Laptop Lifted



Full “Laptop Trilogy” with additions and alterations

Oscar scanned the lines of foot-commuters, their pneumatic legs pistoning them up and down, driving them forward with whooshes and hisses of steam, their geared joints clicking and whirring like subway doors.  Dogs usually had some dog in them, but a purebred bionic Doberman Pincher slinked past Oscar, twisting its uranium spine. A plane passed over, nearly slicing off the top of the Mission district’s low buildings, and its tail let out atomized heavy metals and a building-vibrating sonic boom that crashed around the concrete. A car horn trumpeted against the boom and the two sounds clashed in the air until they met the same sonic wavelength and vfoom-vfomm-vfoom until it overwhelmed Oscar’s ears and they clicked off like a payphone going dead.

The last of his 2-dollar halfpint of vodka was warm ambrosia down his throat, and the payphone in his ear clicked up with each gulp tunk-Tunkk-TUNKK because the liquor was the thumb hitting the volume button.

And now he could see better too. Just as there were mechanics in his ear and he was not all flesh, now the androids steaming down the street had tendons lashed to their titanium and twists of red muscle interwoven with their silver cables and copper wires and all was harmonious again.

Oscar smiled, standing right outside a bus stop on 16th street. The halfpint was gone for the moment, but the moment was good, and he had a couple hours of harmony before the neighborhood split like a bone being cleaved with a machete at the butcher, like an atom being tortured in two. No point in wasting time, because a moment wasted is a moment that will never be recaptured, no sir, so Oscar scanned the crowd of cyborgs looking for a housie to spange from.

He saw the kid he had seen before. He was notable because he was exactly half-flesh and half-ore and also because he had a light in his chest that glowed the deep color of heated Iron before it gets yellow and begins to run.

Oscar stepped up to the kid he had seen getting coffee.

“Ey mahn, I seen the girl who took jour laptop.”


“Hey Maria, you gotta cigarette?”

“No, sorry, my love. How you livin today, though?”

Batcave shrugged his left  shoulder up high and kept it there while bending  his neck to it.

“I dunno…iz fuckin cold and I just need a fuckin stoag, y’know my morning STOAG.”


“Yeah, it’s all luck because when you’re in the luck shit hits you fast because its good shit and bad shit and it all piles up either way an’…” Vincent turned away and started pacing, his neck still crooked.

Maria continued down the street, herself searching for a cigarette. She hadn’t shot up the ambrosia since late last night and it was almost eight. She could feel little glimpses of the dark man with the big collar—he was neverthere, as he always was when Maria had gone a while without her medicine. The little glimpses would soon turn into long looks and she’d be able to feel them below her stomach and in her throat so she needed a hit. But first things first: cigarette.

She walked into El Cafetezia when she saw a kid inside had a giant sack of tobacco on him. It had to be a pound, a month’s worth of tobacco—the mother-spanging load. He looked like a nice kid too. He had light blue, bright & friendly eyes. He looked like he would give.

She walked up to him straight-up and smiled.

“Hey, can I get some tobacco off you?”

The kid smiled, open. He was obviously a housie: he was clean & smelled nice, but wasn’t so far away from herself that he wouldn’t have compassion.

“Yeah, sure, roll yourself one.” He slid the tobacco and Buglers across the table. Maria placed herself quickly and delicately on the seat across from him and slipped a paper out of the cardboard folds of the pack. She dove her hand in the sack and came out with a fair pinch of tobacco, then evenly distributed it into the crease of the gummed paper, dropping it three times while moving her arm across like a typewriter’s platan.

“Jou have beautiful eyes.”

The kid smiled. He had obviously gotten this before, but was still appreciative.


“So, jou from around here? I don’ think I’ve seen jou before.”

“No, I just came in from New York, actually. I’m just stayin with my sister down on Albion for a few days while I find a place.”

“Oh–right down there?” She twisted her torso around while pointing behind her.


“Jou want me to roll you a couple? I’m a really good roller. In the penitentiary, jou know, you learn real quick.” Maria glanced up quickly to see the kid’s reaction. There wasn’t one, and she smiled cutely.

