The lug had been following me for three days now. He was bigger 'n' uglier than an ox. He was a rhino and about as smart as a punch drunk monkey. Tosh, he called me that time in the bar. I knew there'd be trouble from there. Tosha was my twin and she'd been dead for almost a month.
He was huge, inhuman-huge. His thumb was the same size as my wrist. "Beat it, Kong." I took back my arm.
"Tosh, where'd you go?"
"I'm not Tosh," I growled, kicking back my chair. I was outta there. I cut out through the crowd, hoping the people would slow him up. They didn't. He tossed 'em to the side as mild annoyances. A beefcake, looking to impress, came to my protection. "Don't be boring," I cheered on. It was a sad sight. The beefcake stood up to the hulking freak. He looked like a waif in comparison.
"The lady said no," was his war cry. How drab. I slipped out the front door.
"Tosh wait." The beefcake sailed through the doors, over my head, and landed in a heap in front of me.
"What do you want?" I jerked around to face him. He picked me up with one hand and buried his face in my hair. His hand caressed my cheek. It was the softest a man had ever touched me. I relished in it a moment. I breathed it in. I liked it. His face was scarred. His nose had been broken several times. His knuckles were wrapped in tape. I pushed off him.
"Where'd you go?"
"I didn't go anywhere." Useless. Forget you. I took a step. He took a step. I took another. He did too. When I hopped into my car he stood in front blocking my path.
"Tosh, it's Rock," he wined. I switched my car into reverse and took off.
He'd been following me always two steps behind. I didn’t see 'em so much, but I knew he was there, stalking me in the shadows.
I couldn't figure his angle. He was too dumb to be her pusher. He was too passive to be her pimp. He was too gentle to be her lover. The only thing I could figure was he was some over-obsessed trick. I'm sure it would have been a pity fuck. I couldn't imagine her getting so desperate. I pulled off to the Best Way Inn. It was twilight with a sprinkle of rain. The motel was festering and broken down. They charged by the hour here.
Charming Vinnie was there, an ex-flame. I thought I loved him once but after he sold me for blow a couple of times, I walked out on him. He never cleaned up. I did. We still see each other when we're itchy.
"Vin, there's a joker on my tail." His eyes were blood-shot to match the stain under his nose. He shook his dazed head. "Give me a key," I barked.
"You owe me a key."
I could've punched him. "I had to flush that shit-candy The Kid was gonna kill you!"
"The Kid's been sniffing around for you baby." He licked his lips.
"Fuck you!" I reached over the counter and stole up a set of keys from the wall locker. "If it's not a bother don't let the freak show know I'm here." 2-B. I sat tight on a bed without the lights. The curtains were drawn. He was meandering outside. He paced outside the door. I was in here. He knew it. A knock came at the door, gentle as a brick. Under the bed was my only option. The door opened. I knew I locked it. There was something wrong. How sad was I to hide under the bed? Feet four times as large as normal humans stomped around the bed. Don't look under the bed. I prayed. Stop being pitiful. That was a reflex thought. When Tosha and I were small we hid from our old man under the bed. He liked his Jim Beam and right hook, and when they got together it was the stereophonic symphony of the year. Dear old Dad, my first pimp. No tears were wasted when the Kid shot him off this mortal coil.
The bed above lifted. Rock propped it up with one hand. I darted to the chair by the window and picked it up. I will tame this monster. "Stay away from me."
"You're not makin' this easy." He nabbed the chair with no effort. I spit in his face and hopped for the door. It was full on raining now. The gravel lot pooled in places.
Lucky me, knee high in a puddle. "God damn it!" I scrapped at the tiny rocks, chuckin' them everywhere. Continue your tantrum later. Gravel sprayed from a car whose headlights I was caught between. It was the Kid. His eyes burned with the retribution that could only be satisfied with blood.
"Tosh!" The gorilla picked me up and ran. My hero. The Kid gnashed his gold teeth to splinters and focused on ramming Rock down.
"Put me down," I kicked at him. He didn't even flinch. "He'll kill you,” a slip of the tongue. I didn't even care.
"I don't care," He repeated my thoughts. Something primal hit me as we ran through the lot. Why am I scared? I can handle the Kid. But I can’t. Not really. If he wants me dead, I'm a gonner. It's still no reason for this idiot to get trashed. The Kid's bumper bit into Rock's bulging calf. We tumbled. My head smacked into the pavement. Out for the count.
I was out cold on the ground. My face swelled and blackened by fists. Leopold was our dog. Dad tied the mutt to a pole and proceeded to teach him a lesson. Tosha was too scared. We were eight. He had been waving around a rifle but Leopold didn't give a damn anymore. He had been kicked, and cut, and punched enough to give him a mean streak, but little old Fido knew whose hand to bite anyways.
I loved that dog. I would've taken that bullet for him. Tosha jumped between the gun and the dog, and until the day she died she swore Leopold pushed her outta the way.
My head was buzzin'. A heavy blanket draped over my back. The bed was warm. My sight was blurry, but I forced myself to see. Thud. Thud. I sat up quickly. A heartbeat. I was on top of Rock back in the room.
"Where's the Kid?"
"Taken care of." Ease up, I ordered myself. I stretched out on his chest. My whole body was smaller than his torso. He stroked my head down to the small of my back and started again.
"So you're Tosh's bodyguard?" He closed his eyes and smiled without answering. His thumb and forefinger dug lightly between my shoulder blades. It felt good. "Why stick your neck out for me?" Still no reply. "Rock." I scaled up past his pecks to look him nose to nose. "How would you like me to thank you?" How could I ask that? He's the biggest man in the world. I bet he's a redwood. I'd kill myself. He switched back to stroking from my head to my back. Notice me. Nothing. Notice me! I kissed his shoulder. I nuzzled in between his shoulder and jaw. I wonder if he can even feel my nose. His eyes were still closed. I glared at him.
"I want you to take all the time you need." What does that mean? I was feeling pretty relaxed from the massage. What am I doing? My lips were pressed against his sandpaper cheek.
"Thank you." I curled back up on his chest. He continued petting me.
"Rocko Alexander Leopold," he mumbled. I looked up. Rock was gone. I was no longer on him. I was standing over a bed. Amber was neatly asleep in it. Besides me was Leopold. "You can't fool me." The dog's broken nose nuzzled into me. I began to cry. I wanted to live. "Let's go home, Tosh." I pet the mutt's ugly face.
"I love you."