Memento Mori: Three – It’s a Shame About Ray
Alone With the Dead:
by Andrea Speed
Three – It’s a Shame About Ray
The Red Dog was a rather seedy looking all night diner, its neon limbed red sign highlighted by a blue neon clock that you couldn’t actually read until you were in about twenty feet of it. Even then, Gryphon didn’t dare look, as he was afraid to see at what point it would stop.
The inside of the diner wasn’t very crowded, with just a few scattered patrons, the décor retro-kitsch under somewhat harsh fluorescents. Formica the color of a smoker’s teeth covered the front counter and the tables in the booths, while red vinyl covered stools and seats with brushed aluminum frames, giving the place some desperately needed color. It smelled strongly of boiled coffee and congealing hamburger grease, and his stomach grumbled uneasily, not sure it was something he could take for long.
Still, he collapsed in a booth out of the way of the breeze coming from the door, and slumped back, one shoulder against the window and another against the bench seat. You should really go back to the motel, Mr. Aronofsky continued to urge. If these guys really want to meet you, they can wait until tomorrow.
I’m here now, and I can at least get a drink or something,” he muttered, picking up the laminated plastic menu and glancing at it. The text seemed to blur together, and he wasn’t sure if it was a problem with the menu or with him. He heard tinny voices coming from the kitchen, and one sounded an awful lot like David Sedaris. Was the cook listening to NPR?
He was still trying to focus on the menu when a waitress appeared beside his table, She wasn’t wearing a uniform, just sensible khaki pants and a long sleeved navy blue shirt, but she did wear a deep red apron, and a plastic name tag that said something like “Becky” on it, so he knew he wasn’t dealing with just a random customer. “What can I get you?” she asked. She had an open face and was not unattractive, with pale blue eyes and full lips, her hair a fall of dark hazel, but even if he could focus he was pretty sure she was not his type. He gave up on the menu. He was pretty sure he couldn’t eat right now, and he felt too hot at the moment to stand coffee. “Uh, just an iced tea, I guess. Large, with lots of ice.”
“Sure.” She paused, and he could tell she was giving him a funny look. “Are you all right? You look a little flushed.”
“I’m fighting a cold,” he said, pretty sure he wasn’t lying. Or maybe he was – since when did he have a cold without being a walking snot factory?
She nodded and walked away, as rain lashed against the window and made him glance out at the street. There were more cars on the street than before, but still very few pedestrians, as the storm was only easing off in increments. Most people were too smart to be out in that.
His eyes felt hot and dry, so he closed them, resting his head against the cool glass, It felt better than it probably should have.
After a moment, he realized he’d nodded off, and something made him jolt awake.
There was a man sitting across the table from him.
Gryphon had never seen the guy before; he was certainly neither Larry nor Curly. He was young too, maybe his age, with scruffy reddish brown hair and a scraggly kind of beard covering his narrow chin and hiding his upper lip like some kind of tropical fungus. A tiny gold skull earring dangled from his left earlobe, and his wardrobe was quasi punk: worn black leather jacket, black t-shirt with a slight tear in the collar, a silver necklace that looked a little like an actual bicycle chain. His eyes were a hazel green, and somewhat recessed beneath heavy reddish brows in his thin, acne scarred face. “So what is this place?” The guy asked, glancing around the Red Dog. “Some kinda restaurant?”
He just stared at him, wondering what kind of drugs he was on. “It wasn’t a café when you came in?”
The boy fidgeted in his seat, eventually stretching his legs in the booth and sitting with his back against the window. “Hell no, it was a bank. The … oh, what the hell was it? Eldorado Savings and Loan, some shit like that.”
He stared at him, wondering how that was a joke. Weren’t they supposed to be funny?
The wind outside rattled the glass in the frame, making a gritty noise, and suddenly he knew who this was. This was Ramsey Matthews, called Ray by his friends, and he had been dead for some time.
“How could they do that to me?” Ray asked, apropos of nothing. “I mean, I always knew Stan was a bit scumbaggy, but to shoot me? Shee-it, that’s a new level of scumbaggery.”
The knowledge hit Gryph like a punch to the brainpan, a flood of memories like a dam had burst. He was there when Ray, Stan, Dave, and Charlie decided to rob the bank for some quick cash, with inside help from Patty, Charlie’s girlfriend, who worked there as a teller. It was a meticulously planned robbery that went awry almost immediately, with a big guy in line getting the brilliant idea to rush Dave. Dave ended up shooting him, making a hole in his chest the size of a melon, killing him pretty quickly.
