RSS Feed

Two Guys Named Otis

Posted on Monday, August 10, 2009 in nightmares, Stories

It was 5:30 in the morning in downtown L.A. and the sun was coming up reddish-yellow over Bunker Hill. It was still quiet at this time of the morning, though soon enough the street people would be stirring.

In front of the Lucky Market, two guys named Otis were sleeping. While it was true that both of their names were Otis, neither of the men ever stopped to discuss this. In fact, they didn’t find it the least bit remarkable.

The first Otis was curled up on a little piece of cardboard near the doorway of the market. He’d been sleeping here every night for the past month or so, and he was quite happy with the spot. Meanwhile Otis Number Two was rolled up in a sleeping bag, which he’d bought for $19.95 at the Salvation Army store.

Soon, an old white Chevy pulled up in front of the market, and a short Japanese man emerged from the car. This was Mr. Wong, who owned the market. He usually arrived at this time. He enjoyed the early morning hours at the store when he could read his paper and sip his coffee without his wife nagging at him.

Otis Number Two began to stir inside his bag. He popped his wooly head up from its hiding place and looked around—just like an old groundhog—to survey the territory. He looked over at his sleeping friend. Between Otis Number One’s legs, the top of a bottle emerged.

Otis Number Two moved a bit closer. Then, very carefully, he began to inch the bottle from its resting place between Otis One’s legs.

“Hey! Whasshappenin’? Say, man—whatthemotherfuckyoudoin?!” Otis Number One was wide awake now, his old eyes popping. Both men looked at the bottle. There was only a teeny bit of liquid at the bottom. Otis Number One  unscrewed the cap and held it to his lips. He let the liquid go down slowly, holding it in his mouth and swishing it around before swallowing it with a noisy gulp.

“Say man … save sum a dat for me!” Otis Number Two said, grabbing at the bottle.

But by the time he’d gotten it, Otis Number One had emptied it’s contents.

“Sheee-it. man…how cum you wanna do me like that?” said Otis Number Two. “Sheeeiittt...” He looked very hurt, but even Otis Number One, who wasn’t particularly bright, could see that he was hamming it up.

Otis Number Two was rattling around in his pockets now. Soon he emerged with some change, which he began to count. Otis Number One watched him with great curiosity.

“Say, watchoo doin’, man?” he said.

“Gonna get me sum wine,” Otis Number Two said.And with that. he got up and went inside the market.

Inside the store. Mr. Wong sat behind the counter reading his racing form. He looked up as Otis Number Two came in. but didn’t say anything. He knew that Otis Number Two would be heading for the liquor section at the back or the store. as he did each morning. But on this particular morning. Otis Number Two felt like wandering around.

First, he went to magazine rack. He picked up a copy of Hustler and opened  it. On the first page was a picture of a dark haired girl. She was very naked. The photo was taken in a jungle setting. The girl was being carried off by an ape. Otis Number Two  noticed that the girl had huge tufts or hair sprouting from underneath her armpits. As he looked at the picture, his cock got hard. But then, he felt something peculiar…as if someone were watching him.

There, at the other end of the rack, was a youngish Mexican man wearing a green army jacket. He also had a magazine in his hand, but he wasn’t looking at it. Instead, he was looking at Otis Number Two. The man had wild, disheveled hair and coal-black eyes. There seemed to be a tiny point of light directly at the center of the eyes. But when he saw Otis Number Two looking t him, the man quickly looked down. Then he put back his magazine and disappeared around the corner.

Otis Number Two headed for the liquor section. Something in the man’s gaze had mad him feel queasy. He needed a drink.

In the back of the store, Otis Number Two selected a bottle of Thunderbird. It cost $1.35. It tasted bad, Otis Number Two knew, but it would do the trick. He took the bottle and headed for the cash register. But as he turned the corner, he bumped smack into the man in the army jacket. “Unnnnnh—sorry, man,” Otis Number Two said. Again, he noticed that the man’s eyes. They seemed to bulge when he saw Otis Number Two, then they rapidly clouded over. The next second, the man brushed past Otis Number Two and left the store, walking very quickly, as if he had somewhere terribly important to be.

Mr. Wong was waiting for Otis Number Two at the counter. He had his TV turned to a rerun of  I Love Lucy. Otis Number Two put the bottle on the counter, then plunked down some change.

