October 31, 2011 by The Citron Review
It’s Awfully Late For Patti Michelle: a non-fiction excerpt originally published in Fourteen Hills, Vol. 17, No. 2 (2011)
by Patrick O’Neil
I wake up in a bedroom. Not just any bedroom. It’s a little girl’s bedroom, with Echo & The Bunnymen and Duran Duran posters on the walls. There’s cute stuffed animals, a Hello Kitty bedspread, and a framed picture of a baby monkey dangling from a tree limb with “hang in there” written across the bottom. There’s also a studded leather jacket and Doc Martins on the floor mixed with my clothes.
I’m under the covers, naked, wondering how I got here, and what the fuck happened last night. I’m on tour with the Subhumans. I don’t know where the band is. They’re young guys. They’re from England. I don’t like to let them out of my sight. We’re crashing at an apartment in Kansas City some art student is letting us use while she’s moving out, or she’s moving in. I wasn’t listening when she told me. But the apartment is practically empty and there’s plenty of floor space for us to sleep on. Last night we had a night off. We went to a club to see The Dicks play. I remember saying hi to Gary Floyd, and talking with Debbie their manager while drinking PBR’s back stage. But that’s where my memories end.
I lie immobile staring at the ceiling. I hear noises. People talking. A distant clanking of pots and pans like someone’s in the kitchen. There’s a shower running somewhere. I think I hear a radio. I’m getting nervous. I don’t want to get up. I’m afraid to go out of the room. My head is splitting. I need drugs. I need a cigarette. I’ve got to take a piss.
There’s a window next to the bed. I reach over and push back the curtain. Outside there’s a lawn and trees and bushes and no other buildings. I’m in the fucking country. I hate the fucking country. I’m really nervous now.
I grab my pants and search the pockets until I find three Valiums in a small Ziploc baggie. Thank god I didn’t do them all last night. I look around but there’s nothing to drink. I try to conjure up some spit. But I’ve got cottonmouth so bad there is none and I dry swallow the pills. Stuck in my throat they start to dissolve and taste like shit. But they’re in me. They can melt on my tongue for all I care. I just want them to work. Take the edge off.
I’m searching my leather jacket for cigarettes when the door opens. A cute girl comes in drying her hair with a towel. She looks to be about 16. I’m hoping she’s at least 18.
“You’re finally up,” she says.
“Hey,” I say, checking her out trying to remember who she is. And then, after failing, to avoid feeling any more awkward, I ask, “What time is it?”
“It’s ten in the morning,” she says. “It’s awfully late for Patti Michelle to be getting up.”
“Who the fuck is Patti Michelle?”
“I’m Patti Michelle,” she says and slumps on the end of the bed. Her eyes moist like she’s about to cry.
“Sorry,” I say. “I’m no good with names and sorta slow in the morning.”
Patti Michelle perks up and smiles. “That’s okay. You hungry?”
“I could use a cigarette,” I say and reach for my pants and stand to put them on. I can feel her watching while I grab my t-shirt. The fucking shirt smells like sweat and beer. But what choice do I have – so I slip it over my head.
“Where are we?” I ask.
“My house,” says Patti.
“Your house,” I repeat and then feel better. Like possibly this is her house and maybe she has roommates who are out there doing things that roommates do.
“Where’s your house?” I ask.
“Shawnee Heights. Shawnee Heights, Kansas,” she says.
I have no idea where Shawnee Heights, Kansas is. I was in Kansas City, Missouri last night. I’m wondering if I drove here. I’m wondering if I’ve driven an underage girl across state lines. I’m wondering if we had sex. I’m thinking we did. I’m afraid to ask. I’m thinking of the Mann Act and Chuck Berry getting nailed for transporting a fourteen-year-old girl across state lines for the purpose of immoral acts, and going to jail for two years at the height of his career.
“Did I drive here?” I say to Patti.
“Yeah,” she says. “You were so wasted I was amazed you could.”
Now I’m feeling better. Screw the Mann Act. I have the van. I can escape.
“Come on. I’m hungry. Let’s go eat,” says Patti.
“There a restaurant near by?” I ask, hoping we can get out of here and head back to find the band.
“Don’t need a restaurant,” she says. “Mom’s cooking.”
I’m suddenly very nervous. And then the Valiums kick in.
