Bourbon and Company
Bourbon and Company
“Thanks Ma’am,” Tom said as thirteen cents jingled in with the other change in the bottom of his cup.
“How much more you need?” a woman asked, and Tom turned, finding Abi, The Glass Virgin, wearing a red riding suit, which was more rock than disco, her face painted like the window of a church. She sat with her back to the same red brick building he was leaning against, but down the alley he sat next to.
Tom stood up and sat down again beside her. “Thirty four cents,” he said.
Abi inched her back up the wall and strained, reaching her hand into the pocket of her tight red pants. She slowly counted the pennies, dimes, and nickles from her pocket. “Thirty four cents…” she said, looking down at her palm and back at Tom again before dropping the change in his cup. “How do you always know what’s in my pocket?”
“You’re the one who always tops me off, Abi,” Tom said with a smile. It was sunset, and she’d let him cut off early.
“…You doin’ okay?”
“Neither toiling nor spinning,” he said, standing up again. “Thanks.”
He left the alley and crossed the street, avoiding a rust covered banana-yellow El Camino. It was driven by a familiar face, hidden behind a wedding veil.
Tom continued down the block, and paused for a moment in front of the mirrored door to Marco’s Party Supply. His beard was longer than the last time he’d seen himself, a salt and pepper lion.
He opened the door, heard the bells chime, and looked down the barrel of a Beretta aimed at his nose.
“Get on the fucking floor,” the man said through a ski-mask, the pistol shaking in his hand.
“My knees aren’t so great,” Tom said, and the door chiming again as it closed behind him.
“I ain’t fucking kidding!” the man screamed, taking a step forward to press the pistol against Tom’s forehead.
Marco’s son, Javier, stood behind the counter, crying, with his hands held high in the air.
“I kinda thought you were…. Isn’t that a pellet gun?” Tom asked and stepped to the side.
It took the pellet-gunman a moment’s thought, but then he left, the door chiming behind him, and Tom continued in. Passing balloons and firecrackers, he found the blue-blockprint bourbon and returned to place a pint on the counter.
Javier slowly lowered his hands, wiping at his eyes and nose with the sleeves of his shirt. “That was fucking scary,” he said.
“…D’you find everything?” he asked.
“Always,” Tom said, upending his cup on the counter.
Javier slowly counted the sticky change, slowly depositing coin by coin in the drawer. “Nice seeing you, Tom,” he said, handing him the receipt.
“Next time,” Tom said, pocketing his pint. He left, but as he stepped through the door he stopped again.
The Glass Virgin had one arm around the neck of the pellet-gun bandit, holding a lead pipe in her hand.
Facing her on the sidewalk, and completely blocking Tom’s exit, was a familiar couple. A young brown haired woman in a tight black T-shirt, Jane, and the man in a wedding veil with a shiny pistol in his hand.
“Just shoot him,” Jane said, “You’ll only take off her ear or something.”
“It’s my fucking collar, Jane! I got him on six armed robberies,” Abi said.
“We want him for a murder in Cali,” the veiled man said.
“That was self defense,” the bandit whimpered.
“We’re gonna kill him whether or not you like it, Virgin,” Jane said.
“Is that you, Tom?” The veiled man asked, now looking at him.
“Hi,” Tom said. He’d known the man before he’d hidden his face, when he’d still had a name.
“We’ll just kill him when he gets out,” the man said, holstering his pistol.
Tom nodded to Abi as he passed between them, and she smiled as she edged away towards an electric-blue Cougar with two wheels on the curb.
“So, how’s it goin’?” the veiled man asked, following Tom down the sidewalk. “You need anything?”
“I got some drink,” Tom said, patting the pocket of his coat. “You want a pull?”
“Nah, thanks though.”
“We jacked a flat of Colt off some boosters,” Jane said, smiling with half her mouth.
“Sounds like a party,” Tom said.
Jane waved, and the man nodded to him as Tom turned down an alley. The sun had set, and Tom walked quietly, as this alley was home to many of his clan, bundled up next to dumpsters or crouched in rear stoops. He walked on in the dark, guided by the light of cigarettes and the feeling of cracked asphalt against the soles of his boots.
He stopped again, standing over a mound of oil stained cardboard. “That you, Maggy?” he asked.
“Who the fuck are you?!” she screamed, sitting up, the cardboard scrap sliding off of her.
“I don’ know any fucking, Tom!”
“…I’ve got liquor.”
Her wrinkled face smiled up at him. “I got some smokes,” she said, maybe remembering they were friends.