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about 6,500 words
By J.B. Edwards
The pain was sharp. Gerald felt his head. He closed his eyes tighter trying to squeeze the pressure away. The effort made it worse. He fought panic. He opened one eye slowly. The pain didn t change. He opened the other eye, but closed it quickly. It took him several seconds to make sense of the blur in front of him. The swirling inkblots slowly morphed into a room. The wall across from him was cracked and dirty enough to be a drunk tank, but the lighting was all wrong. Maybe it was a hotel room. In hotel room he was probably safe. To make sure, he dared to lift his head for a better view. It looked empty. He was as sure as he could be looking with one eye. Only immediate danger would make him risk
Edwards / Gerald / 2 more harm to his head by opening both eyes. He wasn't ready or able to figure out why he was here this morning. At least he thought it was morning. He had been fooled in the past about things like that. So most of the time he didn't really care about things that can make a fool of you if you care. All this had begun with the new set of rules at his favorite shelter. Even though it was bitterly cold lately they were denying shelter to people who were drunk or people who wouldn't follow the rules. If we obey the rules we have a warm bed for
the night, he thought bitterly. Street people may be on the streets because they can't or won't follow rules, but is it their choice to die? They have a choice to follow the rules or not. Gerald had not had shelter for three nights after the problem with the rules. The street was his home. It was the only place the rules fit him. He had tried other systems, but he always ended up pushing until he pushed through them or they pushed him back on his ass, one more time. At least he wasn t on the street now. He would be again. He thought he remembered two nights in this room. That was good two nights of being warm. And Rollo. Where was Rollo. A bloody face flitted through his mind. Was that Rollo. No. Rollo was there after the bloody face. Gerald was not big. He just looked mean. He wasn't really mean, most of the time, he didn't think. Sometimes when he had a hang-over he would look for something to hit to transfer the
Edwards / Gerald / 3 pain. In general he wasn't mean or a bad person, most of the time, really, he told himself. On the streets he was called that big mean son-of-a-bitch. Gerald was 5'9" and weighed in at 170 pounds, which isn't big, but he had a large head and enormous hands. His hands were always red and looked hard. People would stare at his hands. There were times when Gerald was proud of his hands. Nobody he had ever met had hands like his. Nobody he had ever talked to had ever met anyone with hands like his. Women seemed to be fascinated by his hands. He liked the attention of women. He very rarely did anything about this attention. He very rarely did anything other than talk to a woman. They had a way of hurting without hitting. He had been married once. That was more years and bottles ago than he could remember. He told so many lies about his life he wasn't sure what was true and what he had made up. He hoped the little girl he liked to talk about was real. The scenes of her running to him as he came home from work. The
weight of her head as she falls asleep while he reads a book had pulled him through some rough nights. This morning the pain in his head and his gut were too dangerous, even the little girl wouldn't help him. He could almost see her face or a wisp of blond hair but a cramp would double him up and all he saw was blinding orange light. Gradually he could open both eyes without pain. He remained in the fetal position on the foul bed waiting for the next hit.
