My second installment to FFF. 🙂
Paid in Full
I am not supposed to remember any of this.
The pounding on the head, the Ibuprofen and Jim Beam chaser that I had hoped would make the migraine go away, the way I gripped the dining room chair’s arms so I wouldn’t go taking another nose dive onto the sea of porcelain tile — I should be a brand new baby, so to speak.
I guess “gripping” is a misnomer since I’m actually strapped to the stupid metal thing by my own clothes. My Ted Baker tie wrapped both of my ankles and connected to the chair’s bars, ripped sleeves from my Boateng shirt burning my wrists, and worst of all, my fucking boxers over my head like some sort of silk bag.
It was at that moment in semi-darkness that the movie “Life of Brian” popped into my head, as movies generally do when I’m stressed out, and I could hear the Brits singing “always look on the bright side of life”. The bright side in this instance had to be that I had just pulled the boxers from my drawer so I couldn’t smell my own ass stink.
I wasn’t exactly sure why they were there in my kitchen, but a wild guess would be the cash I owed Sorely.
I knew better than to get mixed up in owing people money. Last month a guy lost his thumbs to my cousin Killian over $1,000. So it goes.
One night on a whim I slipped into this hole in the wall pub, Sorely’s. I was tired of the bars with polished steel and high back chairs, glass windows from floor to ceiling that looked over the city, women looking for husbands who could buy them happiness.
So the pub had three people in it. Jeans, T-shirts, pints of dark beer in front of them. There was a pool table in the corner. A dartboard with real darts, not those shitty plastic things, hung on the far wall. The bartender was out of a movie: white apron with a roll of fat hanging over it, hands barely able to fit into the mugs he was drying with a white cloth, a cigarette in his mouth. On the one TV some soccer game was playing.
Hearing footsteps circle me, I couldn’t help but cringe. I heard one of my Roberto Rossi knives being pulled from the drawer. I’m not ashamed to admit it, I would’ve cried, but I was too scared.
“Fellas, fellas,” I pleaded, “I get paid this week.”
“You owed him last week,” a gruff voice responded tapping the blade on shoulder, then on the other. Every vein in my body screamed. My head ached. Sweat soaked the shorts on my head and dripped down my bare back.
Laughing his partner mumbled, “Look at that, Aiden, his pecker shriveled up into his stomach.”
Aiden bumped the blade on the top of my skull which reverberated through my body.
Aiden was at the pub the first time I went in. He was about thirty, built like a wrestler, broad shouldered, square jaw, arms bulging even when relaxed, and I really didn’t want to be here with him like this. Who was I kidding? I wouldn’t want to be with him anywhere.
It started out innocently enough: a friendly wager here, a poker game there. I thought they found me entertaining. I am, after all, a likable, if not downright humorous guy. Everybody at the office says so. I’ve put fake roaches in lunchbags. I’ve covered the boss’s office in Dixie cups making a cute smiley face and everyone thought it was brilliant. I’ve always come up with witty comments that make people spit coffee out their noses. Right now, I had nothing.
“Please,” I mumbled.
I heard the second guy rummaging through my fridge. “What the fuck kind of cheese is this?”
“That boxer making you deaf? What the hell kind of cheese is this?”
He grabbed my boxers and shifted them around so I could see out of a leg hole.
It was Fin holding up the small package of cheese. Fin was dumb as a brick. He ate chili fries by the handful, chewing with his mouth so open pieces inevitably fell out onto his shirt. Between blood and food, I’m sure he went through a lot of shirts.
He opened it up and reflexively turned away, nose scrunching up. “It stinks,” he exclaimed.
“It’s actually quite good,” I said before I thought that keeping making mouth shut was a better idea.
Fin shoved it though the boxer’s leg hole and rubbed it in my face. It did smell some, but it burned the eyes a whole lot more.
“This is the sound of fear,” Aiden said cutting a slit in my right earlobe. With my own knife no less.
Through my screaming I hear him enunciate very clearly in my good ear, “and Sorely wants his money when you get paid.”
Friday when I got paid I went to Sorley’s. It was empty except for Aiden, Fin, and Sorley behind the bar. Sorely was watching House while the other two played darts and nursed beers.
When I starting pulling out my cash to hand to Sorely, his eyes growled and he nodded toward Aiden. “Give it them.”
“Join us?” Fin asked. “We can have a friendly game of cricket. Maybe just a small wager.” Then he laughed. His guffawing wanted me to punch myself in the face.
Aiden smiled and threw a dart nailing a twenty closing them out.
“Fuck,” Finn said.
Aiden smiled. “No hard feelings on the ear,” he said turning toward me, a laugh in his bright blue eyes.
Sorely dropped off the three mugs of Guinness and went back to his soap.
“No, no. Business. I understand.” I yelled over to Sorely, “Beer, Sorely. And another for the boys here.”
“Now that’s the best way to get back into an Irishman’s good graces,” Finn said throwing the dart and missing 18 by a mile.
“How about a some chili fries, Finn?”
“I tell ya, Aiden, he’s a special one. Most guys be pissed as hell and afraid to come in. But this guy. Yeah, alright.”
“Chili fries for Finn, eh Sorely.”
Looking pissed, Sorely nodded, looked back at his soap, then went back to the kitchen.
“Aw, fellas, you gotta check this out,” I said.
“What’s that, boss?” Finn asked.
“A trick,” I started, “it’s going to blow your mind.”
“I like tricks,” Finn said with a giggle.
“Ok, lay both hands on the table,” I said to Finn, giving Aiden a smile.
“Put both hands on the table palms down.”
Finn’s eyes narrowed. “C’mon what do you think I’m gonna do?” I teased.
When Aiden jumped in, sensing a good joke, he started in on Finn as well and Finn finally put both hands on the table.
“Ok, now this is tricky, but I am going to balance a mug of beer on the back of each hand without spilling a drop.”
“It’s damn hard. I bet you couldn’t do it. $200 bucks.”
“No, no,” he replied. “Ok”
And I cracked my knuckles, picked up the first full mug, leaned way down and got eye level to his hands. Slowly I put the mug there, hands repositioning, letting go, grabbing again, till it finally rested there perfectly balanced on the back of his hand.
“Crap,” he said. Aiden seemed impressed as well.
As soon as I heard the cell phone with the text message I knew there was no going back.
I did the same routine with the second beer with a wild flourish. When I completed it, Finn exclaimed, “holy shit, boss, that’s great.”
Aiden clapped. And I did a sweep of my arms and bowed, my right hand toward my heart. I grasped the syringe there in my shirt pocket and stood up. Before Aiden could react, I squirted habanero extract into his eyes and mouth.
He was down and screaming, hands clasped like vices to his eyes. Finn didn’t move for a moment, clearly trying to process what had just happened and the two balancing beers on his hands keeping him “stuck” to the table. That was all I needed. I grabbed the three darts on the table and as he stood up, the mugs were sent to the floor in a firestorm of glass and beer. Before he could even open his mouth, I shoved the darts into his eye. All three embedded up to the flights.
Aiden rolled on the floor, whimpering, a small squeak of a voice muttering over and over “I’m blind, you bastard. I’m blind.”
I pulled the knife from my inside pocket and sliced one shoulder, then the next, then one in his back. He didn’t say much. In fact, very little screaming at all. Kind of a let down.
When I went to the kitchen, Killian had Sorely tied to a stool. He was holding his phone in one hand and a .45 in the other. I smiled, and he tipped his hat back to me.
“My debt is paid off then?”
“Paid in full,” Killian replied.