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The Paths We Take #32: Fight  

Oct 2, 2018







I watched the spinning of the fan blades as the ceiling seemed to start to collapse in on me. I couldn’t gasp. His fingers clamped like a vice on my throat and the only thing I could manage was to search the comforter with my hands in a blind panic. I could see his face — drops of blue above a narrow nose and two rows of bleached teeth baring down on each other. I would die before giving myself to him.

My fingers brushed against smooth glass. Finger by finger, I inched the bottle towards me until every finger could slide across the neck of the bottle. I felt the drag of the air against my arm as I lifted the bottle from the bed, and then . . . I felt myself spinning. Nausea overtake me . . . Darkness.


. . .


When I came to, ochre eyes watched in patient silence as I squeezed the glass in my hand. The acrylic wolf seemed to look beyond me while drips of golden liquid ran down the gray and white patches of fur onto the frame and then blended with the brown stain of the wood. The wolf’s peacefulness was in stark contrast to Royce Marks. Marks thrashed around, blood streaming from the gash above his right ear as he gnashed his teeth and glared at me. I watched his mouth open, shut, open, and shut again, but I was surrounded by silence, under careful watch of the wolf on wall.

As I sat on the cool wooden floor, it came back to me. I’d only hit Royce once with the bottle of Jack Daniel’s, but his flesh split open like I’d used an axe. Some of the whiskey spattered from the bottle as I took two violent swings. He rolled off me when the bottle connected, taking me with him to the floor and sending bursts of whiskey across the room.

I didn’t realize that I still had the bottle in my hand until Royce stumbled to his coat that was hanging on a hook by the door and pulled out a knife.

“You shouldn’t have done that.”

He pointed the blade towards my throat. I put both hands on the bottle, which was now empty, and I was ready to chop at him if he came close enough. I’d almost forgotten the gash in my own foot as I stood up. He took a few steps but stopped as a stream of blood streamed down into his eye. He wiped it away with his shirt sleeve as I hopped backwards until I was backed up against the wall.

“Baby, I’m not going to kill you. I’m just going to make it even. That’s what relationships are all about right? Give and take?”

He took a few more steps, but the door swung open. Gramps appeared and grabbed Marks by the arm and wrenched the knife from his grasp. He dragged him backwards as Donnelly stepped into the room.

“Get him cleaned up and get him some fresh air,” Donnelly said.

“I’m a paying customer,” Marks spat as he freed himself from Gramps and put his hand into his pants pocket. When he pulled his hand out, he threw a fistful of cash into the air. It floated like green confetti to the ground at Donnelly’s feet. “I want my fucking merchandise.”

Donnelly’s face was expressionless. I’d never seen him look surprised, like everything that ever happened was all a part of some grand plan that he was watching play out step by step.

“Don’t forget who’s in charge here. You’re just hired help, just like the guy who cleans the fucking toilets. You’d better be careful. You’re getting sloppy.”

“You’d be doing life if it weren’t for me and my guys. I don’t care how much money you’ve got.”

Gramps put his hand on Marks’ shoulder, but he shrugged it off as Gramps tried to pull him towards the door. He stepped towards Donnelly, their faces inches apart.

“I planned everything out. You just get to sit here and collect while we do all the work—”

“What’s your plan for your cop friend who keeps asking around about you?” Donnelly asked.

“He’s just a drug detective. He’s nobody — not a problem. I’ve got it under control.”

“I have my own plans. If I were you, I’d be smart not to let things get out of hand again,” Donnelly said, his voice low and unwavering.

Marks was almost smiling as he stepped back a few steps. I’d seen the look on his face minutes before — a borderline arrogant smirk that might have been mistaken as playful if his fingers weren’t stretching around my throat.

“Get yourself cleaned up,” Donnelly said. “And take a few days off.”

Marks snatched his coat from the hook and disappeared through the doorway. I leaned against the wall and took a breath for what seemed to be the first time since I stepped inside and saw Marks. Donnelly was still in the room.

“Didn’t we just have this conversation. The one where I said I’d kill you—”

“He had too much to drink. I shouldn’t have let him in here. I knew he was aggressive . . . I heard her scream for help,” Gramps said as he appeared in the doorway. “That’s on me boss.”

Donnelly turned around to look at Gramps. He stared at Donnelly as he held his hands up in surrender. Donnelly looked back at me, but the look he had on his face was one that I hadn’t seen. His face was cold and distant. He stared through me, and his signature smirk was replaced by an emotionless line.

“I guess you should be getting back to your room then,” Donnelly said as he walked over to me as I was still leaning against the back wall. He kissed me on the cheek. The evening stubble on his chin scraped the side of my face as he turned to leave. He walked passed Gramps without saying a word, leaving us alone in the room.

Gramps put my arm over his shoulder as I limped over to sit down on the bed. His touch was gentler than normal, and his blank look seemed to gain new life when he was around me.

“Thank you,” I whispered as he took the empty bottle of Jack Daniel’s from my hand.

“Don’t get your hopes up. I can’t help you get out of here. I just . . . I have a daughter. She’s your age, but I haven’t seen her in four years. Her mother makes sure that we don’t have any contact. Your eyes remind me of hers — even when you’re angry.”

He helped me up and I limped into the hallway, using his shoulder as a crutch. The cut on my foot burned every time it touched the floor.

When we made it to my room, I slipped my arm off his shoulder and sat on the edge of the bed. Gramps was already on his way out. He started to shut the door but then he paused just before the door latched. He cracked the door open and said, “I can’t help you anymore.”


© Josiah A. Miller 2018. All Rights Reserved.