Bud Shellen slammed his fist to the metal partition at the Union 76 men’s room. It left a comet-shaped dent—and the crash echoed along the tiles for perhaps as long as ten seconds. “I’m gonna bust Harvey’s ass,” he promised and kicked the door open. At the sink he could still taste the sick vomit on his tongue. He cupped his hands and lapped up some cool water to rinse his mouth out. Then he took a swig from the silver flask in his jacket.
Out by the tanks, Bud chatted up a trucker heading north, to town. The trucker dropped him off at the Beaudry Ave exit, for the relatively cheap fare of a detailed explanation of the “Roman Road,” and he walked the rest of the way to his yellow bungalow.
Dawn was beginning to steal away the stars as he slipped his key into the front door. The street was dead at this hour. The light on his answering machine flashed impatiently, but he ignored it, stumbled to the kitchenette and put his head under the tap to soak the back of his head. Then he felt his way to his bed and collapsed. The last conscious neuron in his head flickered the image of Geoff Harvey’s smug round face with Bud’s fist busting through his incisors.
Harvey had heard three or four things about Bud round about town, and in his mind this information gave him leverage over Bud. But Bud didn’t give a rat’s ass what Harvey knew or thought he knew about him. He didn’t give a rat’s ass about Geoff Harvey, period. At the shop, Harvey leered at Bud and made kissy lips when nobody was looking. Bud kept his distance. But last night Harvey sauntered over to the bar where Bud was nursing his second J&B. Said he wanted to make friends—maybe the two of them had got off on the wrong foot at work—Bud firmly but politely told him he wasn’t interested in making friends. But Harvey whined, looked like he was going to bust out in tears any second, and Bud was feeling his alcohol, so Bud took pity, and the two of them headed to Harvey’s spacious four-bedroom on the edge of town.
They had a few drinks and talked fights and movies. Harvey sat on the sofa beside Bud—too close, their knees touched. Harvey talked about how hot the nights were these days and opened the top button of his shirt. Bud suspected nothing—not even when he saw a smirk creep across Harvey’s mouth—but there must have been something extra in his drink. Next thing he remembered was waking face down on cold vomit on the pee-stained tiles of a service station restroom, his pants knotted up at his knees. Sore front and back, probably bruised and bleeding—his head was too foggy to notice. It all came back to him like a cold sore when he woke up the next day at noon.
He threw up in the toilet and took a hot shower. One message on the answering machine, left at 2:30 that morning. It was Harvey’s voice—“Well, hey, Bud, hello. Now you know where to find me. Don’t be a stranger.” Bud pushed the machine to the floor and kicked it across the room.
(To be continued)