Friday, October 15, 2010

New Here?

Hey there! I'm Daniel O'Brien, the Senior Writer for Cracked.com. This used to be a blog, but now it exists solely as the online home of my free novella, "Bartender." The blog that used to live here now lives over at ThisDanOBrien. Check it out.

About Bartender


I started writing this in 2007 while studying Creative Writing at Rutgers University and working, appropriately enough, as a bartender. It was originally written to entertain my friends, (the real-life Mike and Joe, and my brothers, David and Tommy), and I'm proud to say that I've just barely accomplished that, (Mike still hasn't read it). One day I would like to fix all of the typos, clean up some of the plot issues and generally make this a better version of itself, but Cracked keeps me pretty busy. Some day.

If you haven't read it yet, start here.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Chapter Twenty: The End.

“I’m gonna switch things up today,” Mike said. “Gimme an Amaretto Sour.”
“Interesting,” Joe said. “My mom like Amaretto Sours.”
“Hair-pulling and the reverse cowgirl,” Mike said, and we both stared at him. “On the subject of ‘Things Your Mom Like,’” he clarified.

Things were pretty much back to normal. It had been four months since...well, everything. We were sitting in my fully-repaired bar. It looks the same as it used to, but a couple of the smells inherent to a building that’s seen its fair share of guests from all walks of life are missing right now. I didn’t think I’d miss those smells. I didn’t even notice them, in fact, until they were gone, but now it’s all I think about when I’m in here. Sawdust and some kind of lemon-scented furniture polisher: that’s not what my bar’s supposed to smell like.
We’ll be reopening the bar tomorrow but, until then, we’re taking the opportunity of an empty bar to sit and drink. A lot of people are excited about the reopening, which is great. Hopefully, we can take care of the awful smell of a new, untouched bar and give this place some character again.
I looked over my friends. To be honest, very little has changed for us, except our uniforms. Joe wears a suit a lot more often now that he’s back to practicing law. He specializes in Immigration Law, fighting for people who came into the country illegally to stay here. A kid’s family is murdered, they run to America, and Joe fights like hell to keep them here. It’s noble, but it’s also exhausting. He doesn’t like talking about it. Every once and a while, he still drives his ice cream truck. He looks great in a suit.
Mike is a mail man now, I guess. He certainly has a legitimate postal worker’s uniform, and I often see him carrying a bag full of mail, but I’ve never actually seen him deliver any. If he truly is a mail man, he is an awful, awful one who never should have been hired in the first place. He will, presumably, keep cashing the government’s checks until he is inevitably fired.
I’m fine. My chest hurts every once and a while, but the doctors say that’s natural and will most likely never stop. I spent a month recovering and the remaining time bartending with Dave while my bar was under construction. It was nice, working with both of my brothers, and for the brief four months while my bar was nonexistent, Dave officially had the #1 spot. I will never stop reminding him of this.

With the Emperor of Spain’s (okay, excessive) execution, the International Mafia underwent a total redesign. A whole lot of smaller factions emerged under leaders that had studied and worked directly with the Emperor or Rebecca. The massive destruction made headlines all over the country and sent the message that the Emperor’s brute force negotiation tactics are a thing of the past. These New Mafias are more businesses than gangs. I don’t really give a shit. They’re staying away from me and my bar, and that’s what’s important.

Joe was reading a Time magazine that Mike should have delivered a few days ago, and Mike was going through his bag looking for checks. We don’t talk about Rebecca or the Emperor too much these days. For one thing, we’re a little busy, what with law firms and mail-tampering and all. For another, this whole situation, with a little bit of time, just becomes another strange thing that’s happened to us. “Remember that Emperor guy,” we might say in a year or two. “He was fuckin’ weird.” Sure, I have the scar from the Emperor’s bullet to remind me, but I have lots of scars, each with their own story. If I dwell too long on any one scar, I might miss somethings that are happening in real time.
“Hey, if I was having sex with a chick that was a quarter black, but we were interrupted midway through, can I still technically say I nailed a black chick,” Mike asked. Mike directed his question to Joe, which just proves that Mike doesn't actually have a clue what a lawyer is responsible for knowing.
“No,” Joe answered. “The non-black percentage needs to be inversely related to the amount of times you have sex. So, one-fourth-black chick....you’d need to have sex with her three full times before you can say you nailed a black chick.”
“Dammit,” Mike said.

These are the things I would miss.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Chapter Nineteen: Shot

