In Philadelphia, the sun and moon fought for the sky on opposing corners of the wild peach plane. Jack Ambrose and three young men gloated out from a street-side balcony on 13th and South. Each handled a quart of lager, huddling around a bottle of Takka. They sipped and arranged a whistling assault of heckles at passersbys below. On the street, the labor of life hung around the victims foot trafficking shoulders : the exercise was a one-way engagement. Later, when the moon reigned supreme, the people below would be of a similar and cavalier rank — the verbal volley more sporting – the mob more ready to debase the debasers – until then, it was open season for the four boys.
–How do you shoot women and children?
–Easy, you just don’t lead em so much!, hahahaha!
To Ambrose’s left there was Kurt Varney. Varney was a busboy at a burgeoning martini bar in Olde City, which served the city’s somewhat elite, snug Italians, and fussy suburban Jews. Even as lowly busser, Varney made a comfortable living. On a busy night, he left with two or three hundred dollars – on a slow night one hundred or one hundred and fifty. A ceaseless work week dealing with half-loaded hotshots endowed him with a quick, sharp tongue.
–Kid, ya know what they call me?
–Bada-Bing! cause I always win in Atlantic City.
–Well they should call you butter mouth cause your teeth are as yellow as piss.
Next to Varney was Jayo, or Jay Oriental, or Jaybe Cakes. Jayo was a Japanese-american skinhead who lived off of Arch Street. He wore rust-red docs, bleached jeans, suspenders, fred perry buttoned all the way to the top, S.H.R.P. tattooed on one set of knuckles, and T.R.A.D. on the other – an odd Anglo-Asiatic fusion of tattoo-work covered his body, reaching from his knuckles to his shoulders, his torso to his neck, on the back the back of his shaved head featured the bust a Tibetan buddha. Jayo’s 9 to 5 was at a hipster pizza joint a few blocks north of Kurt’s place. He made considerably less than Kurt and always threatened to go back to construction. Jayo had a lot of things to say, but was a little more base: his rattle more crass.
To Jayo’s right, with his arms outstretched on the railing of the balcony, was Ari Tutzon. Ari was a Ukrainian barback at Kurt’s restaurant. He followed a form of dress known in Europe as football casual, an image constructed from Adidas trainers, designer jeans, track-jackets, and metrosexual haircuts. The others, Jack included, would constantly tease Ari about his latent homosexuality, to which would sometimes make Ari frustrated enough to leave. In which case, the guys would beg him to return in a showering of complementary apologies. Due partially to his poor command of English, Ari fell behind his compatriots while heckling pedestrians. Mismatched tenses and horrible pronunciation would only baffle his victim s– the boys loved the reaction. His good looks, on the other hand, and his European-ness were essential to the group’s transcendent aura. In short, he was their European puppy-dog that broke the ice with girls normally out of their league. Ari also brought his party traits. One man’s morning espresso was Ari’s shot of cocaine and vodka. It was the consensus of the group that Ari was simply biologically different from the rest; there was no point in trying to imitate or explain his behavior. He was always licking his gums, always sniffing, always cracking knuckles.
He shouted to a lanky, effeminate Penn graduate.
–I fuckahdid your insatiable mother!
Jack, Varney, and Jayo cried with laughter. Their victim looked up with a sad, confused face. The boys smiled fiendishly as they razored red eyes on him. The victim was wearing a collared oxford the hung over his frail body. He was fit, but dressed performatively estrogenic – a popular style for the city’s over achievers.
–After he gets done feckadiding your mother, he might just fuck you pretty boy!
Frustration steamed out of the Penn student. He stood there confused and defiant. His glasses steamed. He gripped his over the shoulder book bag ( or as the boys would call it, fag strap) until his knuckles were white. Trying to confront them, he had no idea how zipped in he was.
Varney shouted apologetically.
–Don’t listen to those guys man.
–Who the fuck do you think you are?
Tutzon chimed in.
–I’m your fecking dady!!
– No, no. I’m Kurt Varney.
The Penn Student looked puzzled.
–I work at the International.