Edwards / Gerald / 4 Just as he was thinking he could risk sitting up, the pain would remind him it wasn't a good idea. Lying there he began to think about his next move. He tried straightening out his left leg. That worked ok. The right thigh was beginning to cramp, but he ignored it, because he was sure God was just waiting for him to make a wrong move. Pain this potent could only come from God. Only God had the power to hurt that bad. The only time Gerald thought of God was when God got his attention with pain. This only confused Gerald more. He remembered, or thought he remembered, something about mercy and healing and God. He wasn't sure where it had come from the first time. He had heard it in some of the many missions and soup kitchens he had been in the past thirty years. He had learned to play the game of sleeping with his eyes open and sitting erect as payment for the meal he was to receive. Mercy and healing and love were abstract thoughts that didn't live in Gerald's life. The sound vibrations of the words bounced off his ear drums just as the concepts bounced off his life. They had no effect and did nothing to change his circumstances or give him more than a few meals or a couple of nights indoors. Gerald asked God to make the pain go away. And after one more real good shot, it did. As he sat up slowly Gerald said, Thank God" and his interaction with the Almighty was finished until the next time God got his attention. Gerald really was
Edwards / Gerald / 5 grateful when he said, Thank, God." The pain had stopped and
since God had started it and God had stopped it, everything was even in Gerald's mind. The next detail was where to find that bottle. He was sure there was some left. After all he had bought a case, he thought there was a case. It wasn t every day a fellow could have a case of wine. He could feel the weight of it coming up the stairs. That case and some of the past few days were starting to come back. Now he was sure he hadn't emptied all twelve of the bottles last night. But then again he might have bought the case the night before. He decided to go sit on the john. His father always said he did his best thinking on the john. He laughed slightly, he hadn't thought about his father in a long time. Gerald only thought of time as a long time or a short time. Months and years and days had lost their meaning. He could deal with hours and minutes, some days. Gerald's father left when Gerald was twelve. One day he went to the bar for a drink and never came home. In the neighborhood everyone said that was just like Gerald Baines. He never was good for anything. Gerald was named for his father and looked like a smaller version of him. When he was bad, which was most of the time to hear his mother tell it, she would say he had his entire father's badness. She told the other kids their father was the worst son of a bitch man who had ever lived in the world. He didn't care
Edwards / Gerald / 6 about anybody but himself. It didn't take Gerald or the other kids long to figure out Gerald was bad through and through. A few days before his fourteenth birthday Gerald's mother found him smoking a joint in his room. She broke his nose and spilt his lip before she knew she had hit him. All she could see was the husband who left her with four kids and memories of hunger, degradation and indignity. She hit him so hard and so many times the people in the next apartment called the police. She was still hitting him when they arrived. It took two big cops to pull her off the unconscious Gerald. Gerald woke up in the hospital emergency room. They asked him a bunch of questions about insurance and payments that made no sense to him. After about two hours he got up and left. On the way out he stole three of the nurse's purses. In the purses he found sixty dollars and some change. The feeling of having more money than he had ever seen gave him confidence. The ease with which he had gotten the money added to the confidence. Gerald walked out of the hospital door, turned left and started walking. He didn't stop for two days. He found a bridge where he slept for twenty-four hours. When he awoke and started to stretch his body reminded him of the beating. All these memories came back to him as he sat on the john. But while sitting there his legs went to sleep. This new pain brought him back to the hotel room. Walking gingerly, trying to make his legs take commands and testing his gut by standing up straight while not moving his
Edwards / Gerald / 7 throbbing head was more coordination than he was capable of on a good day. He found himself on his knees. The noise and movement of his fall frightened a small mouse hiding under the bed. The movement of the mouse brought Gerald's eye to the floor under the bed. A half empty bottle of wine called to him from there. Getting from the bathroom door to the bed should be easy, Gerald thought. He reached out his arm, but it wasn't long enough. He started to stretch out his body, but the cramps would not allow it. He inched his way across the room on his side keeping his body in the fetal position. This time he was cursing God. The pain was not going to stop him from having that bottle. God was not going to stop him from having that warm red healing taste. Distance meant nothing to him. Time meant nothing to him. Pain could keep him curled up in a ball but he was smart enough to find a way to get to that bottle. He could see that the top wasn't on the bottle. He knew he would have to be careful how he handled the bottle or the wine would end up on the floor and not where he sorely needed it. Slowly he wormed his way to it. He felt a glow of expectation as his fingers touched the glass. The palm of his hand was now on the neck. The neck of the bottle began to rise off the floor at the proper angle to prevent spilling. Gerald was very proud of this accomplishment. Knowing about the proper angle to prevent spilling was the sign of an intelligent man.