Mr. Wong counted the money. It came to ninety-four cents. It wasn’t enough, but Mr. Wong just clucked his tongue and put the change into the cash register. Otis Number Two took the bottle, now wrapped in a brown paper sack, and left the store.

Outside, the sun was high and yellow. Otis Number Two knew that it was going to be a scorcher. That was the way it was down here. Freezing nights, unbearably hot days. You couldn’t win.

Otis Number Two plunked himself down next to Otis Number One. He wanted to tell his friend about the man in the army jacket with the strange eyes, but then he changed his mid. He’d just drink his drink and forget it.

Every day it was the same. The two Otises would wake up, drink some more wine…maybe have a smoke or two. Sometimes they’d talk about things…better times maybe; sometimes they’d jut sit and watch the morning pass by. For the next hour or so, they passed the bottle back and forth, saying very little to one another. It was as pleasant a way as any to pass the time.

Soon, as they would do each day, they’d stash their gear in the field next too the market and take a nice, slow walk over to the Union Rescue Mission for the noon feeding. After lunch, they’d probably sit and jaw with Father O’Reilly for awhile, for he always had a good story to tell. Later, they’d head down Main Street, maybe do little panhandling, or catch a catnap on the bench in the Greyhound bus depot. Finally, around five or so, they’d  head back to their spot next to the market and get ready for the long night ahead.

The sun glowed reddish-orange as it set over Bunker Hill. It was a quiet time… perhaps even serene. The two Otises polished off the last of the bottle, then prepared to settle down for the night. Otis Number One found his little piece of cardboard and set it down close to the doorway. Otis Number Two got out his sleeping bag.

“G’night Otis,” Otis Number One said to his friend.

“G’night Otis,” Otis Number Two replied.

Soon the two men were asleep. Otis Number One slept peacefully, snoring those big long snores of his. But Otis Number Two’s sleep was fitful. He tossed and turned. Strange images flitted through his head. Soon, he fell into a terrible dream. In the dream, it was black. Pitch black. Yet somehow everything glowed with an eerie silver hue. There was a hum in the air…a strange electric hum that began to grow louder and louder.

In the dream, Otis Number Two was hovering in the air so that he cold look down and see everything around him. He floated over the sleeping figures of himself and Otis Number One. He saw himself curled up inside the sleeping bag. He saw Otis Number One lying on his little piece of cardboard near the doorway.

Then, from out of the darkness of the doorway, a figure emerged.  At first, it was just a dark shadow. But as the figure moved under the streetlamp, Otis Number Two recognized the man with the wild hair and the popping black eyes. A knot arose in the pit of Otis Number Two’s stomach. The electric hum in the air grew louder.

The man was looking around, back and forth and over his shoulder. In his hand he clutched a brown paper sack. Otis Number Two was feeling sick inside now—sick to his stomach., as if something wanted to erupt from his guts.

As Otis Number Two watched, the man approached him. He stood over Otis Number Two, looking down at him and slowly moving his head back and forth. He was mumbling something—a kind of incantation—but Otis Number Two couldn’t tell what it was.

The hum in the air grew louder still. Now the man turned from Otis Number Two and walked over to the sleeping figure of his companion. He regarded him for a moment, then he reached into his paper bag and extracted something. Under the glow of the streetlamp, Otis Number Two saw the glint of a long, shiny blade.

The incantation grew louder. “Nimrod…magog…malakai…sheboth…bal asham narog. Balac…mag-a-reee. BALOC. NAROG. BALAC. GEDULA.”  The words grew louder—more rhythmic.

Now the man raised the long blade high over his head. “BALAC! NAROG! RAM! NAROG!”

And with that, the man plunged the knife deep into the chest of Otis Number One. As it punctured the skin, there was a distinct popping sound.

When the knife entered his body, Otis Number One sat straight up on his little piece of cardboard. “Ahhhhh!”  he yelled. “Jesus, God!” But before he could yell again,, the man grabbed Otis Number On by the hair, pulled his head back and slit his throat. Zut! Just like that. For a moment, Otis Number One’s eyes seemed to bulge out of their sockets, then his scream became a gurgle. Otis Number Two’s mouth remained open, but now no sound came out.