You’ve probably never been shot. If you have, you already know what I’m about to say. It totally fucking blows. If you’re anything like me, you’ve been raised on a steady diet of action movies where, when the hero gets shot, he keeps moving. Maybe he’s limping or clutching his wound, but he keeps going. While I never really thought I could, Schwarzenegger-like, simply walk off a whirling shitstorm of bullets, I always felt that the idea that the combination of adrenaline, willpower and shock could keep my legs moving after being shot was at least vaguely grounded in reality. It isn’t. It isn’t at all. I didn’t rip out the bullet and throw it back, I didn’t flex my shirt off and spin kick my assailant, I didn’t even turn around. I fell. I dropped first to my knees, and then just fell forward, my face against the side of the van, my arms at my sides refusing to listen to my commands.
I could still blink and groan, but breathing was becoming slightly more difficult. Every time I tried to inhale, my chest tightened up. It was strange; it felt like it was tightening but expanding at the same time, pressing up against my chest. With breathing and moving being such an issue, I certainly couldn't fight my way out of this and I couldn't even unleash the string of obscenities intended for the Emperor. All I could do was listen. My back arched uncomfortably and my cheek pressed hard against the van, I listened. I heard the Emperor opening a small case, the click of a little button attached to a spring lock being pressed. A cigarette case, I guessed. Too much of an asshole to keep his cigarettes in the regular box. That sounds like the Emperor. My suspicion was confirmed when I heard a zippo lighter flip open and ignite. Then, I just heard the Emperor’s breathing. Officially, my least favorite sound.
“Do you know what makes me a better man than you, Mr. Donahue?” Nothing, I wanted to say. Get over here, I’m gonna bite your face off. His voice was getting closer, so I assumed he was squatting or leaning towards me now.
“Discipline, Mr. Donahuge. It is discipline that makes me a smart business man; I can recognize when to buy and when to sell regardless of personal bias or pride. It’s why I’m so wealthy today.” You smell like shit, I want to rip your throat out with my teeth. “It is discipline, Mr. Donahue, that keeps me from, as you have done, running blindly into a fight for which I am unprepared.” He grabbed me by the shoulders and turned me around so I was facing him, dropping me roughly back against the van.
“It is discipline that keeps me Untouchable. A disciplined man is free of personal attachments. Your personal attachment to Ms. Venom has led you here, while my lack of attachment puts me, as usual, in a position of considerable power. It is discipline, Mr. Donahue, that separates us. It’s what makes you the bleeding man with the hole in his chest, and it’s what makes me the man with the gun. I am always the man with the gun. Do you understand?”
“Gimme…Gimme one of those cigarettes.” It came out as a wheeze, slightly louder than a whisper. And, if that was my last breath, perhaps it could have been used for something nobler or, failing that, something much, much cooler. But I gotta tell you, I really wanted a cigarette. More than that though, I wanted a little bit of time. That shock and that numbness I was looking for earlier was just starting to creep in and kick out the paralyzing pain that had previously settled in. My arms were ready to listen to me again and my legs were begging for a set of genitals to kick. I was twitching my fingers while the Emperor rambled on with his clearly practiced Douchebag Discipline Manifesto for Nerds, and I just needed another minute or so to develop one more big burst of energy. He was laughing, like a stupid dick.
“That ego of yours, Mr. Donahue. It is incredible. But, no. You cannot have a cigarette. Do you know why I won’t give you one?” If he says “discipline” I’m gonna shit, I swear to God.
“It’s--” he stopped himself from answering and quickly redrew his pistol. He wrapped his left arm under my armpits, pulled me up violently and jammed the pistol into my temple with his right hand. Mike, Joe, David and Tommy were running toward us, and he knew it. I made myself as limp and motionless in his arms as I could.
“Stop,” he said when they were about 10 feet away. “I will shoot him.”
“Go ahead,” Mike said. “Hank’s a robot.”
“I will shoot him,” The Emperor repeated. “Right now, I am going to walk away. You are all going to put your weapons down and walk back towards the warehouse. I am going to walk away, and you will not follow, unless you would like Mr. Donahue to die.” I nodded, and they all put their weapons down.
“He’s not programmed to die,” Mike maintained. “Only to fight. And nail your dead girlfriend.”
Exgirlfriend,” Joe corrected.
“Enough,” The Emperor said.
“Tell them the thing about discipline,” I whispered. He pressed the gun harder into my temple.
“Hank, quickly: initiate self-destruct sequence.”
“Turn around and walk away,” The Emperor said, his voice getting louder.
“Okay, calm down,” Mike said, and began to loosen his pants. If there’s one thing you can always count on that guy to do…
“Stop that,” The Emperor said.
“Don’t you fucking dare,” Joe said.
“Great,” David said. “All this over a bartender?”
“The best bartender,” I pointed out.
“See, now, that’s what I take issue with,” David said, moving forward. “Emperor, how exactly did you decide on him as the ‘best’ bartender? Is it the Schulmanac? I mean, the Schulmanac is deeply flawed. Please don’t tell me that’s all you’re going on.”
“Dude,” I said. “You’re number two. Just live with it.”
“It’s just, I feel like you didn’t really look closely at all the bartenders, you know? I mean, I happen to have my sales from the past quarter as well as Hank’s sales. Have you seen these numbers?” Mike was stepping out of his pants, Joe was questioning whether or not Mike was man enough to take off his boxers and throw them at the Emperor, and Dave was reaching into his back pocket, presumably to produce his top sales record. Meanwhile, Tommy was quietly edging his way closer, taking advantage of the shadow that the fallen streetlight created. Even more meanwhile, I was slowly regaining my strength.
“You’re not gonna do it,” Joe said to Mike. “Because you’re a Pussy McPusskerson. You’re Puss in Boots.”
“Dude,” Mike said grabbing the top of his boxers, “you’re in for so much dick and you don’t even know it.”
“You’re a vagina. You’re the Jolly Green Vagiant.”
“Oh man, all aboard the cock train, a one way express trip from here directly to Dick Central. No stops, just cock.”
“Enough,” The Emperor shouted.
“Here, look,” David said, his hand still in his back pocket. “I think, once you see these numbers, you’ll reconsider which bartender you want.”
“Those numbers don’t take style into account.”
"You're former Italian prime minister Benito Pussolini. You operate on a campaign of fascism and monthly bleeding."
“This is Ground Control to Major Dick, you will be forcefully penetrating the atmosphere in T Minus 10 seconds.”
“You’re George Orwell’s Vagineteen Eight Four.”
"Becase, I mean, if you really want the best..." David was moving closer.
Enough!
And then it happened. The Emperor removed the pistol from my head and was going to aim at someone and, no matter how distracted we all seemed, that was what everyone had been waiting for. As soon as the barrel was no longer against my head, David quickly pulled a handgun from his back pocket, and trained it on the Emperor, Mike produced a gun from somewhere within his boxers, Tommy emerged from the shadows to the Emperor’s right, and I mustered whatever strength I had left to throw my head backwards, right into the Emperor’s stupid fucking nose and took his confusion as a chance to slide behind him, out of his grasp. Before he could even decide which annoying asshole he was going to point his gun at, we had him surrounded, each of us with a firearm and a steady hand. The Emperor froze.

I looked around. My best friends and my two older brothers all temporarily putting their own lives on hold so they could train their guns on my lunatic enemy. He smiled.
“What are you smiling at assface?” Mike asked. “You’re cock-deep in shit sandwiches. Nothing funny about that. Not for you, anyway.” The Emperor handed me his pistol.
“Do you see what I did? That is discipline, because this is a fight that I know I cannot win with a gun. I have made a smart choice. Do you know what it is that I have, Mr. Donahue?”
“Too many speeches,” Joe answered.
“A ridiculous name,” Tom offered.
“Horribly skewed bartender information,” David suggested.
“Ooh! You have…what is it when you don’t have a dick,” Mike said. “That’s what you have. Not a dick. Not a vagina, exactly, just, like, a total absence of dick.” The Emperor’s eyes were trained on me.
“Money, Mr. Donahue, and power. More than you can imagine, and I am big enough to realize when to use it. Come now, Mr. Donahue, I can recognize when my pride needs to come secondary. I have enough money to make all of your problems --and all of their problems-- go away. I will leave you alone, because I am a man of my word, and you can have anything. Pride is one thing, Mr. Donahue, but there is much I need to accomplish, none of which I can do if I am dead. Whatever you want. Do not repeat your mistakes, Mr. Donahue. You have already turned down an incredibly generous offer this week, and just look at how much trouble it’s caused. It is the smart choice, Mr. Donahue, and there is no shame in being smart. Think about it. All of your problems. Gone.” I looked at Tommy and David, and I looked at Mike and Joe.
“Way I see it,” I said, “is I have a pretty great life. Really, I just have this one problem. One persistent, irritating fucking problem, and I don’t need any money to take care of it. " I took the cigarette out of The Emperor's mouth and took one. long. drag. I cocked the pistol. "Gentlemen?”
The Emperor stopped smiling.
The gun blasts lit up the street.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Chapter Eighteen: Brothers to the Rescue

