My reaction to Frankie’s cremation caught me off guard. The truth is I was disgusted with myself. I couldn’t even stick around to verify the extent of destruction.
I set sail for home, eyes glued to the ground.
The weed had been an exceptionally bad idea. Way too much navel gazing had transpired. The smell would be with me for a long time. Frankie’s revenge, no doubt. So long motherfucker. Sail on motherfucker.
Something was tracking me about four rows over. I picked up the pace. Blood pumped straight to my head, straight where I didn’t need it. I broke into a dead run, my head pounding. My sense of hearing was obliterated by my pounding heart and I wasn’t even breathing hard. My sight was a jumbled set of frozen frames, dirt, trees, a flashing shadow on my right. It was right with me, right with me easy and it was quiet and it was calm. It was staying right off my shoulder, my blind spot, or so it thought. I caught another gear. Let’s see what you got, motherfucker.
Now I’m breathing hard, and I’m in shape for this, or so I’m thinking. Running is my ace in the hole, what I’ve always counted on in a jam. Then again the orange groves are my ace in the hole and here is somebody or something right here with me, hanging back now, just a bit but tracking me big time. Things are focusing a bit and I can sense the footsteps. They are methodical, the measured pace of something I can’t outrun. Then I hear something that sends a chill down my spine. My pursuer is laughing gently, “Hoo hoo hoo, hoo hoo hoo”
Years before, I had been arm wrestling some little fucker in a bar. I couldn’t budge his arm. It just stood there like a pillar from the center of the earth. I put everything I had into moving his arm until I felt my strength waning. Just as my mistake was occurring to me, I looked into his eyes. His mirth was so complete, so confident, that my soul itself collapsed and he slammed my arm to the table.
That lesson in demoralization has stayed with me ever since. That bastard hadn’t beaten me, he simply allowed me to defeat myself.
My footsteps remained just as methodical as the giggling bastard behind me. Maybe he killed Frankie. Maybe he thought that I would be a puss too. I decided that the prudent thing to do would be to lead him out into the open, have a look at him, then decide on fight or flight.
I hung a left, toward the road just eight rows away and kept running across the street and into the orange groves on the other side. One row in I whirled around to catch a glimpse. He was still two rows in on the other side of the street when I saw him. He was long and lean, formidable, comfortable in his role as a killer.
I heard the car approaching. Two worlds would be intersecting momentarily, and I knew what I was about to see, but the sound was unforgettable. Monday Night Football, Joe Theisman writhing on the ground. All that ran through my mind before he even hit the ground. I felt joy to the core of my being.
He laid there in a little ditch by the side of the road, not moving. The car was screeching along, brakes locked up, fishtailing to a halt. So many things to see in a nano-second, big black letters on the side of a white car:
I oozed back further into the groves, maybe a couple rows. There I settled in to watch this act unfold. Laughing boy was still lying motionless in the little ditch. I could see the back of Big Joe’s head in the car. He seemed to be going through the glove box. Probably looking for registration and shit. This was hilarious. Big Joe finally emerged from the car. He looked like an old friend, wandering back to the scene of the crime.
“You alright?” he said to the ditch.
I almost burst out laughing. What an idiot.
Big Joe crouched and rubbed his eyes. He seemed to wobble a bit.
“My fucking back.” It was a raspy croak. A croak from the depths of hell. What a piece of shit voice.
“Lemme call an ambulance.”
“Hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo.” I could see him contorting in pain as he laughed. Big Joe stood up and ran to his car. He got in and started rooting around again. I began looking for a club, an orangewood club, yes. That would be the ticket. Big Joe was the only obstacle. But there was no club. Evidently orange trees don’t shed clubs. So I waited.
I wondered what the fuck brought Big Joe out here. I wondered who set him free. I wondered what he was doing in there. Then he got out of the car and strolled slowly back to shit voice down there. He seemed to be regaining his composure. And there it was in all its glory, that big gun. Hell yes, Big Joe. You do the honors. This was perfect.