Outrageous:Rock Bottom #0.5

By: Jennifer Ann
Rock Bottom #0.5



1





Liam





The chaos of the South Side is in full swing as I make my way to the band’s usual Sunday night jam session, bass in hand. Only two of us could make it out tonight, but it doesn’t matter. I would’ve gone alone because I need an escape. Music is the only therapy I can afford.

Despite being no more than 30 degrees out, homeless of all ages litter the busted up sidewalks, some propped up against piles of garbage bags, begging for another fix or a hot meal. Tents and cardboard homes line the alleys, their campfires creating an ominous glow against the tall buildings. Every few blocks there’s a car by the curb that’s been abandoned for months, long-since stripped down to the frame like skeletons. A few dealers lurk in the shadows, hoods drawn as they wait for a signal from an interested buyer.

Often there’ll be a horde of drunk college students curious about this part of the city who don’t have the street smarts to stay the hell away. As I cross the bar scene on Fifth Avenue, they’re nowhere to be seen. Instead it’s the usual mix of liars and thieves who are too poor to start over somewhere else, doing whatever it takes to survive.

Too many of the women openly attempting to hook up with guys outside the bars are inappropriately dressed for the weather. On closer inspection, there’s a fine line between junkies and hookers. Some are so high they left home in little more than their underwear, and some looking to get paid for sex couldn't string an intelligible sentence together if they tried.

Once you add grime and the smell of literal shit to the list of the South Side’s attributes, it’s understandable why it was once labeled by some pretentious magazine as the least desirable neighborhood in the nation. It’s too dangerous even for the likes of Minneapolis to claim us, and too poor for St. Paul to give two fucks that we exist. The governor and the rich assholes that support him with their high-end department stores and fancy universities would physically have us removed from their precious state if they could find a way.

Every last native to this area comes from a broken home. They thrive on crime and mayhem, not having experienced any other way of life. Drugs and violence have touched the lives of every single kid who grew up on these streets, my story being no exception. We don’t know the security of a traditional family, or what it’s like to come home to find dinner on the table. We’re accustomed to a rough hand and cruel tongue. It’s rare as fuck if your parents are actually married.

The only saving grace is that the neighborhood is run by Marshall “King Marty” Blackwood, my best friend’s uncle, making my crew untouchable by proxy. But even his protection has its pitfalls.

Before I’m able to sneak past the two prostitutes that have become a permanent fixture on the corner outside the abandoned building where we jam, the one who goes by “Candy” calls out to me. Tilting my face back to the dark sky, I flick my half-used cigarette to the sidewalk and start for her, smoke streaming from my nostrils. Any other day, I’d smoke ‘em right down to the filter. Since I came across the spot where my old man hides his cartons, however, I’ve been living large.

Aside from her rank smell, Candy’s mostly harmless so long as she isn’t so wasted she’s babbling about bed bugs or the government spying on us through technology. She’s not attractive by any means, but that’s an industry standard when you’re working the corners on the South Side. Most times she’s more akin to a motherly figure, asking if I’m getting enough to eat, or why I’m out on the streets alone. Chunks rise in my throat when she adjusts her ill-fitting bra, revealing a dark tit. In moments like this, I’m convinced she’s hoping to entice me to fuck her. As many years as she’s been working the streets, letting every dirtbag on the South Side stick it to her, I wouldn’t touch her with someone else’s dick.

Her obnoxiously long, bubble gum pink fingernails wave through the night sky. “Rook, baby, get over here! I wanna get a good look at you!”

“You just wanna cop a feel of my ass,” I tell her with a half-hearted chuckle.

She hums like she’s envisioning doing it. “Can’t say I’d mind.” Her smooth, chocolaty eyes darken on mine, filled with humor and mischief. They’re the only part of her that’s not repulsive. “When you gonna play me some of that guitar in private, sugar?”

Bile rips through my throat with her suggestion. “Sorry, sugar. I don’t play for just anyone.”

“Well I’m not just anyone.” Her voice seems to skip an octave when she wiggles her eyebrows. “I’m somebody around these parts now. King Marty’s men have been comin’ around the past couple a days, probably hopin’ to get up in my business. Matter of fact, you just missed them.”

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