Sometimes Ken Weene writes to exorcise demons. Sometimes he writes because the characters in his head demand to be heard. Sometimes he writes because he thinks what he has to say might amuse or even on occasion inform. Mostly, however, he writes because it is a cheaper addiction than drugs, an easier exercise than going to the gym, and a more sociable outlet than sitting at McDonald’s drinking coffee with other old farts: in brief because it keeps him just a bit younger and more alive.
Ken’s stories and poetry have appeared in numerous publications and he has a number of books which can be purchased on Amazon.
More about Ken can be found at his http://www.kennethweene.com
“Where’d you put it?” Bright asks.
No way I’m answering. I’ve thrown it in the river, under the bridge, where my dad once told me trolls live. They don’t; least not anymore. Maybe then, when he was a kid. Of course, they weren’t real trolls; more likely tramps, sleeping rough and cooking spuds and dogs on trashcan fires. Hard luck folks with hard luck lives; I’d heard about them, about then, about before the Uprise. Not real trolls looking for kids to eat or for people to suck dry.
Now, we got junkies scratching imaginary bugs and jonseing. Syntelium: miracle drug for depression, mania, anxiety—you name it Synt will fix it. Nobody saw the other side, the problems, the wasted lives, the mindless need, the inability, or the seizures. If it weren’t for the seizures, the government might just have kept supplying Synt. Warehouse a generation, like my folks and Bright’s.
We aren’t brothers. Folks think we are. Because we look alike. My skin’s the color of his freckles and both our eyes kind of round and off to the sides. The house rules mean we dress the same and our hair’s cut the same. So, if we’d come to your place asking for recycles, yeah, you might figure we’re brothers, which folks think is cute, and which may explain why we collect more reusables than the other kids.
That’s our make-shit-up job. All of us from the house. It isn’t like we’re needed. Nobody’s needed. Maybe letting people die, letting the Synt do its evil, maybe that would have made sense after all.
Monica doesn’t like when Bright and I talk that way. She says life’s precious. Old enough to be our moms, Monica hates to hear the pain we feel, any of us. Hell, what else can we feel? It isn’t like we’ve got options. “The future ain’t nothing to look for.” Bright had written that on the wall of our dorm.
“You think that makes you look smart?” Burke had asked. “You ain’t so bright.” That’s how he got his name. His real name’s Benjamin, but who needs a Benjamin when you can have a Bright and make jokes about how dim he is?
“Where did you put it?” he asks again.
I got to say something. “I threw it.”
“Why?” “Where?” “We gotta get it back.” He machineguns his demands.
“Nah.” I cross the street.
“You got any idea who much we could sell—”
“To who?” I cut in. “Who do you know we can sell it to? It ain’t like it’s legal.”
Guns haven’t been legal for a long time, not since the Uprise, not since they decided to give folks meds; keep everyone calm. Well, not everyone, but everyone like Bright and me and Monica, and Burke, and well everyone we know. After Synt, they came up with other stuff. With Easy feelings ain’t as good, but those pills keep things cool.
Guns? Who needs guns? It’s fine; ain’t it fine?
Course, we don’t get those good Synt feelings, but the stuff we get is safe. You don’t want more. You don’t want less. You don’t get upset. You don’t want to shoot nobody. You just get by. I mean, we collect recycles and live at the house and Bright and me we get by. Which is better than my folks.
Yeah, like they say, it’s fine.
Still, life nags; it just nags at me. Sometimes I wonder where they went. Not that I don’t believe what Monica says. Yeah, Mom’s dead, but where did she go? And Dad?
“He’s wandering,” Burke tells me with the assurance that comes from being low man on the totem pole, which is still higher than Bright or me. Yeah, Dad, he’s out there on the wander, living rough.
Somedays I go to the bridge to look. Maybe he’ll be there. Course, I won’t recognize him if he is. Still, I feel something … safer. Even though they’re scratching and jonesing and complaining about the Synt they can’t get, I feel safer. Maybe, maybe, it’s because I’m thinking Dad will be there.
When I got a problem, I go to the bridge and hang. Which is why I took the gun there. I didn’t want any trouble. I didn’t want the coppers finding that thing in my pocket when they stopped us.
They stop us all the time. I tell them I’m doing recycles and show them the pass. Usually, they let us go. Sometimes they search us. Once in a while, they take what we got. Some stuff ain’t just recycle; some of it’s got cash on it. I guess the cops take it to the same place Burke does. Not like a copper needs my money but they still take it.
So, where would Burke have taken that gun? If I knew that, maybe I’d have kept it. Maybe I’d have tried selling it. Maybe and maybe. Either way, I figure Bright and me we’re better off without. When that lady let me empty her attic, there was stuff I didn’t want nothing to do with. That gun: yeah, I didn’t want that thing.
I figure I did Bright and me a favor. Course, he doesn’t agree.
“You threw it?” Bright won’t give up.
“You got any idea what we could have done with that money?”
Truth is I don’t. I mean what would I do with it anyway. Not like I can go somewhere. Not like there are things we can do. I’d probably take it down to the bridge and see if Dad was there. Yeah, that’s what I’d do, look for Dad and give it to him so he could buy some Synt.
He’d get himself some Synt, and me. I close my eyes for a minute to imagine. Dad, me, maybe Bright. We’re all under the bridge and we’re all happy as shit, and we’re all having seizures. Maybe something real happens. Maybe we turn into trolls.