The Story Garden 5.0
Blood From Anything
Elise had begun the night by setting a jar of pickled pig's feet on fire with an engraved Zippo. I'd been at the end of the bar trying to make the jukebox talk me out of another fuckup. I was three fingers of Jameson's and a hiccup away from this woman, who was half a bubble off plumb, at least. The jukebox had mumbled something about Johnny Paycheck. I'd slapped my buck down for Shania, and the Breeders. Don't ask. By the time I'd gotten back to the drink, the other side of the bar was flaming like Gay night, and the bartender, Solly, had exhausted his store of bar rags trying to keep the jerky from the fiery pit.
He'd already had to call the cops once when Fat Boy Billy Sheehan's wife Amy had come in with a butcher knife. Billy, lucky for him, wasn't around, but it didn't matter to Amy, that sad woman, who wanted blood from anything, but got locked up and jacketed instead.
Elise had come in soon after the cops left, and we all knew Billy's predilection for youngish blondes. She looked happy and satisfied, and we all knew Billy'd probably been called to the Psych Ward to pick Amy up straight from screwing Elise, those iron casters smacking into the wall, handcuffs under the mattress. Elise had nerve, but no sense, coming back into Solly's.
"Damn you, woman. Is this the thanks I get for standing you drinks this week?" Solly's red face glared out from behind his stubble. Elise flicked her cig into the drip tray, where it would become someone's Suicide later on.
"No. This is." She leaned across the bar and planted a big one right on Solly's cheek while letting him have a good look at her cleavage. She walked toward me, but I knew what was coming. I'd seen men try to slip her some charm, guys who'd drop at her feet for a kind word. I'd have no part of something like that. It was what my dad might have called a situation, a place where a clear choice is available, but the choice is clouded by drink and all the ghosts of your past.
I wanted a night away from my life, my shite filled job, my lack of poontang, but not at the expense of my soul. That's what women like this took, after all. They left you gasping for air and surcease on the rack of your own choices. I knew this; I knew her, in the Biblical sense cold iron bedpost against my sweaty head yet I turned and lipped another cigarette into my mouth, wanting her particular brand of attitude to lighten my mood. The don't give a shits are catching. It only takes one person in a crowd before everyone is flying off and belting their neighbor to get at their neighbor's wife. It comforted me to know that in this at least, I was no different from the others.
"Baby," she said, bootheels clattering against the slabwood of the floor, "buy me a drank. I would dearly love for you to buy me a drank." Her hair matted to the side of her head, no prize, but what I needed and deserved for sure.
"Solly, a drink for the young lady." I tipped the brim of my cap up a bit so I could see more of what I was getting into.
"Ron, you are a fucking idiot." Solly drew her a beer and slid it down toward her, stared at me as if I had three heads and no sense.
"Thank you, Ronnie." Her forehead shone with sweat and a red rag of pimples at her temples.
"Somebody needed to torch those feet. Never seen a one eaten during the time I've drunk here." I smiled at her and felt for my wallet, safe in my hip pocket.
"Really." She smirked at me as I offered her a cigarette, which she took and lit from a kitchen match she'd taken from behind her ear."You're quite the fucking conversationalist tonight, Ronnie my love." Just then Billy came in, fat bullethead gleaming, headed straight for Elise. I lifted my drink at him. It's a poor aspect of my nature that admires the sad and silly, the voyeurism that passes for interest in my fellow man, but it's one I admit fully. I'm always wanting to see how other people do it.
"Elise. It's over." Billy breathed heavily. His shirt had come untucked and the rock solidness of his belly showed through.
"I was over you ages ago, fat man." Elise blew twin plumes of smoke out her nose.
"Why you little–" Billy swung one ham sized fist which Elise ducked easily, as if she'd done it before, as if she'd spent her life dodging something, and quite of its own volition, my foot came off the runner and kicked Billy squarely in the balls. He took it badly at first and coughed up a bit of something green, and then came off the floor at me. I already had a knee up, though, and he ran into it, and I'm sorry to say I enjoyed watching him go down, and enjoyed Elise's high pitched giggle even more. Billy'd need stitches for that mouth, and he'd not be a good kisser again, if ever he was. He groaned, and Solly had three kitchen Mexicans drag him out back to his truck.
Solly shot me a murderous look, as if to say get that wrecking ball out of here, and again a choice presented itself, and I reached behind the bar for the last of the Jameson's and poured it into my glass. I lifted it once to Elise, and once to Billy, and once to Billy again, and for the sad little thing who was his wife. Elise smirked at me. Her cigarette was nearly out, so I gave her another and relaxed a little, ready, me, Elise and my Jameson's, for whatever else might come down.