Art by AJ Frena
by Robert Mangeot
Up against Wing’s food truck I waited out the demon-spit grease tearing through me like it was liquid Judgment Day. Chicken Wing Doultrie never would let on what he put in his hot paste, but with repeated exposure I’d gotten the gist: three parts lard, a jolt of garlic, and some old-time religion’s worth of cayenne. I snatched another bite of his chicken, and the heat of better angels radiated through me. Wing’s Glaze of Glory, good for the soul. In a scouring way.
Thump-thump, thump-thump. Cheap bass speakers echoed off the shuttered warehouses and rousted me from my two pieces of penance. Thump-thump, thump-thump, loud and distorted. A block away on Division, a midnight blue Dodge cruised past, tracking its sound barrage. Earlier, Wing would have slung his fire for a line of hipsters, tourists, and hotel workers, but we had crossed the hour when nice folks had nicer places to be and the cops were up to their stab vests in honky-tonkers. Hard to say if the Dodge had slowed to check out Wing’s truck or not. I’d been too occupied getting rebaptized by fire. The main thing was the Dodge moved along. Thump-thump, thump-thump.
At least I again had my misery to myself. Or myself and moths swarming the streetlights. Tonight for needed coin I’d worked security backstage at the arena. Big concert, the latest spandex songstress of the moment. Before the opening number a studio exec full of weed and hooch had misbehaved near the lady glitter bomb. This I could have forgiven, same as when he started up hitting on her at costume change. Where I’d almost stumbled was when he turned his smack talk on me, tried shoving me down. I had calmly removed him from arena premises, removed him from public view, and then less calmly removed him from consciousness. I hadn’t removed him from this earth, though, so there was that. Still on the path.
After the show I’d put on a clean shirt and found Wing set up in this last scrap of SoBro warehouses the city planners had yet to raze. It went like that, Wing parking here or in Midtown or the Gulch, close to a prime corner but not so close that Metro came asking about licenses. Wing had slid me out a beer and a two-piece basket without my having to order.
I took care in wiping my fingers and switched to a fresh napkin for my losing fight against the sweats. I bit in again and failed to ease my suffering with beer and grease-soaked bread. The chicken crust all but glowed nuclear orange in the half-light. I wondered, not for the first time, where in his rail-thin frame did Wing hide the sadism.
“Lester?” Wing leaned his pale head out the counter window. “How’s that bird tasting?”
“I’ve taken a bullet. This here hurts worse.” READ MORE
Art by Ally Hodges
by Bev Vincent
Raymond didn’t wake up that morning planning to become a superhero. The first thing that entered his consciousness when he emerged from a troubled sleep was the fact that his left shoulder was still sore. At least he was alive. He often thought that if he woke up to find that he didn’t hurt somewhere, he’d assume he was dead.
The sad thing was, he had no idea how he hurt his shoulder. One morning a few weeks ago, he suddenly couldn’t raise his left arm without a crimson jolt of pain. This was in addition to his lower back, which had been causing him problems for the past three or four years. Thankfully, that persistent ache dulled in the presence of the new injury.
How long had it been since he’d been completely without pain? It was hard to remember a day when nothing hurt. Back then, an older friend told him that shit started wearing out once you reached a certain age. He’d laughed, too young to recognize the truth of her statement. Now he knew better. And, unlike with his car, he couldn’t take his body into the shop and swap out the bad shit for new shit. Oh, there were a few things you could replace, he supposed, but not many. And not easily.
Out of habit, he reached over with his good arm to find his wife, only to remember for the hundredth time that she was gone. Dead almost a year now, struck down by a massive heart attack. She had often expressed concern that he didn’t have many friends to console him if she went before he did. She’d been right about that, but they hadn’t expected that day would come so soon.
He dragged himself out of bed and got ready to face the morning, wincing in the shower when he raised his arm to lather his armpits and again a few minutes later when he reached around his back to tuck in his shirt. Simple things shouldn’t hurt so much.
There were several vacant seats on the number 77 bus to the MBTA station, but he stood with his briefcase cradled between his feet because that was easier on his back. He had to keep reminding himself to reach up for the strap with only his right hand. He stood on the subway, too, both on the Red Line and the Green B Line train that deposited him at Boylston three quarters of an hour after he left home. By then, both arms were aching.
Before going into the office, he walked a few blocks to the Bank of America at the corner of Charles and Warrenton to handle an international wire transfer, a service the bank didn’t provide online. At only a few minutes past nine, the lobby was almost empty. He signed the ledger to request a personal banker and took a seat in the waiting area to check his e-mail. READ MORE