Two Blind Men and a Fool
by Sherman Smith
|Table of Contents|
Earl Crier wakes screaming from nightmares in which his ship sinks in the Arctic in World War II. He has survived but is now blind. He takes refuge in music and in the kindness of Stella. Meanwhile, other veterans return, and their most serious wounds are not always visible.
Chapter 25: Despair Has Left the Game
Three, four beers, but who’s counting? The strange sucking sounds that Brooks made as he drank through a straw were annoying to all around him. Brooks didn’t care; for the first time in a long time, he was beginning to feel right with the world. Despair had left the game, no one dealt, while Complacency whispered vacant thoughts in his ear. Tedium, jealous for Brook’s attention, bitched and moaned that it was all bullshit.
Enough, at least until he relieved himself. The urge was there, not urgent, but being in a dark, foreign place, he had no idea how long it would take him to find a simple john. He needed to gain someone’s attention. Tap. Tap-tap. No, that wasn’t going to do it. He rapped the head of his cane on the table. Whack! Whack! Whack! He could almost feel the cold stares around him grow frigid.
He recognized the voice of the bartender. The son-of-a-bitch made Elroy sound like a choir boy. “You want more, then put up the money.” He’d already charged Brooks four times the going rate for the beers. “Otherwise, get the hell out.”
Complacency told Brooks to ignore the hostility and pay attention to what was important. “Your beer is swill,” Brooks said. “I know you are a cheating SOB, and frankly I don’t give a damn. You want the freak to give you a show? Fine, get me to a bathroom. I’m not about to pee in my pants for your sick thrills.”
The bartender stepped back. This monkey has got to go. He glanced at two stevedores he used as bouncers and waved them over. They could take the freak for anything they could get, just as long as they took him out the back door.
Brooks stood. He rapped his cane once, hard. Then he sensed someone behind him, and he felt a firm, controlling hand on his shoulder.
“Come on, pal, we’ll help you down the hall.” The offer wasn’t exactly friendly, but what was he going to do? His poker pals had all called it a night, except for Despair, who was always nearby.
The next thing he knew he was strong-armed and force-marched, hoots and catcalls all around, out of the bar. A door opened. It wasn’t to a john. It smelled of night air, fog, garbage, rank alleyway smells. His cane was torn from his grasp, and he felt hands searching his pockets. Then the air was knocked from his lungs as he was beaten by both men, lifted and thrown into a garbage dumpster.
* * *
A street bum, searching for food, stared down at the gauze-covered head of what appeared to be a man in a soiled tux. The dark stain that appeared to be blood soaking through the head bandage, near where a mouth should have been, told the drunk that whoever it was might still be alive. He stumbled to the street, hailed a cab, pointed and mumbled something unintelligible to the cabbie. Then he stumbled down the street, seeking as much distance as possible before the cops arrived.
The cabbie called it in.
The cops came. They knew the bar and didn’t bother to ask any questions.
Brooks was conscious, in some pain, and embarrassed, having peed on himself. He just asked the officers to take him back to the Veterans’ Hospital.
Copyright © 2013 by Sherman Smith