short story - PURGE INC.



I get goosebumps and the hair raises on the back of my neck which is unexpected because I’m not necessarily freaked out or anythin’ like that.  But there’s somethin’ goin’ on here.  I smell ammonia in the air, could taste it in my mouth, the top of my windpipe.  And my eyes, fuck me, they got like lacquer thinner fumes in ‘em and they sting, subtle at first but quickly gettin’ to where I gotta rub ‘em with the front of my tee shirt and I do but the chemical is on my shirt and it’s wet and I swear to you my face is burnin’ at this point with whatever this is I’m soaked with.

I scream out what the fuck is this, what the fuck is going on, I can’t see, I have chemicals on my face, is there an eyewash around this joint, probably the janitor’s closet?

Hands are on my shoulders and they must be the Chairperson’s but then there’s more than two hands because somebody’s holdin’ me in my seat by my shoulders, then somebody else by the tops of my legs and there’s all sorts of commotion, all different voices tryin’ to put in their two cents.

“He’s a Newbie, he’s a Newbie.”

“Is this your first time, son?”

“Of course it is - lookit his skin how red.”

“He’s a Newbie, he’s just come.”

“Upsy daisy, pal, let’s get him outside.”

Now countless sets of hands work together as one and stand me up then escort me bangin’ down the aisle then up some stairs.

“Step.  Step.  Step.”

And outside to the church driveway.

The summer breeze instantly cuts the heat off my skin.  I feel it especially against my bare stomach and it’s good and I yank the whole shirt off and toss it and it goes out of my hand floppin’, a slick rag.  I feel what’s left of the ammonia wetness evaporate off me right away in the sun and I just need a second.

“Give me a minute,” I tell them, blind. “Just give me a minute.”

“You heard him, let him breathe.”

“Give him some room!”

Christ what a mornin’ but I don’t say this out loud because, after all, I’m right outside a church and I still got some religion in me from when I was little.  But what’s goin’ on here, in there, in this here church, I’ve got no idea.  Sure, I’m blinded - but it ain’t from no divine light I’ll tell you that much.

A couple seconds later I’m able to see again and without any blur or discomfort, just like that.  I catch backs and the backs of heads disappearin’ into the basement, returnin’ to their meeting.  Well that’s a fine how ya do, I laugh to myself with some bitterness to it.

Just set the newcomer out to dry, so that’s how it goes, does it?

Sure a few members hang around  in the  designated smokin’ area with me but none of ‘em seem all too bothered by me standin’ here like an idiot with my shirt off and completely disoriented.  One of ‘em is the gal I’d been goin’ on about earlier.  She’s just sittin’ on a wall topped off with weathered sandbags, chunky grains of chopped cement drippin’ into the cuffs of her jeans when she shifts to get more comfortable.

“Yo’kay?” she asks with an exhale of her cigarette.

“Guess I’m still sweatin’ it out of my system,” I say, more than a little self-conscious.  My body’s gone to shit over the past five months and I gotta look like hell.  “You see where I threw my shirt?”  I look around the ground then along the fence overgrown with weeds, thistles. “You see where it went?”

“I didn’t?” she says.

I finally find it bunched up under the bottom metal step of a fire escape.  It’s bone dry. Not even a hint of smell.  I slip it on.


“I haven’t seen you here before,” she says. “Tom wuz sayin’ you’re a Newbie.  That it?”