The Cold Inside
By AL BRUNO III
Monday November 28, 1994
Stan the Man, that was what they had called him in high school. He was the dude that was always ready to skip class and always got invited to the best parties. He was the dude that every guy wanted to be friends with and the dude that every girl wanted to hook up with. Why? Because he was the guy with the weed.
And he kept his rates incredibly reasonable because he was more interested in being Stan the Man than he was in making a profit.
All that ended in 1986 during his second try at twelfth grade. It was a Sunday morning, he hadn't slept for two days, he was a little bit drunk and a little bit high. Driving back home he had crested a hill and become momentarily sun-blinded. Stan didn't remember anything else, he didn’t remember losing control or the crash that turned his sweet ride into an accordion and he sure as Hell didn’t remember hitting anyone.
But he had, some eighth grade paperboy honor student. The stupid nerd had been killed instantly. They tested Stan's blood at the hospital, and he quickly found himself arrested and indicted before he was well enough to walk. The police got warrants and searched his home; they found his supplies, all of them.
There was a lot of talk about making an example of him, he was nineteen and looking at decades behind bars. Even his Public Defender was begging him not to go to trial. So Stan copped a plea and the judge sentenced him to fifteen years but in the end he only did six, but six years was long enough.
He came out with no diploma or job prospects. The old neighborhood had changed and the old gang was too busy growing up and selling out to spare a moment for the ex-con that had been Stan the Man. He tried to start dealing again but his reputation made suppliers skittish. The parties were different now, the girls, the vibe and most of all the music; Metal had been replaced with Grunge, Rap and pretentious art-house garbage. Besides, in his day you invited the dealer to hang out at your party but now they wanted you to drop off the stuff and go. It was like they thought you were the pizza delivery man or something.
So he left Buffalo for Albany and got a lousy job and a crappy apartment. Stan the Man tried to start his life over but now he was Stanley the Nurses Aide and it sucked.
Half-drunk he flicked his attention from Baywatch to the clock on the VCR. He needed to get to sleep soon, he was on a 5 AM to 1 PM shift. It was his job to roust the oldsters from their beds and get them ready for breakfast. Stan tried not to think about it, he tried to concentrate on the bodacious babes running in slow-motion across his TV screen
Stan's first thought when he heard the knock at the door was that his rent check had bounced again and his landlord was there to scream and curse. Then he realized that there was no way his rent check could bounce, he'd just put money in the account.
All the while he tried to boozily balance his checkbook in his head the knocking continued. Finally Stan yelled “All right! All right!” and swung himself up from the couch and walked over to the front door.
There was an old man on his front porch. He just stood there, glaring.
Stan took another pull from his beer, “What do you want?”
The old man blew him a kiss.
There was a mound of dust in the old man’s hand and it sprayed everywhere. It caught in Stan’s eyes, hair and mouth, “What the fuck are you doing?”
Now the old man was smirking. He brushed the remaining dust from his palm.
Stan tried to slam the door closed but his arms suddenly felt heavy; it took all his effort to just make them twitch. Then his legs began to wobble and he started to fall.
The old man caught him and shoved him backwards.
Stan crashed to the floor taking out the sidetable he kept his wallet and sunglasses on. It hurt like Hell but he couldn’t cry out, he couldn't even reach up to see if he was bleeding.
“My name's Phil. You don’t know me but we have a mutual acquaintance.” The old man said as he closed the front door and, after a moment's fumbling, locked it. “Lucy Dowd.”
Stan could only shift his eyes as the old man drew closer. He had no idea what this was about, he wondered if he was dreaming in front of the TV.
“Lucy Dowd, the old woman you've been robbing.” The old man, Phil, drew back his leg and kicked Stan in the ribs with crushing force.
Stan blacked out for a moment but when he came to he still couldn't move and he could only breathe in choking gasps.
“I wasn't sure it was you until I put that wad of cash in her drawer. I saw you take it but you didn’t see me,” Phil walked into the parlor and turned off the TV. “I'm full of tricks like that. You think what’s happening to you now is bad? There was one guy I did this to, he still can’t move a friggin' muscle. He’s been flat on his back for thirty-six years.”
The old man stepped over him and wandered into the kitchen. Stan’s eyes teared up at the thought of spending the rest of his life like this. Working at the Carvale Home for the Elderly and Infirm had taught him all he needed to know about bedsores and infected catheters.
“Tempting as that might be I don’t have the time or the resources to pull something like that off these days. We only have a few hours,” Phil stepped back into his field of vision, he was holding a serrated carving knife. “But we'll make the most of it won’t we?”
Stan wanted to scream, or fight back or beg but all he could do was wait.