Saturday, 25 January 2014

TMINI Presents: Prince of the Rodeo.

The stench of sweat and whisky hung warm and the tip glass was empty, as usual. That’s the problem with small towns, everyone knows each other and everyone has each other on a tab that never gets returned. Abigail would’ve kicked up a stink about the filth of the bar and the fact that she’d be the one to sweep up the glass shards, but it was “faggot bashing” night and the three beards howling with laughter in the corner of the bar were clearly still in a fighting mood. She kept herself behind the tap, took the orders and just hoped more of them didn’t show up, falling through the doors of their pick-ups and kicking open the bar’s door. Tuesday is faggot bashing night for the boys and it’s nights like this that blood accompanies the ochre blotches on their vests.

It’s the same old rodeo every week. They pour themselves full of booze and roll their beat up cars slowly through the streets, throwing empties at passers-by and yelling at anyone they suspect to be a homosexual or anyone they simply don’t recognize. Mostly they just hurt people, regardless of their sexuality. There was only one gay couple in the town and they left three months ago. The boys ran them out after a year’s worth of broken windows, black eyes and death threats. Still, every Tuesday night, they go faggot bashing, “Just in case”.

Ethan, the ringleader of the trio, swallows back his whisky with haste, just so he can return to the bar and try his hand at Abigail. She knows this, so when he saunters over with the tip of his cap, she’s already pouring him one before he can attempt his usually slurred, porno mag flirting.

“Whassa matter darlin’? Boys too loud for yer likin’?”

“It’s just Tuesday is all” she drones, slipping him his glass and a dirty glare.

“Tuesday’s Tuesday alright, damn right it is” he smiles crookedly, knocking back the glass like a shot of cough syrup. He slides the glass back over to her with a wink. She pours him another.

“Y’know sugar, I always did wonder something about you.”

“And what was that?” she asks only because she has to. He leans in over the counter and tips his hat back even further, Abigail’s eyes are elsewhere but she's getting the full waft of his sickly, biting breath.

“I always did wonder what you look like without them panties” he sneered, and as soon as the words oozed from his mouth, the gang behind him erupted into barked laughter and banged their hairy fists on the table like tribal drums.

It was at that moment that the bar door creaked drowsily, and the gang fell silent with eyes narrowed and with slight lingering grins.

The man was tall and slender, shoulders to ankles in dark denim, a long cigarette hanging from his moustachioed lip. A plume of smoke escaped his nostrils and his eyes traced left to right as he walked towards the bar. Abigail had never seen him before and judging by the sudden silence of the faggot bashers, either had they. Ethan crooked himself to face the stranger with a furrowed brow.

“Well, you ain’t a usual sight.” he spoke with a monotonous venom as the stranger silently pulled a seat at the bar. The stranger didn’t return words. Abigail knew what was coming and quickly asked what the stranger wanted to drink. He eyed up the bar’s shelf without a word.

“Y’know, the lady askin’ you a question, stranger,” Ethan burped, looking him up and down. That’s when he noticed the handkerchief. It hung from his backside pocket, crimson red. Ethan turned to grin at the boys, then faced the stranger once again.

“Say, nice little hankey you got there” he slurred, slamming a .357 magnum on the bar table, “where’d you get it?”

Abigail was about to pipe up to try and dismantle the situation, but the stranger had already turned a pair of sunken eyes on Ethan. His voice was cavernous and he spoke with careless lethargy.

“Why you asking?”

The two slobbering henchmen immediately kicked back their chairs and marched towards the bar to stand side by side with Ethan, who was now spinning the pistol on the bar table and stabbing the stranger with a glare. Abigail was slowly reaching under the bar for her shotgun when one of the brutes pulled a pistol on her and shook his head. There then followed a moment of silence, a weighing of options, thumping of hearts and thoughts of lead and flesh.

“So, what kind of faggot does that red little hankey make you?” Ethan drank deeply in his own words, his words were his greatest weapon. Fear is the first stage of death.

The stranger flicked his cigarette to the ground and slipped the handkerchief from his back pocket. He pursed his lips and stared at it for a moment before dangling it in front of Ethan’s face, who remained deadpan and fixed.

“This here hankeychief?” the stranger smiled for the first time, he licked his lips and whirled the handkerchief around his finger, “Well, I’m not sure what red is supposed to indicate in my little circle...”

It all happened so quickly that Abigail’s body hardly had time to jolt to the lightning pops of gunfire that bounced off the walls and painted them with gore. She shattered bottles as she fell back against the bar shelf, her jaw locked wide and her eyes set firmly on the grisly sight before her.

All three faggot bashers twitched madly in rivers of their own DNA. One of the lackeys was gasping for breath and reaching for his pistol before one final crack sent his eyes rolling to the back of his head like a slot machine. Abigail’s entire body trembled and words tripped over themselves to escape her mouth.

“…because this here hankey used to be white” he drawled, wiping specks of blood from his face with the thin cloth. He slid back onto the bar stool and fired up another cigarette.

“I’ll have a Malibu and pineapple, if you got it”.

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