Old Man Problems Part I

January 29, 2020 at 11:30 am (Cussed Dumbers, Drunk and disorderly)

“Long in tooth and soul
Longing for another win
Lurch into the fray
Weapon out and belly in…”

“You’re…OLD! You make me laugh…”

I toed the line of the store’s door, quietly giving him the stink-eye as he picked himself up off the ground, adjusting his coat.

“C’mon, man. He ain’t worth it.” The friends led him away.

I had a customer.

In the fifteen years I’ve worked for Master P, I have been hit at least four times, without once throwing a punch, either aggressively or in retaliation. I always figured I’d do it like they do in jail; pick out the biggest, most evil bastard that won’t actually kill you, and stand up to them. It was a good working theory that I had not yet put into use.

As I’m trying to finish off the night, get the chores done, put the goddamn milk crates away, etc… Another batch of cussed-dumbers. The first guy is a Latino laborer who buys about $25 worth of Coors Light a night. (I so want to turn him onto Olde English, but he don’t need no help developing a habit.) The other guy we call the Space Commander. He looks like a 6’8″ Peter Fonda, who never speaks and makes the women cashiers nervous. As he’s counting out change, ($7.18…) another male walks into the store.

This guy looks like a problem from the first step. He staggers to one side, then grabs a Reuben sandwich from the deli case as he heads for the wine.

I leave Space Commander to his change and watch “Reuben”. Reuben stuffs the sandwich into his jacket pocket and starts opening the door to the wine. “Hey,” I say. “I’m gonna need that sandwich back.”

Reuben grunts, struggling with the wine door.

“I’m gonna need that back NOW.” Space Commander was up to about four bucks, so I continued with Reuben. “Take it out of your pocket and get out now.” As I walked toward him, he took the sandwich out of his pocket and threw it across the store, Frisbee-style.

He was still trying to work the cooler door. (It sticks a little. We call it the sobriety test. If you can maneuver it gracefully then you aren’t too drunk to sell to.) This guy couldn’t get in before I was on top of him. I grabbed his shit-yellow coat and pulled him toward the door. “Time to go.”

I got him in front of me, and began the perp-walk to the door. I stay behind at a safe distance, but close enough to react if they grab something. If they leave quietly, fine, buh-bye. If they grab something? It’s face-first into the sidewalk, outside the door. As Van Halen sang, “That’s when push comes to shove…”

Everything was moving according to Hoyle when we both saw the sandwich at the same time. Oh no… you’re not…

He went out of his way to stomp on the sandwich, and it was at that point, as the kids will say, that I lost my shit.

“You…COCKSUCKER!” I closed the gap with two rapid steps, knowing what I wanted. I cocked back and aimed a haymaker at the back of his head. I wanted to give him something to remember the store by, a pair of raccoon eyes and maybe a concussion to go with it. Instead, he lurched forward, and all I hit was the back of his neck. That made me even madder. You’re REALLY gonna get the face-plant now…

I grabbed his shoulders, propelling him to the door. Three good steps and a shove will get most people to the far edge of the sidewalk, and he wasn’t that big. I didn’t, however, plan on him tripping over his own fucking feet and landing in front of the sandwich cooler.

“Get out of here, you thieving cocksucker.” (I probably called him a cocksucker about twelve times. I was full-blown Al Swearingen.)

“YOU! You’re… the dick… sucker…” Reuben replied, having a little trouble with originality.

He grabbed onto the front of the sandwich cooler, pulling the sneeze guard out, cracking the front. He continued to pull, and my rage grew. He’s not breaking anything else in here. His hand was gripping the quarter-inch pane of plexi-glass where broken, with his knuckles on top. In a flashback to fifth grade: IT’S BLOODY KNUCKLES TIME!

Aligning fist to wrist, I brought my knuckles down upon him and his knuckles six times. On the fourth smack, he said, “Ow! I want your first name….”

Not dignifying that with an answer, I told him, “Get the fuck out before you get REALLY hurt.”

I had to check on the store. My Latino friend stayed to the back of the store, watching but staying clear. Space Commander looked uncharacteristically nervous. “Can I just leave this here?” He didn’t wait for an answer, but I said okay anyway.

I went back to the door, where Reuben was waiting outside. “Get away from here, or I’ll have you arrested.” Toeing the line of the store’s door, not giving another inch. I knew if I went outside, any claims of self-defense went out the window. (Plus, all the shitbirds run in and start grabbing stuff while you’re rolling around on the sidewalk…)

“You’re old. You make me laugh.” His friends began leading him away, as he rubbed his bleeding hand.

“Come back and I’ll make you cry. You cocksucker.”

I once went twenty years without getting into a fight. I made it fifteen years without actually punching anybody. All things considered, I should be good into retirement now.


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