The explosion was much bigger than I expected it to be. We were out of harm’s way in time, I guess I just didn’t know just how conducive to explosion Patron Tequila was. I’ll remember for next time. Mike and I were safe behind a couple of barrels that I hoped weren’t filled with oil or gasoline, and Joe took the opportunity of the explosion to run to our van. And there’s a crucial difference: when Joe sees a bomb coming, he utilizes it and does something useful with the extra time, and I dive, (face first), behind an enormous, potentially flammable barrel. Joe’s so much Goddamned smarter than me it’s not even funny. Mike was sitting up, his head over the top of the barrel, mesmerized by the flames towering over us. The glow of the fire lit up his face, and I’d say he looked just like a little kid going to see fireworks for the first time if it wasn’t for the beard and all the blood drying around his mouth. I hope there’s no kid that looks like that, anyway.
Joe came running up, his arms full of guns. He had to sidestep at one point to avoid a man on fire running around like…a man on fire.
“Joe,” Mike said. “Did you fucking see that explosion?”
“What explosion?”
“The- Oh, got it, you’re being an asshole.” I turned towards the door where we came in just in time to see it swing open. Dave entered first and Tommy followed right behind him; they moved like an efficient, two-man-SWAT-team, covering each other, surveying the entire room, calling out to each other, (in little codes, I liked to believe). They each carried two handguns and wore backpacks, presumably full of weapons. Tommy spotted us and ran towards us while Dave covered him.
“Hey, man,” Mike said. I was relieved, but furious.
“Tom, man, thanks, but…how did…I told you guys to stay away, you said-” He put his hand up to stop me.
“If you knew we were coming, you’d have figured out a way to stop us.”
“But-”
“Deal with it.”
“Wait, Hank- you didn’t see this coming?” Mike asked.
“Jesus, man.”
God dammit.
Dave caught up to us.
“Hey guys.”
Dave,” Mike said, advancing with his arms outstretched. Dave pointed a gun at him. “OK, you’re right…Too soon.”
“What are we dealing with, here?” Tommy asked.
“Uh… a bunch…a lot of guys. I didn’t…” I trailed off. They probably expected me to have at least a rough estimation of how many guys we were up against, and possibly what they were carrying. Efficiency does not, apparently, run in this family.
“Fantastic.” A shot rang out, the first shot since the explosion. They were getting their bearings and remembering how much they wanted to kill us. A second shot rang out and, as if it was a starter pistol in the most dangerous race in history, we all took off running in various directions.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a closed space while a whole shitload of guns were going off. Probably not. I’m sure you’ve seen similar scenes in movies and, if you saw the movie in a theater, and depending on whether or not the particular theater had Dolby Surround Sound, you may have thought, “Goodness, that sure is loud.”
It is nothing- I can tell you better than most- nothing like the real thing. You can’t think, you can’t hear your own voice, so you just shoot. You can’t tell if anyone is running up behind you, you can’t hear your friend or brother warning you, you can’t even hear the little click that tells you you’re out of bullets. At first, there’s just a whole lot of “boom”-ing going on that drowns out all the other noise. You pray for it to stop, just so you can get a moment of peace to gather your thoughts, because you think this is the worst part. But soon enough, the noise stops completely. The shooting continues alright, and the screaming continues, but the noise just stops, and now you’re deaf. The only sound you hear is your heart, which is pissing its pants right now. That’s the worst part.
So I ran around, temporarily deaf, and shooting anyone I didn’t recognize but, really, looking for The Emperor. The flames were getting bigger and, in my frantic shooting spree, I tripped over my own feet, which is why I never played soccer. Also, soccer is for boring losers. As luck would have it, I landed face to face with Rebecca Venom. She was still wearing that smile she had on when The Emperor shot her. I picked myself up off the ground and surveyed what was going on around me. I don’t know when they did it, but Tommy and David dropped off extra guns and ammo in various places around the warehouse. They constantly moved while they shot and timed their movements so that, whenever they ran out of ammo, they ended up right in front of one of their pre-placed guns. I remember earlier when I’d run out of bullets, my response was to throw my gun at the nearest henchman and discuss in graphic detail a few things I would do to said henchman’s mother while running for cover.
My brothers are slightly more useful in battle than I am.
I saw Joe sniping from behind a very tall stack of boxes, and I saw Mike behind a fairly large henchman twisting his neck. If I wasn’t temporarily deaf, I imagine I’d be able to hear the snap from here. So, every member of my team was accounted for and doing well, (except for me, tripping over my own damn stupidity and rubbing the cramp in my side). We might have actually been winning, but none of that would have mattered in a little while, not with all these flames spreading. Jesus, that Patron must be strong. I wonder if I could power my car with it. Some of the Emperor’s men were already heading for the door, but I still couldn’t find the Emperor. Then, I was struck hard, right in the temple, and I went down.
If it was a bullet, I imagine I’d be slightly more dead right now. I looked around and spotted a rusty, bent, tin can rolling away from me. Joe, trying to get my attention and, apparently as deaf as I was, thought the best way to catch my eye would be to throw a can at it. I started to get up when another can, from Mike, bounced off my forehead. He laughed. Meanwhile, Joe was directing my attention to our van. It was pulling out of the warehouse with some difficulty. I saw Joe mouth the word “Emperor.” I took off running as Mike kept pelting me with garbage.
As soon as I got outside, my ears started ringing. Not the most pleasant sound, but a welcome replacement for total deafness. One of The Emperor’s men followed me out, and I quickly turned around and fired. Two shots, and he was down. I scanned the road for the van and saw it, about 10 yards down the street, swerving around and scraping up against parked cars on the side of the road. I checked my bullets. Three left. Gotta make them count. I lifted the gun and aimed for the back-right tire of the van. The first shot missed completely when the van swerved unexpectedly and the second hit the bumper.
“Come on, God dammit,” I yelled, because I couldn’t really hear myself otherwise. I closed one eye and pulled the trigger. Contact. The van skidded for a while and I was already running towards it. It almost tipped over a few times and finally came to a stopped when it collided, hood-first, with one of those steel poles that holds up a streetlight.
I ran up to the car and grabbed the door handle for the front seat. I pulled it open.
“Alright you son of a- What the fuck?” The driver seat was empty, and the passenger side door was open. Someone smarter, which is to say, anyone else on my team that wasn’t Mike, would have been able to anticipate this and would have put some distance between himself and the car. I didn’t see it coming. The possibility that the Emperor would sneak past me at any point never occurred to me, which is why his voice surprised me so much. That, and it was one of the first noises I heard that wasn’t a ringing sound. I was still facing the car, trying to figure everything out, when he came up behind me.
“Mr. Donahue,” he said, and then I heard the shot.
Then, I fell down.
You've got to be fucking kidding me.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Chapter Seventeen: The Emperor of Spain.

Mike ran up to me, escorting Rebecca, who still refused to touch him. Rebecca looked unharmed, but Mike had a couple of fresh gashes and, I learned, a loose tooth from getting hit in the mouth with the butt of a gun. He fumbled around inside his mouth for awhile and eventually pulled his tooth out. He pulled his own fucking tooth out of his mouth and didn’t scream or anything.

Mike was like that.

“Hanker Sore, did you see me?” He was bouncing up and down, like a kid asking his mom if she saw his dive. “This guy hit me in the face with his gun, right? And I just gave him a look, like, ‘Fuck you,’ right? And I grabbed his shirt and I said ‘Big mistake, buddy.’ It was fucking great.”
“It sounds great, I’m very impressed. You’re so brave.” Mike ran over to the Specialist’s lifeless body.
“Holy Tits, Hank! I totally thought this guy was gonna kill you.”
“Thanks for your support. He broke my hand, and he was about to kill me, and-" There's nothing wrong with embellishing a little. "And then I said ‘C’mon, can you just give me a hand?’ and chopped him in the neck.”
“Yea. I bet you didn’t say that.” I turned to Rebecca. “Are you alright?”
I’m fine but, Hank…your hand.” I looked down. It didn’t even look like a hand anymore. It looked like someone was trying to make a hand out of clay, then got bored and threw the clay in the microwave to see what would happen.
“Yea, it sucks, but I’ll live. Where’s Joe?” I surveyed the room. Around eight or nine bodies littered the floor. Looks like everything was working out. I spotted Joe, his gun trained on…someone.

