The Pit Bull
by Tom Hamilton
part 1 of 3
“Ya got nothin’ to apologize for man.” I said to him as the drizzle began to tickle us. The tiny rain drops had gathered some momentum, and now they added a sheen to the bright, dusk cutting light of the ‘What-A-Burger’ sign. Even though we were standing almost directly under it at the edge of the parking lot, the moniker still offered us little protection from the increasingly thickening spittle. Not that I was looking for any.
He turned his palms over. Like a stage magician does to show the audience that he doesn’t have any tricks up his sleeve, before he stuttered: “I didn’t mean for you to find out like this... I mean, we didn’t know it would turn out like this.”
“Ah,” I shrugged, and answered as softly as I could. “It’s not like I didn’t know something like this was coming.”
I risked a peek over at his brand new 1984 Ford, Lariot, Super cab. I really liked that truck’s paint job. It was a florescent teal color which looked blue under the cloud hut of the failing Texas twilight. Two teenaged boys were sitting in the front seat, shuffling through cassette tapes like you would a brittle, sticky old deck of cards. She was in the packed back seat with at least three other girls. I couldn’t say for sure how many others without staring, and that was the last thing that I wanted to do. She must have been sitting on one of the other girl’s lap, since she sat higher and was somewhat more visible than her feminine peers. Her multicolored dress glowed like some strange European flag. Actually, everyone inside the vehicle seemed to be wearing something overly bright. And I wondered that if I squinted at the truck, or looked at it through a camera, would it give off the same effect as a kaleidoscope. She looked over just then as the white sunset, which had managed to sneak under the low clouds, turned her eyes into two glinting coins. I hastily looked away.
“I meant... I meant...” He was trying again. “I mean I was gonna to tell you the other night when you were in Baton Rouge. But it just didn’t seem right over the phone. I really was gonna... I really was gonna... we just didn’t think you’d be comin’ back that quick.”
“Ah.” I shrugged again with as much harmlessness as I could muster. “Tell me what man?, c’mon this is me. We’ve never had anything to hide from each other. It was a nightmare with me and her anyway.” He looked at me glumly. His mouth looked like someone had drawn it on with a ruler, as I continued to say: “At least now I can maybe stop thinking about it all the time. Try an... ya know?” I had used up a lot of restraint pretending like he and I were still friends. What I really wanted to do was draw a line in the dirt with my boot tip. A line that he’d better not dare cross. But all that would have done was capsized a trio of dusty bottle tops, as well as tipping her off to the the horror which was hurtling out of control through my soul, courtesy of the revelation of this surprising new couple.
“ I feel like an asshole man.” He said flatly.
You are an asshole man!
“Ah.” I repeated for lack of a more humble sound. His brow furrowed a tender as his cheeks pulled a little mouth wash stunt. If he wasn’t genuinely sorry or concerned, then he was a pretty good actor. That’s when a rough innocence washed over his features and he said. “Hey, ya know I can drop these clowns off early tonight. I mean to Hell with her man, we could go down to the River Walk and have a few ice colders?”
“Nah.” I answered. Which was really just the same inoffensive “Ah.” I’d been repeating with an ‘N’ in front of it. “Louisiana was livin’ wet man.” I continued. “ I’ve been slidin’ past semis for six hours. I’m gonna hit the hay.”
He looked honestly disappointed upon my refusal of his invitation. “All right.” He managed to begin, then after a sad pause he added. “Look, I know you don’t feel like ridin’ around with us all night.” He gestured towards the pick-up. The party garbed boys were feeding cassettes into the mouth of the radio. It upchucked odd, garbled bits of song which washed over the murderer’s row of femme fatales in the back seat. They were growing impatient with our two man conference, and someone rudely laid on the horn.
“C’mon.” He said. “Ill take you on back.”
