A longtime resident of a small southern town reacquaints himself with the locals.
| “Daaamn!” Jun’ said.|
“What?” Sonny asked, looking around. “What you talkin’ ‘bout?”
“Talkin’ ‘bout chu,” Jun’ pointed back at Sonny, the man’s cheeks appearing stuffed to almost bursting. “You ain’t worried ‘bout the police comin’ for yo ass?” He stole a quick look at the third man sitting at the table, whose name was Zeke, and winked.
Still confused, Sonny shrugged, “Comin’ for me for what?”
“For the way you fuckin’ up that chicken boy, damn!” He turned to Zeke, “You see the hurtin’ this boy puttin’ on that bird?” He shook his head, “Miracle this fool got any fingers left.”
Zeke laughed along with Jun’ with Sonny eventually joining in, all the while chewing.
“God almighty knows!,” Zeke exclaimed, pointing to the club entrance, “Look at that fine assed heffa right there!” Jun’ looked to where he pointed. Even Sonny twisted in his seat to get a look at the three women standing near the entrance. Two they recognized right away, having seen them earlier but the third was facing partly away from them and neither of the men could place her.
“Who that in the yella’ dress?” Sonny croaked, a drumstick clutched in his right hand. “Zeke, you seen her before?”
Zeke leaned his burly form forward, pushing the brim of his back off his forehead, frowning. “Yeah, I think have. Her name just don’t come to mind.”
“That’s ‘Laine Russell,” Jun’ said, as the woman turned and he got a better look at her face.
“Yeah,” Sonny said, snapping his fingers. “Work at Jake’s out there by…”
“We know where it is fool,” Zeke interrupted.
“They cook some good ass ribs over there,” Sonny said, grinning. “Oxtails too.”
“You would say sumthin’ like that,” Zeke said, disgusted. “Good looking gal like that and yo’ fat ass over there talkin’ bout food.”
Sonny shrugged, taking a bite from his drumstick, “Well, they do.”
Zeke looked back to the women, grimacing, “I ain’t know she was that fine though, damn.”
“Yo ass must be blind then,” Jun said. “Shit, ‘Laine Russell been fine as hell long as I known her.”
Zeke snorted, “Ain’t she a lil’ young for you?”.
Jun made a face, “She ain’t that much younger,” he said. “Besides, I’m just saying what any fool got eyes would tell yo’ ass.” He was about to turn his attention away when he saw a heavy set man in dark pants and a short-sleeved turquoise shirt approaching the women, focusing his attention on ‘Laine. “See there Zeke,” Jun said, gesturing. ‘I tole you. Any fool got eyes.”
“Damn!” Zeke said, watching the man take ‘Laine by the elbow as he moved in talking to her.
“Whatchu over there ‘damnin’ bout?” Jun asked.
“Yeah," Sonny said. "Whatchu ‘damnin’ ‘bout?”
Zeke swatted at Sonny, “Man, shut up!”
“Jun said it first,” Sonny chirped. “Why you ain’t tellin’ him to shut up?”
“Well, you ain’t Jun,” Zeke said, matter of factly. “So shut yo’ ass up.”
Watching as ‘Laine pulled her arm free and stepped back distancing herself from her would-be suitor. Jun pointed, “Look at that.” He shook his head, “I think ol’ boy gettin’ shot down.”
The other two craned their necks to take in the scene with Zeke slapping the table, “Uh oh. What he gon’ do? What he gon’ do?”
“Go sit his black ass down if he smart,” Jun said, making the other two men laugh loudly.
“Now who dis here?” Zeke said, watching as a tall medium complexioned man in black pants and a burnt orange shirt entered, greeting the other two women before moving to stand next to Laine. “Either one of y’all know this here fella?”
“I’on’t think so,” Jun craned his neck trying to get a better look. “Can’t make out his face that good from here though.”
“Don’t look familiar to me either,” Sonny said.
“Yo half-blind ass don’t know nobody anyway,” Zeke scoffed.
