In Memoriam Of Earl

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Summary

An every man- wait, every man’s nightmare, I should say, finds himself longing for the past after losing a friend in an unfortunate fly-swatting incident. What’s he to do? Well, drink himself silly and see what his lens will capture on a night of debauchery tickling old itches, igniting old flames, and filming a girl fight (or two).

Genre:
Romance
Author:
Frederick
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
1
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
18+

In Memoriam Of Earl

In Memoriam Of Earl

It was Saturday and I had been itchin real bad to get out. I was all fired up blood pumping fiercely to the right lobes. I arrived at Hannigan’s half past happy hour’s end. I got a Guinness which was on special and watched the girl behind the bar pull back the tap with a muscular forearm.

I bet she could throw a punch. A tough punch, that’d hurt. Cause the jaw to swell in a purple mess. Mhh hmm, that’s right. She’s a prize this one. And this Guinness poured by a goddess? Hits the spot damn fine. Real damn fine.

I slurped at the foam inspecting prospects around the pub. Saturday, at Hannigan’s, was girls night. Girls’ night, which may as well have been Sweaty Fellas’ night, was not exactly my cup of tea. There were chaps left, right, centre gawking at ladies sipping sangria.

Fools, I thought. I do not understand you. You have yet to see the night’s true glory.

Where are my tequila drinkers? That’s my heart’s true desire. I inspect closely; eagle-eyed. Where are you? I know your breed is rare but not yet are you extinct.

My ears perk. A screech? And suddenly, there we have her, out of the rearest corner of my eye she got up out of her booth and nailed him one real good. Side of the head, right in the ear. Her jab was swift, knocked him back and his head wobbled like a bobble’s. Her second jab, ready to be hurled was extending fast clipping his jaw on follow through. The thumb appeared to be curled in and her fingers were tight. She, no doubt, had fought before and won.

The urges, the old one’s I’d hoped been repressed permanently, were coming back. Beer boiled me up and readied the thumbs itching to record women at their most foul.

I realize, I certainly am no Mr. Clean-type. I am neither bald, strong, nor proud. I am petty, weak, and drunk. But I certainly ain’t no satan worshipping shit neither. I just got the devil on my breath. And I’m a devil to these women. I can’t help it. Grandpa said it was ok to have a vice. And I, a regular chap, am entitled to no less! I like beer in the evening and coffee to start the day. And so what? I film women at the bars kicking the crap outta each other. We all get our jollies. One way or another. Grandpa always told me that as he lit his pipe and stroked his beard. (He grew fresh tobacco right on his front porch. Picked it once ripe then dried it out back in his shed. Hell, I liked it too. He’d pass the pipe to me. I'd puff it. I looked like a gangster, I thought. Grandpa would laugh when I coughed my guts out sayin afterwards well, I guess you ain’t a big boy like Grandpa, yet, taking the pipe in his hairy mit, inhaling deeply, then blow, I swear to you the biggest, most beautiful God damn ring you’d ever seen.) Sometimes I think about the summers I spent with him and wonder if they were my happiest.

The man who’d been hit had broad shoulders and was very thin. Six three, one eighty or so. A girl sitting next to him teetered backwards off her stool landing plumply on the wooden floor with a bounce and a wheeze. Swiftly I pulled my phone out and fumbled to press record. Damn things never work when you need them to!

The chap was up now and got ploughed in the face once more. He dropped with a thud.

The girl, I’m assuming his chum and the original instagator of this situation, had scurried off out of sight and into safety.

“What the fuck Jubes?! You know I was only kidding.”

“You fucking prick!” She dove down, clawing at his face. He must have been drunk or high as a kite as he was moving slow as a wildebeest stuck in mud.

I finally got the video going as Jubes clawed the man’s cheek, saying fuck you, Mark! He looked pitiful and began to bleed.

The sight of blood unfortunately shocked sense into the crowd and the two were pulled apart abruptly ending their little scuffle.

Damn! Just my luck. It’s been a while since I got some good blood on tape. My last girl, Susan, man, was she ever feisty. She sure was a handful but man really something. I miss her now and loved her then. But we parted. A little too vicious, I guess. Sometimes even pearls slip through the gaps of your fingers and shatter though your grip was true. I recall her with only pleasant smirks and light jeers. If I close my eyes real tight that is. Her smile, for example, lit up her whole face. And her jealousy? Her unrelenting envious beastly nature paired with a wide set of broad shoulders allowed for her fights to generally result in victory. Susan was my channel's biggest hit. Without her, I’m nothin’. I knew that when I said adios and I said it anyways.

But my wounds are deep and the healing long. My ribs shudder still when I think of her. I touch my side wincing slightly.

This girl, the one called Jubes, strikes a similar vein as my Susan. Visceral- beautiful- deranged.

I take a long drink from my beer.