“Joseph, what’ve you got goin’ on over there?”
“Hank,” he said. “I’d like you to meet the douche canoe that had your bar burned down.” The Emperor. Mike, Rebecca and I joined Joe in a semi circle around the Emperor, Mike tossed me a gun.
“Should we say any kind of, like, badass ending line? Like, ‘this’ll teach you to burn down bars, Shit Parade‘? Something like that?”

I stared at the Emperor.
This is the guy. This is the guy responsible for the worst few days of my life, to put it very, very lightly. A stubborn little rich boy with too much free time who isn’t used to being told no. He had every quality of every asshole I’d ever met. A suit that cost more than my car. Well-trimmed hair, black with a streak of silver. A pretentious goatee and a slight smirk, despite the fact that four guns were currently pointed at him. Mike’s, in fact, was trained on his crotch. That god damn smirk. That's the smirk of someone who's never had to answer to someone else. Someone who's never been held accountable. That fucking smirk.

“No, Mike, we don’t say anything. We just shoot this motherfucker.”


But we waited. Maybe we wanted to savor this, or maybe we were waiting for him to say something. Anything. I know my boys. Joe wanted him to provide a reasonable explanation, and Mike wanted him to beg. I wanted an apology for Rebecca. He just kept staring at me with that damn smirk. Mike looked him up and down. Rich, showy people sometimes made Mike feel intimidated.
“My dick’s bigger than yours,” he said to compensate.
“Mine’s smarter,” Joe added.

“Mr. Donahue.” he said. His voice wasn’t cracking, there was no quiver to it or anything. He certainly wasn’t behaving like someone who was about to get shot. “I suppose you feel pretty good about yourself, yes?” I did, truth be told. Things were going well. It was around 12:30 and I was still alive. All things considered, we were doing phenomenally better than I thought we would.

“Well, actually, I feel great, Mr Emperor, but, I gotta tell you, not half as great as I’m gonna feel when I pull this trigger.”
“You had better put your gun down, Mr. Donahue,” Rebecca said, aiming the shotgun that I fucking gave her right at my chest. My chest. I lowered my gun. You've got to be kidding me. Mike smiled and didn’t put his gun down. He winked at me.

“Why, Becky? Because as we all know, there aren’t even any bullets in that gun. Isn’t that right, Hank?” He sounded so confident. Joe was laughing, too. If this was a plan, I was not made aware of it.
“Uh...What? Of course there are, Mike, put your gun down.” Mike lost his smile, and with it, the color in his face.
“You gave her a loaded gun? A gun with fucking bullets in it?” Joe spoke next, his eyes wide. “Hank, please tell me you’re kidding.” I was silent.

“You gave her a weapon?”

Everyone was staring at me. I remembered the looks they were giving from when I used to play little league baseball. It was the looks I got when it was a tie game, bases loaded, bottom of the ninth, two outs, and I struck out. I just lost this game.

She’s a traitor! She used to work for him, remember? Like, a day ago? How did you not see this coming?!”
“I…well-”
“You fucking moron.” Mike moved his gun from the Emperor and pointed it at me. “Haven’t you seen any movie ever? She’s the Sexy Stranger!”
“I thought-”
Of course she’s a bad guy, for fuck’s sake!”

“I am so pissed at you right now,” Joe said, shaking his head. “Irresponsible, really. I can’t believe you didn’t see this coming.” I swear to God I didn’t. How could I?

“You guys did?”
“Yea, totally,” Mike screamed. His face was red now and spit was flying out of his mouth.
“Well then why didn’t you tell me?”
“We figured it was so obvious, jackass. I mean, once or twice I thought about bringing it up but I figured ‘you know what, Hank’s a smart guy, he doesn’t need me to insult his intelligence by pointing out this totally obvious issue. I‘m sure he’s got it under control.’”
Mike smacked his head in mock-realization.
“Ooh, Hank, she’s got red hair too, and great tits and a face. Figured I’d fill you in on some of the trickier details. Idiot.” Joe threw his gun away and folded his arms. I’ve never seen him so disappointed in me, and I practically made a career of disappointing him.
“Honestly, Hank, I was sure you were gonna be prepared for this, there wasn't a doubt in my mind. I was really counting on you having a plan that depended on her doublecrossing your ass.” Rebecca and the Emperor stood quietly, staring at the floor, like neighbors afraid to get involved in a domestic fight on game night.
“Guys…I…I’m sorry. I thought...I figured…we could trust her, I mean-”
“But why?! We just met her! She’s such an evil bitch, how could she have convinced you she was legit? What could she possibly have said or-” Mike stopped. He looked first at Joe, then they both looked at me. Mike nodded, and they both seemed to have calmed down.

“Oh. You guys banged.”
“There it is.”
“That has nothing to do with it.”
“Hank, be serious. It has everything to do with it. Red heads, man, that’s your kryptonite. A good-looking bitch could get you to do or believe anything. Anything,” Joe said.
“That’s not true.”
“Shut up. This is just like that thing with Lexie Murphy.” Joe turned to address the Emperor. “In high school, this girl Lexie looked, just looked at his balls for, like, six minutes, and he gave her his fucking car.”
“I didn't give her my car, she said she only needed it for the weekend.” I should call her.
“Irresponsible.”
“You know, if we’d have known, we would have been able to see this coming You really shoulda told us you nailed her, Hank.”
“I was gonna.”
“Ooh, a gentleman,” Rebecca said.
“Shut the fuck up,” Mike yelled.
“Enough!” It was the Emperor. “That. Is. Enough.”
“One more thing,” Mike said.
“No. No more. No more words at all.” He pulled a perfectly polished, silver pistol from his jacket pocket. He turned to Rebecca who, I swear to God, looked just like a little kid. Like she’d saved the change from her lunch money for a whole year and bought Daddy a brand new watch.
“You’ve done very well,” he said, advancing toward her, and she closed her eyes. Her entire body relaxed. Her mouth moved to say ‘Thank you’ but no sound came out. He put his left hand on the small of her back and took her gun (my gun) with his right. He kissed her on the temple softly and she melted onto him. Her eyes still closed, she opened her arms.
“Darling,” he said, and he shot her in the head.
Right in the same spot where he’d kissed her, he put a bullet.
His eyes were off her before she hit the ground.

“Whoa.”

It was Mike, and it pretty much summed up how we all felt. There was a serious amount of time where no one said anything. The Emperor saw we wanted an explanation and eventually spoke.

