Sock Monkey

I forget my shoes in the locker room, just walk out into the foyer in my stocking feet. Laying down my bag, sticks across the top, I half-jog back down the hall and into Forum 3.
"I'm back," I say. Nobody laughs. I scored two goals today; I should get a sympathy chuckle. I sit down and put my shoes on.
When I get back to the foyer, my bag and sticks are gone.
It takes me a second, because I can't comprehend the possibility that someone took them. I look around, thinking they were moved under a bench, that they were in the way.
I see nothing.
There's a little boy holding a pair of figure skates, white ones for the older sister sitting next to him. He raises one hand, struggling with the weight of the skates, and points toward the doors.
I give him a nod and move so quickly that the sensor doesn't catch me and I have to slam on the breaks before I smash into the sliding glass.
Once outside, I scan the parking lot. I have hope, it couldn't have been very long ago that the stuff was taken. I look for signs, for behaviours that would indicate that someone is in a hurry.
I catch it. Someone hurriedly pushing sticks into the back seat of their Range Rover. I sprint over there, excited and angry.
Coming around the back of the car, I see my bag on the ground. I look up and recognize the guy.
"Lou?" I say. "What are you doing?"
"Huh?" the man says. He's wiping at his nose with the back of his hand. His eyes are bad red, swollen and inflamed, like he has pink-eye or something worse. Ebola?
"What are you doing? That's my gear, man."
"Oh, yeah. Right. I don't know."
"Are you okay? Were you stealing my shit?"
Lou looks away, eyes vacant. "Stealing? I don't know. I need…I need something."
"Yeah, that's it."
"You think you're going to sell hockey gear for money?"
"Well…ransom, maybe?"
"Lou! Are you stupid? I know you, man. Our friend, Adam? Remember?"
"Adam, Adam. Wait, you're not Adam."
"I know, Lou. What the hell, man? You need a fix this bad?"
"A fix? You holding?" Lou asks.
"No, Lou. I'm not holding. Gimme my shit back, would you?"
"Yeah, yeah, no, yeah. That's cool."
I drag my stick out of the back seat and grab my bag, flipping it around to wheel it back to my car. He gets in the driver's seat and I have a moment of moral flux. He doesn't look in any state to be driving. I decide I don't care and keep going.
Behind me, I hear the sound of his car not wanting to start.
I keep going.
He tries again. The car won't start.
"Dammit," I say, and spin back. He's opened the door and he's sitting on the edge of his seat, feet on the little riser, looking down at the ground like he's going to be sick.
"Car," he says when he notices my return.
"Won't start?"
He shrugs.
"I don't know anything about cars," I say.
"Yeah, I know, right?" says Lou.
"You need a ride back into town?" I ask with a sigh.
"You're not going to try to steal anything from me again, are you?"
"Why would I do that?" asks Lou.
We're back in town in fifteen minutes. "Where do you want me to drop you off?" I ask. He's in the back seat, looking like someone who just woke up from anaesthesia.
"Do you know Adam?" he asks.
"Yeah, I know Adam," I say. "He still at the same place?"
Lou shrugs.
I take it as a yes. The address is nearby and if Adam doesn't live there anymore, I don't care. I've decided that Lou's getting out of my car at that point, and that's that.
There's a spot out front and I pull in.
"Okay. You're here," I say.
I look back and Lou's head is slumped over on his shoulder.
"Hey! Lou! We're here, man."
"I din gobble," he says, slurring the non-words into near comprehension.
I get out, go around, open his door. He tries to move and topples over into me, so that I'm holding him like a baby. "You're going to have to use your feet, Lou."
He obliges and steps out of the car and onto the sidewalk, a newborn calf emerging from the woodland womb of whatever hard drug – or drugs – has had him engulfed as of late.
"It's bright out here," Lou says, slouching against me.
Now we're crab walking, and I'm almost dragging him along the path to the building. I sit him down on the step, press the buzzer and go back to close my back door. I think about leaving; I've done enough. Instead, I make the mistake of looking back, and my stupid humanity kicks in, and I return to help him inside.
When I get back to the front door, Adam is on the speaker. "Who is it?" he asks.
Lou is reaching up with his hand, like he's going to send a hand signal through the speaker apparatus. It's pathetic, because he's failing at his signal, on the heels of failing at identifying he needs to speak, not give a thumbs up.
"Adam?" I say, just as the voice starts to grow impatient.
"You pressed the button, asshole. What do you want?"
"It's me. Collin. Collin Pressman?"
"Collin Pressman? I haven't seen you in ages, dude."
"I got Lou, here. He's pretty messed up and he told me to drive him to your place."
"Oh, for Christ…yeah, yeah. Bring him up."
The door buzzes. I get it open and hold it that way with my foot while I gather Lou from the ground. He doesn't help much, almost careens headfirst into the doorframe.
By the time we get to the second floor landing, I'm a ball of angry sweat, and Lou's smiling and singing Toxic by Britney Spears.
I knock on Adam's door.
"Whazzat?" Lou says.
There's some fumbling, and the door opens. "Get in," Adam says, and helps me drag the ever-limpening Lou into the apartment. Adam leaves me with the dead weight while he closes the door and tucks the towel back under the jam.
It's obvious why there's a towel; the house is full of smoke.
"Can't believe you haven't been busted yet," I say, gesturing for Adam to come back and help me. We take Lou down the hall.
"Brazen, isn't it? You coming back after all this time and lipping me off?" Adam says.
"Lipping you off? I said I was surprised you hadn't gotten busted for smoking weed."
"Whatever, dude," Adam says.
Lou gets dropped on the couch and there's a moment of awkwardness as Adam and I stand next to each other, looking down at the destroyed man.
"What did he take?" I ask. Not because I care; just to break the silence.
"I have no idea. He's a mess, but he was clean this morning when I sent him out for you."
"He didn't tell you?"
"He could barely talk," I say. "I don't…you sounded surprised when I buzzed."
"I was being sarcastic. I told him to ask you to come, that it was important."
"He tried to steal my hockey gear."
