Dead and nameless. Manny Raven wanted it by the end of the day. A marinated meat paste of fissured bullshit. Pounded. Beaten. And felled. All of it crumpled in a pile at his feet.
Fucking Manny Raven.
Fucking steel-toe-boot-wearing-chop-house-riding-big-bitch-loving-craziest-motherfucker to ride the Homestead line there ever lived. Sort not even Gawd found room in his heart to love and the kind that woulda ripped the four inch thick metal chain from off his hips and pummeled Him down if he ever found room in it again.
Drilled a battlefield in the back of a boy outside Fairmont so bad with the tail end of that metal, poor soul’s forced to plug up ‘em holes with a set of tampons outta his sister’s purse so’s he wouldn’t bleed out ‘fore help came. Shit were over a fucking seat. Well. A seat that got bumped. Down at the Poky Dot. Couldn’ta painted a worse setting.
Poor Kid knocked that fiend’s seat after stumbling up from a serving of ‘nanner split french toast, and weren’t no way in hell it ever leant towards purpose, and damn near shoved Manny’s fork that were driving a load of peanut butter pie right through his throat. Kids and families present for the whole thing, for the cracking of that bastard’s ribs on a bright pink dignette chair, for the smack of cheek bone to counter top, to the battered crank ‘em links made as they ripped bunny-baby-red all on that American-sock-hop-clash-of-killer-clown-meets-Cleaver-diner-ruin.
And ya know what, what that crazy motherfucker did after that, what he did after he blistered that boy blue and black and purpled cream—he sat right back down at that low hanging counter, type where a grown man’s knees haunch close-like near his ears, and finished his gawdamn pie. Chewed it down in big savory gulps like there weren’t sprawling swirls of dripped-down-cherry-filling-face-goo slipping off the sides of his pecan packed crust. Right there, while ‘em children and Mommies and Daddies and two barely legal teens clawed close all ‘em kids. How come that spot of strawberry-blast-red came to exist on that bedazzeled-skating-ring carpet.
Tried to cover it. Sure, they did. But ain’t no bit of eraser soap made for washing dirt like that. No amount of scrub and pick and grate with wire mesh brush gonna move the leftovers of a man’s pride. Just shuffled one of ‘em shiny chrome table stands over it. Fixed it up with a set of streamers hanging down from ‘em bright white panels holding back that pink insulation flurry in the roof. Called it the Champ’s table, they did.
I’s there. Remember it like yesterday. Like the grease from the flattop’s still wafting burnt in my nose. Like I’s still walking from that back pickup window where I stared at ‘em girls as they carried trashcans full of food to all ‘em screaming, swarming, kids. Froze. By the soda machine. My hat on. My black shirt that smelled, no matter how many times I threw it in the wash, like french fry oil. Just breathing sweat down my back next to that freezer where scoops of candy coated dreams spoon outta buckets and get piled cloud fluff high by sweet-sixteen hands. Where I liked to smoosh my pants against the cool as the cokes flowing in my BIG Sheetz cup.
Standing with my back to Manny. With my never having ever met nor seen the man with all the bite.
There. Just for a second. Just for a break. ‘Fore I stepped out for a smoke and came back to the same grind.
There. Not knowing venom soon to come from his chest.
Heard the skid of metal. Mistake of body thud bang. The D-Day plow of boots on ground as five-nine frame grew.
Saw. For the first time. Saw with eyes wide and gloss gone and life suddenly renewed, a pit of snakes working rattlers up a man’s spine. The strike of candy apple red spreading thin and wide in firework spurt. Curled toe in boot and watched with weight tipped forward and felt—
And felt—Shiny. Alive. And new.
A.L. Erwin writes Southern Pulp. Sometimes she does it well. Mostly, she slings drinks until the day comes that she doesn’t. She is the author of A Ballad Concerning Black Betty or the Retelling of a Man Killer and Her Machete, which is available on Amazon. Her short stories can be found at Cheap Pop and Shotgun Honey. Erwin is currently working on her second novel about some hard fuckers from Eastern Kentucky.