Edwards / Gerald / 8 The bottle came out from under the bed. Gerald held it up to the light to see how much was really in it. About a third of a bottle wasn't bad for breakfast. The day was getting brighter already. After debating with himself over which was the best position for this first drink of the day, he stayed on the floor. He decided the floor was where the least misery had been so far this morning. He drank half of the wine in one drink, let out a loud sigh and rolled over onto his back. With his eyes closed and the bottle on his chest he waited for the wine to do its work on his insides. He could feel the warming effect spreading. Taking small sips to make it last, he watched a cockroach make its way across the wall. The cracks in the paint and plaster provided a road map for the roach. Gerald tried to predict which fork the traveler would take. He had correctly called the last three and had made a prediction about the fourth when the traveler stopped as if undecided. Gerald made a bet with his bottle that the roach would go right. The bottle being contrary took the left branch. The bet was about the last sip in the bottle. If the roach took the right way, then the sip was Gerald's. If the stupid roach chose the left, then the bottle got to keep its red dregs. With antenna feeling the air the roach studied the forks of the road. What can make a simple right/left decision so important? Gerald had been making right/left decisions since he walked out
Edwards / Gerald / 9 of that emergency room thirty years ago. Most of them had taken no time at all. The really important ones had taken less. What took time was a decision where you had to remember something or needed to tell somebody something. Most of the time it was so much trouble he didn't even go into it. And that saved a lot of time. Gerald thought of himself as a time expert. Most of his life was spent cutting down the time between drinks or working out a way to have less time till his next meal. If the time to the next meal or drink looked as if it was going to be longer than his stomach or mind could stand, he snatched a purse or hit a drunk and took his bottle. Hitting a drunk wasn't something he did often. Usually a drunk was happy to share. But if he or she wasn't happy to share Gerald was forced to help them with their manners. He didn't like hitting anyone. The sound of flesh being hit reminded him of the last time he saw his mother. And that always confused him. The confusion this morning was so deep rooted it caused his stomach to draw up in knots tight enough to take his breath away. Gerald blacked out. Coming out of a black out was always a new experience. He never knew right away if he had been blacked out or for how long. Usually the first clue was he was in a new place and wonder why. He had long since stopped trying to remember what happened. There was a time when he would have spent days worrying about what caused the black out. One time he remembered and blacked out
Edwards / Gerald / 10 again for two weeks. Gerald took that as a sign. He never again did anything after a black out except check his body to make sure he had all the parts he started with. He kind of liked the black outs. He thought they got him from one place to another without having to figure out how to get there. He was always disappointed when he came out of one and found he was in the same place he last remembered. He was often he had been other places in between, but since there wasn't a new bottle in the room the trip was a waste of time and might as well not have happened. Remembering his old bottle and the roach he looked up. The roach was gone. The bottle was against the far wall, empty. If that roach crossed his path again it would feel the underside of his boot. After all, if that shithead had been able to make a decision the thoughts that lead to the black out would not have had time to well up. It wasn't that he was being mean or nasty, it was just the way the world works. You fuck with me and I fuck you. You leave me alone and if I'm ok and you don't have anything I need, then I leave you alone. There was a loud knock on the door. The sound made Gerald jump and grab his head. Jump because it scared the shit out of him and grab his head because the movement caused the inside of his head to swell. It sounded like a cop knock. He wondered if he had gone out in the black out. It did bother him that he got in trouble for things he couldn't remember. He did lots of things
