by Kathleen M. Crane
Strickland Lane entered Bookies at midnight, worn as his biker jacket. It had been two days now since he’d slept, and his last transaction hadn’t gone smoothly. Jerry had shown up at the Murder City house strung out and wanting more coke than he could pay for. He had finally left with an eight ball. And Strickland’s cat, Odin, was sick.
Strickland was tired of the entire dirty business, tired of pathetic addicts showing up at three in the fucking morning pounding on his door begging for more. He was also tired of having to be nice to dealers he didn’t respect.
Lewis, the bouncer, nodded him in, whispering, “You got any coke?”
“Fuck off,” he said, entering the club.
Making his way through a crowd of punks, glams, goths, and rockers, he spotted Rick up at the bar. He looked pale under his tall spiked black Mohawk.
“Hey,” said Strickland, pushing his way to the counter.
“Hey man, sorry I didn’t jam today–was fucking dead,” said Rick.
“Yeah–give me a pitcher of Bud–” Strickland said to Mila, Rick’s girl, the Nancy Spungen look-alike bartender. “Yeah–I was dead too. But we got a show fucking Saturday, man. You gotta learn the new song.” Rick played lead guitar in Murder City, their band.
“Yeah, I know. Sorry.” Rick lowered his voice. “You got any coke, man?”
Strickland sighed and took a long swig of beer from the pitcher. He pretended not to hear him over the noise of the crowd.
The opening chords of ‘Panic in Detroit’ rang out. It was good to hear some Bowie.
Strickland made his way through the crowd, pitcher in hand, towards the dj booth in the back of the club. John was deejaying tonight.
He knocked on the glass of the booth. John looked up, and opened the door. “Hey, Strick. How you doing?”
“I’m alright. Listen, I’ve got the new Murder City Ep–can you play a track?”
“Sure. You got any coke?” said John.
“What do you need?” asked Strickland.
“Yeah.” Strickland took a quick look around and slipped John the cocaine under the table.
“I’ll catch you later when they pay me, okay, Strick? Thanks, man. And yeah, I’ll play a track, no problem.”
“Oh! Strick–I think Jen wants to make a request,” said John.
A girl with bleached white hair and the face of an angel looked up at him.
Strickland messed up her hair with his hand as he left the booth.
Who was she? John had called her Jen.
He smiled to himself. She had looked annoyed when he’d touched her hair.
He looked back towards the booth. Her hair glowed blue-white in the light .
He wondered what kind of music she liked. He bet she wasn’t a Murder City fan.
“Hey Strick! Party tonight?” asked Rat, slapping Strickland on the back.
Strickland started to say “No way,” but looked again at the girl, Jen, and said, “Sure.” He took a long swig of beer from the pitcher. “Good idea,” he said.
He watched her as she left the booth and moved through the crowd. She walked with her head held high, her back straight. She didn’t look like the girls he usually saw at Bookies.
Suddenly the opening chords of “Noise,” his band’s new song, cut through the din, sounding clean and right. Strickland smiled at Rick and raised his pitcher.
The dance floor was packed. Strickland was surprised to see the girl, Jen, dancing.
She managed to look graceful dancing to the harsh punk. Her metallic dress reflected the flash of strobe lights.
“Hey Strick, how are you? Got any coke?” Strickland turned. Rachel stood in front of him, bursting out of a black spandex dress.
“Your new song is fantastic, Strick,” she said.
He took a long swig of beer from the pitcher, still looking towards the dance floor.
“You going to have a party after hours? Me and my coworker Jen are looking for–”
“Yeah, do you know her? She’s out on the dance floor right now– lemme see–she’s the one in the silver dress–blonde hair–manages Showtime–”
“Yeah. Party tonight. Bring her.” he said, turning and walking towards the bar.
“But–you got any–”
Strickland approached the bar and Mila smiled and set a shot down in front of him.
“Looks like you could use one,” she said, wiping the counter. “Strick, I’m worried about Ricky. I think he’s shooting up again.”
She poured herself a shot and tossed it back.
“Look out for him, willya?” she said. “He’s all I’ve got.”
Heroin. Suicide. Cocaine was one thing, heroin a completely different fucking ballgame. He wondered who was dealing Rick, after his warnings. He shrugged. Rick was an adult. He glanced at Rick, pale and slumped under his black mohawk at the end of the bar. Sure, an adult.
He thought of his tabby cat, Odin. He had stopped eating a few days ago. Strickland had even put salmon down and Odin had just looked at it. He supposed it was time to take Odin into the vet. He’d look out for Odin, but he’d be damned if he was going to look out for Rick.
And as if on cue, “She’s Like Heroin to Me” started to play. Strickland saw the dance floor clearing–not one of the more popular songs. There was a flash of silver, though. Strickland looked a little more closely–it was the girl, Jen, dancing as if in a trance. Weird. But nice.
Later, around three, Strickland approached the Murder City house. The stairs were lined with after hours guests. Strickland climbed the stairs, ignoring the requests for coke. At the doorway, he was surprised to see Dwayne, an obnoxious skinhead, charging cover.
“Oh, it’s you,” Dwayne sneered. “I got Ricky fixed up. Oh–sorry, no black boys allowed.”
Strickland transfered his bottle of beer to his right hand, and grabbed Dwayne by the collar of his grimy t-shirt with his left.
“This is my house, stupid,” he said, before he slammed his fist into his face. Strickland stepped over him, and went up the stairs to change into a festive Hawaiian shirt. It was going to be a good party.
Kathleen M. Crane is Contributing Editor and Style Advisor at New Pop Lit. Another version of the same story– from a different viewpoint– is the title story in her collection, Aloha from Detroit.