Tonight’s the night. His special day, our special day. Our reunion.
But George is running late. Two empty bottles. Extra long break, you lush. But we’ll get there. That’s what he always says. We’ll get there, Frankie, don’t ya worry. I know how important it is to ya. Ya. Not You. Zigetti – Spaghetti’s lawn’s patchy. Heard that story a thousand times. Wasn’t interesting then, won’t be now. Cookie runs out to greet me with a snarl.
The porch needs a coat of paint. I was too busy. I had to provide. My work provided. It would provide more. Just that one thing. Needed more time, that’s all. Get the right person to see it. Get everything back on track.
I knock on the red door.
Tonight’s the night.
• • •
Tonight has to be the night.
Fist to face.
Pitch black room.
Pancakes, fried chicken and borscht.
The fist pummels his face.
Frank’s brain slams against his skull.
He swallows a tooth.
“Pull a tooth! Why your teeth are alright!” cried Doctor Possum.
The tooth lodges in his throat.
A slap. One side. The other.
Wake up you pigshit fucker.
Cold water. Forty-two.
Sammy’ll love it.
Her name is Tess. And she was running for her life.
–– No from him. From
He swallows the tooth.
Blood and borscht.
The Jackhammer hacks.
–– out there, friend. They’re all waiting on you. And I’m too fucking old for this kid shit. Tell me what you were doing, and it’ll all stop. All of it, friend.
–– Sammy. I
–– Sammy? You’ve said that a lot, friend.
Right hook. Rivet knuckle to chalk teeth.
–– But right now you need to tell me what’s going on and why you were chasing that poor girl. Long story short? I swear to fuck if you did that to her, if you made her face look like the ass-end of a rope-a-dope, I’ll string your nuts on a meathook and let the boys at the counter dump the rest of your sorry ass down by that waterfront shitfuck carnival. And that’s after they run you through their trash truck. They’d do it too. Hungry thanks to you. Now look, it’d be a helluvagoddamn sha
The Jackhammer hacks. Spittle and phlegm hit Frank’s face.
–– Helluvagoddamn shame if I had to
The Jackhammer pulls his fist back. Frank laughs.
–– No, no. Wait. We’re, we’re
Frank laughs and coughs.
–– We’re going to immortalize this moment! And if this tune ends up being your wedding song, you’d better give me some credit!
The Jackhammer rests his hands on Frank’s shoulders.
–– What did you say, friend?
Frank gurgles blood. Frank laughs.
–– Alright lovebirds, you ready to be real heroes? Jacket. Nice eyes nice jacket. Nice eyes nice jacket. She liked them.
–– Nice eyes… you wait right here.
The Jackhammer has a shuffle, a slight limp. Heel to toe, Jackhammer, heel to toe. The door opens. Hazy. People eating around a counter. Heads strain to look in the door. Mingling. Camaraderie. Plates meeting silverware. A sizzle from the grill.
–– Nice eyes nice jacket.
Metal against griddle. The tink of a plate. Silverware and chewing (mouth open). The light stays on. The Jackhammer unties him from the chair and helps him up. Frank leans against The Jackhammer. It’s like leaning against a metal post, a five-foot-four-inch metal post surrounded by brick mortared with borscht, grease and moustache wax. They walk into the diner. The sign flickers and reflects from the metal of the counter. It brands and bathes the counter jockeys of ‘Ene’s ‘iner in red neon. He owns them.
The walls: boxing pictures of The Jackhammer in his glory days punching some poor sonuvabitch into oblivion. The moustache hasn’t changed a day. Probably still uses the same wax. A dollop a day. Right side left side.
They walk through the kitchen behind the counter, The Jackhammer’s hand on his arm. Frank stares at the cutting board. Knife gouges and red meat. Slices larger than Pagliacci’s. Years of experience and pride in craft built up on one piece of wood.