–The International Martini Bar?
–Yeah, that’s the one.
–Well you’re 86’ed.
–Cause we’re trying to clean up the joint and we don’t want white trash like you stinking up the place!
The Penn student’s face was red.
–I’m calling the fucking cops!
Varney feigned a southern accent.
–Call em’. They ain’t gonna listen to country folk like you.
Giving up, the Penn student stormed down towards the cross street.
Ambrose yelled clenching his quart like a weapon.
–Call the cops, faggot, and I’ll bash your brains into hamburger, and fuck your corpse, you yuppie piece of scum!
The troop roared in celebratory laughter.
A look of terror blanketed the face of the graduate student, as he turned back to the group.. Jayo reached over to the iPod speakers turning on “Copy Killer” by Body Count.
–This goes out to all my boys in the LAPD …Cop Killer, better you than me … Cop killer fuck police brutality…
–Call the fucking cops, bitch.
Delirium overcame the student, baffled, disgusted, and saddened, he gave up on the absurd situation and trotted away, running as if it were the first time he had ever ran — the awkward tottering of a calf or fawn walking away from the womb.
Ambrose was their physical weapon. He was the youngest, strongest, and most volatile. If verbal altercations turned physical he’d single handedly even the odds. At 19 he was about eight years younger than Ari who was 26, and just a couple years younger than Kurt and Jayo, who were both 22. He began making excuses for his violent behavior.
–If they fuck with my boys, they’re fucking with me, if they fuck with me, I have to punish them, or I’m the bitch, I’m not a bitch … The cops don’t protect they’re too busy getting blow jobs from trannies, we need to run our own streets … Fuck these yuppie scum bags they buy all the property and don’t put shit back into the neighborhoods.
He was stuck in a dangerous stage between ex-hardcore kid and whatever lay in front of him. He wore a pair of khaki cargo shorts (sap in one pocket, three bags of coke and an office banger in the other), in homage to Ari he wore a pair of black Adidas Sambas. He wore a Cock Sparrer tank top. He wore a beanie on top of his shaved head that accented his broad forehead, which lead down to his poorly shaped nose, a common consequence of the lifestyle he was trying to get out of.
–Fuck hardcore shows, I rather get laid, you don’t get laid at hardcore shows, you just get in retarded fights.
He looked at Kurt with admiration, as an idol, a role model of what he may be able to afford in life. He admired the apartment and the balcony that Kurt could afford with his tip money. He admired Kurt’s collection of David Lynch DVDs. He admired the coke that Kurt was able to buy, he admired the girls that opened their legs to the coke. He admired how Kurt would always stick up for him when he forgot his fake ID, and how he would set up a scheme to get him through the door at the Kyhber’s 80’s night, so Ambrose could find a drunk beauty to take into the Kyhber’s blow-job room. He admired Kurt’s schemes to get them both wasted off of twenty dollars in the city. He admired the one time they hung their bodies over the bar of RUBA (The Russian Ukrainian Boating Association), knocking over the drinks of mafia looking eastern-europeans, and pleaded for kisses from the female bartender they both were in love with.
–Here’s ten bucks, pour us each a rocks glass full of whiskey.
–Yeah, c’mon the prettiest server in Philly can do that for us right?
Or the time Jack had to drag Kurt’s drunk, `unconscious body with three others through the snow from a house venue to Kurt’s car. And how he had to drive Kurt’s car through West Philly wasted, even though he had never driven a car before. And how he drove the car down a one way street and circled the same block three times before he could figured out what his mistake was.
–Kurt! Varney! Varney! Wakethefuckup, think a fucking cops’ behind me, nah the cocksuckers gone. WAKE. THE. FUCK. UP.
Kurt was the older brother Jack never had.
All four boys stood over the edge. In the pale pink sky, the sun still hung suspended in tandem with the moon, celestial specks began to crowd their space. The sewer’s summer stench smelled like piss and Yuengling, it sweetened the aromatic backdrop for the night. Rats ran scattering around the streets in steady intervals. Tourists would jolt as the wild roamers wrecked into their ankles. Rat’s infested the city. They infested the basement where Varney worked. Varney told horror stories of finding their bloated corpses in vats of grease, and beating the cannibal vermin off of each other in the winter months when dog ate dog and rat ate rat.