"Idiot," Adam says. "He asked me what he should do if you wouldn't come. I told him to be a gentlemen, offer to carry your bag. It was a joke."
"He forgot the part where he asks me anything. He just took my stuff to his car and then needed a ride home," I say.
Adam sits down on the couch next to Lou, who looks to be sleeping, now.
I have a moment to understand what has happened. I've been trapped. Lou's idiocy has worked better than any plan. I'd never have come back here if I'd just been asked by either of them.
"I need a favor," Adam says.
There's a folding wooden chair across the glass coffee table from the couch, and I sit in it. "We have to do this again?"
"We're not doing this, whatever the fuck that means. No need to be dramatic, dude," Adam says. He reaches for the table, picks up a joint and baptizes it between his lips, a distinctly homoerotic moment. Then he lights it with a yellow Bic; he always uses yellow.
After a few moments of sucking silence, he offers it to me.
"You know I'm off it."
"That's just rude, not taking a man's offering," Adam says.
"Doesn't matter. I'm probably high from just being here."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nevermind. What do you want from me?"
"Jesus, Colin. You've become a prick. I told you, I need a favor. You remember, you owe me a favor, dude. That was the terms of you getting out. Or have you forgotten?"
"I remember. I stopped smoking so I remember all kinds of shit."
"Lay off with that crap. I've been smoking weed since I was eleven and I ain't never had a single problem with memory. Or was it when I was twelve that I started?" He realizes the irony and laughs for a while, the way people laugh when they're high, too giggly and for too long.
"Okay, I remember, I said. What do you want, Adam?"
He sobers up a little, putting the joint out in a badly formed ceramic ashtray. It's pale blue with terribly drawn flowers on it. "We really aren't friends anymore," he says.
"What's the favor?" I ask. Adam can be volatile, so I'm trying to be consistent and calm, while still sticking to my guns.
"You remember that cunt, Susan?"
Of course I do, you prick. "Yes."
"Yeah, yeah, you remember her. Remember when you fucked her, right?"
"I was high on that fucked up coke you gave us. We really gotta go through this again?"
"No, no," Adam says, smiling. "It ain't like that, cuz. It ain't like that. I'm not trying to dig up old buried bones or nothin'. I'm just asking if you remember her. You know, now that you don’t smoke anymore and your memory is so good."
"Yes," I say. I'm sweating a little, now. Susan was a girl who Adam had claimed for himself, out of a group of five or six chicks that were hanging around back in the day. Apparently I fucked her when I was wasted, though I still don't remember it at all.
"Yeah," Adam says again. He leans forward, looking at me. Really looking, like he's deciding what to do with me, now that he's got me in his sights.
"I gotta use your bathroom," I say.
He blinks, smiles, offers the way with his hand. "You know where it is."
I get to the bathroom and look at myself in the mirror. I got out because of situations just like this one. Once Adam started with some of the harder drugs, the harder people followed. And then Adam felt he had to get a little hard, so he did.
"And you've always been soft," I say out loud. Wasn't such a bad thing in the real world. But here, with dealers and junkies, soft was the most obvious form of weakness there was.
I shouldn't have come up. I know that now. I let the memories, the old good times convince me that it was no big deal. That I could bring Lou to Adam and nothing would happen. That we'd even have a little moment, a sad nodding of our heads to acknowledge that once we'd been friends and it just hadn't worked out.
Instead, a favor.
I go back out and Lou is sitting up, smoking with Adam. "Oh, hey, man. When did you get here?" Lou asks.
"Just now," I say.
"Don't be a dick to Lou," Adam says. "You were always a dick to Lou. I never liked that. Why you gotta be like that?"
I hold my hands up in surrender, choosing silence in the face of Adam's annoyance. Best bet, from what I can recall.
"Sit down, would ya? Stressin' me out, up and down to the bathroom all the fucking time," Adam says, taking the joint from Lou.
I sit and wait.
Adam ignores me, runs his hand through his thinning hair. He's got new ink all over his forearm, symbols and skulls. The symbols I don't understand, the skulls I do.
"You got some new work done?" I ask, trying to bring things back down to level.
"That was a while ago. Susan wanted me to get some of this shit; protection she said."
"Wards," Lou adds with a stupid grin.
"Yeah, wards," Adam says. "That's kinda what this is all about."
"The favor?" I say. "Thought it was about…her, what you said."
"Susan. Jesus, you can say her name."
I shrug.
Adam puts out the joint. Lou is snoring, passed out on the couch again.
"Jackass," Adam says, looking over at Lou. He pokes him, prods him again, harder. Lou shifts but doesn't wake. "Whatever."
Adam gets up, paces to the patio door, then back. He's bigger than I remember, been working out. Leaner and meaner.
"After you got out. After I let you out," Adam says. "I was with her for awhile. With Susan."
"It was okay. It was good. But she's a chick, you know? And half-latin, Puerto Rican, I think." Adam makes the crazy gesture, finger circling his ear.
"Sounds right," I agree.
"She used to do some crazy shit. Like a witch, you know? Ever seen anything like that?"
"Cauldrons and warts?" I ask.
"No, wise ass. Like a real witch. Always talking about directions, and nature and shit."
"I know of it."
"She was a witch. Is a witch, I guess, if she's still alive. That's what I need you for."
"You want me to see if she's still alive?"
"That's the least of it, but yes. You see, after Susan, I banged her friend, the younger chick."
"Anne," I say.
"Fuck, your memory is good, dude."
Anne was the hottest of the group by far. She'd bent over for me in a Denny's bathroom once; I wasn't going to let Adam in on that just now, though.
"So one day I send Anne over. I've got a good hookup now, for meth, through this Puerto Rican gang, or whatever they were. Susan's banging one of the dude's in the gang, so he trusts her to make good decisions. Anne and Susan are tight, and Anne's going over there anyway, once every week or two, so I hit her up as a mini-mule, right? Get her to pick my shit up for me."
"And that didn't work out?"
"Something like that. This time, Anne doesn't come back. When they find her in the dumpster, someone's messed her up real bad."
