Fiction: In the Rain
By Roger Rensvold
I hadn’t planned on stopping anywhere in Mississippi, but I had to get my Harley off the road. The rain was blinding. It was an air mass thunderstorm, typical of late summer, and I knew it would pass quickly.
The bar, named The Rotten Stump, was three miles outside Smegma. There were five junker trucks in the parking lot; no cars or bikes. It looked shabby but dry.
The place was dark, which suited me. It stank of stale beer and cigarette smoke, which didn’t; my sense of smell is painfully acute. Interior décor was Rural White Trash: red and white check plastic tablecloths, seats with cracked upholstery, neon beer signs, pool table. A drift of five crackers in feed company gimme caps and grimy work pants were clustered around one end of the bar, chatting with the bored barmaid.
I dropped my helmet into a booth, hung my wet jacket over the end of the bench, and headed for the men’s room to dry myself with some paper towels. On the way, I waved to the barmaid, and called out “A Coors, please!” She looked at me, did a double-take, and acknowledged the order with a nod.
A draft was waiting when I came back. It was cool rather than cold, and a bit flat; I would not have wanted to see the mug in brighter light. I took a sip, looked around, and noticed the conversation at the bar had changed. Heads were closer together, the talk was more intense, and I noticed furtive glances in my direction. Two men were staring at me in the bar mirror. Why do people think a reflected stare won’t be noticed? I considered leaving, but gusty wind was lashing torrential rain against the window. The storm was directly over us.
One of the caps heaved himself off a barstool and headed toward me. *Oh shit.* He was six feet tall, three hundred pounds of beef and gut. He had an ugly smile on his round, red porcine face. Three of his companions trailed him.
“Hey, Dude,” he said. I couldn’t pretend he wasn’t talking to me.
“Hey,” I replied.
“Yuh know, we got nothin’ ‘ginst black folks ‘round here,” he began. One of the other men took him by the arm. “C’mon, Buddy, you know we don’t want no trouble.”
Buddy shrugged him off. “I ain’t startin’ no trouble. I just feel the need to say somethin’ here.” Turning back to me; “Like I say, we got nothin’ ‘ginst black folks ‘round here but fuck me if you ain’t the ugliest black man I ever seen. When you was born, did the doctor slap yo’ momma?”
I put my beer down and stared. Buddy’s three companions had him by the arms and shoulders, whispering frantically. They sensed something bad was about to happen. So did I. *Let it go,* I thought, but had a sick feeling I wouldn’t be able to.
I said, “You’re a brave man. It takes one to insult a stranger’s mother.” Beneath the table, my fingers and toes were twitching.
“A brave man, or a drunk one,” one of his buddies nervously interjected. To Buddy; “C’mon, don’t start. Have another beer.”
Buddy turned away but left one last statement hanging in the air. “With those big ears and flat nose, you look like a fuckin’ monkey.”
They returned to the bar, where the barmaid had set up fresh drafts. Relief was in the air. Buddy, though, continued to stare at me in the bar mirror. I stared steadily back, my blood boiling.
After a minute I drained my glass, left money on the table, stood up, donned my jacket, picked up my helmet and headed toward the men’s room, clearly intending to pee before hitting the road again. As I walked, I stared steadily at Buddy who, predictably, slipped off his barstool and followed me. “Gonna go change my beer,” I heard him say.
The toilets were on the left side of the short dingy hall. On the right side, a red EXIT sign burned over the back door. I paused in front of the men’s room. When Buddy entered the hall, I pivoted and went out the back door. He followed.
The rain had almost stopped. I put on my helmet and turned to face Buddy, six feet behind me. “Ya got sumpin’ ya wanna say ta me, ya ugly mothafucka?”
“Yes, I do. I want to clarify something. I’m not a monkey, I’m a chimpanzee.”
“What the fuck?” Buddy laughed, tentatively.
“Half human, half chimp. A recombinant DNA experiment. Cosmetically, the results were unfortunate, but the main goal was achieved. I have a chimp muscles. I’m six times stronger than you are.”
Buddy had slipped his right hand into his jacket. It came out with a pistol, but before he could aim it, I’d bridged the gap between us, slapped it out of his hand, and seized his wrists, immobilizing them. “I also have chimp reflexes.” Buddy stared. “But most of all, I have chimp instincts. We protect our troop. Your fatal mistake was insulting my mother. When I was born the doctors didn’t slap her. They had to euthanize her.”
I kicked Buddy hard in the balls. As he bent over, gaping and goggle-eyed, I seized his head and rotated it 180 degrees. A crunch, and he collapsed.
As a finishing touch, I retrieved his pistol from a puddle and shoved it into his gaping mouth, butt first, and straightened his caste-marker cap.
I left him there, belly down in the wet parking lot, dead eyes staring straight up into the drizzle, his pistol sticking out like a chrome tongue.
I suppressed a victorious hoot, walked around to the front of the bar where my bike was waiting, and rode away. Another episode in my complicated life.
Roger Rensvold has had an eventful life. During his 20 years as an Army aviator flying both helicopters and airplanes, he spent two years in Vietnam and six in Cold War Europe, where he acquired a German wife. His duties included combat aviator, instructor pilot, instrument flight examiner, and experimental test pilot. After retiring, he earned a PhD in management and spent another 20 years in academia, including nine years in Hong Kong during the Chinese handover. He’s written peer-reviewed research papers and flight test reports, but this is the first fiction he’s written – or so he hopes.