He took a couple of steps towards his pick-up. Although he was my first cousin, and I’d known him for seemingly as long as I could comprehend my own existence, I was suddenly struck by how lean and handsome he was. As if this were the first time I had ever seen him. His whiskered face was free of blemishes, and encircled by heavy brown hair, politely disturbed by jumping strands of baby chick yellow bangs. Which hung down near his jade and Confederate grey eyes. His glare glowed like the last two bad ass marbles inside the circle. His slightly lanky, yet muscular body filled his jeans properly. Minus the dreaded love handles and cellulite pockets I’d become so used to battling on my own malformed person. He wore a rich, dashing, buckeye red Polo shirt with slashes of haunt hued silver. And I was suddenly conscious of my own dull clothing. An abyss black Polo with matching Levi’s and night dyed lizard cowboy boots. I noticed for the first time that he was wearing his own pearly version of those same skins. He and I had bought the boots together on our trip to Acapulco. Then we’d both worn them on the plane coming home to buck customs. We were like brothers then.
Now, as I went to take a step towards his truck, my toes curled up inside those same shoes. Like someone who had been walking in the dark, realizing that they had almost stepped into a ditch. My legs balked and refused to carry out the mind’s command to stride towards the super cab. After he had taken a couple of more steps, It dawned on him that I wasn’t walking with him. He turned back towards me and said: “Ya ready, I mean... is that okay?”
The volume on the truck’s radio shot up just then, making us both look towards the pickup. One of the girls from the back seat had childishly lunged into the front buckets. Skying the treble on some disco song too foolish to recall. In doing so, she purposefully squashed her heavy set breasts against her intended target. A skinny kid wearing a long sleeve, button up the front, blue Polo. She must have weighed at least twice as much as him. Their encounter deteriorated into a daft slapping game.
The immature melee did not involve her however. As the action was taking place at the far end of the cab. But she caught me staring at her again, and this time, I could not look away. My eyes were welded to hers like someone holding onto a high voltage cable. It was as if I was looking at her through a scope, or a fiery tunnel. I found myself thinking about one of those 3-D view finders we all used to have when we were kids. That’s how brilliant her eyes looked to me now. I would not have wanted to see my face at that instant. Since I could not hide the enchantment I felt at seeing her, anymore than I could stop those same feelings from being ran over and mashed into the blacktop by his shining truck. Yet I could not look away. So instead I just stood there, staring at her. As she reveled in her new day with her new beau in the dreary drizzle whipped Sun. Even if that Sun was losing ground to the low clouds. In the eternal but forgone battle of dusk. A fight which always ended with the victory of darkness.
I felt as if cold french fry fingers were constricting around my ball point narrow esophagus. I knew at that instant, that if I were to climb inside that super cab; my lungs would lock up like an engine without motor oil. Until the claustrophobia forced me to feel that they were all leaning against me with the solo purpose of much combined weight. Pushing my shrinking and tightening bones up against the windows and door locks. Like a crowd jockeying for position at a sold out concert or basketball game. Forcing me to lick the air for oxygen. The thought of being locked inside a cattle car flickered through my disgusted mind. The irrepressible stench of liquidated manure. Snots as big and lively as snails congealing inside the silver dollar sized nostrils of the livestock. Squashed rectangles of flat indestructible shafts of maize light framing my ill eyes, as I tried to peer in between the slats of boards. I hadn’t even moved a centimeter towards the goofing group as of yet, and I already felt sick enough to loudly spit a jaw full of meat soup onto the pavement. Her eyes continued to drill into me like two corkscrews made out of flawless ice. My mouth had formed the words even before my brain stopped reeling;
“I think I’m going to walk it.” I said to him, with a voice just as even as my frown.
He spun back around and tuned the tips of his boots until they were once again pointed right at me.
“You’re pissed?’” He said with a cocky sadness which seemed almost desperate.
“Nah.” I claimed through a wooden nickel smile and a quarter shake of my heavy head. “It’s just that I’ve been ridin’ in a truck for two days man.”
