Sometime after 10:00 P.M.
BC pulled the collar of his natty coat tighter. His mind continued a slow motion staccato version of the glass slapped from his clubby hands falling to the floor shattering. It was as if he had been denied mother’s milk ripped from his lips and stomped under Robbie’s boot.
By this time the alcohol in his system had synthesized into sugar further exacerbating his inner turmoil. BC fought the urge to stand up and walk into the Empire and simply ask for another drink but that would require apologizing.
“Apologize for what!” he shouted into the still night.
His anger and frustration dug its’ heels into the cold, moist earth. Sitting on an empty box in an adjacent field he stewed and shivered, too proud to beg. His mind cast itself to a time he sat alone in the front row of the Capri theater watching in horror the withered hand of Nosferatu slither out of the darkness attempting to snatch the throat of his next victim. Frozen in fear, he held his tiny fingers to his mouth. Later that night he suffered yet another beating from his father with an electrical cord for spending money. His mother rarely intervened for fear of reprisal. Countless nights the boy lay awake, listening in morbid fascination the sounds of rape on his mother by his drunken father. When his mother finally dispatched his father with a hammer, BC was placed into the foster care system of Springfield, Illinois. Not long after he joined a fraternal association of homeless waifs and runaways roaming the dark streets seeking the most basic of comforts. It was only after joining the Navy did BC mature enough to survive a few failed marriages and career opportunities.
BC had watched time come and go at the Empire, looming drunk on the horizon and sluggish like a grandmother tortoise.
He had witnessed the transformation of the Dee Day into the Empire and wept at its’ passage and it was here, sitting on that empty box, that he knew his days were few.
“Baron’s the lucky one,” he lamented to no one.
“Bye Helen,” he whispered, watching her drive off into the darkness.
BC liked Helen. Of all the people at the Empire only she held a special place in his hollow, hardened heart. It was Helen who would sometimes pick tiny wildflowers and assemble them in a vase. She always made a point of placing the vase of flowers near him and giving a small smile.
Beach Boy music continued to spill out of the Empire into the night and BC chuckled watching Robbie exit the side door, stop, light a cigarette and drink copiously from a bottle of Scotch he drunkenly kept dangling at his side. He watched Robbie bend over and vomit in the parking lot then fall to his knees using his free hand to steady himself. BC rose after watching the bottle of Scotch get away from Robbie and roll away, spilling most of its’ contents before finally coming to rest against the curb.
BC unconsciously rubbed the saliva away from the corner of his mouth.
“What tha hell is he doin’,” BC mumbled.
Standing, BC blindly marched through the bushes and out into the parking lot towards the bottle. Picking it up he first wiped the mouth of it with his filthy sleeve before putting it to his lips and nursing. Getting his initial fill BC reverted his attention to Robbie who was lying on his back looking at stars. Walking up to him BC studied the man, his senses quelled, his empathy rising. BC sat down next to him and raised the bottle taking a long, slow drink. Robbie crawled up and in a sitting position next to BC accepted the offered bottle. The two sat in silence passing it until the bottle was empty.
“Watch this,” Robbie slurred devilishly, throwing the empty bottle out into the darkness where it exploded unseen in the distance.
The two laughed hysterically. The side door burst open and the regulars all stumbled out, led by Trucker.
“Go back inside!” Robbie demanded.
The group slowly retired back inside with each taking second looks at the two sitting side-by-side directly on the asphalt together.
“Been a helluva night, uh old friend?” Robbie drunkenly growled.
BC grinned and shook his head in agreement.
“Go inside. I’ll be inna minute. Help yourself ta what ever ya want.”
BC quickly rose to his feet and scrambled inside. Most were huddled together at the bar amidst empty bottles and overflowing ashtrays. BC stood before the mirrored shelves of liquor and like a child began sampling flavors he had never tried before drinking directly from each.
Trucker and Snaggletooth continued arguing about the second shooter on the grassy knoll in Dallas. Malcolm and Buster were each with a waitress in different parts of the restaurant having fun.
Les remained the quiet observer, still lamenting the loss of his friend. He was becoming increasingly aware of the groups’ gradual loss of control. When BC wandered close Les stood in front of him to get BC’s full attention.
“Gimmie the gun BC,” Les whispered.
To his surprise BC reached behind his coat and produced it handing it over to Les without a fight. He was more interested in the free liquor. Satisfied with gaining some control over the situatation Les returned to his seat.
“Whattya think Les. Was there a second gunman?” Trucker slurred, ambushing Les into the argument.
Les poured himself a small glass of vodka before answering. “He should have never been there in the first place,” Les softly answered.
“Why?” Trucker implored.
“Cause they’re a bunch of fuckin’ rednecks!” Les shouted.
Both men’s eyes widened.
“Look it up in the dictionary! Redneck! Probably be a picture of you two!”
With that Les quieted, but the damage was done. Even he was surprised at what came out of his mouth. Both Snaggletooth and Trucker stared at him with blank expressions.
“Better watch your mouth, Les,” Trucker solemnly warned.
“Watch my mouth!” You’re the ones’ selling stupid! Don’t you two sometimes think we all get a little sick of your ridiculous arguments sometimes!”
Les looked away. Before he knew it Trucker was in the stool next to him. Les moved over to make more room and noticed the weight of the pistol in his pocket. Snaggletooth moved over and sat in the stool on the other side of Les.
“We’re all gonna miss ‘em, ya know,” Trucker softly cooed, the smell of alcohol preceding his words.
Les quietly nodded.
“Ya know what ya need!” Trucker suddenly barked, startling Les. “Ya need some alcohol in that glass, ya fuckin’ pussy!”
“He’s right!” shouted Snaggletooth, pouring more vodka into Les’s glass.
“There, now drink!” Snaggletooth demanded.
Mildly offended, Les took a small sip to appease the two drunks.
“No, come on man! Drink like this!” Snaggletooth again shouted, quaffing his drink. Trucker did likewise. Both men slammed the glasses down hard on the bar and waited for Les to follow suit. Again, Les obliged with a small sip.
“You’re a fuckin’ pussy, Les,” Trucker growled.
Les Habdank, in an ultimate act of defiance, threw the contents of his drink into Trucker’s face. Snaggletooth grabbed Les’s collar from behind. Trucker had his fist raised. In desperation, Les grabbed the small caliber handgun from his pocket. In doing so the hammer of the small gun caught his clothing and snapped against the firing pin causing the weapon to discharge.
Call it providence. Call it destiny. One could even argue the case of quantum physics, similar to the way tens of thousands of meteorites collide with the earth daily after traveling the width and girth of the universe since the beginning of time.
The bullet fired from Les’s gun was subject to the very same rules, that is to say, the same set of rules that govern fate and the cause and effect principals established since the big bang went bang and gravity was first introduced to the cosmos.
Maybe it was the metal frame supporting the bar that initially deflected the projectile or the atmospheric pressure inside the confined space of the room or maybe, and just maybe, it was Baron’s one last act of supreme absurd comedy that prevented the spinning shot from killing anybody. In any event the bullet, traveling just as fast as any meteorite, took nano-seconds to find the bottle of co2 used to pressurize beverages standing upright in a cabinet at the far end of the bar. The bullet transferred its’ energy into the sleeping cylinder violently awakening it producing an enormous explosion that removed the corner of the building.
Slowing rising, everyone stood in place staring in astonishment at the gaping opening where a wall once stood. Robbie walked in and joined the group, staring in disbelief. One last bit of material fell from the ceiling, startling everyone.
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