Drug Mule (short story)

Sitting in the restaurant the guy is there with his girl, picture of maybe not love but they seem pretty happy. His hand is near hers, not right on top but there is that casualness between the two of them that says they’re comfortable with each other in a way that can’t be faked. Chatting about nothing too important, they fit a lovely scene: two lovely creatures enjoying a night out together at a popular restaurant. Good on society for letting such little niceties happen.

The food comes, yadda yadda yadda. There should be a story here. There needs to be a scene first. Are these details of a scene not enough? Man with a girl, girl with a man, some nice restaurant, they seem like a nice couple. Sure, they have a background, yeah, the restaurant is located somewhere. But what does that have to do with the story. Not a thing.

The guy and his girl are really having a nice time. Couple drinks, good food, nice conversation. Good night. A few more drinks. Not drunk, but not sober. They’re both in that delightful fuzzy buzzed state where you can experience the true language of words mixed with body mixed with atmosphere. Do they even know the words they say, or are they just pure pieces of emotion lapping up with an intensifying gravity all that the world around them that swirls into their sphere.

A new man, let’s call him the drunk, he’s over on the other side of the restaurant. He’s not delightfully buzzed, he’s fucking tanked. Quiet, sure, but one feels it’s more because he’s so out of it that its yet to occur to be a drunken asshole. Years of hard living give him the look of fifty five even if he’s just twenty five: life has been hard, brutish and potentially short. He keeps drinking, he has the manic feel of someone who learned to ignore his limits long ago. Maybe money is no problem, depravity is not separate from wealth. Clearly he is spending real money on himself. He’s even dressed right, sharp, nice shirt: fashionable.

As the night goes on the drunk begins to pay attention to our man. Yeah, each drink seems to focus his attention a little more towards the table of our lovely couple, and what began as a curious glance quickly evolves into a sneer before becoming a full on glower. The drunk is ignoring his food, snapping at the waiter if he has any questions, one feels that if the drunk was a wild animal there would be foam in his mouth. Maybe there is even a bit of foam. Alright, alright, alright, he’s bursting at the seams.

Finally, he either builds up his bravery or finally has one drink too many. He stumbles over to the table where the man and the girl are just for the first time noticing him. Does the man recognize the drunk, or is that simply the recognition of a threat to himself and the girl he’s with.

The drunk comes up to the couples table. He doesn’t look at the man, but shoves his face towards the girl and angrily asks her ‘You know the truth about this piece of shit guy you got at your table? You go out in public with a piece of shit like that, or he lie to you. That how he get his women? You being lied to. Tell me, you pretty girl, you know who this piece of shit it?’

Of course caught unawares, and of course with a drink or two in her the girl handles the pressure of a manic questioning her smoothly. ‘Sir, I’ve known this man for many years, he’s a good man, and I would respect it if you left the table.’ The man puts his hand on the drunks arm and says ‘Excuse me sir, you must have me confused with someone else, I don’t know any Tommys…’ The drunk slams his hand off yelling now loudly ‘Keep your fucking hands off me Tommy, you piece of shit,’ and now everyone in the restaurant, fork between plate and mouth freezes to look at the commotion. Many have the look of positive apprehension that maybe they’re going to get some enterainment.

The girl asks the drunk again to please leave, that the man’s name is not Tommy it’s Freddy and they are trying to enjoy a nice night out together. The drunk gives a loud laugh, gives a look around suddenly being aware that others can hear him and decides to not care. What can these people do to him, hell, an audience is just what he was looking for. “Hey, hey everybody. I got something you should hear,” he slurs in a booming voice. “You see this guy here, maybe some of you know him. He goes by Freddy or something now. But, you know, if you know him I feel like I got to make sure you know the truth about this guy. This guy’s name isn’t Freddy, it’s Thomas Pelligrew and he’s a criminal. He doesn’t take care of his friends. He’s a piece of shit.” Freddy, which is what we might as well call the man because ‘the man’ is starting to grate on the narrative, stands up to the drunk and with a mixture of embarrassment and anger says directly to the drunk ‘Sir, I don’t know you, you must have me confused with someone else. No matter what you are being rude and you are not handling yourself properly in a restaurant. Maybe you’re a little drunk, which is fine, but you should be in control of yourself or you are going to get yourself in trouble. Now, please, go back to your table.’ Giggling the drunk puts his face right up to Freddy’s and with a voice loud enough that spit flies into Freddy’s face yells ‘Oh, go fuck yourself Tommy, like I could forget you or you could forget me. Think you can fucking walk into thin air, the past doesn’t disappear. Am I drunk, of course I’m drunk. You know what my life’s been like since  you decided to be all noble and walk away with all of our money. Fuck you,’ he stumbles backwards and yells as loud as he can ‘this guy, Tommy, fucking stored cocaine in his ass. He smuggled drugs from Mexico to Florida so many times that the cartel gave him a share. He stole money from his friends. This guy, Tommy or Freddy or whatever is a piece of…” the maitre de grabs the drunk with the help of two waiters and starts to drag the drunk outside. The drunk is screaming ‘He store cocaine is his ass, you like that you motherfucker, you like to have your fucking little secrets brought out. This guy stole from his friends. This guy is the guy you’d be embarrassed to be…” His voice becomes drowned out as he is kicked out of the restaurant.

With a collective awkwardness the patrons of the restaurant pointedly don’t look at Freddy and get back to their own conversations, their own dinners. With an angry air the maitre de comes back and apologizes over and over again to Freddy and his date. Of course dinner is on the house, have a drink, things like this don’t happen in a restaurant like this, the drunk was drunk, he was obviously confused, is there anything the restaurant can do to make things better? With a confused air Freddy excuses the maitre de and sits back down with his date. They spend a moment staring at each other, trying to decide if it makes sense to leave the conversation where they left off, to ignore this entire craziness or to confront it. After a few seconds Freddy cracks a smile, ‘What a pleasant fellow!’ he crackles with a persuasive attitude of good cheer. The girl cracks a bit of a fragile grin, ‘Freddy, it’s not true is it? Any of it? You being involved with dealing drugs or anything?’ Freddy cracks a grin, a real grin we think, “Doll, if you think I was making money from international cartels I’d still be working sixty hours a week? I’ve never seen that person before in my life. A guy drunk like that, I’d be surprised if he remembers that he went out to eat tonight, he certainly wasn’t in the type of mind that he could differentiate me from Hitler and a dinosaur. Don’t worry about it. Let’s laugh about it, and enjoy dinner. Okay?’ He cracks that grin, which really is a winning grin, and the girl eventually flashes it back at him. The conversation gets running again, gaining speed that soon they’re past the speed bumps and the night moves on. It turns into a pretty good night.

After dropping his date off Freddy walks back to his apartment. His head is clear from the walk, and he has a stiff expression on his face. He walks past his apartment and keeps walking, trying to clear his head, maybe trying to work through some problems. He leans against a bus stop, stares blankly into space for a few moments then with a split second force punches the bus stop as hard as he can. Just once. Then, he walks back to his apartment.

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