Chuck was often afraid. (an unedited spontaneous short story.)
Chuck was often afraid. That’s one thing he detested about himself. He would think of times that made him afraid, and the memory would make him wince. Memories of fear would bring him physical pain. Even memories from as far back as high school could cause this. Between now and then, he had binged his way through a bachelors and master’s degree. Both of his degrees were in business and some sub-designation he did not remember.
“D’s make degrees,” he always said with a cavalier cynicism. So when he barely glanced at the books and acted as if he was devastated and innocent to professors at the end of the semester he would manage the points to pass.
He had a good day today. He sold some used cars at a decent markup. He was looking to beat his quota. But a particular memory of fear kept clenching him up like a strobe light. He was back in high school. He and two of his wrestling friends were stomping into the woods to drink. Their special spot was on a wooded hill. For some reason, unknown to them, the top of the hill had a concrete cross. The ground around the cross was covered with broken beer bottles, like jagged sand on a filthy beach. It may have been the drinking spot for teenagers for over thirty years, for all they knew. But they didn’t think of these things. Chuck was carrying a 12 pack of beer. Him and his companions were quite load when they approached the cross, and as they got closer they saw two figures sit up from a few feet away from the cross. A boy and a girl they knew from school.
Chuck and his wrestling friends didn’t think much until they recognized the boy. He was red haired and skinny, and not well liked at the school. His friend Steve snarled at the boy and girl, “Well what have we here? Were you two gonna fuck?” Without asking himself why Chuck became very angry at the sight of this kid, a loser alone with a girl. He felt it was wrong that a loser should have a girl. The other wrestler Rick walked closer and kicked up glass at them. The girl shrieked and the boy grunted. They looked at the red haired boy and said “Tell your bitch to get out of here, or WE are going to fuck her!”
The red haired boy blurted “Stacey just run! Don’t worry about me.” Stacey began to run while sobbing. Steve and Rick began to walk in towards the red haired boy. Steve kicked more glass at him and the boy shielded himself from the flying shards with his arms. The boy wanted Stacey to have time to run off, so he argued meekly, “Fuck off!”
Chuck didn’t remember much of what happened next. But he saw Rick stomp on the boys hand. Chuck heard a crunch either from the hand or the broken glass or both, and he ran. Fear overtook him. He felt sick from how he ran. He knew he didn’t have too. Rick’s father was the police chief. Steve’s father owned a factory in town. No one would touch them. So Chuck was haunted by how cowardly he had been.
Chuck was wincing and aching from the memory. But Chuck wasn’t going to do that tonight. He had a good day today. He was passing his quota for selling cars, so he knew he could do anything tonight. He ordered another double-whiskey. He drank it as if he had found the only water he had seen for miles. He felt the warm imbalance hitting his head. Something released and he turned in his barstool. The alcohol made the room continue to move without him. But he felt still inside. He was not afraid.
At the other end of the bar he saw a group of three men in suits. They really didn’t match the bar. “What they hell were they doing there?” He glanced down at his stained polo shirt, and back up at the strangers. It felt as if the room kept moving up as his eyes focused on the men.
He walked over, stood conspicuously near the one furthest towards him. He wait for the man to attempt to drink, and shoved his shoulder. The man moved with the motion and did not spill his drink.
The man said, with boredom in his voice “Can I help you?”
Chuck leaned in to look the man right in his eyes and said with a threatening voice “Everything is fine.”
The man then attempted to take another drink. Chuck grabbed the glass from his hand and put it on the table. The man put up no resistance.
He then spoke in a formal tone of voice.
“I know you think this is some kind of game. But I do not wish to play it.”
“Oh really?” Chuck wheezed a sardonic laugh.
“Understand, if you can, “the man proceeded with his formal tone. “I’m the kind of man, that, if provoked, might literally feed you to a demon–that may or may not exist.”
Chuck did not understand what the man said, but he was overcome with an emotion that felt somewhere between joy and rage. He wanted the man to threaten him.
“Oh is that a fact?!” He coughed and laughed.
“Then what are you going to do about it?” Chuck asked this, and he was completely oblivious of the fact that this particular threat seemed unrelated to the current conversation. He was only here to not being afraid.
“Oh well,” the man resigned.
“If you must, meet us in back in ten minutes.”
Chuck said “Well-hell-hell, how do I know you won’t run away?”
“If you knew better, you would,” the man said sadly.
Chuck sat feeling confused but satisfied. He was too drunk to have a sense of time passing so he went to the lot behind the bar a moment later. He felt as if he were waiting a long time, and felt proud thinking that the three men had left. But then he saw a black car backing into the lot. The first man and the second man emerged from the side doors. The third man was still backing up the car, then he parked it a few feet from Chuck.
Chuck noticed that the second man has a baseball bat. The third man opened the trunk expectantly. Chuck was not going to run away. He was hit in the back with the baseball bat. Chuck, while barely conscious attempted to protect his face as he was unceremoniously stabbed by the disinterested first man. He felt the trunk close above him. His place of employment saved money on paying out commissions that month.
Alexander the Zounderkite