Damn Jubes, I coulda used a good flick to watch. I’m sure the fans are itchin for a new one nearly as bad as I am. Fans! Yes! It’s not just me. Cause well, you see, it’s been a damn rough go lately. Firstly, Susan got arrested (I don’t wanna talk about it now). I wasn’t sure we’d even see eachother again. I was pretty beat up about the whole thing (both literally and figuratively). And then Earl, my beloved cat, my best friend in the whole wide God damn world, well he fell five stories onto an air conditioner trying to swat a fly passing by the window. Curious little bugger. They say he may have landed on his feet but we've yet to find them. A little black humour for you. Ha ha a ho hum.

He had always been a good pal to me and I miss him terribly. When stressed out, he’d curl up on my chest and purr and then I would relax and sleep. I loved him very much and liked to think he loved me too.

But I guess it don’t matter much now. He’s gone. I, however, am not. Sometimes we just gotta carry on. And sometimes I wish I didn’t have to. I think, really I do, he’d have liked me to get back into my jam. He’d like me to be at my happiest, I think. And I think that this, this is what makes me happiest in lowest states. I think he liked it himself, the kinky devil.

So don’t worry Earl, I’ll get us a good one! I’ll find something, even if we lost our Susan, the champion that she was, we’ll find some other slum rat to pick up tonight’s rein!. Maybe, well maybe, Jubes is our next prized brawler? And maybe I charm her like I did you, Susan? What do you think about that, Earl?

I drink my Guinness back and motion the strong armed barmaid for one more. I was a man lookin to double down. Hit me little lady! I need another. We’re sending Earl off with a one two bango!

Watching again the glass fill I realize I need to relieve myself and head to the bathroom. On my way I see ol’ Jubes being dragged out by two chaps who’d previously been shooting pool + shooting shit as the chummy tend to. She’s still cussing, kicking out at Mark who remained on the ground clutching a mangled cheek.

Didn’t know she had it in her did ya, Mark?

Well I did.

In the bathroom I ralph down half a weed brownie. I liked to get real woozy, especially if I was partying alone, celebrating a passed friend, and looking to score a good pummeling for the ol’ vlog. Hell, my fans must be goin nuts. Really, I think they must. But screw em! I needed a breath of fresh air away from the enticing world of girl fights. Even a kink that causes this much fascination can grind you down. And really, was I doing it for them or me?

As I unzip my pants a man stumbles in through the door and spits a mouth full of blood into the sink.

Mark. You fuckin prick. I know the type; handsome, strong, good noggin on his head, but deep down a real scum suck shit show.

After finishing I wash my hands trying not to make eye contact. He is drinking now from the tap cussin between breaths.

He coughs. I look over. Our eyes meet. He smiles a red toothy grin; one of shock and yes, recognition.

“Oh man, is it really you?”

Fuck.

“Yeah, it’s me.”

“Oh man, I’m a big fan!”

Quickly he wiped his hands on his breasts then stuck a dripping hand towards me.

“Mark!”

“I heard.”

He frowned.

“Wow man, wow. I really loved the Marshmallow Queen. She really kicked ass!”

“The Marshmallow Queen?” I hadn’t thought about her in years. She was my girl before Susan. She didn’t hold a candle to Susan. You see, she ate. And the more she ate the bigger she got. She had little care or control over what she ate and grew and grew until eventually she was sad all the time. I don’t mean to talk disparagingly as I truly adored her as her beauty blossomed like a strange flower. And oh how she liked her wine. Reds made her sad. Whites made her sleepy. When sad, she became ferocious like a testosterone-filled man. She’d yell at anyone. Most often at me. Nasty things like, you pussy! You don’t even love me! You asshole! I’ll fucking kill you! I’ll gut you like the pig you are! She’d slap me. I’d console her. Once settled down, I’d be angry, hit on the waitress, which would get her all riled up again and then she’d fight. I knew all the right buttons to press. She became my puppet. But she also became depressed. And once she did, she’d drag me down with her. Luckily Susan was a waitress with MMA training and fancied my drunken charm. One faithful night, the last time I’d actually seen her, she dethroned the Queen. Musta been a couple years.

Time flies.

“Yeah! That was a blast, man.”

“Yeah, well ‘preciate it my friend.”

Fucking groupies.

“So,” he spat in the sink and leaned against the wall closest to him, “why haven’t you posted anything lately? I’ve been checking your feed daily.”

I sighed.

“Don’t know. Well I guess, you know Susan and I? Well we ain’t a ‘we’ no more, ya hear? Like you and your girl back there. Splitsville.”

He looked confused. Embarrassed. Cheeks turning pink, “You? You saw that?”

“Yeah? How the hell could I have missed it, man? She kicked your ass pretty good.”

He scowled, ignored me, then carried on, “no more Susan, huh? Wow. But I guess, well, it makes sense. I heard she stabbed you or something?”

Fucker! How’d he know?

“She did no such thing. That was just a rumour. Ya hear?” I shook my hands dry and turned to leave.

“Wait! Hold on. I didn’t mean nothing, man! Jeez, you’re real sensitive, eh?” I frowned, “I read it in the news or something man. But really I was wondering, about well, Jubes. Uh, what’d you think of her?” I raised an eyebrow. What are you getting at, Marky Mark? “Do you think well, uh, maybe that she could take on Susan? She’s pretty tough.”

That she was, Mark. But did you stage this? How did you know I’d be here? Hell, I didn’t even know I’d be here. So how did you? He began to creep me out.

