Stars, Broken Bones, and an Abundance of Glass

In black cloudless night, the stars are everywhere and Ted thought for a moment that maybe it hurts that he’ll never touch them. It’s a small jump from there to realize that each one of those pinholes is bigger than he can comprehend. Gears and cogs laid bare, Ted feels small in the abundant presence of the universe. He’d love to be smaller than a door frame but for that moment maybe being smaller than the sun would do.

The ancient and dead Studebaker had taken most of his rage. The driver’s side was crushed inwards and the rear window was broken. The engine was already outside the car but if you’d look closely you’d find that he had smashed the filter and it’s receptacle to smithereens. There was an indentation of fists in the cinderblock wall next to him.

Donna came limping from the asphalt where they were practicing.

“Come on let’s get back into this. 1,2, 1,2. Right?”

“That’s boxing. The waltz goes 1,2,3.”

‘Oh right.”

“I can’t. I’m risking you.”

Donna considered the sulking bald giant and then considered the destroyed sedan next to him. She realized that she had to use her head when dealing with Ted. So, she rammed it through the driver’s side with such conviction as to give a mosher a boner. For a moment, she was reeling and Ted stood but she motioned him off. She quickly stabilized. She picked the shards from her skull with much the same practiced motion as she had for ripping her leg hair off. Glass free, she picked up a brown paper bag and wiped away the blood. This all had the added benefit of relieving her sinuses.

“You aren’t risking shit.”

“I could break you, I know I could.”

“Yeah, but with me you’ll probably have to try.”

“But I could.”

“And I could leave, but then I’ll never get to learn the foxtrot.”

“You want to learn the foxtrot?”

Donna winced slightly as she remembered her recently broken foot.

“I still gotta learn how to waltz.”

“Gotta?”

“I liking being prepared. For zombies I’ve got a shotgun but if a cotillion breaks out, I’m screwed.”

“It is a valid worry.”

“So can we go back to dancing spunky?”

They returned to the lantern they left in the middle of the basketball court. 1.2.3. Donna really was a striking young woman, black straight hair, and slight with bounties disproportionate. 1,2,3. Then he was back to thinking about Verna. Verna was a bit taller, with freckles everywhere and red hair. Her hands were softer too. He found himself lost in emerald eyes that weren’t even there. 1,2…

“Ow.”

“Oh god, what did I do.”

Donna looked down; her left shoulder was bleeding She found a bit of glass sticking out. She picked it off, as if lint.

“Always forget how unpredictable glass can be.”

Right Foot Down, Left Hand

“Left foot down, right hand forward.”

Donna still had to say it. Even after five thousand swings and a thousand jabs, she still had to say it. It was an magical incantation now; she was sure that if she stopped saying it, she’d stop connecting. The bag was silent, but something in the way it swung back at her felt like ridicule. She answered it’s insolence with an ax kick.

“Do you own this place?”

“No, I’ve got a deal with Vinnie.”

Ned had an interrogative hanging down his tongue.

“If I see anything go wrong with the water heater or the dryer, I’m to report to him. I am also to fold clothes if they dry while I’m here.”

The dryer stopped.

“Ned, would you be a dear?”

Ned sighed, ever the domestic. As he opened the door he began folding Vinnie’s worrisome number of knee length loose knit hoodies. The basement was half utilities, half fitness. Among the heater, water heater, washer, fusebox and dryer was a stairmaster, punching bag and weight bench. Ned suddenly remembered Vinnie and his three chins. None of him had ever even deemed to lean upon gym equipment. The camera was very discrete but Ned was sure it existed.

“Can we get back to the part where you are now taking dance lessons with a man you met in a prize fight?”

“Do we have to?”

“Yes.”

“Alright, from the beginning. I accidentally broke off the letters on your Buick while being victim of a judo flip during my pursuit of justice. I had to get it fixed before you found out.”