“She failed me.”
“Fuck you,” Joe said.
“She failed me.”
“But- No, she brought us right to you-”
“She retrieves you at the cost of several men as well as my Specialist, and this is a success? No. She was pathetic.”
“All she wanted-”
“Mr. Donahue-”
All she wanted-”
Excuse me.“ It was the first time he dropped that smirk and the first time he raised his voice. “Let me tell you something: what she wanted is not important to me. Neither is what you want. Neither is your perception of what is ‘fair,’ or anyone else’s perception. It does not concern me. Do you understand? I have never, ever had to justify a single decision I have ever made to anyone, Mr. Donahue, I can’t imagine why I’d start. No. Not now, not with you.” He spoke like he was a professor, giving a lecture on being an enormous dick. The smirk was back.

Several more men in black suits were slowly entering. The receiving end of that distress signal we tried so hard to stop. There was just too much right now. Bewilderment about Rebecca, unyielding pain in my hand, our impending doom, and a seething rage for the Emperor. I didn’t think I could hate that bastard any more than I already did. He was a bad, bad guy. I looked at Mike and Joe as the men surrounded us, because this is it. This is how we die. Mike smiled.

“It’s a cool way to go.”

I was about to say something, something, we can pretend, that would have been profound and memorable. Something deep and powerful, but I didn’t. Instead, a crash, the sound of something being thrown through one of those big, rectangular windows about a foot shy of the ceiling, interrupted what would have been the most badass ending line you’ve ever fucking heard. Something was flying down toward us and everyone was squinting to see what it was.


I have pretty good eyes, myself. The label on the bottle was what set it off for me. Bright, lime green with silver letters. It was about half full with a clear liquid, a liquid that big spenders like thrown into their margaritas, despite the fact that the slight taste improvement by no means justifies the ridiculous price increase. It was a bottle of Patron Tequila, (perhaps you’ve heard about it in rap songs).
This was a special bottle.
Instead of the tan, spherical cork that normally seals the Patron, this particular bottle is topped with a damp rag, lit on one end. The result is the most needlessly expensive Molotov Cocktail you’ve ever seen. I don’t know if you know too much about what happens when a strong alcohol and a flame meet. The Cliffnotes version is “a pretty big boom.” As some of the other men were slowly realizing what was happening- when they realized that, upon impact, the tequila and the fire would combine for a very unpleasant, very pricey explosive distraction- they ran in every direction. My eyes are great, so I recognized it immediately and was already out of harm’s way while some of the slower henchmen were just catching on. If my eyes were a little better, I’d have smiled, because I’d have noticed the three pink jelly beans at the bottom of the bottle.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Chapter Sixteen: The One About Fighting

Before we fuckin’ did this, I had one other thing I need to fuckin’ do. While Joe was heading up the stairs of what was once the Olde Towne Bank, I had Mike wait outside of the van so I could tell Rebecca…something. I hadn’t exactly figured that out yet, just that this is the time in the movie when our hero says something sexy and dangerous and memorable. My palms were sweaty and something was doing backflips in my stomach. I decided not to open with that. I was about to kill a whole bunch of guys, I wasn’t too prepared for or thrilled about it, and I’m sure that’s exactly how I looked. Rebecca Venom, comparatively, looked terrific. Calm, strong. She was nodding even though I wasn’t saying anything, like she understood all of the wonderful things I was too dumb and nervous to come up with.

“Don’t try to say anything clever or meaningful,” she said. “Don’t say anything at all. Thank you.” She leaned in and kissed me. She managed to open the side door behind me while we kissed without skipping a beat.
“It’s time. Right now. Don’t miss.” Strong women.

God damn.

I closed the door before I could say anything stupid, and Mike and I started jogging as quickly and as quietly as we could across the street.

“I can’t wait till blowjobs get just a little bit more acceptable to the mainstream, know what I mean?” Mike whispered.
“Of course not, Mike.”
“Well, I mean, when we were in high school, parties were parties. Some pong, a six pack of Mike’s Hard Lemonade to get nine freshmen drunk, and shitty music. If you were lucky, maybe, maybe you hooked up with someone by the end of the night, right?”
“Go on.”
“Right, that was our high school scene. Hooks up sometimes if you're lucky, consistent blowjobs if you're legendary. Now at high school parties, these kids are just fuckin’ hookin’ up with everybody all the time for no reason. It’s like, ‘Ooh, Becky, did you fuckin’ hook up with Timmy yet?’ And Becky says ‘No,’ and then Becky and Timmy just start fuckin’ make out, and then, like ‘bye,’ ya know?”
“Why are you still going to high school parties?”
“It just seems like high school girls when we were in high school weren’t as easy or…no, that sounds mean, not easy…accommodating. They weren’t as accommodating when we were in high school. High school guys now, man, they have no fucking idea how good they‘ve got it.”
“Yea, good for them, can we focus-”
“Anyway that wasn’t really the point. Like, here’s the evolution: For us, hooking up randomly at high school parties was unacceptable. This new generation, it’s totally cool. You’ve gotta figure in a few years, blowjobs will be just as fucking acceptable as hooking up is now, ya know?”
“You really put a lot of thought into this.”
“I made a few charts, but doesn’t that sound awesome? Like, just think about goin’ to some high school graduation party in a few years.”
“When you’re thirty?”
“And this girl’s like ‘Ooh, Sandra, did you blow Mike yet?’ And she’ll be like ‘No.’ And the other girl will say ‘Oh, you should totally blow Mike.’ And I’m like ‘FUCK YEA YOU SHOULD.’ Ya know? That’s what it’s gonna be like, man.”
“I can’t believe this might be the last conversation I ever have.”
“You have to guess that even at a party with like, twelve chicks, you’re still gonna get fuckin’ twelve blowjobs. Jesus. I might get tired of them.”
“Mike-”
“That’s ridiculous of course I won’t.”
Mike. We’re here.” We were at the front door, my hand on the doorknob, Mike up against the wall. We were waiting for a sound, the sound of a bullet flying through the glass window above us. When that happened, the plan would be to-

