Walküre, Excerpt #3Posted: December 29, 2014
An excerpt from the journal of Ezekial
Summer, 1934, North Carolina.
“Well fuck a sheep thats a nice bit of stonework there.” She wiped her forehead with a gloved hand leaving a granite streak a mile wide, admiring her work. “You got a little something there on your forehead miss” I was trying to be helpful, something I should probably stop doing.
“You call me miss again and I’ll tear you a new anus with a steam-powered masonry drill- And what’s this I conveniently have at my side? What could that possibly be-“
“It’s a masonry drill, no need to belabor the point there.” She put her gloved hands on overalled hips and held her pointed chin high. Ah hell, its been too long and it looks like I’ve gotten rusty. “Sorry miss, I’ll leave you be-“
“What the hell,” She said as if scolding a child, “Did I tell you about just calling me ‘miss'”
“See, it’s just that I didn’t know your name-” And quicker than I could finish she pulled off a glove and thrust her right hand forward
“I’m Jenny, possibly pleased to meet you” Now that I’d had time to look at her, it surprised me how slight the girl was. One would expect a mason such as herself to look less like a colt and more like an ox.
I, in response to her outstretched hand, inclined my head, “Zeke”
“Too good to shake my hand, Zeke?” with a hint of anger and ferocity hidden up in her brow. Someone should teach her what a poker face is.
“No ma’am,” and taking the care to correct myself, “Jenny.” I smiled and pulled my right arm from the deep breast pocket it preferred, “I just don’t have much of a hand to shake with.”
It took her a moment to register what my arm was missing, and by the time she realized she was stumbling over an apology, “I’m so sorry-“
“It’s fine. No way for you to know. Buy me a beer and we’re even.”
Hell, it got me a date. I’ve played that game so many times it had to work at least once. We both had a few extra quarters to spare and skipped over going to the mess hall, we hiked up to Asheville, a small among the mountains, to find a pub.
“So you do security for the highway?”
Conversation, as usual, was sparse for the first few beers. In days like these, the only true human connection is seen after a few pints. We made do anyways.
“Yeah, I just stand around and look tough most of the time. Had to run off a mother-bear last week, though. Exciting day that was.”
She took a smile off that and hesitated before going on, “I shouldn’t ask, but why’d they hire a one-handed goon for security?”
“Why’d they hire a stick to swing away at piles of stone all day?” At least she had the balls to look pissed when I said it, but she came around after a moment.
“Well I guess we’re both that good.”
“I guess we are.”
The conversation tapered for a bit once the food came and we started devouring our chili and cornbread. It was the best meal I had all week and it sat nice and warm in my stomach as we got back to drinking.
Right about when I started patting down my pockets to see if I had hidden away any cigarettes a group of workers from the camp who had the same idea as us had found Jenny at the bar. They told me their names later but I was too drunk to remember. All I can remember them as is as Pork, Yellow and Crisco; one was fat, one wouldn’t speak up, and one had petrified his hair with lard.
“Jenny,” Trying to start off polite, “You want these men to leave you alone?”
“Naw, I’m waiting to see which one can best me at arm wrestling,” With all the full swagger of a man twice her size and three times as drunk. She pointed at Crisco, “Lets start with you” She nodded at him and pulled up her sleeve, “You look like you enjoy your own company nightly enough that you’ve built up some right arm beef.” Christ was she a girl after my own heart.
That stone-headed Crisco downed the rest of his beer, coughing on the foam, and strutted over like a pair of bowling balls were dangling ‘tween his thighs. “I hate to beat a lady, but as you ain’t dressed as one…” She put her elbow on the table and he did the same, “I don’t think this’ll be that hard.”
As soon as she hammered the last of her own beer she gave him the ‘ready’ nod and the second he had done the same his wrist was on the table.
“I wasn’t ready” said the idiot, “Again.” So she did. 5 times, and once with her left. Then Porky left Yellow at the bar and took a try which was over even quicker. A few other people had gathered and were all clambering to get a go at Jenny.
Being a gentleman, I chugged the remainder of my own pint and went to the table. “Alright fellas, lets put this party to rest and give the lady some room”
Crisco, in the interim, had taken the time to get hisself into a mean drunk and walked over to me. “Hey,” With whatever diction he thought he had, “why don’t you shut up and walk back to the bar so someone can put this bird over his knee”
“Well” as I got ready for the inevitable outburst from the bested and beaten, “I was just having a nice conversation with that lady there that I’d like to get back to.”
