Red                                                                           GREEN  3.3

      Red had a wild swath of baldness, which extended from the pinnacle of his pumpkin shaped head, spread circularly around the perimeters, and then regrouped three inches beneath the crown. The topographical view from above his head looked much like the map of Australia, with the island continent represented in pink.
      The continent of Australia was routinely covered with a dark brown leather dingo hat, which had occupied the terrain of Red’s head for many a long year. Beneath the back rim of his hat emerged a couple inches of bushy brown hair with stray strands of gray.
      Red came from a socially prominent family in Northwest D.C., and he had grown up surrounded by the wealthy and sophisticated. In no way had it rubbed off on him. Red was the only member of his immediate family that didn’t have at least one degree, but he had managed to acquire healthy chunks of what he called ‘real life education’ from various institutes of learning he passed along the road. How, where and why he had picked up his lumbering mountain man demeanor and faux-southern accent was a mystery, given the fact that he had never lived further than five miles away from the Washington beltway until after his twenty-fifth birthday.
      Red had acquired the name Red because any facial skin not covered by his extensive beard was an excellent barometer of his current emotional state. His face was a living mood ring. These color-coded states ranged from world-weariness (white), to defensive insularity (a bubble gum shade of pink), to pig bitin' mad (high scarlet). The brighter shades of his epidermis functioned as an organic Morse code sent to all the world, flashing out the primal message 'Don't fuck with me'. The world, for it's part, completely ignored this message and did fuck with Red at every available opportunity.
      'The whole universe is fucking with me', Red would sometimes say. It was the truth.
      People regularly fucked with Red. They couldn't help themselves. They just kinda had to. You would want to fuck with him too, as long as you had a good posse along with you for backup. Red was smart enough to know his limitations. In spite of his hefty size, he knew that he wasn't that focused of a fighter. His punches flailed wildly when he chose to let them fly. Red would have to be pushed beyond his limit before he would resort to blows, but in all fairness, he had a very short limit. If you were to get his dander up, you would stand a very good chance of being seriously injured by misadventure, wounded by being caught up inside the violent whirlwind of fists and feet that you've chosen to conjure up.
      And you would deserve your punishment. You can't just go around fucking with people like that. No, you would be on Red's list forever, subject to long menacing stares and muttered threats. He would drive past you on the street and slow down, and there was nothing you could ever say or do to once again get back inside of his good graces.
      Well, maybe buying him a drink would help.

At the moment, Red was sitting inside of his panel van, parked directly across the street from the DownUnder Pub. He had the radio tuned softly to WTOP, the local news and traffic station. Weather on the eights. He was waiting impatiently for the pub to open for business.
     The van windows were down, and a steady little breeze kept things cool in the front. Red was trying to smoke inconspicuously. He needed to be inconspicuous because he was smoking Misty Menthols and he didn't want anyone on the street to see him smoking a female branded cigarette. Mistys, it was true, were for fags. Or girls. Their ads featured elegant women dressed in loose white clothing, having fun, acting like they didn't need no man at all.
     Red did have a few packs of Winston Lights sitting inside a dresser drawer at home, but the fact was that his wife had been stealing his cigarettes, and by God if she was going to steal his, he was going to steal hers.
     It was ten minutes till four. This is disgusting. The DownUnder is supposed to be open at 3:30, goddamit. Red lit another Misty - not too bad, really, for a fag cigarette - and he felt around until he found an empty pony Bud bottle stashed under his seat. A blessing in disguise it was, somewhere he could deposit the butt from the previously smoked Misty. He didn't want any butts in the ashtray that reminded him of his wife.
      His color edged up a notch at the very thought of the woman. Red had already changed the locks of his van twice this month, only to find empty Bud ponies and Misty butts inside on the following day. Bitch ground em out on his floor mats.
      ‘She’s gonna kill me’ thought Red, ‘and there’s not a goddamn thing I can do to stop it’. There were many ways in which Red's Wife could kill Red. He had dreamed of every single one of them.
      Red looks up to see Lucinda popping out of a green Toyota and rushing downstairs to open the bar. Tarnation! Not only has he been waiting for a full half an hour to get inside, but now he has to deal with a skanky-ass bartender who poured a drink like she was payin for it out of her own hide.
      Now Cindy, she knew how to pour a real drink, and she would never leave her customers waiting outside like a bunch of red-headed stepkids. She had professionalism.
      Red thought about complaining to the manager, telling him how sluggish and arrogant this new girl Lucinda was, but then he recalled that he had threatened to kick the manager's butt a few days previous. Almost got himself banned from the place.
      Red simmered as the open sign was flipped over and the pub door pushed open. Lucinda took the seven steps up to the sidewalk, and looked directly over at Red in his van. Her face was reflected in his sunglasses. ‘What’s that he’s smoking’, she wondered. ‘Looks like a Misty’.
      "You can come on inside now, Red." Lucinda made a sweeping motion with her hands.
      Red grunted and dropped his cigarette into the empty Bud bottle. Yeah, he would come inside alright, but he wasn’t going to pretend to be happy about this whole sorry situation with the new bartender. Lazy bitch.

      Red hitched up his pants as he started to cross the street, when a butt-ugly Subaru pulled up short and squealing, just managing to avoid hitting him. Red stood in the middle of the street with his hands on his hips and glared at the car with a look of rage. He took off his shades so they could catch the full effect of the fury in his eyes. The two elderly passengers, fresh from shopping at the little craft stores which lined Mill street, were sitting inside the car with frightened expressions. Lucky for them Red was mighty thirsty, or he would’ve told them a thing or two.
      Inside the DownUnder, the bar wasn't even set up yet for chrissakes. Lucinda had brought down the cash drawer and that was about all her lazy ass had gotten accomplished thus far. Got the damn cash register set up, sure. Ain't never gonna forget that. Lucinda was pretending to look busy, removing the chairs from the tables and setting them back on the floor. Red thought about helping, but the mood quickly passed.
      Jesus! This would be a nice place for a bar.
      "How 'bout a drink over here? Some of us've been waitin on you for over a half hour now."
      "Some of us?” Lucinda said. “My eyesight must be going bad. I don't see anybody waiting here but you".
      This was true but unnecessary commentary. Lucinda proceeded to ignore Red’s request for another half a minute or so, just to fuck with him, and then scooted across the room and behind the bar.
      "Anybody ever tell you that patience was a virtue, Red? Your mama, anybody like that? You need a Bud draft? Want a shot with that?"
      "Yeah, give me a Dickel. And don't be shy with it." God, she had a smart mouth on her.
      Lucinda glanced around the room. Nobody else was in the place yet. Let's freak him out. She takes a beer mug, fills it up with ice, and pours Red the mother of all Dickels, filling the glass up nearly to the rim. Let him complain about this one, she thinks.
      Red lifts his weary eyes without otherwise moving. "Too much ice" he says, shaking his head in disgust.

 

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