Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Streak - 24

"Bill. Looking sharp as usual," said Kyle.

"Looking fine. Looking clean, Bill," said Evan.

"Stop kissing my ass, boys." Bill and Sean exchanged a momentary, knowing glance. "I've got a job for youse guys."

"A what?" said Kyle.

"A job?" said Evan.

Big Bill reached into his right jacket pocket and retrieved a thick, rubber-banded roll of bills, which he tossed onto the bar. It bounced around a little and rolled to a halt in front of Kyle. It was hundreds. There must have been five, ten thousand there.

"Yeah," said Bill. He leaned forward and put on an expression of utmost gravity.

"I wantcha to throw the game tomorrow."

Bill paused to let his words work. Kyle and Evan stared back at him, slack-jawed and dumbfounded. Then he erupted in uproarious, gleeful laughter, his belly shaking and shoulders heaving. Sean doubled over, hands on knees. Two off-duty cops at the far end of the bar joined in the mirth. The barback, a short, young Ecuadorian named Enrique, stopped rinsing glasses and started laughing, too. Hilarity reverberated off the walls and mirrors and pressed upon the marks from every side. They stared grimly straight ahead and tried to ride it out in silence.

"Didja see the looks on these cocksuckers' faces?" Bill asked Sean, barely able to get the words out between convulsions. Sean's hysteria intensified and he pounded the bar with his fist, like a man at wit's end. Enrique began to applaud. The cops whooped and whistled and banged their shot glasses in appreciation.

"Aaaahhh, fuckin' cocksuckers! C'mon, I love youse guys," exclaimed Bill, coughing now as he neared the end of his jag. "Ah, Jesus Christ... Motherfucker, that was good." His face had turned a richer shade of red and tears had welled up in his eyes. "Mother of Christ. Fellas. Aahh..."



"Good one, Bill," said Kyle, looking poisoned. He took a small sip of his drink, a mundane act intended to signify stoic dignity.

"Touché, Bill," said Evan.

"You fucking, fucking cocksuckers. If I live another day. Oh my fucking God," said Bill. He turned to Sean. "Thought I was going to have a fuckin' heart attack, Seanie. Thought I was a goner."

"Good thing I'm trained in CPR," said Sean, suddenly straight-faced. Both men burst into laughter again, as though this were part of the joke, as though this were a joke at all. Evan and Kyle observed them gloomily.

"Ah, Christ fuck. I needed that, my friend, I needed that," said Bill.

"Lemme get you a glass of water. You alright?"

"Jesus, fuck water. Fuck me. Get these guys a drink, Seanie."

Bill patted Kyle on the back as Sean filled up a water glass anyway. Evan permitted himself a look around the room. The faces of their deriders, once contorted in monstrous spasms, now bore the warm glow of satiety.

One of the cops raised his beer bottle. "Here's to you, my friend," he said graciously, as though the previous five minutes' entertainment were the players' voluntary gift. Evan raised his scotch and nodded gamely.

Bill snatched his money off the bar and placed it back in his pocket, a magical gesture that officially established the end of the joke. Everything now was as it was before.

"Big night tonight, fellas? Night off," said Bill.

"Yeah, you know the rout—"

Kyle was interrupted by the percussive chime of his phone alarm.

"One of your girlfriends?"

"Uh, no, it's, uh..." Kyle fumbled with the phone to turn it off.

Evan smiled. "It's his alarm, Bill."

"Alarm? What? Time to make the fuckin' donuts?"

"Time to eat the fuckin' donuts," said Evan. Kyle glanced at him darkly.

"I swear to God I don't understand youse cocksuckers half the time."

"Isn't that right, Kyle?"

"Uh, yeah," Kyle sighed.

"C'mon Kyle, tell Old Bill what the fucking alarm is for."

"Three alarm fire over here," said Bill.

"You fuckin' tell him."

"OK. Bill, Kyle has set his alarm to ring at precious intervals so that he knows the time to do coke."

Bill looked perplexed. "What kind of girl needs to know what time it is to do coke?"

"Not what time it is, but when."

"Why did you say that?" Kyle asked Evan.

"Say what?"

"Precious intervals."

"What?"

"You said I had to do coke at precious intervals. What the fuck does that mean?"

"I did not fucking say that. There's no way I said that."

"Bill, did you hear Evan say 'precious intervals'?"

Bill nodded solemnly. "You said 'precious.' I was wondering as a matter of fact what the fuck that meant."

"It's not the intervals that are precious, Ev," said Kyle, pressing the point. "It's the events."

"Whatever. It's his fucking coke alarm," said Evan, irritated. He realized he had meant to say "precise." Why did he do that?

Bill chortled at it all. Kyle turned to him with a put-on, clenched-teeth smile. He took out the bullet and displayed it in his palm.

"Care for a bump, anyway?"

"Don't mind if I do," said Bill. He took the bullet in his big hand and discreetly opened up the valve. He placed it to his nose and snorted softly, then gave it back to Kyle.

"Thanks, kid."

"Anytime."

Kyle and Evan did theirs too, and turned to their drinks in silence for some time. Something was growing in their minds. A creeping thing that had been stayed by the distractions of the past half hour. Now it was raging back and could not be deflected. They were very, very high.



Illustrations by Louise Asherson

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