Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler

 

premature fiction

Grady’s pt. 3

Adderley whispers over a fork full of dripping, syrup sodden pancakes, “He’s still crying.”

Oliveri replies quietly, ignoring his intern’s whisper, “Yeh. He’s in pretty bad shape.” He loads the corner of his wheat toast with egg and leans over to take a bite before it all ends up back on his plate.

Chew. Gulp. Chew. “Why?”

A sip of coffee and the memory of his wife’s patient face reminding him to be more patient and kind than he thought wise. “He’s exhausted, Adderley. And…”

“What?”

“I don’t know. Maybe there’s more to Perry than we thought.” And they continue eating in silence.

From the front of the diner the sound of Grady ringing up one of the customers and then Perry clear, loud, and sharp, “You son of a bitch.”

Mr. Buedall, the well dressed real estate agent replies a little shocked, “What?”

Oliveri turns around in time to see Perry stepping back off his stool. “I called you a son of a bitch. Maybe you oughta clean the shit out of your ears before you sit down to breakfast, asshole.”

Above the grumblings and come on Perrys passing along the breakfast counter, Buedall says “I think you have me confused with some one else, friend.”

“I ain’t your friend. You’re the developer, right? Real Estate man? Bue-dall.”

“Yes.”

“Then I say you’re a son of a bitch, asshole.”

It was a threat and everyone wants to know what Buedall will do about it. Maybe if Oliveri could see the split second of panic in the realtor’s eyes as he sizes up the situation – three city council members including himself, a large German man to his right behind the counter, a Brenlee city cop behind Perry, and a Volunteer Fireman between them – he would hear something besides sureness in his slow, careful reply. “I’m not the one covered in shit, cowboy.”

Perry looks down at his own boots and stomps his right one so that pieces of dried mud and shit fall over the linoleum tile. When he looks up again, Oliveri sees the flourescent light glistening against the streaks of tears on the cowboy’s cheeks, betraying something painful behind the broad smile he wears. “You’re funny. Ain’t he funny, Andy?”

Andy says nothing, only puts up his open hand. The Volunteer fireman is as clean and fresh-faced as Perry is dirty and tired. His jeans and his pale yellow golf shirt look new. There is little of note about Andy Currie. Oliveri has never bothered to figure out why and how Andy is in Brenlee in the first place, but like most people he feels generally glad he is around. Andy fits here.

And then Perry’s boots shuffle quickly against the floor as he prepares to run at Buedall. Andy stands in his way, putting his hands on the cowboy’s chest. Oliveri catches Hernandez’s face out of the corner of his eye as it happens. He looks like someone who has chosen incorrectly in a game of three card monte.
Perry yells, “Don’t you fuckin’ touch me Andy.”

“Easy Perry. Relax.”

“Fuck you.” And Perry hits Andy with an uppercut to the gut and then comes down hard with more elbow than fist across the taller man’s face as he bends over in reaction to the blow to his stomach. Perry could push him aside and go for Buedall, but instead he rears back in order to kick Andy’s legs out from under him. As the Volunteer Fireman goes down, Perry doesn’t seem entirely surprised to feel Hernandez grab his arms from behind and shove him against the counter.

“Good work, Hernandez.” Buedall doesn’t bother to hide his relief. Oliveri smiled.

“Get him out of here.” Grady is truly disgusted.

Before Andy can get up and before anyone can say or do anything more, Hernandez pushes the cowboy toward the door. As they pass the register, Perry twists around with a strength that surprises Hernandez. He lurches toward Buedall, “Just ’cause I didn’t get to hit ya’, don’t think I like ya’. Asshole.” And he spits in the realtor’s face.

Hernandez yanks him away hard, pushing him into and through the door before the realtor can return the favor.

When Andy returns to his seat to take an ice pack from Grady, Perry is in the back of the squad car laughing or crying, it’s hard to tell which from inside. Hernandez returns. He leaves money near the register and tells the restaurant, “If anyone wants to press charges just come on down to the station later and fill out a report. Meanwhile, I’ll lock him up until he sleeps this off.”

It is Andy’s voice that stops him on his way out, mangling his words past the towel full of ice on his face, “He isn’t drunk.”

Hernandez turns and looks at the Volunteer Fireman. Another man would reach for words and maybe succeed in putting all these men at ease. Hernandez didn’t have those words. Not today, anyway. But Andy sees into the officer’s eyes. They catch him off guard and he looks away. Hernandez leaves the diner and takes Perry, laughing, crying, or both into the police station.