HCE received a lot of high-quality submissions for The Brutal Issue – sadly, too many to fit inside the magazine! So we offered some of our shortlisted contributors the chance to be published on our website.

Keep an eye on our social media for more great writing like this, in the run up to the release of The Brutal Issue…

Jerry’s a Good Friend

Carl Gercar


Carl knew he was asleep when the phone rang more than twice. Jerry never let calls go through two rings. He was a good friend. Carl called him again and he answered. “Hello? Christ, it’s five in the morning. Wh–who is it?”
“Jerr? Jerry, it’s Carl.”
“Oh? Oh man. What’s up, bud? Everything okay?”
“No. No, I’m broke, Jerr. Dead broke.”
There was quiet for a moment. Carl could feel the pressure building, rolling in, a train coming to a bellowing halt. Jerry sighed.
“You askin’ for money, bud? I’m not sure–”
“No! No, no. Jerr, I’d never take your cash, bud. You know that.”
“So, what then? You need help with a job? I can maybe get you a gig at the restaurant but–”
“No! No, Jerr. Listen, I–I mugged someone last night.”
“You what?”
“I mugged someone last night.”
Carl could hear him not breathing. “Jesus. Jesus, bud. Who? Where? Why? What happened?”
“This rich bitch. I saw her coming out of a bank in River North.”
“What were you doing there?”
“Hang on, Jerr. I’ll tell you.”
“Right, right.”
“I was out there just walking. I’m broke, you know, so sometimes I walk to forget that I’m hungry. So I was walking around and I had just come back from the university down in Hyde Park for one of those studies, you know the ones where they pay you to watch your brain and check your shits and give you chems?”
“Yeah, right, right.”
“I’d just come back from that and I was starving, and they give you five bucks just for showing up but the big money isn’t until the study is done, so I was walking around and I passed by that big BMO bank. You know the one?”
“Sure I do.”
“I walk by that and I had my knife in my pocket, just for safety you know, normally I catch the green line and it’s not too safe.”
“And you saw this bitch come out and you mugged her?”
“No Jerr, hang on, listen. I see this guy panhandling outside of the bank and this rich bitch walks by and drops a hundred dollar bill in his cup. A hundred dollar bill, Jerr! To a crackhead!”
“You knew he was a crackhead?”
“You can always tell. So he gets this huge smile on his face and I walk up to him and I said, ‘Hey, wutcha gonna do with that, brother?’ And he says, ‘Food and beer, man!’ And I’m looking at him and looking around and there’s no one nearby. I’m thinking, here’s this homeless guy about to go buy some crack and smoke that hundred away. And – Jesus, I didn’t mean to, Jerr, but – I kicked his teeth in.”
More quiet from Jerry. He was listening. Good friend, Jerry.
“This crackhead starts spitting up blood, he’s not screaming or anything just spitting and rubbing his face, so I kick him another good one in the teeth. Then another. He just sort of slumped over and blood was bubbling out of his mouth.”
“Fuck, Carl!”
“I grabbed the hundred, left the rest of his cash because I’m not inhuman, and walked along down the road.”
“I thought you said you mugged the rich bitch?”
“Hang on, Jerr, hang on.”
“So I’m walking and thinking and I start to realise that this bitch must be so rich that she can do away with a hundred like it’s nothing, just give it to some crackhead to smoke up, so why not give me a little something? You know she barely works for that money, probably got a rich husband or a cushy desk job. And you know me, Jerr, you know I’m a good guy. You know I don’t fuck with people much. I work hard when I have work and when I don’t I’m quietly starving.”
“I’m thinking, this bitch could give me something. Why wouldn’t she? I knew I was walking the direction she was, and I figure she’s gotta be going to the L, so I head to the brown line and there she is. Just me and her, and I’m looking her up and down and I’m thinking, Jerr, that she’s pretty and she’s young. She’s not much older than myself. She’s gotta be maybe a few years older than me at the most, under thirty years old, y’know? What right does she have to be making so much money? I work hard and I don’t make nearly that much, I can barely eat.”
“So I’m thinking, this is a capitalist country so why can’t I take what I want? If I work for something, even if it’s taking it from someone else, that’s still working for it. You get me?”
“Sure, sure I do. But, it’s not like that, that’s not–“
“Hang on, Jerr, let me talk.”
“We get on the train and it’s just us, and I figure I can just do it real quick. Her guard has got to be down, I look like a respectable guy.”
“You do, Carl. You normally are–”
