“No Brakes”: A Short Story by Rickey Pittman

Here’s another story I intend on including in my new collection of short fiction horror.

NO BRAKES

“Anyone can kill an enemy, but it takes a strong man to kill a friend.”—Eskiminzin, Apache chief.

Roger had been my best friend for over ten years. He was also movie-actor handsome, a Don Juan able to charm his way into the arms of most women. He had always been energetic and charismatic, conning and charming his way out of tight and awkward situations that would have buried anyone else. Then Roger’s luck ran out.  He lost his job. After his wife caught him whoring around, the divorce cleaned out his bank account and separated him forever from his kids.  Depression set in, his drinking intensified, and I would lose contact with him for weeks at a time whenever he binged and vanished into his whiskey-hazed world.  After I read in the paper that he had been busted for writing hot checks, I felt sick to my stomach, wondering where his self-destructive path would end. And then something happened that had never happened before—he called and asked me to bail him out of jail. I found a bondsman and took care of it.

When I woke the next morning after a troubled sleep, I figured it was time for Roger and I to have a heart to heart talk, so I drove to Roger’s Oak Cliff address and parked my BMW behind a battered black 62 Ford Fairlane.  An older man sat on the front porch of the rundown house.  His eyes were tired and jaundiced, his unshaved face grizzled.  Like the house, he had obviously seen better times.  A bicycle with two large side baskets was upturned and he appeared to be tightening its spokes with a tiny rusted crescent wrench.

When I stepped out of the BMW and walked toward him, he said, “Nice car.” He pointed to the Fairlane. “That be my car. Lord, she was fast and sleek, just like my women. She was running good till she lost her brakes.  Then it seemed like nothing else would work right.  Now I can’t even get her started. So I guess she’s just going to sit there till she rots or gets towed off.”

“I guess if you ain’t going to fix it, that would be the best thing.” I spat into the grass, then lit a cigarette. “You know a white boy named Roger?” I asked. “He’s supposed to live at this address.”

“Where you from, cracker?” he asked. He pointed at my cigarettes. “I shore would like one of them Kools.”

I shook him out a cigarette and then pitched him a paper book of matches. “I really ain’t got time for small talk,” I said. “You know this boy Roger or not?”

“Yeah, he be around back.” He pointed to his right. “That crackhead lives in the bottom apartment with an outside door. He gots lots of beer cans piled up. I guess he gonna get in the can business too.”

“Much obliged,” I said.

“A man can make good money pickin’ up cans.”

“I wouldn’t know.

At Roger’s door, I heard Jim Morrison’s tormented voice singing “The End.” I pounded on the door with my fist till Roger answered. His face was drawn and streaked, his hands dirty and scabbed. His movie-star handsome looks were fading fast.

“Oh, hey, Ken. You out slummin?”  He grinned as he wiped sleep crud from his eyes. He eyed the Burger King sack in my hand.

“I brought you a meal. Why don’t you invite me in.  And turn down that damn music so we can talk.”

“Sure.” He opened the door and motioned me into the cluttered apartment. “Thanks for getting me out of county, Ken. You’re a good friend.”

“Yeah, a good friend.” I scanned the room. A forest of empty beer bottles rose in the midst of overflowing ashtrays and pizza boxes filled with petrified crusts. “It stinks like shit in here, Roger. Why don’t you clean it up once in a while?”

“Ah, It ain’t so bad. The maid’s just falling down on the job.”

“You ain’t got no maid, no girlfriend either. Probably couldn’t even get it up if you could find one that would put up with your sorry ass.” I pointed to the glass pipe on the coffee table. “You’re burning rock again, ain’t you?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “Not much. I got things under control.”

“Crack or ice?”

He smiled, but his face was blank. One eye twitched, and the other crossed strangely.

“Control, shit,” I said. “You’re strung out. Roger. Look at yourself. You couldn’t stop using if you wanted to. ”

“Don’t start preaching at me, man. I thought you were my friend.”

“I am your best friend, Roger. That’s why I’m here. I’m going to make you stop this shit.”

He laughed. “Oh, sure. Ken’s going to make me go to rehab?”  He sat down on the mildewed couch and ate the burger and fries I had bought him.

When he finished, I sat next to him.  I pulled the .38 from my cargo pants pocket and pressed it against his forehead. “Close your eyes, Roger. It’s time for rehab.”