As I laid helplessly on the floor, my mind was beseeching me to move, but my body refused to do as instructed. All I could do was wince as the second goon walked menacingly towards me, dragging the legs of that barstool across the floor. The stool fiercely screeched as if mired in agony, and its only respite was to unleash all that it had built up at the end of its journey. Unfortunately, the stool’s destination was a crown that I highly coveted.
Suddenly, the man stopped, and “Ebby” Eddy came into view, smug as ever.
“That won’t be necessary,” Eddy said as he waved off the stool wielding jackal that was intent on bashing me in the head.
Though skeptical at first, I soon slid through the peanut shells and pulled myself up from the floor. It was far from my finest moment, but also far from my most shameful. My mind was fuzzy but tuned in enough to want to get up on my own, especially since I had an audience. The problem is, my body simply did not have enough steam to make a go of it. Ironically, I used a bar stool to aid me in this endeavor. As I wobbled to my feet, I was forced to listen to the jackasses cackle at the spectacle of my weariness. My instant rage gave me enough spark to return the favor to nearest jackass, by punching him in the face. Unfortunately, the combination of his size and my reduced effort was not enough to take him off his feet. Eddy quickly got between me and the stool jockey, who had it cocked and ready and seemed more upset by my vengeance than the brutish recipient. I suppose he accepted that he had it coming. That, if not the man, I can respect.
“Let’s all just take a minute and calm down,” Eddy suggested.
The brute leaned casually against the bar and claimed a mug. Blood crept freely from his nose and eventually mixed in with his beer as he slowly drank it in its entirety. Upon bearing witness to his vampiric moment, I began to wonder with whom I had been trifling.
“I’m all right,” I stated as I raised my hands in the air as if under arrest, perhaps my way of flying a white flag. The situation evolved well beyond awkward as the four of us seemed to be staring at each other waiting for someone to move things forward. “What is going on here, by the way?” I asked, bewildered.
“You’re wandering through hostile territory, prick,” replied Eddy. There he is. I was beginning to wonder why he cared enough to prevent my demise or at least significant maiming. Strangely, it was comforting to hear that he did not care after all. I’m not sure how much more surprises that I can handle.
“Here we are again. Now, you’re a guard dog. Like a good boy, you’re here to run me off,” I said smugly. I’m sure the guy knew that he wasn’t going to get a medal for doing his job. Especially when that job is low-level grunt work that flies in the face of the fact that he is a cop, technically.
Eddy refused to fall into my trap. “I would love to exchange insults all day, but I was sent to do a job. Once that’s done so am I,” he replied, professionally. It was good to see that he was capable of it sometimes, even though he failed miserably back in that interrogation room, where it counts.
“I also would find it comfortable to match wits for the better part of the afternoon, assuming I could find a suitable opponent,” Conan said, chiming in. I nearly forgot that he was here. In his defense, the way that this all went down was very much outside of Conan’s wheelhouse.
“What job is that?” I asked, attempting to get this train back on the tracks.
Eddy thought it prudent to get uncomfortably close to me. Like so many other times and other people, I could only wonder what he was thinking and why he even bothered. “Stop looking for the woman. You’re already too close,” he warned.
I typically laugh at Eddy when he tries to be intimidating. This time, however, there was a depth to his gaze that seemed to stretch inexplicably inside revealing a vast, desolate space as if the entire expanse of a lifeless tundra acted as a buffer to the rage that undoubtedly boiled behind his beady eyes.
“Why are you doing this, Eddy?” I asked, frustrated. I’d never admit it, but he succeeded in his efforts to intimidate me. Even the big galoot standing next to him seemed a meek contrast. Eddy’s vibe was one of loathing, desperation, and unwillingness. Thank goodness for long sleeves, because, frankly, the guy gave me goosebumps.
“Just heed my words,” he replied and began to turn to walk away.
Unsatisfied, I grabbed his arm and felt a collective jolt between the three of us. Hostility surrounded us as if a hot, misty fog. I raised my hands as though one of them had pointed a gun at me. Truthfully, it felt just as threatening.
“Really, why do you care?” I asked, again pushing for some semblance of closure.
Eddy looked at me yet again. His scowl was there but seemed softer somehow. “I don’t care. Call it my penance for an act lacking forgiveness. I deal with it, and I suggest you do the same,” he somberly replied.
My shoes scratched and scraped against the sidewalk as Eddy’s pals impolitely escorted me outside. It was a moment lined in silver with small victories. First, I managed to slide and skate on the concrete, keeping my balance, while avoiding another fall. Second, I managed not to get punched in the face again, albeit temporarily. With that in mind, along with Conan’s ridiculous theory, I decided not to hail a taxi.
Instead, I began a lonesome walk in the general direction of my building. The fact that I had just left a bar without taking a drink made me proud but only until I played back the events in my mind. If someone had always assaulted me each time that I walked into a bar, I might have, sadly, lived a fuller life because of or in spite of it. I’m sure there’s a punchline in there somewhere, but I was far too preoccupied with licking my wounds, my tail firmly tucked between my legs.
Copyright © 2016 by Adam L. Cobden. All Rights Reserved.
“I’m not the person that you think I am, and I’m not the person that I thought I was. Let’s see who I will be today.”
– Adam L. Cobden