It was on some farm out way out in the county, down a road that wasn’t even big enough for a yellow line. Cattle pasture with a gate and several yards of a gravel road was good enough. The trucks pulled in and circled around and flipped on their lights. That was your ring. One on one, single elimination, until everybody had fought who had a mind to. A couple organizers who picked the spot and handled the book.
Daniel leaned back against his car, sipping a beer. He wasn’t stupid enough to want to start the evening. Not very many men could start off the evening and last through. Besides, he’d done enough of these that he had a bit of a name. The bookers wanted him close to last, try and drive the betting up. Especially since his fights never lasted long enough for much betting.
He drained the beer, tossing the can in the bed of his truck. He rolled his shoulders, watching the two men in the lights. One was a big farm boy, tall and muscled, probably played high school football. Not much technique, just powerful blows. One of them connected you’d feel it. The other guy looked to be Mexican or something. Small but tough, like a jockey. And he seemed to have some idea what to do. Didn’t just stand there and swing his arms around like fence posts. Some decent foot movement, arms held ok. He ducked in under a big blow and peppered the farm kids ribs with several hard shots before dancing away. War of attrition sometimes.
Daniel’s head fell back and he studied the stars. Beautiful sight. He could still hear the smack of a fist on flesh, harsh breathing, the grunts when a blow landed. He could feel it rising up in him and his hands clenched at his sides. It was time. He walked over to the two guys with fists full of money.
“Booker man, I want in.”
“Next?” Daniel nodded.
“Carl, what do you think.
“I think Hugo there is gonna take the farm boy. Only one other guy wanting in. Woodson here takes out Hugo he’d face Steve Collins,” Carl said. “That fight could be worth some money.”
“I’ll fight them both, Jimmy. I need in now.”
Jimmy shrugged. “All right. Let’s get this one over with first.”
They turned their attention back to the fight, Daniel practically bouncing. The farmer had landed a blow or two; blood leaked from the corner of Hugo’s mouth. But the boy was slowing and Hugo was barely breathing hard, focusing on stiff body blows instead of attempting any wild knockout punches. Daniel snarled as he watched, his adrenaline and need for violence spiking.
The farm boy roared, swinging a wild punch that would take off Hugo’s head. Instead, he ducked beneath it and slammed a hard fist to the boy’s kidneys. The boy cried out, back arching, momentarily frozen in pain. Hugo grinned mercilessly and landed a one two combo, right on the farmer’s chin. The big man stood a minute, swaying and eyes going blank. Then he crashed to the ground, right on his face.
Jimmy stepped into the lights. “All right, winner is Hugo Martinez. Next fight in five. Hugo against Daniel Woodson. Come settle up and place bets for that one.”
Men whooped and rushed up to Jimmy and Carl, cashing in and placing bets for the next round. Daniel never bothered betting, he wasn’t here for money. Wasn’t worth the jail time to get into bar fights. Here he could work out whatever it was inside him and not worry about the cops. Hell, he’d be surprised if there wasn’t cops watching and betting.
Hugo poured some water over his head then took a drink from the bottle. “They say you are tough, man.”
Daniel shrugged. “I get by.”
“Not this time, eh? I’m winning it all tonight. Going to take that prize home.”
Hugo grunted and turned to talk to some friends who came up to him. Daniel tugged his shirt off, tossing it over the nearest hood. Rolled his shoulders and neck again, swinging his arms a bit. Anyone who saw the scars on his side kept their mouth shut. Last time someone made a comment he’d woken up with a busted jaw. A few who didn’t know him eyed the Grim Reaper tattoo on one arm but also kept quiet. It wasn’t a place you asked questions.
He stepped into the middle of the clearing, waiting patiently. “All right,” Carl called out. “Bettings over. Guys, you know the drill. Just fight.”
Daniel watched Martinez step into the circle, taking his fighting stance. Hands up, feet apart. Must have had some boxing training. Daniel just stood still, watching the other man. He wasn’t bouncy any more but he could still feel the the adrenaline flowing. Wouldn’t have been surprised if his eyes were glowing with the shit. This was what the shrink couldn’t understand, this need. Daniel didn’t quite get it himself, just knew it was there and that the fighting helped.
“Do yourself a favour, man. Don’t make me hurt you too bad,” Hugo said. “This is my night.”
