short story

A conversation overheard on a bar porch begins a confrontation between three men which takes a strange turn.

Patrick Patterson-Carroll | 9 January 2019

photo by Patrick Tomasso (Unsplash)

       Their garb neither stood them out nor fit them in—in this fashion, it made them not too different from myself—I was a punk posing (as if it were intentional) as a run-of-the-mill slob, and they were frat boys dolled up like hipsters who took a wrong turn on their way to an indie rock show/craft brew convention. I had just gotten off work and was failing to enjoy a drink and a smoke, because they were a table away, boisterously spitting out sound signifying nothing of import (granted, I was judging them as opposed to listening, but the prerogative was mine and I was not a good person; wasn’t obligated to be one) until they launched into a back and forth that sloshed against my eardrums like hot diarrhea on cracked porcelain.

       It was Monday night, and as one might expect, the street was fairly quiet save the occasional drunken service industry straggler or beggar posing as busker (can I rap for you (?) is surprisingly not an uncommon question). “Yeah, this area used to be really bad, but now you can come here for brunch or a nightcap and not have to worry about being stabbed. It’s great.” The other one laughed and piled on: “It just looks better now, too. More neon lights, less graffiti.” “Yeah, but street art is cool. More of that, less bullshit.” “Fuck yeah.” And it went on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on like this like this like this like this or maybe it just felt like it until I interrupted.

       “You guys really dig this aesthetic, huh?” “Um… Uh… yeah…,” they trailed off in unison. I peeled my sweaty ass from the chair and approached them. “Mind if I join?” They motioned an empty chair and asked me for a cigarette. I shot them a smirky glare (they rebuff and rebuke randoms for panhandling/general mendicancy yet have no compunctions about doing it themselves) and acceded to their request. We all lit up cigarettes and I said, “This is the city’s idea of beautification. The extended sidewalks, the hip spots, the bright lighting. Beauty is safe. Beauty is accessible.” They looked at me as if expecting a giant but (a woman with a large ass walked by and their eyes followed it), and I said, “I’m over here, guys. I mean, aesthetically, that might be the but(t) you’re looking for, but beauty is subjective, is it not?” They nodded, the air between us filled with thick, stinging fumes. I broke them with several waves of the hand and pointed to a high-rise under construction behind them to the west. “No, it’s objective,” I argued. “That’s not the only one. There’s one at each corner of this neighborhood and they all look the same. All surface. No character. No soul.”

       They tried to reason it was still preferable to the hollowed out emptinesses of what previously rested in those spaces: sad little hovels hospitable to squatters, attractive nuisances for teen terrors, an amalgam of the property owners’ nightmares tightly tethered together, tripping, toppling, as tykes tease at their stupid privileged plight, manifested in a cynical hatred of people in general (the hoi polloi in particular—the dregs, the scum, you know (?), the working class only one sickness removed from begging for booze $$ or a cigarette or food-barely-passing-for-sustenance outside of 7-11—essentially me). “Hmm… can I tell you guys something I heard? And, mind you, it may just be gossip, but these sites are killing people.”

       Perhaps they were curious to see whether I was being metaphorical or not, because they leaned in—so quiet quiet quiet quiet quiet became their demeanor as defenses crumbled away—with nary a peep nor riposte. In the brief silence, I could hear what sounded like my brain clicking away on a mouse, doing extensive GOOGLE searches, I NEED BULLSHIT I NEED BULLSHIT I NEED BULLSHIT I NEED BULLSHIT I NEED BULLSHIT I NEED BULLSHIT I NEED BULLSHIT pert pert pert pert pert pert pert pert pert pert pert pert incontrovertible bullshit ‘cause otherwise any off-the-dome fabrications may involve absurdities even children trusting trusting trusting children wouldn’t believe. I’d considered delving into the well documented truths of the area’s rich black history (its cultural and financial successes and the succeeding systematic destruction of it), but I wished not to trigger them on a substantive level, preferring subtle, subliminal fuckery to material fact fuckery. “Yeah, apparently they’ve gone through several foremen and more than one contractor. That’s why they keep pushing back the completion date,” I said. They admitted to knowing nothing about it. “It says ‘SUMMER 2019’ now, but just six months ago, it was ‘WINTER 2018.’” They stared blankly and shrugged.

