Correct Change

by Paul Yoes

I'm sitting at the table staring at my hands. She's in the kitchen doing something. I get up and make myself a whiskey and water. I sit back down and stare at my hands. Nothing changes, nothing matters anymore. Not me, not her, not my hands. Not even you. I make another drink and another and another until everything is blurry and all is forgotten. She comes in the room with a suitcase. She looks at my hands then at my face. She sighs real heavy. Like it's the hardest thing in the world to do, to sigh. Then she turns and walks through the front door. I assume I won't see her ever again. I try and get up off my ass. It's no good and I fall.

I wake up and look at my face in the mirror. There's nothing there. I don't think there ever was. I make myself more drinks and fall into the sofa. It feels like a hand cupping a breast. It feels good and I fall asleep again.

I smell something. It smells like shit, like maybe I shit myself. I am too afraid to look. I get up off the sofa and I feel it in my pants. I see the stain on the sofa. Fuck. I go to the bathroom and clean myself up. On the way there I make myself a drink in an old jelly jar. In the bathroom I remove my clothes and put them in a pile on the floor. I think to myself I should burn them. I turn on the water in the shower and wait for it to warm up. While I'm waiting I drink my drink and fix another. I need more whiskey which means a trip to the store, which means going out, which means I'll probably see people. I check the water and it's as cold as when I turned it on. Probably forgot to pay the electric bill, oh well. I get in and after awhile I can't tell the difference between this and a hot shower. I scrub my ass and legs to make sure I get all the shit off of me. I gulp down half a jelly jar of whiskey as I dry off. Then I hear it, a knock on the door. Fuck.

I open the door just enough to give my right eye a chance. There's a pretty woman standing there asking me if I ever let Jesus in my life. "What do you think?" I say to her. She hands me a bunch of leaflets, tells me to read 'em and says she'll be around in a day or two to talk about what I read. Then she walks away. I shut the door and put the leaflets on the table and look at my hands. Now, I think, how about that whiskey?

I walk the quarter mile to the market. I try not to weave, without much success. I keep my head down as I enter. I know where the booze is by heart. I grab three quarts of Jack, two bags of chips, a jar of pickles, and a Hustler in case I get lonely. I walk up to the register and see Helen working it. Helen is her sister. I put my things on the conveyor belt thing and keep my head down, way down. When I was a kid I would think about that conveyor belt, it made me curious, I even dreamed of it. I thought that it would be fun to ride it forever. Now, I know better. Now I know it gets real boring, real fast. She's looking at me, staring at me. I can feel it through the top of my head. I start to get real hot and real red. She's taking her time, enjoying it, laughing at me. I start to stare at my hands when she asks me for the money I fumble through my wallet and throw the money down, pick up the bag and walk as fast as I can out of there.

It still smells of shit in here. My shit, my smell and my mess. I open the pickle jar and empty it. I rinse it out and fill it half way with Jack and a drop of water. I feel good because I have plenty of booze. Enough to last at least three days, it just makes me feel good.

I'm nodding off again. I need sleep but don't want any dreams. I am afraid of my dreams. I always dream of nice things, of beautiful things, of lovely things. I'm tired of it; I want ugly dreams, dreams about my hands, about monsters. I would sell my soul to have a monster come in here right now and rip my hands off, rip them right off, and slap me with them until I was dead. All I want is peace. Can't you see that? I can't smell the shit anymore. At least that's something. It's funny how the worst smell is bearable if you smell it enough. Why can't the other parts be like that? It's not fair, not fucking fair at all. One more jar of booze and I'll be fast asleep.

Yes, darkness descends and that is that.

I wake up feeling fine. Life is good when you have something to live for. I dreamt about it last night. Mind you, it has to be done right. Otherwise, why even bother. Am I right? Of course I am. I feel so good I make myself a drink to celebrate. After, I begin my preparations. I gather wood from around the house, a chair here, a table there, and the cabinet where she used to keep all those stupid figurines. It was a goddamn obsession with her. I used to ask her why she wanted all that crap, all she'd ever say was they make me feel like a little girl again. I never understood that, who wants to be little again, hell, who wants to be alive at any age. I go through the ripped screen door to the backyard. I clear away all the dead grass and live weeds from a four-by-four area. I make a drink, look at my creation and I say, "It is good".

Later, I bring the wood out to the clearing in the backyard. I put the biggest pieces of wood down first, just like I learned in Boy Scouts, then the medium pieces, and finally the small sticks I had gathered from the yard. It looks like a knee-high mountain sitting right smack dab in the center of my yard. The more I look at it, the more I like it. I feel proud, as if something has been accomplished. In a life of failure even a pile of wood looks fine. I celebrate with four pickle jars of Jack, and I pass out in the kitchen.