“I mean, if you’re wanting to, you know, make a video. A new one for fans, you know, like me. Well, I could make up with Jubilee. And maybe, you and I, could find another joint to meet up. You know, let the dice roll? I don’t wanna pressure you or nothin! But whatdya think?”

Ah, it comes out. A proposition in a blood soaked bathroom. A son of a bitch groupie scum proposition. Damn him. And damn my weak will! Why am I so interested?

“Ain’t no way you’re making up with that girl, my boy.”

“Ah shit,” he flipped his hand brushing it off “It ain’t nothing. For Jubes and I? This ain’t nothin’. I’m sure you get it. I mean Susan musta whooped you a time or two..”

“Nah, we didn’t do that. But if you think you can do it,” I thought considering Earl’s send off, “then I’m game.”

He smiled then grabbed my hand and shook it with enthusiasm. They were still wet.

“Ah great! Man, this is great. To be part of one of your videos, man. Well, it’s a great honour. Really.”

I nodded.

“Where do we meet?”

“The Ball Pit. A favourite of Susan’s.”

“You gunna make up with her then?” he said, smirking.

“Damn straight, my man. We meet at midnight. Got it?”

“Got it.”

I winced touching my side. Thoughts of my Susan began spiraling vividly. Susan wanted to meet me to apologize after her prison stint. Her stay was brief as I refused to press charges. It would not be difficult whatsoever to meet up.

But she stabbed me! I lied to Mark back there, because fuck that prick. But fuck, did it hurt. It’s not like in the movies where Arnie shrugs it off and continues to butcher terrorists who’d kidnapped his daughter. No. I still ain’t recovered a bit. Everytime I shift the wrong way or reach a pot sitting on the top shelf I am in agony. It really scared the hell out of me.

So this is how it happened. Well, you see, we were arguing as we often did about shooting another flick. She was into blow. Snorting line after line but I wasn’t so hot on it. I said something like you gotta lay off that shit it’s making you fucking crazy. And she said something like don’t tell me what the fuck to do! Fuck off! Without me you’re nothin! She did another rail. I knew I should stop feeding it to her. But she’d ask and I’d provide. Isn’t that what a good man does? Her eyes were red and furious. And I yelled at her again smacking my fist against the table; her remaining coke flew into the air.

Terrified of what I’d done I began to run heading for the first exit. At first, I thought that I was only in for an ass kicking but instead she grabbed a knitting needle and shoved it deep into my side. Luckily, I’d blocked her arm which deflected some of the force from going full tilt in. Otherwise, I’m sure I’d have been a goner. She freaked. Came back to reality and called an ambulance. She was arrested. We said it was a misunderstanding but of course no one believed it

So you see, this is why I both love Susan and fear her greatly. I was nervous to see her again. We’d chat every now and then, but still my pain existed.

I returned to the bar head full of new ideas where my second Guinness awaited and asked for two shots of tequila. After downing the Guiness in a couple swift gulps, I pulled my phone out. I was nervous. Sore. Scared even. My hands were shaking a little as I began to type:

Hey Susan, I know we haven’t chatted since you’ve gotten out. I know we’ve been meaning to meet. But It’s been hard for me. And i’m sorry for that. But I hope you understand. I know you know I don’t hate you. I probably deserved the pokin haha. And maybe i miss you. At times, i miss you more than anything. More than I can bear. But, i think, if you’re up for it, i’m ready to make amends. Or maybe just a chat even. Say, Jerry’s? I’ll be there in fifteen. I’ve had a few already. I know, i know. You don’t like it when i get started with out you. I had a brownie too, you know, full disclosure . But, what can i say? i’m a little nervous. Hope to see you soon

And send! That should get her out. Susan was always a softy. I know, shocking right? Especially considering all the faces she’s pummeled.

Her reply came quick. My heart beat fast. The dots went serpentine over and over. She said: Sure! Give me fifteen! See you soon. Glad you finally reached out. Causal as ever.

Wow. You haven’t changed one bit, have you?

I slap down enough to cover my tab plus tip, nod to the bar maiden, take my shots with a grimace, then leave.

I prefer Hannigan’s but Jerry’s too is a nice joint. Lots of cougars and a whole lot of young dudes who are very into cougars. Fights galore! But, unfortunately, I have to keep it on the down low there now. The Marshmallow Queen and I were once notorious there. After new ownership I’ve allowed myself to return though a few familiar faces continue to raise eyebrows.

Jerry’s is close, which is a bonus for me. It sits right around the corner to Hannigan’s and is less than a minute’s walk. I pop my collar and walk through the door. There are rows of slot machines and regulars pushing fives into them.

I go up to the bar and in a near whisper I ask for two glasses of wine and a shot of tequila. I look around to ensure I am alone. I expect to see Susan. I know it’s crazy and I know I have nothing to fear but I can’t help myself from thinking she’s the same person who was first sent to jail. She’s clean, she’s clean, no one here will recognize you, she’s clean! No one will recognize you, I tell myself. But still I feel the panic coil up like a spring ready to burst.

