JELLY

I bused tables on Saturday nights at Fancy’s Bar. Place was busy all the time. Draft beers were cheap and they fried a mean pickle. It was a favorite haunt, even for folks a few towns over, cause the women who ran there didn’t want to get married. Sometimes there was karaoke. Sometimes we had locals tell jokes on the small stage, or maybe folks played a song or two up there. It was the only place in town where fish sticks went nicely with your five-dollar sirloin. If you wished it any, the waitresses could get you a cocaine nosebleed to go with your dinner salad—just cabbage and a whole carrot, really. The manager was a guy named Trent. Matter of fact, Trent had given me a couple blowjobs when I was twelve and he was nineteen. He never made me shoot but he tried hard at it. I heard later he had a thing for peeing. But that’s besides the point. After most of the employees left, Trent came up to me and said I owed him for the couple who ordered a rabbit-claw combo platter on number seven and ditched the check. I said, “Uh-uh, no way. First of all, it ain’t even real rabbit. It’s five-cent chicken wings.” (No one would eat a rabbit foot anyways. No meat on it.) True, I had watched the newlyweds walk out without spotting any of their cash hit the red-checkered, rickety-sticks table two feet from the stage. True, I didn’t do nothing about it. Maybe that was Trent’s real problem. He pulled me into the kitchen, talking about insubordination, which was a word I heard a lot at school. The kitchen was where we fried things, but it was also where the busboys threw dice and smoked cigarettes they rolled themselves. I even once watched a mom-type waitress with a harelip and a fat bottom handy some guy by the freezer for, no shit, eighty-five cents. Snickers bars are eighty-five cents. Anyways, Trent said to me, “I take it out of your tips, or I take it out of your ass.” At first, I thought he meant he was taking me into the alley and giving me a beat down, but then I realized what he meant. If I wasn’t gonna give him cash, then I needed to give up my ass. Which I’d never done before. But I thought about it a lot. My fake aunt Deesy once told me I was gay, and I thought she was probably right for the way I looked at guys’ feet and mouths. But in the kitchen that night, I didn’t feel gay when I looked at Trent, not the way I felt gay when I looked at Jake, the line-cook who stood next to him. He was the only one there with us, pulling on his jacket and getting ready to go home. Jake was handsome alright, but Deesy told me he didn’t know a day at the races from cunnilingus. She told me that word was Latin and only mattered to women. He’d put his tongue in her vagina behind the oiled bar where no one ever used soap on the glasses, and he did a piss-poor job at it I guess. But it’s cunnilingus so I didn’t have to worry about that. When Trent followed up his threat with a fistful of my t-shirt and a tug toward the office door, Jake gave me the eye. I gave Jake the eye back. I knew Trent got Jake’s sister pregnant and made her have an abortion and now she couldn’t have any babies at all. And I knew Trent acted like he was some big-city extortionist by taking half of Jake’s check cause Jake once fucked a fourteen-year-old girl after a basketball game. Anyway, there’s no point in caring about that now. All I can say is Jake and me were suddenly in sync. Was one of those things I knew was gonna happen long before I watched it happen but I didn’t really think too much about what it really meant until Jake got it done. The cast-iron skillet cracked the skull of our greasy, greedy, dive-bar manager, who dropped to the tiles, sounding like someone was falling down stairs and not just crumpling up on a dirty kitchen floor. Jake and me didn’t even bother to give it a moment of silence. There was a piece of skull on the skillet. We knew it was skull cause we both touched it. It was like touching your own tooth except not as smooth. Then we looked at my shoe and decided it was a dime-sized spot of brain sitting there, right next to my laces, looking like my snot did after riding dirt bikes all day. We guessed it was brain but it coulda been anything rotten from the kitchen. By this time, Jake was rambling and talking about his options. Which there were none. He could run, but he had nothing to take with him. He said to me, “Eat that off your shoe, and I’ll let you take home the whole drawer.” By which he meant the cash drawer, and by which I thought, no, I can’t do nothing like that. Jokes were all Jake had left I think. We closed up and split the take. He was gonna blow his half on twelve hours of speed, weed, and beer. I was second-guessing what I needed to do to get Jake’s share of the cash. He was too big to fuck with. I still had the brain on my shoe, so I bent over and scooped up the whitish-gray with my middle finger. I grabbed Jake’s shoulder to stop him from getting too far with what would be my money and sucked down the jelly like it was no problem.

 

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