Brain and Crows, fiction by Garret Schuelke

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September 6, 2015 by RJ

 

I forgot to get the beer. I looked around for store, and saw Madison’s Community Bar behind me. I ran in and got some Oberon.

 

Back at the same spot I was before, I gave Mick a call. I stopped at the building that had his address.

 

“Huh, Floyd?” Mick answered.

 

“Yep, minus the ‘Huh’,” I said.

 

“Cool. Are you in Chicago yet?”

 

“Yep. I think I’m in front of your place. You didn’t tell me you were shacked up in a closed veterinary clinic.”

 

“We’re above it. I’ll be down in a sec.”

 

I looked up at the window above the clinic. I looked down the street and thought of how cozy this neighborhood looked. Mick opened the door. I held the Oberon out with both hands, bowed my head, and presented it to him.

 

“O’ Mighty Mick! Thank you for your patronage!” I said. “Please, accept this K-zoo elixir!”

 

“Why didn’t you get any Pabst?” he asked, taking it.

 

“Forgot the beer until I at your doorstep.” We headed up the stairs. “If this doesn’t satisfy you, I promise I’ll buy you the biggest pack of PBR I can find sometime this week. How’s that sound?

 

Mick spun around and looked at me. “A week? You said you would only be here for the weekend.”

 

“I asked you if I could stay the weekend. Then I told you I had the following week off and was planning a different trip. You said I should forget those plans and stay with you the whole time.”

 

Mick narrowed his eyes and looked off into space. He hummed and tapped his foot.

 

“It’s what you said over Facebook,” I said.

 

“I gotta recheck that,” he said, continuing up the stairs. I rolled my eyes and followed.

 

Mick opened the door, then nearly closed it on me after he entered. I stopped it with my foot and stepped in. Mick was putting the Oberon in the side of the fridge. A guy sat on the couch browsing a Youtube playlist.

 

“Hey, Sufjan, let me see my computer,” Mick said.

 

Sufjan minimized the page and looked over. He noticed me, smiled, and stood up. “Hi, I take it you’re Floyd?” he said, extending his hand.

 

“That’s me.” We shook hands.

 

Mick plopped down on the couch and opened his Facebook.

 

“He’s just been gushing about you all week—even got me pretty excited.”

 

I looked over at Mick, who was looking over our conversation. “I knew we were tight, Mick, but this reverence on your part surprises me.”

 

“Uh-huh,” Mick said.

 

“So, is this your first time in Chicago?” Sufjan asked as he walked across the living room. I followed, taking my backpack off.

 

“No, but this is my first time in Bridgeport.” Sufjan went into his room and scanned his bookshelf. I gazed out through the same window I looked up at from the street. “Bridgeport is really beautiful in the fall.”

 

“I know, right?” Sufjan took two computer textbooks from the shelf. “I’ve lived in this area for nearly four years.”

 

“How’s the rent?”

 

“It’s affordable—cheapest I could find this close to downtown.”

 

“For now, anyway,” Mick said. He put down the computer and picked up a bowl and examined it. “It’s slowly getting gentrified. Give it a few more years.”

 

“So, you cool with me staying here?” I asked.

 

Mick put down the bowl and picked up the other one that was underneath the table. “Yeah, we’ll see,” he said, examining it.

 

I shrugged. Sufjan went into his room. The bike repair station that Mick told me about was right next to me. Three bikes were leaned up against the wall.

 

“Which one of these is going to be my ride? I asked.

 

Mick began scraping the bowl. “The black Raleigh.”

 

I stood it up. “Speed?”

 

“Ten. I’m selling it for $100. You want it?”


“No thanks, I’m cool with the bike I have back in Kalamazoo.”

“Okay, you can wear the For Sale sign during the ride.”

 

“Which one’s yours?”

 

“The silver Schwinn. I’ve customized everything on it these past two months. You should see how I transform it in the winter.”

 

“Nice.” I put the bike back in place and joined Mick on the couch. He packed the bowl, looked it over, and nodded his head.