The bartender, a burly man with a shy face and bushy beard hands me my drinks.

“These all for you?” he prods with a smirk.

“Nah, just the wine,” I smile back and drink the tequila. The gentleman chuckles heartily.

The booths at Jerry’s have tall walls and a curved bench that grant the illusion of privacy. I find one in the back corner content with isolation.

The brownie may take a bit to kick in and I’m looking forward to it immensely. My heart is beating through its’ cage. I need to relax! I need to breathe! I can’t seem to stop thinking of Earl. He passed a week ago and today would have been his eighth birthday. Eight! How could I not drink? Those were some good years little buddy. Christ. Where is she? Maybe she won’t show. My throat is closing up, parched. I drink my first class of shiraz. One of two reds I know I enjoy.

Someone is looking over at me. I’ve caught someone’s attention? Damn! I moved so carefully and yet still I’ve been made. A girl across the way, glassy eyes wearing a green wooly sweater is glaring peering through the crowd. If I could I’d draw smoke coming out her ears. Her eyes are set on me. Already, I’m riled up. Our eyes lock. Her gaze meets mine. And then she opens warmly in a familiar way.

Susan? God! She looks good! Her hair has returned to its normal colour after a shave. She looks fit. Can prison really change a soul this drastically?

We embrace. She squeezes my side.

“Still tender?”

I nod, “Yeah, but it’s nice to see you, Susan. I like the new ‘do dude.”

“You do? Thanks.” She looked away and blushed a little.

“I mean, you really do look great. correct me if I’m wrong but you’ve been working out, haven’t you?” There you go, apply the butter. She blushed more.

“I have, actually! There wasn't much to do. There were lots of books to read but we both know how interested I am in that,” she laughed, “so I worked out a lot instead. Got back into shape. Since I couldn’t get any coke, I needed something to keep me motivated. I needed something, you know? A reason to get out of bed. My counselor suggested it actually. So I reverted to old habits pretty hard and worked my pants off to get back in shape and I gotta say, I do feel better! Check out these guns!”

She lifted her arm up and flexed.

“Impressive! So no more drugs?”

“Nope! None.”

“Can you drink?” I hadn’t asked as having her tipsy tended to be the best way to spice her up for a fight.

“Hell yeah, I can. With you I can, that is. It’s just, it’s just really good to see you!” She leaned over the table and embraced me once more.

“Likewise,” she let go and we cheersed. Sure, I felt guilty hiding my intentions but she’s the reason I’ll never trust a knitter again. And this is for Earl! An unselfish act at last.

“So uh?” How to bring it up? How to bring it up?

“So uh, ‘what have you been up to?’ Been locked up! For stabbing you! Remember, you dork?”

I smiled. I’d forgotten how funny she could be through all my rehearsed displeasure.

“Right.” I drank more wine. She chuckled doing the same.

“I can’t believe that happened. I was so messed up. I mean, I hardly remember it all now and I’m sorry for that but I’m really really glad that I can’t because I think, truly I do, I couldn’t ever sleep at night.”

“It’s...it’s ok,.” I frowned. She doesn’t remember! She doesn’t remember! How could she not? Me Writhing on the floor like a spastic serpent. Jesus! Blood all over the damn place. It thought I was gunna die! And you don’t remember, we’ll tonight, tonight, I’ll, I’ll....

“Oh come on. Don’t get pouty. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry! How many more times do I have to tell you?”

“Once more?”

“I’m sorry,” she drank her wine cheeks again blushing pink. Ah there it was! The charm, her cuteness come out for all to see. Quit that! She stabbed you, you fool! Focus, we need to get her to the Ball Pit- remember Earl, remember his shrine you built encompassed with all his favourite things; his ball of red yarn, his collar that jingled with a bell, his food dish with Earl spelled out neatly in cursive.

“Need another drink?”

“I’ve hardly started this,” she said, taking a few more gulps.

“Tequila?” I smiled.

She nodded “My kryptonite!” And placed a hand on her head, wooed, then laughed.

“Bartender! Two shots of tequila for the pair of us. Super Man is stepping down from his temple of God to drink with his buddy Jimmy Olsen the square tonight.”

“You are such a nerd.”

“You love it.”

“Sometimes I do.”

We hadn’t seen each other in eight months. Can you believe it? And bam! Back at it like peas in pea pod shells. She’d been out of prison for two. She’d ask if I could pick her up. I refused. Said something like no, it still stings, I’m real sorry to which she said with a glum undertone I understand, then hung up. After the call I sat in a chair stomach churning for an hour thinking well maybe? Well maybe?

Two shots of tequila were placed in front of us.

“You wan em? I had a few already.”

“You don’t have to ask me twice.”

I knew she’d turn wild quick and it would soon be time to take her kicking and screaming, if need be, to the ball pit.

I’m a bastard. I know it. My mom knew it when she flicked cigarette ash into my eye and shoved me down the stairs. (She was a nasty foul woman who spanked me hard when drunk which, as I grew up, became more frequent until I could fight back and she soon after withered away to nothing. Eventually we’d throw her in a home to rot out her last years. Booze and cigarettes ruined her and she died shortly after the move. Good riddance. I spilled more tears at Earl’s wake than I could have ever mustered at hers)

“Woo! It’s been a while. I miss this stuff.”

