Dead rat percolates with flies at my feet. My palm pressed to the alley wall to leech cold from the brick. Teeth clamp against the headspin. Ease my way along after an acrid spit. Wait. One last wretch to clear the debt.
It all started here, in that hitch of a gag. Sour effluvium. Hash-brown backwash. Then the hurl. Like my face wants to push itself inside out. One hot two hot three hot hurtles to greatness. Vomit shouldn’t clatter with coinage in the splatter. Fifty pound notes rolled nostril-tight shouldn’t be poking their way out. But here I am, Secret Money Man, sleek man sick man money man me.
My Security paces the alley-ends, twists their necks at each wretch. I can see them squinting for the coin glints, the curled-up cash in the chunks. Can feel the limbic fray of our shared vigilance. And my skull ringing whistle-pitch with every hurl. Yeah, yeah, I’ve still got it guys, still sick as a dog. My Security are alright, as long as I’ve got enough quease in me to pay them. Extra for picking the cash out of the hydrochloric melt of gravy and chips.
The big one is a Bouncer, all hovering and sharp stares. The other one keeps me anonymous. Algorithmically invisible. Speaks visions of the Deprived holding offal up to my face and gut-punching me for bus fares. Of online forums tracing my every move, selling toilet stall coordinates to scoop through my moneymuck. Ever-connected, ever-expensive, this world — ever-cruel.
Took my phone away, too, my patterns being all detangled. No more cortisol spikes around rent time, evenings of pouring Don Perignon into delicate flutes. We sit like this now, glasses aloft in the candlelit too-quiet of a restaurant for the moneyed. The Don burns my raw throat. Security confer over a calendar; plan my next episode as oysters arrive on ice.
I haven’t rung home since we found the Sure Thing. Emetic Interventions. The Never-Not-Vom stuff. But isn’t the Don so sweet? And my rent so very, very paid? Security look up from the calendar. Surprise gifts, just for me, they say. The clever one hands me a box of antacids tied in a coy red bow.
The big one hands over a cane, a beautiful thing, its mother-of-pearl horse-head handle gazing upward. I’ll be needing these for the month ahead, they say, to adjust to walking on greener grass.
About the Author
Oliver Rose Brown is a poet and prose writer living in Meanjin. Their work has appeared in Aniko Press, Bareknuckle Poet, Baby Teeth Arts, and more.