7.03 / March 2012

A Man Gets Tired

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When Sally drank Sally got ugly. Didn’t matter where we were. Could’ve been at the White House for all she cared. She’d get a couple shooters in her and start speaking up. Talking shit to anyone who’d listen. Got me in a few scrapes along the way, that’s for sure. Seemed like every Friday I had to finish a fight Sally started.

Most of the time it was good old boys. Bunch of young fellas hard as chain-link fence. Drinking straight with a beer kicker at the bar. She’d see them standing there, bullshitting, and she’d walk up like she was bulletproof and tell the biggest one of the group he was a pussy.

Got to the point where I was used to it. I’d be sitting there trying to down a pitcher and I’d feel someone walking over with purpose. It wasn’t so bad if there was one or two, but they liked to travel in packs. You’d be laying into a guy and feel some hands on the back of your neck. Then you’d get worked over. Some nights I’d drag Sally home and put ice on my busted face while she passed out on the bed.

Once, I said to her, please, can you lay off?  She didn’t understand. Sober she was as sweet as a saint. I don’t know what to do, she said. I said, Hey, you’re gonna kill me. That’s what I said. You’re gonna kill me if you keep this up.

For awhile she was better. I’d get home from work on a Friday afternoon and the two of us would make a nice dinner and drink a little on the porch. Watch the neighbor kids walk around. We’d talk and things got back to normal. I was healing up and getting used to the peace and quiet.

Then she went out for drinks one night and called me close to three in the morning. Said there was trouble. I drove down and by the time I walked in there was this guy with a shaved head grabbing her by her shirt. Didn’t even have the chance to take off my jacket before she had me in it.

It got so bad I told her I couldn’t do it anymore. I said I loved her and wanted the house and babies and everything we’d talked about, but I was afraid I was gonna end up dead one of these days. It’s like Russian roulette, I said. Every time I look up there’s someone gunning for me. A man gets tired, I told her.

I know, she said. Whatever you want, baby.

So I stayed. We went back to the dinner and drinks routine. We’d eat and talk and make love. There was a point there where I had everything I ever wanted. A nice life to come home to, a good woman there to take my hat. Then the friends called and asked where the hell we’d gone. They were asking what’d happened to us and why we never went out anymore. They were drunk on the message. It was Thursday.

The next day Sally dotted on her makeup and fussed with outfits for an hour. She kept saying how much she’d been looking forward to it, getting out again. She said she was so happy just to get a night out of the house she could scream.

Harper’s was busy by the time we got there. That was our bar. On Fridays they put out a spread. Everything you could imagine. They had specials on the beer and they played music that’d set the world on fire. It was beautiful and I almost forgot all of the trouble Sally’d put me through. She was being kind and the two of us kept sneaking off to the dark parts of the bar and carrying on like a couple of kids. Beautiful. That’s what it was.

I didn’t think there could be a better time. I mean, we were all having a decent go at it. Sally and me and our friends were keeping to ourselves and minding our business. Then they walked in.

There wasn’t a doubt in my mind they’d be trouble. He was one of those fellas who wore cutoff shirts and tight jeans so he could show off the body he’d earned in the weight room. His hair buzzed just so to piss you off. He was looking for a fight. And on his arm was his girl. An over-tanned broad with the biggest fake tits you’ve ever seen.

I mean, they were massive. You could feel everyone in the place looking at them. Nobody even bothered hiding it. And the thing is, that sonuvabitch seemed to eat it up. He pulled down the top she was wearing and gave everybody a peek. A half-hour in and he was taking money from fellas for pictures.

Sally didn’t see at first. She was too busy downing her sweet and sours. That was fine by me. I knew if she looked up and saw those two that’d be all she wrote. And then she did.

What in the fuck is that? she said. She put down her drink and wiped her nose with her palm. Just who the fuck do they think they are?

I said maybe it was time to leave. Maybe we’d had enough.

No, Sally said. No, no, no. What in the fuck is that?

My buddy and me bought another round and tried to get her attention off it. That couple was at the bar. The woman had her top lifted up and the fella was telling guys to do a shot off her. Real crazy shit.

I’ll be fucked, Sally said. She had already gone through another sweet and sour and she was starting on a new one.  I’m gonna goddamn say something.

I tried to talk her down. I said, honey, just have a seat and we’ll have some drinks and a good time. But she was up at that point. A boy with red hair was resting his head on one of that woman’s giant breasts. The man was holding a camera and taking a picture.

Hey, Sally said to them. You should know I think this is bullshit.

What’s that, baby doll? the man said. What’d you say?

She said this is bullshit, the woman said with a laugh. She thinks this is bullshit.

Well, the man said. He slammed the camera down on the bar and it shattered. Fuck you, he said.

I was up there by then. Fuck you, I said. Fuck you and your goddamn doll, I said.

The man didn’t even bother squaring off. He pounced. One second he was standing there and the next he was on top of me. I’ve never seen anyone move so fast. We rolled on the floor and knocked against some chairs and tables. He was working his knee into me and butting with his head. Everywhere I turned he was hitting me.

Next thing I know I’m being held back from the bastard. I don’t remember the whole thing too good. Just a lot of elbows and teeth. The hard wood in my back. I put a hand to my swelling jaw and me and Sally ran out as the bartender screamed that the cops had been called and everyone had better get out. We listened. We packed up and left fast as we could.

I was quiet the whole way home. Sally was doing enough talking for the two of us. She was going on about the man and the woman and how disgusting she thought the whole thing was. She couldn’t believe how some people treated their women. She couldn’t believe how some women let themselves be treated. I was busy looking at all the dark houses along the way. I was thinking about all the people safe and sound asleep, happy as could be.

After we got home I helped her into the bedroom and got her clothes off her. I stripped down her jeans and had her lift her arms so I could slide her shirt off. She turned in the covers a few times ’til she was wrapped up nice and tight. She was talking as I went to the bathroom to check myself out.

It just defies explanation, she said. It defies explanation that people live like that.

I was looking at myself in the mirror. The man’s fist had dug trenches into my forehead and cheek. The bruises were growing and some blood was leaking out of a cut below my eye.

Some people, Sally said.

She got quiet. I put some spray on my hands. They were cut up and my left one felt like it was broken all the way through. No matter how I moved I hurt.

Hey, Sally said when I slipped in beside her. Hey, honey. Next week let’s stay in. Is that okay?

I tried to get comfortable and pulled the covers over my aching body.

Maybe we’ll make some dinner, she said. Fry up some bacon and do breakfast. Beat some eggs and fix some toast. I’ll make the coffee, she said. What do you want? she said. What do you want, honey?


Jared Yates Sexton is an Assistant Professor of English at Ball State University and serves as Managing Editor at BULL. His first collection of stories, An End to All Things, is forthcoming from Atticus Books.
7.03 / March 2012