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Distilled Spirits: Ch. 6 — Geno

August 26, 2013

What is Distilled Spirits?

Episode 2: “Troubled Times”


“I can’t tell you,” Geno said and gripped the bottom of his seat.

The 38x dodged around an idling taxi cab and threw a few tourists against bus windows, but the New Portsmouth residents and Destroyer fans were already preparing for the next double parked car.  One man in a business suit and baseball cap wasn’t holding onto anything—the bus slammed the brakes at a surprise stop sign and he only shifted his weight while reading the newspaper, changing pages.

They accelerated and a wave of momentum passed through the packed bus, all the way to the back where Geno and Glenn sat, lucky to get seats after the game.

It helped that they killed time at 18th Amendment Brewery after the Destroyers lost.

“I can’t tell you,” Geno repeated.

“Why not?” Glenn said.

“Because you’re Glenn, and there’s no limit to your Glenn-ness.”

The 38x picked up speed as it headed north through Downtown.  Very few fans could afford to live around here, and they flew by each stop and disappointed person eying the full bus.  Not too many people were waiting—it was still an hour until regular people’s jobs ended..

“It has to do with this month’s rent, doesn’t it?”  Glenn said, elbowing Geno in the side to get his attention.

There was a girl sitting across from them.  She was smooshed between two huge, overflowing fans who jabbered over her small body.  The two sounded married and Geno couldn’t guess how they managed to get separated.  This girl though–Geno recognized her.  Seen now when the bodies between them shifted—she was a young woman actually, wearing the team’s colors with a scorebook on her lap.  Her short hair barely came out of her cap.

She cocked her head when their eyes met, like she was wondering the same thing that Geno was.

Glenn poked him again.  “Sidney’s rent this mon—”

“How did you know about that?” Geno said, blinking.  A few more boarded the bus and he couldn’t see anything but faceless people.  He couldn’t even see out the windows, just catching a glimpse of buildings too large to be anywhere but still Downtown.

“Caitlyn mentioned something about money maybe being tight this month,” Glenn said.

“She’ll handle it,” Geno said.

“When has Caitlyn ever handled anything?”

“She got me a job once.”  Geno forgot about the girl, remembering a few unique weekends he once spent at other people’s houses.

“Yeah,” Glenn said, “a job as a house sitter who sang to plants.”

“There are a lot studies, you know,” Geno said, “studies that support—”

“You told me that you sang game show theme songs.”

Geno turned to Glenn—as much as he could in his seat—and pointed a finger at his friend’s chest.   “There’s very few people who know as many as I do.  If—” He recognized the look on Glenn’s face and sat back.  “You’re not going to leave me alone until I tell you.”

“No,” Glenn said.

Geno checked his phone.  They might be nearing where he needed to be.  He caught a glimpse of a Turkish restaurant he thought he knew and the number ‘2’ on a street sign.

“Okay,” Geno said.  “You know Sidney’s boss? The guy he’s worked with a few times?  Well, it turns out he’s definitely—like, 100%—a racist.”

Glenn’s mouth fell open.  “You mean that Burger Palace guy—the guy who hooked us up with free shakes?”

“Yup,” Geno said.  “Full-blown bigot.”

“And Sidney’s still working for him?” Glenn asked.  “How did he find out?”

“He hasn’t decided yet,” Geno said.  “It’s a paycheck, you know, with actual royalties this time.”

“I’ve gotta talk to him,” Glenn said.  “He knows better than to—”

Geno thought he heard the muffled automatic voice announce his stop and he stood up.  Everyone was moving, pulsating toward the back door.  He twisted and tried to see if the girl was still there.

“Listen,” Geno said over his shoulder, “this is exactly why I didn’t want to tell you.  Just let him be.  I’ll see you tonight.”

Geno wasn’t even sure if his last words were heard—as one, the passengers decided it was time to leave, and a split second before the doors actually opened, Geno was pushed forward and he spilled out onto the sidewalk.  Triple-tapping his pants to check for his wallet, phone, and keys, he turned to watch the door but it closed without letting the girl out.  Geno caught a glimpse of the seat where she had sat—empty.

Glenn smiled down at him as the 38x bolted toward a stop sign twenty feet away.

“Damnit,” Geno said, pretty sure that he would regret telling Glenn anything at all.

Geno glanced around and looked up—he was standing beneath the Horizon Lines Building, the largest building in the city, exactly where he needed to be.  He probably resembled a tourist as people streamed around him, craning their necks to see whatever he was looking at.  After another person bumped into him, Geno entered the building to get out of everyone’s way.

He was meeting one of his employers, Peter, in a cafe on the ground floor.  And Geno was only a few minutes late when he spotted Peter sitting near the windows, people watching with great interest.  After paying for a small coffee, Geno took a seat where they could both watch the sidewalk.

“See anything good?” Geno asked.

“Nah, pretty dull,” Peter said.  “A couple of cops were hassling this homeless guy for a bit.  Thanks for meeting me, by the way.”

“Was it Crazy Man Joe?”

“Who?” Peter asked.

“Nevermind.”  Geno popped the top off his coffee and inhaled deep.

“Look,” Peter said, not smiling, “I know I told you that I had this sweet landscaping job for you—”

“What happened?”

Peter closed his mouth, forgetting whatever he was about to say.  “I gave it to someone else.”

“Someone else?”

“Yes,” Peter said.

“You found another Cubo-Futurist landscaper?”

“Yes,” Peter said.

“You found another Cubo-Futurist landscaper, and they’re better than me?”

“Yes,” Peter said.

Geno blew on his coffee for a few seconds, and tried a sip.  “What’s his name?”


“His name is a letter?” Geno said, raising an eyebrow.  “I lost out to a letter?”

“Sexist,” Peter muttered.  “That’s what she called herself, anyway.  A lot of the Russian Cubo-Futurists were women, you know.”

“I do know,” Geno said.  “Who’s her favorite?”

“Archipenko,” Peter answered.

“That’s a guy—and he’s Ukrainian.”

“Hey,” Peter said, “I’m sorry this happened, and I’ll—”

“Can I see her work?”


“Her portfolio,” Geno said.

“. . . I don’t have it with me,” Peter tried.

Geno stared across the table.  “Yes you do.  I know you.  It’s in your bag.”

Peter just blinked back for a few seconds, taking a sip of his coffee.  Another sip.

“Fine,” he said.  “But you won’t like it.”  He reached below the table and unzipped his backpack, taking out a thin manila folder.  He slid it across the table.

“That’s it?” Geno asked, picking up the folder.  On the outside, the artist’s information was neatly stenciled in red block letters: a giant S, followed by an address and phone number.

“That’s it,” Peter said.

Geno opened the folder and there was a single sheet of paper inside.  The page was divided into 10 or 12 boxes and in each one there was a photograph of her work.  It was all over the place—a row of bushes he thought he recognized from the park, a hedge line at a large estate, a couple private gardens.  Geno closed the folder when he recognized a living sculpture outside the Destroyer’s stadium—it was a Cubu-Futurist interpretation of their Pop-Eye-like mascot.

He slid the folder back across the table.

Peter was right—Geno didn’t like it.

“I told you so,” Peter said.

Geno didn’t like it because it was better than anything he had ever done, and he didn’t know how she did it.





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