of the bike.
The guy took his money and told him to split. Duke went back to his building, his stomach growling. He’d have to get some stuff to sell on the street to get some cash so he could eat. What a lousy day.
But it got worse. He got back just in time to see through a newly smashed door two guys ducking out a window with the few things of any value they had left. Duke was too wasted to give chase.
It took him a couple of hours to panhandle enough money to buy a new lock for the door and a sandwich. As he entered his building again a voice called out from behind the stairwell:
“Stick ’em up.”
“Fucking shit!” Duke said. “I don’t have anything. We just got robbed.”
“What’s in the bag?” the voice asked.
“A new lock for our apartment and a sandwich,” Duke replied.
“That’ll do just fine,” the voice said. “Hand it over.”
“Can I at least keep the sandwich?” Duke asked.
“No,” the voice answered.
A Bad Day, an excerpt from Duke and Jill, a collection of stories by Ron Kolm, from Sensitive Skin #13.
Sensitive Skin 13 available here in PDF format here for just $4.95, or get the full-color print version via Amazon and select bookstores.