The Man Who Could Care Less by John McNeeley

Fuck those people Bucky thought to himself. It was 1995 and he hated Bill Clinton. He hated George Bush the previous president too. Bucky despised all politicians and most people in general. He loved Jazz though.

It was not politicians Bucky was thinking fuck those people about this time. No, it was the two Brazilians that were recently hired to do the same job he did- clean the piss, shit, blood, and puke off all the linens at the Youville Hospital in Cambridge. It angered Bucky that they were Brazilian, but it would have just as much if they were Caucasian like himself. These two additions to the staff meant less job security for him. “How many of us do they need to turn white sheets white again?” Bucky asked out loud to no one in particular. The Brazilians looked at him, baffled.

 

It was 8am. Time to punch out and change back into the ripped blue jeans and oversized John Coletrane t-shirt he’d shown up in the night before. Bucky enjoyed a Groundhog Day type regiment, but his nephew’s 7th birthday and ensuing party would throw a fuck-monkey wrench into the works. Bucky couldn’t stand the site or sound of kids. He thought of them as retarded adults with dwarfism. Kids were loud, clumsy, and completely unnecessary. Yet for seven years he’d been the unwilling uncle of his sister Samantha’s boy Tommy. Stupid name, Bucky thought.

 

The party would start around noon, so at least he’d be able to enjoy his morning routine uninterrupted. First stop was always breakfast at the Rosebud Diner in Davis Square. A bus, a train, and less than twenty minutes later Bucky would be served his Bloody Mary (extra horseradish, extra vodka) Five minutes later his two eggs scrambled with a side of home fries would make their way to the table.

 

It annoyed the shit out of Bucky if he had to sit in a booth back to back with one that occupied other customers. Their conversations would bleed into his morning paper and he could feel the vibrations of their movements against his back, even rippling the surface of his Bloody Mary. Fuck those people he thought to himself as he folded the Boston Herald under his arm and quietly left the amount the bill always was, plus 15% tip- anything to avoid small talk with the wait staff. Thirteen years of breakfast at the Rosebud; he knew what to expect from them and they knew to expect nothing much out of him. Everyone was fine with it that way.

 

Next stop Disc Diggers- a used record, tape, and CD store right down the street. Bucky had been browsing and buying music there for the past ten years. He would lean against the window of the bank next store smoking a Camel Light, waiting until the store opened at 10am. Bucky liked the musty smell of the carpets and the sleeves of old used records, as well as the sound of the plastic security cartridges of the CDs slapping against one another as people’s fingers browsed the titles. Most things that bothered most people made Bucky happy and put him at ease; most things that made most people happy bothered Bucky.

 

Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, and of course John Coltrane- these were the cats that Bucky grooved on. These were the records and CDs that Bucky browsed through, sometimes an hour every day. The staff of Disc Diggers were much like Bucky himself- uninterested, unimpressed, unwavering. He didn’t get along with many people, but of the handful that he did, most were employees of the store. About once a week, Bucky would see something that caught his eye and ear and would make a purchase. This week a reissued CD of “Porgy and Bess”

 

The Somerville Theater which was also in Davis Square would be showing a matinee of Rosemary’s Baby. Although it would run past the start of his nephew’s party, Bucky was grateful for the excuse to be late, not that need needed one. He bought some popcorn and snuck in a pint of Seagrams Gin. There were no more than five other folks there. He sat in the back as always and could see their heads silhouetted by the movie screen. Bucky laughed out loud at moments in the film that were not written with humor in mind. The heads in front turned a little to try and glimpse where Bucky was. Fuck those people he thought to himself and enjoyed his gin and popcorn…  

 

…it was One O’clock. The movie was over and the gin was gone. Bucky squinted his way into the sunlight and lit a cigarette. He hit the liquor store again, waited for the bus that would take him to his wealthy, successful sister’s house in Arlington Heights. He knew what Samantha would say and she said it “the party started at noon, you know TWELVE and you are an hour and a half late!” Bucky snapped back “I’m not an hour and a half late, I’m ninety minutes late”

 

“Smart ass!” she scoffed “and look at how you are dressed. Have you been drinking already?” Bucky tuned her out and headed into kitchen to find ice for his gin. This time he’d bought a gallon. As he was fixing his cold beverage, his nephew Tommy ran in “Uncle Bucky, you made it!” Bucky awkwardly reached out and quickly ruffled the boy’s hair with his calloused yellow fingers and said happy birthday. He was hoping he’d missed the cake, song and presents, but unfortunately he hadn’t.