"Bad dead. See they were getting together regular to do crafts, that's what Anne called it. This time they were doing something with socks, I think. Shit, I didn't listen to her. She had those fucking ridiculous hips, remember? Oh, man. I hardly heard a word she ever said. Anyway, when this bike cop finds her in the dumpster outside Susan's building, her eyes are gone, and somebody's sewn some red buttons over top of them."
"Christ," I say. "Why?"
Adam shrugs. He stops at the window, looking out, saluting to keep the sun out of his eyes. "They don't know. Susan claims she never showed up. And no one knows where my money went."
"Fuck," I say. It's always about money.
"Exactly. She takes it, gets offed, and the money's gone. I tried to inquire about the cash, but Susan won't answer my texts. I go to her house, and a big Puerto Rican motherfucker answers her door and makes it real clear that our business is concluded. Me and them, me and her, all of it. Real clear."
"How much are you out?"
"Five grand," he says.
"Any chance the cops took it?" I ask.
"Always, dude. Fuckin' always. But I was hoping you could talk to Susan for me. I think she just got freaked out because I was leaving her so many messages. Or maybe the Puerto Ricans pulled a scam on me and they don't want her telling me shit. Or she's dead in some dumpster somewhere else."
"Why would you think she's dead?"
"This shit," Adam says, holding up his arm. "When we were together, toward the end, she was freaked out all the time. Thought a bunch of bad shit was going to happen. Wouldn't finish me off until I got some of these markings."
Money or sex, I think, nodding my head like an understanding compadre.
"What do they mean?" I ask.
"Fucked if I know. Just protection, that's what she kept saying."
"Can I be honest with you?"
"Why not?"
"I don't see how her being neurotic and making you get tattoos means she's dead."
"I get that. That's why you're going to go talk to her for me. See about my money."
"I never did collections. Why me?"
"Because you fucked her, stupid. And even though you didn't remember doing it, she did."
"Yeah, asshole. She told me all about it. Even when I told her to stop, she'd tell me more just to piss me off."
"Wow. I…I always kinda thought it was a story. I really don't remember it."
"You were a righteous asshole about it, too. Like you couldn't have possibly fucked up and nailed your boy's lady. Whatever, dude. Doesn't matter now."
To my surprise, I feel bad. "Shit. Sorry, man. She never verified the story – "
"And you couldn't trust me?"
"I was pissed off because of the bad coke."
"I didn't cut it, dick. It was like that. I was told it was super pure."
"Oh. That's all you got to say?"
"I guess so."
"You'll go see her then?"
"Do I have to?"
"Thought you were sorry?"
"Fuck," I say. "When did you go to her place?"
"A couple of weeks ago."
"You said the Puerto Rican dude made it clear that you should leave her alone? How clear?"
"Just pushed onto my ass clear. Not cut off my nuts clear," Adam says.
"Okay. But if he cuts off my nuts, you're paying my hospital bills."
"Fuck that. I'll cauterize that shit myself, son."
Twenty-three minutes later, I'm climbing another set of stairs, heading up to apartment 307, Susan's last known address.
It didn't seem to occur to Adam, but I can't stop thinking of the fact that a girl died over something that happened here. Walking into it like this makes me feel like an idiot, and yet I climb, step after step, feeling like a bad friend to a friend I haven't had in years.
I guess I did fuck his girlfriend after all.
"Can't wait to see her," I mumble, and knock on the door. I knock light, hoping no one answers.
She comes to the door right away. Susan. Toffee skin, ink at her wrists, dark hair pulled back from those big browns.
I think of Anne, found in a dumpster with red buttons sewn over her eyes.
"Hi," I say, trying hard not to back away.
"I know you," she says. "You're Adam's friend, right? The guy who fucked me when we were all on coke!"
"Awkward now if I'm not that guy," I say.
"Shit. Adam was so pissed at you. Whatever. He's a hard-on anyway." She makes a jerking off motion and opens the door further. "Come in."
"You sure?"
"You came here didn't you?"
"I guess. There's no huge Puerto Rican gangster nearby, is there?"
"What? Oh, I get it. I was going through the ceremony, to become a priestess. I wasn't allowed to see anybody. Luis only got rough because Adam was super drunk when he showed up. Now he's sulking. I haven't heard from him in ages."
I step inside and close the door behind me. The place isn't big, but it's nice. The walls are yellow, almost too bright, and the drapes around the window are a muted shit brown.
"Priestess?" I ask.
"Once you get through all the rituals, you have to wear a white robe for a while, and not talk to anyone."
"Santeria?" I ask.
"Yeah. We call it Lucumi, though."
"That what those markings on Adam were?"
"You've seen him?"
"He sent me over here. To see if you're okay."
"That's sweet. He's such a moron."
"I know."
"He talking to you? After you fucked his girl?"
"It's been a while," I say. "And until today I didn't even think I had."
"You don't remember?"
"Really? I thought that was just you bullshitting him."
"That coke was crazy."
"You really don't remember me?" She turns and bends at the waist, pulling down her pants just far enough to expose the tattoo at her lower back. It looks like a carnation.
And I do remember it.
"I might have seen that anywhere."
"Sure. When you were up in my ass."
"Maybe we shouldn't be talking about this."
She shrugs.
"I shouldn't stay long. I just came to see that you were okay."
"You sure that's it? This isn't a booty call?"
"I told you – "
"I'm just kidding, man. What's your name again?"
"That's so white."
"I guess."
"What I meant, was you didn't just come to see if I was okay," she says. "You came about his money."
"There's that."
"Thought you didn't work for him anymore?"
"I don't. I'm just doing him this favor. He didn't want to meet Luis again."
"Sure. Well like I told him, I don't know what happened to his money. We were just fucking around and things got fucking weird. We never even talked about drugs that night, and I don't think Luis even dropped any off for him. If Adam gave Anne money, it was on her when she died. You want tea?"
"No thank you."
She pours water into the kettle. She's got a great body, bigger breasts than I remembered. They ripple along the top as she swings the kettle around and plugs it into the stove outlet.