“You Ugly-” He said as he wound up for a swinging right hook that a blind man could see coming. So when he swung around I took my right shoulder in low, grabbed him around his back, and stood up lifting him clear from the floor. “Put me down” he said weakly after a few seconds. Afraid I was going to get covered in his dinner, I did.
After carefully setting the poor sap down, I looked him in the eye as much as I could for being half a foot shorter than him. I spoke loudly, like a teacher to a student, “You done yet?” The bar went quiet and the crowd slowly dispersed.
The Yellow kid piped up for the first time, “Yeah, mister, I’m sorry. Let me get him home.”
“Naw, least I can do is share a beer with you. You were just bested by a woman after all.” I have some odd fondness for pouring salt in a wound.
So we sat down, Crisco, Porky, Yellow, Jenny and I, for a round. She did a lot of backslapping and managed to bring the trio out of their mean spirits.
Eventually Porky stopped trying to drunkenly entice Jenny and he turned to me, “So why, Jenny, are you here with his ugly old mug.” Said right to my face. A bold move. Now, I usually hide my stump, so when I leaned forward it was probably the first time he noticed I didn’t have a hand. He stopped a bit before going on. “I’m not intimidated, if you wanted a fight you’d’ve kicked my pal’s ass when you had the chance. I’m just kidding around”
“How’d” Yellow cleared his throat, “How did you lose your hand?” Jenny tried her best to shut them up, but I stopped her.
“The war.” From Porky. Not as much a question rather than a statement of what he thought to be fact, “But you look a little young for it.”
“It wasn’t in the war. I was, but I lost my hand about 8 years ago” I don’t know why some make it such a game to try and guess how other people lived their lives.
The table was silent for a moment before Crisco spoke up for the first time in a while, “He asked you how-“
“You don’t have to tell them, Zeke” Jenny. Likely afraid I’d leave the table and leave her to pick up the check alone. Being a gentleman, I had no intention of any such thing.
I drank before I spoke, “A man took it clean off with a switchblade”
Yellow was the first to speak after the silence “Why?”
“Well,” As matter of factly as I could, “I figured I must have pissed him off somehow.” Someone trying to put a bullet in your back would likely piss anyone off.
“Its not easy to-” Yellow gathered his words like he’d spilled them, “I worked for my uncles butcher shop for a summer. I don’t know of anyone who could do that”
“Well I think we proved tonight that muscle can hide, haven’t we gents? Let’s forget-“ I tried to wrap this line up, but they were having none of it.
“You should be almost 40 if you fought in the war,” Poor Jenny tried so hard to steer these fools away, but curiosity had taken them. Porky looked me in the eye- “It’s been 18 years since then. You’d be at least… 36 if you enlisted. You look beat up but not old.”
Then Crisco decided to throw his hat in, “Yeah, I think you’re trying to pull one over on-“
“I was 14” I took another drink, “I signed up as soon as they started looking for trench meat. Lied about my age, they knew but didn’t care. I got out of basic when I was 15, went to the war, got back when I was 18.” They react as most usually did. Most of them don’t remember the war too well, if they were young. But they’ve met the broken remnants of the Great War. Men with dead eyes. Souls left with their dead friends. To lighten the mood- “I tell you. by the time I got out of basic I swear I knew everything there was to know about women from what the other enlisted told me. Boy did that forbidden knowledge earn me more than my fair share of knocks about the head and thrown drinks.”
That seemed to break the tension. At least they all laughed. We spent the rest of the night swapping stories and drinking. Jenny drank more than all of us. Seems she grew up in a mining town not far from here, and could match even the hardiest of moles with her capacity of swill.
On our way back to the worker’s camp she apologized for the outing. She didn’t like that people pried into my life. I put her at ease, a night of drinking is nothing to apologize for. But then she snaked her arm around my waist, asking if I wanted to share some straw for the night.
Whatever man I once was I am no longer. I refused the advance. Telling her that I owed her a proper night out before we started in on dessert. It made her smile.
“Don’t leave me waiting too long. I’m not patient.”
I told her I’d see her tomorrow and we walked back to the camp in silence.