“I think I’ve opened a can of worms, Danny.”
“Whadya mean by that?”
“I mean I’ve done something I shouldn’t have and now I don’t know what to do or what will happen or if things will ever be the same again once it all comes to light.”
“Sounds like serious shit.”
“Well, I reckon it is.”
Danny doesn’t want to ask what the something is that Earle has done. For one, it ain’t none of his business ‘less Earle wants him to know. And two, if Earle does tell him, then he’s in a shitstorm without an umbrella right along with him. So to speak. Instead, he sits at the bar where they always sit drinking their luke warm beers, Bush for Danny and Coors Light for Earle. They’re lukewarm because the cooler in this place is shot to shit and Boone, the guy that runs it, is too damn cheap to get it fixed. But, It’s the only place in town to get a drink without being tacked onto a “family” restaurant, and Boone knows people ain’t got much of a choice if they want to have a beer without drinking alone at home and still manage to avoid other people’s screamin’ young-uns. So, he can pretty much do whatever the fuck he wants without worrying much ‘bout losin’ business. Place barely stays afloat as it is ‘specially with Boone drinking a lot of the stock right by himself.
Neither Danny nor Earle say much as they finish their beers and crack open new ones. The TV in the bar is playing old reruns of Friends. Danny never cared much for the show. Seemed to him it was just a bunch of uppity ass city folk with idiotic problems they made for themselves being assholes to each other. Where’s the entertainment in that? With the sound turned down like it is now, though, it ain’t so bad. Them girls on the show had hard nipples almost every episode. It ain’t hard to look at if you don’t have to hear them all whining ‘bout shit that don’t matter. Nipples on the TV and the Allman Brothers Band playing through the bar’s half decent sound system. If the beer was cold, this place wouldn’t be half bad.
What’s a man supposed to do in these situations anyway, he wonders. Should he ask in case Earle’s in trouble? Mind his own business like his gut tells him to do? Talk shit about him to his face like them folks on the show would do? This, he thinks, this is why I stick to myself. Anytime you get other people in your life, shit gets complicated in a hurry.
He and Earle haven’t known each other too long. A couple years, he guesses. Earle, unlike most folks around here, wasn’t born in the area. He moved in for some goddamned fool reason. He never did say why, not that Danny asked, but it wasn’t such a good choice. This town, really not more than a village, ain’t exactly filled to the brim with culture unless redneck ingenuity counts for that. There’s not much in the way of opportunities either. Most people end up working in the same old jobs for 20, 30 years hatin’ it all. Danny himself has been working at the same factory putting together produce crates for 15 long, boring, far from fruitful years himself. That’s where he met Earle.
He doesn’t know much about Earle’s past except he’d moved here from Nashville. Earle didn’t know a soul in the entire town when he got here and still hasn’t really made any friends to Danny’s knowledge. They work on the same line but don’t talk much besides shooting the shit most of the day, so he really has no idea what could be goin’ on, what could be so serious that the man would be willing to even mention it. In public.
Three beers down, couple more to go.
“Ok, so here’s the deal….” Earle starts, pauses, shakes his head, and lifts his beer to his lips.
“Oh, fuck it…nevermind.”
The two of them sit and drink not talking staring at the screen of the television ignorin’ each other’s existence. Friends has changed over to something not all that different but these goons prefer a bar to a coffee house and the nipples aren’t playing their own character.
“I don’t like this garbage. “ Earle looks down the bar searching for Boone.
“You need another one already?” Boone calls from the other side of the room where he’s wiping down a recently vacated table.
“No, I need you to change this godawful fucking channel, Boone. Christ sake, do you actually watch this shit?”
“Watch your language, Earle.”
“How you gonna tell a grown man to watch his language around a buncha damn drunks? If I wanted to watch my language I’d be down at that shithole Beef O’Brady’s.”
“Just because this ain’t a family establishment don’t mean you got to be disrespectful.”
Boone still changes the channel though. He’s more amused than anything. He lives for bickering. Anybody that comes to this place knows what to expect. 5 minutes from now he’ll be letting the language fly himself.