Daniel just smirked a bit. Some kind of big prize tonight, not that he paid much attention to that. “All right, go,” Carl yelled.
The grin tugged a little more at Daniels lips as Hugo approached, hands up, feet moving. Figured the guy would mostly once again stick to body blows. Boy was fast, he was going to take a punch or two. But that was all right. Teeth bared as his lips pulled back in a snarl as he watched Hugo’s fist flash toward his belly. Daniel stepped forward, absorbing the blow with a grunt even as his knee slammed up, crashing into the man’s crotch. Hugo doubled over Daniel’s knee, eyes bulged out, not even able to scream out in pain yet. Daniel gripped his head, slamming his knee into the man’s jaw. Martinez straightened up, wobbled a second then fell over, unconscious before he hit the ground.
The crowd was silent for a moment before those who had bet on Woodson started cheering. Jimmy called the fight and the gamblers gathered around him and Carl, collecting money and placing money on the next, and last fight.
“That was uncalled for. No need to put the man in the hospital.”
Daniel shrugged, eyeing the man next to him. Well over six feet and probably hitting three hundred pounds of muscle, he’d been the top man in this fighting ring for quite some time. “Way I learned,” Daniel said.
“Why are you here? Some of us are fighters who can’t do it anywhere else. Some just trying any way they can to put food on the table. But you don’t fit either of those. What, you just like to hurt people?”
“Whatever you say, Collins” Daniel shoved his hands in his jeans pockets and turned to walk away.
A big hand gripped his shoulder. “Ever learn its not polite to turn your back on someone?”
Daniel straightened, eyes narrowing with anger. “Don’t touch me, Collins. I’d hate to break your arm before the fight even starts.”
Collins laughed and lifted his hand. “Oh it’s gonna be a pleasure kicking your ass, you fucking basterd. Maybe they’ll put you in a bed next to Martinez.”
Woodson just growled and stomped off into the darkness between a couple cars. Mumbling curses under his breath and fighting off the urge to slam his fist through a window. Save it. Just plant it in that asshole’s face, boy. Paced back and forth, waiting for the betting to be done and the call to go out for the fighters. He stalked back into the clearing as they announced the prize amount, barely hearing it through the blood lust roaring in his ears.
“Anndd…fight,” Carl yelled, dropping his arm and stepping back out of the way. Daniel stepped forward, eyes on Collins. He’d raised his hands, held loosely in front of him, feet in some sort of stance. Probably expecting a kick to the balls. They moved in closer and Daniel kicked. Collins saw it coming and turned, one hand pushing down. Planning on taking it on his thigh if he couldn’t block it. But Woodson was aiming elsewhere and his booted foot slammed into Collins’ knee. Ligaments tore as it hyperextended to the right and Collins roared like a great wounded beast, desperately fighting to stay upright. Daniel slammed a heavy fist into the man’s kidneys then swept his feet out from under him. The champ crashed to the ground, immediately rolling over and trying to push himself back to his feet.
Daniel snarled, fighting the urge to inflict as much pain as possible on the fallen fighter. Instead he stepped, kicking Collins in the head just hard enough to knock the man out. Stepped back, looking around, his eyes settling on Carl. “Well?”
The two bookers came into the circle to check the champ and Jimmy shook his head in disgust. “All right,” Carl called out, “Woodson took it. See me for pay out. Billy, you two help Jimmy with Steve.”
Daniel shivered, cold as the need to commit violence left him. He grabbed his shirt and pulled a leather jacket out of his truck. Took a long pull from a bottle of water and glanced at his watch. Not too late to go into the city and find a woman to take him home. Violence could do funny things to a man.
He dug into the cooler in the back of the truck for an Ale-8 and turned around to barely catch the envelope of money thrown at his chest.“What the fuck was that,” Carl said, practically hissing in anger.
“A fight. I know you’ve seen one or two.”
“Goddamn Daniel. Shit like that could shut us down. I can’t afford for anyone to start wondering why there are guys in the hospital with injuries like that.”
“So take em to two different counties. Make sure their not in the same state police post. Somebody attacked em or mugged em or something.”
“I know you’ve always been a little rougher than some but this is too much. Shit like this is what brings the cops sniffing around. Don’t come back.”
Daniel said nothing as Carl walked away. Then growled and threw his truck door open.