 

He headed out to the back yard where most of the kids and adults were already gathering in a semi-circle. Samantha’s husband David, an investment banker, held the cake out and sang Happy Birthday with the rest of the goofy bastards. When the song was over, Tommy blew out the candles and Bucky dragged his folding chair away from the crowd to a shady area at the far end of the yard. Samantha was shaking her head in disgust as she went to host a picnic table of adults.

 

Bucky lit up a cigarette and fixed his gaze on his brother-in-law David’s best friend’s wife Donna. She was a little younger than Bucky, maybe forty, and definitely a drinker. He’d met her a few times before and remembered that she was a refined suburbanite until she got a few glasses of wine in her and then she would become flirtatious with other men and get foul towards her husband, eventually making a scene and an early exit. Even though she was wearing shades, he could tell she was looking over at him, aware of his stare. The corner of her mouth grinned. She and Bucky hardly knew each other, but their thoughts and habits slept in the same gutter.

 

Bucky was still horny from watching Rosemary’s Baby. Horror classics always made Bucky horny, along with the gin.  He took a swig and headed across the yard into the house and upstairs to the bathroom, he closed his eyes, listened to his piss stream hit the porcelain, and wished for it and there it was- a soft knock on the door which was slowly being opened anyway. It was Donna, her eyes glazed over and a huge shit-eating grin on her face.

 

“You drunk dirty fuck, I see you looking at me out there. You want some, take it” she said as she pulled out a tit and jammed it into Bucky’s mouth. Though he was surprised at this sudden and unrealistic sexual assault, he welcomed it. Sucking hard on her fat breast, he lifted her meaty ass up onto the sink and pulled her sundress up, revealing her thick brown bush. She grunted and groaned as she swiftly undid his belt and zipper and shoved his already hard penis into her. They thrust into one another awkwardly for less than a minute and both came. She looked at him in disgust as she gathered herself and headed back down to the party. Bucky sat on the toilet for a couple minutes to create some lag time. He drank his gin and thumbed through a copy of Time magazine.

 

Stop at the fridge and get more ice for the gin. Light your Camel off the stove, since your lighter just shit the bed. Walk out to the yard, avoiding eye contact. Sit in your shaded chair and get piss-drunk. Keep your shades on so you can sleep in short intervals and no one will know. 

 

Bucky felt bad for all these well-to-do people. The way he figured it, the more obligations you allowed to come into your life, the more you had to lie- Get married? Can’t fuck who you want. Get a big job? Can’t call in sick and nurse a hangover. Have kids? Can’t partake in any whim or instant gratification. So then what? Find something to get addicted to, like hookers, gambling, booze, prescription drugs, and do it secretly. Eventually though, it all comes out in the wash and a divorce lawyer is orchestrating your demise. Soon enough you have no money, no house, no big job, and then you can fuck who you want, enjoy your addiction publicly, and live a life of simple and cheap routines. Bucky didn’t have to go through any dismantling to get basic. He started in the basement floor and sustained a life there. These relatives and their friends, they would live with obligations and secrets. They would die with debts and regrets. Not Bucky.

 

“Uncle Bucky, you’re snoring. Wake up!” Tommy was shaking him “Mom says if you’re this sleepy, you need to go home” While Bucky slept, the sun had come around the tree and had been directly on him. He could feel the burn on his face and neck.

 

“Fuck me, ahh, how the hell long I been sitting here like this?” he mumbled to Tommy who looked confused and uncomfortable.

 

“I dunno, but you shouldn’t swear and mom thinks you should go ho-“

 

“Yeah, you said that already. Sorry ‘bout the swearing. Happy Birthday and I’ll see you at the next, I’ll see…uh, I’ll see you around OK?” and Bucky ruffled the kid’s hair again. He got up, stumbled for a second, staggering past the rest of the kids and into the house where he could hear some crappy Pop music playing and adults arguing.

 

“I think you’ve embarrassed us enough and I think we need to leave” Donna’s husband was pleading.

 

“No! YOU LEAVE! I’m having a good tiiiime, ha ha ha” Donna shouted back with a maniacal laugh, as Samantha held her back gently by the shoulders. Bucky knew it would happen, and he knew it had nothing to do with him. It was just ‘marriage and wine’ being ‘marriage and wine’

 

He left quietly without saying goodbye to anyone- just how he liked it. Just how everyone liked it.

 

Arlington was a goddamn dry town. No wonder Bucky loathed where his sister lived. It was filled with elderly and when the old died, somebody else got old and took their place.

