Candy-coated Hell

Desert storm” by Dave Hensley on Flickr.
“And why the hell not?”

Coleman sat with two feet dangling off the edge of a rusted beam, 50 feet in the air. His right hand was curled into a loose OK, a bright white bottlecap notched between his thumb and index finger.

“I bet I could hit ’em. How much if I do?”

“Don’t. It’s too hot out here for that shit.”

Brown took a swig from a sweating bottle of Valu Plus water to make his point, “Let them do what they do. We got five minutes ’til we’re done and I’m not trying to hear shit from the PS tagging us as the assholes ‘agitating the protesters’.”

Coleman paused for a good second or two before grinning and flicking the cap anyway. It made an almost-sound as it sailed smoothly through the air and landed in a patch of shrubbery some yards short of the protest line. He grunted and rubbed his hand across his pants leg, “Sweaty fingers. Fuck this heat, though.”

Brown snorted, “Negro, this is the desert.”


“Dry heat. Blame something else for your sweaty-ass fingers.”

“Whatever,” Coleman peered into his lunchbox for something else flight-worthy and frowned at the collection of crumpled wrappers. “You using that cap?”

Brown’s response was to screw it back onto his water bottle and stand up to get a good view of the protesters, not that it made much of a difference up here. It’d started with the shouts, the megaphones, the signs: “Tear it Down”, “THIS is What We’re Paying For?”, and the memorable “Fuck for Open Borders” held by a topless woman of forty that was no doubt in for a diagnosis of skin cancer somewhere down the line if she kept that shit up. Now they just sat there. The woman had put on a shirt.

“Doesn’t bother you? Them just sitting there?”

“Creeps me out is what it does,” Coleman joined him and Brown wondered blandly whether he should get a good handhold on the chunk of metal jutting up next to him. Coleman was a big fan of the fake push. Those on the receiving end of it generally weren’t.

Coleman instead pointed towards a circle of blackened sand that the people on the ground, despite their numbers, had left empty, “You see that shit when it happened? I’m thinking the dude is so hot he’s taking himself a bath, especially with those goddamn robes. Then fwoosh. Motherfuckers around him didn’t even run, like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to maintain a respectful distance while this dude is burning down.’”

Brown in fact hadn’t, having been enjoying an extended session of Jewel Crusher in the air-conditioned bathrooms of the office at the foot of The Wall. He’d heard almost as soon as he stepped out, though.

“You see that?”

“Damn near had to scrape him up to get him in the ambulance.”

“Fucking insane, man.”

There’d been stone silence in the week since. Not that the sound had carried all that much in the first place up in the sky, but now it was just… Creepy was actually a good word for it. The protesters had remained seated and wordless, passing bottles and food between themselves and giving off the impression that they were watching you specifically.

They stood quietly for a minute before Coleman spoke, “Anyway, man. Payday’s today. You coming out tonight? Bri’s been asking after you.”

Brown dropped the water bottle in his lunchbox and bent down to close the lid.


They were already on their way down before the horn sounded.
Written by Aaron Gratton of Comatose.

Comatose is a weekly series of amusing anecdotes, insightful commentary, and pithy stories. Every week three contributors are featured in short segments. The segments, though often unrelated, are tied together using music and narration to set the scene. Relax and enjoy the ride while listening to topics as varied as love, birthdays, and reciprocity.

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