The ‘O’ Juice

Vergil sits in his living twirling his empty ice-filled glass. He sighs. “One more. Just one more sip.” He reclines in favorite chair. Stained, tattered cloth worn at the edges and faded from years of urine, drug abuse and the sporadic romances Vergil often emptied his bank account for. Thirsty, hungry, horny and penniless, Vergil stares at the melting ice cubes. “Orange Juice,” he says, quiet and somber. “Just some goddamned Orange Juice!” he wails. He slams the glass on the creaky, moldy wood floor in his apartment. As the lights flicker overhead, he slicks back his patchy hair and stumbles to the bathroom. 

“Fuck!” Vergil screams after straining for a few minutes. The toilet paper roll is scantily clad in torn unusable scraps of Charmin. He groans and struggles to remove his left boot. “Fucking wool,” he mutters. Vergil rinses his sock and washes it with soap between uses. He snorts a line of cocaine and marches to his room. “I need more orange juice.”

He yanks drawers open and tosses clothes behind him with no regard, until finding his pistol. He struts out of his unit and then out of his building, bumping into people who know better than to do anything about it.

“Yo!” Vergil yells, stomping into Mary and Jerry’s Liquor Licking Finger Flicking Petroleum Emporium. 

“Hey… Vergil,” Mary says, rolling her eyes. She picks her ear with her third hand and rubs a streak of bronze wax on her crusty overalls. “What can we do fer ya?” she asks. “And, yew bedder nawt be thankin’ of robbin’ us ag’en. We was broke last week, two days ago, even more broke yes’erday and still broke today.” At seven feet tall, her four arms, snail-like face and silent, but frequent flatulence would make her terrifying to most people, including the police, but Vergil wasn’t most people. Hell, she wasn’t sure if Vergil was “people” at all, aside from the way he looked.

“Juice, Mary. Juice.”

“Again?! Nope. Get out.”

“I’ll pay. I have the credits,” Vergil insists.

“Yeah, our credits, Vergil. Jus’ keep em. Your theft keeps us afloat. Government don’t want no small bu’nesses thrivin’,” Jerry calls out, walking out of the room behind Mary. The cashier box and the emporium’s office are separated by a thin curtain of strings lined with beads. Jerry pops his prosthetic hand into his metal wrist and picks his wedgie. “You gon’ rob us ag’en you som’ bitch? Dang ol’ robbin’ e’ry day. Dang ol’ criminal. Nasty criminal.”

“Just juice,” Vergil pleads. He takes a deep breath and exhales. “I’m out of Orange Juice.”

Jerry rubs his liver spotted forehead and looks at Mary. She nods at Jerry as if to give him approval. He clears his throat and shrugs. “Well, we ain’t got none, but I know who does. It’s the last remaining O Juice that we know of.”

Vergil smiles and slams his hands on the plastic counter. “Give it!” he demands.

“Not so fast. You skretch our back, we skretch yers, I reckon,” Jerry says, flashing a grin. His remaining teeth are jagged and filthy with visible gingivitis along his gum line. Jerry crosses his arms and smiles at Mary. “See now, that juice be hard to come by, ya know. We cain’t jes’ be tellin’ ya h’where to get it.”

Vergil picks at his skin, plucking at unhealed scabs from his last bout of withdrawal. He picks his nose and squints. “Fine. I’ll bite. What do I have to do.”

“Just sign here and I’ll tell you the rest.”

“Fuck’s that?” Vergil asks, reaching for the contract. He pretends to examine the paper by putting it up against his face, then pulling it away. He holds it up to the light, then rests it on the counter and swallows. Vergil picks the paper back up and rotates his head.

“Yer high, ain’t ya?” Mary asks, disgusted. “Yer holdin’ it upside down.” She yanks the contract from his hands. “Look, boy, initial here, here and here,” she says, marking the lines with an x. “An’ then sign here.” She slides the sheet in front of Vergil. He leans down and tries to make sense of the characters, but puckers his lips, wiggles his nose and cranes his neck back and forth.

Jerry smacks the side of Vergil’s head. “It ain’t rocket science. Sign the damn paper and we good, boy.” He grabs the pen from Vergil’s hand and taps on the signature line. “Sign here and we’ll initial it for you. You clearly too damn wasted for e’en the most basic shit.”

Vergil snatches the pen back and mutters to himself as he signs the one-page form. He slides the paper back to Mary and Jerry.

“Alright. Good work.”

Vergil scratches his chin, “Yeah, whatever. So what do you want me to do? Rob a store, hold someone for ransom, steal some drugs?” 

“Boy, yer nuttier ‘en squirrel turds. Nothin’ like that. For the next week yer the official emissary of the Liquor Lickin Finger Flickin Petroleum Emporium,” Jerry says. He looks over at Mary who crosses all four arms then puts her face in her palm. She mutters to herself and walks into the back office.

“Fuck does that mean?”

“It means yer gonna handle a transaction that Mary and I ain’t willin’ ta do.” Jerry reaches under the counter and grabs a tube wrapped in paper, sealed by saran wrap and pieces of duct tape. “Yer gonna exchange this on Wends’dey for a loan. We would do it ourselves but we don’t have the means ta go across the country, nor we desirin’ ta deal with corporate folk.”