“You’re a nice kid.” She pinched some more brown twists from the sack and dropped them into the gummed paper. Her movements were deft and darting, like a falcon’s. She was feeling OK, nice, even.

Then suddenly she felt the beginnings of it again–the rotation back in. The outline of her body vibrated off and drifted a few inches to the left making her blood panic with paranoia and ambrosia-lust. But the panic was confused because, with the outline skewed, it was hard to tell if her blood was jumping or the world’s was.  Without an outline her energy was sucked away; it was pouring out, crystalline dust that spiraled and turned from silver to dark and disappeared downward through the floor like it wasn’t even there.


And she snapped out of it and smiled with quick recovery. She had been leaning to the left; the crystalline dust that was pulled from her made her body slump in that direction as it was deflated. She looked at the kid. He looked worried, so Maria rushingly tried to explain, a cute look on her face.

“No, that’s just—just sometimes…sometimes it’s like there’s this man with a big collar and he’s pulling me away.” She giggled, trying to keep the mood light.

“Oh—does the man have like, a name?”

Maria cocked her head as though she was thinking, but she already knew her response.

“No…he doesn’t have a name…it’s just like, a man with a big collar.”

“Like a Carmen Sandiego coat?”

“Who’s Carmen Sandiego?

“Just this…like, does the collar cover his face?”

“He doesn’t have a face.” He did, but she didn’t want to get into that.

Maria looked down and realized that the cigarette had fallen apart during her episode. She shook the remaining tobacco out, swept it into a neat pile with her pinkie and dropped it back into the crease of the paper. She continued rolling.

“Guess how old I am?”

“Oh, no…I don’t guess women’s ages.”

“No, just guess.”


“I’m 44.”

“Oh. I thought you were younger.”

Maria leaned over and briefly laid her hand on top of his.

“Jou know JUST what to say to a girl, don’t you? Do you have a girlfriend?”

“Uh…no, no, not at the moment.”

“Jou should go on a date.”

“Well, ah…I mean, I just met you.”

“Oh, no, no. I didn’t mean me. You’re…”

It was her fault this time, Her fault, She shouldn’t of said the D-word but it was too late and her stomach turned and dropped with nauseating fear. The room grew fuzzy and the air started to schiz and jump like a the visual display of a an oversaturated audio track, the input a guitar being smashed to bits on a bed of cotton…the air felt ionized, preparing for the lightning strike. The crystalline dust flowed out of her torso like blood being siphoned at the hospital and she knew putting her hands out to stop it only made the dust flow out of her faster and

          Maria, I thought this was…


“What…” Maria’s outline magnetized back.

“Are you OK.” The kid looked concerned.

“Yes, yes,” Maria perked her spine erect. The cigarette had fallen apart again, but she had gotten two out at this point.

“I think I’m gonna smoke this and then get back to work.” The kid started to rise.

“I’ll go out with you…what kind of work?”

“Oh, I’m a writer.” Maria hurried up from behind the kid on her petite legs and walked by his side out the glass door.

“What do jou write?”

“Short fiction, short fiction, mostly…”

“That’s so coolll…”

“Yeah, thank you, thank you…I hope to make a career out of it one day.”

“That’s good, that’s good you know what you want to do with your life.”

“Well, it’s more complicated than that, I mean…”

“Shoot, what time is it?” Maria interrupted.

“Uh…” The kid pulled his Droid out of his pocket. “It’s 6:52.”

“Shoot, I gotta run.” She flicked her barely-smoked rollie. “I’m supposed to meet my friend at 7. I gotta hurry.”

Maria quick-stepped confidently back into El Cafeterza. She grabbed her bag from under the table they had been sitting at, then opened the kid’s backpack and immediately saw the laptop. She slid it out, slid it in her bag, zippered it up, and strode back out. The kid watched her exit.

“Ok…I gotta run, my love, but it was nice meeting you.”

“Yeah, same. What’s your name?”


“I’m Roger.”

He went for the handshake, but Maria dove in and kissed him on the cheek.

“You have a nice day. Be good!”

