Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Not a Review At All - Rain

Pneumonia is still keeping me from playing games. So instead of a review, here's a short story.

The rain in this part of the city never cleans anything. It stirs up the filth in the dumpsters, streaks the soot on the walls of the dive bars and strip joints, and gathers in greasy puddles in the parking lots and gutters, making miniature lakes with islands of discarded fast-food wrappers and cigarette butt canoes.

I'm standing outside The Last Chance at closing time, just out of sight, listening to the strains of Frank Sinatra on the jukebox leaking through the cracks in the windows. My coat is soaked through, sticking to my skin like a layer of plastic wrap. My hair is pasted to my scalp, rivers of tepid water dripping down into my eyes. I keep my hands inside my coat and wait for the last drunk to stumble out to his car.

Then I move. The bouncer is pushing the door shut, and when I kick it, he jumps back, an alarmed yelp escaping his throat just before I pull my forty cal out of my coat and put two slugs in his chest. He goes down in a wet gurgle.

I don't waste any time. I'm rushing into the bar now, drawing my second gun and firing at the two thugs jumping to their feet. My twin forty cals hammer out their staccato rhythm. The first guy doubles over, shot in the belly and chest before he can pull his own piece clear. The second manages to snatch a Mac-10 off the table, but my own bullet smacks him in the face, blowing out the back of his head like a smashed cantaloupe. He squeezes the trigger by sheer reflex, and fires a stream of pointless flame into the ceiling tiles as he falls backwards over a bar stool.

Nobody else offers a target now, so I run for the double doors in the back. I'm halfway there when I hear the dry double-click of shotgun racking a shell. Without looking, without even thinking, I dive for cover behind a table.

Not quite fast enough. A mule kicks me in the shoulder, throws me headlong over the table, taking it with me to the floor. My left-hand piece flies away at the force of the blast, and my right hand is tangled up in the chair that bounces off my forehead when I fall. I'm dazed and hurting, trying to roll onto my back and get my gun hand clear.

The barkeep jumps over the bar and sights down at me. I roll the table in front of me, and the next blast shreds half of it, showering me with splinters stinking of stale whiskey and sweat. The rest of the table falls right on top of me, pinning me underneath the wreckage.

He jumps off the bar, a shaggy biker with a black bristly beard and a skull t-shirt. He can see I'm stuck, so he's moving in to finish me off once and for all. Guess he's tired of blowing holes in his bar.

He's standing over me now, the barrel of that shotgun like a long tunnel of doom. "Say goodnight, asshole."

I twist my wrist free of the table and fire. My bullet takes him right under the chin, tearing out half his throat and sending him reeling over backwards, his beard catching the remnants of his shredded neck like a gory sieve. His last shot tears the air over my head and blows out a window as he falls.

It takes me a few seconds to push out from under the ruined table and stagger to my feet. My left arm is hanging limp, and blood runs down the inside of my coat sleeve, mixing with the dripping rain water to leave pink drops on the concrete floor. For a second it's quiet in the bar, and all I can hear is Frank singing how he's sure cocaine would bore him. That, and the rain drumming on the roof and coming through the shattered window.

I turn toward the back of the bar again. I still have one good arm and one good gun, and I'm not leaving before I'm done. I'm six steps from the swinging door when Johnny Brucco shoves through, dragging the girl in front of him, a Saturday Night Special shoved up against her forehead.

She's cute. The profile mentioned she was fifteen, blue eyes, freckles and red hair. Seeing her for the first time, the description doesn't do her justice. I can see why Brucco grabbed her. The Turks will pay top dollar, ship her across the Atlantic in a cargo ship, and have her turning tricks in Morocco by this time next month. Unless some skeezy old man decides to buy her and keep her all to himself.

Of course, the only way that happens is if Johnny can drop me before I drop him. My forty cal whips up and levels on his left eye.

"Let 'er go, Johnny. Only way you walk out of this bar."

"Screw you, Savage! Get outta the way, or I blow her freckles out her ear!"

"Quick death beats hell out of her other option, if I let you take her. Drop your piece or I drop you."

Johnny doesn't have a reply. He just stands there, pistol jammed up against the girl's head, staring at me with bloodshot eyes full of cheap liquor and raw hate.

It's quiet again. Just us and the rain. The girl is choking back her fear and making noises like a strangling kitten, tears streaming down her freckled cheeks. Sinatra croons on, not getting a kick on a plane. Water and blood drip noisily to the floor from my left hand.

I could shoot now. He's close enough, I could put out his eye without any chance of hitting the girl. But if I do, and Johnny's finger twitches, he'll blast those pretty eyes to pudding and take her down with him. And if that happens, I will have wasted this entire evening, when I could have just stayed home with take-out Chinese and a bottle of bourbon.

"When this songs ends," I tell Johnny, "I'm going to kill you. Make up your mind, and do it fast."

He keeps staring, but Frank is winding it up, and he's getting nervous. His eyes give him away half a second before his gun sweeps away from the girl. I shoot him and he shoots me.

Johnny's bullet grazes my neck, tugs at my collar, and leaves a scratch. My bullet catches Johnny in the eye, takes out the back of his head, and leaves a Rorschach pattern in gray matter on the wall behind him. He crashes into the jukebox and it starts to skip. Frank stops singing and just keeps saying, 'Get a kick - get a kick - get a kick.'

The girl is on the floor, Johnny's blood spattered over her face and sticking in her hair. I holster my piece and help her to her feet.

"Let's get you home, Amber. Your parents are worried sick."

I wrap her in my coat and walk her out. The rain washes most of the blood out of her hair on the way to the car.

7 comments:

Steve said...

Very nice.

Anonymous said...

Well done Mr. Drake.

Mikkel said...

I have been reading your back catalogue (skipping games I knew I had no interest in), and it has been a great read.

This, however, took the highest praise. Gave me the same feeling as a much longer story, thank you. Reminded me a bit of Calvin's alter ego Tracer Bullet from Calvin and Hobbes, which I am reading through at the moment.

Finstar said...

Dear Mr. Drake,

I've been reading your reviews with pleasure and joy for a while now, but this one just blew the house with awesomeness. Please do me the friggin' favor and write a book one day... or at least the next issue of "The Punisher".

Trust me, the world WOULD be a better place then.

Sincerely,

Finstar Red

Colorcrayons said...

Great story, Matt. Relax and get better soon.

We will survive without your awesome boardgame commentary for awhile. But we wont survive without it if you do not survive yourself.

Lots of rest. Here is an E-Chicken soup for you.

Pete Miller said...

Nice bit of hard boiled, Drake. Thanks.

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