Every Man A Thermo Nuclear Device

Every Man A Thermo Nuclear Device

Every Man A Thermonuclear Device

CHAPTER ONE

“Dead dugongs.”
“Dead dugongs?”
“Dead dugongs,” said the last lonely customer at Mike Milligan’s bar at 3.00am on that Sunday morning. He considered his statement carefully for a moment and then said meaningfully, “All over the place.”
Leo McKay was washing up the glasses from the night’s busy trading. He wished that his bartending partner Big Julio was there. At six feet six inches tall no one ever spoke to Big Julio about no dead dugongs.
“Some don’t like the smell,” said the last customer, “but it don’t bother me, I can take most anything, that’s why they call me Jackimimmi. Know what that means? No? Means The Crocodile. I can take most anything, that’s the kind of guy I am.” Jackimimmi adjusted his thick leopard-skin watchband, smoothed his jaguar-skin vest.
“I can see you’re a man of no mean merit,” said Leo drying his hands on a bar towel trying to decide. What Leo was trying to decide was if he should club the last customer with the short hardwood baton that lay behind the clean glass rack, or if it wouldn’t be more suitable to blow him in half with the sawn-off shotgun that hung in short leather straps below the cash register. If I was six-foot-six like Julio this problem wouldn’t occur, thought Leo, it’s being five-foot-five that’s been the downfall of my whole life. A man shouldn’t have to live with a handicap like that. It’s not fair.
“All the money’s in the teeth . . . tusks you know . . . the Arabs buy ’em to keep their peckers up . . . or something,” said the customer significantly, eyeing Leo belligerently, daring him to refute the statement. Jackimimmi knew what was what and didn’t mind saying what was what as long as he knew what what was.
Leo decided that the baton would do and reached for its knurled handle.
“I know what you mean,” said Leo. He hid the baton under the hand towel. As soon as he looks away, thought Leo, I’ll dugong him.
The last lonely customer glared a drunken, malevolent glare at Leo, put both hands on the bar and heaved himself up. Leo’s muscles tensed. Here we go he thought, took a deep breath and wished briefly he had grabbed the shotgun.
“Dead. This place is dead,” said the customer. “Dead as a dugong.” He rose and turned. Leo held the baton high above his head and brought it down with every ounce of his one hundred and forty-two pounds, making sure to keep his eyes tightly closed so as to be sure not to scare himself.
The baton crashed into the hardwood bar. The impact jarred Leo’s teeth and sent bright flashes of electric pain shooting up his right arm.
“If you ever need any, let me know. Get you a good price. No problem. The smell don’t bother me,” said the last customer halfway to the door.
“Sure. Yeah. If I need any I’ll let you know, first thing,” said Leo nursing his painful shoulder. The customer left. Leo thought, shit, seven years behind the bar and I’m more nervous now than when I started. My nerves are shot, I can’t tell real real from dope real. Dugongs? What the hell are dugongs?
The door opened and Leo moved quickly over to the cash register and the shotgun.
“Damn, Goddamn,” said the black man carrying a bucket and a string mop. When he spoke he lisped. He lisped because his four front teeth had been left in a glass of water by his bed and leaving his teeth at home never did TT’s temper any good. Taking his teeth with him never did TT’s temper any good either.
“Hey TT, how’s it going?” said Leo, nursing his shoulder.
“What a mess! Can’t you damn white folks ever have a good time without all this damn mess?” said TT ignoring Leo’s greeting and surveying the cigarette butts, papers and broken glass on the carpeted floor, a normal Saturday night’s floor. TT picked up a bright feathered, beaded earring from the floor. He examined it carefully.
“What they been doing here, Leo,” he said, “plucking chickens? No? Goddamn! Goddamn I got it! I always heard them white girls had tail feathers, but I paid it never no mind, thought it was rumour. But now here it is. Proof positive! Can’t argue with facts. Nope. Nosiree. I’m taking this to the museum and if they don’ want it I’m gonna take it to my mojo man. Tail feathers for sure.” TT put the earring carefully into his top shirt pocket. “I’m good, Leo. I’m fine, ‘cept I gotta work all the goddamn time cleaning up this filthy bar,” said TT.
“Here, have a drink TT. Cheer ya right up.”
“Thank God there’s a gentleman in the house, not his self’s fault he ain’t black. Fault of nature alone. Some peoples just ain’t born lucky.”
Leo poured two drinks. He and TT clinked glasses and drank. Leo poured TT another drink.
“Now, now, you ain’t giving away Mr Mike’s booze for no account . . .” said TT eyeing Leo up and down suspiciously. “Whatcha want, Leo? I’m becoming positively receptive now.”
“I thought I might ask you to finish up the glasses for me TT. I promised my brother I’d go see him and his kid today and the Mustang’s broken down. Thought I’d hitchhike a ride out to Connecticut. Like to get an early start and leave now, if you don’t mind TT. You finish up the glasses for me?” said Leo pouring TT another drink.
“You a lazy dog, Leo. You know that? Damn lazy, but you pour a hell of a fine argument. Go on, you, get out.”
“Thanks TT.”
“Say no more. Getcha ass outa my sight. I see enough round me here to upset me plenty without being looking at you.”
Leo put on his coat, nursing his right arm into the sleeve. Buttoned up and ready to go, he said, “See ya TT.”
“Not if I can help it, lazy dog, not if I can help it at all.”
“You’re a hard case TT.”
“You right there, boy. I is a very hard case. You be careful on them roads out there, you might get mugged by some white fellas,” said TT finishing with a laugh as Leo hit 86th Street and turned left towards First Avenue.

Every Man A Thermonuclear Device

 

Every Man A Thermonuclear Device

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