Crash

Oh, shit. I pulled open the door while Mike spun around and calmly fired into the room. I swung out from behind the door and hesitated, just for a second, to look at the room before I started firing from my kneeling position. These motherfuckers never saw us coming. Two of them were already down, thanks to Joe, by the time I first surveyed the room, and more were going down, it seemed, every second. No one knew where the bullets were coming from; they saw Mike and I firing but there was the sound of glass breaking and Joe’s shots to confuse the whole situation. We couldn’t afford to shoot and duck, then shoot again, so we just shot. I looked at the seven that would be out of Joe’s line of sight and counted them down whenever one of us took one out.
Six. Five. Mike got two, both in the head.
Four. Right where I hope the heart is, though biology was never really my thing.
Three. Mike made sure that guy didn’t have a face anymore. Shit, one of Joe’s targets caught on and dodged out of the sight of the window. That’s one more for us. It took me two bullets to get him, and I’ve never been more disappointed in myself.
Two. Mike is a great shot. I aimed for the head and got the throat. Still effective, totally gross; he let out exactly the kind of sound you’d expect someone to make if they got shot in the throat, and blood sprayed everywhere like the world’s most terrifying sprinkler.
One left, and he looked terrified. Mike and I walked like total badasses into the lobby as the guy backed into the corner. He was holding one of those signal-sending transmitters that we do not want activated and Mike soundly shot it, right out of his hand, taking a few fingers with it. We each aimed at him.
This room was clear.
I quickly went to work picking up their guns and ammo, Mike quickly went to work placing the hand of one corpse onto the crotch of the corpse next to him. He couldn’t stop laughing.
“Everybody's gonna think they died like that.”
“You’re a superstar, Mike. Let’s keep moving. What‘s on the other side of that door?” Mike closed his eyes.
“Long hallway before the garage. No telling if there are any guards in there.” I put my hand on the door handle, without a clue of what I should expect, and almost shrieked like a tiny girl when Joe’s voice on Mike’s walkie talkie shattered the tense silence.
“Uh, guys? Guys are you dead?”
“Oh, yeah, we’re fine. You scared the shit out of Hank, he seriously won't stop pissing. Over.”
“Great, that’s great. You guys were supposed to call me when the room was clear, I have no fucking idea what’s going on down there and you forget to call me. Awesome. That’s not irresponsible or anything. Christ.” I am just always disappointing that guy. We opened the door.
Fuck!” Mike yelled and he shot the one guy in the hallway. The yell seemed like kind of an overreaction for just one guy.
“Why did you scream?” Mike walked over to the body.
“Look.” He held up the left hand of the dead henchman. The transmitter was in his hand, and the button had been pressed down.
Fuck.” Joe came running in, scaring the balls off me, yet again.
“Why are you guys just standing around?” Mike showed him the same thing he showed me, the indication that we were screwed in a little while.
Fuck.” Glad to see we were in agreement. I switched the channel on my walkie talkie to the frequency that I knew Rebecca was on.
“Rebecca, can you hear me?”
“Hank, say ‘over,’” Mike was whispering. “Hank, over. Over.”
“I can hear you, are you alright?”
“Yea, we’re fine. You’re gonna need to do a little bit of driving, like we talked about..”
“Over. Haank, over!”
“OK. Alright. Less than a minute.”
“Good.”
“Over. Hank. Hank, can you-”
“Shut the fuck up, Mike.” We crowded around the door that leads to the garage. We’re going to be in there soon and we are going to face a shit ton of guys. Or maybe we're wrong, maybe there’ll be no one in there, and we’ll all feel very embarrassed. Honestly, I can live with a little embarrassment. I had my ear pressed to the door, listening for the sound of a van driving through a flimsy garage door. After a few seconds that felt like eight weeks, the van exploded into the garage. I hoped she was okay, but I didn’t dwell on her too much because Mike was already shoving his way into the garage. As soon as we got in there

Fuck.”

I don’t even remember which one of us said that. There was a fuckload of guys in there, and not nearly enough of them were distracted by that van. We split up, like an elite special forces unit and screamed, like a pack of wild thirteen year old girls at a Fray concert. I fired. I fired blindly, but it didn’t matter at this point because there were so many fucking guards that if you fired a random shot, it was more likely that you’d hit someone than you wouldn’t. I dove behind a dusty crate that was full of, I hoped, bulletproof vests. I stuck my head out whenever I stopped hearing bullets flying and tried to shoot as many as I could. In times like these, instincts developed from watching every action movie ever made kick in, they just have to. There’s no time to think when all you hear are gunblasts and Mike screaming “I’m gonna fuck you” at the top of his lungs, so you just have to trust that you’re the good guy and you’re supposed to win. I ran out of bullets in my two beloved handguns a lot sooner than I thought I would and switched over to the automatic machine-gun-type thing that I’d take from one of the dead guards. I pointed it where all the noise was coming from, fired, and ran to another set of crates to hide behind. I don’t know how it was happening, but we were actually doing pretty well. We did have the jump on these guys and they were pretty much in one general area. I started to consider the possibility that we were going to make it as I made my way to Joe, who was very calmly firing from behind an emptied out oil barrel and not missing a single shot. He covered me while I dove behind him.

“I’m so fucking good at this it’s not even funny.” We hid behind the barrel and reloaded while the surprisingly silent henchmen fired at us. Mike was a few feet away, on top of one of the guards, slamming his face into the ground.
“So Hank,” Joe said, shoving a clip into his pistol. “I’ve been thinking- I think I’m gonna be a lawyer. Do the law thing. I’ll miss the truck of course, but, yeah. Immigration Law. I think that sounds good for me.” This was a huge change for Joe, who’d spent such a long time ignoring this path in favor of giving Flintstones Push-Pops to preteens. I answered him the same way I did when he told me the day he graduated law school that he was going to drive an ice cream truck instead of signing a contract with any of the firms that wanted him.
“Cool, man.” Mike crawled up beside us.
“Hey, Vice, I’ve been thinking. I think I’m gonna be a doctor. Just fuckin’ get my shit together and be a doctor, ya know?” I answered him the same way I always do when he announces his big plans.
“Shut the hell up, Mike, your fly is down.”
“Ah hah, Hank!” We fired off a couple of more rounds and checked our ammo. In the movies, ammo is never really an issue. We were, as I kept forgetting, not in a movie and therefore did not have too much. The van where the rest of our guns were stored was currently blocked by The Emperor’s henchmen. It didn’t look like they’d gotten inside it yet, so that was good, but they were shooting the hell out of it. Mike surveyed the room.
“Alright, about eight or nine guys blocking the van, and that looks like its all that’s left right now.” We felt the floor shake and all turned to see The Specialist, about ten yards away, advancing towards us. “Fuck. And, uh…him.”
“Any sign of anyone who looks like an Emperor?” I asked.
“Well no one was wearing a sash with ‘Spain’ in big red letters, if that’s what you’re wondering.” Asshole. The group guarding the van was talking and getting organized, The Specialist was getting closer, moving quickly and dodging behind boxes the whole way.

“OK, plan time. There are two guns with ammo between the three of us right now. Two of us need to go after those, what is it, eight or nine guys, get to Rebecca and the van, and get some more guns. Because eventually, more will show up. We know that. And someone’s got to fight that huge bastard. Probably hand to hand.” Joe said, and they both looked at me. The Specialist was advancing with no weapons. I suppose I wouldn’t carry them either, if I was one. They were both still staring at me. “OK, Mike, get the Specialist,” I wanted to say “and I’ll take a nap.” But, of course, I couldn’t. I got us into this.
“I’ll have ‘the special,’” I would have said if I was in Die Hard. But I’m not, so I just barely wheezed out
“I guess…I guess I’ll take that big guy unless one of you guys wants-” but they were already running away. Fantastic.

Guns were being fired and people were screaming. I didn’t want to turn back and check on Mike and Joe; I couldn’t take my eyes off the gigantic hitman heading towards me. He knew I was unarmed, he knew this was going to be a one-on-one, hand-to-hand fight, and he knew he was going to beat the shit out of me.

I thought back to when I was about fourteen years old, an awkward kid talking to his dad about fighting. My dad had taken a pretty ridiculous amount of martial arts classes in his day, and he took them very, very seriously. He was an ideal candidate for these classes, he understood the importance and responsibility inherent to possessing the knowledge and ability required to straight up murder someone. At fourteen, I did not. I was just a little punk asking my Dad if it was possible to kill someone with one hit and, if so, how. I wanted to know a super secret ninja combination to impress my friends, by murdering every single one of them.

