by Harold Wayne Bowman
If there was
ever a man destined to go to hell, it was Tom Small. His last name fit because
he was short, five-four, but it didn't fit his muscle mass and shoulder
width. He was as wide as he was tall. He got testosterone poisoning before
any of us. He had a beard in the sixth grade. People called him Tank behind
his back. He didn't like the name so I didn't even think it. Fighting was
Tank's, uh, Tom's favorite form of leisure. His second favorite pastime
was knocking girls up. He started popping cherries when he was ten. He lost
track of all his "little bastards," as he called them, by the
time he was sixteen. That was probably the best thing for them. He dropped
out of school to become a thug.
Against my better judgment, I agreed to hang out with some of my friends at the gas station down by the Casket Company. It was a great place to kill some time shooting craps and "play fighting." Play fighting was a real enough fight; we just didn't get mad at each other. When the fights were over we had black eyes, missing teeth, lots of cuts, and big laughs. I was getting to the point I didn't want to do it much anymore. I thought of myself as more of a lover than a fighter. The truth is, guys like Tom could kill me in a play fight.
I was the first to get there. Tom was second.
I must have registered my fear and loathing because Tom asked, "What's wrong? Somebody give you some shit to carry round?"
"Naw," I said. "I just got gas."
He pulled a paper bag out of his pocket, squeezed in some Tester's glue, and took a long breath from it.
"Here, this always helps me when I got gas." He handed me the bag.
I waved him off, but I could see it was going to piss him off so I took a drag just to keep from getting my ass kicked. It was time for all the girls to get off work. We liked to ogle them and shout how much we'd like to do stuff to them as they road by on buses. Tom took the first bus.
He yelled, "I'd eat a mile of your shit just to see where it comes from," at this girl. Her boyfriend popped up and gave Tom the finger. Mistake! Big MISTAKE! That asshole should not have baited Tom. Tom almost took his head off when he punched out the bus window. He always carried brass knuckles in his leather vest pocket. That's what he had on his hand when he hit the window. He carried a knife in one boot and a straight razor in the other, a .22 in his back pocket, a sap stuffed down his pants. I guess he felt like it made his dong look longer or thicker or something.
I knew when the dickhead gave Tom the finger it was going to hit the fan. Tom was like a crack head; only he didn't have to do crack. He sprang off the sidewalk like a devil possessed. When he popped that window, Fingerman looked like a deer in the headlights. For a split second I thought the window was going to hold, but it didn't. The window cracked like ice when you whack it with a hammer. In that second stuck in time Tom seemed to hang in the air. Wham! Surprise Fingerman. Sucker punch got a new definition that night. Fingerman's eyes closed like in prayer before he disappeared off the seat.
The bus driver slammed on the breaks, which threw Tom forward. I heard his arm break, but it didn't slow him down. He was back on his feet and through the door of the bus. In the blink of an eye Tom was on Fingerman. The Finger followed by man came sailing out the bus window. He landed face down on the sidewalk in front of me. Tom was out the window headfirst on top of that stupid bastard before I could blink. I jumped back and fell on my ass. The bus driver came off the bus, but turned back as soon as he met Tom's evil eyes. He almost squealed tires getting out of there.
When Tom started pounding the guy's head on the sidewalk I knew he intended to kill him. Blood splattered my face. Every time his head hit the ground I got sprayed. One big spurt clouded both my eyes. I jumped up and ran at the silhouette I knew was Tom and his victim. When I stumbled into him he went berserk. The next thing I knew I was on the ground beside Fingerman. Tom was a savage ball of fury. When my head hit the pavement the first time I knew I was living the last seconds of my life. I felt my cheekbone break the second time I hit the sidewalk. The third time my nose shattered and the blood gushed out in torrents. Black and yellow moments filled my brain. A few seconds or days or minutes or hours later red and white pulsing lights replaced the yellow haze and I vomited violently.
The last thing I remembered was two loud cracks. A heavy weight landed on my chest. Everything went black and that was that. I lived and I've never had another fight in the thirty-five years since then.
Looking back on it now, I'm glad I stepped in though, ultimately, it didn't save Fingerman or Tom. Tom probably took over hell. That is the reason I am trying so hard to be good. I don't want to have to kill any more time with Tank, uh, Tom.
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