“Right? So I do it quick like. I say to her, ‘Hey miss, do you have any spare cash?’ I figure I ought to try and ask first. I’m a good guy, Jerr, you know me.”
“Well, bud, you are a good guy but–”
“I am a good guy, Jerr! I asked, I did, and she said no. I said, ‘Well you gave that crackhead a hundred, you aren’t gonna give me anything?’ She says, ‘I gave him money for food, and what’s it to you?’ I said, and I’m getting a little angry at this point, ‘I’m starving too, doll, I’m starving and I can’t find work.’ She laughs and says, ‘That’s not my problem!’ So I stand up real quick and I pull my knife and I say, and you know me, Jerr, I’m not a mean guy–”
“Right. You weren’t.”
“Exactly, so I say, ‘It’s your fucking problem now, bitch.’ All nice and calm like, and she gets this crazy look on her face. I’ve never seen someone so scared, Jerr. It was nuts. I must’ve looked afraid too, because she tells me, ‘You don’t want to do this.’ I say to her, ‘Then just give me the cash.’ She tells me to calm down and she says, ‘It’s okay, relax, I’m a social worker. We can figure something out for you. Give me your phone number and your information and we can get you some help okay?’ Well, that boiled my fucking blood.”
Jerry was breathing heavily. It sounded like he was stroking off, but Carl knew he was just listening. Good friend, good listener. Then he broke the silence.
“Why? Why would that piss you off, Carl?”
“Because who the fuck is she to offer me some empty charity? Therapy won’t buy me food. Therapy barely works. I know, I tried it, and nothing fucking happened.”
“Carl, you know that’s not–”
“Shut the fuck up, Jerr, and let me finish.”
“So I tell her to stuff her help and just give me the cash. She starts digging in her wallet and she pulls out sixty bucks in twenties. I tell her, ‘That’s all you fucking got?’ She nods and she’s starting to cry, and the train is coming to a stop so I’ve gotta get out of there, y’know? So I snatch the whole wallet and the sixty and I hop off the train. I can hear her calling the cops as I’m getting off, and I realize that there are fucking cameras on the trains, so I turn and throw the wallet back at her and the doors close and the train takes off, and I run up and out of the station and just start booking it down the street. I’m running and running, Jerr, I’ve never run so fast in my damned life. I was scared, because I can’t go to jail. I’m a good guy, Jerr, you know that. I wouldn’t do well in jail. I’m not like those killers and crackheads, I’m not that dark in the soul. I threw the wallet back to her, y’know? I didn’t even take it, just the sixty bucks.”
“And the hundred from–”
“I said to shut your damn mouth.”
“So I get home and realize there’s blood on my shoe from the crackhead and the rich bitch saw my face and the cameras got me. So the pigs definitely know who I am, right?”
“They definitely do, bud.”
“So I need a place to lay low, Jerr. Just a spot for the next week or so. I’ll bring some blow and some bars and some liquor and we’ll get fucked up and just lay low. I already got the coke and the pills, got ‘em right away.”
“You spent the money on cocaine and Xanax?”
“It’s my damn money, Jerry, don’t give me that. I do what I want with what I’ve earned.”
“So what do you say, Jerr? Let me come stay at your spot for a while.”
Now Carl was done, and listening. He was a good listener too, not as good as Jerry, but good enough.
“Well – yeah. Yeah, come on by, man.”
“Thanks, Jerr, thanks bud. I really appreciate it you know?”
“Right. When are you gonna be here?”
“I’ll stop by the liquor store on the way, you know the one with the Spanish signs that’s good and cheap? I’ll hit a lick there, swipe a quick bottle or two, maybe even mug the place as well for some food cash. Because I’m starving, Jerr, you know that. I’m not a bad guy, but I’m starving.”
“Right. So when will you be here?”
“Maybe forty minutes.”
“Okay. See you, Carl.”
“Bye, Jerr.”
Jerry hung up and dialled again.
“Hello,” he said. “I need some officers to come to my place. I live at the corner of Irving and Damen. My friend is about to come here and he just mugged someone. He told me the whole story. He’s got a knife and drugs. Yeah. Yeah, Irving and Damen. Yeah. Thanks.”
Jerry threw his phone on the bed, ran his hands through his hair to distribute the sweat, and got up to lock his front door. He was a good person, a good listener, but maybe not so much a good friend.

CARL GERCAR is a writer working and living in downtown Chicago. He was born in the Illinois suburbs to a hard working mother and an abusive, rampant alcoholic father. After his father’s death, when Carl was only twelve years old, he started writing prose to compensate for a disconnect with other people. When not writing, or reading 3-4 books at once, Carl does combat sports and spends time with other Chicago artists.