“Miss me too?”

She put her fingers close together as if pinching a small bug and said, “a little.”

“Good. I miss you. I was thinking, well, I was thinking that we’d celebrate proper, like old times, you know?” time to put on the charm “and I’m not sure if you’d be up for it, but would you be down to join me at the Ball Pit? I was going to meet a friend there at midnight maybe if you wanted to take er early. And I remember how much you used to love it there. What do you think? You in?”

“The Ball Pit?! Yes yes yes! I love it there!”

I blow the smoke from an imaginary gun inside my head smiling. We are off to the races Earl.

The Ball Pit was weird and weirdos flocked there in swarms. In the center of the club there stood a pit of plastic balls that was once a dance floor. And, my friend, If you find yourself here, I’d advise avoiding it for underneath the balls are either murky sticky puddles of vomit or the perverted human equivalent. Otherwise The Ball Pit had a terrific vibe. The walls were curved and modern, painted white with odd dark shades and black lights that beamed against the walls. It was disco night tonight and 80’s synth pop was guaranteed as well as a laser show.

I informed Susan of this.

“Oh man! Sounds great!. You gunna call the cab or should I?”

I was concerned that the booze and weed cocktail I’d ingested would get the better of me before we arrived and soon I’d become a raving mad man. I thought achingly over cabs who’d still accept my fare and came up exclusively with Paul who was a rotten prick but could get you where you needed faster than any other rotten prick I could think of off the cuff.

“You good with Paul?”

“Paul always hits on me.”

“So it’s a yes then?”

“Yes, it’s a yes, but I thought you should know.”

Paul said he’d be another twenty minutes. Prick was probably ogling his last fare with lust filled sinful eyes.

Susan got the hiccups after the last shot she took so we went to a convenience store for water. She looked cold so I wrapped an arm around her and said you and I, we make a pretty good team.

“We do,” she blushed. Hard to think this sweet girl could turn so feral. I guess the drugs didn’t help. And lord knows the booze’ll boil anyone’s blood. With the drinks and the oncoming digestion of the brownie I was slowly worrying less of the woman who stabbed me and was now turned over like a submissive dog-belly up.

“So Susan, want a soda?”

“You know, I could go-hic-a smoke.”

Ah she was drunk. So quick! She only smokes when we drank and only craved cigarettes once properly inebriated. The woman behind the til glared at us.

“Fuck, why does every woman hate me?” she asked.

“Maybe it’s not you she’s scowling at,” I replied.

She rolled her eyes, “Let’s-hic-go to Jerry’s! Hic, that bartender Vic? He still there? Hic, he’s cute.”

I tensed, “nah, fuck Jerry’s. No action there.”

“What do you mean action?”

I pretended to be shocked, “action? Fun? What’s the difference? Come on! Susan, I just wanted to have a good time with you. I miss you, alright? That’s all.”

She shrugged, “yeah, I know. I miss you too. Sorry. It’s hard. It was bad for a bit there. And you know, you kinda made it worse with the fighting. And the pushing. I liked it at first. Or at least I think I did. Well I guess I liked that you liked it. But to be honest I think I only did it for you. The sight of blood makes me sick now,” she stuck her tongue out.

Way to drop the eggs on your way home from the market. Prick, rotten bastard, feel the needle in your guts, the cigarette ash in your eye, you deserve worse, death, damnation, punishment. Mutilation….

“Shit Susan. I’m sorry. I swear I thought you did. But shit, I really needed to see someone who, well, you know, gets me.” I grabbed a bag of chips, “cause, well, I lost Earl, Susan.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean he died.”

“Oh my God, I’m so sorry.”

I nodded and hid my face fiddling with the chip bag’s crinkley wrapper.

“It’s been tough. Thank you.”

Susan continued hiccuping between gulps.

“I’ll get these, and the soda for the Missus.”

Susan smiled modestly, still clearly upset by the news of Earl’s passing.

The woman behind the til eyed me up and down.

“Ain’t you that guy, the one who films girls at bars?”

Ah fucking cry babies.

“Yup, it’s something I do. Why do you ask?”

She gave a humph and filled up the soda then passed it over to Susan.

“You could do a lot better sweetheart.”

Susan scowled, “Why don’t you mind your own business? We’re out celebrating the passing of a beloved friend,” she scolded the woman shaking a finger at her, “come on! Let’s get out of here.”

I threw some loose change down and grabbed our things as she pulled me out the door by my jacket’s loose sleeve.

“It’s ok, Susan. Really. I’m used to it.”

“It’s not ok! You shoulda told me about Earl! I woulda done, I don’t know something. I’m really sorry!”

She hugged me. It hurt my side but it was well worth it for the warmth I felt.

I smiled, “Susan! Your hiccups are gone.”

She said woo-hic-hoo! And told me that I was a magic man and then we both laughed as Paul pulled in ahead of us then honked.

“Susan!” He said draggin out the “an”.

“Hey Paul, been a while.”

