Beau Johnson has been published before, usually on the darker side of town. Such fine establishments might include Spelk Fiction, the Molotov Cocktail, Shotgun Honey, and/or Out of the Gutter Online. He has somehow married above his pay grade and been granted three boys he can tolerate and love. Go figure.
MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE RANCH
I have done questionable things. Some I am proud of. Some I have chosen to never bring up again. What grinds my gears like no other is when someone takes the time to pick on a person weaker than them. A close second has become not being able to hold my water on the regular. That’s something I have no control over though, so we can go and stop feeling any type of sorry you might have been starting to feel.
It’s the person not treating the other the way they should this thing is about. It’s just ungentlemanly in a world in need of the opposite. Don’t get me wrong; if a person is any type of dick, by all means, he or she is owed what’s coming to them. But if the other side of the coin is just doing it because, well, this is what I take issue with.
Brings us to Vera and her personality of late.
Younger than me by two years, Vera is the typical frail you’d find here at the Resty Acres Retirement Home. Matching her eyes is her hair, blue, and from Vera Father Time has collected the toll he takes from us all. The wrinkles are many, sure, but for Vera they come from a life lived rather than one survived.
It was her heart that stole me though, and how dear at times that woman can be. There’s more, sure, but as I’ve said, this world is already as ungentlemanly as it needs to be. Means you don’t get to know her throat game’s still good. You know, even eight decades in.
“He holds me too tight, Mick. Even after I tell him to let go. Even after he makes me cry.” This is what she says to me after I finally pry it loose. Of late she’d been withdrawn, somber, and nowhere near herself come popsicle time. What? It’s had worse names.
She’d been referring to the new guy assigned to her floor, Marwood, he of the stained scrubs and mullet brown hair. Pock-marked and fat, he resembled that kid from Leave It To Beaver, the Beav, but you know, after he’d gotten pock-marked and fat. Admitting so, Vera nods and then sends her face down towards the floor. I stop her by taking her chin in my hand and forcing her eyes back up to mine. “Nobody hurts my best girl.” I say, and then we both sit down on the edge of her bed, each of us just kind of staring out the window into the common area. I want to say something profound here, that something profound was taking place, but I have never been that kind of man. I only continued to stroke her hand, her arm, realizing for perhaps the first time that I cared for this woman more than I ever thought I would. This, of course, brought rage. Waking in me skills I’d long since put to bed.
It could only happen once then, this being what I told myself, as I was not as protected as I’d been in the past; the guys I used to run either retired themselves, dead, or working for whatever schmuck now sat on top. Meant calls were to be made. Scenarios put in place. But mainly it meant Marwood was about to have his eyes opened to the consequences a man can face when behaving in ways he should not. I’m not so sure those exact words would be spoken, but I am that he’d end up seeing my point.
“You’re sayin’ this guy’s forcing himself onto your friend?” Donnie. One of my old crew. Not the smartest. Not the dumbest. But loyal. All told, it’s the best any of us can ask for.
“No sex. Not like that. But the fuck gets off on hurting people in other ways. Likes to hold onto them for too long. Or too hard. You see what it is I’m sayin?”
“A pressure-man is what it sounds like. Likes to leave his mark without leavin’ a mark, you know?” About summed things up, but still, I had my doubts. Nothing concrete mind you, just my gut. “Makes me think this call is going to involve more people than just you and I.”
“I’m thinkin’ Old Yeller. That seem doable?”
“Man’s retired too, but I can’t see that stopping His Rabidness. Not once he finds out it’s you who’s done the asking.” And all of a sudden I can hear the smile slide into Donnie’s voice. “Sounds like you have something special in mind, Mick. A reduction, maybe?”
“Nothing special, no, just what’s owed.”
“Yeah, special it is then.”
Next time I see Marwood he’s as I asked for him to be; nowhere near as tall as he’d been the month before. I sat on the edge of the bed, me and Vera both, each of us listening intently to this man dressed in a blue work shirt, blue work pants (now tapered quite nicely at the knee thank you very much), and a ratty old cap which proclaimed Truckers Did It By The Mile. The Beav, aka, Mullet, aka, Ricky Marwood, was here to offer his apologies, he said. Wanted to look us in the eyes as he was saying them, he said. “I’m sorry.” He says. I nod. Vera accepts. And as the man wheels himself from the room I can’t help but follow him out. I offer him my hand, both hands; to show him how much I respect what he’s become. He is less now, sure, but by accepting the outcome he has opened himself up to what I have already said the world needs more of.
I mean, less is more, right?
He laughs at that. And then I laugh. But where my laughter ends, his continues, there as I leave him in the hall. Not until we see him wheeled out through the common area does Vera remove her teeth.
My just reward, she lisps. My best gal, I state.