September Writing Contest: Breakfast at the Mad Cow
This month's contest asked our writers to create a 1500-word story story around...seasons! Just in time for the start of fall, all stories were to be set in a specific season and have a direct affect on the story.
Breakfast at the Mad Cow
by Thomas Brown
The ringing from the alarm, the hammering between the two bells, went off, and I cursed the glare biting at the edges of the blackout curtains. I was certain, as certain as I was of my name ( though that wasn’t a guarantee) that it was Saturday.
There was only a single season waiting behind the curtains. Hot and it close cousin scorching fucking hot didn’t give us a second season. What was I doing up? Masochism? Did I set the alarm just to fuck with myself?
No appointments until that night. A marital issue to resolve, something saucy and nasty that likely to leave the woman I was working for just this side of fiery inferno when she saw the shots I pulled down.
At least that was the gig. The plan.
It also meant that Lola would not be in this morning to work the phone, to buzz the door, to tell people to fuck off, that they had the wrong damned door, that I wasn’t their guy. I didn’t do that kind of work, no matter what they heard.
I dig up the stuff that makes you feel dirty on the inside, not the things that make your hands red on the outside.
Don’t much care what anyone else has heard.
My legs roll over the side of the bed and my big toe hangs out of what feels like a thousand year old socks that I refuse to throw away, and touches what should be a cold wood floor. But there is a warmth to it. A rare benefit to my home.
I grab the bottle from the nightstand and pour a pale shot of rye. The aroma wasn’t enticing, but my senses all locked on it as I let it hover for a second. It burned at my nose, made my eyes water, and Pavlov’s dog doesn’t have a damned thing on me. I rocked the shot back and fought the heat as it coats my empty stomach.
I grab the other little killer from the nightstand, an unfiltered Maverick, and tapped the pack a couple of times and felt the paper touch my lips. The lighter sparked and took a long draw of death as I left my bedroom. Tiny daggers of cancer filled my lungs and throat, and I went dry and raspy as I blew the first thick cloud from my nostrils.
It swirled around, caught up by the fan over head that never turned off. Not sure I knew how to turn it off, honestly.
Socks, boxers, and a cigarette. What now? Goddamned clock.
I looked at myself in the mirror as I let the ash grow too damned long, my mind wandering, wondering what the fuck I had done to get to this very moment. Then I smile at myself and ash in the damned sink.
“It was absolutely fucking worth it.”
A shave, a clean shirt, forever un-ironed and looking slept in (it was my look) and I pulled on the trench and matching fedora. I went to the table to make sure I had some balance in my pockets. A roll of nickels for my left pocket (I’ve got small hands, but the nickels aren’t for spending), a twelve ounce spring loaded black jack for my right. They aren’t redundant, trust me.
Wendy sat on the table, the low light of the hazy room reflecting off her nickel plated sheen. A S&W .357 eight round revolver that sat uncomfortably in the small of my back. I picked her up, and we gave each other a warm good morning and I snapped her to my belt. My pockets filled with the rest of what I would need for the day, smokes, a zippo, money, keys, notebook (never know when you needed to write something down) and that was it.
My stomach rolled as a wave of heat hit me on the street and I hated myself one more time for not just rolling over and pretending to not being alive. The thought was amusing, alone.
Thankful I didn’t have far to trudge. Down an alley, across a street, down another alley, and there was my home away from home, my other office, “The Mad Cow”.
The art was of a bleeding steer’s head angled off the door that descended deeper into the ground. It was as uninviting as could be. Dark even during the brightest of days, ancient worn brick with a blackened steel door that seemed hammered from a single piece of molten metal meant to ward against… what?
My imagination always got the better of me when I touched the cold steel, no matter how much heat filled the surrounding alleyway. “The Mad Cow” and its door resisted the world around it. Maybe that was why I liked it so much.
Thirty feet into the ground is what it took for the darkness and the cold to take me. A chill ran over my skin that felt so damned good. Frank was crooning from the speakers. There was a stage at the far end of the club and he came and sang a sad song on. It was what he did, after all. We never talked, just nodded to each other. It was enough.
But he wasn’t in, just on. There were maybe five or six others in the shadows of the booths and tables. No one was at the bar and I sat in the middle, eating it up. She heard me sit down and came from the back.
Short black hair in random spikes and blackout eyes, her ears pierced more times than seemed reasonable. She was forever punk, always making me feel old, which she knew.
Trix smiled at me and shook her head.
“You aren’t a morning kind of guy. What the here?”
“Yeah. I don’t have anything until tonight. But something brought me to your beautiful smiling face,” I replied.
The compliment drew a bright, sharp smile.
“Hmmm. Eggs over hard. Steak bloody or bricked?”
There was no in between, not with her cook. “Bloody.”
“Johanes, wake up! Stop dreaming of witches and stakes, time to work!”
I heard the cook grumble as Trix busted his chops, not knowing the story, always curious. Temptation made me want to hear his story, finally, when I heard glass break along with something wooden behind me.
“Make yourself useful while your food cooks,” said Trix. It looked like I was working for my meal. Good, I preferred to keep the sheets balanced, even over a meal.
A chair broke on something, maybe a person. I was more concerned about the chair than the idiot. I knew if it was just a pair of guys killing each other, she could care less.
I got to the billiards room in time to watch a pool cue get splintered on a man’s skull. He went down hard. It had started out between four fellas, but it was down to three.
I palmed the blackjack and raised my voice.
“Enough of this shit! It’s too damned early for…”
Whoa! Fast as they come, the remnants of the pool cue swung towards my head. I jerked back so fast my hat toppled from my head and spun to the floor. That steamed me. He swung back as he stepped into me and sixteen ounces of lead wrapped in leather met his hand holding the cue. Bones snapped, and the cue spun away into the shadows.
The pain was a shock to him and I saw his eyes go wide, but my down stroke didn’t give him a breath. It connected with his great overgrown jaw with a loud crack, and the floor shook as he collapsed on it.
A step back and I looked at everyone else. “Everyone else want to cool it so I can eat in peace?”
Hands went up, just having some fun, yada, yada. I nodded and went back to my seat to find my plate already waiting. Runny eggs, bloody steak, Johannes was a reliable bastard of a cook.
Three bites in and I felt the surrounding shadows towering over me, eclipsing what little light I had. I saw Trix hadn’t grabbed the shotgun under the bar. That was a bad thing.
“Let me eat, I’m not on the clock, and I work for whomever I want, so says the Boss.”
“That’s just it, this is about the Boss,” came a deep, cancer filled voice.
I spun and saw they were all red in the face and full of horns, well over seven feet tall, pale daggers for teeth. Very unhappy. I knew them all.
“So what does he want, Baphomet?”
“Not much. Someone has murdered the Lord of Lies. We require again your services Marlow.”
I got up from my seat and adjusted my hat and tapped out a smoke. One of the big guys offered me a flaming clawed finger, and I drew a long, painful breath and ignored what could or couldn’t happen.
Satan was dead, and there was every possibility we were about to get a new season in Hell.