Short Stories

June 20, 2016      

The Takeover by Nick Sansone

Listen to a reading of “The Takeover” by Nick Sansone.

While Noah was pre-gaming with the Tulane crew off of Carondelet, Jillian took her evening run. Her route brought her past the Convention Center as far as the Pontchartrain Expressway, where she looped around and returned northeast along Magazine, heading back to the Quarter. As she was crossing Canal, she was hit by a city bus. She was badly concussed and her femur was broken, but she was still breathing when the ambulance arrived from the hospital on Treme. Jillian had not brought any form of identification on her run. Bystanders called her “the girl who got hit,” “that poor young woman,” or “she.” The intern who immobilized her head with a cardboard brace and strapped her leg to a board referred to her as “the patient.”

***

By this time, Noah was through three Amstel Lights and a tequila shot. His crew was talking about the reconstruction effort.
      “When we were gutting, we saw this shit. Just washed filth. Dead rats. People’s tax records floating. Ceramics. Things that used to be alive.”
      “And the mildew.”
      “We had to do it with the respirators. Unbelievable.”
      “I remember. But that was before the girl from Hands On got put in Biloxi?”
      “Shit. Corn Flakes for breakfast, Corn Flakes for lunch.”
      “And those showers.”
      “And those Mennonites. The guy from the Islamic Relief Fund. He and the Hands On girl, or I’m thinking of the AmeriCorps kid?”
      Noah gripped the bar and realized he was drunk. He nodded for another beer.
***

They ran a glucose drip into her arm. They shone light into her pupils to see if they dilated correctly. They did not. Some of her reflexes remained intact, and this was a source of hope. The broken femur, however, was of the highest concern. Surgery would be necessary.
***

As Jillian was anesthetized, Noah and his buddies stumbled up St. Charles, which became Royal. Fake gaslights burned on brick walls. Street musicians howled. A ghost tour crept through the night. Two men in skeleton costumes whipped flaming censers about as they marched to the cathedral. Heaps of beaded necklaces hung heavy on the flabby necks of tourists. Plastic grenades rolled to the gutter while tubby blonde girls sucked cheap sugar cocktails through quirky straws.
      “I’m stopping at my place,” said Noah. “I need a coat.”
      He was through the front door and up the stairs, his crew lolling in the stairwell, spitting at mice.
      He pulled a coat from a hanger.
      “I need a coat,” he said.
      For once Jillian hadn’t left her running clothes on the bathroom floor. Thank God, thought Noah. Where was she? Saturday night usually meant drinks with…
      “It’s already ten thirty!” they hollered from the stairwell.
      Noah stomped down the stairs and back to the street, his crew fanning out into a wide wedge behind him.
      A cardboard sign by a reeking man in a baggy suit read, “I lost It in the Storm. Every Thing.”
***

They had drilled a hole into her head. A suction tube slurped out the blood from between her brain and her skull. Parts of her were breached on the operating table. Her heart continued to push blood through her arteries and into the suction tube, which whirred and gulped as they wiggled it inside. Blood collected in a sturdy plastic sac and became medical waste.
***

Electronic Takeover was happening in a parking lot. There were nineteen-year-olds with big X’s on their hands. There were beers for $3.00.
      “We have to!”
      “We’re getting too old for this.”
      “We have to.”
      “The DJ sucks.”
      “All these idiot kids.”
      “The DJ bites.”
      Cover was $2.00, and the bouncers ran their hands over Noah and his buddies. They found no threat of violence. The crowd inside was loud. Boys raised their arms, reaching for the invisible. Their bodies screamed and collided. Noah bought a beer, drank it, and bought another while the DJ shuffled rhythms. Noah’s buddies bled into the crowd and jumped. Noah jumped too. He screamed and jostled strangers, who screamed and jostled back.
      A beach ball sailed through the open air above the parking lot. Somebody hit the ball to somebody else: it was important not to let it fall to the ground. Noah hit the ball, and the people around him cheered and shoved. The beat of the music continued to morph as the beach ball bounced from hand to hand, touching fingertips and launching.
      Noah’s phone emerged and sent a message to a woman who wasn’t Jillian:
      “heyy wheere are you. come out.”
***

The electric line that represented her heart spiked and dipped. They watched and frowned. The monitor beeped. Her spine was a calcified rod of electric impulses. Her heart twitched and winked at the doctor from within her ribcage. The doctor prodded her heart with his finger. The heart clenched and trembled, a muscular rodent, a venous alien. It spat blood and quivered.
***

A life-sized inflatable shark traveled atop the crowd. People screeched and batted it this way and that. Noah caught its rubbery eye.
      “You’re drunk,” said the shark.
      Noah doubled over with laughter. A pale boy with eyeliner and a bowler hat backed into Noah’s head. The two of them wobbled as the shark passed over them. Noah gave the boy a shove, and a girl elbowed him. He pushed. She pressed. He floated above the crowd and sank again.
      Noah gasped for air and pulled away from the crowd. He watched the shadow of the rubber shark bobbing atop the waves.
***

Her body stopped working. Her heart was no longer a trembling mouse. It was a still, wet sponge. It was a piece of meat. The doctor pulled the suction tube from her head. The nurses turned off the cardiograph. They snapped off their gloves. Orderly, they filed out to scour their hands clean, to peel off their scrubs.
      The body lay, its interior exterior. The fluorescent lights above droned as if bees, waiting for assistants to come with buckets of disinfectant, with needle and thread, with the portable radio crackling blues, with words about weekend plans and delayed paychecks. They would come to restore order.
***

Noah’s phone buzzed in his pocket. His stomach turned somersaults. An inflatable squid lurched through the crowd. Its tentacles squirmed underfoot. Noah looked for his crew and saw blurry faces. He tripped on a tentacle and fell against a body. People screamed as the squid was brought down. Noah was pushed against it. People screamed and grabbed handfuls of plastic. The squid popped and deflated. People screamed as they shredded the squid. Noah ripped. He raised a scrap of pink plastic over his head and screamed. People trampled the squid and screamed. The squid was a filthy tarp. It was a tattered mat. Noah’s weeping face lay against the mat.
      Noah’s phone continued to buzz. A leap in his guts sent him to his feet, sent him through the crowd, sent him out the door and into the night. Noah’s phone continued to buzz as his stomach emptied itself onto his feet and into the gutter. Noah’s phone continued to buzz as he wiped fluid from his face, as he sank to the ground and sat, empty, on the curb. The buzzing stopped.
      Noah checked his missed calls. Margaret. No last name. The phone fell into his lap.
      Saxophones somewhere played.
      An old man with a brush watched Noah from the street corner. He called out:
      “Rough night?”
      Noah sat with his head in his hands.
      “Shine your shoes? Hey, mister? Shine your shoes?”
      Noah sat in his vomit with his head in his hands.
      “Shine your shoes. One dollar. Hey. Please. One dollar. Only.”
      The old man settled himself on the curb next to Noah.
      “What time is it?” Noah asked.
      The old man popped his knuckles.
“Late,” he said.
      Noah nodded.
      “Yeah,” Noah said. “Late.”
      He nodded and nodded and kept nodding as the man lost interest, stretched his back, and yawned—as big as big as big as sunup.

HPIM2813About the author:

Nicolas Sansone is a recent graduate of Harvard Law School currently working in Portland, ME. He holds an MFA from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and is the author of the novels “Shooting Angels” and “The Calamari Kleptocracy.” His short fiction has appeared in a number of venues, including “Pear Noir!” “PANK,” “NANO Fiction,” “The Los Angeles Review,” and “Big Lucks.” More information is available at http://nicksansone.yolasite.com.

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