Please, Wear a Jacket.
“Please wear a jacket, Dougie. It’s getting cold out.”
“Shut up, mom!” he shouted as he slammed the door behind himself. He was headed to Dead Market, a hipster trading site popular with teenagers where all sorts of items were bartered and traded away in the new economic style of commerce.
Marcus was waiting for him in the front yard.
“You don’t wear a coat?” he asked.
“let’s go,” Dougie said.
The early fall weather was indeed cold enough for at least a light jacket, especially since they were walking, and Doug had to control his shivering.
Marcus teased him. “I told you to bring a jacket. Got cold didn’t it?”
“You’re not my mom. Shut it, we’re going to be inside most the time anyway.”
“I was going check out mag-sled parts, actually. you know, outside.”
“Fuck, dude! You’re never going to get that old heap running. You should borrow your dad’s sled.”
“Yeah, tell that to him,” Marcus snorted. “If I ever get that thing running he said he’ll double what I can get for it as a trade. Then I can get a Glideback and look so cool that even your sorry ass can get a date from the passenger seat. But until then, it’s walking to the bus stop for us.”
Doug punched him in the arm playfully. “Fuck you. I’ll get a jacket at the market.”
“Oh, you got cash? Hook a nigga up with a loan and we won’t have to walk anymore.”
“Don’t make me hit you again, Marc.”
Their conversation made the cold bearable and Dougie’s shivering subsided as his body acclimated to the temperature. But he was still uncomfortable. Entering into Dead Market, however, he saw something that made him even more uncomfortable than the cold. Just beyond the entry gates, stood a group of 5 teenagers, among them he recognized Jerry, Dougie and Marcus’ much larger bully of a classmate. Dougie gently tapped Marcus’ arm to alert him of their rival’s presence. Just as Marcus looked up and saw the group standing nearby, Jerry turned his thick neck and noticed them.
“Fag buddies shopping together” Jerry mocked them as he approached, clearing the distance between them much more quickly than Dougie thought was possible. “Shouldn’t he be holding your purse,” Jerry motioned towards Marcus.
“Let’s just go,” said Marcus.
Dougie was petrified. He couldn’t move. Not out of fear, but from sheer rage, and from the frustration of knowing that there was nothing useful he could do with his rage. He couldn’t beat Jerry up, and even if he could, there were two other guys with him, ready to jump in if ever their leader needed help. He could see Bruce and Shane standing ready a short distance behind Jerry.
“You see my colleagues back there” Jerry asked. “And I know you know Meredith.” He smiled. “Don’t even think about fucking with any of us. And stop looking at Meredith.” He shook his forefinger right in Dougie’s face as he spoke. “It’ll be easier that way. She won’t have to embarrass you, and I won’t have to break your face on my fists.”
Dougie unconsciously balled his fists up tightly, even though he was trying hard to hide the anger building inside of him. But he knew that he couldn’t.
“Oh, what are you gonna do,” Jerry asked. “Murder us? Like your dad would?” He backed away, slowly and deliberately, as if to make his stinging words sink in and fester.
Dougie’s rage crackled within him, standing him on edge, leering towards the group of bullies as if he wanted to pounce into them and tear them apart one at a time. Marcus’ hand landing solidly upon Dougie’s shoulder shocked him back to reality.
“Just forget them. Maybe we won’t even see them anymore” He said, watching the bullies walk away laughing.
Dougie relaxed and told Marcus, “Go check out the sled parts, man. I’ll be fine. I’m gonna go inside find something cool to wear.”
Dougie felt his embarrassment subside as he walked into the heated interior of the market stalls. The make-shift walls were lined with all sorts of trinkets and gadgets that no one really needed. There were clothes and toys and leather belts and cheap swords and throwing stars imported from China. All the sorts of stuff that appealed to teenagers with low impulse control and a shoe-string budget.
Dare-trip hip-hop blared out at various intervals within the vast complex of interconnected stalls. Macey Moon, Stripper Pole Seven, all the radio stuff that was popular with the teenagers. Dougie and Marcus didn’t appreciate the mass market shit. They liked the rare dark-tracks that were only available for listening on Trashnet, the underground Internet black market. Most of it was pretty benign angsty teenage music, but there were some tracks beholden of a darkness that bordered on evil in both lyric and in tone. The most popular of those acts was a band called Brimstone Blunt, whose grinding, driving beat, the tell-tale tattoo of a song called Blaze 'em All, Dougie could hear being played from a lonely stall, shoved off into the corner of the Dead Market complex. It was manned by an ancient-looking tweaker, nodding his head to the beat, his long gray strands of hair frantically thrashing about as he did so.
