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Barfight

A rude awakening

Todd awoke on his back in a puddle of beer and broken glass with his ears ringing and his vision blurred. He laid still, watched the ceiling fan spin lazily without seeing it, and thought about nothing. A few seconds passed and he sat up. He closed his eyes tight and waited for the room to stop sliding around, the colors to stop smearing. Finally, his eyes came open, focused, and looked without expression at overturned tables and overturned chairs.

There was a dull ache on the side of his head. With tentative fingers, he found a ragged shard of glass protruding just above his ear. With a shaking hand, he gripped the shard and pulled. Warm blood streamed, sticky and purple, over his fingers and soaking his hair. The blood joined with the suds on the floor, and turned pink. Todd held the glass shard close to his face and gazed at it. Now squinting, he looked past the shard and discovered a big man standing over him, his hand gripping the neck of a broken bottle. It was then that Todd remembered.

“Wanna go again?” the big man sneered. He wore a denim vest with no shirt beneath. His nose was bloody and gruesome, smashed over to one side.

Todd looked at his own right hand, found its knuckles slick and red, and smiled. With a torn voice, he said: “I’m good.”

The big man’s eyes glittered. “You ain’t that good.” He tossed the bottle neck to the floor and left. The crowd parted to let him through, Todd noticed their presence for the first time. A red-haired woman with green eyes and freckles appeared with a white terrycloth towel and squatted beside him on her haunches. The vertical green and white stripes on her shirt told him she was a waitress. A name tag told him she was Becky.

“Ambulance is on the way,” Becky said, wiping his bloody ear and dabbing at his sopping hair. “I called the cops and gave them that guy’s description.”

Todd blinked. “Ambulance? I don’t need an ambulance.”

“Yes. Yes, you do. Hey now! Stay still and let’s talk a little until they come.”

Todd went to stand but his tennis shoe slipped in the beer and he sat down with an awkward splash.

“See?” Becky said. “You can’t even stand up.”

Todd’s eyes were big and white. “What time is it?”

She blinked and put a crease between her eyebrows. “I don’t know, nine-fifteen? Sit still a minute.”

Todd got his feet under him. He wobbled and stood. “I’m fine. I’ve gotta go now,” he said, batting the towel away.

Becky took his arm and pleaded with him. Two middle-aged men who appeared to be customers came over and folded meaty arms in front of their chests like bouncers. Todd watched the men but spoke to Becky. “Head injuries always look bad. I’m fine. I have to go.  I can’t be here when the ambulance comes.”

The middle-aged men exchanged a glance. One of them said, “Sorry, buddy, we can’t let you go. You might as well take a seat at the bar and relax.”

“You’re kidnapping me?” Todd demanded.

The second man shrugged. “For lack of a better word.”

Todd’s shoulders slumped and he exhaled, defeated. He shook his head slowly and bolted for the door.

Becky let out a small scream and the two men sprang. Todd stumbled halfway across the room before they caught him. The crowd came over now and encircled them and worked as one to walk Todd slowly back to the bar. Someone slid a chair behind his legs and he sat.

At the bar, Todd sobbed bitterly into his hands. His whole body shook. Finally, his wet face came up, his eyes crazed. He screamed, “You don’t understand! The moon is full tonight! I will gut you all!”

A murmur passed through the crowd, as people expressed to one another a muted concern for Todd and his obvious head injury. Becky patted his arm soothingly and sirens drew close.

One of the middle-aged men reached in with an icepack but Todd pulled away. He threw back his head, and howled.

 

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