"What did happen? Were you the last one to see her?"
"Truth is I don't even know. We had a couple of boys over, and we did a few rails. I was just starting my Lukumi training, and I was getting all paranoid, you know? Learning about all the evils in the world. I had this bad feeling that something was going to happen. So when we were doing crafts, I was putting symbols of protection on everything. Oh, here, look," she says, walking past me and into the main room. Her breasts brush against me and it takes everything for me not to look down at them.
She goes to her couch, another shade of shit with a multi-colored nightmare of a blanket thrown over the back. She plucks a stuffed toy from the middle of the blanket and tosses it to me. She breezes past and goes back to the kitchen to make her tea.
In my hands is a sock monkey. I've heard of them, but never really seen one. This one is a mess of angles, made from a couple of different socks. One's a work sock with white and red stripes, the other a black and blue argyle pattern. The patterns meet near the middle of his face, making him look like the phantom of the argyle opera. It has a prominent little snout, stupid ears sticking out the sides of its head and buttons for eyes.
Red buttons.
"I don't get it," I say, fighting a strong desire to throw the little fucker onto the ground. For all the lack of skill used in putting it together, it is proportionate enough that the red little eyes look like they're peering right into me.
"Nothing to get," she says. "I was showing you the symbols, what we were doing."
"I don't see anything," I say, flipping the monkey in my hands.
"Oh, shit. Right. We put the symbols on the inside of the sock monkeys."
"Sock monkeys plural?"
"Yeah. Anyway, we were making those – ironic right? – putting protection symbols in our sock monkeys, and then the boys were here, and I think Anne gave one of them a blowjob, or maybe that was a dream. I don't. Anyway, I woke up and she was gone."
"That's it?" I ask, tossing the sock monkey back to her as she returns to the living room. She doesn't catch it because she has two hands on her tea. She looks at me like I'm a moron.
"What are you doing? Don't throw my monkey on the floor."
"Sorry. So that's it? Sock monkeys, coke, maybe a blow job and then a horrible murder?"
She shrugs and takes a sip of her tea.
I pick the monkey up from the floor. She doesn't step away, stays near it. I rise and we're nearly face to face.
"See something you like?" she asks.
Somehow she manages to put her tea down while I'm mashing my face against hers. It only takes moments, like I'm some kung-fu breast revealing expert, before I've gotten her shirt over her head and one-handed the hell out of her bra. They spill out like a mudslide, a little sloppier than I'd envisioned. I wheel and push her to the couch. All big tits look great when a woman is on her back, when gravity isn't working against them.
We wrestle and grope and disrobe, and I find myself switched around, my back on the couch. She's atop me, holding one of my hands with both of hers, jamming it into her fleshy breasts.
And the sock monkey is back on the couch, sitting on its rainbow blanket, staring out at nothing.
I had it in my hand. Then I had one hand in her hair, one hand up her shirt. How'd the little bugger get back on the couch? Had I thrown him so that he came to rest perfectly where he'd been earlier? Had I held him somehow, returned him to the couch while I was wrestling with Susan?
No, my hands were busy. She must've done it, that's all. She must've taken it from me while I was undressing her, seeing that I was going to need two hands. And then she must have put it to rest on the couch, back where it lived.
That was all.
"C'mon, you ready?" she asks. She's got a bit more of an accent, now, in the throes of lust.
"Sorry," I say, helping her to cement the act we're attempting.
The sock monkey doesn't look like it's gazing off into nothingness anymore. It's looking directly at Susan.
We shifted, that's all. Moved the couch, made it settle.
That's all.
Both of my hands are occupied now. She hasn't taken her panties off, just moved them to the side, and the crotch is rubbing against the inside of my left leg, aggravating it. I change our rhythm, get her moving up and down more so it stops rubbing.
The sock monkey is looking at me now.
I close my eyes, start focusing on the friction against my leg.
I can't get the image out of my mind. The monkey's red eyes, staring down at me. The red eyes of Anne, poor Anne who was so young and beautiful.
"There, that's better," Susan says. "Now we're getting somewhere."
Her panties are killing my leg. My mind won't let the image of Anne go, laying naked in a dumpster, eyes sewn shut by red buttons.
"Come on, come on," Susan says, grinding against me.
Are her panties made out of tag material? Jesus.
"Hey, what's wrong with you?" Susan asks.
Her changed tone snaps me out of my trance. I open my eyes. The sock monkey is watching. I look down and I've slipped out of the situation.
"You got to be kidding me," she says, looking down at my failed friend. "Don't tell me you can only fuck on coke, 'cause I ain't got any."
"No, no, it's…it's your panties, they were rubbing me.
"And you lost your boner because of pain?" she asks, like it's the dumbest thing she's ever heard.
Feeling a little affronted and frustrated, I blurt the truth. "It's the fucking monkey. He won't stop looking at me!"
Susan nearly falls getting up from the couch. "What the fuck did you just say?"
Her underwear is still pulled to the side, and it's not a pretty sight. I'm struck by that moment – a moment that usually occurs after you've done the task – where you realize your object of lust is not what she appeared to be. Susan has stretch marks high on her tits and on her hips, and she looks used and old, despite her youth.
"Nothing, never mind," I say, getting up off the couch, away from the sock monkey. It's staring straight ahead again, off into nothingness.
"You said something about that monkey, didn't you? Goddamn it, not again," she says. She bends a little, spreading her knees to fix her underwear. It's not attractive.
"Again? What do you mean, again?" I ask, trying to find my pants without taking both eyes off the monkey.
"That night, with Anne, when we first made them. She kept saying that, while she was making hers, that it looked like its eyes were real. I laughed at her, because we were high, you know? I didn't think anything of it. But she kept talking about the eyes."
"I think it's time for me to go," I say.
"And then they found her like that, with her eyes gone and the buttons and everything."
"So why the hell are you keeping that one?" I say, pointing at the monkey.
"It won't let me throw it out," she says, a look of abject fear creasing her face. "I keep trying, but it won't let me."
