Day Four: His Hands Were Memories, an Ode to the Broken Atlantic City or the One Where I Found the Tone for a Longer Story

by Tom Noonan

Johnny went crazy down in Atlantic City.  He was all strung out and gambling with his girlfriend’s money.  He killed three people that night.  Just shot them, dead, with this handgun he bought in Philly the day after Tommy fucked him up.  Johnny used 9 rounds.  He had to reload.

Maria was working the floor that night and saw him right before it happened.  She’d fucked Johnny a few times back when she was on Oxy.  One time he came inside her and just left her sweating and crying in his room at the Borgata.  She tried killing herself that night, but the bathroom lights were too bright.  She thought God was in them, and she wasn’t ready to face Him.  A handful of pills comes up easier than it goes down.  She left the mess for maids.

When Maria saw Johnny come in the night he killed those people, she could tell he wasn’t right.  He carried himself through the casino like he could shatter, not caring to look up at her when he ordered.  Just spat out, “Whiskey coke, double”, then ran his hands across his face, trying to wipe something away.

Johnny won a little bit of money that night.  Maria made another waitress bring him drinks.  His hands were memories.  They had scars on the knuckles.  The last time Maria saw him, Johnny was cashing out.  “Good night?” she asked, in an awkward whisper.

“Better,” he said, his voice had even started to crumble.  She remembers seeing the gun in his waistband.  He kept the barrel pointed at his dick.

Maria went home with a doctor that night.  He was graying and tried to hit her with an empty beer bottle.  He came quickly on her leg and collapsed at the foot of the bed, curling up and sighing heavily.  She still had her skirt on.  The bottle was broken and lay in shards on the ground.

Johnny was in an apartment across town picking up some coke.  He took it to a McDonalds and got high in the bathroom.  When he came out, his nose was bleeding and tears rested on his eyelids.  A cashier threatened to call the cops, and Johnny reached for his gun.  He fired off 6 rounds, killing two, their blood erased the white floor.  At that point, there were seven survivors.  One couple got up and ran, but the rest waited for Johnny to make a move.  He walked out, and they kept waiting, praying they’d never see him again.

Then Johnny came in through a different door, his gun reloaded, and fired off 3 rounds before getting brought down by a customer.  He had killed three by the end.  The cops said Johnny masturbated as soon as they put him in a cell.

Maria was on the beach when she heard about it.  She waded into the ocean and floated along with the tide, her eyes closed.  When they opened, she could barely make out the boardwalk in the distance.