I Used to Work as a Roughneck.
It’s a hard life when you let your fists do the talking.
Photo credit: Darrin Atkins
I tapped the door of her apartment just off Main Street. It was the middle of the night but I knew she was on the other side of the door.
“Come in," she said.
I knew better than to touch the doorknob. I waited four seconds, and then she turned it but kept the door closed. I waited some more. We had a routine for her safety.
She turned the deadbolt. That was my cue to open the door.
Once I was inside, she closed and locked the door.
“Cynthia," I mumbled.
She flicked the light switch and the sole lamp went dark.
“I can’t look at you when you’re all bloody." She was that way sometimes.
We walked to the bathroom. She found some old towels and wet them with warm water from the sink.
“It’s my last day doing this,” I lied.
“You’ve said that before, you know."
She gently placed one warm wet towel on my face and I felt blood droplets gather into the cloth.
“Tell me what happened, sweetheart."
“I’m paid to keep the thugs out of the alley. That’s the job."
“Tonight, when the sun set, it got dark real fast. No moon, no stars."
I waited in the middle of the alley next to that old abandoned Ford truck.
Cynthia kissed my bloody lip as she listened to my story of the night’s events.
“Two young redneck punks raced at me with two-by-fours. I barely moved an inch as I waited.”
“The first idiot swung hard and I raised my arm up and stopped that board. It hurt but then I had the advantage. I head-butted him, grabbed him real quick like, and tossed him into the brick wall.”
“I see." Cynthia gingerly pulled off my blood-soaked shirt.
“I heard the wind as the other guy’s two-by-four raced through the air. It smacked me hard on my forehead.
“When I turned to face him, he pulled out two switchblade knives."
“Yes." She got some more warm water and wiped the blood from my chest. Slowly, easily, mercifully.
“So I grabbed a brick and headed for him. I could smell the beer on his breath. He lunged at me and sliced my leg.”
“Yes. Right there."
“I smashed his nose with the brick just as he swung the other blade.”
“His buddy had gotten up by now. I heard him jump onto the hood of the Ford, and then he landed on my back."
Cynthia kissed me again as she turned on the shower.
“I grabbed the sharp end of the two switchblades, but up near the handles. Now we were both holding them. I spit in his face.”
“I pulled the blades up so they cut the arms of the thug trying to choke me out. Then I bent down and twisted around. I kicked one guy’s neck and flung the other onto the hood of the car.”
Cynthia helped me out of the rest of the clothes. I felt a sting on my face from the steam of the hot shower as we both stepped inside.
“So then I said to them, as I stabbed their arms and legs and busted out their teeth, 'Dont ever come to this side of town again or else I’ll give you a beating until the sun rises.’”
“Tell me more," said Cynthia as she slipped out of her clothes right there in the shower.
It seems so long ago.