Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Twenty-First Century Hero

There's been a pretty good discussion over at Crimespace this week about whether modern heroes had to be flawed, and how flawed they should be. This is my response.

A Twenty-First Century Hero

My mouth tasted like a dirty sock. The clock on the wall showed 11:30. Insufficient information. I pulled back a curtain. Sunlight blinded me. Eleven-thirty AM, then. Not bad after last night.

An empty bottle of Jack Daniel’s skidded across the floor when I stood from the Barcalounger. Another on the coffee table. I rubbed my scalp. One of those was over half empty when I started. No wonder I was up early.

I shuffled to the bathroom. My head felt like Laurence Olivier was drilling into my skull. Is it safe? Someone had lipsticked a note on the mirror.

You’re an asshole. Fuck off and die.

Could be Carol. Or Christie. They were both here last night. Only one of them was supposed to be. The other one was pretty pissed when she found us together. Carol, I think. Or Christie. Probably Carol. Christie dots her I’s with little hearts. I could call them both if I really wanted to know. Or I could play it safe and call Michelle.

I did a couple of lines off the toilet lid and brushed my teeth with the residue to clear my head. I had to go to my Old Man’s place. I hated him ever since the first time he crawled into bed with me. Said he wanted to make sure I wasn’t cold. I was nine and it was July. I avoided him when I could, but he said he had some of my money. He’d want something, sure, but an asshole’s money spends like anyone else’s.

The door was open when I got there. A bad sign for a guy with that many people who wanted a chunk of his ass. He usually piled empty beer cans in the doorways when he slept.

I found him in the kitchen. Blood and brains covered his face. One look at him and I was back in the jungle. Choppers overhead. Death cards and Wagner and the smell of napalm in the morning. First flashback I’d had in over a year. Thanks, Dad.

Not much I could do for him with brain on his face. He’d said there was money and knew better than to lie to me about it. I searched the whole place. Nothing but change.

I gathered up what booze he had and snagged the plastic ring of a six-pack with my finger. Didn’t worry about prints. I was his loving son, could have been there any time. Besides, whichever chick didn’t leave the note would alibi me.

Walking out I saw one thing didn’t belong. A baseball hat on the kitchen table. “Big Ass Fans,” it said, with some jock’s autograph. Whitey Purcell’s hat.

I found Whitey in Fat Jimmy’s Lounge, buying drinks with a good-sized roll. I strolled over and sat next to him.

“Buy me a drink.”

“Buy you a drink? I don’t like you any better than I like your old man.”

“Yeah, but you ain’t—asshole!—killed me yet. Dick face!” My Tourette’s acted up sometimes when I was stressed. Or drinking. Or using drugs or not taking the medication.

Whitey turned the color of his name, looked straight ahead. “What are you talking about?”

“Where’s that hat you—cocksucker!—like so much, Whitey. You know, Big Ass—fuck! Shit!—Fans?”

His hand touched his head before he could stop it. “It got dirty. I threw it out.”

“No, you didn’t. Needle dick! You forgot it at my old man’s. How much you—motherfucker!—take off him?”

Whitey stared into his beer. “How much you want?”

“All of it. Shit!”
He took the roll from his shirt pocket. Laid it on the bar with his hand over it. “What does this buy me?”

“You were with me—ball licker!—whenever you need to be when they ask about the hat.”

I gestured to the bartender for another round for Whitey and the same for me. “You think they’ll suspect you if the grieving—ass!—son—dick!—is seen drinking—fuck!—with you all day? And gives you an—suck my dick!—alibi? That old bastard owed us both.”

The bartender brought us each a bump and a beer. I lifted my shot glass to Whitey. “Drink up.”

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