The King and Queen of 417


A short story

“Frankie? That you? Finally. Hey, I don’t have much time. You know how much these calls cost from in here.”

“Gotcha babe. I hear ya. It’s for sure today, right? You’re getting out, right?

“Yeah, that’s what the butch CO said, the one who UA-ed me. She told me it’s for sure. Yeah.”

“Okay, good. Get the bus or hitch. Meet me at the shack.”

“You’ll have something for me?”

“Yeah, babe. At the shack.”

After 48 hours in Greene County Hotel, I needed a bump. The first day, the doc in the Ding Wing said she would get me some kinda come-down ticky tac but she disappeared. The guards gobbled at me.

Cold turkey.


My two cellies were no help. The buzz-cut bitch had some hooch just riped up, ready that same day, but they wouldn’t share. They laughed at me, said I looked like a Siamese cat and called me Itchy and Scratchy. I couldn’t stop picking at the sore on my left arm.

I needed Frankie. He always had a connection. We always had a blast. We always laughed. We always sang and shook.

I really needed to get to the shack.

The bus got me as far as the connection with the Farm Road as the sun burned up the clouds, settling in behind the coal plant. It was still warm enough to carry my hoodie and I scared myself silly when I looked down at my arm.  It was red, bright red. Infected? It took half a sec but I realized it was the sunset.

Frankie would tease me when I told him. He would laugh.

Man, I couldn’t choke down those hotel beans. I was starved.

One good bump would help with that. Frankie would help with that. Just sitting with Frankie in those old recliners would help with everything. He called them our “thrones.” He talked like he was the King and I was the Queen, “The King and Queen of the 417.” He was funny like that. I missed him when he was stuck in his side of the hotel or me stuck in with those crazy bitches.

Man, I was tired, and startin’ to shiver, even with the T-shirt and my hoodie — on now and pulled tight over my head. I could see the shack in the distance, past the leaning barn with no roof. But the shack looked scarier than last time.

That night in the snow, me and Frankie danced our way down this path but today I kept tripping on the ruts. As the red sun went down, a rabbit made me jump. I fell sideways and used my arm to catch myself. It was the sore one so I screamed. Maybe Frankie heard. Maybe he’d come out and check. No, prolly noddin’.

He was inside, though. I could see the light in our throne room. The king and queen would have themselves a ball.

Hurrying now, I chased that light along the widest rut in the path. I looked behind me again and, when I turned back around the shack was dark. No light. Just like that. Gone.

I called out for Frankie. No answer.

Moving slowly, feeling my way with my feet, I pulled my hoodie closer. Really jittery now, I didn’t want to keep looking back but I couldn’t help myself. Dark, but at least a slice of moon. The path turned to grass. I tried to jog.

Sweat tickled the skin on my sides under my T-shirt. I hated when I sweat when I was cold. I reached the kitchen door. It was stuck. I was too skinny, not strong enough. I called for Frankie louder.

Head achin’. Stomach hurtin’. Arm bleedin’.

Mad now, I put my whole body against the door and pushed. I got in but saw only a sliver of moon leaking through that big window. At least there were matches. On the window sill. I Iit one and there sat our big yellow Eveready, the one we found in the summer floating in the pond, still lit. Oh, we laughed that day. But today it wouldn’t turn on.



Like Frankie.

He was slouched in his throne.

I tried to cry but couldn’t. I reached out to touch his cheek. Cold. Blue. I fell to my knees. I put my head in his lap, my eyes settling on the pipe in his hand. Some glass left. Must’ve been savin’ it for me.

After the hits, I sang. I pretended he was still with me. I danced, holding his limp arms.

We slept together side-by-side in our throne room one last night.

The shack wasn’t so scary after all.

Author: David Iseman

Longtime newsguy. Retired. Tinkering with words. Lemme know what you think.

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