alex antiuk — 2 stories


        I knew I was going to like Steve the moment I noticed his seatbelt was safely tucked behind his seat.
       It was placed tightly behind the brown, worn-out beads that he had on his headrest. The seatbelt looked like it hadn’t been worn in years and I appreciated it. I was sitting in the back of his cab when I admired Steve’s choice, and I quickly tuned back into his current rant while we took the scenic route down to the small beach town my dad had a weekend rental in.
       “She really drives me bonkers…” Steve said, while he turned his eyes onto the large, ancient computer screen he had next to him.
       The screen had updates on traffic and had a few dots showing the other cabs in Steve’s fleet.
       “I’ve told my wife a thousand times, I like turkey…” Steve reached into the breast pocket of his loose, dirty button-up and grabbed a cigarette.
       “But she always says at the deli, ‘Why don’t you like turkey? It’s much better for you than roast-beef…’ And it drives me up the Goddamn wall…” Steve took both hands off the wheel and lit his cigarette. He was driving with just his knees and was keeping better control of the car than I ever could. He had already told me earlier in the ride he was the best cab driver I was ever going to have. It was something he spoke with 100% confidence and I appreciated it, although it made me quite uncomfortable when he added a dollop of racism, “And… I speak English too! You really don’t get that these days…”
        “So I have to tell her… ‘Honey… You know I get the Gobbler Bowl from the gas station twice a week.’ And she still can’t wrap her pea-brain around that.”
        Steve rolled down his window to ash his cigarette before continuing. 
        “And then she asks, ‘Well… Let’s do a 1 / 2 pound of low-sodium turkey then’… And I have to yell back at her big-ass, ‘N-O!’ She doesn't get it… I’m not on planet earth to eat low-sodium turkey… I’m really not even here to eat turkey at all. You know why I’m here, kid?” 
        Steve turned his head towards me for a moment and forgot about the road. We were cruising faster than the speed limit on the one-lane highway. 
        I shook my head.
        “I’m here to eat, blood…” Stevie laughed like a maniac after he spoke. He was taking long drags of his cigarette and giggling like crazy.
        “The only reason I drive this Goddamn cab is because I like to take myself out to the casino once in a while and get myself a big, juicy steak cooked as rare as you can get it.” 
        I looked and noticed Steve’s beaming smile in the rear-view mirror. His teeth were brown and yellow and he looked as happy as a clam. I didn’t know if this was because I said I’d pay cash and he wouldn’t have to phone dispatch and give them my credit card. Or if Steve was just happy to have someone to talk to.
        “I’ll tell you kid… I’d eat it raw with a big pad of butter if it wasn’t for everyone being such pansies these days…”
        Steve flung the butt of his cigarette out the window and moved with beautiful, mastered movements to grab another cigarette from his pocket. He flung that one into his mouth, lit it and seemed at peace with himself. 
        I sat back in my seat and joined him in tranquility. We were both basking in the scent of his cheap menthols and the beach air swimming through the dirty cab.
Steve was a man unlike anyone I’d ever met. He was free from the constraints of everyday life, and said what he wanted when he wanted. And when he broke the silence and said, with full belief I wasn’t going to refute him, “You mind if I drop a deuce at your house?” I realized I was with a man of immense power. And I felt honored.


