(Yeah, this is very, very first draft. Mostly scene-setting and a tiny bit of exposition that'll probably get taken care of earlier in the story. Enjoy!)


I spend a lot of time sitting in the JC’s waiting room. A lot of time reading magazines, drumming my fingers, a lot of time stepping outside to have a smoke, letting the chipper little receptionist know where I’m heading and that Ill be right back. She looks up from her computer and smiles and says okay, thanks. I smile back and think about bending her over the desk to pass some time and go outside and sit on the steps of the Big White Building and take a cigarette from the silver case I lifted from the Sheik and I light up with a book of matches that seems like it’s never going to run out and I smoke.

The steps of the face out into the city, looking out over a ring of squat marble houses that form a semicircle around the Big White Building’s courtyard. The pages live in the houses, which are pretty much just monk’s cells with a small toilet and a cot and a couple of reading lamps. The pages don’t spend a lot of time at home. Past the pages’ cells you can see the T-intersection where the two broad avenues come together, the east-west road forming the crossbar, and the north-south road making a short run from the Big White Building to the Little Gate. The east-west road, you can’t see the end of. It just goes and goes to either horizon, a straight shot of pure silver that fades out of sight at the limit of perception. The Sheik claims that it girdles the world, that, really, it’s only an east road or a west road, depending on which way you start moving on it. That if you took one of his Ferraris and punched the gas and just held the wheel straight for a few weeks or a couple of months or some years, you’d end up where you started. But the Sheik says lots.

The north-south road is paved with cobbles made of gold and it shimmers, waxing and waning as clouds cross over the sun, and you can cover it with one hand, if you’re looking at it from the steps of the Big White Building. But that’s where everything that’s worth doing here is laid out. All the bars, the brothels, the restaurants, the clubs, the stores, the car dealerships, shooting ranges, opium dens, the arcades, the casinos, all the fun times and bright lights lay just under your hand, a straight line of pure, mindless, guiltless hedonism running from Little Gate to the steps that I’m sitting on. No shit, you could break every one of the Seven Deadlies within a hundred yards of the gate, free for the taking, anything you want, just for the asking.

It’s one of those things that justifies the feeling that I’ve always had that the JC’s playing a loaded game with his faithful. I mean, you jump through all the hoops, say the right stuff, do the right stuff, die in a state of grace, all that shit, and then as soon as you’re within sprinting distance of your just reward, boom, everything you’ve denied yourself for a lifetime is right there, waiting for you. I haven’t yet seen a soul make it even halfway down the north-south street without a pair of perky tits or a perfect ass or the clink of coins luring him aside, the doors opening wide, swallowing him up, slamming shut, and that’s chalk one for the Other Side. The Sheik says that there hasn’t been a reason to open Big Gate, the one on the other side of the JC’s waiting room, since the Middle Ages.

Looking down the north-south street, past the cathouses and the mostly nude street dancers and the bar carts, you can see Little Gate, just big enough to let in two or three people walking abreast, simple oak posts entwined with old, silvery ivy. Little Gate opens a lot, confused souls stumbling through, still crying from their death agonies, clutching at streetlights and storefronts to keep from falling. I think that’s what diverts them from the Big White Building, really. Not the desire for a giant fattening meal or a fast fuck, but the hope of a chair or a bed or something they can collapse on until everything starts making sense.

I keep thinking that if I were a better person, I’d wait by Little Gate until some deserving-looking person came through, a sweet grandmother type, a nice old man, and take them by the arm and lead them past all the cavorting whores and the sizzling steaks and walk them up the steps of the Big White Building and through the waiting room and let go of them only once Big Gate had swung wide and pulled them in. That might make this whole thing worth it, really, that look of pure, absolute, serene joy on their face as they floated off to the heaven they’ve been promised all these years. But, I guess I’m not that good a person. And there’s this one cute redhead in a schoolgirl skirt that I can never pass by. Sorry, grandma. Maybe next time.

And past Little Gate, past the wall that tracks parallel to the east-west road, you can see out into the countryside, the desert and the wasteland and the vast chasm the breaks this place in two. And off in the distance, just at the edge of sight, a tiny, tiny patch of green grass, a little white house. Where I find my gaze going, most of the time. Drawing on my smoke and staring at it, trying to make it come closer, trying to pick out details, any hint of movement. Anything.

That’s Mags. Or her place, anyway. Her perfect little country cottage standing in the midst of her perfect postage stamp lawn, a front path lined with roses that are always in bloom, a bench swing on the porch and a massive feather bed on the second floor that smells like lilac. And she’s there, right now, hanging her white dresses on the line to dry in the soft summer breeze or picking flowers from the garden in back to arrange in a bouquet in the vase in the front hall or just sitting on the swing, curled up like a kitten, sipping lemonade and reading Jane Austen. Something like that, something sweet and innocent and utterly alluring. Waiting for me. Or so I tell myself.

Tossing my smoke, heading back inside, wondering if this’ll be the day that the JC finally wanders out to sign on the line and get his fucking package and get me the hell outta here. And knowing that it won’t, and wondering what the Sheik’s got planned for tonight.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work » »

7:00 AM  

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