The First Hit

“The first hit,” “Lucky” Lou Bryson slurred, “that one’s always the mother fucker.”

Sebastian nodded, doing his best to stay on the big man’s good side. Lucky was two hundred and fifty pounds of muscle gone to fat. Callused knuckles covered the shaky mallets he called hands. Sebastian had been nursing his beer for the better part of an hour now, and thankfully, Lucky hadn’t noticed.

“Most guys, they take a hit, and they panic. Start flailing.” He leaned in close and Sebastian almost recoiled at the smell of whiskey on the man’s breath. “The key is to learn to just take that first hit. S’what I was best at.”

Sebastian nodded sympathetically, and the larger man sat back on his stool in satisfaction. They sat in silence for a few minutes. Sebastian knew that this was his cue to keep the conversation going.

“How long were you a fighter for?” he asked, with something that he hoped resembled genuine curiosity.

Lucky closed his eyes, and Sebastian shook his head before mouthing the words along with him: “All my life.”

Sebastian nodded and stared back into his beer. A heavy hand fell on his shoulder, and he thought for a moment that it was all over. Lucky leaned in close and muttered in his ear, “I’m not bullshittin’ you. Ever since I was a little kid, had to fight for everything. Ain’t nobody in this world gave me nothin.”

“Not like you,” he added, taking another shot.

“My dad saw you fight once, when I was a kid,” Sebastian said, trying to change the subject. “Said you never fell down, no matter how many times Mueller hit you.”

“Mueller,” Lucky said, closing his eyes. He winced slightly and flinched as though reliving one of the hits. “Hit like a goddamn train. I was out on my feet after the third. I don’t even remember the end of the fight, Next thing I know, I’m on the way home after, in the backseat of a car getting yelled at by Meridian.”

Sebastian shook his head, before glancing at Lucky who still had his eyes closed. “This was right after she took over for her dad?”

“She wanted me to take a dive, you believe that shit?” Lucky weaved on his stool, talking more to himself than anyone. “Kept going on about how much that fight cost her. She ain’t the one had her nose broke, or her retina detached.”

“It’s been ten years,” Sebastian said. “You don’t think the debt’s been paid?”

Lucky stared at Sebastian through blurry eyes. “It’s never paid, kid.”

Sebastian finished off his beer and felt the weight of the Glock in the holster under his arm. He’d requested it specifically. It made him think of the one his dad wore, back when he was a cop. He watched Lucky toss back another shot, before he signaled to the bartender to bring a second shot glass.

Lucky glanced over Sebastian’s shoulder to the front door. “So what was the plan here, you gonna shoot me in the bar?”

Sebastian nodded towards the hallway that led to the bathrooms. “In the alley. Wait for you to use the bathroom, get the gun on you and get you outside.”

“That’s a classic one, I’ll give you that,” Lucky said. “Hell, I practically invented that one.”

“Don’t see any reason to mess with a classic,” Sebastian said as he poured himself a shot of whiskey. His hand jerked a little, spilling some of the liquor over the edge of the glass and onto the bar.

“Christ, kid, you’re shaking like a leaf.” Lucky snorted with derision. “You’re not a killer. I been watching you for the last few months. I know killers. You don’t got it.”

Sebastian glanced around the bar. It was empty. still too early for the crowd of regulars to show. The bartender moved to the other side of the bar, purposefully watching the day’s sports highlights on the TV.

Lucky leaned in close, “Here’s what I’m gonna do. Because I’m so nice, I’m gonna pay for my drinks, and walk out that door. You get to go home with all of your teeth.”

Sebastian nodded as he grabbed the bottle of whiskey off the bar and clubbed Lucky in the head with it. The older man staggered back for a second and Sebastian punched him in the temple, sending him crashing to the ground.

The bartender was still staring pointedly at the television. Sebastian rapped his fist on the bar. “Hey, you wanna help me with this?” he asked, nodding towards Lucky.

“That’s your business kid, I ain’t getting involved,” the bartender said, not taking his eyes off the screen.

“He comes to, you think he’s gonna care? We’re all involved at this point.”

The bartender took a slow second to think about it before shuffling around from behind the bar and lifting the big man by the shoulders. “You waiting for an invitation?” he wheezed. “The guy weighs a ton. Grab his feet already.”

They carried Lucky to the back and dropped him in a heap next to the dumpster. The bartender shook his head as Sebastian lit a cigarette.

“If you’re smart, you’ll shoot him now, while he’s out cold.” he said. “Either way, you ain’t welcome here no more.”

The door slammed and Sebastian heard the click of the lock. He pulled his gun and stared at Lucky. The bartender was right, but every time he tried to pull the trigger, his finger wouldn’t move.

“I just need a cigarette to calm my nerves,” he thought.

Sebastian was on his third cigarette when the big man woke up. Lucky groaned, holding his head like it was made out of glass. After a few seconds he focused on Sebastian pacing back and forth in front of him with the gun in his hand.

“Fuck’s sake, kid, calm down,” he said. “You’ll shoot yourself in the goddamn foot.”

Sebastian’s hand shook, and he kept the pistol on Lucky, even as he backed away from the larger man. They were hidden by the dumpsters, but if he was going to kill him, it needed to be before the crowds filled the sidewalk.

He took a breath and aimed at Lucky’s chest, his stomach rolling inside of him.

“Never thought this was how it would end,” Lucky said, a small dribble of blood trickling from his lip. “You’re barely old enough to shave.”

Sebastian squeezed the trigger, just like his dad had taught him all those years ago. He put two bullets in Lucky’s chest. The third parted the older man’s thinning hair before planting in the wall above his head. That one bothered him. He heard his father bitching about how sloppy it was in his head. The big man’s body jolted against the ground, before laying still.

Sebastian stared down at him and was surprised that he didn’t feel much of anything. He glanced back up the alley, but the sidewalk was still empty. He ran down the alley, away from the sidewalk, deeper into the shadows between the buildings. All he had to do now was lose the gun.

Turning the corner, the churning in his stomach reached a tipping point and he threw up against the wall. He stared at it for a second, before shaking his head to clear it, and running further away from dead man.

“You were wrong,” he said as he ran. “It wasn’t that hard at all.”

©2015 Chris Page. All rights reserved.

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