As Maria walked away, she glanced back to see Roger flick half his rollie and walk quickly back inside.

She started running.



It was early afternoon before Roger made it to the People’s Park. He had already wasted an hour looking for his stolen laptop amongst lumps of stolen electronics in the fencing bazaar that was Market & 7th. Thank God for Oscar.

Oscar’s tip had spirited him 9 stops on the BART, from downtown San Francisco to Downtown Berkeley, where he trudged an additional mile past Asian UC students and crumb-bum hippies to The People’s Park. He had stood in the middle of the yellowed, spiny grass, slowly turning in circles, trying to identify which of the various homeless people littering the park was the one with the gadgets. His name was Vincenzo or some goddamn thing.

A tall mystic approached him. The parts of his face that weren’t covered with beard had been masked with some sort of grey-blue power that made him look like he was about to attend a Hindu religious ceremony. He wore thin, billowing pants and a chainmail bra over a silky, patterned shirt. His long, black hair was done up in a ponytail at the peak of his skull, giving him another unnecessary inch of height.

“Are you looking for bud?” The mystic inquired.

“No…well, maybe. I mean, that would be nice also, but I’m primarily looking for this guy that has gadgets for sale. His name is Vincenzo or something.”

The mystic nodded slowly, rolling the significance of Roger’s question around his mind like he was sampling wine. He turned while solemnly beckoning Roger with two long fingers and began floating over to a particularly heinous-looking group of street people.

The whole scene looked like an after-hours carnie party. A dozen or so street people were scattered over a couple dusty blankets and squatting on benches made by placing rotting boards over crumbling cinderblocks. A bottle of Tequila was being passed from mouth to lesioned mouth, and everyone’s attire looked like the stuff the Merry Pranksters threw out. The mystic gestured to a dude who was sitting above everyone in a lawn chair, and was pretty nicely dressed for a homeless guy in a park—he was wearing a Giants cap, and stared through wraparound sunglasses while leaning forward, forearms on his thighs. He was currently directing his attention at an ancient biddy belting the tequila.

“Are you Vincen—Vincenzo?”

“Hold on—I’m dealin with this situation right here…Hey!” he brayed at the old lady, “it ain’t a microphone!” The lady looked reproachfully and angrily at the Meanest Man Ever from under her giant, green, sunflower-adorned felt hat, but handed the bottle back.

He pistol-gripped the bottle between his legs as he addressed Roger.

“What you need?”

“Uh…are you Vincenzo?”

“No. I got EVERYTHING, though.”

“I mean, what’s everything…you have a hat…whaddaya mean by everything?”


“Do you have a man named Vincenzo?”

“He’s not here right now.”

“Oh…well, do you have any bud?”

“Nah…that’s not really what I fuck with.”

“What DO you have?”

“I got Oxys, I got Vics, I got Xan-bars, I got Ativan…”

“I’ll take an Ativan.” A weather-beaten man with a grimy blue bandanna wrapped over his skull piped up in half-jest.

“Here,” Mac dug into his fanny pack, uncapped one of a collection of pharmaceutical bottles and tossed two pills down on the blanket.

“Have two.”

The grimy guy compulsively scooped them up, then paused.

“You gonna taken em?”

The grimy guy stopped and stared at the pills in his hand, then looked fearfully back at the Mac.

“I dunno…I was on Ativan for four years.”

“Just take em…I gave them to you, you aren’t gonna appreciate them?”

“I dunno…” The grimy guy was the deer, the headlights Mac and his memories of the drug.

“Just toss em down.”

“I jus don’t think I should take two.”

“Then TAKE one and give one to someone else.”

The grimey guy slapped his cupped hand to his mouth with his eyes bugged out, dry swallowing the pill. He handed the second Ativan to a guy sitting across from him, and he dry-swallowed too. The grimey guy remorsefully looked back down to his card game.

“Thanks,” he said.

Mac stared at the grimey guy through his wrap-around shades.

“Don’t thank me. NEVER thank me…just appreciate it.”

“So…is Vincenzo around?”

