“69 FUCKING DOLLARS” by BLAKE MIDDLETON

I had a day off today.

I was sitting in my closet-sized bedroom scrolling through twitter.

Felt bored.

My girlfriend was at work.

Decided I was going to walk to the restaurant I work at to pick-up a tip-out.

I put on sweatpants and walked outside.

The first thing I noticed was all the trash everywhere.

I walked down the road and saw a shoe on a roof, and that was nice, too.

Saw some more trash.

Saw a punching bag punch in the shape of a person. The person-shaped punching bag was wearing a gorilla mask. It was in the driveway of a cinderblock house with at least a dozen NO TRESPASSING signs.

I saw a house with too many American flags to feel okay thinking about.

The fenced-off retention pond across from the Family Dollar seemed to be a little low.

I crossed the street.

Saw a car coming towards me.

Felt like the car sped up to hit me, but I did a little jog.

And for some reason I thought, “Yee-haw.”

Crossed the train tracks into the nicer part of downtown.

It was sunny out.

Sunny and nice out.

Didn’t feel like our democracy was probably collapsing.

Just felt like another day.

I saw more trash: a bud ice bottle, a Doritos bag, and family dollar brand gummy worms.

I was looking at things.

I was alive and looking at things and it felt nice.

Thought, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

Realized that I was looking a lot at the ground, but not up at the sky.

Thought about how people never really look up at the sky.

At work I hide on the roof when I don’t feel like doing work and no one ever sees me from the parking lot.

I walked some more and stared at an old Ford truck.

Passed an older black guy smoking a clove cigarette.

He said, “You like that old truck?”

I said, “Yeah.”

“It’s mine. Everybody said to keep it like it is. So I did.”

“Cool,” I said.

I walked some more and saw two framed pictures on the ground.

One was a picture of an old US air-base.

I didn’t look at the other picture because it was behind the first one.

“Those are trash,” an obese man yelled from his porch. “They’re free.”

I looked at the picture again. It was water-stained from sitting out overnight.

“Cool,” I said. “Thank you.”

I crossed King Street.

Thought about how much my tip-out might be.

I hoped it would be forty dollars because I only had ten dollars and I wanted to get drunk at a bar later.

And fifty dollars is the perfect amount of money to get drunk at a bar.

If you really want to feel rich at a bar for one night I recommend having fifty dollars in ones and fives.

Mostly ones.

I saw a guy standing on a porch.

Thought he was staring at a cactus then realized he was staring at a move-in van.

It was a real blank stare.

It was a stare like he was looking into the future and didn’t like what he was seeing.

Which is something that I’ve never done.

Haha.

I walked some more, saw more trash: a corona bottle, a bud light can.

Then I saw the opposite of trash: a cute little dog.

Then more trash: a sparks malt liquor can.

And in reference to every human being in Jacksonville, I thought, “You guys are alcoholics.”

I walked past some houses that were empty lots a year ago, but now had nice little houses with picket fences.

I thought, “Everybody is cashing in,” and felt angry without really knowing why.

Thought about how much of my life I’ve spent feeling angry without really knowing why.

Probably angry at some vague idea of the world that I had pieced together by reading depressing articles on Facebook.

Yesterday I felt angry after work for a solid hour because right when I was about to clock out the owner of the restaurant told me to go mop something.

Instead of mopping I clocked-out.

Which is my favorite part about being a person: leaving is always an option.

If you don’t like your job, you can quit your job.

If you don’t like the world, you can leave the world.

Just kill yourself.

Ultimate freedom.

The sweatpants were tight around my ankles and my ankles started to sweat.

I almost got upset about my sweaty ankles but I thought it was better to have sweaty ankles while enjoying a nice day than to be dead, not enjoying a nice day, nothing to complain about.

And even though the thoughts I was having weren’t great, they were a lot better than the ones I was having alone in my room.

Decided I was gonna stop at the park and stare at ducks, maybe do some pull-ups.

I had a nice/terrifying thought: I wasn’t born to cash in on the world, I’m not like these other greedy fuckers, no no, I was born to work menial jobs for these greedy fuckers.

Probably indefinitely!

Ultimate freedom.

At the park I stared at baby ducks, big ducks, geese, ducks with fucked-up wings, and a Cheetos bag floating in the pond.

My ass was starting to sweat, too.

I thought, “Gonna go pick up my tip out with a sweaty ass, yee-haw.”

Having a sweaty ass wasn’t great, but it seemed a lot better than dying in a war I didn’t understand or care about.

Which is something a lot of human beings have done.

Or like, some humans beings were just sitting in their homes, and then a nuclear bomb killed them.

Like ~130,000 human beings all at once.

