THE COLD INSIDE
By AL BRUNO III
Tuesday November 8, 1994
The loading dock of the Carvale Home was dark and empty in the early evenings. It was the perfect place to grab a smoke. Frustrated and annoyed Tristam had stolen the pack of Marlboros from his mother’s desk and retreated there to relax. Huddling in the gloom he inhaled the smoke greedily. He wondered how much more he could take. School, his mom and his psychiatrist were all hammering away at him like he was a block of stone they were trying to fashion into a statue. The problem was that each of them had a different idea of what that statue was supposed to be.
In the end he wondered to himself if there would be anything left at all when they were done chipping away. Expelling a mouthful of smoke he leaned against the cool wall and slid down into a crouch. He would just be glad when this day was over, any day that started out with a wet dream could only go downhill. Part of him was terrified over what had happened last night, part of him couldn’t wait to try it again.
No. No. He thought to himself, Gotta ration this out. Just like cigarettes, otherwise you loose the kick you get. No titties except for the weekends or special occasions.
The problem was that he still didn’t know if it was all real or not. How could he be sure? Maybe he was crazy after all. Most people thought he was. Heck for the first few weeks after his arrest the local AM radio shock jock had obsessed over him and called him a ‘ticking time bomb’ and ‘a serial killer in the making’ for four hours a day, every day.
That’ll look great on a college application. Oughta get me right into Harvard.
He took another drag on the cigarette, wondering how much tar and nicotine he was getting, wondering how much closer to cancer he was. Sometimes he wondered why he didn’t just get it over with and kill himself. It wasn’t like he had a future anymore.
“Got another one of those?”
Tristam gasped, half-choking on a mouthful of smoke. An old man stepped out onto the loading dock, he was lantern-jawed and clean shaven. He wore a battered baseball cap.
“I said do you have another one of those cigarettes? I’m fresh out.”
Tristam stood and looked around for one of the orderlies, the residents weren’t allowed to go wandering off unsupervised. “How did you get outside?”
“Christ!” The old man hissed “Do I look like one of the walking dead in there? My wife is here- just until she gets back on her feet.”
“Oh,” Tristam hoped it was too dark for his scowl to be noticeable, he slipped the pack from his jacket pocket, “I just see you around a lot.”
The old man pulled a cigarette from the crinkled cellophane and lit it with a tarnished silver lighter “My name is Phil, Mr. Dowd to young punks like you. I think your Mom does my wife’s physical therapy.”
“Occupational therapy,” Tristam finished off his own cigarette and crushed the remains beneath his heel.
“Hmm?” Mr. Dowd asked.
“My Mom does Occupational Therapy. Physical therapy is different.”
“Whatever.” He glanced out into the darkened parking lot, “Does she know you’re stealing her smokes? Does she know you smoke?”
“I- I mean she- they’re-”
“Thought so,” he laughed a little. “Tell you what, give me the rest of the pack and it’ll be our secret.”
“But my Mom will notice,” Tristam looked to the door, wondering if he should just make a run for it.
“If she does notice she’ll just think that either one of the lowlife fucks that works here stole them or one of the senile fucks ate them or some goddamn thing,” The old man held out his hand, “Now do I get my smokes or do I have to pay Carol a visit?”
With a groan of resignation Tristam handed over the Marlboro pack.
Mr. Dowd pocketed it with a smug little smile, “You just learned an important lesson kiddo, people are scum. Remember it and live well.”