Too skinny to fight, too timid to rob people, too nervous to scam in broad daylight, Haakim Patterson turned to the only route he knew. Internet scams.
Haakim sat in his stiff computer chair, doused in darkness, tufts of yellow foam spilling out the armrests. His stoic face and strong cheekbones were illuminated by the computer’s light. Thin brown fingers glided across the keyboard with the grace of a pianist as he eased into work mode. His VPN was up and running, placing his IP address in Uyuni, Bolivia. A small city home to llamas, quinoa, and a train cemetery of all things.
A Detroit scam rap playlist played in the background, flowing out of his phone’s speakers, providing the perfect stream of inspiration for Haakim’s endeavors. A small window on his computer played a video of two sumo wrestlers facing off in a circle of padded rice straws at a low volume. He clicked on and off multiple tabs, using an Artificial Intelligence Generator to create images of a non-existent young cancer patient with sunken eyes, an emaciated body that had endured years of radiation, and digitized tears running down his olive face.
These were guaranteed to pull on the heartstrings of anyone who stumbled across them. The next step was creating images of a white dad with a receding hairline, plain glasses framing a set of kind brown eyes, the picture perfect, blue collar hard-working American type. The father-son combo seemed so real, no one would ever guess he conjured these up on his computer in a matter of minutes.
One of the sumo wrestlers pushed his opponent outside the Tawara straw rope and the crowd went nuts. Haakim grinned, taking this as a good omen for the scam in progress.
The gyoji referee decked out in a flamingo pink kimono yelled out “Hakkeyoi!” encouraging the wrestlers to get back at it.
Haakim started a GoFundMe campaign off a burner email account, one of the oldest scams in the digital playbook. Last year, he managed to make $6k off a campaign claiming to help a homeless man who had fallen on hard times. He pocketed the majority of the cash minus the service fees, gave fake updates, and wiped the page clean. He didn’t give two shits about a homeless nigga. Had to get this bread by any means necessary is what he told himself.
Sometimes he had a girl come over, Mika, she was a pretty blasian chick, who attended cosmetology school and searched for a genuine connection. She was a fine thing, sitting on his lap, as he scammed people. Smelled like cocoa butter and marijuana as she whispered in his ear. The voyeuristic aspect gave him a thrill, made his cock hard, pushing against the seams of his Japanese denim. They would share a blunt, passing it back and forth. The computer screen growing hazy. Sometimes, the scam session would transition to his California king-size bed and they would end up cuddling, too high to do anything sexual.
What Haakim truly wanted was a Rick Owens Strobe Runway Alice Gauntlet Parka. He owned plenty of designer pieces, but they paled in comparison. This bitch had black cotton nylon faille, palinoro lamb shearling, gauntlet sleeves, a long-ribbed cuff, internal snaps, and a large hood with a zipper running down the center. It seemed like a one-of-a-kind cyberpunk shaman coat that would keep him warm through the neon nights and raise his clout levels to astronomic heights.
He constantly dreamed of the fashion piece covering his skinny frame like a regal cape as he trudged through a snow-covered landscape. The palinoro lamb fur encircling his neck, letting out a drawn-out cry of sadness and longing. A deep bleating that brought tears to Haakim’s eyes when he woke up.
“You’re coming home soon. Dontchu worry.”
One month later, he’d cashed out the GoFundme and deleted the account along with the throwaway email address. Feeling charitable, he tossed some money Mika’s way for a couple semesters’ worth of tuition, and ordered the coat for himself. Last one in stock. This was meant to be.
Three days later, there was a sharp knock at the door. Haakim sauntered over, opened the door, and found a brown box sitting on his doorstep. He looked down the bare street, wondering how the delivery man had such ungodly speed.
He took the box to the living room table, excitedly brushing aside the ashtray and stack of junk mail, knowing today was the day he’d been waiting on, a potent mix of anxiety and excitement brewing inside his gut.
“This is it.”
Haakim propped his phone on a stack of shoeboxes, angling it just the right way to capture the unboxing on camera. He took a deep breath and ripped off the brown Kraft paper, unveiling a brown calf leather box, the words Rick Owens embossed on the lid in delicate cursive.
He carefully pulled back the wax paper and fished out the weighty coat. Sliding his arms into the sleeves, and buttoning it around his frame, he felt like a new man. He fumbled with the internal snaps, saying fuck it after frustration got the best of him.
Haakim stood in front of the full-length mirror, loving how he looked. He posed three different ways, relishing in the rare moment of fashion providence. Returning back to his phone, he hit the red emblem, stopping the video, and decided not to post it online. This would be a private moment for him to treasure and his alone.
He opened the front door, and stepped out into the world with a strange hunger for quinoa, feeling renewed and reinvigorated, boots crunching on the fresh layer of snow.
— Grant Wamack is the author of Melancholy’s Finest, God’s Leftovers, and Black Gypsies. He has had more than 40 short stories published in places such as Dark Moon Digest, the Best of Surreal Grotesque, and The New Flesh. When he’s not writing, he’s reading tarot cards, smoking weed, and floating around LA. You can keep up with him on his weekly newsletter Literary Loud: https://grantwamack.substack.com/