Blake O. Kleiner’s
Living overtop his brother Conner’s nightclub, Milo Lloyd didn’t sleep. But he was already used to the insomnia from the drugs he was taking as a human guinea pig for a pharmaceutical company practicing experimental medicine on the edge of the law. They employed semi-suicidal people in their quest to bypass FDA regulations, and avoid pissing off the PETA people.
Already accustomed to the hallucinations and body sweats from his private pharmacopoeia, Milo had begun indulging in risky hobbies of self-amusement during the post-witching hours while the entire apartment pulsated with the bass from the monolithic stereo speakers below. Erroneous ads for imaginary businesses and not-quite-support groups like Tylenolics Anonymous all had Milo’s phone number inscribed at the bottom above invisible fine print. Clueless people called about their Tylenol addictions round the clock.
An incessant bell signified the first call of the night. Conner called out for his brother as he rifled through disorganized stacks of papers. The dining room table had pulled double-duty as a desk since he opened the nightclub on the first floor: The Jolly Angler. It was a septic tank for the bullshit of binge drinkers.
Responding to his brother’s shout, Milo meandered out of his bedroom, a sombrero encircling his head, one of Conner’s weatherworn Doc Martens shoes protruding from his teeth. He had been nibbling on it, tonguing its crevices, trying to place the familiar taste to a hazy memory. What was normal for Milo wouldn’t have been questioned by a dog. Conner, on the other hand, threw his arms up incredulously at the sight of his brother in a pair of boxer shorts with a gapped open crotch hole. “What the hell are you doing? Don’t eat the shoes!” A normal speaking voice was a luxury in this apartment.
Milo spat out the brown leather shoe onto the dining room table. It landed inaudibly on a stack of signed Sexual Harassment Consent forms Conner was rustling through to find a blank one for his newest hire. The forms scattered to the floor, beneath and around the table.
Milo put on a dubious smile.
“Just get the damn phone!” shouted Conner, unsuccessfully attempting to move the table. Everything in the apartment was glued, nailed, or taped down to avoid unauthorized movement during songs with a lot of bass. A cup of pens on the desk in the far corner danced to the beat of a Queen song.
Milo sashayed over to the phone and swooped the receiver up with his index finger. “Hello,” he said, stomping his shoed foot on the floor in time with We Will Rock You.
“Hi, I’d like to order a pizza by credit card,” a feminine voice said.
The line was scratchy with a suspicious clicking and garbled static, but it might as well have been Beethoven for the effect that it had on the pharmaceutically euphoric Milo. He picked up a pen, still pounding on the floor. He wrote down the woman’s credit card number on his hand and asked for her address.
That’s when the line went dead.
He shrugged and tossed the phone into the air. The receiver landed on its cradle with impossible efficiency.
Conner shook his head from underneath the dining room table, his butt poking out one side as he scrounged around on his hands and knees. He reassembled the mess of papers, and stood up, folding an unsigned form beneath his armpit before tucking in his shirt.
Milo was tap-dancing on the coffee table now, clapping his hands on his bare chest, jumping into the air, and kicking his feet out into the center splits. That’s when he crashed through the table and reduced it to kindling.
The room and music came to a dead halt.
Conner stood at the door, ready to leave the apartment for his managerial duties downstairs. He looked at his baby brother as he would a crinkled photograph of a dead relative, nibbling his cheek to hold back the tears.
“Where are you gonna end up, Milo?” Conner breathed, exacerbated. Milo could not hear him, so he inserted the words into Milo’s mouth for him: “Probably detox. If I’m lucky.”
Conner sighed with resignation and closed the door behind him as the volume of police sirens outside elevated above the ambiance. Milo laid in the rubble, watching the fun shadows cast on the ceiling by the red and blue light show in the street.