Edwards / Gerald / 11 that didn't stick in his head. Then he remembered that most of the time cops will tell you in a loud voice it's them on the other side of the door. He had figured out one time they did that to be fair. I mean, they had guns so they give you time to get your gun. He had figured out it must be some custom left over from the Wild West. Some thing like, "draw partner". There was a second knock. This one wasn't as loud. Well, that eliminated cops. Cops could only go up and forward. They could never back down to a quieter knock. So now who could it be? Who knew he was in this room? When he had something good like a case of wine, he would never tell anyone where he was going. Especially if he had enough money in his pocket to buy a hotel room. Probably wasn't the manager. Managers always like to have people know who they are, too. Maybe if he just stayed on the floor and only made breathing sounds. Another knock showed him he would have to try something else. He wondered if the door was locked. He could see the chain hanging loosely. It would move a little with each knock. The little sunlight that could get through the dirty window was shining on the door knob and he couldn't see which way the lock was turned. He started to panic. What if some guy was going to rob this room? Lying on the floor wasn't the best place to start a fight. He wasn't afraid of anybody, but shit, why give some guy you
Edwards / Gerald / 12 could beat the shit out of in normal circumstances that kind of an advantage? The more he thought about it, the more pissed off he got. Some guy comes into your room and kicks you while you're on the floor. That is not right. Fuckhead like that should be hurt and hurt bad. And Gerald Baines was just the motherfucker who could straighten this cocksucker out. But if it wasn't a cocksucker like that, then the best thing to do was to stay on the floor and be still. Who the fuck could it be? Maybe getting up and walking slowly and quietly to the door and listening would be the thing to do. God had stopped with the pains for a while, maybe God was through messing with him for now. Who knew he was in this room? This hotel must have a hundred rooms. The guy knocking on the door must have known which room he wanted. I mean, a guy doesn't go around knocking on hotel room doors at random. Kids do that for fun, but kids don't knock that loud. Did the clerk say they did or didn't have maid service, every day or once a week. Gerald looked up at the dirty sheets on the bed and decided it had to be once a week, if at all. He didn't stay in hotels every day, but he seemed to remember that maids also usually tell you who they are like the cops. The door made a noise. Sounded like water, water splashing from a long way away. It sounded kind of familiar to Gerald. What was that? Then another sound came from the door. Then it was a little louder. It
Edwards / Gerald / 13 sounded as if someone was calling his name. Most of the time Gerald just ignored the voices and sounds he heard. The only thing he was truly afraid of was becoming one of those old crazy drunks you see on the downtown street corners, who are holding a very loud conservation with the air. He thought it was pitiful. If there was anything that would make him kill himself it would be if he ever became one of those pitiful bastards. There were times when he had a hard time not answering some of the crazy nasty things the voices came up with, but he just figured he could let it slide so he could maintain his dignity. The voice became louder and louder, to the point he recognized it wasn't the door talking to him. It was Rollo calling his name. "Rollo is that you?", he asked in a voice that didn't sound like it belonged to him. "Gerald? Gerald you in there, goddamnit." He managed to get to his hands and knees. But the eight feet to the door might as well have been eight miles. "I can hear you moaning and moving in there. Stop playing games and open this door. I already peed on the wall but I got to take a shit." "Rollo, Rollo man go get the manager to let you in I'm sick man, I can't make it to the door." "Bullshit you ain't sick. You know they ain't gonna let me in your room. You just don't want to share the rest of that fine
Edwards / Gerald / 14 wine you got." This really pissed Gerald off. He did some things he wasn't proud of sometimes but he never refused to share when he had plenty. Besides it was all gone and that really pissed him off. He was standing in the open door with his fist in firing position when a big pain got his gut. Rollo had jumped back against the far wall when the door exploded open and Gerald appeared. After he recovered he said, "I'm sorry, man, you really are sick, here lean on me I'll help you to the bed. Then I'll open us a bottle of that fine wine. If I can find that corkscrew. Didn't we have a time keepin' track of that mother yesterday?" Gerald wanted to laugh, but all the knot in his gut would allow him to do was nod weakly. "I was tellin Pinko and Molly about you gettin so pissed that you broke the neck off that bottle on the corner of that building. Man they laughed till I thought Molly was gonna pee in her pants. Like the time you was tellin us about...what was you tellin' that time?" Gerald could only shrug and give a half smile. Even if God let go of his gut, the response would not have been much different, because Rollo was always remembering things and happenings he didn't. "You shoulda seen 'em double up, when I told 'em that you had the corkscrew in your other hand the whole time."