“You certainly have a way of making friends.” The voice was educated, a white haired older man dressed in a three piece suit, in this of all places.
“Blow it out your ass, old man.” Daniel climbed into the truck and yanked the door shut. The man just walked up closer.
“No need to antagonize everyone.” He dropped a business card on Daniels lap. “Come by this address at ten am Monday. I have work that would suit your, ah, talents.”
Daniel grunted and turned the engine over. The man in the suit stepped back and lifted a hand. “Monday, now.” Backing the truck up, Daniel slipped it into first and threw gravel as he roared down the short farm track to the road. Fuck em all to goddamned hell. He didn’t need any of them.
Originally written June 2009.
There are two types of men out there. Well, there are more then that, there is even more then one grouping of two types of men: those who are single and those who are married, those who like football and those who like basketball, those who masturbate and those who….well nevermind. But today it is those who are fathers and those who are not. Once you have had a baby it is like you have left one club and joined another.
I acquired three stepchildren when I got married and loved having them but thought that was all I wanted. The youngest was around 8 or 9 when I moved in so that meant I had skipped all the diaper changes and all that other baby stuff. Three kids was enough for me. Now a few years later and we have a nine month old boy in the house and plenty of diaper changes and feedings and all that other baby stuff. Not something that I thought I wanted but now that he’s here I wouldn’t trade him in for nothing (besides, they lose half their value when you leave the hospital).
So now I’m a honest to goodness father and things are a bit different. Gotta watch that selfishness, video game time is shorter, pray that he doesn’t wake up while being intimate with the wife. But on the other hand, I get to watch this life grow and develop and become a man. I get to feel like a kid again, seeing everything through his new little eyes, the joy in something as simple as sitting in a swing at the park.
Guys will still nod a greeting, hold doors open when you’re pushing a stroller through but they got a certain look on their face, the “There but for the grace of Trojan go I” face. I am sure that I have worn the same expression and its hard to blame a twenty year old not wanting to shoulder the responsibilities of a father.
Then there is the fathers you run across. All of a sudden you have joined their club and they are enthusiastic members. I have never had so many strangers strike up a conversation with me just because I’m pushing this stroller around. Or the shared looks when you pass another at the market with a baby in the Snugli against the chest. Its different for me, I am not used to having people I don’t know start talking to me on the bus. But I suppose its just a welcome to the club.
What do I think? How do I feel? Ehhh, doesn’t matter. You don’t need me to tell you. Like any other day, remember to hug your kids, your wife(or husband), maybe even your neighbour’s wife. I won’t tell.
Done for today’s flash fiction challenge at Terribleminds.
Revenge is sweet, they say. They also say that revenge is a dish best served cold. John paused, head cocked to the side, door to the big chest freezer half closed. Does that mean revenge is ice cream? A man in the freezer squirmed against rope and handcuffs, muffled screams barely making it through the tape gag. John’s eyes narrowed with a fresh wave of rage and he slammed the freezer shut, quickly locking a padlock. No more fixing murder charges for you, he thought as he left the warehouse.
The old truck bounced along the road, twelve hundred gallons of water in the tank on the back. The cord on the CB mike swayed back and forth and Wendell shifted the Ale-8 bottle in his grasp to keep from spilling it. It was a typical road for this part of the county; narrow, poorly paved and hilly. Wasn’t even big enough to have a line down the middle. Wendell’s buddy had one hand on the wheel and one on the gear shift, dropping down a gear to climb up the hill. As they hit the top of the hill, he flipped it over into neutral, coasting down. A car came speeding down the opposite side of the road and he steered the water truck to the edge, not willing to give up more then that. The car swerved over at the last minute, driver yelling out his window.
“Stupid fuckers. Think because I’m in a truck I should go off the edge of the road. Fuck em,” Paul said.
Wendell chuckled and drained his bottle and dug in his pocket for his tobacco plug. “So what happened to your grandfather? Figured he’d be buried in this truck.”
“They’ve gone to Florida. Got a little condo down there. Health’s not been so good last few years. Don’t know if it’ll help but they seem to like it better.”
Grunting, Wendell slipped a piece of the plug of tobacco into his mouth and shoved it back in his pocket. Knife went in the sheath on his belt. He worked it against his cheek as Paul turned onto a gravel road that wound between tobacco fields, a cloud of dust marked their path.