“Yeah…he’ll be back,” The Meanest Man Ever stated vaguely.

“OK…on a separate note, do you have bud?”

“I can help you out.” A thin man with giant eyes orbing out of his head like the Caribbean Sea scrambled up off the dusty grass.

“Cool. I was just looking for a nick.”

“Well, I usually have an ounce or two one me, but I’m mostly out right now…what I got is this:”

He proudly whipped out a greasy joint clip from an old Mentos tin. There was probably a half gram in it.

“Well, can I smell it?”

“Sure, sure.”

Roger placed the clip under his nostril and inhaled. It wasn’t bad, and he wanted to get high because he had been stressed all day about this Maria business. and he wasn’t able to go anywhere else…

“Yeah, sure.”

Roger lit the clip, and the mystic floated over out of nowhere and asked for a hit by raising his left eyebrow and lifting his pinched fingers. Roger passed it.

“…got golden-glove certified,” Mac was saying. “Can knock a nigga out in one punch…stupidest thing I ever did.”

“Why?” Roger asked over his shoulder.

“Cause, now whenever I HIT somebody, it’s automatically a felony…total fuckin bullshit.”

“The motherFUCKin government out to get you,” the biddy chorused.

“I guess you could just, y’know, not hit people.”

“Yeah…I usually’ll just shoot a guy in the kneecaps…POW…THEN they don’t talk.”

Yeah, OK…”

“Hey guy,” Mac stared through his wraparounds. “Why you lookin for Vincenzo anyway?”

“He might have my laptop…it got stolen this morning.”

“By who?”

“This woman who said her name was Maria.”

“Maria, huh?” Mac spat into the dust, then smiled.


It was 9 AM and Maria hadn’t gotten her medicine for nine hours now. The nervous panic raked her blood as she ran to 7th and Market. The world schismed suddenly, and she could still see the street bouncing ahead, but the space behind her was dark and magnetized empty. This was the world the dark man in the collar grabbed and groped from, and she could feel his mangling fingers caressing her back. She ran faster, but her crystalline dust flowed out behind her and she weakened like a stuck deer.

Too afraid to look behind her, she slowed as she reached the farmer’s market. It was stocked with yucca and plantains and other goodies she hadn’t tasted for years. She actually hadn’t eaten since yesterday morning, she mused. It was only an afterthought. The lust for her ambrosia was worse after a few hours of shrieking sobriety than hunger had ever been.

Past the farmer’s market was the triangle of concrete she was looking for. Vincenzo might be there. He bought various electronics, then recalibrated them and matched them and souped them up with other stolen goods to be sold. She scanned the triangle, but didn’t see him. She peeped Pierre sitting on a bench, smoking a rollie with his left knee crossed over his right.

“Good Morning, my love!” she called.

“Why is it a good morning? Is it a good morning for you? It’s not a good morning for me.”

“Why’s that?”

“All this fucking merde going on around here. Look! Look over there!” He flipped his wrist at a fat crone swilling a halfpint. “The sun, barely up, and already Mona over there is fall-down drunk.”

Mona fell down drunk.

“You see? But I’m sorry, you said you were having a good morning?”

“Alright, it’s alright…I was looking for Vincenzo?”

“MM! Vincenzo…yes he was here about an hour ago, but I’m afraid he’s gone.”

“Do you know where to?”

“I think he went to the People’s Park…yes, yes, that’s where he went.”

A black guy with a shopping cart passed by Mona, who lunged to her feet with the steak knife clutched in her hand.

“HEY! Datz the man who hit me…I know who you are JOHNNY…you think you can HIT a WOMAN and just walk by with your dick swinging like that? HUH?” Johnny had turned to Mona with his hands held out, but she continued to wave the serrated weapon erratically as housies in heels gave the situation berth.

Maria turned away from Pierre and saw him: the kid whose laptop she had taken. He was swinging his head left and right, looking for her.

She ran.


“Excuse me, miss?…Excuse me, sir?…Excuse me, miss?…Excuse me, sir?”

