Something stopped Bud from punching his lights out right there on the doorstep.
Harvey motioned for him to come inside. In the living room, his house robe flew open and Bud could see the details of the faded tattoo on his left pec—a cartoon puppy with a sailor’s cap and a spiked collar—“Lucky Dog,” it said underneath in wriggly script.
He had been drinking, Bud could tell. He sat on the arm of an overstuffed armchair and tugged off his boots. He chuckled and tossed the boots aside. He sniffed his sweaty feet.
“I have to be honest with you, Bud. I expected you this afternoon. But I knew you’d get here all right. Scotch?”
Bud stared into the man’s hollow eyes, saying nothing. His body trembled.
“Been working out.” Harvey ran his hands up and down his torso. A strong body, but colorless, clammy—every inch of it looked as numb as an ancient scar. Harvey seemed immensely pleased with it, nevertheless. “You hit the weights? Ever?”
Nothing from Bud.
“Of course. Body like that doesn’t come from lying on your back under Chevys all day.”
His words slurred. His face looked amused and sad at the same time. He lit a cigarette and let it droop out the side of his mouth.
“I wanted to say how sorry I was about last night. I don’t know what the hell came over me. Way out of line. But, you know, in a way it was a compliment.”
Bud lunged at him, but Harvey deflected the assault and cuffed him lightly cross the chin. The two men stood, staring into each other’s eyes. Harvey seemed to keep his composure, but when he picked up his dropped cigarette his hand was shaking.
“I can understand it if you want to kick my ass. Hell, if I were in your shoes, I would probably have killed me already. But, then, we both know that you and me we’re not the same. Two sides of a coin, maybe, but definitely different.”
Bud felt the pressure build inside. It was as if his blood suddenly swelled in his face and hands.
Harvey shook his head: “But I want you to believe me when I say how much I regret what happened last night. And here’s what I’m gonna do—you, my friend, are going to kick the shit out of me tonight.”
(To be continued)