 

“Sufjan!” he yelled. “Recession bowl! You want the first hit this time?”

 

Sufjan came out and Mick handed him the bowl. He took two hits, handed it to me, then went back to his room.

 

I passed it over to Mick. “No, be my guest,” he said.

 

I lit up and inhaled. I kept in for a few seconds and exhaled. I immediately began coughing. I handed Mick the bowl and headed to the sink.

 

“Still a beginner,” Mick said, shaking his head, then taking a hit.

 

“It’s because I don’t smoke cigarettes,” I said, drinking deeply from the faucet. I calmed down, filled up a glass, and rejoined him. He handed me the bowl and I took another hit.

 

“We got two hours until Mass.” Mick picked up the remote and turned on Netflix. “There’s this series I think will be of much interest to you.”

 

I tipped my head back and blew the smoke towards the ceiling. I let out a little cough.

 

Mick and I stood in front of a map of Chicago that showed the bike lanes. He schooled me on the ways of Chicagoan bicyclists while we drank the Oberon.

 

“The easiest way to adopt is to become an adherent of Bikerism,” he said.

 

I finished my beer. “You got a religion for this shit?”

 

“No, philosophy. I created it.”

 

“Oh boy.”

 

“First tenet, you go fast. Second, you don’t stop for anything.”

 

“What about red lights and stop signs?”

 

“Blow through them. They don’t matter.”

 

“Cars?”

 

“They’ll stop for you.”

 

I snorted. “That’s faith, not philosophy.”

 

“This is Chicago—they’re used to this type of behavior.”

 

Sufjan came into the kitchen and opened the fridge. He took out an Oberon and used his shirt to open it.

 

“Sufjan, are you a follower of Bikerism?” I asked.

 

He swished the beer around, then swallowed it. “Totally. Mick showed me the light.”

 

“It’s slowing growing.” Mick said.

 

“Way to go, L. Ron,” I said, raising my empty bottle. I looked at the clock. “We got 45-some minutes until Critical Mass starts.”

 

Mick nodded. “It won’t take us long to get to Daley Plaza.” We walked over to the bikes. “It never starts on time anyway.”

 

He taped the For Sale sign on the side of my bike. “You got another one?” I asked.

 

“Second shelf.”

 

I wrote down the info and handed it to him. “Tape it to my back.”

 

Mick did so with four pieces of duct tape. He picked up the marker and wrote something on it.

 

“What did you add?”

 

“A downward arrow. We want to sell the bike, not you.”

 

“But I’m such a good deal!

 

Mick led his bike to the door. “That’s what you believe.”

 

“I’m really digging the price,” said the man. He wore spandex, had a goatee, sunglasses, and a baby blue bandana. “Can you tell me its history?”

 

I tugged Micks sleeve, and Mick proceeded to tell him all about it. I held the man’s bike as he rode it around. A bike cop walked across the plaza. The man stopped to talk to him. Mick and I looked at each other, then back at them.

 

The man screeched to a stop in front of us. “That was good,” he said. “I’ll think it over this week. What’s your email?”

 

“What were you talking to that cop about?” Mick asked.

 

“Oh, Brent and I have known each other for a decade now. We’re partners on occasion.”

 

“Partners?” I asked.

 

“Yeah, I’m a police officer.”

 

I looked at Mick, who had his head down, biting his lip, arms crossed. The cop look confused.

 

“I’m off-duty right now,” the man said. “I enjoy attending Critical Mass. I really do believe in its mission and goals, though I think their tactics should change.”

 

“How so?” I asked.

 

“Well, I think the Mass has to become less confrontational.”

 

“That’s what Critical Mass is about,” Mick said, “taking back the streets and defying the culture that automobiles have created.”

 

“Agreed, but the prevailing attitude amongst the riders is often too toxic.”

 

Mick nodded. “Uh-huh.”

 

“Spitting on cars, disrespecting drivers—these things do nothing to take advantage of the positive energy that the Mass could bring to downtown.”