Paul backed the truck up to the cistern between the two trailers and they dropped out of the cab. Wendell grabbed a hose from his side and connected it to the back while Paul did the same thing on his side. The door swung open on one of the trailers and a Mexican walked out. “Agua hombre,” he called out, a big grin on his face. “We just started eating. Why don’t you join us?” Around Paul, there was barely an accent to his voice. Around others, well, it could vary.
“Sure, why not.” He opened the valves so the water started running into the cistern and turned to Paul. “Let’s go grab some food. You’ll never want to eat at Taco Bell again.”
Wendell shrugged and followed Paul inside the trailer. Three more Mexicans sat around a table loaded with food. A case of Budweiser was in a cooler of ice on the floor. They pushed out chairs for the newcomers and Wendell sat down beside Paul, looking around the place. There were certain rules that farmers who brought migrant workers up had to follow with regards to housing and a lot of the time the easiest thing was to drop a trailer down on a patch of land. It was funny how often someone went on and on about needing a job yet there were more and more Mexicans in the county, working the tobacco and horse farms.
Paul was digging into the food, eating heartily and laughing with the guys. But then he’d always been that way. He was the outgoing type who never met a stranger, comfortable in whatever surroundings he found himself in. Fishing out the wad of tobacco Wendell sat it on an empty beer can and filled a tortilla with some meat and cheese. Spooning salsa over it he rolled it up and dug in. He ate silently, letting Paul do the talking. He was a stranger here, after all. After a couple tacos he drained a Bud and slipped the tobacco back in his mouth. It sat cold against his jaw as he leaned back.
“Wendell, the trucks probably empty so why don’t you go put the hoses away. I gotta talk a little business here,” Paul said.
Wendell nodded and wandered outside. The truck was done all right so he shut the valves and disconnected the hoses, rolling them back up and stowing them beside the tank. Leaning back, he just looked around, arms across his chest. He didn’t mind being kicked out. While he knew from the old man some of what was going on to the Mexicans he was a stranger. He grunted, spatting an amber stream at a bumble bee buzzing near the edge of the driveway. God, he hated fucking bees.
Paul came back out, tucking his wallet into his back pocket, a reusable shopping bag hanging from the other hand. He tossed it in on the truck seat. “Everything ok?”
“Yep,” Wendell said, climbing in on the passenger side.
“One more load and we’re done. Johnny Hopkins wants his swimmin pool filled up.
They bounced and rattled back down the gravel toward the road where they would head back into Sharpsburg and fill the truck again. The shopping bag sat beside them, neither one paying any attention to it. Paul looked over at Wendell occasionally, who sat quietly, arm on the window frame.
“I hear there were some meth cookers in a hollar on the old Smith place.”
“One got shot. Maybe a huntin accident.”
“It happens,” Wendell said.
“Yeah.” He glanced at the bag between them and at Paul before he had to look back at the road. “Also heard you’re workin for the old man. Is that why you’re here?”
“You got nothing to worry about, Paul. I’m just here to hang out with a friend. The old man has no concerns with you.”
Paul let out a breath. “And if he did?”
“You don’t think I’d shoot the only friend I have, do you Paul?”
He slowed the truck and turned onto the road. “You’ve been gone a long time and all I’ve heard is rumours. All I know for sure is that you were in the Marines and that’s because I drove you to the fuckin recruiters office. And since then, well, word is you do whatever job you been given. Whether or not us bein friends would interfere with that, I’m ain’t real sure.”
“Shit, you paranoid fucker. I’m not here to watch you or anything. Yeah, the old man told me what you do when I mentioned I was coming by to see you. But that’s because there’s been no response from Lexington yet. Wanted me to be alert.”
“So you did hit some fucking cooker.”
“You mean that hunting accident,” Wendell said with a cold smile. “They were told we didn’t want that shit down here.”
“Right. So, um, is there a missus?”
Wendell chuckled. “Me? No. Never even close.”
“Beth will be interested to hear you are in town.”
“So is Hopkins who this delivery goes to?”
Paul was silent a few minutes. Yeah, sure Wendell was working for the old man but what if someone offered him more money? “Yeah. Primo weed. I don’t know if they bring it up from Mexico or they grow it back on the farm. Don’t really care. I pass it on to Hopkins and he takes it from there. Probably breaks it down and passes it on to the street dealers. But again, I don’t know and don’t care. Less I know the better.”