“Paul, don’t hit on her, ok?”

“Whattaya talkin bout?”

We both raised our eyebrows.

“Ah fine. Want some weed?”

“Yeah sure.”

“Five bucks!”

“Ah come on!”

“Ain’t no charity, five bucks!”

“Fine.”

We both slapped down the dough.

“Here. A joint for the lady,” he passed the blunt to me, “and one for her man,” and then to Susan.

“Dude, you’re old. That was a lame ass joke,” said Susan rolling her eyes.

“I am old. Give me some chips.”

I opened the bag and he shoved his mit inside.

“How ya been Paul? It’s been a while.”

“Not so bad. Well, I guess that ain’t exactly true. I shot someone.”

“Christ! Kill em?”

“Oh yeah. No way you’d walk away after being hit by this sucker,” he pulled a large pistol from down by his side.

“Shit! That’s nuts man. Why’d you do it?”

“She tried to steal from me. Fucking junkie bitch.”

We were both shocked, dumbstruck.

Paul stuck a thumb triumphantly into his chest, “yup, you’re looking at a cold blooded killer, right here. Ya see?” He laughed and we followed suit too awkward to do otherwise. Death and murder always made me uncomfortable. He rattled on a bit about court dates and I pretended not to be upset nodding along.

The drive afterwards was fairly quiet. Paul put some old blues on and tapped his thumbs against the wheel. Susan and I smoked our joints then threw the butts out the window. I felt good. Drunk and stoned. Ready for a club night. Which was rare for me but the melancholy of Earl’s passing paired with Susan’s invigorating presence put me in the exact right mood for it.

Paul pulled around the corner. You could hear the bass pumping and the 80s synths going whoop! whoop!

As was usual there was a line. We got out.

“Adios Paul! Be seeing you soon.”

He gave a salute then sped off. We’d have to get him pizza since the bastard offered weed. I knew the prick’d come looking for food. He did get me out of a jam or two before which will forever hold some morsel of loyalty within me. Even though, yes, he was now a murderer too.

Susan started pushing through the line up with my hand in hers. Many heys! what the hells! and come ons!, where shouted as we battled through the line like pinballs. Sorry, sorry, ah shut your mouth! Is all I could spout off in retort.

“Clever,” Susan said.

“Yes, you’re looking at a man of brilliant wit and charm here!”

Security guards tower over the entrance like horrifying black monolithic monsters and I was now certain the weed’d kicked in. I was jittery and anxious. Paranoid and wanting to bite my nails down to nothing. But Susan put on the charm and touched softly the man to my right’s left arm and whispered something in his ear. A look of recognition and amazement swept over him. He smacked his partner’s right arm who unclamped the hook and lifted up the red velvet rope to his left. The Ball Pit always had an odd sense of fanciness. Once inside you were given a short glimmer of authentic sauve until inevitably the frat boy type would ruin the atmosphere by either vomiting all over the floor, shouting obscenities unpleasant to all, or hitting on women uninterested in their passes.

Once in, I could feel the thick glaze coat my eyes. We checked our coats. Five bucks?! Everyone’s trying to gouge ya tonight, I thought but I was now loopy and too tongue tied to argue.

Wow, I thought, as I looked over to Susan. Her tank top exposed two long limbs of muscular fibre. They looked ready to pummel Mark’s pitiful opponent. I could see it now. Her bruised knuckles bleeding like a true beast of the wild. It was all I could do not to picture her nude in my bed. That too, I thought, would be a pleasant send off to Earl. Wouldn’t you agree buddy? The violence? Do we need it? Do we, Earl?

“Want a beer?” I asked when really all I desired was water or coffee to curb the growing buzz.

She nodded.

I stumbled to the bar and shouted ‘uno, dos beer for me and the senorita!’ The bartender, young, sloppy-haired, and athletic-looking nodded and started to pour.

“Fifteen!” he shouted over the blaring music. I handed a twenty to the bastard and placed a beer in both mine and Susan’s hands.

Eighties synth pop pulsed through the floorboards and up into our legs. Soon Susan was dancing up and down shaking her ass like a maniac. I had to hold dos beers as she did so.

It was then I noticed the walls had turned blue either from a new light or a thick coat of paint and seemed somehow to melt in the dim reflective black light. There were white specs of filth caked on the walls which began to unsettle me. I felt sticky and unpleasant. I knew I had to find Mark and his girl in this shit hole before the room started spinning. But how?

I’m God knows how many drinks in. How in the world will I find this bastard?

Suddenly I felt a hard slap to my back. Ooof right in a knot.

“Tequila for you!” she shouted and winked, “for Earl!”

She smiled. I wondered if she loved Earl too. I wondered if I loved her in that moment as I drained back another shot I certainly did not need. I wondered if I loved.

She dumped hers down her throat with a whooopaaah! I started gagging.

“Ah big baby!” She laughed rubbing her eye, “need a water?”

“Oh fuck off,” we chuckled. “I need another beer!”

She laughed, rolling her eyes with an of-course-you-do glance. I felt good again as if the weed and booze were now cradling me supporting the head. I could suck a giant euphoric thumb and relax.

