A Taste of “Deadly Soup”

 

Deadly Soup

by

Dane Zeller

Healthy Soup

 

Camouflage Man watched traffic rush under the Sixth Street bridge north of downtown Kansas City. Cars, trucks and city debris were visible to him through his sunglasses. His post under the bridge was dark, hidden by the shadows that interspersed with the street light.

At highway level, a small import auto had collided with a larger, American-made car. “What the hell were you thinking?” said a young man, a light mist falling and insufficient to cool him off.

“I was trying to avoid the trash bag, punk,” an older man replied. “What were you doing riding my tail?”

“You were going forty-fucking-five.”

“That’s the speed limit, moron.”

Flashing lights reflected off the two cars, the speed limit sign, the North Oak exit sign and the sixth street bridge. The lenses in Camouflage Man’s sunglasses turned red, then blue, then red, then blue.

The two motorists moved closer to each other.

“Gentlemen, take a break,” a  highway patrolman said. “What happened here?”

“I braked and swerved to avoid that trash bag back there, and this a-hole runs into the back of my…”

“…he was slower than shit, and he was holding up traffic.”

Two other patrol cars arrived. One patrolman directed traffic around the cars parked on the shoulder of the interstate.

“Joe, get rid of that trash bag before we have some more trouble.” The officer nodded and  went back about two hundred feet to take care of the obstacle.

“Young man, I’m going to have to give you a ticket for not controlling your car.”

“What? It’s my fault?”

“Frank.” the officer yelled from the vicinity of the trash bag.

“Yeah.” Frank interrupted his writing of the ticket.

“It’s not a trash bag.”

“What the hell is it?”

“Looks like one of the homeless guys. He’s dead.”

“Well, shit,” Frank said. “Hold on. I gotta finish this ticket.”

“I get a ticket, and he doesn’t?”

“That’s right, the damage is head on to the front of your car. If he had swerved into you, he would have damaged your front fender or the side of your car.”

“How’s that fair, I get a ticket and most of the damage is to my car?”

The older motorist smiled. “You should have bought an American car, dip shit. Something with a little weight on it.”

“Frank, should I call KCMO about this bum?”

“Yeah. Probably got drunk and wandered out into the street.”

The officer finished the ticket and then wrote  his accident report. In the box that asked for witnesses’ names, he put “none.”

 

 

Chapter 2

Don Milkey looked inside the refrigerator in his studio apartment. A carton of takeout Chinese food hugged  the back wall. The box commemorated the dinner three weeks ago that celebrated his sixth anniversary with his girlfriend, Helen.

A six-pack of bottled water stood as a remembrance of his gallon-a-day water diet. A diet Shasta cola, way past its expiration date, sat on the second shelf . Bottom shelf: a pound can of decaffeinated coffee and a package of celery, each stalk browning at the end. At the far back of refrigerator he saw a circle of grime that he remembered to have been laid down by a can of Schlitz, now long gone from the shelf. He reached in and removed the carton of Chinese to the trash can. He did not look inside the little white box.

The phone rang. Don tossed the greenish-brown celery into the trash can beneath the sink. He walked over to the end table next to the couch to listen to the message.

“Don. Don. Pick up the phone. I know you’re there. Just pick up now and you won’t have to dial my number later on. Hey, Milkey, it’s me. Remember? Your girlfriend, Helen. Okay, then I’ll just talk until your tape reaches the end. You know that time you went to AA and you traded numbers with your sponsor? Yeah, that’s right. You gave him mine. He’s called me ten times now. ”

Don went to the bathroom and washed his hands. He could hear Helen in the background using up his voice tape. He wiped his hand on the towel Helen had offered to wash two weeks ago, and returned to the recorded message.

“And, hey, I got other things to talk about, too. Whadya think?  Call me,” Helen said. “Miss you.”

Don rewound to the start of the message. “Helen.”

“I knew you were there, you son of a bitch. Are you trying to avoid me?”

“No, I was just fixing dinner, and it took me a while to get to the phone.”

“Dinner? It takes you time to fix dinner? I’m surprised. It only takes me thirty seconds to open a can.”

“I like to do it right.”

“Listen, would you call this Frank and get him off my back. I’ve been ‘god-blessed’ so many times I’ll be going to heaven on the bullet train.”

“I’d do it, but he’s going to talk me into coming to a meeting,  and those meetings are so long, and I’d have to talk about myself.”

“Geez, I see your point. Especially that one about talking. Hey, I heard from my school secretary that there was something happening early this morning down by the Broadway overpass. Some kinda  road-rage thing.”

“Oh?”

“Some guy swerved to avoid something in the road and got hit by a car from the rear. Policeman had to separate the two drivers.”

“How’d she hear about it?”

“We’ve got our grapevines.”

“Oh, yeah. Those.”

“She said the older guy called the younger guy a punk and an a-hole and a moron.”

“Oh, I see. You thought I might have been involved. Did she hear my favorite phrase, ‘shit-for-brains’?”

“No.”

“Then you had no worry.”

“Don’t try to destroy my hobby, Don.”

“What hobby is that?”

“Fear. Fear that you’re going to piss off the wrong guy, and I’m going to be a widow before I’m even married.”