Harold’s hands trembled. No junk remained. He tore through the bankers boxes of what little stuff he had left, what he hadn't pawned or unloaded online, and overturned piles of unwashed clothes, rifling through the pockets.
He’d have to go out scrapping again, see what he could find and get for it at the salvage yard. He grabbed his keys and hacksaw and bounced out the door.
Harold strode down the street, scanning for anything metal that might have value. Overhead, the power lines buzzed. He heard someone, some straight-up legend, jacked them in downtown Gary and sold them for scrap, but didn’t know how they pulled that off without being electrocuted.
Then it loomed up above him, glinting under the streetlight, a towering bronze statue of a Polish Revolutionary War general on horseback. It was huge. He could get a fortune for it, score enough to stay right for months, maybe years. It was a lot of metal they could melt down.
Harold looked around. The streets were empty. Moonlight reflected in lonely puddles.
Huffing in to gird himself, he scaled the pedestal and started sawing away. It was rough, repetitive work that drained him of every ounce of strength. It was so taxing he had to take breaks, before his burning need for junk got him back at it.
Suddenly, the statue began to teeter.
Finally, he thought, leaping back to safety before realizing too late the toppling statue was bearing down on him. There was no time to react, and he would've been too bone-tired to dodge the tumbling general anyway.
Everything went black.
When he roused maybe hours later, he was pinned under the statue of the general. His cheek felt damp, then he saw his face was surrounded by a pool of blood. An arm was bent out of shape, and his legs were insensate. He was hyperventilating, felt his rib cage was crushed. Maybe a rib punctured a lung. Every breath was labored.
“Why, why, why?”
Harold replaced the scenario in his head over and over, running through all the ways he could have avoided such a terrible fate. But there was no undoing it now. Second-guessing wouldn’t get him anywhere.
No one was around. It was night, and he was in the middle of a desolate park in an isolated neighborhood where half the homes were vacant or burned down. He had to think. He needed a plan for how to extricate himself. He needed...
“Well, what do we have here?”
Frack, it was Husky. He was a killer. They called him Husky because he had kicked a dog to death. He once killed a man too, and got caught trying to dump the badly beaten corpse after-hours at the marina. Did some time, now he dealt but consumed his own product. He lived more or less like a vagrant and wasn't right in the head. Everyone in the neighborhood knew.
That kid Zach, from the Harbor, was with him. They circled around Harold like coyotes, not that he was going anywhere.
“Get his phone.”
Zach started tearing through Harold’s pockets but didn’t turn up anything.
“You got to have something man,” Husky said. “We need something if we’re going to get you help, something for our troubles.”
“The statue,” Harold croaked weakly. “The statue, I liberated it for you.”
“Shoot, what are we going to do with that?” Husky asked. “That’s probably like 10 tons. Ain’t no way we can haul that off. Besides, who’s going take that. Who’s going to melt that down?”
“The statue. It’s yours.”
Husky scanned around, then directed Zach to go grab an oil pan out of a pile of litter.
“You're bleeding everywhere, man. Your plasma, we’re going to take your plasma,” he said, brandishing a needle. “We can sell that down at the new plasma center down on 34th Street, make this worth our while.”
“What are you talking about, that's crazy.”
“Nah, my cousin sells his plasma all the time, gets $30 a pop. It's like straight cash for blood. And blood is free. Look at all this goddamned blood, just going to waste.”
“You're crazy. They're not going to just accept some random blood off the street.”
“This is dumb. This is crazy,” Harold shouted, before he was wracked with a shuddering pang. He wheezed in pain.
Husky drove his first into Harold's jaw, bouncing the back of his skull off the concrete.
Zach started trying to mop the blood from the pool into the oil pan with a wadded-up newspaper, while Husky jammed the needle into Harold’s shoulder and drew more out.
“You don’t need it, man,” he said gently. “You’re going to get a ton of fresh blood at the hospital if you make it. They’ll fix you right up with all the blood you need, all the blood you could ever dream of.”
“They'll take good care of you. That's what they do at hospitals. They...”
A patrol car slowed, flashed its lights. Husky and Zach scuttled off, with dank crimson splashing out of the oil pan.
“Hey, what the hell,” a cop bellowed, looking down over Harold. “What the fresh hell did you do to General Kościuszko?”“I… I…”
Too late, more scrap on the heap.
About Joseph S. Pete:
Joseph S. Pete is an award-winning journalist, an Iraq War veteran, an Indiana University graduate, a book reviewer, a photographer, and a frequent guest on Lakeshore Public Radio in Merrillville who lives in the Chicago metropolitan area. He is a 2017 Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee who was named the poet laureate of Chicago BaconFest, a feat that Geoffrey Chaucer chump never accomplished. His writing and photography have appeared or are forthcoming in more than 100 literary journals, including Dogzplot, Stoneboat, The High Window, Synesthesia Literary Journal, Steep Street Journal, Beautiful Losers, New Pop Lit, The Grief Diaries, Gravel, The Offbeat, Oddball Magazine, The Perch Magazine, Rising Phoenix Review, Chicago Literati, Bull Men's Fiction, shufPoetry, The Roaring Muse, Prairie Winds, Blue Collar Review, Lumpen, The Rat's Ass Review, The Tipton Poetry Journal, Euphemism, Jenny Magazine, Vending Machine Press and McSweeney's Internet Tendency. He once got his nose broken in a fistfight, believes the secret to good cooking is to add more olive oil and overuses the "rule of three" in his writing.