The crowd cleared out momentarily, leaving Dougie briefly alone. As he stood there, surrounded by the parting waves of shoppers like a rock in a stream, the old tweaker’s constant head motions resolved somehow onto him. An iridescent eye, yellowed over by drug, drink and smoke peeked out from behind those dull gray bangs and met with Dougie’s eyes, saying “come here, boy.”
The stall sold clothing, which included jackets, as Dougie could see. So he approached, looking longingly at the hanging rows of Brimstone Blunt jackets, dingy white garments styled closely after straitjackets in design and splattered with artificial blood.
“You a Blunt head?” the old man asked. Dougie nodded, feeling the fabric of one of the hanging jackets. “well, knock yourself out kid. If you wanna try something on, just fucking grab it.”
“Thanks,” said Dougie, stripping a jacket down from the racks. It was a little big for him, and the arm straps hung lower than he liked, but putting it on made him feel awesome. It wrapped around him, snugly but freely. As he looked down, he realized that the blood splatters weren’t the same screened-printed motif that decorated every other Brimstone jacket he had seen. Rather, it was a unique pattern, splattered carefully and deliberately onto it in simulation of real blood. Just like the authentic one worn by members of the band.
“Put your hands in the pockets.”
There were knobs and buttons sewn into the fabric. When Dougie pressed one of them, a Brimstone Blunt song began to play directly into his ears, even though he hadn’t tuned his ear-chip in to any frequency, or interfaced with the jacket in any way.
“Fuck yeah!” He nodded he head. “Blood Sermon!” As Dougie rocked away to the beat, the gray man smiled from behind danging strands of greasy hair.
He had to shout to continue the sale pitch. “It’s got an inductive IP receiver that automatically interfaces with most audio chips. You don’t even need phones, it’s all wave conductive.”
Dougie nodded as he fumbled about to find the “stop” button. “How much?”
“Find your size first,” the old vendor laughed. Dougie unraveled himself from the folded sleeves and reluctantly removed the large jacket. The man held out a different one, noticeably smaller, more suitable to Doug’s small frame, and said “five-hundred.”
“Ummm… three-fifty. That is literally the best I can do.”
The old man eyed the boy up and down, taking in his worn clothing and shoes before sympathetically saying “for you, three-hundred, but don’t tell anyone.”
Dougie smiled back at the man. “Thanks!”
“When I was your age, I had a lot of problems too. Music helped me get through them. Stay cool and keep your head up, kid. I’m sure you’re going to do just fine.”
Dougie took his Dyna-cred card back from the smiling man and nodded to him with regard, turned and walked away from the stall and back into the thick crowd of teenage shoppers. He turned back briefly, looking once more in the direction of the old man and his stall, but the man had disappeared, leaving the stall and it’s rows of hanging blood-stained jackets all alone.
“Daaaaaamn, man!” Marcus exclaimed when he saw Dougie in the new jacket. “Is that a show version? How the hell did you afford that?”
“The guy cut me a deal” Dougie smiled.
“I’ll bet it’s a fake. Good quality, though. Strap into it! I want to see what it looks like!”
As Dougie activated the strapping mechanism inside the jacket’s pocket, he happened to take notice of Jerry and his gang off in the distance. The straps tightened, pulling his arms in and around his sides, and his feelings of rage came back to him, stirred on by suddenly being reminded of the bullies. It was hotter, stronger than before. He felt the shock of white hot rage swell up within him and for a brief moment he fought against the strapping, pulling at them with all his might. Blood Sermon began to blare once again, directly into his inner ear.
Just as he thought that the straps were about to give, and his arms would rip forth with all the power of his rage, the other kids disappeared behind a wave of shoppers, and the rage instantly subsided.
“That… was fucking cool” Marcus said slowly as he came into view. Dougie stopped the music and released the straps to let his arms hang down at his sides as normal. “Your eyes, man. They were on fire. Like in the Blood Sermon vid. I’ve never seen you like that before.”
Dougie shrugged, not really understanding what had happened himself, and a bit embarrassed again. “I just really like this jacket, I guess.”
When Dougie got home, his mom complained about the jacket as soon as she saw him wearing it.
“That’s not what I meant by wearing a jacket!”
“Mom, it’s just a band, and they’re really awesome.”
“You look like murderer. Like a deranged madman. Not my son.”
“Don’t say that!” Dougie cried out. She hadn’t meant to say it, he knew, but she knew what the words implied, and that they had hurt him all the same. He stood silent before her, eyes locked with hers as she struggled to take back the painful thing she had just sad, knowing that she couldn’t.