The crowd lolled up and down with the beat; a wave of human flesh and sweat. The young athletic boy flopped his dopey hair to the side. He was drying a glass nonchalantly.

“Sir! I need a God damn beer. Hell, make it three beers! Two for me, one for the miss. And you know what? Two more shots.”

Susan’s eyes widened with her smile.

“Of what?”

“Surprise me.”

He rolled his eyes, flopped his hair again to the side, then poured some pink syrupy gunk into our glasses. It looked nasty to me but Susan took it back without phase and I, not wanting to look weak, followed suit.

“I gotta pee!” she shouted. I nodded thankful as I felt the pink syrupy gunk crawling back up my throat. The crowd turned to a painter’s palette of unsettling colour. Everything was sour. The walls inhaled-exhaled. I could feel the bass tickle my bowels in an unpleasant way. I stumbled around spilling beer half intentionally on passer-bys until rudely I was shoved hard over the rails surrounding the ball pit and fell.

My landing was soft. The world spun on a dime. I covered myself up in the balls and disappearing beneath them proceeded to puke. I crawled away like a serpent, hoping no one would notice. Once out I heard a familiarily whiny what the fuck! Someone’s hand had found my mess. It was Mark! He had on a cowboy hat. I wondered if he was the one who shoved me over as some sort of chummy practical gag, one of which I was certainly not part of.

I waved. He too shot an arm up. I pointed over to the bathroom. He gave a double thumbs up then grinned.

The monolithic bouncer from the entrance was now scanning the crowd for hooligans who would later have potential to cause grief.

“You good, man?” The man said as I passed him in a frantic stumble. I must’ve been pale from the vomit.

“All good, dude,” I said giving a thumbs up.

“You take it easy, man. We don’t want no trouble here. We love you and Susan. But just no trouble here, ya hear?” he said with a half smirk. I nodded. You see? This is why I hate groupies. We’re nothing but animals in a zoo to these gawkers. I shrugged the incident off and headed to the pisser to meet Mark.

I knew I would probably puke again. I was wobbly. The music was strange-like waves smashing against a harsh rock. I felt as though I was a vile filled to the brim with unpleasant angst and melancholy. I stumbled awkwardly to the washroom and heard the monolith’s deep chuckle. There was a man who stared into the mirror presenting back a pale monster. I reached out. So did the man. I laughed and so did the man’s body. His eyes were blue, his jacket warm. He looked as though he might be happy or was perhaps very sad wearing a thin veil. Alas, I could not tell and turned to piss in the urinal. Mark stood next to me.

“Nice cowboy hat,” I said sarcastically.

“Hey, fuck you!” his face had a band aide where he’d been scratched and was drunker now than before.

“Chill, only a joke. You get your girl back?”

“Yeah man, I did. Did you make it up with Susan?” I nodded then I wobbled pissing accidentally on mine and Mark’s feet. He was wearing cowboy boots but didn’t seem to notice my unfortunate mishap. Lucky, I thought, they were not sandals.

“Wow, they’re gonna beat the piss outta each other! I can’t believe we actually did it, can you?”

“No,” I really couldn’t. Susan after all she’d been through was here again for me? For me? (for Earl, do it for Earl). At a place I’d determined we’d visit after suffering for a crime I likely pushed her to and did nothing to hinder or curb and still she was here for me, a sick man with sick tastes and for what? I wondered, why me? She was beautiful, sweet, fun, and charming in all the places I lacked. I could feel my illness well up and I began vomiting into the urinal.

“Ah fuck man! You got some on me,” he patted me on the back, “you still ok to do this? You think you’re up for it? I mean, I hope you are. But if you’re all pukey, maybe we oughta wait for another time, eh?”

I shook my head, zipped my pants, then wiped my mouth off.

For Earl! For Earl! I muttered. I’ll hang up my spurs. Just one last video.

“Bring your girl to the South bar. You know? The one with the big ice bucket full of beer? I’ll do the same.”

“What? That’s it?” he smiled finishing up.

“Yeah, got a plan,” I touched my nose, “It’ll be more interesting if it’s a surprise to everyone. I promise! More authentic this way,” I could see the dice rolling along the green velvet table. But then, I thought, if Susan too loved Earl and if Earl loved her back then truly would he want this to be his send off or something more fulfilled and in the spirit of love? Would he want us to be the ‘we’ we so desired to be once more? Free of the foulness that once stained our past? Earl, give me a sign! I am too drunk to think on my own! Give me a guiding hand!

“Oh man! This is gunna be great! My friends and I are well, we’re all big fans. This’ll mean a lot to everyone. It’s an honour to bring you back from the dead man.”

I gave him a thumbs up then waved him off then washed my hands. The man was back. I tried my best to ignore him.

Maybe this is what Earl wanted all along. Was his sacrifice one to make me finally open my eyes? Reconcile with Susan? And stop for good with this bullshit? Get the help I need? If that’s the case Earl, I do say it was a touch dramatic.

I needed to find Susan quickly and get the Hell outta here. Or should I give her the option? I feel sick with myself. I feel so God damn sick I want to curl up and die.

