This week from the terrible mind of Chuck Wendig comes a challenge to use the name of a randomly generated cocktail as the title of a story.
Using the dice roller at Invisible Castle, I came up with #12: Rum Punch. Chuck gave us a limit of 1500 words, but the kind of story that came to mind needed a lot less, kind of like the protagonist. So here, weighing in at 690 words, is “Rum Punch.”
I saw him as soon as I walked in, standing behind the bar, polishing the table with an old rag. His knuckles looked slightly bruised, and I knew why. It’s why I’d come. I looked around, briefly. The place was dead. Good. I walked up to the bar.
“What’ll it be?” he asked.
“Rum punch,” I growled.
He looked up, took me in, a look of confusion on his face. Six-two, two-hundred forty pounds of heavy muscle. Long dark hair, goatee. Dark glasses. Motorcycle boots. Leather. That was me, and probably not the kind of guy who’d normally order that kind of drink. Not something a shithole dive like this would be prepared to make any way. He smirked. Thought it was a joke.
“Rum I’ve got,” he said, placing a half-empty bottle of swill on the counter, “The punch, you’ll have to provide yourself.”
Thought he’d never ask.
My fist connected with his nose in a blur of meat and fury. I felt the bones beneath my blow bend, give, break, till his face felt a bit like jelly beneath the pressure of my fist. He reeled back, tumbling against the back counter, arms flailing. I cleared the front one in a leap, grabbing the bottle of swill as I cleared it. I brought that down on his head, hard.
A bottle of rum, even the cheap shit, is tougher than it looks. It’s not like it is in the movies. It doesn’t break when you look at it funny. I clocked him with it. Clocked him again. A third time. When it was clear he wasn’t going to move, I flung it to the side, towards the concrete floor. That’s when it shattered.
I breathed in, deep and heavy, and looked down at my work. He was a mess, that was for sure. I nudged him with my boot. He groaned. Good. Wasn’t dead. I snatched the rag from where he left it on the counter, and wiped his blood from my knuckles. I grabbed another bottle of swill twisted the top, and poured it over his bloody form until he started screaming from the burn, and then I reached down, grabbed him by the shirt, and hauled him up to the counter.
He whimpered, covered his face with his hands.
“Don’t feel too good, does it Tony?” I barked. He winced. I slapped him.
“This is a message, Tony. Jimmy don’t like guys who beat up girls. Especially not girls under his protection.”
His face paled more from the mention of my boss’s name than it did from my beating. Jimmy “The Gent” Alvarez was a hard, low man, but he’d earned his nickname for his civility towards the opposite sex. Since he’d taken over this side of town, decided to make it clear that certain actions would no longer be tolerated.
That’s where I came in.
You see, I’d been out of the game a long time. I’d taken my bruises, given back more. But Jimmy was an old friend, and I knew that, unlike some of the shit stains who took up turf in this town, Jimmy wanted order. Profitable order, sure, but order. And it was clear the cops weren’t ever gonna provide it. So he came to me.
“Pinky Black,” he’d said, strolling into my garage, “Been too long. I’ve got some work for you.”
He made me an offer. I countered. No women, no kids, no one who wasn’t a dirt bag. I wouldn’t be shaking down storeowners or the like. The Gent liked that.
“It’s more profitable to protect than to threaten,” the Gent said.
So here I was. I made a brief search behind the bar, tucked the hand cannon I found there into my waistband. No sense catching a bullet on my way out. I turned back to Tony, who still sat trembling on the bar back.
“This was your warning, Tony. You only get one.”
I turned, walked out. I flipped the sign on the door to “Closed” as I passed. A handful of roughnecks paused as I did.
“He’s closed,” I said. “Ran out of rum.”