And The Kid Becomes A Scumbag
by Michele Christopher
It’s weird the way things change.
Tonight the family and I were wandering around the neighborhood, checking out the Halloween decorations on peoples homes and dodging kids hopped up on sugar and anonymity. We tried to take the boy trick or treating, but he lost interest not long afterwards. I guess he’s just used to people telling him he’s adorable and giving him candy. We ended up back at the house fairly early and I ordered a pizza from the place up the street. A few kids came to the door and I asked the boy if he wanted to give the kids some candy. I can’t tell you how excited he got by the prospect, so the family and I sat out on the front porch as the steady stream of kids came through. The boy got to give them candy and I honestly think he enjoyed that so much more than trick or treating himself.
A few years ago, things were completely different. The kid that I was supposed to be mentoring and I were sitting at the local hole, drinking again. It was the third night that week and we’d been out damn late the two previous nights. But it was Halloween and all the South Philly kids had gotten dressed up and headed out to have a few drinks, kiss some anonymous strangers and get felt up in the dingy bathrooms of the local pub. The hole was packed that night as a local Misfits wanna-band was playing covers and the booze was half price until the sun came back up. Our regular bartender had the night of, much to the kids chagrin. He’d made no secret of the fact that he was enamored of her, but she kept blowing him off, mainly because he was a kid. Instead, The Vest was working the bar. He and one of the cooks owned the place and between the two of them, they ran a clean ship. There would be no mucking about with the tab tonight and the kid knew it.
He was also in a foul mood, because two nights earlier he’d gotten into a fight at the train station. Another guy on the platform had been fighting with his wife for a bit when he finally hauled off and smacked her, knocking her to the ground. The kid had stepped in between the man and his wife, telling the man to knock it off or he’d call the cops. As payment rendered for his Good Samaritan services, the man socked him in the mouth, breaking off one of his front teeth at an odd angle. It’s been digging into his bottom lip for the last two days and generally fouling his mood. With no bartender to flirt with and a grill that looked properly broken, the kid decided to drown his Halloween blues in Specials all night long.
The Special was simple. A shot of Beam and a can of PBR. $2.50. Just right for a bad mood and a lean wallet. The kid had both, in spades. I sat back and listened to him bitch for a little while, trying to change the subject away from his tooth or the fact that he was going to fail out of school if he didn’t stop drinking every night and actually start going to class. He wanted none of it, so I played it cool and figured that once it was all off his chest he’d be more in a conversational mood. I was wrong. By my count, in two hours, he had five Specials. A fair amount of booze for even a seasoned drinker, but the kid also weighed a hundred pounds, soaking wet and holding a fifty pound dumbbell.
The band stopped playing for a bit, calling a break and The Vest turned on the jukebox. The kid jumped up and grabbed a couple of ones off the bar. Except that he didn’t jump up. More or less, he went to jump and his legs had held a rebellion against the rest of his body when he wasn’t looking. And he didn’t grab a few ones off the bar, I really think he was just looking for something to hold on to and the money just happened to be the first thing his hand hit. Money in hand and rebellious legs partially under control, he stomped over to the jukebox. I started talking to one of the cooks who was out of the kitchen on a smoke break while he was gone. I had been grilling him on the right way to deep fry a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup when I heard The Vest bellow from the far side of the bar. Right next to the jukebox.
“You scumbag little motherfucker!!” he yelled. I whipped my head around to see what was going on. The Vest was three quarters of the way over the bar, and about to land on what looked like a prone figure on the floor. Then I realized that the prone figure was wearing the same shoes as the kid. At first I thought that maybe The Vest had popped him one and the kid was on the floor as a result. But The Vest was a big guy and one shot from his meaty paws would’ve killed the kid. So the kid had to have already been on the floor when The Vest yelled at him. Just then I noticed that the table next to the jukebox contained nothing but young, pretty girls. In long skirts. On barstools.
And it all clicked. The kid had apparently gone over to the jukebox and dropped on of his bills on the floor. He went down to pick it up and discovered that he could look up the dress of every girl at the table. So he made himself comfortable (by laying down in the floor) and was just staring up their dresses when The Vest caught him. Did I forget to mention that The Vest’s new girlfriend was also sitting at the table ?
He came down hard after he came over the bar and picked the kid up by his neck. I bid the cook a hasty farewell and headed down to the other end of the bar. Not terribly fast because if the kid got socked, he deserved it. But he didn’t deserve a serious ass kicking and I now I’d have to talk The Vest into putting the kid down so we could get the hell outta there. “I’ll oughta fucking kill you,” The Vest bellowed, “right fucking now!” I walked a little faster. “Hey,” I yelled, just to get his attention, “He hasn’t wronged you. Let your girl take a shot at him if you’re both that pissed off. But put him down. He can’t breathe.”
The Vest thought about it for a second and put the kid down. Whereby his girl hauled off and socked the kid in the stomach, making him drop to his knees. I looked The Vest over and he seemed almost satisfied. Before he could kick the kid in his gut, I told him to put our bill on my tab and told the kid to get up. He made his way to his feet while I walked back and grabbed my satchel. Then I grabbed him by the shoulder and led him out and into the night air.
I am so fucking happy I don’t spend Halloween that way anymore.
thefinn still enjoys a Special now and again but no longer commiserates with the kid. Archives