She slaps her hand over her mouth, like she shouldn't have spoken, and begins shaking her head violently.
I take her by the shoulders. "Hey, stop it. Calm down! Susan! Susan! Calm down, will you?"
She responds, nodding her head. "I don't think I was supposed to say that," she whispers.
"Fuck this. You got a garborator?"
"Like a garbage disposal? No," she says.
"You got a blender?"
"An old one. It makes a terrible noise – "
"Whatever. Go get it. Plug it in. And make sure you've got the lid."
She nods, waddles away into the kitchen, still naked except for her panties. I remember her now, seeing all that flesh. I definitely fucked my friend's girl.
My former friend. But who's fault was that?
I find my jeans and drag them on. Feeling a little less vulnerable, I approach the sock monkey, hands out like I'm ready for a wrestling match.
"You ready in there?" I ask.
"Okay. Here it comes you little bastard," I say. I half-expect the monkey to hop up and run along the back of the couch. It doesn't. It just looks at me with its cold, dead, red eyes.
I grab it. It's just a bunch of socks and stuffing, its eyes only buttons. For a second, I feel like an idiot.
Then the image of Anne in the dumpster returns and I haul the monkey off to its doom.
Susan has the blender plugged in. She's backed up against the fridge, arms folded across her breasts, the lid for the blender sticking out in one hand.
I pluck it from her as I move past. "Let's do this," I say.
"Wait, is this…is this crazy?"
"We'll talk about it after," I say and stuff the monkey into the blender. The lid gets caught on one of its striped hands, makes it look like he's trying to keep the lid from closing. I tuck the hand in under the lid and jam it closed.
I hit the button. The blades spin for a heartbeat with no effect, then the monkey begins to twirl at speed. I pick up the whole thing and shake it.
There is an eruption of fluff within the glass and I step back, hand still on the lid, to witness the monkey's demise. I have to shake it a few more times as the blades do their work, until eventually there's only the click, click, click of the buttons to be heard.
"I didn't think it would work that well," Susan says.
"Me neither," I say. "I remember a television show once, an infomercial I think, where they'd put all kinds of weird crap in a blender."
"You cold? You're shaking," I say.
"No. I don't think so."
"What did you mean, when you said it wouldn't let you throw it out?" I ask.
"I can't explain it. It would just slip out of my bag, or I'd think I'd put it with the trash and it would be back in its spot. I got to thinking it just didn't want to leave."
"That's messed up."
"You're the one who just frapped the damn thing!" she says, her voice rising.
"Calm down, I wasn't giving you shit. It just feels a bit weird now, what we just did."
"Can you take it?" she asks.
"What do you mean?"
"When you go, can you take it out with you? Throw it out for me?"
"I don't see why not."
"Could that be soon?"
Three minutes later I'm at the now infamous dumpster. I'm looking in, seeing all the different ways that Anne could've been stretched out over the contents. I see her face down, skirt lifted above her buttocks like she's been violated. I see her buried to the neck, head only showing above the trash bags, red eyes staring. I see her on her back, laid out like she's on some medieval funeral pyre, red buttons payment to whatever god is waiting to take her soul.
I toss the blender – socks, buttons and all – into the trash, and get the fuck out of there.
Heading back to Adam's it occurs to me that I could not head back to Adam's. I power through and keep going, still feeling the sting of guilt over banging his girl. He's not a friend anymore, but I owe him at least this much. A sad report of lost money and crazy women.
The further I get away from Susan's place, with her hideous curtains and stretch-marks, the more the whole thing seems like a fever dream, a mass hallucination for two.
Why the hell did we feel the need to blend a sock monkey?
Almost laughing, I buzz at Adam's door and he lets me up.
"What's the verdict?" he asks a I step inside. Lou is asleep on the couch, sitting up so that I barely see the thing. Its eyes, its red, murderous eyes are hovering over Lou's head, turned to stare at the newcomer.
I push past Adam and rush into the room. It's the sock monkey. No. Not the sock monkey, a different one. This one's the same materials, but switched, argyle half on the other side. And it's made with more precision, the face split right down the middle, not jagged and curved like the phantom of the opera version at Susan's place.
"Where the fuck did that come from?" I ask.
Adam looks at me like I'm mentally challenged. "You put it there, dude."
"Come again?"
"You didn't?" he asks.
"I saw it after you left, a while back. Thought you were playing some sick joke or something."
"Why would I have a fucking sock monkey?"
"I don't know. Like a prank."
"I didn't know the story before I got here, Adam! I didn't know about the crafts, and the drugs and the red buttons, so how the fuck could I play a prank about it?"
"Calm down, man, you're stressing me out," he says. "I'm too fucking high for this."
"Where did it come from, man?" I ask, grabbing him by the arms. He shrugs away violently, nearly falls.
"Keep your fucking hands off me," he says. He moves, wobbles, a specific kind of wobble.
"You been drinking since I left?" I ask.
"A little. Hey, where's my money? Did you talk to Susan?" he asks.
I gently reach up, put my hand on his shoulder, and turn him toward the couch. "See that?" I say, pointing to the little, woolen bastard. "I didn't put that there. Who put that there, Adam?"
"Lou, I guess," Adam says.
"I doubt that. Lou's been asleep since I left, I'll wager," I say.
"Let's find the fuck out," he says and goes over to Lou.
"Hey, fucker!" He mumbles. Leaning in, he shouts in Lou's face. "Hey! What's with the monkey, dude? What's with the monkey, Lou?"
Lou doesn't answer.
Adam pokes him in the head.
Lou's head does something wrong.
Adam steps back, runs into his coffee table and falls over onto it with all his weight, ass first. There's a brutal cracking sound and the tables splits down the middle.
I barely notice what's happening. My eyes are still locked on Lou, the way his head is tilted to the side, the way his mouth is slightly open, the way the tongue is poking out like a little worm about to be early-birded.
Adam gurgles something unintelligible. He's up on his elbows, looking at Lou.
Lou's dead.
Adam says the same thing; a word.