 

“What about your fellow cops?” I asked, thumbing towards the line of bike cops. “I’ve heard enough stories and seen enough YouTube vids to know how you guys usually interact with us.”

 

“Yeah, both sides feed off each other’s negativity.” He intertwined his fingers. “But unity is possible. The universe works in ways that will always surprise us.”

 

“Uh-huh,” Mick said.

 

“Are you really a cop?” I asked.

 

“I am.” He took out his wallet and fished out a card that identified him as a CPD officer. His name was Gerald Collins. He then covered up his last name with his thumb.

 

“What are you doing?” Mick asked.

 

“Oh, you know, security,” Gerald said. “Don’t want too many people knowing who I am.”

 

“Gotcha…GERALD COLLINS,” I said loudly, giving him a thumbs up.

 

He laughed. We resumed the conversation about the bike, though Mick was more reserved than he was before. Gerald said he would be in touch, shook our hands, and left.

 

“That’s how you sell a bike,” I said.

 

Mick glared. “Fuck no, are you kidding me?  The pigs get enough bikes and cars and money from us. I’d rather sell it to someone I don’t despise.”

 

I watched Gerald ride past the police line. He waved at them and they all smiled and waved back.

 

Mick received a tap on his shoulder. It was a girl with a frizzy ponytail.

 

“Hi, can I take your bike for a test run?” she said.

 

“Absolutely,” Mick said, handing her the bike.  “Looking for a change?”

 

“I’ve had my bike forever!” she said, hopping on. “I think I’ve worn it out.”

 

She went off around the Plaza. Mick looked over the bike over and felt the tires.

 

“Chipped paint, dents,” Mick looked closer, “rusted everywhere…”

 

The girl stopped to talk to another girl, who joined her as they rode back over.

 

“Both of your tires are really low on air,” Mick said. “You should get them filled up at the station over there.” Mark pointed towards a guy who had a wagon tied to his bike that was filled with tools.

 

“Thanks much,” she said, swapping bikes with Mick. “I want to talk more about your bike when I get back.”

 

“We’ll be here.”

 

The girl left, but her friend stayed behind with us. She was looking us over.

 

“Do you want to take the bike for a spin?” I asked.

 

She snapped her fingers. “NOW I know it’s you!” she said. “Floyd Spicer! I recognize your accent.”

 

“I have a deep voice, not really an accent,” I said. I went through my memories, and realized who I was talking to. “Anita…crap, I forgot your last name.”

 

“Kubert, not crap,” Anita said.

 

“I was close.”

 

She tried to slap me. I blocked it, laughed, and we embraced.

 

“I’m confused now,” Mick said.

 

I turned around, my arm around her waist. Anita put her arm around my waist and pulled me into her. “Mick, meet Anita. Anita, this is Mick, a friend originally from Kalamazoo.”

 

“How long have you’ve lived here?” Anita asked.

 

“A year in Bridgeport. Where do you live?”

 

“Emily and I are from Forest Park.”

 

“We know each other from Key Club,” I said. “We met at the International Convention in Indianapolis.”

 

Mick stared vacantly. “Uh-huh.”

 

“We also hung out at the St. Louis and Atlanta conventions,” Anita said.

 

Mick nodded and said “Uh-huh” again.

 

Emily rolled up. “So, is this that Floyd guy you were talking about?” she asked Anita.

 

“There’s no other ‘Floyd Guy’ around here but me,” I said.

 

Anita and I caught up with each other while Mick and Emily discussed his bike. Anita worked in the photography department at Walgreens and had her own house. She was previously taking classes in early childhood education at Concordia University. I told her that I graduated from Western Michigan University last winter.

 

I used my fingers to count. “Two years. If you count the year at Alpena Community College and the year at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse, then four.”

 

“That’s quite an educational journey.”

 

“God, I know.” I shook my head. “I still have nightmares of failing math classes at least once a month.”

 

Whistles and horns started going off. Everyone begin making their way onto the street.

 

“You guys want to join us?” I asked.