I wake up with my face glued to the floor by puke. I peel it away and the smell hits me. I double over and vomit on my feet. My head feels like a water balloon, my eyes feel about to burst, and I notice that I shit myself again. I make myself a drink, and I get undressed. I put my clothes in the same pile as the others. And I stumble to the shower and turn the water on. It hits me like a Minnesota ice storm. I jump back instinctively, and slip. My feet go out from under me and I fall backward

I feel the blood from my head running down my back. I can't move. I feel the cold water hitting me in the face. I can see me in the shower I see my head bleeding and my motionless body laying there like a beached whale. It's funny. I guess I'm dead. I keep looking for a sign, but all I see is my fat ass laying there, bleeding. The thought crosses my mind that I could use a stiff drink. That does it. I am snapped back into my body. I open my eyes, and I pull myself out of the shower.

After, I make that drink and shave my head. For a second I consider giving myself a Mohawk, but my head hurts, not to mention the amount of work a self-applied Mohawk would be. I put a couple of towels on my head to stop the bleeding. I decide that today will be very, very low-key. I lie on my bed, watching television. I have my jar, ice, and Jack next to me for comfort. For the next twelve hours or so I lay there, drinking and sleeping. Through it all I can smell the shit from the sofa.

Phase two of my master plan has been pushed back a couple of days, in order for me to heal. My head is killing me. My balance seems to be off as well. I am almost out of booze, but I can't face another trip to the market. I am running around the house trying to decide what to do. I look like the proverbial monkey fucking the football. I decide to call the market and see if I can bribe someone to deliver what I need. I get the manger, Bill Hoskins, prick without equal. However, since I have no leverage, I commence to kissing his flabby white ass. It works! He agrees to send one of his checkers to bring me four bottles of Jack, some onion dip, toilet paper and chips. Let's face it, today is a good day.

Three drinks later and things feel much better. I look in the yard at my handy work. And she always bitched at me for never doing anything. I am doing something now, yes I am. I am. I make myself a drink and quickly go around the house picking up all the change I can find. When I have it, I lay it out on the table along with the bills in my wallet. I carefully count out exact change. I have two twenties, a ten, a five, and three ones all in a nice, evenly stacked pile, all the bills are face up. Finally, I place two quarters, a dime and four pennies on top of the bills. Next to this I lay out two more dollar bills for the tip. I take a drink from the jar and I feel the same satisfaction I do looking at the backyard. Face it, correct change is beautiful.

I start to cry. As I do, I feel a stirring in my groin. So, I pull my pants down around my ankles, close my eyes, and think of the woman who gave me all those leaflets. I think what would she be like here on her knees right now? MmmI see her head bouncing all around me, hair spilling. Then I would tell her to look at meA knock at the door quickly turns good into embarrassment. I pull my pants up and answer the door. I give up my correct change for the correct order and sit on the sofa. I want to achieve the pleasure, but am too embarrassed. How can that be? Never mind, it just is. I make another drink.

A knock at the door wakes me up. I sniff; I run my hands around my ass. Hooray! No crap. I walk shakily to the door open it and I am staring at the leaflet woman. I turn red, why? Who knows?

"Did you read those tracts I left?" She asks.

"Yeah. Some of them, I am going through a very hard time right now."

"Really? Well hard times are exactly why you should read them. Can I come in?"

"No. Not today, come back in a few days. What's your name by the way?" I ask.

"If you want to know you have to let me in. I guess I'll tell you in a few days."

"Tomorrow." I say

"Ok, tomorrow. Around this time?"

"Yes that would be lovely." I say.

"Ok, bye then." She says.

"Bye" I say. Then I close the door and look at my hands. My knees give out and I fall. I get up, walk to the bathroom, unzip, and bring it on home.

The next day I drag the sofa out to the yard, scraping the floor and tearing up the door in the process. I roll it end-over-end on top of the pile of wood. I grab all the shit-stained clothes from the bathroom and lay them on it. I take everything of hers she left and put it on top like a cherry on a sundae. I make myself a drink and savor these final moments. The sun is on my face it makes me feel poetical even. Man, it is good to be alive. I get the lawn mower out of its hiding place, under all the crap I have piled in the tool shed. I unscrew the gas cap, turn the mower on its side and spill the gas into a pail, which I throw on the clothes. The smell is heaven. Though I think the smell about to come will put this one to shame. I take a leaflet I got from the kitchen table, light it and place it on the clothes. The fire catches hold, slowly but steadily. I watch the flames grow bigger and the smile on my face grows too. I go inside, make a drink and sit at the kitchen table to watch. Just then, there is a knock at the front door.

"Hi." I say.

"Are you ready?" She says.

"I sure am. We can sit here on the porch." I say, and show her to the porch swing.

"This is lovely." She says. I look at my hands. Not bad, I think.

"Yes it is."

Paul Yoes 2003

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