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
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.
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
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
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
"You can come on inside now, Red." Lucinda made a sweeping motion with
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.
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.