Vergil reaches for the package and Jerry smacks the back of his hand. “Dontcha even think about opening it!” says Jerry. “What’s in here costs more’n ten years of our hard work. This is collateral for our loan. Or more correctly, this is an offering so that we can get a perpetual, zero-interest loan. We really need it, on account of we want better stock. The better our stock and the better our selection, the better quality goods you can steal and the higher the government insurance will pay out, so it’s a win-win, dummy.” 

Vergil sighs. He inspects the package without touching it and looks up at Jerry. “Sounds like a win-win, I guess, but who’s to say I’ll deliver this piece of shit for you?”

Jerry laughs and holds up the contract. “Yer ta say based on yer signature and…” Jerry pauses and fills in Vergil’s initials. “And,” Jerry continues, “if not, you agree ta work fer the store as a minimum wage, W2 employee fer the next 30 years ta pay off what ya done stolen. And, this initial here says that ya agree if ya don’t deliver the package, or end up working as an employee, then you will happily spend the next 30 years in prison payin’ off what ya owe. An’, furthermore, this last initial says that if ya ain’t willin’ to oblige by any of the items thus far, you understand that you will be a wanted fugitive with a warrant fer yer arrest and a price on yer head of about 1.7M dollars, which is about half of what you’ve stolen from us and caused in emotional and punitive damages over the past ten years.”

“Well, if you think I’m going to abide by that you can go fuck yourself. I just want some goddamn orange juice.” Vergil says, rolling a booger between his index finger and thumb. He flicks the booger on the ground and grabs the contract. He tears the sheet. 

Jerry laughs. “That’s jes a carbon copy. Yer so high you didn’t even notice that I tore the sheet I just initialled and put it in the cash register. Yer signature on the bottom is all the confirmation we need, legally, fer this exchange to be enforceable by law. I reckon you don’t wanna get caught by the cops or come cop wannabe tryin’a make a name fer himself, or herself, or itself, whatever the hell society’s degraded itself to nowadays.” Jerry hands Vergil the package. “It’s Sunday evening. At best it’ll take ya two days of travel to get to St. Louis, or as the Cajuns call it, Saint Lewie.

Vergil puts the package under his armpit and says, “There are no fucking Cajuns in St. Louis, you dipshit.”

“Well there ain’t no O Juice in the store if you can’t secure the financial backing we need. The next train or bus, cause I know you ain’t got no vehicle and planes ain’t gone let yer janky ass on em, leave tomorrow mornin’ and they’re gonna take awhile to get from here to there so ya better get a move on.”

“Fine, just give me a backpack.” 

Jerry hands Vergil a backpack and Vergil places the package in the front pouch and secures the backpack on his back. He pulls his pistol from his waist and says, “I’m gonna take some food, some credits and some water, and don’t you dare try to stop me. And some cigarettes.”

Jerry shrugs. “Have at it. Yer the one keepin’ us afloat. Here take this too.” Jerry hands him a watch. “It’s one of those fancy, inconsiderate watches, or the i-watch. We’ve already put the location you need to get to in there and it’s going to track your movements and internal body stuff, biometrics I think they call it. If yer biometrics are out of wack, we’re gonna know yer high and there’s two prongs on the back of the watch that’ll zap the hell outta you if we think yer fuckin up. Like this.”

Vergil leaps and screams. “I got it, I got it, I’m on my way. I swear to god if I don’t have any Orange Juice by the end of the week…” Vergil walks out of the emporium and lights a cigarette. He hails a cab and jumps in. As he sits in the back seat, Vergil tinkers with the watch. 

“Where to?” the cab driver asks him.

“Howard Station on Central and 50th Street.”

The cab driver adjusts his rearview mirror and flinches when he gets a look at Vergil holding the backpack on his lap with his pistol resting on top as he fidgets with the watch on his wrist. 

“You doing anything peculiar?” the cab driver asks. He taps a sticker on his dashboard that reads ‘Pay me mine if you’re doing crime, or you’ll be doing time.’

Vergil doesn’t look up. The cab driver clears his throat and taps the sticker even harder. “So that’s how you do it,” Vergil says as the watch flashes. The cab driver lets out a forceful cough and knocks on the sticker on the dashboard. Vergil sits up and closes his eyes.

“Hey pal,” the cab driver says, tapping even faster on the sticker.

With his eyes closed, Vergil says, “Can I ask you something?” 

The cab driver says, “Sure, what is it?” as he begins driving toward the train station. His eyes dart between the road and Vergil in the rearview mirror. He continues to rest his hand near the sticker on the dashboard.

“What color is your windshield?”

“Uh, what does – what the fuck are you talking about?”

“Answer the question.”

“Uh…glass, I guess?”

“Shut the fuck up until we get to the station or it’s going to be gray,” Vergil says.

The cab driver laughs. “What does that even mean?”

“Your brain’s gray and I have a .45, idiot. What do you think it means? Now, shut the fuck up and drive.”

The cab driver puts his hands at 10 and 2 then wipes his sweat with a shoulder. He opens his mouth to make small talk, but then decides against it and clears his throat. He stares at a picture of a dog wearing a dress surrounded by what looks like puppies on drugs, on his dashboard and sighs. He scratches his pointed ears and rubs his snout and tries to keep from panting as he gets more anxious. 

“We’re here,” he says, as they pull up to the station. “That’ll be–”

“Another morning you get to see.”

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