UPWARD MOBILITY • by Paul A. Freeman

Unbidden, violent thoughts crowd into my brainbox. Perhaps it’s because of this unpredictable mental state that I’m residing on Skid Row with all the other dross. It’s not even as if I initiate the violence that follows me everywhere. Well, not always.

Then it begins.

A fellow vagrant gives my mongrel dog, the only true friend I have, a bone to chew on. It’s been poisoned. The man grins at me through meth-melted teeth while Clarence writhes on the ground, hacking up his guts. Such disrespectful behaviour towards me cannot go unanswered, so I kick the vagrant’s legs from under him and ram an empty vodka bottle, neck first, down his throat. To ensure a positive outcome, I stamp down on the protruding base of the bottle.

While I’m preoccupied, a bag lady sneaks out of the shadows and is quickly upon me. She’s holding an unopened can of special brew in her hand. Her fingers are wrapped around it as if it’s a grenade. Without taking proper aim, she throws the can at my head, hoping to concuss me and gain the advantage. But I’ve noticed her just in the nick. All she’s succeeded in doing is disarming herself. It takes me just moments to choke the life out of her.

I dispose of her corpse in a wheelie bin, placing the dog-killing son-of-a-bitch on top of her.

If I get caught by the cops while I’m dumping the bodies, it’s game over. It’s never happened before though, coz Vijay Grant (that’s my name by the way) is too wily for the flabby-arsed doughnut gobblers. Even when the plodders do put in an appearance, I easily outrun them. Restaurant leftovers, liberated from litter bins and fly-infested trashcans, give me a degree of physical strength to be reckoned with.

Once I’ve nailed my quota of ten down-and-outs, I’m euphoric. It’s as though I’m having an out-of-body experience. I’m floating, looking down at my former self, heading off somewhere to lead another life, a better life, far away from here.

***

I’m on Leafy Lane. I’ve been here before, I know I have, in a previous existence. It’s a déjà vu kind of thing that I often feel. My threadbare overcoat has transformed into a baggy red cardigan. I’m now called Joan Ormal. I’m a woman! That’s a turn up for the books. I’m still a violent bastard though, but for the time being pretend to be a regular Joe. I’ll lull my suburban neighbours into a false sense of security with my innocent veneer, biding my time till I suss out the lie of the land.

Stood on the back veranda of my home, I’m cooking on a barbecue grill, lovingly accumulating brownie points from my spouse. He hugs me from behind while I flip burgers and turn the lamb chops. He plants a kiss on my cheek. The neighbours, milling around on the lawn or lounging on garden chairs, grin up at us, toasting another boring, middle class couple with the half-drunk bottles of beer in their mitts. Meanwhile, kids are whacking a piñata dangling from the lower limb of an oak tree. It must be someone’s birthday. One of the brats splits the donkey’s belly open, then proceeds to bludgeon the other children with the baseball bat when they dive for the candy. What a little swine!

That’s my cue, though. I’ll have to deal with him.

I reach for the can of lighter fluid standing handily beside the barbecue, spray accelerant over the budding psycho and ignite him with a match. He blunders about the back yard like a flaming medieval torch. It’s hilarious! I celebrate the kill by bursting a dozen birthday balloons with a steak knife, then stabbing to death a neighbour whose dog just pooped in my flowerbeds. Upping the ante further, I shove a pair of kebab skewers into hubby’s eyeballs, all the way through to the back of his skull.

Heaven!

The whole suburban experience fills me with an energy that crackles like electricity. It’s as if my mind and body are in the grip of the mother of all sugar rushes.

***

I find myself on Easy Street. It’s a million miles from the hardships of Skid Row and the banality of Leafy Lane. The sign on my office door confirms that I’m now Richard Geet, some kind of company executive. The furniture’s plush. There’s a Monet on the wall. I’m a big success, apparently. Hedge-funders and corporate zombies are out to get me though. They want to curtail my profit-making shenanigans. Jealousy’s the basest of emotions, and they’ve got it in spades. They’re coming from all corners of the building, desperate to relieve me of my ten-bedroom mansion, my six-figure annual bonus, my Ferrari.

Bastards!

But I’m just as intent to fulfil my own life mission. So I fight them off with an assault rifle, mowing them down, row after row of them. There are too many of the rat race scumbags, however, and they force me into a stairwell. Up or down? I can’t decide quickly enough, and I’m running out of bullets.

Eventually, rather than fighting my way down to street level, I opt to head for the rooftop. My energy’s depleted by the time I get there and the last bullet clip empties in a cloud of cordite. There’s only one way this’ll end.

My adversaries catch up with me, swarm over me, lift me up and toss me off the building.

As I plummet earthward, my back to the rapidly approaching sidewalk, the sky lights up above me. Written in large, back-to-front letters, it says: ‘Game Over’.

A pimply, god-like face frowns down at me from the blueness, cursing over my demise.

Then, just as suddenly, the divine visage is grinning. “Fuckin’ A, guys,” he says, as his disciples gather around. “I just beat the Upward Mobility high score.”


Paul A. Freeman once looked after a neighbour’s cat for a week.


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Every Day Fiction