Edwards / Gerald / 15 Now that did really happen and in spite of the pain Gerald did laugh. It hurt so bad, he tried to kick Rollo. "Goddamnit, Rollo. Don't fuckin' make me laugh. When I feel better I'll get you." "Sorry, man. I can see you ain't in good shape today. What you need is a good long drink of the red stuff. Right?" With that he began a search of the room that should have taken ten seconds, because there was nothing to be found. Need made him very meticulous. He looked in every corner twice. He moved the dresser. He looked under the bed from across the room, taking care to not get too close to Gerald. He had been kicked by Gerald before and it was only slightly better than being hit by his fist. He looked in the bathroom, behind the door. He sat in the middle of the floor and looked all around the room as if there must be a fifth corner where the wine was stored. He had a thought that this fifth corner was moving just ahead of his eyes. He tried to sneak up on it by moving his gaze slowly and then sprinting to the next corner and then reversing the travel of his eyes. Watching Rollo sitting in the middle of the room with his head spinning and stopping and jerking around like a berserk merry-go-round, made Gerald laugh. He laughed so hard he fell off the bed. Rollo thought Gerald was after him. Rollo was out the door in a heartbeat. Of course Rollo's heart didn't beat in the time
Edwards / Gerald / 16 he took to get the door between Gerald and him. Rollo was bigger and stronger and younger than Gerald. And sometimes when he was away from Gerald he knew it and wondered why he let Gerald push him around. And sometimes when he was talking to Pinko or Molly he would say he wasn't ever going to let it happen again. But when he was in Gerald's presence he couldn't do it. He had seen Gerald do some things to people that only an animal could do. A human being would stop or hold back and use only the force needed to get what it was they wanted. Not Gerald, he hit as hard as he could any time he was in the mood to hit. He didn't hit or hurt every day, but there was no way to predict when it was coming or from where. Most of the time the things Gerald did were all right with Rollo because he got something out of them. When the anger and violence was directed at someone else it was kind of fun to watch. If Rollo had enough money he liked to go to the boxing or wrestling matches. It was like Gerald was his own free show. And no one on the street messed with either of them. It was also lucky to be around Gerald. The cops never messed with him. Rollo would get hassled when he was alone, but never once with Gerald. Gerald would tell them about times he had trouble with the cops, but Rollo wasn't sure of anything he didn't see himself. But Rollo wasn't so sure the cops would stay out of it this time. All the stuff he and Gerald had done before was with or
Edwards / Gerald / 17 against people of the street not against a citizen. Maybe some shoplifting but he had seen citizens do that. That liquor shop owner was a citizen. Rollo wondered if he would ever see again. But, the whole thing was the fault of the careless citizen who had dropped that money on the street. The guy was getting out of a cab. He had a briefcase, a coat, a nice warm looking camel hair coat, and a newspaper. He was trying to get all that stuff balanced and put this big wad of money back in his pocket, when Rollo saw a piece of green fall to the gutter. He probably wouldn't have seen it and somebody else would have gotten it, but he had his eye on the camel hair coat. Rollo tried to tell the guy he dropped something because anybody who had that nice of a coat was probably a nice guy and would give him a reward. But the guy just kept walking. When Rollo caught up with him to try and tell him, he said if Rollo didn't leave him alone he would call a cop. The guy said it without even looking at Rollo. Rollo shrugged his shoulders and went back to see what the guy had dropped. He picked it up. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a cop walking on the same side of the street. He put the bill in his pocket and walked away as casually as he could. He was trying to decide whether to buy a bottle first or go find Gerald first. He was deciding it was better to buy the bottle first, because then he would get to choose the kind he liked, when he stopped and grabbed the bill out of his pocket. He
Edwards / Gerald / 18 did see it. There was a zero after that five. He stood in the middle of the sidewalk trying to remember if he had ever seen a fifty-dollar bill before. Now he could buy a bottle that he liked and when he found Gerald he could give Gerald money to buy the bottle he liked. Gerald found him before he found a bottle. In fact he was still standing on the same spot when Gerald rounded the corner and called to him. Rollo wanted to run. He wanted this moment to last longer. He wanted to dream about the things he could do with all this money. But instead he said, "Hey, Gerald, look what I found!", and held it out. Gerald grabbed the fifty. Gerald always grabbed things, even when you tried to hand something to him of your own free will, Gerald grabbed as if you were trying to keep it away from him. Gerald grabbed Rollo by the collar and dragged him into a doorway. "Where did you get this?" "A guy dropped it, getting out of a cab. I tried to tell him but he was snooty. So I said fuck em." "Good boy, fuck 'em. I mean, especially the snooty ones, right." "Gerald, you should have seen the coat this guy had, man it was camel hair...." "Fuck him and his coat, or fuck him on his coat."