 

He caught the Four O’clock bus and would be home past Five. Just enough time to relax, eat, and eventually sleep a few hours before heading back to the Youville around Eleven. Bucky enjoyed his room in Cambridgeport; it was walking distance to Boston, Harvard Square, Central Square, and many train and bus lines. More importantly there was a liquor store two blocks away. He read the rest of his Herald on the bus to Harvard. The walk was about twelve minutes from The Square to his place, but it was especially hot today.  He had a bad burn and was surely dehydrated from drinking all that gin in the sun. At a Store 24, he stopped and bought a five dollar scratch ticket and a bottle of water, which he sucked down in a few huge gulps but it wasn’t going to help his dehydration. At this point, it was like spitting on a dead plant in the desert.

 

When Bucky got inside he drew all the shades and turned the small air conditioner he had on High, except all the settings defaulted to Low; that’s why it only cost him fifty bucks at a yard sale a few summers earlier. He pulled his John Coltrane shirt over his head and threw it into a pile of clothes on his bed before putting on his new purchase of Porgy and Bess. Bucky made himself gin with ice, lit a Camel and wiped the sweat from his face and beer-gut. Miles’ trumpet filled the air.

 

The Buzzard Song

 

Bucky got up and looked through his fridge- two slices of pizza with solidified oils, Singapore rice noodles with pork from about a week earlier, Mac n Cheese he didn’t even remember making. He grabbed the pizza and nuked it in the microwave for thirty seconds to get the oil looking and tasting like oil again. He turned the TV on mute and watched the New England Cable News in closed caption. There was a story on about a woman being stalked by an old boyfriend. “Fuck those people! Both of them” Bucky said out loud as he shoved the pizza into his mouth, chasing it with gin.

 

Bess, You Is My Woman Now

 

Jinx was a Maine Coon cat and maybe the only thing in the world besides Jazz that Bucky loved. Jinx was ten years old, about twenty pounds and shed like a sonofabitch, but he was a constant in his owner’s life. He never asked too many questions and never complained. He ate and drank and shit and pissed, and otherwise just wanted to be left alone. Bucky loved him for those very reasons and wondered why all the people he knew couldn’t be that simple. Jinx jumped up next to Bucky on the couch and let out a few meows, letting Bucky know he was hungry. He rubbed his cat’s head with the affection he couldn’t muster from his heart or hands earlier in the day for his nephew. Bucky took a couple seconds to stand up and wiped sweat from his head. The heat from his sunburn was rising from his body like the heat from fresh road tar. He got down on his hands and knees, looking through the under-cabinet for the food as Jinx paced back and forth under him, his furry back rubbing against Bucky’s sweaty flabby tummy. He found the bag of food and crawled over to Jinx bowl, pouring it in as the Maine Coon nudged his hands out of the way to attack the dry Salmon-Pork mix.

 

Gone

 

Bucky stood up too quickly and got very dizzy. He grabbed onto the side of the couch and pulled himself into it, closing his eyes and taking a few deep breaths. When he opened his eyes, they were fixed on the scratch ticket he’d forgotten he bought on the way home. Using the side of his bottle opener, he chipped away at the two big shamrocks in the Winning Numbers area- Two…Nine

 

Then he scratched the five smaller shamrocks in the Matching Numbers area- Five- $100.00 …Three- $1.00…Ten- $50.00…Fourteen- $500,000.00…(fuck- nothing!)

Then the final spot- a treasure box (win all 5 prizes automatically!)

 

Bucky took a gulp of his gin. He lit a cigarette and looked at the ticket again. He shook his head and the sweat rained on everything around him. He finished off his gin and slowly got up to fix himself another one. “No way. No fucking way! Did I just win the lottery? Did I just win over a half a million bucks?” he asked himself and started laughing, still in disbelief. Bucky’s laugh hurt. His hands shook violently as he put the ice in the cup and poured the gin, some of it missing the cup and hitting Jinx on the back as he lapped from his water bowl. Bucky tried to hold the wall for balance but his arms wouldn’t do what he asked them to do and he fell face first into the couch. He couldn’t feel a goddamn thing other than a really sharp pain in his chest every time he tried to breathe, and all he was breathing was mouthfuls of cat hair.  Bucky was finally able to turn his head enough to get a decent breath of fresh air- he could see the TV and its bad news, he could feel the AC blowing a half-ass cool breeze on his face, he could hear Miles play that trumpet so sweet, so very sweet…

 

Gone, Gone, Gone

find out more about John http://www.facebook.com/the71sound

 

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