The Evisceration Café
[ fiction - june 12 ]
Von splashed his face in the bathroom sink with swollen hands. They felt five times their normal weight. He looked up at the reflection in the mirror and wasn’t sure what he was looking at. The mirror hung off its hinges at an angle and rust was creeping in at the edges. Was it warped as well? He couldn’t tell.
Three-day stubble, dirty hair, and a beaten face stared back at him. He was familiar with this face. He’d seen it many times before - sometimes in worse shape - but there was something different this time.
The night before was a blackout. As was the night before that, and the one before that. He could smell the alcohol in his pores and taste the stale cigarette smoke in his mouth. He splashed his face again and looked at his hands...
Whose was it this time? His or someone else’s?
He washed the muddy streams down the drain and dried his face on the frayed towel hanging on a nail in the wall. Through his hangover he could feel another pain somewhere deeper. He hit the wall with his fist, making a dent in the plaster next to the others.
Why did he keep doing this? After Von lost his job he spent the rest of his last paycheck on a bottle of Jack Daniels and an eightball of coke. He did the same thing when he lost the job before.
He had gone to the Candlelight Bar where Cheri worked and offered her some of the coke. He had a few beers then invited Cheri back to his place to share his bottle of Jack. That’s all he remembered. He wasn’t even sure if he’d gotten laid as planned, or even if she’d come home with him. All he knew was that a few days had passed at the very least.
But where was all this blood coming from?
He picked up his foot. More blood. Smears on the wall. Drops on the shower curtain. He pulled back the curtain and looked in the tub and tried to focus. There was something there. And a lot of blood. What was it?
Von bent over and leaned on the edge of the tub trying to steady himself. He felt like his body weighed ten tons. What was he looking at? He bent closer and reached out to touch it. Hair? He was about to pass out. Fur?
“Oh, God. What the hell is going on?”
He pushed himself away and turned to puke in the toilet, then wiped his mouth on his sleeve.
“Goddamn it. What the hell is going on here?”
Von stumbled out of the bathroom and fell onto the couch in the living room. His head was pounding and his ears were ringing. He puked again onto the floor then rolled off the couch and stared at the ceiling as it began to descend on him. He picked himself up and stumbled out into the blinding sunlight.
What time was it? Was this even his house?
He watched people pass by with strange looks. He then pulled his dirty collar up and shoved his hands in his pockets and started walking. Cars flew by faster than normal and each step felt heavier than the last. He felt his body drifting farther and farther away.
He walked into the first bar he could find and went straight to the counter and ordered a drink. The woman at the bar raked her hand through her long hair and shook her head.
“We serve tea and coffee, hotshot. We don’t serve beer.”
Von looked around. There was an old man with slick grey hair and a bushy beard sitting at a far table staring off into the distance. Otherwise the place was empty. A shadow fell across the woman’s face and her eyes lit up like hot ash.
“I think I have what you need, hotshot. One sec.”
Her smile cut swaths through the air and Von felt a sharp sting deep in his belly. The woman turned and poured a greenish earthy tea from a clay pot then turned back and slid the cup towards Von. The features on her face kept shifting. He painfully looked away.
“Drink it, hotshot. I think you need it.”
Von took the cup to his lips. The liquid gave off a strange smell and hit his stomach like a punch. The cup slipped from his hands and Von stepped away from the counter looking for somewhere to collapse. He staggered towards the table where the old man was sitting.
“Hello, friend. Looks like there’s a problem. Why don’t you have a seat here?”
The old man rubbed his hands on the legs of his worn overalls and pulled out the chair next to him. Von sat with his vision swimming. The room began to fold in on him and he felt his fingers and toes go numb.
“What’s... What’s going on?”
The old man patted Von on the back and winked back at the woman behind the counter.
“Don’t worry, friend. You’re safe for now.”
“Safe from what?”
Von’s head was foggy and his chair felt like it was disintegrating. The old man pulled him closer.
“What happened, friend? Tell me what happened.”
“I... I don’t really... know.”
“Think, friend. Tell me what happened.”
“I... don’t know. I know there’s a dead dog in my tub. And lots of blood. But I don’t know what happened.”
“Think, friend. You need to remember.”
Von fished in his head and came up empty. He only glimpsed flashes of Cheri at the bar, cocaine, an argument... then nothing. He shook his head and almost fell to the floor.
“Who... Who are you to tell me to remember? I don’t even know you!”
Von stood up, but the old man pulled him back down
“Sit down. They call me Sailor, friend. I’ve been traveling these seas for a long time. You look like you need help, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. Think and tell me what happened.”
Von felt like he was going to puke again.
