“Your face looks ugly when you’re thinking, Haverson, so knock that shit off.” Flo eyed him as she angled and exhumed a Hell Energy from the small fridge, then she and her implied neglect left the finished basement, climbing the carpeted stairs with such pomp that the two men looked away and shook their heads.
Joel Haverson leaned over Flo’s handcrafted bar and whispered to Earl, “She’s going through some things.”
Earl finished his manhattan with a raised eyebrow. “I can’t believe she just came down here and reamed you like that. And she totally ignored me.”
“She’s afraid I’m going to have fun without her.” Haverson, shaking and pale, mixed two more doubles and slid one to his friend. “And her fears are well-founded.”
“Maybe we should, you know, hit the bars.”
“No, we’ll be fine—”
Then “Haverson, turn down that fucking carnival music before I come down there and throw knives!” flooded the basement.
“Oh, my God, dude,” Earl laughed in a sideways cower.
Haverson, turning the celebrated Mr. K counterclockwise, asked, “Can I confide in you?”
“Listen. You know Big Joe, works in the welding department, on parole for murder?”
“Yeah, I’ve seen him hunching around. Wait—murder?”
“Well, we had lunch, and he vented. Anyway, he’s recently been threatening my life.”
“Aw, your ass.” Earl laughed. Haverson didn’t. “Okay, why?”
“Basically, he said if I don’t keep Flo away from him he’s going to kill me.” Haverson shivered a cherry into his mouth and robot-walked to the end of the bar and opened a buttery glass door. “And not in a figure-of-speech way.”
Earl finally dropped his incredulous gaze. “You’re serious here. Okay, this is insane.” He spun on his stool and stared expectantly at the stairway to darkness. “I’m afraid to ask. What is Flo doing to Big Joe?”
Haverson came back from the popcorn machine with a bowlful. “Flo’s been stalking him, peeking in his windows, texting him, road-raging his wife. Someone savaged his dog the other night, and he suspects Flo because a bag of Ol’ Roy went missing. I’m afraid to confront her about it. You know how explosive she is. I’m in a catch-22.”
“Why doesn’t he do you both a favor and call the cops?”
“He hates cops, and prison.”
Above their heads, plunk! the sound of a bowling ball striking the hardwood floor, then, “Where the fuck’s my schnapps? Son of a bitch, Haverson! If you drank it, I swear!”
“Man, why do you put up with this? Why do I?” Earl looked around at the dark paneled walls that Flo had hung with weaponry signs and superhero memorabilia. “Really, let’s go, man.”
“We’ll be okay. I hid her schnapps, but good.”
“Found it!” Flo bellowed like a hoarse foghorn. “You dodged a bullet, bozo!”
“Shit,” Earl dragged out, tracing the meandering of Flo’s thumping footsteps. “You need to get me out of this gorilla cage.”
Haverson dialed. “I’m calling Big Joe.”
“You have his number?”
“Copied it from Flo’s phone.”
They watched each other. “Joe? Oh. I’m sorry, Mrs. Delvecchio, is Joe there? This is Havers—Joel Haverson. Oh, he is? Really? Hmm. I see.” He held the phone away from his ear as the woman screeched, then he pushed ‘end’. “Big Joe’s on his way over here. Apparently, somebody dug up their rutabagas last night and arranged them on their roof in the shape of an immense penis.”
Flo’s essence roared down the stairwell, “What’d you do to my new Blu-ray player, Haverson? By God, I’ll slap so many sins on you that they’ll have to crucify me up to the church!”
Joel murmured in a pant, “Right. Well. It’s high time to quit the premises. Off to the garage. Quietly. No time to flee in the Buick. She’ll catch us. She’s lightning fast on schnapps. We’ll steal through the service door, then run like hell. Do not fall down. Good. Any questions?”
“Why did I come here?”
Upstairs, someone kicked in the front door, and a deep voice, not Flo’s, thundered, “Haverson!”
“It’s Big Joe,” Haverson croaked.
Expletives, crashes, gunshots, then the sound of a body colliding with Flo’s NFL china-loaded hutch blitzed them. Heavy footfalls descended the stairs.
“Gangway!” Earl jackknifed off his stool, swam a heroic lap, then fainted and knocked his head against Flo’s spittoon.
Haverson trembled Flo’s elephant gun from a shelf under the bar. Big Joe’s boots, fatigues, then pistol appeared in the stairwell. Haverson aimed his warning shot at the bottom step, blasted a light fixture instead, flew backwards into glass shelves. Big Joe eclipsed the stairwell, standing in glass fragments in shag carpet, pulling a loaded clip from his jacket and slamming it home. Ear’s ringing, Haverson struggled to reload the huge weapon.
“What’d I tell you ‘bout your old lady, Haverson?” Big Joe took aim at Haverson’s quivering and distracted face. “Hey, you!”
“You killed Flo,” Haverson rasped.
“I didn’t kill shit, you henpecked chicken. That’s your job. I just shot up your Chuck Norris poster and conked ol’ stalker on ‘er head. My ol’ lady liked t’ shit when she saw that rutabaga dick on our roof! Now bring that boom stick upstairs and finish what I started, and then—”
Big Joe’s neck kinked forward and his eyes bulged like overblown bubbles, and as he fell forward and into the barstools, Flo appeared behind him, flipping her Thor hammer and catching it. “Welp, looks like I saved your geeked-out ass again.”
After dropping his jaw, Haverson dropped the elephant gun, which discharged and took out Flo’s autographed Captain America shield.
“Goddamn you, Haverson! Now slap your playdate conscious so you two can get your stories straight on how yas frustrated my wannabe rapist—that’ll be a whopper—and then get your bony ass upstairs. Somebody stopped up the frickin’ toilet.”
Haverson smiled, giggled; he could barely hear her.
Banner Image: Pixabay.com