Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Return Of The New

"The one in black is the bad guy, right?" The face of the small boy peers up questioningly.

"It's not always that simple. Sometimes there isn't a villain."

The child's strange protector rolls a cigarette between his long pail fingers before lighting up.

The boy and man sit at the bar watching two other men fight. One of the men is in his late 40's, but has kept in shape. He is wearing blue jeans and a white short sleeve shirt. The man belonging to the nose he has just broken is in his early 20's and is wearing a black button up shirt and matching slacks.

The boy fiddles with a glass of milk that sits half drunk on the bar.

"Then why are the two of them fighting?" he asks.

His guardian's gaze is steady on the fight. Under a dark brow, his eyes are hard but filled with an odd compassion. Long dark bangs hang damply with sweat. The smoke from his cigarette playing shadows in the dimly lit room.

"The guy in the black shirt has just been to his young fiancee's funeral. He's hurting pretty badly at the moment."

"I'll say! His nose is gushing."

The man chuckles at the boy's words.

"Not what I mean. It's his soul that's in pain right now."

The guy in black spits out a mouthful of blood and wipes quickly at his nose. With a quick lunge, he catches his opponent off guard and slams them both into the bar. The wood surface lets out a groan that speaks of many fights over as many years.

"Did the man in white kill his fiancee? Is he the bad guy?" the boy asks.

The dark man takes a drink of something generic and hard.

"Nope. They've never even met before today."

"So, why is he so angry at the black shirted man?"

"Because his little boy just died an hour earlier. He's in shock at the moment and hasn't quite figured out what to do with himself yet."

The boy tears his eyes from the two men rolling around on the floor and looks back at his companion. He studies him carefully. A Hawaii shirt and jeans. On one of his belt loops hangs a large ring of keys.

"My dad has a ring of keys like that. He's a janitor. Are you a janitor?"

The man smiles.

"In a way. It's my job to clean up loose ends."

"My dad also says bad guys always wear black. There's always a villain."

The man shrugs.

"I guess it's me then."

"You? How are you the bad guy?" the boy asks incredulously.

"I killed both the black shirted man's fiancee and the white shirt's child."

The two men stagger to their feet. Black shirt's nose is now completely mashed and both his eyes are swollen. White shirt has a twisted ankle and a mouthful of gaps. Along one of his cheeks is a long, nasty gash where he was caught by the engagment ring of black shirt's fiancee. Since her death it has been on his pinky.

"You're not wearing the right clothes to be the villain," states the boy, "Besides, you picked me up when I fell out of that tree. That's not something a villain would do."

The man shrugs again.

"I tried to tell you earlier. Sometimes there isn't a bad guy."

The two men are signaling to each other that they've had enough. Each retreats a respective distance away to turn their attentions back to drinking. In another five minutes, the police will arrive. They both know, and neither of them care. Already the reason for the fight seems to have vanished.

"Did you really kill them?" the boy asks.

"It's what I do," the man says with a nod.

The boy sits quietly for a minute. He's focused on the man with the white shirt. The tears pouring from white shirt's eyes are running rivers through the blood and dirt on his cheeks. Almost he looks familiar. Almost. After a minute the boy puts his hand on his guardian.

"Can we go now?" he asks.

The man finishes his drink before responding.

"Yeah, sure. A bar's not really a place for a kid anyway."

With an arm over the boy's shoulder, the two of them exit into the day.


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