lug had been following me for three days now. He was
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
He was huge, inhuman-huge. His thumb
was the same size as my wrist. "Beat it, Kong." I took back my
"Tosh, where'd you
"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
"The lady said no," was his war cry.
How drab. I slipped out the front
"Tosh wait." The beefcake sailed
through the doors, over my head, and landed in a heap in front of
"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
"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
"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
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
"You owe me a
I could've punched him. "I had to flush
that shit-candy The Kid was gonna kill
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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