“I don’t know! I don’t know what happened, ok? I need a drink more than anything dammit! Not to sit here and tell you what happened to me!”
The old man put his hand on Von’s shoulder.
“Go back, friend. You need to remember what happened.”
Von slammed his fists on the table and got up.
“Screw you! I don’t even know you old man!”
Von staggered back out into the sun and stood there for a long moment. What had he done? Was it Cheri’s dog in his tub? He remembered her dog at the bar. He remembered getting angry. Then nothing.
“Oh, God. What the hell is going on?”
Von struggled to walk. He concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, falling forward with each step. He was walking in a cloud and felt his feet leaving the ground. Somehow he found himself back at the front door of his house. It was in fact his house. He recognized it now in all its dilapidated pity. He went back in and rummaged through the cabinets, looking for a taste of liquor, some left over beer, anything. All the while trying to ignore the thing in his tub moaning at him from down the hallway.
What was going on?
Von crept around the corner of his bathroom and almost slipped on the blood that was seeping across the tiles. It was more than before. Von looked down and felt a shock. His vision flashed bright then went blank as he fell to the floor. When he came to he was lying in the hall and watching as the blood-streaked arm in the tub struggled to pull itself out.
He got up and ran. He ran and ran, lurching forward with each stride, barely catching himself from falling face-first with each step. His head was spinning and his mind reeling. What had he done? What the hell had he done?
He found himself back at the café. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been running or why he came back, but he found himself sitting calmly at the table with the old man.
“What... the hell is going on?”
The old man looked back toward the woman at the bar.
“Bring our friend another cup of tea.”
The old man held Von in his gaze until the tea arrived.
“Do you know what is happening, friend? Do you?”
“What? No, I don’t know what the hell is happening! Am I being framed? Is this some kind of goddamn blackmail or something? I know I didn’t kill that person in my tub! They’re still alive even! So this isn’t going to work. I’ve been in trouble before, but I’ve never killed anyone. Whatever you’re trying to do to me isn’t going to work!”
“I’m not doing anything to you, friend. You’ve done it to yourself. And you’re in more trouble than you realize. Think, friend. You need to stop and think.”
Von had been in more fights than he could remember, but it was always in self-defense. At least that’s how he saw it. There was the time he cracked a guy’s skull against a urinal for giving him trouble, but then he’d felt physically threatened. And the time he threw his best friend to the pavement for trying to take his coke. But it was all a matter of self-defense as Von saw it.
No one knew how Von felt. No one had ever known. No one knew how fed up he was of having people talk down to him. He’d heard it his entire life. From friends, family, and almost anyone he came across. It swelled up an anger inside him that was difficult to control. But he’d never killed anyone. Never even thought about it.
“Come here, friend. I want to show you something.”
The old man led Von to a curtain in the back of the room. When he pulled the curtain back Von felt something inside him become very heavy. The room behind the curtain was pitch dark and Von felt a profound emptiness come over him.
“This is where you were headed when you came here, friend. Is this where you want to go?”
Von tried, but couldn’t speak. He looked past the curtain and felt helpless.
“Lay here on the table, friend.”
The old man sat Von on the long table and leaned him back. Von felt his body separate from his mind as he looked down on himself.
“What’s going on? Please. What is going on?”
“You’re here for a reason, friend. I’m going to help you.”
“I need a fucking drink! That’s what I need. What’s going on here? Please.”
“There’s a lot of pain inside you, friend. Alcohol will only make it worse.”
The old man pulled a large hunting knife from his coveralls and before Von knew what was happening, the old man pulled Von’s shirt over his belly and plunged the blade into his midsection. Von didn’t flinch. The old man made deep sawing motions then pulled the flesh back and stuck his hand inside. Von felt a deep pain, but not from the wound. It was something deeper.
“You have friends and family who care about you, friend, but you’ve shut them out. We do that with pain sometimes. If you go forward you will harm people more than you intend to. People who love you. Despite the hurt they’ve caused you. They have their own pain as well. We all do. Sometimes it causes us to hurt each other, but the only way to put a stop to it... is to stop it within yourself.”
The old man pulled out Von’s insides and set them on the table beside him.
“Take a look, friend. Take a good look.”
Von turned and saw all the pain of his life laying there beside him. The withheld love of his father. The struggles of his mother. His absent older brother. A life riddled with drinking, drugs, and anger. He’d never stopped to put everything together. And now there it was. The emptiness was overwhelming.
“There’s still a chance, friend. Whatever you do, you cannot come back here.”
Von remembered the argument with Cheri. She had chastised him for his drinking and that made him angry, but it also hurt him deeply. He reached within himself and found the pain. He recognized it for what it was. With great effort Von struggled to pull himself out of the tub. He wanted to live.