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May 2, 2013 Fiction

Don’t Be a Stupid Jerk

Tom McCartan

Don’t Be a Stupid Jerk photo

Everyone watched him walk to the guy. Everyone saw. They were all watching with their big stupid eyes that wouldn't let anyone off the hook. And this guy, he was always on the hook. A guy who was first to catch what’s dropped. I don't know, it was probably his face. I didn't have a problem with it, I mean, what a thing to lord over someone. His name was pretty sad, and combined with a dumpy face, well, you understand me. They all saw him, but didn't do anything, because, who could say? Maybe it was a big puffy face and always a couple ticks behind, but still, someone should have called out. He went right over to the guy, a big shit-house guy, who I had known from before. I'm telling you the truth. This shithouse is named Burr, Burr Swezey, I think, though it might have been Sweezy. Mostly, how I know of him is because his cousin is a cop. I remember when he was just a cadet. There he went anyway, the guy with the face and the name, I mean, he went right over to him, like Burr was someone you'd want to talk to. I don't know what happened. Suddenly we've got this whole situation ruining everyone's good time. No one will say anything about Burr, there's these crooked cops who all know Burr's cousin, and there's this poor dude who I bet had a family or something, I mean, I'm sure at some point he had parents. Maybe they had died. Or they will.

These cops are the worst. There's like six of them. That's hardly enough cops to even want to be crooked but, there they are. Won't even begin to think about rolling Burr. I can still see Burr's cousin in his stupid cadet uniform walking the boardwalk like it was something to do. That was twenty or more years ago and I'm sure now he's even worse and crooked as they come.

There's all these people who saw the guy with the face and name go right over there. They're all cousins, guaranteed, because it seems like there's only a dozen families in this whole county and everyone's got cousins either up in Poho or down in Boat City. In Salt City it's not even a joke anymore. Cousins keep getting with cousins and everyone's got a cleft lip. Some people even have tiny worthless fingers.

This particular disaster had to do with a lady. I saw Burr talking to her at the bar that night. It's not against anyone's better judgment to suspect this lady was no good. I am not trying to judge. I just mean that there was something rotten in her, like something had gone wrong at some point and she just kept going down that path. That kind of thing happens. In grade school I knew this kid who was the smartest kid in class. By the time we were in middle school he was drinking vodka and orange juice out of those little black film containers and spitting on people all the time. He dropped out of high school and stole someone's four-wheeler. He rode it through town with the cops chasing him. Last I heard he was in prison, but someone told me recently that he died. Either story is likely true.

Anyway, Lindsay was the lady talking to Burr and, I don't know, she was pretty greasy. She was always doing laps around town in someone's truck and she liked to give the impression that she'd ride or suck your cock off. The dudes around here never could get much past that type of thing. It was like they'd never slept with anyone before. I saw how Burr was talking to her that night and she looked like she was into it, she was leaning and pressed against him. Everyone knew Burr was going to hook with her because he wouldn't shut up about how that was what he was going to do. All night he's going on about how it was his turn for some laps.

I don't know why it is that bad scenes always happen at bars. Just because people are drinking doesn't mean they have to get all crazy. Why not just have a few drinks and listen to the band? Maybe even have a little conversation if you feel so inclined. Why it is that people always need to be so stupid I'll never understand. There was this old man I once knew and he'd go around saying, “Enjoy your life.” All the time he would say this and, goddammit, he was right. Enjoy your life.

At some point, I think I was taking a piss, Leo Canton came into the bar. He'd moved down to The Shores a couple months before and not a minute too soon either, he'd stayed in Salt City too long and he'd run through everything there is to run through in this town, any longer and he'd have gotten into the heavy business that Burr and his crew were so good at, like boosting stereos from the parking lot at the mall in Poho and selling prescription drugs to kids. Leo decided to leave because he was working on a degree and didn't need static. I think it had more to do with how his cousin in Poho had recently held a bunch of people hostage with a machete. I'm not kidding. It really happened. It's getting nasty up there, the cops couldn't keep people away from the scene and within minutes there were a ton of people watching and yelling at Leo's cousin. He eventually came out and he was completely naked. People cheered him for coming so like that. So Leo got the hell out and moved down to The Shores. No better, really, just more people and less cousin breeding. One of Leo’s friend's from when he was younger was in tight with the cops down there and he would always drive Leo to the bar without worrying about getting popped.

So Leo moved and within a couple weeks he had made friends with his neighbor, the dude with the puffy face and the useless name, who worked at the hospital pushing gurneys around. I don't really know much about him other than from that one time I saw him and mostly I just got an impression of his puffy face. He worked at the hospital. Honestly, he seemed like a loser. I mean, I don’t want to talk bad, on account of his face and how he stood all slouched over and caved in, like he was just waiting to get torn down, but he worked at the hospital, so that was something. Leo had made friends with him out of necessity because he didn't know anyone in The Shores except for his friend who's dad was a cop. Leo would have just hung out with him but he couldn't because he didn't smoke weed and Leo was into the stuff. It turned out that his neighbor, the guy with the face and the name, had his medical marijuana card and was growing like fifteen plants in his basement. He worked at the hospital, I’m pretty sure.

