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Home for the Holidays
A Story By Tony Cox

This night felt like it was meant to be. After making the long drive to visit his mother on Christmas Eve, Louis decided to make a detour and drive through the old neighborhood on his way back home. It had been 20 years since he left, and he hadn’t bothered coming back since. He’d never once felt homesick, but tonight was strangely drawn there.

Of course, the minute he was back in the neighborhood, the alternator in his old Dodge gave up the ghost.

“This place was always bad luck,” he thought. “Oh well, the headlights HAD seemed kinda dim back there...”

Instead of being home by morning to watch his children open presents, he now got the whole night to himself, to walk, to sniff around dead shadows, kill time until the auto parts store opened up, in what......thirty hours? Walking seemed a whole lot better than sitting in his car, doing nothing.

It was cold out that night, and Louis definitely wasn’t dressed for the weather. Just like old times, walking these streets, it made him feel like a dangerous 19 year old again. There’s that same old furniture store, yet another going out of business sale. All those warm blankets atop soft beds, disposable couches, and even a fake fireplace were right in there. He imagined sitting in front of it, pipe in his mouth and a newspaper to his face, maybe even a snifter of brandy. The scene in his head reminded him of a certain Daffy Duck cartoon.

Just like old times, Louis didn’t like loitering in one place too long, and preferred to just keep walking, and try to blend into the shadows and darkness. He decided that if he saw anyone he knew, he would put on a crazy face and ask them for spare change if they approached, his idea of a joke, and the quickest way to end unwanted conversation.

A little bit further down, he wandered past the bus shelter in front of the Sands strip club. A septuagenarian bottle bum was seated on the bus bench, what looked to be his usual spot. Wool hat on his white head and a wool blanket on his frail lap, cold pint of whiskey clenched in his disgusting hands, he was a real Aqualung. Three of the girls from the Sands were out there tonight in the freezing cold, wearing Santa hats and long fur coats, doing shots, pouring whiskey down the old derelict’s gullet, even taking turns giving him lap dances. Louis felt happy for the old guy, and silently laughed to himself. Every dog has his day, he thought.

Walking still more, he started feeling his age once again.

“I gotta quit smoking,” he thought, as he headed up the hill on Market Street.

Louis felt a sharp pain under his chin, and an ache in his left arm. He stopped walking and wiped cold sweat from his forehead. Suddenly, his large frame collapsed on the sidewalk, his knees no longer knowing how to do their job. Louis vomited on himself and realized he was having a heart attack. Laying there in the shadows and darkness, he laughed one last time to himself before the neighborhood finally got him.

Night City: The Short Fiction of James LaFond: 2015-16

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