And that could happen again.

Je-e-e-sus!

I did some pull-ups next to another sweaty-assed man then left the park.

I saw a construction worker carrying two large plastic pipes.

Felt glad he was the one carrying the pipes and not me.

And that’s as far as that thought went.

I was glad someone else was carrying heavy pipes, and that I wasn’t carrying heavy pipes.

It was noon.

I started to feel a little hungry.

For a few seconds I felt convinced that if I looked hard enough I would find some money on the ground.

Then realized that would never happen.

Or it could happen, just not if I thought about it.

Thought about all the things that could happen, but only if I didn’t think about them.

Only if I never considered the possibility of them happening even once.

I tried not to think about anything.

I walked to the St. John’s river and stared at it.

Walked along the river.

For some reason, god dammit, I couldn’t stop thinking about things.

I thought about the last time I cried.

The last time I cried was when Mark Buamer died.

I cried in my twin bed next to my sleeping girlfriend while reading the last thing he ever wrote before getting hit by a truck while crossing the country barefoot to raise awareness for climate change.

Kept walking along the river.

Saw a sad man with headphones in, eating alone on a bench.

A bird was chirping. The sad man looked up from his cellphone and stared at the bird.

It looked like he either wanted to kill the bird or hug it.

I rolled up the legs of my sweatpants.

My ankles stopped sweating but my calves started sweating.

I walked across the Acosta bridge.

The railroad track that goes across the river was up.

A small boat went through the opening.

Both the people on the boat were wearing American flag bathing suits.

I stared at pelican and thought, “Fuck you, bitch.”

Because birds are fucking assholes.

I walked through the backdoor of the restaurant and into the manager’s office.

The angry manager was there.

She asked me why I was wearing sweatpants.

I said, “I walked here from Murray Hill.”

She said, “You don’t have a car?”

I said, “I do have a car.”

She said, “Weird.”

I said, “Okay.”

She gave me my tip-out.

I left.

The tip-out was stapled inside a piece of folded scrap paper.

Sometimes the money is stapled to the scrap paper and it takes forever to unstaple.

But not this time.

Hell yeah, not this time.

Remembered that the tall manager worked last night and that tip-outs are always more when the tall manager works.

I ripped it open, thinking “Cha-ching, cha-ching.”

It was 69 fucking dollars.

I texted my friend that I work with.

Pretty much my only friend besides my girlfriend.

“I make so much when tall guy closes. I made 69 fucking dollars last night.”

“Fuck you. I have eight dollars.”

“I had ten, but now I have 79.”

I texted, “Can I even blow that much in one night?”

I texted, “We’ll see.”

He texted, “We know you can.”

He texted, “We both know you can.”

I texted, “Angry manager is good at making you feel weird for doing normal things.”

I texted, “Like walking to work to pick up a tip-out.”

I texted, “Walking on the Earth. That’s normal. That’s probably the most normal thing a human being can do.”

I texted, “How’s most dick?”

He texted, “What the fuck?”

I texted, “I mean Moby Dick.”

He texted, “It’s neat. Old timey language is hard to get past.”

I texted, “Bartleby, the Scrivener is nice. I read it really stoned on my couch.”

I put my phone in my pocket.

Decided I was gonna take the skyway across the river.

The skyway was built in the 80’s. It’s pretty much useless because it only has like five different stops and they’re all too close to each other. Also, no one really lives in downtown jacksonville, and the people that do live in downtown jacksonville are rich and own cars.

The city made the skyway free a while ago because no one was riding it.

I got on the skyway.

Everyone on the skyway looked sad.

More than one person on the skyway had a face tattoo.

I texted my friend, “I hope I don’t get robbed on the skyway with all this cash.”

He texted, “You’re the worst kind of dick. I’m blocking your number or something.”

He texted, “No I’m not. I’m so sick of you though.”

I texted, “Hey. Be easy, man.”

And he didn’t text me back.

I thought, “69 fucking dollars.”

Felt like treating myself.

Thought maybe I would buy a coffee, a Publix sub, maybe even a three dollar scratch-off.

Took the train across the river.

Thought about all the times I’ve jogged to the Acosta bridge and stood at the highest point, writing emotional poetry on my IPhone.

Got off the train and walked toward Publix.

At Publix I bought a coffee, a veggie sub, a scratch-off.

Sat outside on the curb and drank coffee.

Didn’t feel like walking the rest of the way home.

Texted my girlfriend to pick me up on her way home from work.

And that was the end of my walk.

Thank you for reading.

 

Blake Middleton lives in Jacksonville, FL. He has another short story published here, and a ~2000 word poem on the Joyless House blog. He tweets @blaketheidiot.