“But I need to pee, Freddie.”
“Run, you stupid fool!”
Fred and Ben ran through the backdoor. Smelly dumpsters lined the wall behind the store. Fred jumped on a dumpster, scaled up the wall and leapt over it to the other side. Ben followed. His shoulders were stooped, hands tucked tightly in his pockets. Out of breath, they leaned on the wall for a moment, surrounded by thick grass at their feet.
“I ain’t gonna last till home, man. It’s too cold.”
“I don’t wanna get caught just because you couldn’t stop chugging Cola.” Fred was panting. “Pee your pants if you have to. I never wanted to be a part of this. You dragged me here!”
“I needed you man. Weren’t you gonna help a brother in need?”
Fred shook his head and started walking. Ben followed. The night was cold and the duo shivered. Breezes felt like blizzards. Fred pulled his beanie onto his ears, and walked rubbing his palms violently. Beside him, Ben was walking uncomfortably, very slowly shuffling his feet. He feared any time his bladder might let go.
“Will you walk faster?”
“Hey man, I’m in trouble. Go easy on me, dude.”
“You are in trouble?” Fred’s voice was higher now and his feet quicker. “This whole thing was your idea…”
“Shh… Not so loud… not so loud…” Ben mumbled under his breath.
“A guy who hasn’t stolen from a vending machine-”
“-hasn’t held a crowbar in his entire goddamned life-”
“-wants to break in! And drags his friend only because why not! And you are in trouble.”
“Ahh, come on man. You’re killing me over here.”
They crossed the road and turned on another street. Neon signs of bars and restaurants were lit up in the otherwise dark night. Faint jazz music played over the air. Cars whizzed past on the silent roads. Ben tried to catch up with Fred, the necklace enclosed in his tight fist.
“What would you have done, huh?” Ben asked.
“Me and Mallory were going home, after the visit to her OB/GYN. Waiting on the sidewalk for a taxi. Suddenly she runs up to the store. RUNS! She is seven months pregnant and she runs, points at the necklace. One grand! I say no, and she starts to cry. Cried in the cab, in the house, at dinner. Probably still crying. What does a brother do?”
“A brother buys fake jewellery, you moron.”
“Yeah, maybe I-”
“And a brother doesn’t bring another brother tagging along to guard the door.”
“Well, I didn’t wanna get caught-”
“And a brother picks up the thing and walks out, not lurk around.”
“You know I was searching for a wash-”
“Also, it’s the ugliest necklace I’ve ever seen. Now chuck it in and hurry up.” Ben tucked the necklace back into his right-hand pocket.
From the sombre nightlife, the duo took a turn unto a short lane. They took longer and deserted routes. This was their idea of staying low. They took several unwanted turns, and often ended up on the same spot twice. Fred would explain this was his idea of misdirecting any witness, pure genius. They picked up sandwiches from a small resto, and took four right turns to reach back at the very spot, only to continue once again.
“Freddie, I swear that owner just eyed us like we are a bunch of crackpots.”
After finishing and digesting the sandwich, they continued on their path straight to home. Taking a left from the now closed supermarket they walked on the deserted path, until Fred stopped dead in his tracks.
“I’m shit-scared of dogs, Benny!” Fred whispered very quietly, for any louder and the dog might charge. Fred’s arms had goose bumps, and his legs were frozen. Fred spotted a Doberman erect on his legs. It stood some fifty feet away, very alert. Suddenly, a flood of mild white light pointed in their direction. The tall man yielded the torch in one hand, and picked up the dog’s leash with other.
“And I’m shit scared of cops.” Ben whispered back.
The tall man approached coolly. Fred and Ben were too afraid to exchange glances. Were they getting detained tonight? Oh, Jesus Christ!
“Whatcha’ fags doing ‘round here?” The guys couldn’t help but chuckle at the timid voice behind the uniform. But the dog snarled and they were back on their toes.
“Just getting around, officer. Sweet evening, isn’t it?” Ben said, stuttering through every word. His hands were tucked deep into his pockets. He was shifting on his toes, not much unlike jazz dance.
The cop eyed him with suspicion, and turned to Fred. “Your man seems all shaky at me asking questions. What’s the matter, eh?”
“We were searching for a public restroom, officer.” Fred continued, drawing a fake smile to hide his chattering teeth. “It’s an emergency.”
The cop nodded and pointed straight down the road. “Right past the second turn. Big enough for y’all to make out and stuff.” He chuckled in amusement. The dog didn’t seem amused by the joke.
The guys smiled and glanced at each other. Both walked by each side of the cop, Ben with his eyes closed. Just as they were past the troublesome figure, in a sudden movement, the cop’s hand reached into Ben’s left pocket, and he stood rooted to the spot. Suddenly, his fear seemed to have escaped, and it took with it the cold and the shivering. His hands felt warm, held in the cop’s meaty paws. But something else felt warmer. Calmer. As if ridden of an unwanted burden.
The cop began to laugh loudly in the middle of the silent street. Lights went off in high windows, and the dog began circling Ben’s legs. Ben glanced below and found his crotch dripping, slowly onto the sidewalk. A pool of yellow formed around his feet. The cop continued to laugh. “You weren’t lying about the emergency now, were you?” He continued cackling, loud enough to wake up the neighbourhood.
Ben sharply glanced at Fred, contempt and rage bubbling up. But Fred had already joined in the cop’s laughter. The people in the windows shouted out slurs and went back inside. After what seemed to be an eternity of standing with wet pants and shoes for Ben, the cop coughed and stopped laughing.
“Get outta here, you two. Stupid fags.” He chuckled and crossed the lane, turning onto the highway.
Ben shouted out at Fred, who was by now rolling on the sidewalk laughing uncontrollably. “I told you to let me pee. Now how is this my fault?”
“You… you peed your pants! He held you and you peed your pants.” Fred was almost out of breath, holding his stomach the entire time.
“Will you get up now?”
Fred didn’t get up for another twenty minutes.
When they reached the neighbourhood, Ben and Fred parted ways.
“Good luck, homie.” Fred said as he slipped into his decrepit apartment. He slipped out of his clothes and straight into the shower. The light was broken long ago. He stood in darkness, washing his clothes in the broken sink. The water was dripping. As slow as Benny, he thought and chuckled.
After about an hour, he came out and lied on the bed. A half-eaten plate of noodles by his side. Hardly had he switched on the TV, did the phone ring.
For the first ten seconds, all he could hear was the sound of utensils banging on the floor. A woman kept yelling at regular intervals. After a lot of yelling and banging, a voice spoke to Fred, faint and scared.
Fred rolled his eyes. “Yeah?”
“Freddie, it’s bad news!”
A pause – another round of yelling ensued. But this time, Fred could make out the words. ‘Pink? Who wears pink? Are you out of your mind, you moron?’
“Oh, shut up Mallory!” Ben yelled at the woman in the background. Then turning back to the phone, he spoke in a feeble voice. “Freddie, we gotta go again.”