Checking In
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Checking In

 Chris Fradkin
 Chris Fradkin
Checking In
by Chris Fradkin  FollowFollow
Chris Fradkin is a beet farmer, tending crops in Central California. His prose/poetry has appeared in Far Enough East, Storyglossia, and more Poetry Journal. His songs have been performed and recorded by Fergie, The Plimsouls, Alexis Korner, and The Flamin' Groovies. His photography has appeared in Bartleby Snopes. His Emmy-award-winning sound editorial has graced such shows as The X-Files and Ally McBeal.
Checking In

"Get 'em," Aldy said, as he tore off his right shoe. A predatory gleam was in his eye. "You grab the flank, I'll take the center." He barked out his commands. In another life, he must have been MacArthur.
So we settled in that night. Musicians on the road. Preparing the room for habitation.
"Come to Daddy," Aldy said, as he crawled upon his belly. He moved just like a tiger toward his prey. "You and I are gonna—" The shoe flew from his hand and angled sharply off the wall—
Such was life with Aldy. We were roomies on that tour. For me, it was the first time on the road. With decent pay and meals, it behooved me more than not to play along with Aldy's whims and wishes.
"He's down there in that hole," I said, pointing to a spot between the furnace and the next door neighbor's door. Aldy grabbed an aerosol and jammed it in the hole. The look upon his face was deeply haunted. "So smoke this crap, you bastards." Then the room was swathed in smoke. Seconds later, the fire alarm went off.
"Corpse count," Aldy hollered.
I bent down on my knees, with towel around my mouth to stave the fumes.
"There’s one that's dead for sure. Then there's one— no, he's still kicking."
"Retrieval," Aldy ordered, as he stood with hands akimbo—with aerosol held firmly in his hand.
"Corpse," I said, as I placed it on the bedspread, "and cripple." Per protocol, the cripples went to "Aldy's torture chamber"— a "kinder, gentler way to set them free."
As the creature writhed and jerked, Aldy readied the appliance—a hot plate. He plugged it in the wall— he added kerosene— "In the old days," he confessed, "I used to flush 'em. But then I thought, 'What happens if they swim?' So, these days we rely upon—"
The kerosene was smoking. Aldy tore the bug from me. He closed his eyes. He mouthed a prayer. He genuflected. Having thus appeased the gods of flea-bag motel lifestyle, he dropped the helpless insect to its fate.
But much to his chagrin—
You see the insect all this while—Well, "cockroach" if you will—all this while had been untangling its legs. And breathing air less reeking of pyrethrine. So when Aldy let it go after mouthing all that crap, it simply spread its wings and took off like a rocket. "Mother^*^*er!" Aldy screamed. His eyes were wide as saucers. "You’ve got the other?"
"Sure, it's right here on the bed." I pointed to it.
Aldy scooped it up and raced into the john. A nanosecond later came the flush. And then another. And another. And— I think you get the picture.
After several hundred flushes, Aldy walked back to the room. He sat down on the bed a man defeated— a soldier fresh from battle outsmarted by his foe— a casualty of life upon the road.

I left Aldy to his brooding and cleaned up for the gig. As I was drying from my shower I heard splashing. It was faint and far away but when I looked inside the bowl, I was greeted by the ghost of Aldy's nightmare:
He was swimming like a champ. He had come back from the dead. With a back stroke beautiful to witness. He worked his way to porcelain and flipped himself upright. He shook water from his body like a dog would.
"Aldy—" I began, then something told me better. I watched him scurry deftly from the bowl. I could have struck him with my shoe, but I held back, yes I did. I was loath to ring the bell to start Round Two. I watched him navigate the floor and slip beneath the bathroom door. I hoped his path was out of Aldy's sight.
"Aldy," I repeated— in a much less urgent voice.
"Yeah?" he answered, in a voice near broken.
"Have you finished up the set list—?"
"Uh, huh," I heard him grumble. At which I smiled, and worked some gel into my hair.



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