"What?" I ask, both of us frozen, one eye each on Lou, the other on the still little monkey.
"Elegua," he says. "It's one of the things she said she had to do, to become a Santera. To make a little thing. She has to think about her whole life, all of it, and then choose materials and make a…little thing."
"Yes, a little thing. Got that much. What the fuck are you talking about?"
"I don't know, dude, I didn't pay attention to that bitch!"
Adam scrambles up from the ground, gets around behind me like I'm about to protect him.
"You obviously know something."
"Yeah, it's supposed to keep evil spirits away, takes some of the saint's power or some shit."
"I'm thinking something went wrong if this was supposed to be a protection monkey."
"Maybe it's her. Susan's no saint. Becoming a priest don't change that."
"What do you mean she's no saint?"
"I don't know. She's had a bunch of abortions."
"A bunch? How many abortions necessitate using the word bunch, Adam?"
I remember that I'm dealing with a drugged out moron. Suddenly, it's all too much.
"Fuck this. I'm outta here," I say.
Adam grabs me by the shoulder. I shrug away.
"Where do you think you're going?"
"Leave me alone."
"You're not leaving me with this, dude. Lou's dead. Look at that shit."
"It's not my problem, Adam," I say, heading for the door once more.
Adam grabs me again, this time more roughly. "Like it wasn't your problem when you fucked my girlfriend? Like it wasn't my problem when you left the business we started together?"
"You just told me she had a bunch of abortions, Adam! Apparently everybody fucked your girlfriend!"
Adam looks like he's going to take a swing at me. Instead, he drops a shoulder and tackles me to the floor. I try to wriggle out from under him, but he's dead weight, laying atop me without knowing what to do.
"Get off, you asshole."
"No. You're not leaving me here with Lou and the Santeria monkey!"
Lou and the Santeria Monkey. Sounds like the title of something.
"Get off me!"
"Promise you'll help!"
"With what? Calling the cops?"
"You can't call the cops. Do you know how much shit is in this place?"
"Then what!" I yell in his face. "What could I possibly help you with?"
"With him," he says, pointing back to Lou.
Lou's there, but he's covered. The sock monkey is on his face, back to us. For a second I think it's moving; then the notion is ridiculous. It's just there, blocking Lou's dead expression.
Adam growls, deep in his throat, and climbs off me. As he goes he puts his hand just below my sternum, taking my wind as he pushes off. I watch as he goes to the monkey, rips it away from Lou's head.
I need to follow the monkey, watch its flight, see where it lands, what it's doing. But I can't. I'm not capable of taking my eyes off of Lou.
He stares back at me with red buttons.
I've never moved so fast.
I've never moved so fast for such a short period of time.
I sprint toward the door, get only three steps before I slam on the breaks.
He's there. Just sitting against the door, slumped to the side a little like he was thrown.
"Impossible," I say. Adam hadn't thrown the monkey in this direction. There's no way he's here. It can't be.
The sock monkey stares up at me with red button eyes.
"Where are you getting the extra buttons?" I ask the inanimate object, my mind losing its moorings for a minute.
"Why? Why is this happening?" Adam says, his voice a childish groan.
I'm afraid to look away from the monkey. It moves when it's not being watched, I get that now. As long as I'm staring at the little bastard, it can't surprise us.
"I don't know," I say.
"This is all Susan's fault," Adam says. I hear him collapse onto the couch beside his dead friend. "She got knocked up, then she made me get these stupid tats, then she goes and fucks you and ruins our friendship, now she's made this stupid craft monkey and it's all pissed off."
"Keep it together, man."
"I don't know what religion would want a priestess like her, dude," Adam says.
"I'm guessing not this one. Otherwise this fucker wouldn't be so pissed off," I say.
"I thought I was protected," he says. "What's the point of these tats if I'm not protected?"
"Maybe you are," I say. "Jesus, Adam, maybe you are protected."
"What does that mean?"
"It hasn't hurt you, has it? Has it even looked at you?"
"How could it look at me?"
"It just…it does that, okay? It looks at people. It looked at me when I came in; the other one did, too. Stared at me while I was…while I was at Susan's house."
"Did you fuck her again?"
"Stay focused, will you? Let me so those marks on your arms."
"Why? They're just like decorative crosses, that's all."
"Maybe, maybe I need to get me one of those," I say.
"Why? Here, dude, just wear this," he says. Something hits the floor at my feet. Without taking my eyes off the sock monkey, I bend down and gather it up. It's a beaded necklace with a fancy little cross.
"Wear it?"
"It's the same protection symbol as I got here," he says. "She gave it to me, when we first got together."
"What's on it? It's flaky."
"She tried to become a Santera before, apparently. Used it in a ritual. It's animal blood or something."
"Whatever. Just put it on. But don't wear it when you're bathing or fucking. That was important. And don't wear it when you're on your period."
"This isn't going to do shit, is it?" I ask, slipping the beads over my head.
"Against a sock monkey?" he says. Once he starts laughing, he's lost. But he's right; the whole thing is absolutely ridiculous. I walk backward to the couch, and sit down next to him, shoulder brushing against dead Lou.
Together we sit there, watching the monkey, as the monkey watches nothing.
We're there for a long time. We have to start taking turns watching, because our necks are hurting. Eventually, I start to get tired, and we decide to sleep in shifts. Before my first shift, I need a bathroom break.
From the bathroom, I hear the knock at the door.
A silence akin to death spreads outward from the sound.
I hear a key and then the door opens.
"What the hell?" Adam says.
"Here's my little guy," says a recognizable voice.
It's Susan.
"Your little devil killed Lou, you bitch!" Adam says.
"You knew I needed three, Adam."
"Not Lou! You never said anything about that!"
"The Asiento demanded it. If I'm to ascend the throne, be born again, I need three sacrifices. I don't get to choose them. The Elegua chooses them."
"Fuck that," Adam says. "I'm not helping you anymore."
Anymore? It occurs to me that I am one of the three. Or at least was. I look down at the beaded necklace, hope it means what I think; that Adam changed his mind. My hope is rewarded a moment later when Susan asks where I am.
