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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