American Pickers reruns work out just fine. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure and all that, right? Another beer down however many more to go.
Halfway through the next beer after Frank and Mike have underpaid a couple different people and argued to underpay them even more, Earle turns to me and says, “I think I’m going to kill myself.”
Danny chokes on his beer then, coughing and sputtering before weakly managing to get out a “what..?”
“Don’t die on me, bud.”
“What the fuck are you talking about, Earle?”
“Just what I said. I think I’m going to kill myself.”
Danny’s mouth attempts to work, but no words come out…only a gruntlike sound.
“Well, don’t take over the conversation there, pal. I’m only saying I might be dead soon. No need to get all chatty.”
“I don’t much know what to say here, Earle. That ain’t exactly small potatoes there, fella.”
The two of them both down the rest of their beers and ask for more. Frank and Mike have long gone from the television set before Danny actually tries to talk again.
“Why the hell would you want to do something like that? What’s this got to do with some can of worms you done opened?”
“It’s a long story, bud. Real long.”
“Well, I got the time if you do. Ain’t no point in killing yourself most likely, but can’t you at least get a second opinion?”
“I reckon so.”
But, he doesn’t. Not then. Not even after a few minutes. Another 2 beers in, though, and he talks. He talks about his ex wife, the one who left him in Nashville. He talks about his two teenaged girls, the girls he hadn’t talked to since his wife left. He talks about what made his wife leave—the affair he had with a woman he was working with, the prostitutes he paid for when he was traveling for work, and all the money he blew on whatever he wanted til they were so far in debt they lost their house not long after he lost his job. He talks about how he stalked her for awhile and how she ended up getting a restraining order after he tried to run her down with his car. He even talks about how he beat the livin’ shit out of those prostitutes when he had ‘em because that’s what got him off. It is all news to Danny who has no idea this guy sitting beside him is capable of such awfulness.
Then he says he’s been going to the city every weekend, the worst parts of town and picking up cheap women from bars or from the corner, whichever suits him. The last one he left unconscious or maybe even dead, he says, and that he partly hopes she’s dead because all women are the same. None of ‘em are worth a damn. They need to know their place. And, he thinks that he’s just going to keep doing it because it’s all he thinks about now.
He talks and talks until Danny is mostly sober and feelin’ mighty sick. Boone is ready to shut the place down and impatiently sighing at the bar when Earle asks for one more beer, the first break he’s had from talking in a good long while.
“Earle, I’m ready to get my old ass home. This’ll be the last one of the night. Period. Don’t ask me again, and make it quick.” Boone shakes his head but slides the beer down anyway and crosses his arms over his chest. He’s ready to skedaddle. So is Danny. He’s heard enough.
The two sit in silence for a few moments. Danny doesn’t really know what to say much. he wonders how he could have worked beside this man day in and day out and never known he was like this, never had an inkling he was working with more monster than man. After awhile, he finally says, “Earle, man, you need some fucking help. Like yesterday.”
“I don’t want none.”
Earle finishes his beer and both push back from the bar, but Danny stops Earle from getting up with a motion.
“I reckon you asked my opinion on the issue of killing yourself, so let me be real frank about this. If you’re not wantin’ no kind of help and you know you’re gonna keep on with it, I think you need to do the rest of the world, especially the women, a big ol’ favor and do it. It’s not a subject I take so lightly given my mama’s brother killed himself with a shotgun to the mouth a few years back, but I don’t see how a man like you should keep livin’ if you’re going to go around torturing folks who ain’t never wronged you.”
Earle looked as if he might say something more, but Danny didn’t give him much chance before he walked out leaving Earle to deal with his the shitstorm of his own creation.
Sunday Confessions!! I love Sundays. I spend days thinking about what I'll write. This time, I had no idea. This took a completely different direction at first but I backtracked, ate a ton of pickles, and went down this road. It's more deliberate than some of the stories that spill out without hesitation from brain to screen in a flood. That makes me a little more self conscious about this, but I also love dialogue-heavy stories so maybe it turned our alright. Thanks for reading!! Be sure to check out the other confessions on More Than Cheese and Beer.