For the boys, it was a pre game ritual to meet at Kurt’s place, conveniently situated in between downtown and midtown, and watch C.O.P.S. until their buzzes were lead-heavy, in which case they would go out on the balcony and practice being social before ultimately heading out to a specific bar or party. This particular night they started the night on the balcony.
Across the street, from the corner of 13th and 14th was a row of shops. There was Senor Locos, a swingers club that wouldn’t be open for another three hours; Jewels Occult, a black magic and wiccan novelty store; and then Ace’s, a store that sold fancy hats for classy, old black men. At the end on the corner was an old row house decorated in mosaic art, on the side there was a steel door that opened a gate into a mosaic garden. The sun’s dwindling shimmer reflected off the broken mirrors and images, leaving a radiant beacon of safety to those vexed wanderers who insult after insult fell upon.
After a while, the streets were empty. Only a few homeless people would be out until the night picked up again. One stood out in particular. His silver gray hair dreaded and gnarled, his shirt made of brown canvas pushing his cart: he looked post-apocalyptic, a silverback gorilla in a Congo of trash .
Baritone Kurt shouted.
– Hey, Pipe-tooth, why don’t you milk my face!?
The creature beneath, standing in front of Ace’s, stopped his approach, turned ninety degrees, looked above, and widened his eyes. His shoulders square with Kurt, he threw his arms up then drastically down, slapping the sidewalk with open palms.
–You don’t know my ass!
The man-beast quaked as he shook furiously.
–No, no, no, you don’t know my ass!
Jayo came to his flank.
–Sure he does, Pipe-tooth, so why don’t you shut yo’ ass!
–No! No! No! I don’t give you no ass!
Ari charged his other flank.
–You fecking queer, Piped-teeth, nobody wantchoor ass.
Jack Ambrose was about to go in for the final blow when he lost his train of thought making eye contact with the almighty Pipe-tooth. Pipe-tooth planted both hands palms down on the sidewalk, and in one exploding motion he would launch them to the sky at which metre he would repeat the mantric “NO!”. He repeated this motion several times. Over, and over, and over, “No, No, No.” Jack looked to his left, then to his right. He saw his compatriots wild with laughter, teeth revealed, salivating kicking out specks of spit. He looked at them, and then he looked at Pipe-tooth. Left, right, left, right, he looked.
Time was suspended and he was caught in the furious volume of the moment. He gave one final look at Kurt. Kurt stood erect, more composed than the others. He gave Jack a confident smile followed by a nod. Jack looked back down at Pipe-tooth, took his bottle in his hand, and doing a pitcher’s windup launched it high in the air.
Suspended from gravity and spinning, the bottle hung in the sky in between the sun and the moon before making its final descent. Pipe-tooth eye’s fixed on the bottle only for a mere revolution, and fixed his eyes on Jack’s.The bottle, changing momentum as it fell, rocketed towards Pipe-tooth. Pipe-tooth stood feet planted, never taking his eye of Jack. The bottle fell, and fell, and fell, and crash! Beer, foam, and glass exploded in an eruption of the senses. The sound echoed in between the facades of the opposing buildings.
When it was all settled, Pipe-tooth, still in his original position stood as he did when he first locked eyes with Jack. The bottle missed him by only a few inches.
He said it one last solitary time.
–You don’t know my ass!
Jack stood there, looking back at Pipe-tooth who refused to break eye contact.
Understanding the gaze, Jack’s voice broke.
–I don’t know your ass.
Pipe-tooth looked back, and in a proud gesture, nodded and grunted in approval. He then in one quick movement about faced his combatants, went back to his cart and began pushing it regaining his original route, passing Senor Loco’s.
The four boys stood silent for once. They watched Pipe-tooth until he passed the cross-street, and then until he passed the next block trooping at a careful diligent pace. They removed their stares only until he was out of sight.