EXCERPT: Night Shift

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I just started writing this. It’s fun, and it’s very weird. Don’t ask me where I’m going with it because I’m not sure. Just tell me: d’you think it’s worth me going on and finding out?

Good. I love an audience.

ONE

As Riley approached, the sound grew louder.

Schlorp. Schlorp. Thwk. Schlorp.

It was a terrible sound. Half squishy and wet, half metallic and hard. It was, in fact, precisely the sort of sound Riley had grown used to, issuing as it did from Tinker Tonkin’s third story balcony.

Schlorp. Shhwk. Schlorp.

“Tinker,” Riley called. Then, when there was no response from the open French doors: “TINK.”

The schlorping paused. As she edged through the moldy gloom of Tinker’s apartment, Riley could only imagine the sight that awaited her on the other side of the French doors–what would it be today? Year old beefaroni? Liquidized vienna sausage?

Schlorp. Thwk. Thw-w-w-wkkkk.

And the cry, proud and primal over the half-empty parking lot:

“I AM AN ARTIST. I AM A MOTHERFUCKING ARTIST.”

Schhhthump.

From below, a car alarm went off.

“Jesus,” Riley muttered, stepping in and freeing herself from an unidentifiable pile of brown goo on the linoleum. “Hang on, Tink,” she called. “I’m coming.”

She picked up speed, moving at a half-jog through the islands of dirty laundry and regretworthy former comestibles that covered the floor. She edged through the doors with care, however–Tinker wasn’t violent, not really at least, but it still paid to move slowly around her. There was always the danger, when one came up on Tinker Tonkin unaware, of catching salmonella, botulism, or that one with a T that came from raw pork (which Riley couldn’t for the life of her remember the name of, even though, knowing Tinker, she should have them all memorized by now, as well as their symptoms and treatments).

Tinker Tonkin, clad only in a pair of acid green underpants, was leaning over the balcony, predatory grin etched into her sunken cheeks. She was holding a child’s plastic bucket in one arm. Her other arm, clad in a rubber kitchen glove, was buried up to the elbow in the substance inside, which was simply the nastiest fucking mess Riley had ever seen, or smelled, or heard. As Riley watched, she scooped up a fistful of it and dropped it neatly on the BMW in the parking lot below.

Schlorp.

Tinker’s abstract-line chest tattoo, all too visible in the sere complex lighting, heaved with her laughter.

“Um,” Riley said. “Tink, I think it’s about time you came inside.”

“Oh,” said Tinker, waving. “Hey, Riley.”

She dumped the rest of the bucket over the railing. The sound it made–hell, the smell–was so awful Riley instantly blacked it out.

The car alarm below was a frenzied screeching.

“I’m doing an installation piece,” Tinker continued conversationally, as though it were the most normal thing in the world to be on your balcony in your underpants at one in the morning, dumping rotten meat products on someone’s BMW. “Mobile installation. Transistor Decay IV. It’ll go with the moving truck you helped me do last month.”

“That’s nice,” Riley lied. She tried to forget about the moving truck. “We should go back inside now.”

“It’s so nice out here, though!” Tinker said, wriggling her bottom in what, had she been something other than a human toothpick covered in skin, would have been a lasvicious fashion. “C’mon, Ri-Ri. You never want to just hang out any more. We can make mimosas, drop SPAM on convertibles…it’ll be like old times.”

“I never dropped SPAM on anything,” Riley said, taking one of Tinker’s wasted arms and tugging. For someone who must’ve weighed about ninety pounds, she was difficult to move. “C’mon. Hup. Before somebody calls the cops.”

Tinker waved an airy gloved hand. “Nobody’ll do that,” she said. “I’m the local artist. Who’s going to call the cops on artistry?”

To punctuate this concept, she threw the bucket over the ledge as well. There was a loud crunch, and the tinkle of shattered glass.

It was only then, when a dog started barking and lights came on in the first floor apartment, that Tinker deigned to stroll back inside.

“Have it your way,” she said, as though she’d simply decided to retreat. “Let me take down the camera and I’ll grab you a beer.”

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