“That’s gotta be two miles?!” He exclaimed as he put his hand over his eyes to judge the distance like a lost Indian scout.
“Not really.” I shrugged. “I jog farther than that all the time.” This was a bit of bulls*** which was actually true. During many of my hopeless diet and exercise kicks, I had built up enough modest wind to run, at a baby step pace, for perhaps two miles. Though you’d never know it by looking at the crude, animal balloon, loveless handles, which encircled my toxic waistline. “Besides.’” I continued. “You can see the apartments from here.”
He stared out across the dulling plain. Way down past the mall, which sat off to our right on the opposite side of the deuce lane, and in between the Mexican neighborhood, which sat a tad off to the left or south, the high tower which represented the gate, which represented the office, which represented our crude cubicles could be seen. It was the local where he, I, she, and a number of other disgruntled tenants did our excuse for living. Several muddy, weed strewn fields targeted for development, joined up with the deuce lane to separate these landmarks.
He glared towards the tower for a few seconds without saying anything. Then, his salute hand dropped, slapping off of his knee like a single drum beat, before he said:
“I’m sorry man!”
Sorriest day a yer f***in’ life!!
“Don’t be crazy.” I said in a friendly tone, before tapping his belly with a mock boxer’s jab. I felt no hint of a gut, nor fat of any kind as I came in contact with his abdomen.
“Okay.” He shook my hand and nearly giggled. I felt like there was a spur in my throat. “Okay.” He repeated, like he wanted to be sure that we were talking about the same thing. “Good night and God Bless you.” I had always hated that expression, and on this occasion I felt particularly abandoned by God. So instead of repeating it back to him, I opted for “See ya tomorrow.”
I turned around, and began walking towards the edge of the asphalt and sea shell parking lot. My blood pounding through my head as if it were too thick for my brain. I heard his driver side door close as I crossed over onto the long grass. I could feel the comments from inside the cab sticking to my back like darts. I knew full well that I was making a bigger and bigger fool out of myself, with each passing step of this little hike. But my beleaguered brain was far beyond worrying about any form of petty embarrassment . At least I could vomit out here in the tan fields, if the green snakes of my intestines ordered such a release.
The big shiny pickup curled out onto the deuce lane, and looped back past me moving in my same direction. One of the other girls was hanging out of the rear sliding window waving furiously. She shouted some wind sucked taunt to the twilight, and it was with considerable relief that I realized the insult was not directed towards me, but rather at a raggedy old rummy who was rooting through some garbage on the other side of the deuce lane. The dumpster man wore a long onion skin coat, which managed to look shiny and drab at the same time. He looked up at the jeering girl and then turned away. Like the final motion of a ghost before it vanishes. I feared that the knowledge that she was mocking him rather than mocking me might be the highlight of my night. I watched the truck drift away and hugged my arms.
It usually got pretty warm during the daytime in this part of Texas, even in January. So of course, I hadn’t been wearing any coat. The misty wet clouds seemed to be in touch with the earth and the drizzle was making a motion to be recognized as a full state of rain. Now that I was out of sight, I felt free to remove my cap and run my fingers through my damp hair. Drops of water bled from my saturated mane as surely as if I had just gotten out of the shower. I turned my cap around and looked at the front of it. It was black of course, with a glow in the dark Chicago Cubs ‘C’ emblem above the brim, I inspected it for no reason before redepositing it onto my head. My face still felt hot and exasperated, yet my arms were cold. The choppy, cow brown clumps of the terrain were proving to be difficult for my boots to negotiate. So I decided to veer back up onto the shoulder of the deuce lane. An El Camino, with its headlights already turned on, blazed by. Wafting me with a fresh round of spray. I tried to imagine that my thick, tight legs were pedaling a bicycle, (Pedaling, Pedaling) employing the traditional one foot over the other approach.
Copyright © 2007 by Tom Hamilton