He postured himself like a gorilla, and it sickened me. Then he took a swing. I ducked it, and he lost balance. Before Gus could make it over the bar I was on top of him, landing blows in his face. I blacked out. Rage took me over. His face was that creep kissing Helena, his face was the watch resting on the edge of a canyon, his face was my stomach twisted for the last four months, not to mention Tijuana or Farmington or Boulder City, or the nightmares. I felt his bones moving down there. I heard women screaming. Gus had to choke me with the club to pry me loose. He pushed me back and yelled for everyone to exit the bar. They left, and he locked the door. The gorilla was unconscious. Gus leaned over him and cracked the billy-club over one of his hands until he was satisfied. He grabbed me by the shirt and pulled me back in the room. He held the club and looked at me.
“This is going to hurt.”
“Stay the fuck away from me, Gus.”
“Listen, I have to break your nose, bud.”
“You want to go to jail? You want to get locked up for assault?”
“Why would I go to jail? He started it.”
He pointed to the door and talked through his teeth.
“That prick’s gonna need plastic surgery! I couldn’t stop you for almost a minute. You want me to get sued? You want to go down for a felony? Fuck you. Now put your arms down and take your medicine!”
His words frightened me. He walked out of the room and called the cops. He came back in with a bottle of Ten High.
“The pigs are on their way. Here, take a swig, a nice long swig.”
I grabbed the bottle and took a long swig. I handed it back over and looked at him.
The club came quickly. It wasn’t so bad. What really hurt was the sound and my eyes filling with water, my gums pulsing. Gus then punched me in the eye. He tossed me the bar towel from his pocket. I walked out behind him.
I sat in the booth next to April. I looked down at the guy. I heard the sirens. He was all blood. I held the bar towel to my face. My nose was definitely broken. The towel was full of red and yellow. April buried her head into my arm not to have to see the guy. My knuckles were cut up and splintered and they stung. The cops were knocking violently. Gus let them in, and some paramedics jogged past them with a stretcher. The cops moved me to the other end of the bar. Gus and April told one of them that the guy was getting aggressive with her and I’d stepped in to make peace when the guy swung and broke my nose and that I had to keep fighting him off of me. He wrote down their statements. When they tried to question me I told them the only thing I remembered was getting hit in the face and defending myself. They were utterly pissed off that they could not arrest me or trip me up with a different story. It was worth taking the pain to see them writhe. The gorilla was coming around. One of the medics called an officer over.
“Hey, Frank. He’s carrying.”
The medic was holding up a baggie of weed. The cops forgot about me and raced to the gorilla. He was on the stretcher.
“Hey, now! That ain’t mine! It ain’t mine!”
Then he started yelling death threats. Gus nodded and smiled at the threats. A medic was finally sent over to me.
“How are you doing?”
“I think he broke my nose.”
“He sure did. Do you want a ride to the hospital?”
I looked at Gus. He was shaking his head, rubbing his first and second fingers against his thumb, indicating money.
“No,” I said.
“I’ll take him.”
After everything was over, Gus sat in our booth and had a shot. I was gauzed up and throbbing. He told me to make sure I got to the hospital so everything would be official. He also told me I owed him for a quarter ounce of weed. He bumped me up fifty cents an hour and told me if I ever did something that stupid again he would kill me then fire me.
April was still drunk, so I drove her car. A doctor checked me over and gave me a prescription. We swung by a 24-hour pharmacy. Back in my room I popped the codeine with some coffee so it would dissolve faster in my system. I undressed in the dark and laid down. Soon I was floating amongst the greatest men who had ever walked, and everything in the world was fine, just fine.
April came in and sat on the bed. I pulled the covers over my middle. She was still drinking. She could hardly speak. Her question barely made it out.
“How are you?”
She finished the bottle. I could smell the alcohol on her skin. She threw the blankets back like they were bothering her, and she rubbed my stomach. At once she was down there, her head bobbing. I was powerless against the feeling, the feeling of her mouth, the smooth motion over me, the codeine, the bridge of my nose humming a deep, steady ring. She was going at it, and I was in afterlife, weightless over the wars and destruction. I saw coastal lines sink in the ocean, the perfect hand of God reach down and splash the water over continents of filth and waste and lies and greed, making them clean again, young again. It was a cleansing by nihilism. I was up there, I was up there, I could do no wrong. She finished me off and walked out. I succumbed to the codeine.