FFF #28 is on. Late but on… If you don’t know about FFF go here and check it out — we get a sentence via vote (in blue), then write a flash fiction piece — here is my feeble attempt this week.
Company We Keep
“The trouble with me is that I never realize how deep in the shit I am until I’m choking on the stuff,”
Ron said matter of factly. Ron goddamn knew that was true, especially since we were tied to bar stools by bungee cords pulled from Pete’s F150.
“You think?” I said craning my neck in his general direction. Asshole.
Anne Marie sat at the bar sipping on a glass of gin. Her skin was the color of fine leather and she had the roundest, most delicious eyes a man’s ever seen. The gold flecks that exploded from her pupils made grown men weep, so I couldn’t be too angry at Ron even though the dumbass knew better. Ann Marie was Pete’s, Pete was Anne Marie’s, and everyone knew it.
It was unusually warm day and Pete’s bar was hot enough to make it uncomfortable. He refused to turn on the air until May first no matter the temperature. He didn’t mind it. I think he actually enjoyed watching people like me squirm in my own ass sweat, especially since we drank more of his $1 Old Milwaukee cans layered with chipped ice.
Pete was rage stuffed into a skin suit and zipped up with cynicism. At any moment he could rip apart the seams and burn up everything leaving nothing in his wake but a few unheard prayers. No one besides Anne Marie liked Pete and Pete was just fine with that. The only problem was Anne Marie liked a lot of men.
Anne Marie liked men with strong hands that exfoliated her skin while she fucked them. She liked skinny men she could wrap up and feel like she could snap them in two if she squeezed hard enough. She liked older men whose experience in bed and slowness to come made her feel anchored and substantive. She liked the younger men with their unbridled enthusiasm who would respond to her “settle down” with a simple but perfect “I can’t.”
There were limits to Anne Marie’s passion. If a man drank from a straw, it was over. If they bought her flowers, she wanted nothing to do with them. If they said “I love you” she walked away and never looked back.
As she stabbed an olive, she looked in my direction and half smiled. I wasn’t clear on what I was supposed to do with that since I was fucking tied up and Pete was in back doing whatever the hell he was doing.
“So, uh, Anne Marie, what’s the deal here?”
“Lemme ask you something,” she says all coy like, “when a guy gets hit in the arm, I mean really busted up right, some old lady fall down a flight of steps, no one laughs, right? No one finds it funny.”
She tapped the end of her toothpick on her lip, never letting her eyes wander from mine. “But when a guy gets jammed in the nuts, it’s funny as hell?”
It was a good question that I didn’t have an answer for. Clearly there were a lot of good questions I didn’t have answers for.
“I don’t know, Anne Marie, why is it funny to see someone get smacked in the nads?”
Anne Marie grinned like she were imagining someone getting socked and I hoped to any god that would listen they weren’t mine.
Ron leaned back in his stool. “I can’t breathe, Anne Marie. You loosen these for me a little?”
Ron was a medium sized Mexican with thick black hair, smooth cheeks, and penetrating eyes. If I didn’t know him, I’d swear he was an executive director of some charity. I’m not ashamed to say it, I loved that guy. He saved my life more than once and generally that has an effect on a person.
He shifted again and kind of heaved. “Seriously,” and he heaved to make his point. All this heaving against the bindings made mine feel tighter and the black hooks connecting one to another seem further embedded into my skin.
Looking over her shoulder, Anne Marie spied Pete walk out of the kitchen. His tattered white apron sported the standard stains but he dried his hands on it nonetheless. His hair was tussled and his face was pink, as if he had hung upside down for an hour then came running out ready to boil over. He had two more bungee cords dangling from his paw.
Pete grabbed a can of beer and popped it open. Sucking foam, he let it dribble over his chin and onto the floor. He wiped his mouth with the back of his sleeve. I felt my tongue become a piece of driftwood.
“Mother fucker,” he laughed.
“C’mon, Pete,” Ron said. “C’mon.”
Ron was a smart one.
Pete smacked the bar with his fist and exclaimed like a newly saved pagan, “Let’s fucking go!”
When Pete circled back from behind the bar he had the paring knife he used to cut limes and lemons and I had a sick feeling something a little more tender.
Ron squirmed. “Pete. Pete. Pete. Listen.”
Pete couldn’t hear his own heartbeat let alone the pleadings of the man tied up in front of him.
“This bar is mine. You come in and thinking you can get free beer?”
Pete kneeled down and tied one leg, then the other.
“What the fuck, Pete. C’mon, we know each other.”
“That’s what I’m saying. And nothing in this life is free. Absolutely nothing.” Pete grabs Ron’s pants and yanks them down.
I look at Anne Marie but she turns her face toward the kitchen. I hear Ron blubbering behind me.
“What makes you think you can be with my beautiful Anne Marie?”
I imagined Pete holding the knife so the blade was cradled in his finger and the detached focus he’d have even with Ron squirming.
“You better be fucking careful, Ron, I don’t want to slip and hit a god damn artery. You’ll bleed out right here and I’ll have a fucking mess to cleanup.”
“Pete,” I said, “Pete. Pete. Come talk to me.”
“In a minute, boss, then we can talk all your pretty lips desire.”
“Just a minute, one minute, ok? Ok, Pete? One minute.”
Ron was openly crying now. I could hear the weak, short hiccups, and I saw Anne Marie turn around in her seat to watch.
“Listen, Pete, you know I didn’t have anything to do with this.”
“You dropped him off at her place. You’re an accomplice. You helped commit the crime.”
There was a time for friendship and a time to save your own ass and I sure as hell didn’t want to have to go through life going to some fucking Eunuchs anonymous meetings.
“I should fucking start with you. Throwing your buddy off the bus like that. What a son of a bitch you got here, Ron. You hear this guy?”
Anne Marie stared like she were watching some movie and I hated her with every fiber of my being and every fiber I was about to lose.
It was if my leg acted on its own accord. It swung as far back as it could go past the right side of the stool and came forward with as much force as I could muster. When it connected between Pete’s legs he let out a gasp of air and his eyes kind of bugged out and he doubled over with the knife falling from his hand as he went.
While he doubled over, I fell backwards. I tried to move my arms to somehow catch myself, but the only thing that would soften the blow was the old oak floors. Before I passed out, I heard Anne Marie guffawing like she were high.