“You had to fix the decals on my fifteen year old Buick, so you decided to try your hand at mixed martial arts in order to get the hundred bucks needed.”

“Well, it wasn’t exactly my first time. They had the promotion ready for me. Really rolled out the red carpet.”

“Which led to a giant troll about to pummel you?”

“To be fair, I had similar intentions.”

“That I don’t doubt but what I’m wondering about is why did they put you up against him if he had two feet on you and over a hundred pounds.”

“I was sort of undefeated when I left last time.”

“Ah. Do we at least know the date and time of said dance lesson.”

“I left it on your cellphone’s calendar.”

“Which you did because…” The answer was so damn obvious that Ned just stopped asking. He turned to Donna’s plying pleading smile. “Which you did because I’m taking you.”

“Sorry.”

“Oh no, no, you did at least make sure I didn’t have previous engagements right?”

“Yep.”

“Good. I’ve got one last question.”

“Yes?”

“Why do you do this?”

“This?”

“The judo flips, the swan dives out the window, all of it.”

She filled ten seconds with thought.

“Because I think I can help.”

“Good enough, I guess. Is the tank full?”

“Um, no.”

“That doesn’t surprise me.”

Donna Vs. Goliath

 

Donna was drinking water but the crowd was still loosing it. Outside the cage, they were ten rows deep and screaming for blood. She remembered when this was all new and exciting.

It was all because she wrecked Ned’s car in an argument with a thug. If that thug didn’t know judo, Donna wouldn’t have BUICK imprinted on her back and she wouldn’t have to rush to get it fixed before Ned came home. So she ended up back in underground cage fighting. The purse was $3000. which if her memory served her meant that she would come home with $1250. It was billed as Donna vs Goliath. Her opponent did not disappoint. Round 1 had been Hell.

Round 2.

Back and to the left, Donna was moving into his past while the hulking bastard was making hay with his southpaw. She made a quick couple of ax kicks that he barely registered . She had originally planned a series of rabbit punches, but it quickly became clear this was a game of evasion on her part. Being that she stood a head less than his shoulders and weighed a quarter his mass, she had to keep her distance.

His right came down with a jab and she feinted to the left, a breath from a broken nose. With as much force as he exuded just to move, momentum was a problem for him. He watched the future unfold as he passed her. There was a push to his shoulder and suddenly he was tumbling. She felt sorry, impotence was something she was acquainted with.

On his knees, he wasn’t screaming but his face was filled of agony. The obviously reset nose, the large loud scars revealed by a receding hairline, the two front teeth missing: it all spoke of a man that has been beaten before. Gravity was an enemy of his and getting really friendly with arthritis. Regardless of the pain, he was getting up and Donna was frozen, wishing she was smart enough to remember to tap.

He bounded towards her and the whole damn warehouse shook. He came with the exact same jab. She would have been offended but she was to busy being assaulted. The force knocked her backwards like a Hollywood bullet. Her head came down first at a just wrong angle. The blood started to pool out. The match was over and the gate opened. The doctor checked her pulse and then promptly ran like a bat out of hell.

When you have a death in these sort of things, it is best to leave quickly. Dead bodies are no fun and neither is prison. Most of the people did just that. Someone was nice enough to give Ted his money, well throw it at him. The cheap briefcase exploded on his back but he didn’t feel it. He was staring down at a dead woman he was assured could take care of herself. She was just a little thing, he was such an idiot. Ted realized he had killed again.

“Damn.” Damn meant the world.

“Orange juice” The voice was sleepy and half there.

“What?”

Donna propped herself up slightly in order to reiterate. Ted was watching something incredible.

“I’m s’posed to get orange juice and a cookie.” She fell back to the cement.

‘Sure, sure, oh god, how are you?”

“Terrible, in need of food, drink.”

“I meant how are you… never mind what I meant.” There was something wired in Ted that had a bias towards requests especially requests from the recently deceased. He turned to find bills scattered across the floor. He quickly started shoving them into the now non locking briefcase. He looked back at her with an epiphany.

