Easy Money

I decide to stop for a drink at McWaverly's down in the west end of Long Beach on my way home from the job. This is back when I'm working as a baggage handler for Lufthansa out at Kennedy. Hadn't been to McWaverly's in years. Turns out my brother's old friend Mike D'Antonio is working the door.

"Little O'Mally," he says to me. "How's your brother?"

"He's all right," I says.

"I'm so bored, O'Mally," D'Antonio says. "Do me a favor, would ya? Start a fight. Just find the biggest guy in the place and pop him one."

"Nah," I says. "I ain't in the mood for fighting tonight."

"Alls ya gotta do is pop the chump once. I'll be over to drag his ass out the door before he gets a mitt on ya."

"Nah, Mike," I says. "I'm tired. I just got off work."

"One punch!" he says. "You're so tired you can't throw one freakin punch? Remember the time I saved your ass from those Valley Stream punks?"

"Yeah, yeah," I says. "How many times have I paid you back for that by now?"

He reaches into the front pocket of his jeans and pulls out a ten.

"Here, ten bucks," he says. He tries to stick the bill in my hand.

"They pay me all right here, but no one ever fights. I'm gonna lose my edge if I don't practice."

I shake my head no and hold up my palms.

"You drive a hard bargain, little O'Mally," he says.

He reaches back into his pocket, takes out a twenty. He sets it atop the ten, folds them together, and slips the bills into my hand.

"Thirty bucks, little O'Mally. Thirty goddamn bucks for one punch. I'm gonna fall asleep if I got nothing to do but check IDs all night. Go pop some chump so I can have a little fun, will ya?"

Every man's got his price, ain't that what they say? I pocket the thirty, wander into McWaverly's and look around for the biggest dude in the joint. There's a guy leaning on the bar down at the far end who's bigger than a brick shit-house. You'd swear he could tear D'Antonio to shreds if you didn't know better. Plus he's got a buddy with him who ain't exactly little either. They look tough enough to keep D'Antonio entertained for awhile.

I weave my way through the crowd, stroll up and bump his shoulder hard. His beer slops all over his shirt. He spins and gets right in my face. I hit him once, hard as I can, right on the nose. It don't even phase him. I know I'm good as dead if I'm really fighting this guy myself but, sure enough, D'Antonio's on him quicker than him or his buddy can make a move. I bolt for the door, hop into my Dodge Dart and drive away to drink my easy money in another town. I sit outside at The Mermaid overlooking the canal in Freeport drinking my beer and wondering just how bad D'Antonio whomps them two chumps.

End of story? Don't I wish. A year and a half, two years go by. I'm driving west on Sunrise Highway from my girlfriend's apartment in Merrick back to the animal house in Baldwin where I'm living with my cousin, a bunch of city firemen, and a couple of bartenders. It's like three in the morning. I'm driving this heap of a Chevy Nova at the time. It's a real beater, but I got ideas about muscling it up if I can scrape the cash together. All of a sudden she goes tits up on me right in the middle of the highway. The engine coughs and she conks right out.

I coast to the side of the road, put the flashers on, pop the hood and start nosing around trying to figure out what's what. A guy stops and pulls his Ford up bumper to bumper. He steps out holding a set of jumper cables and walks toward me. There's something familiar about the guy, but I can't place him right off. He recognizes me, though, and hits me so hard my knees buckle and my feet flop up off the ground before the back of my head cracks down on the curb.

Can you imagine how it feels when the swirling stars and fog clear from your mind and you find yourself curled into a ball beside the highway with a broken nose, bleeding from the back of your head, hoping for mercy, thinking, God, oh dear God, I deserve this, as a giant of a man, a fine, decent giant of a man who stops in the middle of the night to help a stranger, whips you again and again and again with the sharp metal clips of his jumper cables?

About the author:

Steve Potter lives in Seattle where he spends more time than he probably should wandering the streets mumbling under his breath. His short fiction and poetry have appeared recently in magazines such as Arson, Drunken Boat, Knock, Midnight Mind and 3rd Bed. He is the publisher & editor of a new magazine, The Wandering Hermit Review, which will be releasing its first issue in the summer of 2005.