Talking Shit (2)

“Oh, hi Duke,” Juan said slowly, allowing equal time to each of the words as he said them.

“Yes, hi,” Lukas joined in. “How are you?” Lukas usually took a back seat in awkward situations. Juan was the talker and his friend usually let him go.

“You can cut out that Duke crap, guys,” he said. “School was a bloody long time ago. I’m pretty good. Got this bung leg, but you know, can’t complain really.”

The other two exhaled audibly.

“Oh, that’s great,” said Juan. “Great to hear. Let me get you a drink.”

“You just saw me order one.” His manner was gruff. “I don’t need another one yet. But I’ll remember you offered.” He followed this with a mirthless chuckle and sipped his brandy. “Call me Stephen, by the way.”

The other two looked at each other blankly. The silence was an awkward silence and it lasted too long. This didn’t make sense. Stevo’s brother couldn’t be called Stephen. That would mean there were two brothers called Stephen, and that simply couldn’t be right, could it? But they were wary about challenging him – he had been a feared teenager and the occasional story they heard about Duke suggested it was still advisable to be careful around him.

“OK. Stephen it is,” one of them said, and the other nodded.

He asked them what they had been up to recently and they told him they were at uni now. They told him about the races that day, and their wins and close losses and the TV weathergirl they saw with her friends, and how she had quite a big arse when you were up close.

“So you’d say no, then, would ya? You can do better than a TV weathergirl?”

They admitted that they would not say no, and that they could not do better, and that they couldn’t take their eyes off her.

Duke, or Stephen, or whatever his name was, finished his brandy. “That’s why she’s on TV,” he said. He measured the words and made them sound wise. They initially thought this was a wise thing to say, but then wondered what it actually meant, and decided that he probably meant that women on TV are mostly attractive. It actually wasn’t a very wise thing to say at all. It was pretty obvious in fact.

“Yes, that’s right,” said Juan. “Look, we were just on our way out, Stephen …”

“Not so fast!” Duke/Stephen grabbed the taller friend by the wrist. Lukas took a step back. It was a reflex. He wanted no part of any trouble, even if his mate was right in the centre of it. “Where’s my drink?” said the older man, and this time his chuckle was malevolent.

“Let me,” said Lukas, and he slunk toward the bar, making his earlier movement seem less like backing off and more like that’s where he was going anyway. “And the same again for you, champ?” His mate nodded and the man with no name (or possibly two names) released his grip.

“What have you been up to?” asked Juan while they waited for the round to come. He did his best to sound friendly. He was practised at seeming calm.

“Oh, lots of things,” said the man in the long dark coat. He got out a silver lighter and began to turn it over in his right hand as he talked. “Just back from Afghanistan. That was hell. It’s either freezing or like a bloody oven, and the locals might seem friendly but there are your fair share of thieves and pimps and shitheads who want to blow up as many of the good guys as they possibly can, and that’s all they try to do all day long. Blow shit up. Attempt to kill people. Attempt to kill me. Fuckin’ hated the place.”

The drinks were placed on the table. All three sipped. The older man resumed. He told them he had been sent home. He narrowly avoided prison for an incident involving the discharge of a weapon. “I wanted to leave, so I left. And the army wanted me to leave too. Discharge. So I’m here, looking at you two ugly bastards.”

He put down the silver lighter on the table and it was engraved. ‘Stephen’ was written in curly writing across it.

Published in: on May 2, 2012 at 8:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

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