I was driving a cab in Austin when the 1999-2000 year kicked over. I picked up a fare south around Emerald Forest Drive and the guy wanted to go downtown, and so I headed up north through the neighborhood when all hell broke loose--the New Year, 2000--shotguns firing, pistols, fireworks, everything suddenly booming and poor sad startled birds awake and flapping around. I felt bad about the birds--still feel bad about the birds--but still I drove north laughing with the passenger because it was all cool because it was all totally illegal.
So now, years later, it's New Years Eve again, and here is a fun NYE excerpt from Professed. You need to have fun, too, reader--but don't have fun the way these characters have fun! Legal fun only, and don't scare the birds.
New Year’s Eve: I didn’t even know where we were. Barnes drove—I wasn’t paying attention—to the party, at Podraza’s, who worked at the same pawnshop chain as Barnes, World of Pawn: he was manager of Store #3, and he did well, was a short-broad-shouldered guy with a fuzzy soul-patch under his lip, very intense. Podraza lived in some house, down some street, somewhere on the East Side, an old house, but it was fixed up nice, and of course like any pawnbroker, his house was full of stuff—lots of stuff, all kinds of stuff: anything interesting that comes up out of pawn, the manager will get in there first to buy it, and so they end up with every fucking conceivable power tool, gun, or electronic gizmo known to man. At Podraza’s we went in through the garage, where we grabbed cups of beer from a keg, and the garage was stacked with top-of-the-line drills, sanders, chipping hammers, circular saws, jig saws—table saws, miters—enough goddamn tools to set up a construction—or destruction—business, and then we went into the living room, packed with people from all the World of Pawns, all dancing to Kanye West coming out of who knows how many speakers and three or four huge flat screen TVs all with some football game on—the Sugar Bowl, I think, fucking Oklahoma was playing, those assholes—and Christmas lights still sparkling twinkling flashing and the people all jumping around, writhing; Podraza’s wife, Evie, a little square-shouldered woman with glasses and a big tattoo of a Cyclops on her left bicep, jumping around, too, and she yelled at us happily, and we went on through to the kitchen, where it was all a bit calmer, people making margaritas and talking, and I was getting a margarita to go with my beer when Podraza came by and grabbed me and Barnes and took us tramping up the stairs and down a hall to his gunroom—a room with a safe full of pistols and rifles and shotguns—and Podraza opened the safe and took out his newest shotgun, a Marlin Model 55 12-gauge goose gun with a huge long barrel.
“Fuck.” Me. “You go goose hunting much?”
“Fuck no!” Podraza. He was just showing off. He put the shotgun back in the safe and then pulled out some powders and laid out some lines of what I thought was crank but later found out wasn’t speed but sheba, sweet dreamy heroin, and we all did a line or two, and then I left Barnes with him talking pawn gossip and I went tromping back down the stairs and through the dancing pawnbrokers—T. Pain playing now—and back out to the kitchen and the margaritas—the blender whirring and the bass in the front room thumping and people yelling: a Gatsby party. I wasn’t jangled or velocitized, just dreamily vague from the sheba, sort of taking it all in, absorbing the world. In the kitchen was this old hippie musician, Zollie, who worked at Store #7 with Barnes, and he was rocking back on his heels and saying “Aw, damn,” every few minutes very cheerfully, though he was also keeping an eye on his wife, a retired stripped named Honey, who was wandering around with her boobs half hanging out and her belly piercing glittering, Zollie smoking a joint and hitting the tequila pretty good. There were three Vietnamese sisters in the kitchen, all of them pawnbrokers at one World of Pawn or another, and I was talking to one of them, Vanessa, part-time pawnbroker and full-time student, and I think she kind of liked me.
“I’m an outlaw!” Me. “Give me any situation—I’ll brink it.”
“Sounds dangerous!” Vanessa, laughing.
“I defy the laws of man and god, I defy gravity—I defy common sense! I ain’t nothing but a rebel!”
“Should I be scared?”
“No—of course not—I work only for the forces of good!”
Everyone was yelling over the music from the front—Ludacris, then old Prince—people dancing now in the kitchen, Honey saying something sharp to Zollie—yeah, I was looking at her boobs, too—a scattering of brown freckles across the top of her chest, flecks of gold and green glittering plastic mylar in her hair. A New Year coming, ready to unspool like a spool of Kevlar thread, and I was ready to unspool, too—no doubt a good year was coming, nothing but good news for everyone----