Edwards / Gerald / 19 "Boy would I like to fuck Molly on that camel hair coat." "Dream on. Come on let's see what this snooty fifty dollar bill can do for you and me today." Rollo followed Gerald, happy he was still included in the promise of the fifty. At least Gerald was going to share this time. The last time Rollo found that food he didn't get any of it, because Gerald hadn't eaten in two days. Rollo had been hungry too, but when Gerald decides something belongs to him it is best not to get in his way. And besides most to the time Gerald will give you some of anything he takes from you. They went window shopping. They wandered around the downtown shops talking about what they could do with the fifty. Gerald almost bought a new shirt, but the clerk made him mad. The guy acted like they weren't good enough to be in the same room with him. Rollo and the clerk thought Gerald was going to get violent. And he was mad, but all he did was push the fifty in the guy's face and walk out slowly as if daring the guy to call the cops. They laughed about the look on the clerk's face for the next two days. Later, Rollo would laugh but remembering the clerk always made him remember the liquor store guy and he didn't like that memory. The money had put Gerald in a good mood. Usually a run in with a citizen like the clerk would put him in his hurt mode. He had to make the hurt even out any and all hurts and slights he remembered. Rollo was still wary. He had seen Gerald switch from
Edwards / Gerald / 20 fun to fight. And Rollo didn't want to be in the way of the fight. He thought it was going to happen when they tried to buy a couple of candy bars. The guy at the newsstand got a little loud about where a couple of bums came up with a fifty dollar bill and besides he didn't have change for it any way. There was a long silence as Gerald looked at the guy, Rollo getting ready to run. Gerald's face slowly changed into a smile. The guy smiled. Rollo was really ready to run now. Gerald like to hit people when they were smiling. He said it hurt more because the change from happy to hurting was a longer way. "Sorry to bother you friend. I hope business picks up." Gerald said as he walked away whistling a tune he liked, but nobody else had ever heard of. Rollo could not believe his eyes or ears. Money sure made a difference. Rollo had seen Gerald get on people for a lot less than that. Maybe it would be all right to make a suggestion now. He was very careful about making suggestions. Gerald most of the time misunderstood and thought he was trying to take over. That was one thing that Gerald would really get pissed about. He didn't want nobody trying to take over. By the time Rollo caught up, Gerald was saying it was time to get a drink. He even asked where they should go, but he didn't wait for an answer. He turned into the first place that had wine. He bought a gallon. Outside he gave the bag to Rollo and told him to wait. In a minute he came out with another gallon. He took the
Edwards / Gerald / 21 gallon back from Rollo and with a sack under each arm led the way to their favorite drinking spot. The spot was on the side of a hill overlooking the train yard. There was a tree for shade in the summer. The hill kept the cold north wind off them. There was a ten foot wood fence that protected an apartment complex and made the back of the hill safe. From the front they could see anyone coming from a long way. Gerald felt safe there. They dragged an old car seat up recently. Gerald said since they spent so much time there, why not be comfortable. Rollo made a chair out of rock and scrap pieces of wood. Gerald called it Rollo's throne. Rollo liked that. They talked about building a kind of house up there. About how it would be easy to bring some wood up each trip and in no time there would be enough stuff to get started. They always pointed out good pieces of scrap lumber when they saw it. They talked about places to steal material for the house. The only thing that ever got built was Rollo's throne. It was dark when they finished the two gallons. There was enough light from the train yard for a game of trying to break the jugs with rocks. They started from twenty feet away. They laughed a lot, because each time they missed they would cheat up a half step. Rollo finally broke his by dropping a brick on it. Gerald declared himself the winner because his jug was still intact. Rollo argued about changing the rules in the middle of