“It’s about commitment,” he had said to me. “Find out how committed you are willing to be. Commitment means understanding the consequences. Yes, legal, but especially moral. To know what an attack does and what it means. What it means for him, and what it means for you. Once you understand the commitment, you decide if you want it or not. And then, you stick with it. If you’re committed, then you’re committed. Because if you want, I can show you some things. If you understand the commitment, I can show you moves that will stop a fight. One move and the fight’s over. And I can show you some moves that would stop a man. Doesn’t matter how big, or strong or fast. One move and that man is done.” He then talked me through a couple of moves from both categories that, at the time, I was too frightened to ever attempt. Commitment, responsibility, and consequences were things, at fourteen, I didn’t understand. Now, I do. I’m in this fight now, with my Dad’s voice in my head, reminding me of his instructions from almost a decade ago, hovering above me like Obi Wan Kenobi. Except my dad isn’t dead, or British and there are no space monsters. There is one giant, though. I considered first the moves to end a fight.

“It sounds stupid,” my Dad’s voice in my head, “but the eyes. Ignore all the complicated moves they’ll teach you in any class. In a real fight, no one is going to wait for you to get any proper moves done. In a street fight, you’re just two guys throwing blind punches. So poke the eyes. Not three stooges stuff, but if you get your fingers in the eyes -jab them up there- just throw four fingers at the eyes and if you get a few in there, the fight is over. You don’t rub off getting jabbed in the eye. He’ll be blind, and you’ll walk away.” The danger in this was getting close. I knew my distance. I could reach with one lunge forward. Step into it now. He’s not expecting you to be any kind of fighter, so move quickly and efficiently. Step in and throw that hand up there. I stopped thinking and started doing. I stopped forward and, to my surprise, he did too. This was not according to plan. He was closer than I expected, but I shot my right hand up anyway. I definitely felt something soft and I definitely sent him back a few steps. I pulled my hand back; blood on my index and middle finger. A good sign. Also, gross. The sudden shift in our positions was too important of a change that I just wasn’t skilled enough to make the proper adjustments for. I’d only made contact with one eye, his left, which he now kept closed. So he was partially blinded, but his pissed-off-at-me status was not partial at all. It was full, I guessed, though I don’t really have anything that could measure…something like that. He was advancing on me now and most likely expecting and preparing for another facial attack.

“A shot to the kidney,” Memory Dad told me, indicating where exactly the human kidney was located. “That’d stop someone right in his tracks.”

As this angry, enormous brick wall with a face approached me, I faked another jab to the eye with my left hand and punched with all my might, right where Memory Dad told me. The brick wall laughed derisively.

“Unless he’s in really great shape,” Memory Dad quickly added. Fuck.
“Fuck.” Leonard The Specialist grabbed me by the throat and tossed me several yards away. I landed hard, my back bending over a sharp, steel crate that was placed, I can only assume, for this exact purpose. The pain was excruciating.
“Get up. Stop being such a pussy,” Memory Dad screamed. That wasn’t from our karate lesson, actually, my subconscious accessed his words from when I was 9 and he was lovingly teaching me how to ride a bike. Wildly inappropriate at the time, but fitting advice for my current situation. I did as I was told with an out load “Yes, sir,” that seemed to confuse the Specialist, if only for a second. There was still about nine feet between us, so I decided to back up, like a man. He moved faster than I would have predicted based on his size and all known laws of nature. What was left of his eye was still dripping blood, but he seemed unphased. His expression implied “I’m going to murder you slowly and painfully and probably get a boner over it.” I didn’t have a mirror, but gun to my head, I’d say my expression screamed “I’d be pissing my pants right now if I wasn’t so certain that you just paralyzed my dick back there.”

My backpedaling, manly and brave though it was, was no match for the speed of this Mobile Home with arms. At a temporary lack of fatherly advice, (Memory Dad was most likely off getting a Memory Beer), I took my cue from every boxer I’d ever seen and threw a punch with the intended destination of the Specialist’s face. He caught my hand easily and, with an equal lack of substantial effort, broke my fucking hand. Just crushed it.

I don’t know how many bones are in the human hand. I couldn’t count the amount of cracks that occurred, mostly because I was shrieking, (like a man), far too loud to pick up any other sounds. Let’s say, a lot. There are a lot of bones in the human hand, and he broke them all. He broke a lot of bones in my hand, a whole bunch. And breaking my fucking hand (my fucking hand!) wasn’t enough. You break someone’s hand, you let it go. That’s just common courtesy. This asshole was not letting go of my hand. He clutched it and pulled me in closer. The pain was lowering me to the ground, my knees were bending and he was looming over me. Blood and some other eye juice dripped from his eye socket onto my forehead. Not in my mouth, not in my mouth. Do not let it land in my mouth.


It totally fucking did.


He was crushing my already brokenfuckinghand (fuck!). Would I have to lose this hand? I think this damage is beyond anything a cast could fix. When he just eventually turns my hand bones into powder, would I just lose it all together? Do I get a new rubber hand, or can I get it replaced with a robot hand? Because I’m actually really OK with that. I suppose these questions don’t need answers. I’m going to die very soon. He was towering above me, and I was ready to blackout, sitting on an invisible chair.

“Some moves can stop a fight, some can stop a man. Dead. But that’s up to you, if you have the commitment. Are you committed?”

I was.
I closed my eyes and remembered exactly how the move went. The one move my Dad taught me in the second category. I made the fingers on my left hand as stiff as possible, spreading my thumb and forefinger wide and pressing the rest of my fingers together. He didn’t notice this preparation; he was relishing what I’m sure he knew to be my last minute alive. He took a breath and opened his mouth to speak, presumably to say some typically super villainy cliché about how I was no match for him or how he was going to fuck my corpse till Christmas, but I wasn’t going to give him the chance to get a single syllable out. I summoned what was left of my strength. My position, the bent knees, gave me an advantage for this particular move. I shot up quickly and swung my arm up, using all my strength and my own momentum to focus all of my force straight into his throat. The little nook formed between my thumb and forefinger connected with his trachea. I pushed. I pushed with everything. I pushed like pushing was my motherfucking job and I motherfucking loved it. Dad described to me, nine years ago, what collapsing a person’s windpipe might feel like.

He had no idea.

I saw the Specialist’s good eye widen and I heard a mix of gurgling and gasping sneak out of his mouth. When his grip on my brokenmotherfuckinghand loosened, I sidestepped out of the way, just in time for his falling, gigantic body to miss me on its way down. He hit the ground with a thud that probably woke everyone in a two mile radius.

He didn’t struggle or call for help, he didn’t get up and eat me, he didn’t even breathe. He laid there on the floor of the warehouse. They’re gonna need two coffins.

“Doesn’t matter how big or strong they are,” I said, echoing my Dad’s guarantee, “Hank Donahue can murder the fuck out of them with one god damn hand.”