Jun laughed, bottle in hand ready to take another swig before stopping suddenly. “Uh oh,” he said, “look like we might get us a tussle up in here.” Sonny and Zeke refocused their attention to the front in time to see the first man, who was almost two heads shorter but stouter of build aggressively step to the taller man who extended his left arm to hold him at bay, simultaneously guiding ‘Laine slightly behind him.
“Here we go,” Zeke said, as the shorter man shoved at the other who knocked his hands away before they made contact. “Who y’all got?”
“I’m goin’ wit’ Lil Man, “Sonny said. “He look like he ready to scrap!”
“That’s cause he know he ain’t gettin’ no pussy tonight,” Zeke said. “Shiiit, I’d be ready to fight too.”
“So that’s who you got too?” Jun asked, eyes still trained on the action at the door.
“Y’all better hurry up,” Sonny cautioned, “cause these boys ‘bout to go at it.”
“Yeah,” Zeke said. “I got’im too.”
The shorter man was goading the taller one now, feinting at him then pulling back, trying to get the other man to flinch. Others had been drawn to the conflict, some as peacemakers, the rest as instigators. Through it all, the taller man appeared to maintain his composure. In fact, unless Jun was mistaken, he seemed to be amused by the situation, a half-smile on his lips.
“We still bettin’ right?” Jun asked.
“Yeah,” Zeke said. Sonny nodded in agreement.
“Alright then,” Jun said, reaching into his shirt pocket and slapping his money on the table. “I got ten on ‘Laine’s boy.”
“Done!” Sonny shouted, rocking from side to side in anticipation.
“Done,” Zeke echoed, just as the shorter man freed himself from the arms of the two men holding him back, quickly rushing forward, right arm pulled back to throw a blow...which he never did. The taller man shifted slightly to the right, blocking the punch with his left forearm before a flashing right hand struck the other flush in the face. His full weight didn't appear to have been put into the blow but it still snapped the shorter man's head back.
“Damn!” Zeke barked, watching the shorter man stagger from the blow, held up by the same two who held him back only moments earlier. For the second time, he struggled to free himself, albeit significantly less enthusiastically than before.
Jun rubbed his palms together briskly, smiling, “Easy money,” he said. “Pay up.”
“Man, that’s some bullshit,” Zeke protested. “You can’t even call that shit a fight.”
“Bet's a bet,” Sonny said.
“I’on’t see your money yet,” Zeke shot back.
“Oh,” Sonny said, smiling sheepishly, “‘bout that. All I got on me is ‘round ‘bout five right now.”
“Don’t worry about it Sonny,” Jun said, extending his right hand. “That five you holding'll do.”
Sonny’s jaw dropped, “Aw c'mon Jun. That’s all I got on me.”
“Boy, I’m given’ you a discount,” Jun said. “Five for ten a good deal.”
“Damn right,” Zeke said, pulling out his wallet and retrieving a five.”
“What’s that?” Jun said, looking at the bill dangling in front of him.
“You said a five for ten,” Zeke said.
Jun snorted. “I ain’t offer you that deal.”
“What?” Zeke exclaimed. “Why not?”
“Because you was up here tryin’ to talk your way outta payin’ ten,” Jun shook his head, adding, “With your cheap ass.” His eyes drifted to the front again in time to see ‘Laine and her date crossing the room in search of a vacant table. It was then that he got a good look at the man in better lighting. It took a moment but recognition clicked in. “Well I’ll be damned.”
“Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout?” Zeke asked, adding an additional five to the other, handing it over to Jun who took the money, slid his chair out, stood and walked over to where Laine and the man were seated.
“Evenin’,” Jun said. “How y’all doin’ tonight?” He turned to the man, nodding, “How you doin’ Thomas? Been a while.”
“Hey Jun,” R.J. said, rising to shake the other man’s hand. “How’ve you been?”
“Fair to middlin’ I guess,” Jun said, accepting the gesture, then sliding his hands back in his pockets. He smiled, “Heard you met my little brother.”