        When all you do is sleep, there is nothing more beautiful than a sunset.
	“Wake up!” Maggie yelled, after I heard the toilet flush and she stomped back into my room.
	I wiped my eyes and looked out the lone window. It was a beautiful, orange and purple sky that turned my stained gray carpet into a golden sea. 
	“You need to get dressed.” Maggie began, before flinging a clean shirt at me. I was covered in my lone blanket and was wearing the same shirt I’d worn for three days. It smelled like a mixture of ground beef with taco seasoning and it didn’t have Maggie’s approval.
        We were going to her parent's house for Maggie’s birthday dinner and I didn’t want to go. I didn’t dislike Maggie’s mother Bonnie or her step-dad Ralph. They were nice, clean people who worked good jobs with benefits and retirement plans set up for them, and had raised their daughter to actively seek out therapy and not be forced into it like myself.
        “We’re going to be late!” Maggie yelled, before squatting down on my slouching mattress.
        My mattress was placed directly on the floor. It was the only thing keeping me from flopping down and living the rest of my life beside the ants that crawled in through the window and buried themself deep in the gray, unwashed wall-to-wall carpet I wish my landlord would have removed when I moved in.
        I slowly lifted myself and looked out the window. The sun was almost completely gone and with it the glorious sky.
        “Get up!” Maggie yelled this time. Her voice took on its frustrated tone, and I knew I no longer had a choice. 
        “Ok!” I barked back weakly. Maggie’s eyes beamed down on me and for the second time in two days, I wondered if they'd turn sour. 
        “You owe me after yesterday!” Maggie stood up and began to pace around the room. Her hands nervously flopped, drumming on every item of furniture I had in the room.
        I prepared to open my mouth and let the honesty out when Maggie interrupted, “Don’t you dare say a word. You know how much your bullshit hurt me…”
        Her voice was piercing and filled with an unexpected hatred. She huffed and puffed all around the room while I changed shirts, but my slow speed forced her to blurt out, “I know you’re just making excuses! If you didn’t want to go you could have just said so… You don’t have to be such a drama llama…”
        ‘Drama llama’ was Maggie’s new nickname for me, and since I told her why I refused to leave the house to go to part one of her birthday party last night at the town bar, she refused to call me by any other name.
        I placed the shirt on and slid the blanket off. My legs had a mild sweat on them, slightly sticky to the touch.
        “Are you serious?” Maggie said, noticing I wasn’t wearing anything but underwear beneath the blanket.
        “We don’t have time for this! Mom said we needed to be there at seven-thirty – the latest!” 
        Maggie’s voice only grew in frustration and I knew I had to lift myself up or be further deafened by her screeching spew.
        I sat up and placed my legs on the carpet. I could already feel the scurry of the ants I never bothered to deal with rummaging through my toes, and when one scurried up towards my ankle I didn’t shake it off.
        It wasn’t doing any harm and I let out my first chuckle in weeks as it made me tickle all over.
        “Jesus!” Maggie screamed, when she noticed it was crawling up my leg and I had no intention to remove it.
        Maggie sprinted towards me and with a great swat killed it in a single blow. I watched it drop off my shin and tumble into an early grave, hidden deep within the large, bushy carpet.
        I looked back up at Maggie and noticed her face was turning red. Her cheeks were pale, and I noticed her overbite was smashing violently down on her tiny lip. It created a small trickle of blood and I wanted to tell her to stop, but I realized it was actually a blessing in disguise.
        “I’m giving you one more minute! Then I’m leaving!” Maggie barked, throwing a pair of dirty jeans at me and hitting me in the head with a bundled-up pair of socks.
I spread out the pants and began to put them on, when I suddenly realized this was it. 
This was the moment I’d been dreaming of, and instead of putting them on I simply dumped them beside the mattress, leaned back, and flung the blanket over me.
        “That’s it!” Maggie said, before she flung open my door.
        “I hope you actually kill yourself this time! Instead of just being a brat and saying you’ll do it to get out of going to my birthday party!”
        Maggie flung open the door and walked out, leaving my eyes to wander back towards the window.
        The sky was finally turned off, replaced by a welcome darkness. It was what I looked forward to every time I woke up. It meant I’d made it another day and could finally go back to sleep, where my mind wandered on its own accord and didn’t have to worry about things such as what to eat for dinner or the expectation of speaking to another.
        I flipped my pillow and closed my eyes, letting the cool side coat the back of my head. It felt perfect in that moment and I knew there was nothing that could ruin it, until I heard footsteps sprinting up the rickety wooden stairs that led straight toward my room.
        “You better have my present ready when I get back!” Maggie screamed, before adding, “You owe me after this little show…”
        Maggie slammed the door shut once again and bolted back down the stairs. 
I attempted to shut my eyes once again but they refused to close, as I had a decision to make. 
        There was only one way to disappear from Maggie completely, and while I had the bottle of pills near enough to my bed to make it happen in an instant, I couldn’t resist the silence. 
        I’d heard her car drive away, and not wanting to waste another second I closed my eyes, and began to bask in the wonder of floating through a dream that even Maggie couldn’t ruin.

ALEX ANTIUK is from New York. His work has been featured in Misery Tourism, Expat Press and other places online. He can be found on Twitter @letsbamboobaby