He never said that last part, but I’m certainly going to include it in the lessons I teach to my kids.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Chapter Fifteen: Crazy Jeremy's, Crazier Ambush

The drive back to Eddie’s was pretty haunting. This is usually a fairly busy town, but not tonight. Tonight, everyone’s indoors for the night. Like they already know what a warzone this town’s about to turn into, and no one wants to be caught in the crossfire. Rebecca blew smoke out the open window and I tired to focus on the road. She was quite a distraction. There’s just something about a beautiful woman with careless, just-had-sex hair smoking a cigarette.
Probably the sex.

I almost didn’t notice Joe standing in the parking lot of Eddie’s.
“We need a different car,” he said when I stopped about six inches short of hitting him. “A van. Something that isn’t already tied to us and something that can hold a lotta shit.” Joe’s the smart one. Dammit, why didn’t I think of that? What was I doing instead of planning this damn war? Oh, yeah.
Booya.

Mike arrived shortly after we did, covered in fresh scratches and with a grin that took over the entire southern half of his face. This was Mike’s answer to just-had-sex hair. All of the scratches on him aren't from his stint in prison, his meeting with the Specialist or his time in a spider pit; they're all love bites from whatever it is that Mike has sex with.
“Whew, some of those girls really know how to say goodbye,” he said.
“You smell like the zoo,” Joe noted.
“And there’s a fish hook in your ear,” Rebecca added. He rubbed it affectionately.
“Caryn. Loves fishing, God bless her.”

We drove to “Crazy Jeremy’s Car Dealership.” Jeremy wasn’t crazy, not even a little bit. In fact, he was just a tool with a fairly uncreative marketing ploy.( “Check out the deal on this Honda, I must be crazy!”) We knew Jeremy back from high school and that, in conjunction with some of the other benefits inherent to our unique position as the unofficial underground kings of this town, normally got us free rentals, whenever we wanted. Tonight, as I should have already guessed, was going to be a problem.

“No,” Jeremy said as soon as we pulled up. He was always nervous, but today it was in overdrive: pit stains, coffee stains, circles under his eyes. He looked like someone who, like everyone else in this town was ordered to stay away from me. Ordered by a very large man.
“Jeremy, we need a van.” I saw a plain white van. “That one. We need that van.”
“No, no, no. Guys, come on. I-I-I-I just can’t help you out, not tonight, no. I’m sorry, but no.” He looked like he was about to cry. On one hand, the Emperor most likely put the fear of God in him. On the other, Jeremy was always horribly concerned with what people thought of him. All he wanted to was please everyone in the world so everyone everywhere would like him. All the time. Must be stressful.
“Just give us the keys, Jeremy, to that van, and we’ll go. You’ve done it before. Come on.”
“Please, it’s different this time, he-” His face went white.
“Somebody important show up, Jeremy?” He nodded. “Someone big and mean, making all kinds of threats? ‘Stay away from Hank, or else.’ That sort of thing?” Jeremy lowered his head.
“He showed me what he did to your bar. I just...I just can’t risk it. I mean, I’m- I can’t really lose this place. I’m just pulling myself out of the red, here, you guys. We’re...we’re still friends, though, I just...I can’t tonight.”
“Think we’re gonna have another chance to ask you again?” Jeremy closed his eyes. Joe stepped up to the plate.
“You’re afraid, Jeremy. That’s all, right? You don’t want the big mean guys messing up your shit-in-a-box car dealership?”
“Yeah.”
“Scared. Huh. Tell me, Jeremy, about how tall are you?”
“Uh...5'11", maybe 5'11" and a half?”
“I see. So, I guess Costco, then?”
“What?”
“Was it Costco? They usually deal in bulk or ridiculous sizes, so was it Costco that sold you a five-foot-eleven-and-a-half-inch tampon?” Jeremy was trying to catch up.
“Are you..are you-”
“A vagina, yes, I’m calling you a vagina, Jeremy. A large, man-sized vagina.”
“A vagiant,” Mike added.
“Thank you, Michael. A vagiant. So...Costco?”

Jeremy produced a ring of keys from his coat pocket and started searching through them.

“You guys are assholes.”

We packed the van with almost everything Eddie’s basement had to offer. Guns, explosives, Samurai swords. We’d be outmatched and outnumbered, but we’d be prepared. Joe drove, Mike sat in the passenger seat memorizing the blue prints of the warehouse, something else Joe thought to get while I wasted the last few hours spooning, and Rebecca and I sat in the back, amidst a cargo van full of very dangerous objects. She studied her shotgun, and she looked great doing it. But she was just naturally beautiful, so I imagine she’d look good doing just about anything. Get a picture of her wearing a stained sweat suit and feeding stray cats and I guarantee it could end up in Maxim. Did I mention we had sex?

I guess I spend too much time staring at Rebecca and trying to figure out where I could get cats for the photo shoot because, the next thing I knew, we were there. Across the street from the warehouse, right in front of a building that used to be an Olde Towne Bank, but was now just a building. As Joe and I were checking to make sure everything we thought we were going to need was loaded, Mike ran across the street and quickly disappeared in the shadows. He’s messy and classless and painfully loud, but when it’s time for business, it’s time for business. Just as quickly and quietly as he’d left, Mike was back in the van.

“So?” He closed his eyes for a few seconds and then unrolled the large blueprint. He pointed to what, I guess was the first room in the building.
“Twelve guys in here, and none of ‘em looked very Emperory.” He pointed to one of the warehouse’s many large windows, this one facing the street. “If we get someone on the roof the Towny Bank, they can get a few through that window. Five, the rest of ‘em won’t be visible. I’m thinkin’ Joe on the roof with a sniper rifle, and Hank and I in that lobby, with just our fucking hands.
“No, to the end of that. What about the rest of the place?”
“All of the other rooms were empty, except, I guess, the big storage garage.”
“You guess?”
“Yea. All the windows around the garage were too high for me to reach, they’re all, like, a foot below the roof. Too high for me to see, and there’s not a building tall enough with a good enough angle where we could see in from a roof. The lights are on in there and nowhere else. We’re just gonna have to assume the Emperor, the Specialist, and everyone else is in that garage. Which is good for us; the garage door is weak.”
“Weak enough for, say, a white cargo van to drive straight through it?” Joe asked.
“Any color, really. But yes. So first, we gotta take care of those twelve. In the lobby. They look like guards; all carrying guns, all dressed alike, all lookin’ like total pricks. All standing in the room right before the garage. They’ve all got walkie talkies and some other little electronic devices. I don’t know what they are, but we probably don’t want them activated.”
“They give a signal,” Rebecca explained. “When the signal goes off, a great deal of the Emperor’s associates will arrive.”
“A great deal?” I asked.
“About how many assloads?” Mike wondered.
“Several.”
“Kay. So we don’t want them to hit those buttons. We want to get in there fast and quiet. Joellerskates, you need to get every single one of those guys you can. Hank, we need to take out the remaining seven. Don’t miss.”

“OK.”

‘OK,’ I say, like I’m not terrified. Like I go to war all the goddamn time. Like I'm not a cricket’s wink away from shitting my pants.
Did I just say ‘cricket’s wink’? I must be really losing it.

“Hey,” Mike said, cracking his neck. “Let’s fuckin’ do this.” I loaded my guns.

Let’s fuckin do this.