At first you don’t see the spiders straight on. You catch them out of the corner of your eye. Scurrying. It’s gone. Must have slipped into a crack.
But a spider vanishing under cover doesn’t cause you to guess that you’re seeing things. Snakes or rats. Peripheral and then straight on.
They say it’s the stage before you see pink elephants. And worse. By then you realize that Mother Booze has come to take you away from all this. And you’re crazy about her.
But there’s no booze today. And no prospects. No check until the first of the month. And that’s four days away.
Being sober hurts. At least it hurts enough so you don’t think about sad things like God, children, wives and how it might have been.
You think about that stuff when you’re drunk.
I had to find Chip. Somebody‘s probably already jumped him. Cleaned the dopey sap out of his money.
But maybe not. That sneaky sonofabitch hides his loot better and better every day. He’s getting to be a low production roll.
I walked into the bar and decided to stay. Bobby, the bartender, usually lets me vacuum the place for a drink. One drink might be enough to hold me over until Chip arrives. Come on, Chip, you bastard don’t get blind-sided. Stay clear of dark alleys.
Bobby says okay to me vacuuming for a drink but he includes smashing the cardboard boxes out back. Then they gotta be put in the dumpster. That ought to be worth more than one drink.
“Is that for two, Bobby?”
“Aw, Bobby. The boxes are gonna take me an hour.”
“Then forget it.”
“No, no, Bobby. It’s just…”
“I’m on it, Bobby.”
The grind of the vacuum rips my brain. Stomping on the boxes makes me sick. I puke before I get done. I flick the bits of vomit off my jacket and chew on a cigarette butt to cover my breath. Then go back into the bar.
Now, the drink. It ain’t no help. Not really.
“Fill it to the top, Bobby.”
I gulped it. It didn’t do anything for me but at least it tasted like booze.
I decide to wait for Chip. He’ll be here before it gets dark out.
The blaring television is my only diversion from the shit going on in my head. One show. It’s killing me.
Maybe I’ll go back to my room. Bobby makes me stay on a stool when I’m here.
Yeah, I’m leaving. As I turn for the door, it opens. Chip squeezes in and shuffles to the end of the bar.
He passes by a light. A big wet cut shows up on his cheek and blood is oozing from a lump on the side of his head.
I grab a handful of napkins.
“Goddamn, they got you good this time.” I said dabbing the fluid coming from the lump. “It’s not thick blood. Maybe it’s not that bad.”
“Kenny and that fuckin’ Indian. They nailed me outside Dolly’s.” Chip moaned.
“How much they get?”
He looked at me and then hung his head over the bar.
I thought he was going cry.
But he gagged and spit up a puddle of dirty bile.
Bobby heard him from the other end of the bar.
“WHAT THE FUCK YOU DOIN’?” Bobby shouted.
“He’s beat up Bobby,” I intervened.
“I DON’T GIVE A SHIT WHAT HE IS. GET HIM OUTTA HERE!”
Chip burped up again. This time something else came up. It was floating in his stomach juice, a soggy twenty dollar bill folded into a square. I snatched the bill from the puddle before Chip could grab it. I curled it up, out of sight in my hand.
Bobby was striding down toward us. He looked pissed.
He grabbed Chip, dragged him across the floor and threw him out the door onto the sidewalk.
You heartless bastard, Bobby.
I quick stepped to the bathroom and washed the bill in the sink. I was going to dry it off but the towel roll had come loose from the machine and sat on the floor where it was wicking up a puddle of piss. I slapped the twenty dollars on my sleeve. The bill was still wet but didn’t smell like vomit. Bobby hates puke.
I walked out of the bathroom into the ball room and announced, “HEY BOBBY, PUT A DRINK ON THE BAR. I GOT MONEY!”