Fiction For Generation X, Albuquerque Variation Number Seven6:04 PM
By Rudolfo Carrillo
Working at the office supply store on Saturday was one goddamn harsh toke after another, thought Thurston the painter as he crawled around the floor of the unisex water closet at the back of the shop. But hell one more day wouldn't kill him and since it was an off day, he could probably stop by Luther's pad after work and dance with some of the deadhead gals that had been hanging around the old red head's trailer since he inherited his father's horseshoe and moved back to Burque from Califas.
But Thurston would have to save that for later. Presently, he was bent down over the toilet, scrubbing up the week's worth of piss. The urine was mostly dried up and dark by the weekend. It stank like hell and had been deposited there by larger than life postmodern graphic artists and the assistants of lofty bureaucrats whose output was neither tamed nor directed, Thurston reckoned solemnly, as he poured some more bleach into the crack between the porcelain target and the tile, scrubbing the foul work of humanity into clean chemical oblivion.
Just then, Bart the manager tried to push the door to the privy open but could not because Thurston's walrus-like body was in the way; his vietnam era combat boots effectively blocked the hinges as they tried to swing around in space, intent on revealing a shabby room that had been painted in bright colors to distract from its intrinsic shitty-ness while still somehow and mysteriously inducing customers to exit with the word buy smeared brightly upon their rosy or pale lips.
Bart was in the closet, was married to an older woman he did not love. So sadness and the faint odor of vodka followed him wherever he went. He was always trying to hook it up with the other guys that worked at the store, tossing around invitations to have a drink or go swimming after work, to whomever would listen. Thurston thought Bart was a goddamn creep because he'd always come off in public as being against gay folks, telling jokes about them, snickering ominously at his own punch lines, and then referring to the sublime nature of jazz music as a way of moving the conversation on when no one else laughed.
Since he needed the money from the office supply store job to get his craptastic life back together, Thurston never said anything to Bart and ignored the man's anxious advances, his cluttered bigotry. When they did talk, Thurston always tried to guide the conversation towards art or literature, so he could plaintively praise the violin of Ingres and allude to Hemingway or Mailer before slipping away toward the copier supplies isle.
After a summer of that sorta thing, Bart suddenly retreated from the other employees, was sullen and drunk most afternoons and the boss, Jerry - a tall fellow with big teeth who came from a town in New Mexico where everyone still wore a cowboy hat and drove the kinda truck that could really be used for hauling livestock around or saving the United States from foreign invasion if so called upon - let him stay, but said he had to work mostly in the basement from that point on, making picture frames and keeping the loading dock organized and so forth and so on.
That was fine with Thurston mostly because it meant more skylarking. He was a slacker, alright, and took that identity so seriously that he had a poster of the Richard Linklater movie with the name of his cultural affiliation plastered on the wall above the ratty mattress upon which he slept. Thurston dreamt of being a great artist, one who had access to stuff like clean sheets and cheery, antiseptic studios that went on and on forever.
Anywho, Jerry hardly came out of his office, excepting emergencies like when this or that famous corporate entity came rolling through, on the lookout for a special mix of renaissance-style lead bearing toner. Similarly, gloriously odd consumer-related events raised him up too, like the woman with a zebra skin purse who wanted a fashionable computer desk more than anything in the world.
At the end of the day, Jerry would walk down the stairs, lock everyone in and count the money the shop took. If the counting turned out alright, he'd shove a toothpick in his mouth, wink and then say goodnight to his charges in a drawl you ordinarily might hear in southern Oklahoma or on the Missouri border.
Besides those fine folks, Thurston could always talk to Audrey. She had been to the south pole and had a leather parka with a National Science Foundation patch on the shoulder as proof. She told how she ended up in Burque because of her husband's architecture studies at UNM and how she could not wait to get back to where it was icy and the ocean churned.
Thurston believed she vaguely resembled one of the characters from a teevee show he used to watch. Twin Peaks, or something like that, he said to Audrey as she handed him a sawbuck and asked that he make change for a purchase of two graphite drawing pencils, stock number one three seven five nine two. He smiled wanly; she flirted vaguely, with her porcelain hands, when the change was transferred back to the woman with dark hair and antarctic experience.
A couple of hours later, at the end of the day, on the Saturday afternoon in September I am writing to you about, a solar emanation of some magnitude came right through the front door of that otherwise maudlin place, sending a bright and beckoning beam of light across the showroom floor and right up the stairs to Jerry's office.
Thurston walked out from behind the counter, to the perimeter of that spectacle, sat quietly in the fashion of a mendicant, and begin reciting the names of all the hues of oil paint that he had ever used to represent ideas on canvas. Bart climbed languorously from out his cave holding a carpenters square and asked in a plaintive voice for a dry martini and a good man, while Jerry sat immobilized in his custom executive recliner, listening to the birds chirruping in the alley.
Noticing the bright stillness around her, the voices drifting like insects, and the smell of bleach coming from the back room, Audrey checked to see that her converse high-tops were well tied, left her parka on the counter for Thurston to find, walked out the door and crossed San Mateo Boulevard headed south with the sun in her right eye, bearing two graphite drawing pencils in her left hand; becoming a beautiful and curving instrument as she went on her way, clothed in fleshy ivory and adapted to function in the deep cold.