The hallway is dark, there’s deep pile green shag carpet and wallpaper with big pink flowers. I see the bathroom and tell Pattie I gotta take a piss. But don’t go anywhere. Don’t leave me alone.
The bathroom is blue. I mean every-fucking-thing is blue: tiles, walls, towels, even the goddamn hand soap. There’s some blue doily-ass curtains, and one of those annoying carpeted toilet seat covers that you have to hold up or else it’ll fall down.
I check myself in the mirror. I’m a fucking mess. My hair is all over the place, sticking out in different directions. There’s darkness under my eyes. I look gaunt, but I like that. Last night was the first real sleep I’ve had in weeks.
I lift the blue carpeted toilet seat and take a piss. The stench of my unwashed body envelops the room, killing the air freshener. I could use a shower. Instead I run some water in the sink, splash my face, and spike my hair with some blue liquid hand soap.
The hallway’s empty, Patti is gone. I hear noises at the end of the hall, there’s people talking. I think I hear Patti’s voice. I walk into the kitchen. A woman stands at the stove frying sausages. She’s wearing skintight leopard print capris, a frilly apron, and high heels. Her hair’s big, ratted out, and bleached blonde. A tough looking older guy sits at the kitchen table reading a newspaper. A cigarette dangles from his lips and he doesn’t even look up or acknowledge I’m there. Next to him is a kid in a football jersey. He’s clocking me heavy. I nod. He sneers. Patti is nowhere to be seen.
The woman turns with the frying pan in her hand. “Oh, you must be Patti’s friend,” she says and everyone looks at me. “You hungry?” she asks, the spatula poised in midair.
“I could use a cigarette,” I say.
“Hank,” the woman yells. “Give Patti’s friend a cigarette.”
Hank lowers his paper and looks at me. He looks like a cop, or a DEA agent. He’s a fucking bad ass, or at least he used to be. “Here,” he says and tosses me a pack of Marlboros. I fucking hate Marlboros. But what the hell.
“Got a light?” I say as I pull one free of the pack. He slides a brass Zippo my way and I spark up. When I push the lighter back I notice Semper Fi etched in its side.
“Sit, ” says the woman, indicating a chair at the table. I reluctantly take a seat by sneering boy. I’m wondering what I’ve gotten myself into. Is this some sort of demented Leave It To Beaver sitcom? And where the hell is Patti?
“You in a band?” asks sneering boy.
“Work for a band,” I say, and notice dad as he raises an eyebrow.
“What do ya mean work for a band?” says dad.
“I’m a road manager. I manage bands while they’re on tour.”
“You make money doing that?” he asks.
“I make a living,” I say flicking the cigarette ash in the ashtray.
“How much is making a living?” he says, and looks at me all intense.
I have to think about this. Like how much do I really make? Somewhere around three hundred a week. Which barely pays for a maintenance Heroin habit. Although I also buy a lot of pills. Then there’s the occasional Speed for the all night drives, and bad food at truck stops. But I don’t live anywhere. I don’t have to pay rent. I drink free at the clubs. My overhead is sort of low.
“Thirty thousand a year,” I lie.
The dad’s expression changes. He looks more relaxed, like he’s seeing me from a new perspective. Like I’m no longer just a scumbag punk rocker at his breakfast table. A scumbag punk rocker that banged his teenage daughter, and is now smoking his cigarettes. Nope. Now I’m a scumbag punk rocker that makes bank.
“Got a beer?” I ask.
I’ve chosen Patrick O’Neil’s excerpt “It’s Awfully Late for Patti Michelle” because it not only contains the elements I look for in a nonfiction submission but the writing is edgy, effortless and rolls along like an X song you can’t help but sing. Patrick is an Antioch graduate whose work has appeared on The Citron Review.
Patrick O’Neil writes nonfiction and makes short films. His first book, a memoir titled, Dopesick is being published by 13E Note Editions, Paris France. His essays have appeared in numerous literary journals, most notably: Fourteen Hills, New Plains Review, Weave Magazine, The Whistling Fire, Word Riot, and The Coachella Review. His short punk themed documentaries have been rejected from every low budget film festival in America. He assistant teaches English comp at a community college to students who stare at him as if he is speaking in tongues. He currently lives in Hollywood California and holds an MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles. You can find more of his writing online at: patrick-oneil.com.