 

“We plan on meeting some friends in Wicker Park in a little bit,” Emily said. “You guys are welcome to come hang if you want.”

 

I looked over at Mick. He shook his head.

 

“Sorry, but I guess we have other plans,” I said.

 

“Gimme your phone number,” Anita said. I told her it, and she sent me a text that said: i got u babe.

 

Mick and Emily shook hands, and Anita and I hugged. She pecked me on the cheek, and I did the same to her.

 

“Call or text me later,” she said.

 

“I’ll be here the entire week,” I said. “We’ll get a drink or something.”

 

They went off. I grinned at Mick and gave him the V sign. He rolled his eyes, hopped on his bike, and sped off. “Fucking hater,” I mumbled, getting on my bike and following.

 

The man in the Trailblazer honked his horn repeatedly. The bicyclists in front of him flipped him off and spit on his windshield. We didn’t do anything, but the bicyclists behind us continued spitting on his car.

 

The bicycle cops formed a line up front. They were attempting to get us to turn left. Everyone started chanting ‘LET US THROUGH!’ A few riders broke away to talk to the cops. Others got up front and began encouraging us to continue forward. Mick joined them, his fist raised.

 

Sufjan pulled up suddenly, making me jump. “What did I miss so far?”

 

“A lot, but you’re just in time for this mess,” I said, pointing at Mick.

 

The cops stood still. We went towards them. Behind them, I spotted another group marching down the street towards us.

 

“Who’s that?” I asked

 

“That would be Occupy Chicago,” Sufjan said, “here to save the day.”

 

The cops looked back at Occupy, then talked amongst themselves. One of them pointed to the sidewalk. They moved out of the way, and we continued on our route.

 

Occupy went to the side and cheered us on. We slapped hands and bumped fists with them as we passed. Mick caught up, smiling, breathing heavily.

 

“Bikerism in action!” he said.

 

“We gotta hang out with Occupy sometime this week,” I said.

 

“I try to go to their occupation as much as I can,” Mick said. “I think they march every day.”

 

The cops were now on each side of us. They were trying to herd us into the right lanes.

 

“Let’s go!” Mick yelled, swerving into the left lane. We followed, and the cops started yelling at us.

 

The Mass started to chant ‘CORK!’. We sped up and joined some other bicyclists in blocking traffic.

 

“Get out of the intersection!” one of the cops said into his microphone. By the time they chased us away, the mass was too big to stop from going through. Cars honked, and the cops went back trying to push us to one side.

 

A cop pulled up beside us. “You need to get into the right lane!”

 

“Officer, we have every right to be riding on these streets,” Mick said.

 

“I’m not going to argue this with any of you today.” The cop got closer to Mick and pointed. “That side, NOW!”

“Not gonna happen, sir.”

 

The cop tried to grab Mick by the shoulder. Mick dodged and stopped his bike. We stopped beside him. Someone behind us yelled ‘That pig tried to grab him!’, and a small group formed behind us.

 

“You have no right to touch me!” Mick yelled.

 

“You threatened me first,” the cop said.

 

“Bullshit!” I said.

 

His fellow officers came and surrounded him. “That’s the kind of little bitch you are, huh?” the officer said. Another cop put his arm out in front of him. “You gotta have your friends protect you?”

 

“Sir, he tried to attack me while I was riding,” Mick said to the cop that had his arm out. “I want to file a complaint.”

 

The officer shook his head. The cop who tried to grab Mick attempted to lung forward. Another officer came to help hold him back.

 

“Are you being serious right now?” Mick asked. The cop nodded. “Fine, I want both of your badge numbers!”

 

The cop covered his badge with his hand.


“Hey, little bitch!” the cop who tried to grab Mick said, still being restrained. “Me and my boys are gonna have a hot dog party with your mom down in her basement later tonight!”

 

“And now he just said he was gonna to rape my mom!” Mick said. “You guys gonna do anything about that?”

 

“Just move on, man,” the officer said.