I came out of the bathroom and Leo and this dude with the face and name are sitting at a table and they're real stoned, I can tell these things, and Burr is over talking to Lindsay; she's just pouring herself on him. I was trying hard to mind my own, but I could sense that something was going on. A nasty feeling was brewing because a bunch of people in Burr's crew had a beef with Leo over some nonsense. Leo's brother had graduated in the same class as these guys back in high school fifteen years ago, but he wasn't the same type of dude. He'd always managed to come out smelling like a rose. It wasn't like he didn't get into shit, it's just that he seemed to have some sort of immunity. In the years since they'd seen Leo's brother, however it happens, they had managed to circulate a rumor that supposed he had stolen some money from them. It was an insane idea. They had convinced themselves and each other, by virtue of time and general suspicion of anyone who left Salt City, that there was some hidden bank account with money that people, they could never say exactly who, had stolen from them while they were in high school.

I could tell that Burr's crew was getting worked up. They were on their turf and the longer they sat there pounding beers the more territorial they got. They kept eyeing up Leo and the dude with the face and name and it wasn't hard to see where it was heading. I mean, you had this situation that was set for drama: there's Burr's crew sitting all together and starting to boil, Burr and Lindsay getting the romantic milk flowing, Leo and the dude with the face and name stoned out of their minds and completely oblivious, and I'm sitting there just watching all of them because I know something's up. There were other people there too, but I think they were there just to be in the background. Someone should have called out to him.

But sometimes the moment just before the moment is the most interesting. There's all this potential energy and you never really know how it's going to go down. If I had my way everyone would just sit and mind their own, maybe sing a couple songs, have some laughs. Who am I, though, to impose my will on a situation? I figure jerks like these guys are going to do whatever they want.

Burr went outside to smoke and at the same time the dude with the face and name went up to the bar. Lindsay was sitting on a barstool and she was crying. I don't know why but I'd figure Burr probably said something horrible to her. The dude with the face and name, being real stoned and oblivious, started talking to her. She was wasted to the point that all someone had to do to get her interested was to be nice to her because no one ever was nice to her. So Lindsay was loving it and the dude with the face and name was mostly beside himself because he's never had a woman flirt with him so hard and fast. It's just a survival impulse, I mean if you’ve ever been laid, and some chick is pretty much ready to roll, your mind taps into some deep places. What I mean to say is that the guy with the face and the name wasn't in a position to realize that he was messing with the woman Burr had decided he was going to take home that night. Plus he had no idea who Burr Swezey was. Sweezy. He worked at the hospital, I’m pretty sure. The odds were not in his favor. Burr comes back in and sees what's going on at the bar. Instead of heading straight over there he makes his way to his friends. These guys were having fun at this point and they started getting real loud. I heard them ripping on the dude with the face and name, calling him a faggot and the like. They were doing that cowardly thing where instead of directly calling the dude out they just talked to each other, real loud, about how he was a punk. They didn't know who he was. They'd seen him sitting over with Leo, who they already didn't like because of his brother. They figured why not.

The dude with the face and name walked right over to Burr and tried to talk to him. I can't imagine what for. Maybe I can imagine. Maybe Lindsay told him that Burr was being nasty to her or if he heard Burr's crew talking noise or whatever it was, but this dude walked right over there. I mean, I was sitting at the bar just minding my own and he went right over to the dude. This is something I'd never have done, no matter what, because it wasn't worth it. It never is, I mean, just live your life and whatever else. Enjoy it. So some chick is there? So what if some dudes are being pricks? Enjoy your life. You have got to know that when you're in a place like this and no one knows who you are and everyone's drunk and you're just some caved in puffy faced loser with a bad name that you don't go walking right up to these big shit-house dudes. You just don't do it. Live to live another day, don't be a stupid jerk.

Things got a little hazy after that because Burr's crew circled around the dude with the face and name and everyone was shoving each other. Everyone was shoving. They were throwing him around like it was nothing. He got smart too late. They pushed and spilled outside.

Now, this is it. The station is only blocks from the bar but it took forever for police to come. Whoever called them must have told them to maybe wait a little bit. Leo ended up taking him to the hospital, I guess. I know an ambulance didn't come or anything and I swear they're all in on it. Somebody should have yelled something to warn him earlier. People are lousy. And that poor son of a bitch who worked at the hospital, getting brought into the hospital. 


image: Andrea Kneeland