How Much of a Bastard You Must Become
Madeline Gobbo and Miles Klee
Handcuffs didn't fit his wrists. Nor should they, being child-sized.
His name was Byron and he hated his name but not as much as he hated
his face. So did the men who were punching it, and he didn't blame
them. Laughed because they were so convinced that they could somehow
make it worse. He liked the world best when people stopped pretending
to be nice and sociable, when they did not say "Have a nice day," or
"We value your opinion," or "Thank you for your service." The handcuffs
were a toy from the dollar store across the lot, Byron guessed, and
typically used by this gung-ho private security team to put the fear of
everything into longhaired shoplifting teens.
He felt bad about spattering the tilework: it was the prettiest
bathroom he had ever been in. At a certain point the unnecessary gore
got to him and he reached and pulled a man by the ankle. The man said,
"Oof!" and executed a perfect somersault, taking out another of his
cronies with a kick to the chin. The handcuffs had snapped like
noodles. Byron found that violence had a soothing effect upon men. So
he wrenched the high-speed hand dryer loose and clobbered the last man
across the mouth. He'd endured worse sets.
He fished a cracked molar out of his gums—the thing was black
with slow disease—and tucked it mindlessly into a pocket.
Louisa the manageress slouched against the mall exit, fanning herself
with bills, his bills. "Where to, handsome?" she said with a foolproof
stare that nearly cut through his concussion. He couldn't speak, of
course, but they both got a kick out of her needling.
They walked up the deserted street to the diner, metallic and bright as
a flying saucer. When he held the door for Louisa, a bullish man in
jeans elbowed past her and growled, "Excuse you," so Byron snapped his
neck. The cops inside didn't look away from their ketchuped eggs and
hash. Because the blunt objects he called hands would not grasp a fork,
Louisa transferred bits of bacon to his lips with gentle fingers. The
song that played from a cracked radio was about everything that would
happen to them.
Madeline Gobbo is the store artist at the Booksmith in San Francisco. Miles Klee
is an editor at the Daily Dot as well as author of the novel IVYLAND
and the story collection TRUE FALSE.
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