cail writing

I have a new book getting published this week. Newly minted by Ryan Romero from CLOU, we have a fresh logo, crisp cover and the interior layout is dynamite. 

You are going to want this. 106 pages, brand new stories and poems. Tons of badass Americana ramblings and heartbreak. There’s also a section of macabre, Bradbury-esque narratives in there.

Email me for a copy. They’ll be rolling off the presses later this week. 

FORMULA

This is a story about a guy named Tony. It’s his real name and it has not been changed. Screw that. This is a revised version of “All He Wanted Was Baby Formula”, a story I posted on here last year. 

 

    I was trying to walk off a hangover. I hadn’t slept well, due to an overwhelming amount of whiskey from the night before. The sun was white against the sky, showing off the city’s scars from the night before. Any damn fool could’ve done what he wanted last night. 

     A man appeared on the horizon.  He shambled forward with a gait that was not desperate or hurried. He was a stout black man, wearing a white jacket and blue jeans too big for his frame. I put a hand to my eyes to get a better look at him.

He caught my stare. He held my gaze and slowed down as we approached. It was morning and I was tired and needed coffee.

    The man spoke.

    “How are you, friend?”  He smiled, showing off white teeth like a friendly lion.

    “I’m well, thank you. I guess a ‘Happy New Year’ is in order.”

    He took a deep breath of the cold air.

    “Would you be able to,” the man said and grinned and did not finish.  He was so damn sincere. I pulled out a cigarette.

    “My friend, I have just moved here from Haiti.  I am a Christian and I am living with my pastor. I have a wife and two daughters and we just had a new baby boy.”

    The man spoke with a strong accent. He certainly sounded Haitian. His smile was strong and he rocked on his feet as he spoke. We could’ve been sitting in his living room, having coffee.

    “My friend, I am a welder. I have been welding for seventeen years. I have a certificate in my jacket. Let me show you.” He pulled out the tattered piece of paper. It had his name on it, stamped in black. TONY.

    “I am starting a job next week,” the man said. “But my pastor is gone for a few days and I have no money.  My baby is hungry and I need to buy formula.”

    I stood, smoking my cigarette. I wanted to believe him.  The man clasped his hands together like a prayer.

    “Okay,” I said, after a long pause. “Okay. Let’s get your baby some formula.”

    The man brought his hands to his mouth.   He smiled, eyes closed.  He leaned back and threw his hands into the air.

    “Praise God for you!” he said. “You are a good man.”  His face was full of joy. 

    “My friend, would you be able to go with me to the grocery store?” he said. “I need a certain kind of formula and we can only buy it there.”

    “Sure, I’ll go with you to the grocery store.” Why the hell not?

    He shook my hand. We had made a pact, he and I. He had a strong grip. Must be from the welding, I thought.

    He wore strong cologne with an unusually pungent smell. It stung my nostrils a bit. That couldn’t be good around a baby.

    In the grocery store, I looked for signs that would direct us to baby formula. Does this guy need anything else? Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, I thought. One good deed at a time.

    We found the aisle with the formula.  I asked the man which one he wanted. I couldn’t really tell the difference. One box had a bucktoothed baby with a rattle. ALL NATURAL, it read.  Another spelled out its name with toy blocks. That’s cute, I thought. That’s really something.

    The man put a finger to his lips. He frowned.

    “I do not see the formula I need,” he said. “I need a certain kind of formula. It is not here.”

   Why the fuss? It’s all baby formula. How much difference can there be?

   He looked at me with sad, sad eyes. I sensed what was coming next.

   “Could you perhaps loan me the money for the formula? I can go buy it myself at another store.”  He was still smiling but his eyes were desperate, glassy.

    “Well, how much is the kind you need?”

    “Do you have twenty dollars? Could I ask you for twenty, sir?”

    I checked my wallet, discreetly. I had sixty.  I could spare a twenty. Hell, he  already got me to the grocery store.

    “Sure, okay. Twenty is fine.” I placed the money in his open palm.

    “Thank you, sir.” His eyes were two simple stars in a dark sky.

    We shook hands outside. He asked if I had a piece of paper and a pen. I had both. He took the pen and wrote down his phone number.  That surprised me. Seems like the real deal, I thought.

    “You are welcome in my home anytime,” he said. “You call this number and my wife will make you a fine meal.”

    “Perhaps I will. It was good to meet you.”

    “Watch and see. I will pay back your kindness.”

    I waved goodbye as the man walked away. He ran a hand through his kinked hair, as if it held loose change he’d forgotten about, and then he waved. I reached into my jacket for another cigarette and brought it to my lips. I could still smell that goddamn cologne.

    Months later, I was having a couple whiskey sours with a friend at his apartment. We were smoking cigarettes in his living room.  His landlord didn’t care. He reached over the couch and grabbed his guitar. 

    “I wrote a song about this guy who came over to my house last Tuesday. I bumped into him on the street and he won me over with his story. He was hungry and so was his family. He had just moved here from Haiti, all outta food. I invited him over, nice guy, give him all the change I had, like $7.50 or something, and I’m pulling all this food out of the cupboards—”

    I stopped him.  Did he show you a welding certificate? Was his pastor away? Was he about to start working? Was his name TONY?

    My friend nodded, puzzled.

    I shook my head. Goddamn. Just goddamn it all.

    I pulled out my wallet.  I still had Tony’s phone number tucked in there. I looked it over and wondered if I should call him.

    I threw away the paper and asked for another whiskey.