"I don't know," Adam says. "He took off when he saw Lou's eyes. Like I should've."
Susan laughs. She doesn't sound the same. Not the bawdy, sultry girl from earlier. This woman is colder, with more self-control.
I hear another set of footsteps, louder. A larger person. Probably a man, probably Luis.
"You know what it means, right?" Susan asks. "You know what it means if I only have two?"
"Don't come near me you crazy bitch!"
Luis's footsteps move past the bathroom door, down the hall where the confrontation is happening.
I try the knob, move it silently, inch by sufferable inch.
"I need three, and I'm tired of waiting."
"Not me. Can't be me."
"I explained this to you, Adam. It has to be someone who's been with me, who's been part of my degradation. How else will I be born clean? How else can I wear the white?"
"You fucked that bitch Anne. You telling me you never fucked another one of your girlfriends?"
The knob makes a tiny sound and I freeze, waiting to be discovered.
"I don't like pussy all that much. Anne was special," Susan says.
The door clicks. Now I'm sure I'm about to be discovered.
No footsteps come toward the door.
"This is stupid," Adam says. "Why didn't you just kill him at your house!"
"I'm not killing anyone. And he got wise, somehow. Caught the monkey looking. Did he tell you what he did? He put him in a blender!"
"This is nuts," Adam says. "And just for the record, I can't believe you fucked Lou!"
"Oh, who haven't I fucked, Adam? That's why I need this rebirth so badly."
"If you've fucked so many people, go find someone else to sacrifice!"
"But the saints want you," Susan says.
I pull the door slowly inward, expecting a creak. None comes, and I slip my head through to look down the hallway. The big guy's back is blocking most of my view.
I'm going to make it. I turn down the hallway, and a wave of guilt pours over me. Am I just going to leave Adam here to die?
Before I can process the unexpected emotion, Adam squeals.
"Dude! Help me!"
I freeze.
"You, stop."
I turn around. "God, Adam. You're such an asshole."
"Shit, sorry. I...I just – "
"Quiet," Susan says, pushing past her big friend. "It's the limp dick. Hello there."
"Hi," I say.
"This is awkward, isn't it?" She's got the sock monkey hanging at her side, like a child holding her favorite toy, her hand wrapped around its outstretched paw.
"A little." "What's that around your neck?" she asks. She steps forward, squints, sees what it is. "Why do you have that? Give me that!"
"I don't think so," I say.
"Luis! Get that for me!"
I'm dead if Luis isn't wearing a windbreaker. He steps in and I grab it by the shoulder near the collar, just like a hockey fight, and I bring it up over his head. He's disoriented and I manage to land three good uppercuts before he collapses onto his face. My hand lights up with pain, throbs like it's three times its original size. I fold it between my legs, biting my lip and trying not to scream.
Adam leaps into motion, jumping on Susan's back like he's tackling a much bigger target. They fall to the ground on top of Luis, squirming and tearing.
The sock monkey falls free, landing on its side, eyes glaring.
I think about grabbing it, trying to destroy it, maybe flushing it down the toilet.
But I'm too worn out to make an informed decision. Instead, I just run.
An hour later I'm at home, wondering if it was all a dream as I doze on the couch. I have a nightmare, and wake up expecting there to be a dead body next to me, Lou's red eyes staring at nothing.
He's not there. I'm alone.
I've slept through most of the night, and I can see the blue hint of sunrise through the window. I mosey into the bathroom and start the shower. In the mirror, I see the beaded necklace and remember that Adam said I wasn't supposed to wear it in the shower.
I slip it off and hang it on the towel rack and step under the water. My nightmare returns as I close my eyes and let the water run down my face. In the dream, I awoke from sleep and wasn't able to open my eyes. When I reached up, my fingertips found the cold, hard surface of the buttons where my eyes used to be.
I repeat the gesture, making sure no buttons are there, and push my hands back through my hair. I turn to get the shampoo and open my eyes.
The sock monkey is on the edge of the tub.
My feet try a new dance and I slip. I have a brief moment of awareness as I'm falling, that I need to protect my head or it's all over. I throw my arms up, elbows over my ears. When I land, I take the edge of the tub pretty hard with my shoulder. It hurts bad, but I don't think anything's broken.
I panic, realizing that my eyes are closed. I open them, see the monkey in the tub with me, hands out like it wants a hug.
"No, you little asshole, I got you, I see you now."
The monkey isn't moving, still and posed like an action figure. Impossibly so; his arms are just stuffing.
I climb out of the tub backward, eyes never leaving the bastard, and scramble for the beaded necklace. I get it on over my head and sit down against the door.
"I have a blender," I say aloud. Then I remember Susan's voice, the way there'd been a little laugh it in when she mentioned that I put the other monkey in the blender, like it was a great joke.
It made sense, in the same way that crazy things made sense now, that tearing the thing apart limb from limb wouldn't stop whatever that bitch had started. And yet the temptation was immense.
I think about flushing it down the toilet. No, it's too big.
I could bury it in the yard. No, then I'd wake up to a dirty monkey sitting on my pillow, hands outstretched for an impromptu, nighttime strangling.
No, no, no. There has to be something else.
There has to be three, she said. Anne was one, Lou was another. And the common thread was that they'd fucked her. Had to be someone that had fucked her, she said.
"Fine. If that's the way it's gotta be," I say.
I dry off, start pulling my clothes on. Once I make the mistake of looking away as I drag my jeans on. When I look back, the monkey's head and arms have turned toward me, beckoning for an embrace.
I grab it and hold it in my hand as I put on my shoes, stuff it through the sleeve of my jacket as I put it on, having a momentary bout of sheer panic as I lose sight of him.
"That was dumb," I say, the monkey staring at me. "Never again."
I hold the monkey out in front of me, just at the base of my vision, as I make my way out to the car. Then, I stuff the little bastard, face first, into the corner between the windshield and the dashboard, so he'll be right in front of me the whole ride.