Edwards / Gerald / 22 the game, but not for too long. They went down the hill arm in arm singing different songs in the same off key. It was cold. Rollo suggested they go to the shelter and get out of the weather. Gerald said he didn't feel like fighting for a bed tonight. After all they were men of means now. They decided to get a bottle for a little night cap and rent a hotel room. Rollo remembered laughing and singing all the way to the liquor store. When Gerald opened the door of the store a little bell announced their arrival. The sound of the bell changed everything. Gerald stopped laughing. He stood up straight. His large head began scanning the place as if it were radar looking for enemy planes. Rollo looked for danger and a way to run. The man behind the counter said, Evening gents, cold enough
for ya. Come on in and close the door. And what kind of anti-freeze will it be tonight." Gerald took a step into the store. Rollo could see his shoulders relax a little. "We are in the market for fine wine," Gerald said in a way that was almost friendly. "Well, we have our finest rotgut on the shelf right behind you." Gerald pulled out the wad of bills, left from the fifty and said, I think we can do better than that."
The man smiled and said, "My mistake sir. You'll want the high priced spread on the wall to you right."
Edwards / Gerald / 23 Gerald doubled over laughing. The man laughed in a high pitched sound that came from somewhere in his nose. Rollo just watched Gerald. "Gerald, I don't think they have what we want, come on, let's go to Jimmy's." "Jimmy's? Please. , the man said with mock hurt. Gerald elbowed Rollo in the ribs, hard. "Come on Rollo, old boy, this gentleman has everything we could ever want. Actually mister, I was thinking of something better than that. Something by the case." "All the cases are in the back. You pick the brand and the bottle you want and I'll be happy to bring as many cases as you want." Gerald picked up a bottle and walked over to the counter. "Have you ever had this?" "No, I'm a beer man, myself.", he said patting his belly. "Then why are you trying to give me shit you wouldn't drink, you think you're better than us?" Gerald said it in a joking, teasing way that made the man smile. But Rollo knew what was coming and started for the door. Gerald told him to stop in such a way that the smile froze on the man's face. He was still smiling when the bottle hit him in the mouth. He fell to his knees. Gerald was over the counter and broke the bottle on his skull before Rollo could say anything. Gerald was pushing the broken end of the bottle into the man's
Edwards / Gerald / 24 face when Rollo looked over the counter. The face was gone. Blood was every where. Rollo wanted to run but he couldn't. He wanted to throw up but couldn't. The only thing he could get to work were his eyes. He stood there with his eyes shut. Even with his hands over his ears he could hear. He could hear the man moan and he could hear Gerald grunting with effort. And then there was no sound. "Come on shithead help me with these." Rollo opened his eyes to see Gerald holding two cases of wine. Rollo was in shock and did as he was told. Later after they checked into this hotel he wondered how long he stood with his eyes closed and hands over his ears. He figured out it was long enough for Gerald to wash the blood off his hands and find the wine. He thought about asking Gerald, but he didn't want to be laughed at. Now all the wine was gone. The money was gone. The man at the hotel desk said they had to pay for tonight or get out. He had come to tell Gerald. This wasn't a good time to tell Gerald anything. The man at the desk was a nice guy. Maybe he could tell Gerald and not get hurt. Rollo began thinking of California. With each step down the stairs, he remembered the sun, the beach, bathing suits cut up to here and down to there. Yeah, maybe California. You didn't need a camelhair coat there. Yeah, it was all started by the fuckhead with that camel hair coat. He walked out the door of the hotel
Edwards / Gerald / 25 thinking of Molly naked on that camelhair coat.
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