“Guess so.” He lapsed back into silence, watching the tobacco and corn fields go past as they headed back into the small town to fill the tank up again. They hooked up the water tank and leaned back against the wall of the firehouse as it filled. Twenty five hundred gallons takes some time.
“Thought you were done with this town, Wendell.”
“You and me both. Guess it ain’t done with me.”
Wendell nodded. “Yeah. Let em wait and think they’ve gotten away with it. It’ll come around eventually.”
“Well, if I can do anything give me a hollar.”
“I appreciate that but you don’t want to get involved. You know how the cops around here carry a grudge.”
“Shit, ain’t that the truth. So how’d you get in with the old man?”
“That’s something else you don’t want to know. Let’s just say there is no statute of limitations on murder.”
Paul studied his friend and nodded. Water started running out of the tank so he quickly flipped it off. “Everybody changes I guess. Get the truck ready and I’ll go pay.” Wendell climbed up, disconnecting the hoses and closing the tank. He dropped down and reached into the truck, pulling out his leather jacket. The days were warm but it got a lot cooler as the sun went down. He stood with his hands in his pockets while he waited for Paul. Probably talking to the guy minding the firehouse. The man would talk your ears off given half a chance.
He watched the few cars passing through the crossroads as he waited, not that he expected to recognize anyone. He hadn’t known that many people even when he had lived here. They were the typical mix of vehicles you’d expect to see in a wide spot in the road in a rural county, which oddly enough was about the same vehicles you saw in the city. In the country they just had more mud splattered on them and the trucks were actually hauled shit. He turned as he heard wheels crunching over the gravel and a dark sedan pulled in behind the water truck. He slipped his hands free of the pockets and waited as two men got out of the car and started his way.
One of them, a young blonde, checked something on his phone, looking at the back of the truck then at Wendell. “This is the truck but he ain’t Barker,” he said to the older greying man.
“Who are you? Where’s Barker?”
“What’s it to you?”
“We’re looking for him. Got a message.”
“Ah I see. You boys from Lexington?”
“That’s right. And we got a message for Barker. And we’ll be taking his delivery.”
“What are you going to do with twelve hundred gallons of water?”
“Barker is probably inside,” the older man said. “Get rid of this punk, Sam and we’ll go find him.”
Sam grinned and smacked one fist into the other. Big and bulky, he looked like a football player or a pro wrestler. Most people probably didn’t take long to back down when he tried looking all threatening. It isn’t hard for a big guy to do damage to another person even without any actual training. Wendell, however, stepped forward to meet him. His foot lashed out, the sharp toe of the cowboy boot crashing into the man’s crotch. Doubling over with a loud screech, Sam started to fall over when Wendell gripped his head and turned, slamming it into the bed of the truck. Letting him fall to the ground, Wendell faced the other man, who was backing up, hand starting to reach inside his jacket.
“I wouldn’t if I was you,” he told the man.
“Fuck you,” he snarled. He actually managed to pull the gun halfway free before Paul smacked him over the head with a shovel. The man crumpled to the gravel, breathing or not Wendell wasn’t sure. Paul leaned on the shovel, eyeing the two men.
“Friends of yours?”
“Here for you actually.” Wendell squatted down, rolling the big guy over and searching through his pockets. No gun and only a couple twenties in his wallet. He shoved them in his pocket and left the wallet laying on the mans chest. The older man had the gun of course, a Glock 17, and there was a switchblade in his pants pocket. Wendell flicked it open and studied the blade. No edge but the point was like a needle. He pocketed that and the Glock. There was another hundred in the man’s wallet.
“Said they had a message and were going to take over your delivery. And I don’t think they wanted in on the water business.”
“Payback for that meth cooker?”
Wendell nodded. “Whether or not you make this delivery is up to you. They knew your name and even the fucking license plate so its possible they all ready got to Hopkins and he gave you up. I’ll let the old man know. Business might be put off for a while.”
“I were you I’d toss that weed in the ditch and go home.” He walked to the sedan and opened the door, leaning down to push the seat back.
“What about these guys?”
“Let em lay. State police or deputy sheriff will be by sooner or later.” He slipped into the car and started it up. Paul shut the door and leaned down.
“And where the hell are you going?”
“Got to talk to some guys in Lexington.”