Maria finally got one of the sirs to turn to her on his way into the Powell Street BART station. It was always easier with men. The man was wearing a suit and shrugged a satchelcase farther up his shoulder as he paused. Maria rushingly continued:

“My car broke down and I just need ninety cents to take the BART back home…I’m just getting back from my night-shift and my kids are with a sitter and I can’t pay her past 11 and…”

“Here,” the man glanced towards his train while removing a dollar from his pocket. Maria wasn’t sure if the man believed her or just wanted to be on his way; it didn’t matter what the man thought; the dollar was in her hand, and she had gathered enough to take the BART to downtown Berkeley and the People’s Park to try to find Vincenzo and sell the laptop.


Maria hated the BART. It was a screaming steel enclosure that bounced the noise and smells and energy of all who rode it into her inputs over and over again, shoving the stimuli into her senses until her eyes were dry and blurry and her nostrils were chaffed and cracked and her brain retracted like melting jelly.

They passed Embarcedero Station, and a wall of suits phalanxed into the crushed car, pressing her again the wall of suits that was already there. She could feel her breathing become hot and shallow and she wondered how long the air would last down here.

Then she made a mistake. Her fault again. She saw a younger couple cuddling (so nice) and…she was so stupid. It wasn’t forced on her this time, but her mind drifted and

          The date was so nice and bright carnation flowers had been bought from a nice shop and who cared that it was just the man she always saw           at her bus stop because he was so nice. And he was wearing a coat with a high collar and—a tie!—when he met her with the flowers held out             in front of him a block from her parents because she hadn’t had her Quinceanera yet but it was only three months away anyway. And he                   had said she was—sigh—lovely and he came from a nice family she knew.


Maria struck the man with the high collar in the face. She reared back and smashed sharp blows over his head and shoulders as he ducked and she screamed wordless howls and shrieks because she was only trying to protect her virginity because

         you don’t want to date men yet because all they want is one thing and you would listen to your mother, girl

and she didn’t want to be a slut again and let her mother down so she tore at the man in the collar with her nails until the other passengers on the train grabbed her arms and legs and pinned her on the hard floor until the doors opened at Downtown Berkeley and she ran out into the sun.


The sharp disk in the sky sliced its rays down on the People’s Park. It was noon and Maria hadn’t shot her ambrosia for 13 hours now and her blood was all panic and jumped like there was bare wire laid about her body. She was some sort of experiment, barely alive, nothing but creaking cogs and her mind was liquefying gelatin. She needed the ambrosia for everything, for her cogs to spin smooth and her brain to solidify and the man in the high collar to stop being neverthere for just a couple hours. Her walk was a stagger like her knees were broken and she skirted around the Park, looking for Vincenzo. She had heard there was undercovers in the park now, men with badges and battering sticks that creeped under their t-shirts like they were real people, but they would whisk them out and some of them had high collars too. She saw Mac in the distance. He would know where Vincenzo was. He always knew everything.


Mac wasn’t drinking, but he still dangled the bottle of Tequila between his legs, swilling the ambrosia around the glass so it caught the sun’s light. He was staring angrily at Doris, who was compulsively tearing the felt petals off her green hat and dropping them into the dirt below. She was on his phone.

“Hey! It ain’t a microphone! I don’t wanna hafta fuckin recharge that thing. Fuckin hurry up!”

Doris stared steel at Mac, but then released herself from the conversation and hung up. Mac grabbed the phone back and tipped the screen to an angle to see the readout.

“Great…only got one bar left…fuckin squawkin in my phone and in my ear, usin up my power…”

Doris held her head high and pointed her glassy eyes into Mac’s.

“I lost my son three days ago. That was my sister.”

“Doris, I lost 6 goddamn people in the last six months!”

“My only son.”

“So the fuck what! I’m losin people all the goddamn time, and I still smile.”

Doris’ eyes began filling up.

“C’mon…be happy, girl. Let me see that smile.”

Doris stared into Mac’s wraparound shades.

“C’mon smile! SMILE!”

The edges of Doris’ mouth curved themselves upwards with the resistance of under-heated soldering iron. Her mouth was a straight line now, but her eyes continued to fill.