Ray freaked out – he hadn’t wanted to hurt anyone, and Stan promised him they wouldn’t, just grab the cash and go. As soon as he started freaking out, Stan told him to shut the fuck up, that everything was fine, but he knew it wasn’t. This was life in prison shit if they were caught, and considering there was a murder, it was a better bet they’d be caught now.
Maybe it was the gunshot, the screaming, or all of it, but police cars started showing up outside before Patty and Charlie had finished shoving cash into the backpack. Ray wanted to try and split out the back, but Stan suggested that taking hostages was a better idea. Ray totally lost it then, pointing out the guys in Dog Day Afternoon died after trying that shit, and when Dave started sizing up who would make the best hostages, Ray held his gun on him and told him he was fucking going, and he didn’t care what they did, but he was out. Stan leveled his gun at him and accused him of being a pussy before telling him he was all in or all out; there was no changing his mind now. Ray’s famous last words were “Fuck you,” before Stan pulled the trigger, and he was blinded by a bright flare of light from the muzzle.
“Can you believe that?” Ray exclaimed in disgust, shaking his head. “He fucking shot me! What kinda friend is that?”
Gryphon sat forward, resting his elbows on the table, letting his head fall into his hands. It was nice to feel that his skull was intact, one solid piece that had yet to be fractured by a bullet, but he still felt remarkably shitty.
What kind of idiot robs a bank with a bunch of tweaker losers, and then is surprised they kill him when he gets cold feet? Hugh snapped, and just by joining the conversation, Gryphon felt reality snap around him like a slender membrane.
Suddenly he was slumping forward against the formica topped table, not sure how a ghost had joined him without him being aware of it beforehand. He could usually feel them before they got that close to him. Fuck, was he breaking down?
You’re sick, Mr. Aronofsky insisted sternly. Very sick. Maybe you should go to the emergency room.
“No,” Gryphon insisted, sitting up just as Becky set his glass on the table, and raised her eyebrows at him. She was giving him the ‘Oh god is he completely fucking nuts’ look, which he knew so well by now that he was surprised when he didn’t see it.
“Is, uh … are you all right?” she asked, surreptitiously taking a step back from the table.
He nodded, not liking the way it felt like his brains were sloshing around, slamming up against the walls of his skull. “Fine. Sorry.”
She couldn’t even fake the placating smile well; she just went away quickly, trying to pretend she wasn’t fleeing for dear life. Under his breath, he muttered, “No hospitals, ever. Too many people have died there. Do you know what would happen to me?” He shuddered at the thought of drowning in the dead, in being completely swallowed by them and their need. It would happen; he knew it would if he went anywhere near one of those death pits.
Uh, guys, Ray asked tentatively. What the fuck is going on? How come I ain’t in the bank anymore? I don’t get it.
Shut up newbie, Ruby interrupted. Kid, you gotta get outta here. These wannabe Ghostbusters can wait.
He gulped down his tea, which tasted like that instant, granulated stuff, barely made palatable by the addition of lemon juice. It slaked his thirst and seemed to cool him down for a moment, but just a moment. He was sweltering in here, and everything was looking kind of funny, like he was staring at the world through a piece of warped glass. “I don’t get sick,” he muttered. “You guys take care of me.”
Do any of us sound like Jonas fucking Salk to you? Ruby replied harshly. Now get yer ass up and get outta here, or I’m takin’ you over.
Umm, really, what’s goin’ on here? Ray asked.
Shut up! Hugh, Ruby, Taneesha, and Mr. Aronofsky shouted, making Gryph wince.
Geeze, what’s your guys’ fucking deal? Ray replied, but he sounded cowed, and shut up after that.
He couldn’t remember how much the tea was supposed to be, so he pulled out a handful of bills and put them on the table. He was pretty sure they were just ones, but he didn’t bother to check. His head hurt – maybe due to the shouting – and he thought he could taste bile in the back of his throat. “I’m okay, I can do this,” he told them, bracing his hands on the edge of the table and levering himself up. “See? I -”
The room seemed to pitch sideways, like a ship capsizing, and he felt as light and ephemeral as a cloud. “Oh shit,” he said, as the nicely tiled floor came rushing up to meet him.