At Adam's, I pluck the little fucker out of his perch and hold him steady. I stop in front of his buzzer.
"Shit." I can't buzz. That won't work. He might not even be alive. No, it's three. It needs only three.
They could've killed him for fun, I think. But it doesn't matter. I don't need Adam alive. Unless I'm wrong about the other guy; then I might be boned if Adam's already dead.
I dig for my phone, still in my jacket, and flip it open. The monkey peers over top of the phone as I look for Adam's number.
It's still there; I dial.
No answer.
I text.
And wait.
And wait.
After three minutes, he answers.
A: Hurry before back to her place
Me: I can't get in
A: Back door, push hard enough
I race around, monkey in my hand, in my peripheral. I'm such an asshole. I should've known it would come after me. Adam has those protection symbols, inked on. I pray Luis isn't covered the same way.
The back door isn't as easy as he made it sound. I have to hurt the other shoulder to get the sticky lock to give. Once in, I race to his floor.
Outside the door, I stop, knowing I have a very slim chance. I jerseyed the guy the first time, got lucky, but I've got no gun, no way to make it happen but sheer fear of death.
Luckily, fear of death is a pretty good motivator.
I charge through screaming, and surprise the shit out of everyone. Susan is in the kitchen making tea, and she shouts and drops her cup. It smashes to pieces. Luis is getting up from his seat across the broken table from Adam and dead Lou. He's reaching for the small of his back. I pitch the sock monkey into his face, and he squeals like a school girl, spinning to toss it away.
Adam jumps up and we hit the big fella at the same time. I'm trying to punch him, and Adam's getting in my way.
"What are you doing?" I yell.
Adam rolls off, something in his hand.
Luis's gun.
"Oh, nice," I say, and roll away as well.
"What the fuck are you two doing?" Susan shouts, storming around the corner.
"Keep that on him," I say to Adam, and grab Susan by the arm. "This way, you crazy bitch."
"That thing really works, huh?" Susan says, looking at the necklace that Adam gave me.
I pitch her fat ass down on the couch next to Lou. "You fucked that guy," I say, smiling and pointing to the dead man next to her.
"Fuck you," she says. "I'm not scared of a corpse."
"Who else did you fuck, I wonder?" I say, crouching down in the rubble of the coffee table, getting eye to eye with her.
Her eyes flicker, just once, and I know I've made a solid bet.
"What now?" Adam says. "Do we kill these assholes?"
Luis is on the floor, hands out in surrender, Adam standing threateningly near and pointing the gun at his face.
"No need," I say. "I think this might take care of itself now."
"What do you mean?"
"It needs a third."
"Where is it?" Luis asks.
"You people are idiots," Susan says.
I'm in her head, now. I know exactly what she means. "Luis, take all of your clothes off right this second or my friend is going to blow your brains out."
"What? No. Why?"
"Adam, shoot him in the face."
"Okay, okay," Luis says. He gets to his knees and pulls his shirt off. On his chest, over his heart, is a symbol that looks a lot like the ones on Adam's arms.
"That it, or do we need to see more?" I ask Susan.
She looks at me like I'm Sherlock fucking Holmes.
"Just a sec, big guy," I say and head to the kitchen. "Hey Adam, where's your sharpest knife?"
"I've got a Henkel," he says.
I don't know what he's talking about. I see the knife rack, four blades stuck to a magnetic strip above the sink. One of them has a Swiss army looking symbol, and the word Henkel.
"Got it," I say.
"No, no, what are you doing?" Luis asks.
"Put that gun right on his head, Adam, and don't move it no matter what."
"No, I won't let you, no!" he protests. But he doesn't like the feel of the muzzle against his brow, and loses his nerve. I get close, brandishing the knife, and he closes his eyes.
It takes a lot less time than I thought it would. I do a triangle around the brand, dig the knife up under the skin, and pull it away. One corner sticks, but a tiny slice and it's over.
Luis is whimpering, holding the wound with both hands, collapsed on his side.
"One more thing," I say.
Adam's on it now, he gets what's happening. "We cut out his eyes?"
"I don't think we need to be that dramatic. Tie his feet, his hands, then we blindfold him.
"You're going to pay for this," Susan says.
"Fuck you," I say. "You're going to get your third victim, what do you care."
"Really?" she says. "You're not going to turn me in to the cops or anything?"
"And how the fuck would we explain this to the cops, Susan? No. I might be saving my own ass, here, and Adam might be saving his, but we're also doing you a fucking favor."
"Holy shit," she says, seeing that her future isn't as bleak as she'd assumed. She goes to the blinds and rips down the cord, crosses to Luis and starts tying his feet. Adam looks at me, stunned. I shrug, and he smiles.
After that, it's pretty simple. We all crowd into the bathroom – making sure the monkey isn't in there – and wait.
Luis whimpers for a while. When he stops, it could mean any number of things. We give it another twenty minutes before we check on him.
I'm the first in. They're both there. The sock monkey is sitting on the floor, eyes empty, slumped over.
Luis is up against the wall, his red button eyes just as empty.
I get closer. It's hard to explain in words, but the sock monkey is just socks and thread, now. There's nothing in there, nothing at all.
"Good thing you're such a whore, Susan," I say.
"Fuck you. This is a pretty big inconvenience for me, you know? Now I need to get someone else to help me with the rest of my ceremony," she says.
"You're fucked, though, right?" Adam says. "Now that you're pretty much a priestess, it's all healing and remedies and shit?"
"You're lucky, too. I should put sock monkeys up your asses for this," she says.
"You're the lucky one. When I first came back here, I was going to put a bullet in you," I say, lying my ass off.
"Whatever, it's over. Let's just clean up," she says. "And then I don't want to ever see you two fucks again."
"Just one last thing," I say. "Adam? Do you have a blender?"

About the Author

Keith Kennedy is a Pushcart and Rhysling-nominated poet writing out of Vancouver, BC. He has over sixty professional credits, including recent publications at Samjoko and Coffin Bell. Keith is represented by Jon Michael Darga at Aevitas Creative.