       “I don’t think it’s a coincidence,” I added (it could’ve meant anything, but I was already committed). “Are you saying there’s something, like, karmic and shit? Like, the gods are angered and shit?” One of them asked, trying to bury laughter in his stupid fucking double chin. “Yeah,” I said, “It’s like the god of, like, fuck gentrification and shit.” The other one said, “Actually, I can prove to you guys god doesn’t exist if…” “I’m not into theological discussions,” I interrupted. “We might as well jerk each other off until last call. Your boy brought it up and I riffed on it. What I’m saying, is… well, I’m saying it’s people like you who come in with your smug airs and your wallets fat with plastic and you don’t even tip your bartenders or cocktail waitresses adequately, and then you sit out here and speak on shit you know nothing about… in essence, you’re a couple of hot and hairy assholes, and the stench permeates everything.”

       They laughed. “You know there’s two of us, right?” I chortled. “I can count. I’m not into threesomes, though. I prefer more intimate affairs.” The one who could prove god doesn’t exist said, “Real mature with the gay shit, bro. You started it. Who hurt you?” Without flinching, I rattled off two names. And the other one said, “Women problems. But that’s no reason to go all queer, dude.” “I’ve always been a little queer,” I shot back. “Women had nothing to do with that. This isn’t about scapegoating women though. I answered your question, and I’m telling you what I think.”

       Unable to laugh me off, they stood and ramped up the belligerence with some oh so revelatory musings on SJWs as well as the stock inanity (read: edginess) only two douchebags I—for whatever reason—had always naively hoped existed only in YouTube and Reddit comment sections would entertain (but they were fucking real, further leaving me with no other feeling than the fullest weight of depression, push push pushing me into the oft vomited, pissed and spat upon pavement at my feet), and bade me a good night because “bro, you aren’t worth these hands.” (LMAO, shut the fuck up!) It felt as if they made this appropriated proclamation/assurance while backing away toward the street if only to determine my willingness to engage them physically. But I wasn’t stupid, I was tired, and I didn’t give a fuck about the toxically masculine posturing of their suggested (of course!) violence because my face was too pretty for all that, and whatever spoils were at stake in victory were certainly pyrrhic, and I’d been there before; it tends to happen when you fall in love with those women problems, always at odds with someone brighter than yourself.

       Despite me having said nothing in response to their lukewarm threat, one of them stopped their backward stumble to address me in the most half-assed, puff-chested manner. I made a motion with my middle finger instructing them at once to get fucked and also to (as if I really gave any kind of a shit for their safety) watch where they were going. They told me to FUCK OFF with a hard homophobic slurrrrrrrrrrr (F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F F dragged dragged dragged out) as punctuation and stepped off the curb. What they were either too inebriated or too stupidly unaware to realize (definitely both) was that the street was one-way, and only one of them made any effort to look for oncoming traffic as they passed the relative safety of someone’s car parked maladroitly along the sidewalk. Unfortunately, said effort was in the wrong direction, and before I could react, they were both mowed down by a city bus headed for the GARAGE. So quickly and deftly were they sucked ‘neath its tires, the driver didn’t even stop, sweeping sweeping sweeping their suddenly mangled corpses to god-of-fuck-gentrification-knows-where. I got up and approached the curb, ludicrously expecting a harsh incline/long fall. It was about six inches down, and for several feet only spent cigarettes and the detritus of flesh and blood spattered on someone’s car and ground into the street were visible.

       The idea of calling for assistance crossed my mind, but I was unable to follow through on most deliberate movements, relying only on something possibly divine (?) to send me back to my beer gone warm, so someone else was going to have to to deal with it. I wasn’t paid enough—or at all, obviously. I fell back into the chair and said something about no one being deserving of that fate, but fuck, it was better them than me. And like them, my phone too had perished, so it was impossible to see (refresh refresh refresh!) if the those same women problems that’d devastated me in nearly every facet (because none of it was my responsibility (!)) had unblocked me on social media. Though I knew the inevitable despondence of such a quandary would always be there, I took refuge in it being the first time in some time I’d felt the relief hidden away in solitude. In the distance, I could hear sirens.


photo by Meg Amanita

Patrick Patterson-Carroll is a British born, U.S raised writer and artist. He is the author of I Dig Symmetry and Six Other Stories, published in 2014 through Thought Catalog. Additionally, he has written about art and music for local publications such as THRWD, Arts & Culture Texas, and the Wild Detectives blog. He’s shown art in several local galleries, and in 2016, he was the co-host of What is Cinema?, Dallas’ first city sponsored podcast. He has one child, and is currently working on a new short story collection called, Torch Stories, in which Gentrifiers is featured.  

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