This story is by Gary Little and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
The old man stirred. The heat and effluence from the day pervaded his nose, but he never noticed it. He got used to it. Mostly it was him, mostly it was the alley behind the white-walled drugstore where he slept. Months since his last bath. He called a sagging cardboard box home. Crumbled newspapers stuffed into large trash bags he called a bed. So flattened they provided no support for his scrawny, ancient frame, the old man mumbled, “got’s ta make me a new bed.” Sitting up, he greeted the end of the day as the last rays of the sun turned the smog a rosy pink. “Evenin’ shit hole. ‘Nother fine night in hell.”
No one noticed the old man in his hovel, behind the dumpster, beside a white wall.
The punk swaggered with the spraddle-legged, corn-cob-up-his-ass hitch of the cool, his pants down below his hips, the mandatory boxer shorts riding high. His right hand held a can of spray paint and held up his pants. His left hand carried a rattling duffle. He hitched and swaggered. He looked at that untagged white wall with lust in his eyes. “Yeah,” he mumbled to himself. “Oh yeah, this gonna give Lo’ball S-T-A-T-U-S!”
The old man pondered the young punk. Tagger.
The young punk pondered the old man. This guy stinks!
“You know you don’t wanna tag that beautiful white wall.”
“Shut the fuck up gramps.”
“Ya don’t wanna do it.”
“This the Seven Blood ‘hood. Do what Seven Blood want.”
“Not this wall. I’m tell’n ya. You won’t like it.”
The punk picked up a rock and threw it at the old man shouting “I said shut the fuck up you ol’ fool.” The old man dodged it. No, it was like the old man wasn’t there. Lo’ball was the best rocker in the Bloods. He could rock a sparrow half a block away. Bad shit I been smokin’, he thought.
Free at last of distraction, Lo’ball pondered the blank wall that would hold his mural. This will be my masterpiece, he thought, LA drowning in Seven Blood. Crimson everywhere … Parker Center flooded with Seven Blood … Rose Bowl full and overflowing … beaches running red … downtown, a red crimson flood, pouring down into the underground. Get me some status!
Dropping the duffle, he pulled out a can of black. There came a whisper in his ear, “I’m warn’n ya. No one tags this wall.”
“I tol’ ya to shut up ol’ …” but Lo’ball saw no one around. The old man, his box, his stuff, were gone.
Came another whisper, “It’s already tagged. He don’t like other taggers mark’n his work.”
“What the fuck, there ain’t nuth’n there. Crazy ol’ fool, where’d ya go you ol’ fool?”
In bold strokes Lo’ball used the black to outline his tag. Lazy “B” laying down, tides of blood rolling from the loops of the letter onto the beach. Yeah, the “L” the Fidelity building of downtown rising from a flood of blood. Rivers of crimson, flooding down to the LA river and out to the beaches from that lazy “B”. Rivers of crimson flooding the underground, full of Seven Blood.
Faster and faster Lo’ball worked. With an economy of strokes, the red he wanted was filling the wall. At last, his tag, the moniker that told everyone that THIS was the work of Lo’ball. Done, he stood back and admired his work. Perfect. Just turning midnight. Still time. The Blood can come admire my work.
Lo’ball felt the presence of the old man. “You ol’ fool, I tol’ya to go.”
“An I tol’ you the wall had already been tagged.”
Lo’ball heard an angry growl, trailing off to a wail.
“Ain’t noth’n there. Now it’s my wall.”
The wail echoed, followed by a base growl that seemed to vibrate the ground. “Of course there was. I tagged the wall white. Blank white was my tag. I over tagged with blank white every tag I found. They called me Blanko.”
“Blanko’s a scare tag used to scare punks. You ain’t Blanko …”
Lo’ball saw the old man again, but morph’d into a younger man, a horrible man, coming straight for him with a can of white paint. Lo’ball let out a terrified scream, but no one could hear him scream, no one but the apparition of an old man known as Blanko.
Something, some force beyond his understanding, picked him up and smashed Lo’ball against the wall. Again came that wail, “I tol’ ya not to tag this wall.”
A whirlwind sucked up the spray cans and duffle, whipped it through the air and hurled it into Lo’ball. Pinned against his own tag, and screaming in terror, he watched as the white from the wall began to rise from beneath and drag his crimson art down into blankness. Blank white flooded his art, flooded him, drowned him with pure white paint, choking him as it filled his mouth, his nose, and covered all of his art.
Mid-morning and a typical LA crime scene. “Whatcha got Joe?”
“Dunno. Looks like a tagger was going to tag a white wall. Weird though. Receipt in the bag. Kid bought’m yesterday. All the cans are empty or half empty. But no tag, anywhere.”
“Hey Joe, Frank, over here.”
Joe and Frank moved towards the crime scene technician.
“Remember that crime scene we had a few years ago at another blank white wall?”
“Yeah. Kid just like this. Looked like he tagged a wall but it was just blank white. Same thing, duffle with empty spray cans. Kid had a look of pure terror on his face. Just like this one.”
The technician moved a small bush from the wall and pointed, “And just like that one, I found this.” Black spray paint in stylized letters spelled “Blanko”.