Written In Blood

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Winners
by Mark Slade
Illustrated by Kenneth Gallant

Mickey was a winner.

He had the flashiest clothes, the newest Italian Prima sports car, and loft overlooking central park that cost him a mind blowing salary to those that scrape and bow to get what they need. But the one thing everyone always said about him: “Mickey is winner.” Even thumbing through the high school yearbook, you’d see that Mickey was voted most popular.

I would know. I was his runner, lighting guy, sometimes camera operator…..you name it. He always said: “Benny! Get me this or that, and make it snappy, turd boy!”

Yeah. I was sick of that crap. I wanted to be a winner too. Don’t you think that people like Mickey could have spread the good cheer around? No. They don’t do that. They keep taking and taking. Taking what naturally comes to them. Well, I got sick of that.

I saw an ad in the back of one of those girly mags that Mickey photographs for. “All the women you can handle.” It said. So I sent away for a bottle. It said it would bring out your natural glow, send out signals and smells that the female can’t resist. Only 19.99.

I had to try it. I know. I know. Con job. I was sure of it. Anyway, it came in the mail. A small bottle with a green label with unpronounceable word on it. I opened the bottle and poured the greasy brown liquid in a cup. It smelled like puke. Like I said, I was tired of not getting anything. So I held my nose and downed it. I nearly puked myself. But I didn’t feel different, and I damn for sure didn’t look different.

I was pissed. I threw the fucking thing in the trash.

****

Being a photographer for fashion magazines afforded Mickey a lot of things. The best perks was his pick of any woman he wanted. It was strange though, after Mickey was with one of them, you never saw them again. Ever. But he had them all. Red heads, brunettes, blondes. Asian, black, Russian girls, Mexican…..you name it, Mickey has had them all. Except one.

Her name was Clarieta and she was from one of those Baltic countries I can’t even pronounce and trying to say her last name would sound like static on the TV. A dark haired beauty with a cool attitude. Clarieta came to us through an agency Mickey never liked using. Mickey also photographed girls in, should we say, situations unkind to the female public; but the male population went nuts for. This agency, shall we say, sent mostly scags.

One thing you have to remember about Mickey, he never took photos of scags. Never. No girls with mustaches, or pimples on their asses. Mickey didn’t go for that crap. Let me tell you, Claireta was most beautiful woman Mickey ever photographed.

But he never laid her.

She didn’t give him the time of day. She was too busy looking at me. I swear to you. I know, I know. Look at Benny. He looks like a troll. He’s freaking shorter than Webster. He’s got warts all over his face. All of this very true of me. For some reason, Claireta liked me a lot. In between shots, she’d blow Mickey off and come talk to me. Ohhhh, was Mickey pissed.

He was even madder when I agreed to go have coffee with her. She asked me one late night shoot. It was two in the morning. We went to Dell’s on Third Street. Me and Mickey used to go there with one of his catches. Everyone in the joint was staring at us. She couldn’t take her eyes off of me. They watched as she leaned in and kissed me. They watched as she hung on to every word I spoke.

Yeah. That stuff was working. I was a winner. I could feel a change. Everyone in the streets, in that restaurant, on the bus, people in her building, they all could see I was a winner.

You hear me? I was finally a winner.

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She held my hand as we rode the elevator to her apartment. We ran down the hall, stopping for little moments, kissing caressing, nearly tearing each other’s clothes off. Inside her apartment she did just that. She peeled my trousers off and pulled out my---okay, okay. I don’t want this to turn into a dirty joke.

I will tell you this: she rode me like I was bare butt stallion. It went all day and into the night. It was, without a doubt, the best night of my life.

But something horrible happened to Claireta.

Her back was to me. I noticed she wasn’t moving. I pulled back the sheets and noticed a patch of her skin on her right side had become a ball of puss. I turned her over and her face and chest had been eaten away. A yellow puss dripped from her left eye and where her beautiful mouth had been, was now skeletal with a purple black tongue hung out.

I screamed and fell out of the bed. “Oh God!” I screamed and crawled away from the bed. “I killed that poor girl!” I didn’t know what to do. In my time of anguish, I noticed Clarieta rotted right before my eyes. Eventually turning to dust. A few days later I realized no one was going to question me about her. I don’t know why. It was just the way it was.

****

Mickey got a chance to go to the Caribbean to shoot after all of that happened. We were both late getting our things together. We almost forgot his camera bag. It had a lot of stuff in it he needed. I noticed one thing and I couldn’t help but laugh at it.

A small bottle with a green label

“Hey! Turd face! Hurry up and get my bags will you? That plane won’t wait for us!” I heard him scream at me from the next room.

I could feel anger build up inside me like nothing before. My body became hot. I saw the veins in my hands pulsate. That fucker. I hated him. I always did. I didn’t need Mickey anymore anyway. I was a winner. Oh that trip was so much fun.

Yeah. He was right. That plane wasn’t going to wait on us. Not for a couple of winners like us.

By Mark Slade for HMS

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