“Susan!” I shouted in panic.

“I’m right here you weirdo!” she was leaning against a white wall by the washroom, “you look like shit.”

“I feel great. You want to grab a beer or should we get out of here?”

“Didn’t you just get two?”

“I fell into the ball pit.”

“Of course you did!” she laughed right in my face.

I could see Mark leaning on the tub of beer waiting to casually greet us.

The fastest exit was one passing near him. Susan began to dance and pulled my arm to join. I pulled away nodding towards the exit, she shook her head then her finger and then her hips all of which said no, we’re staying for this song. Mark noticed and looked confused. Jubes was standing next to him. I wandered over next to them.

“Sir, fancy seeing you here,” I gave a salute, “Jubes, right?” I stuck out my hand.

“Wow, is it true she stabbed you with a knitting needle? What a bitch!” she laughed.

“Just a rumour.”

She shrugged and rolled her eyes, “who is this fucking guy?” she was glaring at me, “you aren’t at all what I expected! Just a meek little guy,” she was drunk and her feet were failing. I felt rotten having tangled everyone into this.

Mark leaned in hissing into my ear “where’s your girl?” he smelled richly of cologne.

“She said she’d be here in five. Don’t sweat it. Have a drink,” I whispered back. Suddenly, Mark in his cowboy hat began making me sick. Susan, on the other hand, with vigor danced to heart’s odd content. Her arms each so strong pumped with the thump thud of the bass drum and I, stoned-drunk-degenerate-sad-foul fool that I am, felt my heart fill all up with the love that was once placed on Earl, I wondered if I needed some void to push this feeling on, if his message had finally drilled its’ way into the delirium of my chaotic downtrodden mind, or if perhaps this was always the gag, that Susan was meant for me, that we were yin-yang Butch Cassiday-Sundance Kid Bonnie-and-Clydes all along. Was it love or delirium? Delirium of the downtrodden? Earl! Oh Earl, tell me! Is it love or just delirium of the downtrodden?

Mark spotted Susan, and nudged me in the ribs with his elbow. It clicked finally that this boy, who for one reason or another I’d humoured was me, only younger. Sadly, I wondered if I’d inspired a new generation of lost misogynistic fools or if they’d have found this hatred on their own. Either way I had no intention of getting Susan to fight any longer for love and the power of Earl overpowered my once lustful ambitions.

I looked to Mark and said clearly “you’re a real prick, man. I’m outta here.”

We both frowned.

“Ah come on, man. Where’s Susan? You too chicken shit now?” he buckawked like a hen.

“She’s not coming.”

“You serious?”

“Yes. I've had a change of heart.”

“Screw you, man! I was trying to help you out,” he shoved me and I shoved him back hard.

I panicked. Not knowing what to do and slapped Mark in the face. He raised a fist then jammed it into my jaw. I dropped to the ground like a sack of bricks.

Jubes kicked me in the groin. I winced and felt even sicker yet. They walked away wrapped around one another

The monoliths moved in. Breaking through the crowd. The commotion we made rippled. All were curious to see what had happened. I ran to the exit- pushing, shoving- huffing, puffing. As the bass walloped the crowd the lights went out briefly and in sync to the music. The fire exits were the only guidance now. Once back on I saw that one monolith had tripped over the other and made my escape.

I texted Susan that I’d left and would be at the pizza parlour down the way. If I wanted to get home tonight I’d have to get Paul pizza. He’d left me to fend for myself if I’d forget. The walk was terribly long though it would have done me good in my now confused state.

I called Susan. No answer. I called Paul, “be there in fifteen. Get me a slice, the ones with the good anchovies.”

“Fine. Come quick though. I may have some unhappy customers on our tails.”

He hung up. My balls hurt but I knew it to be an exorcism of demons, Earl’s doing no doubt.

Pizza spun in singles on a carousel in the window. Once inside, I ordered three slices. One with anchovies for Paul, two pepperoni for Susan and I. The world was slowly becoming less woozy.

Paul arrived and gave two honks. Susan too was inside.

“You got us pizza!” She shouted and hugged me as I jumped into the back seat.

Our drive was silence. We all ate our slices ravenously. Paul sloppily spilled anchovies on his trousers. The blues rolled up and down through the cab until we reached my apartment. I paid, gave an extra twenty to Susan, then waved goodbye.

“Paul, don’t hit on her. Take her home or I’ll fucking kill you. Got it? I don’t give a shit about your gun or how hard you think you are, just take her home, shut up, and enjoy your pizza.”

He blinked widely, pulled a zipper across his mouth, then threw the key away out the open window.

There was a small part of me that wished Susan had stayed. I tried to shrug it off but underneath the facade I was devastated. I’d forgotten how much fun we used to have and I thought about just how un-fun my life was now. My side felt like it was again oozing blood staining my shirt.

In bed I stared at the spinning roof then soon began scrolling through old photos on my phone. Susan and I at the beach. Earl and I on the couch. Mom’s funeral-no tears. Susan dressed as her favourite wrestler- The Iron Sheik, on Halloween. Earl sleeping inside a box. I turned my phone off clutching a spare pillow between my teeth.

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