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.
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.