“Eat to see. See to live.”
*The following excerpt is from my forthcoming novel, FUTURE SKINNY.
There he is.
The hotel room is dim, but Casey isn’t hard to find.
His body is a beacon of desperate protest underneath a forgiving silk tee. Bone thin. Skin bagging from every corner of his six-foot frame. A good guess would be one-hundred and twenty pounds. He has more hair, just not on his head. Fuzzy wisps of keratin on his arms and thick on the nape of his neck. Inky around the eyes, a dire pigmentation that frames the focus he is straining to hold on the stranger at the other end of the makeshift dining table.
Casey is binge-reading still, and by the look of him, he has been binge-reading far too often.
The spread between the two men is huge, was huge, most of the food has already been eaten.
The client’s eyes are wide but unmoved by the brittle hands Casey is using in lieu of utensils. The fingers clutching each next bite are topped with nail beds of blue. The knuckles on his index and middle are callused to the point of deformity. This client’s indifference is nothing new. Like all customers, he is there to hear his future. It has never mattered how the pig is slaughtered so long as the bacon tastes good.
Lylian is there too. She hasn’t left Casey yet, though their age difference looks as if it’s somehow doubled. Longer hair now, green eyes still bright, the only authentic shines in the room. Her arms are firmly folded atop a roadblock stance halfway between the client and the front door. At her size, her posture is hardly intimidating, but for someone so small, she can explode big.
The air stinks. It isn’t just the food. Beyond cooling grease and the chemically crafted scents of take-out littered about the table, the odors turn human quick. Inhale like you mean it and you can smell the sin. A half-century’s worth of intimacy baking in the manufactured heat of the room’s lone window unit.
The repugnant bouquet is married to the chomp, smack, and slurp of Casey’s consumption. He is eating hard. He is swallowing fast. Wet. In fact, everything feels wet. Rooms like this one have a squish to them that is everlasting. Stray spit won’t make much difference.
The bathroom door behind Casey is open. For now, the smell of upchuck is faint, maybe imagined. There is a beige sink, a matching toilet, and a poky little tub with a basin too small for anyone un-elfin. Any of the three are good for vomit. If Casey were to make sick prematurely, the carpet underfoot would hide it well: it’s a synthetic jumble of colors expertly designed to disappear manmade soils. Casey has a twenty-three-gallon Rubbermaid imitation at his side, just in case. Its corner-store price tag hasn’t been removed. Accidents happen. The only thing closer to Casey than this emergency bin are his and Lylian’s bug-out bags.
The client begins to fidget, he can’t keep his focus on the spectacle in front of him. He looks to the television, then to the table lamp, then back to the black screen of the TV. He actively works at fixating on anything that isn’t the redundancy of Casey eating and eating. There isn’t much to distract a person in this by-the-hour room. Perhaps inadvertently, he lands his gaze on the open black duffle at the end of the bed. The stacks of money define the bag’s canvas. The stranger’s attention sits on the opportunity, hanging there just long enough to visibly concern Lylian.
It starts with a twitch. Her arms uncross and she takes one step forward. Her eyes reach for Casey, but he is lost in his gorge, oblivious to Lylian’s subtle just-in-case preparations.
This client could be one of David’s thugs. Then again, any human being could: all ethnicities, a child, a senior citizen, religious or agnostic. David is an equal opportunity criminal, a true champion of diversity in the workplace.
Lylian puts a hand on the table lamp, wraps her fingers around its base. If this stranger decides to go rogue, she has all she needs to bash the back of his skull.
There is a mumble. It’s enough to break the client’s fixation on the bag of cash. He looks back to Casey, but Lylian remains committed.
“Did you say something’?” the client asks, the words passing through what is left of his jagged, flaxen teeth.
Casey struggles to form a comprehensible answer. His response works its way around the saliva-soaked mass he hasn’t stopped chewing. “How will the world know you?” he repeats.
“Are you askin’ me? You should be telling me.”
The loss of confidence in the client’s voice doesn’t go unnoticed by Lylian. Her grip tightens on the lamp’s base.
With his eyes shut tight, Casey goes adrift on his own question. He silently mouths it a few more times. Then, through quivering lips, he repeats it aloud, changing just the last word.
“How will the world know me?”
Copyright © 2022 by Peter Rosch // All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.