TKnC welcomes Trey...
While I drink, the music swirls as fiercely as a blizzard but somehow as soft as the snow once the storm was done. Dave Catney seducing a piano; drums and bass backing him. ‘I Cover the Waterfront.’
Terry hesitates. Doesn’t want to interrupt the music. “You shouldn’t be here.”
“Probably.” I force a laugh. “Here keeping a beautiful woman safe.”
She mops. “Yeah, the hordes breaking down my door for cheap booze are overwhelming me.” Winks. Dim light from the rear of the bar throws her into a caressing glow.
“That’s why it’s always good to have the poh-poh here.” I empty the glass.
She leans on the mop. “Boyd, what’re you doing? He got out three weeks ago. Why would he come back here?”
“His final pay check. You owe him forty-seven bucks.”
“Christ. Let it go, it’s been ten years.”
“No, ma’am. Seven and a half. Good time, don’t forget.”
“Stacking his good time. Being a good boy, no trouble. Going to chapel, even.”
“Classes, too, from what I hear.”
“You defending him?”
Sighs, sets the mop aside, touches my shoulder. A lingering touch. Closing my eyes, I attempt to ease backward into eight years ago: jazz and the perfume of her candles.
“I would never defend him. He should have done the full bit…and the ride should have been longer. But the world is what it is. I just try to keep my little part clean and happy.”
Once up a time, her green eyes shimmered like emeralds. Washed out now, the color of tired leaves. Slumped shoulders and a slow, pained walk. But she will always be beautiful.
“Me sitting here doesn’t make you happy?” A damned cheap shot. More for me to lash out than for her to answer honestly.
She listens as Catney’s voice slides smoothly over his piano. “Hear him? That’s you… standing by the desolate docks in the chill of the night.”
“No docks around here. Besides, that’s not the line I hear.”
“Will my lover come back?”
An old question, discovered in the year after the incident. Made older and more brittle by my constant asking in the years since.
“No, she won’t. The world is what it is and I can’t live in your part of it. Maybe… before. Not now.”
“This wasn’t my fault.”
“Not in the least.” A melancholy smile plays her lips. Matches the music and the late hour.
“He attacked me. Disarmed me.” Can’t stop the glare I know is creeping my face. “I wasn’t the reason we fought for 14 minutes.”
“I know. You were the victim, but I can’t live with where you ended up. And that was your fault.”
“No, it wasn’t.”
“Yes, it was. Counselling? Different job maybe? We could have moved somewhere warm… Mexico.” She toys with her empty ring finger. “I would’ve loved to fade into the sunshine with you.”
“But I chose to stay here.”
“No, you chose to not get better. You marinated in your own anger.”
“And lost everything.”
“Yes.” Kisses the top of my head. “You have your key? Lock up when you’re done. You can have that bottle, no more.”
“You’re an enabler.”
“A partial enabler. It’s the cross I bear.”
After she’s gone, I finish the bottle quick. That’s how I drink now… quick and alone. It’s after four when I slam the back door and stagger down the alley.
Right into him.
“Officer Boyd… as I live and breathe.”
His features are distorted by the amber street lights, but his face is still thin. So is he. He hasn’t built-up, obviously not pounding the weights while he was inside. “Come for your money?”
“My… what? I’m just walking.”
His laugh isn’t remotely the same laugh I’d heard that night. Then full of weed, spiked with PCP, cheap beer, surging adrenaline. This is straight up empty.
“Just walking? At four a.m.? Whatever.” I wink. “Want my gun again?”
“Shit. Mama was right: you are still carrying it.”
My hands clench. “You took everything I had.”
“Yeah. And everything you was ever gonna have, cop. Oh, wait, not a cop anymore. Fired. Couldn’t hack it no more. They probably took your gun, too, didn’t they?”
Step into his breath. “I got you, too, asshole. You’ll always be a convicted felon.”
He laughs; so contemptuous, like he just can’t be bothered with me anymore.
“Laugh me off, motherfucker, but you still want that gun. Look at your hands. Squeezing like you’re holding it.” I back up. Yank out a cheap .38 I bought from a banger.
Specifically for him.
Startle him into catching it when I toss.
“You attacked me for my gun. You wanted to kill me. So do it now.”
“You fucking serious? None of that was my fault. It was that bitch. She hit me first. I was stoned.” Snorts. “Dude, this is the weakest shit I ever seen.”
Two days before he got out, I went to a gun show. No mental health background checks. I didn’t need anything flashy, just something with a punch.
So now I punch. Seven and a half years later I punch.
A skinny knee explodes. Hits the ground hard. Howl spirals. Pretty quick the cops will be on their way.
“I still dream about that fight. I couldn’t eat for days. That’s on you.”
Punch again. In the gut this time. Give him an extended, painful bleed. My initial bleed had been about 14 minutes. The long bleed started immediately after.
Maybe is still bleeding.
His won’t take that long. Cops’ll find their old friend dead, unloaded gun in his hand, only weeks out of prison. They won’t spend much time sniffing it.
And maybe I’ll stop bleeding.
I've spent twenty years publishing short fiction just about everywhere, but lately have been doing nothing but flash. My most recent appearances are two each at The Flash Fiction Offensive and Shotgun Honey.Down and Out Books is reprinting (ebooks form) my first novel 2,000 MILES TO OPEN ROAD during the holiday crush and the follow up in the spring. I just inked a deal with them for any number of books in the Barefield series.