Holding back his tears, Dougie turned away from his mother and ran out of the house.
He was gone for most of the night. He spent the time at the local water reservoir. It was the place that he always went to when he was feeling lonely or saddened, or just wanted to go let off some steam. Lots of old drunks congregated there, and they didn’t care. They also left a lot of emptied 40-oz liquor bottles that Dougie and Marcus could throw and break to safely let out their anger. Marcus didn’t show up that night, though. It was just Dougie, alone with his music, the ripping mega chords of Brimstone Blunt’s special blend of Dare-Trip Hip-Hop injected directly to his ear drums, loud, pounding and real. The music was vividly real to Dougie. The erratically moving beat, and the psycho acoustic lyrics that accompanied it:
*step outside in your mind
(for a moment)
and give testament to your pain.
(they can see it now)
Strip away your sanity,
(it's all gone now)
so all that's left is rage.
(It's all that's still there)
Listen to my blood sermon,
blood sermon ... *
Those lyrics seemed to fill him as he listened. They became one with his pulse, throbbing within his veins so powerfully that he could feel each one of them, pounding from his head, down through his body, to his feet. His mind took him away as he imagined the the scenes the lyrics described, telling their story to a driving, metal-edged beat. A hallucination took over Dougie that he imagined as his rage personified, like in the music.
He imagined Jerry’s smiling face, and the other boy’s along side it, also smiling. He imagined how their faces screwed up into distorted grimaces of sheer terror as they realized what Dougie wanted to do them all. Images flickered within his mind as he throbbed to the beat: the bottles, breaking; Jerry’s bloodied face; Bruce and Shane screaming in terror right alongside Meredith and her friend.
Dougie had liked her since elementary school, but they had never been anything besides friends, and even that was a long time ago. Even though liked her so much and for so long, he couldn’t ever imagine her face. Until now. It was vividly portrayed in his violent hallucination as he mutilated the faces of his bullies. She was screaming in terror for him to stop. “Please stop,” she begged him. And the last thing he remembered was her tear-streaked face, spattered with her boyfriend’s blood, as Dougie reached his hand into his pocket and pressed ‘stop,’ ending the music and his trance as he came to, shivering on the shore of the lake.
He didn’t remember tightening up the straps, but his arms were bound to him as he stood up to walk back home. His hand was cut, probably on one of the stupid beer bottles he had thrown. He didn’t care, he just walked, unthinking, until he reached his home, went immediately up to his room without saying a word to his mother, and fell asleep.
He slept until morning. When he awoke, he discovered that the cut on his hand must have been worse than he’d first thought. There was blood everywhere. His pillow and sheets were stained with it, and of course he also got it all over his new jacket, which he had slept in.
“Damn, I already got it dirty” he said. His own blood clashed with the bright red color of the artificial blood that decorated it. His was brown, dried up and flaky. As he scraped some of it off with his fingernail his mother knocked on his door.
“Dougie, I want to talk to you about last night before you leave. I’m sorry for what I said.”
“Just leave me alone” he shouted back, as gently as he could. He wasn’t really angry with her anymore. She had just been angry herself, he realized, and spoke before thinking. He forgave her. He wasn’t really angry at anything anymore. Or at least he found himself a bit less angry at Jerry and the other boys, and at his life in general.
His mind immediately drifted back onto Meredith and he tried to remember her face like he had done last night. But he couldn’t. All he could conjure was an indescribable blood-splattered face, and not the lovely girl he knew her to be. He shrugged to himself as he got out of bed, thinking that things had gone back to normal. Once again, he had lost her, her face buried away in a slideshow of memories still tinted red with rage.
He put away his thoughts of Meredith and the previous night’s events and went to clean himself up and go see what Marcus was up to. He showered, and then took his jacket, the blood-stained sheets and pillow down to the wash room, passing by his mother in the front room watching television as he went.
“Dougie, come watch this with me. It’s horrible.”
He always had his mother tuned out, but he picked up on something accompanying her voice that made him listen. It was the television, the news reporter’s voice that came from it, saying:
“… startling breaking news, as police officers reveal that they suspect the four bodies found this morning mutilated at a nearby water reservoir are likely those of the four local teenagers who went missing last night. Police are baffled by the sudden gruesome crime…”
Dougie froze in place. He was just about to drop his jacket into the wash, holding it by one of the straps which seemed to tighten, ever so slightly, around his wounded hand as he let it fall into the swirling, soapy waters of the washing machine.