Inches Nitely and the Lizard’s Id by Tim Rocks
Their dinged-up white Camaro skidded around a well-manicured traffic island with its unused bit of faded pink playground equipment and barreled toward a woman collecting her mail from a curbside brick mailbox. She cowered in terror as Bobby course-corrected at the last moment and screeched past in a cloud of blue smoke.
“Hey, hey now,” Inches said, “What’s wrong with you? Watch the road!”
“Sorry,” said Bobby, hunkered down low over the steering wheel, the forbidden cigarette now clamped firmly between his lips and ablaze with embers. “I’m just a little… Tense after that shit-show back there.”
“No idea what you’re talking about,” said Inches. “It went brilliantly I thought. This could really be something. A chance to do more with our lives, ya know?”
Bobby said nothing, but the cigarette fumes mingled with those from his
He couldn’t keep silent though. “Yeah? You wanna tell that to El Racha? Cause I don’t think he gives a damn about some fucking… comic strip!”
“He doesn’t need to know,” said Inches. “We’ll tell him this mope is good for the dough, just needs a little more time to stew. Meanwhile, we’ll turn that strip around…”
His eyes lost in this fantasy, somewhere far away.
“What’s this ‘we’, kemosabe? You can screw around like you’re god’s gift to the fucking funnies if you want, but don’t include ME in your retarded plans.”
“Let’s stop and get a newspaper.”
“A newspaper, find a news-stand or corner store or something… I wanna see what the competition looks like.”
“The fucking competition,” Bobby said, shaking his head and hot-boxing the smoke. “Hoo boy. You are really far gone.”
“Here… Slow down! Here, try this coffee shop.”
The Camaro made an angry U-ie and circled back, slid into a free space at this Starbucks in a quaint little neighborhood business district. Upscale, decorative sidewalks and buildings made to look kind of Middle Ages or something. A gorgeous 40-ish woman in short black dress and sunglasses walking a white pooch that was better-groomed than either of them. She discreetly checked them out and kept her nose in the air.
“Yeah you too, lady,” said Bobby to nobody. “Think they got a shit-can?”
Inches paused slightly. “If they don’t take you for a no-good bum, Bobby, I’m sure they’ll let you hit the head.” Bobby flicking him off and flicking the butt out the window.
While Bobby was stumbling around deep in the recesses of the narrow shop, Inches struggled to get the counter girl’s attention. She was fumbling with some mocha cream frappe thing, great gushy wads of white foam tumbling out of a stainless steel box.
For who? Place empty save some guy on a laptop by the front window. “Excuse me, Miss… Miss… ” Not turning to face him, she said she’d be with him in a minute.
“Just wondering if you had a paper,” he shouted over the intermittent grinding.
“A what?” she yelled back.
“You know . . . A newspaper!”
“Not familiar!” said the girl. “A ‘news’ what-a-hoo? What is this ‘paper’ you speak of?”
Jesus, was she being sarcastic? This new generation today. “News… Paper…!”
he said again. “Ink . . . printed on pulp paper . . . delivered to the masses of the world, starved for information, on a daily basis… ”
“Jeez,” she said, turning and bringing the elaborate foam thing to the counter. “It sounds amazing! I wish I had heard of it! Must be some tech startup thing, huh? Digital ink, something like that? I’d invest in it if I had any money, you know?”
Laptop came and got his frappe thing, smiling a big phony smile at the girl and then shooting Inches a nasty look. Inches standing there kind of in a daze.
Bobby left the bathroom full of news of his own — a most impressive head it had been. Truly, this was the head of the gods. The toilet walled in, floor to ceiling, for stellar privacy, and tiled with some kind of shimmery opalescent stone. It had been an Experience. And now there was Inches . . . Standing over some guy in the front of the place, beating the crap out of him with a… laptop. Blood all over the guy. And the girl screaming, pressed against the wall, crying her brains out. Bobby ran up, grabbed him by the shoulders, shook him, hard. “Inches! Inches, the fuck is going on here?”
“Don’t ask,” Inches said, dropping the laptop on the fashionably raw unfinished floor, where it broke open and spilled its guts out, screws shimmying off under couches and bookshelves. “Let’s get outta here.”
Which they did. Left in quite a hurry, too, the girl visible through the window, sobbing now but no longer screaming.
Bobby didn’t ask though. Guy looked like an asshole. Usually, that was the way Bobby screwed up, not Inches, but they were both capable of it. No room to judge anyway, it happened. Maybe now he’d forget about the damn comic strip. But no–
“Jeesus, I shoulda realized,” Inches said. “Nobody reads papers! They’re a dying medium like, uh, tintype or something. Morse code. The telegraph. It’s all iPhones this, iPhones that.”
“Right,” Bobby said. “The kids, et cetera.”
Bobby offered Inches a smoke which he accepted in silence and they both lighted up. Drove on away, leaving the ultra-posh land of comic strip heirs, the scenery turning into suburban sprawl, Mexican restaurants and gas stations, chain stores and chicken shacks.
“Yeah,” said Inches, slumped down in his seat, “The kids … Whoa, whoa, whoa, what was that? Turn around!” he sat upright, twisted around in his seat looking back over his shoulder.
“Again? You wanna stop somewhere and beat the shit outta someone else? Or what? Inches, I’m telling you–”
“Old folks’ home!” said Inches. “They’ll have a goddamn paper. If anybody does, they will.”
“Well, you’re probably fucking right,” said Bobby. “Geezers gotta read the paper.
But still, man–”
Inches glowered at him. Bobby sighed. And did a mournful U-ie back to the Restful Remembrance Home for Seniors.