The Beady-Eyed Nudnik with a plateful of chicken turns the pages of Sammy’s Comic. He licks his greasy finger between each page. Frank glares. Reminds him of the mad Jap scientist in issue eight. The one who built the dinosaurs. Or was it nine? Lyle destroyed him too. Splattered him all over the inside of his volcano lair. The kids loved it. The Jackhammer snatches Whiz!Bam!Pow! Comics #7 from the Beady-Eyed Nudnik’s sullied hands. His chicken drops to the plate and rattles the green beans. A piece of it clings to his unkempt and broken nails. The counter jockeys snicker.
–– My dear fellow, I was in the middle of that particular pugilistic endeavor between flying man and gargantuan metal beast, which I must say, makes for a particularly pleasant mealtime diversion from your rather, unfortunately, lacking poultry tidings.
–– Another time, Beady.
Frank feels Beady’s bulging eyes focus on him. He hears them rattle into place. Beady licks his lips and smiles.
–– But I see you are distracted this evening, dear Gene. And who, pray tell, was the flying man and who was the gargantuan metal beast in your clandestine efforts to recapture the glory days of your pugilistic past?
With a grunt, The Jackhammer leads Frank to a table in the corner. Curls holds a raw piece of meat to her face. The Jackhammer motions for Frank to sit across from her. He throws The Comic into the middle of the table.
–– You owe this man an apology.
Curls stares at The Comic. Back at The Jackhammer.
–– He scared the living fuck outta me.
–– What did I say about that mouth of yours?
–– I wasn’t raised in a barn, so stop talking like a pig.
–– That’s right girl. Now your mom’s going to be pissed.
She hands Frank the piece of meat. He raises it to his eye.
–– Sorry I let Gene beat you up, Mister.
Frank stares at the boxing pictures on the wall.
–– I bet I would’ve liked that drawing.
The tooth digests. The Jackhammer twiddles his thumbs. He stares at Curls. He strokes his chin and his moustache. He scratches the top of his ear.
–– You left with that boy, girl?
–– You left with that boy.
–– I don’t know
–– Meant you didn’t have to go home, right?
–– Am I right, girl?
Curls takes the string out of her pocket. She interlaces it in her fingers. Jackhammer grabs the string and yanks it out of her hand. He slams it to the table.
–– Why didn’t ya come to me?
–– I didn’t want
–– Whydja get this poor schlup mixed up in your shit?
The Jackhammer pats Frank’s forearm. He winces.
–– No offense.
Frank massages his eye. He creeps his hand up on the table, inching his fingers closer to The Comic.
–– You know who that boy is, don’t you, girl?
Curls shakes her head.
–– Jesus Mary mother of fuck.
The Jackhammer presses his thumbs into the tops of his eye sockets. He exhales. A quiver. He twists the moustache. He picks up The Comic. Frank eyeballs his blood on The Jackhammer’s fingers.
–– So you made this guy, huh?
Frank opens and closes his fist. He nods.
–– I’m not much one for the funny books. But this Sky Phantom guy, I liked him. Never could believe the whole flying superhero guy thing. I mean, it’s just not real, right friend?
–– Ever think of making a hero that was a boxer? That’d be really good. Kids’d love him. You should do that. The Fist of Fury or something. I’d read it.
Curls takes her string back. The Jackhammer stares at her.
–– I thought I taught you better than that. Thought I showed ya the right moves. Important for a girl to be able to defend herself. More important for her not to get into situations where she has to defend herself.
–– I broke his nose.
She loops the string around her index and middle. Cat’s Cradle. She points to Frank with her bound hands.
She mouths, “Sorry.”
The Jackhammer twists the end of his moustache. He taps his hands in rhythm on the table. Double double tap tap.
–– We’re gonna patch you up, you’re gonna go home, and tomorrow’s another day. Hear me, girl? We’re going to forget all of this. All of it.
She slides her hands together and catches the string with the opposite. She mumbles.
–– Excuse me?
Curls nods. The Jackhammer smacks the rolled-up Comic on the table and stands. He bellows.
–– Beady, wash your hands. Patch job.
–– I don’t want him touching me.
–– It is how it is.
Beady licks his fingers. The Jackhammer hands Frank The Comic.
–– Sammy’ll love this, friend.