The man took the blade and slowly—ever so slowly—put it to his lips. He tasted the blood. Then he took the long, thin knife and held it high in the air. For a moment it glinted under the golden glow of the streetlamp. “This is for you, my Dark Father,” he said. Then he plunged the knife into Otis Number One’s left eye. In one swift motion he scooped the eyeball out of its socket. Then he cut out the other eyeball. Both eyeballs were plopped into the paper sack. Quickly the man turned on his heel and walked down the alleyway. A moment later, he’d disappeared into the shadows.

For what seemed to be a very long time, Otis Number two continued to hover over the scene. It was as if he didn’t want to disturb anything. Somehow, it seemed to him that something sacred had taken place. The next moment, he tried to wake himself, but found that he could not. He tried and tried, but he just hung there in the air. Soon he stopped trying…then quite suddenly, he felt himself fallin through one door, then another and another. With his stomach reeling, he continued to fall—down and down and down into the blackness.

The sun rose bright and yellow over Bunker Hill. Otis Number Two awoke, as he did on many days, to the sound of the street sweepers, the clang of the little bell and the splash of water as it whooshed into the street, clearing away the stench and stink of the night.

It was freezing outside, so Otis Number Two hunkered back down into his bag. He looked over at his friend who was still sleeping soundly. Then the thought  struck him that perhaps Otis Number One might have another bottle stashed.

Every so quietly,  Otis Number Two crawled out of his bag and snuck over to where his friend lay. Sure enough, he was sleeping peacefully. “C’mon, shit fo’ brains,” Otis Number Two said, shaking his friend. “Get yo’ lazy ass up.” He thought he heard Otis Number One grunt, so he pulled him by the shoulder.

It was then that he saw the face—the mouth open in a frozen scream, the red gash across the throat, and the dark, empty eye sockets. Otis Number Two stood looking down at his friend for what seemed a very long time.

“Sheee-ittt, man “ he whispered.

Then Otis Number Two turned and began walking very fast down Flower Street. He didn’t want to run, because it might attract attention. Yet soon he was running anyhow. He ran and ran and ran until he was out of breath….and still he ran. He ran until his legs wouldn’t carry him anymore. And all the while he ran, he heard the strange incantation of the dark man in the dream and he could see the man’s terrible eyes staring coldly at him from under the  streetlamp. Otis Number Two was still running when he hit Alameda Street….nearly a mile away.

Back in front of the Lucky Market, the body of Otis Number One lay curled u like a sleeping fetus on the sidewalk. When the morning street people came out, most of them simply walked right by it. Some went around the body…others simply stepped over it.

At 5:00 p.m. the body was still there. Flies were hovering over the face now, and ants had begun to feed on the empty holes where Otis Number One’s eyes had once been.

At 6:00 p.m. a police car arrived. two officers got out. One was a handsome young rookie. The rookie had dark brown hair with little flecks of gray in it. His partner was a young female officer with a blonde ponytail. The two officers went over to look at the body of Otis Number One.  Then the girl walked back to the car to talk on the radio. Meanwhile, the young rookie wrote something in his notebook. After he’d finished, both officers got in the car and left.

It was approaching dusk. Finally, a little past 7:00 p.m., a white police van arrived. Two men gout of oof the van. They went over to the body and slipped a stretcher underneath it. One man took a brown plastic bag and stuffed the body of Otis Number One into it. The bag was zipped up. Zip! it went. Then the two men hoisted the stretcher into the back of the fan and drove away.

It was nearly dark now and the streets were almost empty. A pretty little black girl—maybe eight or so—skipped along the sidewalk. She was bouncing a large, blue ball, and humming a tune that sounded almost familiar.

A drunk stumbled out of the bar across the street from the Lucky Market. He stood there, just weaving around. Then he sat down on the curb and threw up between his knees.

Soon Mr. Wong came out of the market. He slipped the padlock through the door, lit a fat, black cigar, then climbed into his Chevy and drove off.

Now the streets were barren. Save for the wail of a siren, a few blocks away, it was strangely quiet. Night had fallen in downtown L.A.

Another day had passed.

Bring on the comments

  1. hymie says:

    I wrote this about 25 years ago while sitting around the downtown offices of the L.A. Times at 3:00 a.m. I have no idea what prompted the piece…it just popped out of my typewriter. Sometimes when I used to read it I’d still feel like I was falling through a bunch of holes in the sky, but lately it seems kind of flat…like an old bottle of Vernor’s Ginger Ale.

Leave a Reply