“C’mon! Fuckin smile! SMILE for me.”

Doris’ eyes twitched from Mac to Maria, who was standing at the edge of the group, aware that she was additionally pressuring the old woman. Doris’ mouth had lifted as much as it could, and now her lips were a thin line of iron frozen on her face and her eyes started to spill over. Doris scrambled up and strode away from the group, her posture stiff. Mac shook his head down at the dirt.

“People just gotta learn to fuckin deal with LIFE, you know?”

“Mac?” Maria spoke. He hadn’t seen her yet.

“Maria, hey, how you doin, girl?”

“Alright, alright…”

“Can you fuckin believe old people? Boo-hooin over life and not living, not surviving?”

Maria didn’t want to piss Mac off with her opinion, so she just continued.

“Do you know where Vincenzo is?”

“Why you gotta see Vencenzo?”

“I gotta laptop he might wanna buy.”

“He was hear before, now he’s gone.”

“Do you know where he went?”

“Fuck if I know.”

          the man with the high

“Are you sure? I really need to see him…I got this laptop I KNOW he would buy and I REALLY need to get some dope…I’m hurting real bad.”

“Not my fuckin problem….jesus…fuckin junkies.”

          Neverthere was there and



The man with the high collar was there.

          “…I thought she said this was a date?” The man with the high collar smiled flirtatiously. His hand was on Maria’s thin, pubescent hip. They               were in his car. She didn’t know anyone with a car. The parking lot was empty.

          “I had a great time…” Maria glanced at the doorlock and saw with relief it was popped up. “I think I should go now, though…”

          “Wait…Wait!…just stay…give me a kiss.”

          “I don’t think I should…I need to go home to my Mom…she might be worried.”

          “Let her worry.” The man with the high collar leaned into Maria and shoved his mouth on hers’. Maria pushed him back and smacked him                 across the face. The man retracted with an offended look on his face.

         “What’s this? Huh? I take you on a nice date, buy you dinner, and you won’t do anything for me? Very rude. VERY rude. You don’t wanna do              something for me? Something in return? Help me out?”

         Maria grabbed the door handle (it was her virginity and her’s to protect) and yanked, but the door wouldn’t open and she looked across to              the man and he was smiling with his teeth out all of a sudden and she saw he had flipped the child-lock. Then he was on her and ripped her            new dress up around her waist and he tore her open with his big blunt thing and the crystalline dust started spilling out of her…

She woke up in the bushes with her hand over her pussy. She wasn’t sure what it was doing there, but she was wet. The sun was setting. She moaned: the air around her was stretched thin and sick and microfissures had opened up all around and she could still see glimpses of the man with the collar through them because he was neverthere. Her crystalline dust leaked out of her slow, the dying ebbs, and she was so weak that she couldn’t look away but there was no point because there was no getting away from him because he had been inside her. Horror pushed out of her middle like a mountain rising out of the sea, and everything bled. He almost had her; she could feel it.

A man with giant aquamarine orbs for eyes stood above her.

“Are you Maria?”

She nodded dumbly.

“Fuck…” the man seemed scared that it was her. He face went slack and he stared down at the ground. He then glanced around. They were alone in the bushes.

He stepped towards her.

“I’m sorry.” He grabbed her backpack from under her and ripped it off her back, lifting Maria’s light frame before it slid off.

“No! NO!…What are you DOING?”

“That housie Roger said he would give me a hundred bucks to get this back…said some story called Lifted…Lifted…that something was on it.”

The laptop was the last thing that was keeping the air’s microfissures from completely rending open. If this happened, Maria knew, the man would be there in front of her, standing, smiling with his teeth out. He would always be there. With the last of her dust, she leapt up and went at the man with her nails. He smacked her down onto the dirt.

“Shit…shit…I’m sorry…fuck…” The man walked quickly off with his head turned back at Maria.

But as he passed through the bushes the thin strings holding the air together dissloved like film in an acid bath until it was gone. Now everything was negatively exposed in darklight and there was no barrier. And all Maria could see was the man with the high collar standing on a dark plane in front of her with his teeth out.

The End


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