“Do you want to learn how to dance?”

“No dance. Food.”

“I’ll split the purse.”

“Fine, food first. Dance later.”

Ted ran to his hatchback hoping that she wouldn’t extinguish before he got her orange juice.

From Coital to Hero

First thing to go was her shoes, then her purse fell in a heap on a dining room chair. Ned followed close behind removing articles with hell bent speed. Gawkily the two collapsed into a love seat, mid strip. A sudden epiphany hit Donna and she weaseled out from under him promising, that it was just foreplay. Donna rushed into the bathroom to remove the pair of thunder panties that had gotten her through the night. She heard something odd and found herself walking back in the living room.

“Shit!”

The tell tale hollow clink of an aluminum bat echoed all the way up to Ned’s third story apartment. In the night, in the street, bad men worked their trade on a poor boy who had the gall to say no. Donna could not stay still. Ned went to call 911 but the line was busy. Donna had a more drastic solution. She went to her purse and wrote a check for five hundred dollars. Then she walked ten paces back from the wall and lined herself up with a large window facing the street.

She sighed. It was a very nice window but none the less there was a job to do. With fists forward she took a running jump through the window. Ned turned just in time to see his girlfriend plummet to the ground. With the grace of a rock, she belly flopped onto asphalt three floors down. The crack of glass had turned every one’s head. Donna slowly rose. Glass stuck out of her hands, already brown and black with blood. In front of her, a bottle of bourbon laid shattered on the ground. She smiled as she stepped into it.

There before the North Oakland Boyz, toughest guys on the east side, stood a pale white pixie of a girl wearing thunder panties and a sports bra with glass sticking out of her extremities. She was tensing and showing muscles. The weed they had been apparently very strong… yesterday. After a second to digest the surreal image, she loosed a smile both gleeful and like a wolf. Four against one, songs have been made about that.

First came Frankie with a shiny slugger aimed straight for Donna’s head. Donna blocked with her right arm, momentarily breaking the appendage. With a fist full of glass, she struck Frankie’s chin. That sent him to the ground. Terry was next, he had himself a little knife and a simple plan. He went to her gut and there his knife stayed. She swung her miraculous right arm in a sloppy hay maker and knocked Terry cold and bloody. With a sucking of breath she pulled the knife out.

“Got me a knife.” She spoke joyously.

Tate wasn’t scared though. Tate was a big man with his gun. The fancy little 9 mm popped three times, each one landing right in center mass. She dropped to her knees and crumbled on the ground. The sirens were closing in on the block. Tate, Frankie and Luke left Terry on the ground along side Donna. Ned came racing towards the body of his surely dead girlfriend. He mumbled vague prayers as he cradled her.

“Hey Ned, did the kid leave?”

“I think so.” He was shocked and still sure he was talking to a dead woman.

“Good.” With a grunt she rose back to her feet and inspected herself. A ruined undershirt, destroyed socks and a broken window. All together the night cost her five hundred and five dollars, not bad as far as these things go.

“What the hell just happened?”

“Remember when I said I was nothing special?”

He stared up at the small woman towering above his two meter frame.

“Yeah, I lied.”

Last Sacred Curse

“Damn.”

The d sounded as a cough and was followed by a quiet end. When Ted said damn it was the world. He could say fuck, shit and even cunt but damn meant it all went wrong. Damn was the last sacred curse to Ted and he kept as holy and untouched as he could. But damn, everything had gone wrong. It wasn’t enough to just break down, Ted had to go and break the law.

An armored car was stopped in the middle of the street. There were four security guards on the ground with well broken shins. On the sidewalk some eight paces from the car the back door hand landed with sizable dent in the surrounding cement. Ted was leaving slowly but unhindered by on lookers. Ted had bills to pay and a bullet in his shoulder.

