Category Archives: M C Neuda

Two-Fer

Why is it, no matter what you do and what you say, there are some guys you can’t stop from running over a cliff?
+++++I tried to tell Joey that Charlene was forbidden fruit, that no way was he going to have a girl even like her.
+++++That Charlene wasn’t nice, in any way you could take that to mean.
+++++That, first, she’d been around—hey, I’m not mudslinging, hell, I’m admiring! And also, that she’d been around, in other words, knew all the ropes.
+++++But Joey thought he was the brightest cock in the yard, if not the biggest, and that Charlene only had to meet him and she’d two-step to his doodle-doo.
+++++I told him he was going to piss somebody off, Charlene not the least, but he said: “Mick, just get me near her, and I’ll show you.”
+++++What could I do? If a guy wants to play with fire that badly, who am I to deny him matches?
+++++As it happens, I knew she frequented the bar off Main on Clover on Thursdays, so the next one to appear on the calendar, off we went.
+++++We got there early, ready to wait in a corner until she showed, but she was already at the bar and Joey made a beeline for the empty stool on her left, leaving me to saunter to the one two stools down from her on her right. I knew from experience she didn’t like to be boxed in.
+++++The bartender was just asking Charlene whether she was having the usual, when Joey said, “I’d like to buy the beautiful lady a drink.”
+++++Charlene moved her head around slowly without looking anywhere, the way she does when she’s considering her next move. She raised her head and looked directly at the bartender.
+++++“Not tonight, Sid. Got a job, gotta stay focused.”
+++++“How about doing a job on me, doll?” Joey asked.
+++++I made a strangulated sound, something between a gurgle and a gasp. Charlene kept her eyes fixed on the bartender, then moved her head slowly to look at me.
+++++“Friend of yours, Mick?”
+++++I spread my hands apologetically. “He’s a great admirer of yours, Charlene.”
+++++At that, she turned for the first time to Joey, who gave her what he considered a dazzling smile, mainly because of those new, totally aligned front teeth he got when one of his buddies tried to wisen him up by knocking his natural crooked ones out.
+++++And then, my mouth dropped open, because she started chatting him up. Charlene’s a great comic once she gets started. People talk about her riffs that leave them in the aisles. Everyone thinks she could have been a professional, well, she is a professional but not a comedian. When she’s “on,” she’s “smokin’ hot.” That’s what everyone says. That she’s also “smokin’ hot” in other ways doesn’t hurt, but no one who knows her uses the second meaning, at least not out loud and not to her face. You don’t fuck with Charlene. Those of us in the know, know not to talk about it. Leave it at: She’s got a gravity.
+++++That made her attention to Joey the more puzzling. I figured she’d made up her mind to have her fun with him, because this was one of the occasions that she was “smokin’ hot.” The hell of it was, Joey thought he was the one being funny, never mind that everyone gathering around was laughing at her jokes, not his. I knew Joey, and I was scared for him. Pretty soon he’d be thinking he was hot shit and say or do something really bad.
+++++And then it happened. Charlene slid off the stool saying, “Gotta go, got someone waiting,” and Joey made as if to grab her arm. I never saw Sid move faster with the stick behind the bar. It came down with a crack just between Joey and Charlene.
+++++Charlene was still smiling at Joey. “You gotta know the rules, kid, before you play the game,” and she moved off, with the boys in the bar forming a phalanx behind her.
+++++Sid rapped on the bar twice for emphasis. “You try that again, you stupid prick, and the stick will lay you up for a week. As for you, Mick, choose your friends better.”
+++++“He just needs a little polishing, Sid, a diamond in the rough, you know?”
+++++I tried to keep the tone light, but it was the wrong tone.
+++++“Don’t give me your crap. Get him out of here.”
+++++I muscled Joey outside. Once we were past the door, he said, “Did you get a load of that guy?! Who the hell does he think he is?!”
+++++“Are you crazy? You don’t lay a hand on Charlene, you don’t lay a finger on her, not a fingernail!”
+++++“Why not? She’s a dame like any other.”
+++++“Joey, please, listen for once. She isn’t like any other dame. You’ve got to give her all the room in the world. If she likes you, she’ll let you know.”
+++++If she likes me? She loves me! Did you hear her in there?”
+++++“I heard her being Charlene. I heard her insulting you, not just a few times.”
+++++“She was kidding around. It was sweet.”
+++++“You didn’t catch it.”
+++++“I’ll tell you what I’m catching. Maybe a little jealousy, my friend?”
+++++Before I could answer, he practically shouted, “Do you see what I see? Over there!”
+++++I looked. It was Charlene and Mr. Kovack under the lights of the filling station across the street. Mr. Kovack was giving Charlene an envelope.
+++++“Oh no,” I said, with a sinking feeling. “We gotta go.”
+++++“He’s giving her money in public? What the crap!”
+++++“Joey, it’s not what you think! Joey!
+++++But he was off on his fool’s mission, thinking he was going to defend the honor of the woman who’d just declared her love for him. All I could do was watch.
+++++They saw him coming, spouting his bullshit. Mr. Kovack’s bodyguard stepped in front of him, but when Joey got close enough, Charlene took her professional piece out of her purse and shot him in the head.
+++++She called to me. “This is on you, Mick. Now make him disappear. And don’t count on favors from me, just because our mothers are best friends.”
+++++“I’m sorry, Charlene. I’m sorry, Mr. Kovack.”
+++++I felt like shit. I knew I couldn’t afford to make any more mistakes helping out friends.
+++++As I dragged Joey away, I heard Mr. Kovack say, “You didn’t have to do that, Charlene.”
+++++“Consider it a two-fer, Mr. Kovack,” was her reply.