 

Sufjan tapped Micks shoulder and nodded his head towards the Mass’s direction. Mick bit his lip, got on his bike, and we left.

 

Mick bitched about the encounter. A few people asked him if he was alright. He asked us if we had recorded the confrontation. We said we didn’t, and he proceeded to bitch us out about it.

 

A cop passed by and got in front of me. He slowed down, making me nearly have to stop in order to not hit him, until he was riding next to Mick.

 

“Hey, you!” he said, waving. “I heard what you said back there. Things could have gone a lot smoother.”

 

Mick glared at him, snorted, and sped away. We followed, zigzagging around the other bicyclists until a wall of people made us slow down. The cop caught up.

 

“None of that would have happened if you didn’t open your fucking mouth,” he said.

 

We turned down a street and stopped in front of a convenience store. We stood up, breathing heavily.

 

The cop pulled up. “If you want to make this hard, we can make it hard.”

 

“We’d prefer not to, sir,” Sufjan said.

 

“Good. Remember this chat of ours.” He rode back to the Mass.

 

“So, we’re done for today?” I asked.

 

“Oh yeah, definitely,” Mick said. “Let’s go home.”

 

“Wait, Anita said that she and Emily were gonna be hanging out in Wicker Parker. Wanna check it out?”

 

Mick shook his head. “Fuck that,” he said, hopping on his bike and riding off. Sufjan shrugged his shoulders and followed.

 

“Dammit,” I muttered, following them.

 

Sufjan and I couldn’t keep up with Mick once we got on Halsted. We gave up after nearly getting hit twice while trying to blow through the intersections. We stopped by Madison’s and got more beer, only to find out at the apartment that Mick bought a 12-pack.

 

We drank, smoked, and watched Netflix. Mick was silent most of the time, sunk into the couch, pounding Pabst after Pabst. Sufjan and I conversed about everything and played random episodes of The IT Crowd.

 

Mick said he had heartburn, spent some time in the bathroom vomiting, then went to bed. Sufjan hung around till 3 a.m., then went to bed. I put up my hoodie and stretched out on the couch.

 

Mick vomiting into the kitchen trash can woke me up. I rubbed my eyes and swirled my tongue around my mouth. When I opened my eyes, Mick was leaning over the counter, head in his hands, a glass of water next to him.

 

“You clog up the toilet?” I asked, sitting up.

 

“The floor was killing my knees,” he mumbled. He took a drink, then laid his head on the counter.

 

I rumpled my hair. My hand came out greasy. “Mind if I use your shower?”

 

Mick lifted his head and rested it in his palm. “Yeah, you need to leave.”

 

“Uh, what?”

 

“I want you out of here. Right now would be good.”

 

I scratched my head. “Dude, what the fuck? Why?”

 

“You being here isn’t going to work.”

 

“My train doesn’t come in until next Saturday!” I stood up. My leg hit the table, making the can, bottles, and bowls wobble. “You said it was all good!”

 

“I need to job search, okay?” Mick stood up straight. The top of his shirt was stained with vomit. “I don’t have the time to fuck around with you.”

 

I put on my backpack and adjusted the straps. Mick opened the door and stood there, hand on the knob. I walked up and we glared at each other.

 

“Fuck you, Mick,” I said, grabbing the outside knob. “For real, fuck you.”

 

I yanked on the knob as I walked out. Mick held the other side, leaving the door partially open.  I yanked again, making the door slam. I head Mick lock the door click and put the deadbolt in place.

 

I walked outside and went down towards Madison’s. My phone vibrated. It was a text from Mick. Below it was the text Anita sent yesterday.


I gave her number a call. I got her voicemail. I walked into Madison’s—ignoring the bartender—and went into the bathroom.

 

~~~

 

Garret Schuelke is a writer and blogger residing in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has self-published two poetry ebooks, and has had his work featured in publications such as Revolution John, A Thousand and One Stories, Eskimo Pie, and Schlock! Webzine. He can be reached at garretschuelke.tumblr.com and @garretschuelke

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