He had tried to be gentle and to certain degree he was successful. Not one of the guards died. Horribly broken but bones tend to mend. There was no certainty that any one of the guards would fully recover but Ted could only care so much about those who weren’t his. Worry was a currency spread thin in multiple investments.

Despite, Ted’s strength he was always getting squeezed. This time it was about the money owed for Verna’s broken leg. Last time, it was to stop a guy from breaking Verna’s leg. Ted’s life would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic. The money was now gone, gone to crooks every buck but Ted would get his ten percent sure enough. You don’t put a guy like Ted in too tight of a corner. Risking your life on his ability to be rational was a losing wager.

He lumbered on northwards towards healing hands. The bullet hurt but Ted knew it would and nothing about it was surprising. He was able to relegate to the back of his mind where he kept dance steps he was too clumsy to perform. He thought of the waltz, creating a mental metronome and then a pace. The art of waltzing was amazingly just out of his grasp. He was born with two left feet and each could lift 200 pounds.

Dr. Hatim Gonzales MVD was smoking a cigarette outside The Cottage Home Animal Clinic. Out of a shrub he saw a lumbering beast emerge. He sighed realizing that Ted had of course, been shot. This was another lunch break he wasn’t getting back.

Broken Things

Eight shots short of the bottle and Ted was feeling vulnerable. It had never occurred to him that such a thing could be. Ted was usually less broken, more breaking. Ted was an awesome breaker and could very well break any damn thing put in front of him. He broke hips, he broke promises and he broke marriages. Nothing was sacred to his clumsy hands and dull witless instinct. It was his gift, just like the fruit of the month and the five bucks the boys at work gave him last year. The glass came down harder than it should and a seizing fire overtook his right hand. A shot of rye was mingling with his blood as the glass was jutting out of his hand. Just another broken thing.

“Jesus buddy, get thee to a doctor.” The bartender said with genuine concern.

“Thee doctor costs too much and I’ll heal just fine.”

Gingerly Ted pulled the shards of glass out of his hand and placed them on the bar napkins. Then with great care he reached with two unsoiled fingers into his wallet and pulled out his credit card. The bartender almost wretched but cooler capital prevailed. Business being business, the bartender swiped the card and gave him a towel. Ted gladly took it wrapping his right hand tightly.

With a grunt and a push, Ted was out the heavy door and deep in twenty degree moonless midnight. Awkwardly, he stumbled through dark alleys. Ted was missing his better half and walking lopsided in her absence. It seemed that for every ounce of grace that Ted lacked, Verna had. Verna was fair skinned and fairly logical but entangled in an unfair romance. Despite all his practice, all his yearning, Ted can’t dance and Verna can’t stop.

Ted forgot and they waltz. Inevitably, Ted hurts Verna. Suddenly, he’s rushing to the hospital behind an ambulance. Luckily, it was just a broken foot but the old questions popped back up. Ted had too many accidents and Verna had too many bruises. Before long Ted cowered away from the hospital, down deep into a bar where no one ever cared. The ugly insinuations and cruel whispers were just too much. If Ted could dance, then maybe the world wouldn’t be so mean. Ted could dream of such thing at least.

A woman screamed and every ounce of self pity Ted had faded to the back of his mind. The lunk put the distance between him and her behind him as fast as humanly possible. A yellow lamp hung over a bad scene that was getting worse. A man stood above a winded woman lying on the ground. The man had a gun and cut on his temple. The woman had less than a minute. Ted didn’t stop long enough to register any implications except the imminent death of someone who needed him.

Hoping to distract the gunman, Ted screamed. With his bloody right Ted made a fist and punched. The thug turned and met Ted’s fist in the cheek. For a cruel five seconds, the thug stayed erect trying desperately to breathe. The two vertebrae sticking out of his neck made living just too hard and he fell over, just so much meat. Ted felt sweat bead all over as he sat down on the ground. The woman was still but crying, fearful of the god awful spectacle she had beheld.

“Another damn broken thing.” Ted muttered to himself.