So Gary’s getting fucked up tonight and I mean that in the worst way possible. Cindy left him again. This time he says for some asshat accountant, and Gary is drinking enough to give an elephant’s liver trouble. “Tim,” he tells me, “You know what your fucking problem is?”
I bite. “No Gary, What is my problem?”
“You bitch and you whine about all these women you meet and criticize them for tiny shit that only you care about.” He stops and takes a shot of Daniels. I don’t know if he’ll continue on this path or jump back to Cindy and the asshat accountant. “Like that girl Amber,” he says, “So she had sex with a dog once for money.” The bartender walks to the other end of the bar. “Hell, I’d have sex with a dog - an ugly one too - if you paid me enough.”
“That’s great, Gary.” I say. “You want me to give Amber a call? Maybe I could hook you up with her and a goddamn schnauzer.”
“Schnauzer’s are fucking ugly.” He says. We order another round. Forty minutes later Gary is opening his jean jacket and showing me his pistol. It’s a little 9mm that’s black with a beat up barrel. I thank God he’s not drunk enough to take the thing out and throw it on the bar for everyone to see. “Bought it for protection and shit,” He says. He giggles after he says and shit like it’s a secret code, and it kinda is, ’cause I know exactly what he means.
“Don’t go fucking kill Cindy and that asshat accountant.” I say. “You’ll just go to prison.” Gary pulls his jean jacket shut and tries to button it. He looks at me like I’m that guy who backstabbed Caesar.
“You gonna go tell the cops?” He says. He has three of the buttons done, but two of them are in the wrong holes.
“No” I tell him. “But you’re too fucked up to drive. Let me do that.” He eyes me with what might be suspicion or maybe he’s so drunk he’s already forgotten what I’ve said and doesn’t want me to realize it. Either way, he agrees. My plan is to drive around till he passes out.
It’s a long walk to Gary’s car. We couldn’t park anywhere near the bars since it’s a Friday, and the place was crowded before we arrived. We walk through a few dark alleys. There's a faint thumping sound off ahead. I hardly notice it at first. We parked at Holy Trinity Church. The cathedral stands over us, and I look up at the tower with the stained glass pictures of the Saints. I don’t know which ones they are. The moonlight shines in the glass, and they glow like magic is flowing through them. It creeps me out. There aren’t many other cars in the church lot. It’s why we park here on Friday nights.
We get closer to the car and a beating sound is all around us. “Thump… Thump Thump.” It goes on. I‘ve got whiskey vision, and I imagine Gary does too. We just keep walking towards his car and pretend the sound is normal. I look up at the Saints. Their moonlight magic remains stuck in the glass.
I’m not sure how far away from his car we are when we realize the sound is some bum whacking at Gary's Buick with half a brick. Gary runs at the guy yelling. I follow. “What the fuck you doing?” Gary says. The bum keeps up his rhythm. He’s dressed in a camo jacket and sick baggy jeans the color of dried mud. He smells like pus. Gary grabs his shoulder and spins him around. The guy looks past us. “You trying to steal my car, you homeless fuck?” Gary says. The driver’s side door of Gary’s old Buick is beat to shit. Gary takes a moment to survey the damage too. Inside in the passenger’s seat I see a bag of weed. The bum turns his head back towards the bag. Before I can stop him, Gary pulls the 9mm out and holds it at the back of the bum‘s head. “Fuck you and fuck Cindy.” He says. The hood of the car gets the worst of it. I look up to the Saints. The moonlight is hidden behind black clouds.
The dead man rides in the back seat because Gary refuses to take his golf clubs out of the trunk. I can see the bum’s chest and hands in the rearview mirror. Outside the car Gary is cleaning up the last of the blood with little towels and dirty napkins he had laying on the floor of the Buick. I can't see the Saints in the stained glass. The tower's peak dissipates into the night sky. I feel something watching me in the dark over the cathedral. “What if someone saw that?” I say.
“No one saw shit.” Gary says.
I wonder if I’m an accessory to the murder. I didn’t try to stop him and Gary would lie his ass off to the police. Maybe even tell them I did it. I got a DUI already. The first thing out of Gary’s mouth after he shot the guy was, “We’re taking him to the river. No one will find this fucker in the Mississippi.”
Gary climbs into the passenger seat. He looks back at the dead man and smiles at me like he’s a little boy who's shot his first deer. “Goddamn, if I didn’t show him.” Gary says. I see my face in the rearview mirror. I look like I’m going to vomit, cry, or both. “Don’t pussy out on me.” Gary says. “You gotta drive this goddamn car.” I lean back in the seat, and take a few long breaths that reach down to my belly. After a few moments, I nod to Gary and start the car. That’s when it happens.
“That you?” I say to Gary.
“Not me.” Gary says. I wonder if it’s me and I’m just too dumbstruck to realize it. But I know it’s not. I know what it is, and I don’t want to say it.
“You ever heard of a dead man getting a case of the hiccups before?” Gary says. I tell him no. “Well, fuck. We outta call Guinness Book of World Records. This is probably a goddamn first.” In the rearview mirror I look at the bum in the backseat.
His body tremors as it comes out of him. It isn’t natural. I wonder if the Saints told God and now he’s punishing us for killing this man in God’s own parking lot. I share this with Gary. “That’s fucked up. God doesn’t have time for this shit.” Gary says. I wonder if it’s the devil then. Or the bum’s ghost. Gary tells me I sound like a Scooby Doo episode. We stop talking for awhile, and I keep driving.
I drive through as many red lights as possible. It feels like something is following us, but I can’t tell what. No cars have been behind us for too long, but I‘ve still felt something behind us since we left the cathedral‘s parking lot. Gary’s radio was stolen a few weeks ago, so it's a quiet trip. On top of that his headlights burned out and he never replaced them. Tonight’s a drive through paradise, that’s for sure.
Every time it happens I imagine it’s sending out a signal to whatever is following us. I’m not being paranoid. I can feel something behind us. The hiccups are leading it. I say this to Gary. “No…” he says. “That isn’t how it works.” But his voice sounds uncertain.
We’re ten miles from the bridge. The lack of headlights is starting to affect us. We’re out of the city, and the roadside lights are almost nonexistent in this area. The hiccups are coming six or seven times a minute. After each one I feel that thing following us getting closer. It’s like Marco Polo. We’re treading water in the deep end and eventually it will find us and pull us under till we drown.
The bridge has roadside lights at both ends. The middle is dark. The Mississippi has a low mist gliding over it tonight. My hands are shaking as I park the car at the side of the bridge entrance. “I’ll get the rocks to put in his pockets. You just try to stay cool.” Gary says. After awhile I get out of the car.
“Sorry Mr. Bum,” I say. “Please know that. And please tell whatever it is you’re sending signals to not to kill us.”
Gary’s got a handful of rocks and is yelling at me to open the backseat door. I open the backdoor for him and he puts the rocks in the bum's pockets. We each take an end of him and carry him to the center of the bridge. My whole body tremors as he hiccups. We toss him over. It was that simple. There is a splash and we wait over a minute, but we hear no more hiccups. I gaze at the water of the Mississippi as it continually washes downstream. It is not the same river from moment to moment. It's always changing. I tell this to Gary.
"That's stupid." He says. "Of course it's the same river."
"No it isn't." I say. "Not after its had a corpse thrown into it." The lights at both ends of the bridge flashed then extinguished. The darkness was all around us then.