R.J. nodded, “You could say that.”
“Hope he wasn’t acting like too much of an asshole,” Jun said, quickly excusing himself to ‘Laine.
R.J. glanced at 'Laine. “It wasn’t from lack of trying,” he said. “He alright?”
Jun nodded, “Yeah, he alright. If I know him, he prolly coulda done with a lil’ bit more of whatever it was you gave’im. But still, he alright.” He saw R.J. cock his head. “You surprised I say that?”
R.J. shrugged. “I’d be lying if I wasn't.”
Jun laughed, “Yeah, I know I used to be a handful.”
R.J. smiled. "That's one way to put it.”
“You two get into a fight or something?” ‘Laine asked, clearly amused.
“Wasn’t much of a fight,” R.J. said.
“Don’t let him fool you ‘Laine,” Jun said. “He gave as good as he got.”
R.J. adjusted his chin with his left hand, “I don’t know about all that. I just remember getting hit a lot when I was trying my best not to.” All three of them laughed.
“Well,” Jun said, “I won’t take up any more of y’all’s time. Just wanted to come over and say hey.” He nodded at ‘Laine then looked at R.J. “One’a these days we gotta sit down, have us some drinks and tell a few lies.”
R.J. smiled, “I think I’d like that.”
“Another time then,” Jun said. “I’ll let y’all get back to y’all’s evening.”
When he’d settled back in his seat Zeke said, “So you do know him then, huh?” gesturing in ‘Laine and R.J.’s direction.
“Yeah,” Jun said. “Just couldn’t place him at first. Been a while.”
“When was the last time you seen him?” Sonny asked.
Jun shrugged, thinking. “Shit, I’on’t know. Nine...ten years?.”
“Long time,” Sonny said. “He in the service’?”
“I ain’t ask the man all that,” Jun said. “It ain’t like we was friends or nuthin’.”
“Looked pretty friendly to me,” Zeke said. “Ain’t that right Sonny?”
Sonny nodded, shrugging apologetically. “Y’all did look friendly.”
“Well,” Jun said. “He saved me the trouble of giving my brother the ack'right he shoulda been got a while ago.”
“Aw hell,” Zeke said, realization sinking in. “He the one had the run-in with Willie James you was talkin' 'bout a while back?”
Jun nodded. "Always did have a good right on him."
Sonny pointed to the other side of the room, grinning. “You shoulda tole that to that fool over there.”
“You and him ever get into it?” Zeke asked.
“Sumthin like that,” Jun said, picking up his beer. “I’ll tell y’all about it one of these days.”
“Aw hell,” Zeke said. “You might as well just tell us now.”
“How ‘bout this,” Sonny offered, “The money now and the story now or the money later and the story later?”
Jun considered it for a moment. "I can live with that," he said, extending his palm to Zeke.
"Fuck it then," Zeke said. "I'on't wanna know that bad."
Jun wiggled his fingers at Sonny.
"I thought you said I could give it to you later."
That was my offer to Zeke, I was giving you a fifty percent discount."
"That's right," Zeke said. "Pay up."
"But it's all I got 'til payday," Sonny lamented.
"Man, quit whining," Zeke said. "Damn."
"Alright then," Jun relented. "Catch up wit' me on payday but, for the full ten."
"You ain't gonna pay the man late and get no discount fool," Zeke said, laughing.
Jun shrugged. "He right. Pick one or the other."
Sonny sulked momentarily before reluctantly digging into his pocket and producing the five spot from his wallet and handing it to Jun saying, "Now I'm busted for the rest of the week."
"You need a loan 'til Friday?" Jun asked, not missing the sly smile Zeke was trying to hide. When he saw Sonny's face brighten he added, "Five gonna cost you seven though. You good wit' that?"
Sonny nodded his head enthusiastically, "Sounds good to me."
Jun handed the money back then took a swig of his beer, winking at Zeke thinking, "What were friends for if not to take their money?"