He Ain't Heavy

In the tough times of the lowlife, lost like a rain dog trying to find his way home, I've always heeded the adivce of Tom Waits: Never trust a man in a blue trench coat. Never drive a car when you're dead...

As we say in the hood, brother, true that...

He Ain't Heavy by Chris Leek

Tony sat at the stop light with the car in gear and his mind in neutral. The clock on the dash moved from 5:14 a.m. to 5:15 a.m. Red changed to green and then back to red again. A pickup came through the intersection in the opposite direction, tires rushing by in the rain, windshield wipers slapping. Tony had been driving around all night and now he was running on nothing more than fumes and fried nerves. He stared out into the storm, it was getting light, and soon the roads would be full of boxy compacts on their daily crosstown migration from suburb to cubicle. He had to think of something, get off the street and find a place to hold up. Normally Roy did his thinking for him, but not anymore.

Green through yellow to red.

Then it hit him; he had been circling through the warehouse district for the past two hours and Roy’s storage unit was less than a mile away. Dumbass, why hadn’t he remembered it sooner? The unit was plenty big enough to take the Chevy. 

The signal switched to green. Tony popped the clutch and leaned on the gas. The stolen Malibu lurched forward, making a whole two yards before the engine coughed and spluttered out like wet cigarette.

Outside yellow buzzed briefly and winked out in favor of red.

“I knew you should’ve pulled in for gas at that last place,” Roy said.

The sound of Roy’s voice made Tony jump; he knew Roy hadn't really spoken, but he answered him just the same.

“Hell, it's always my fault ain't it.”

“Mostly, it is,” Roy agreed.

Tony snapped his head around, half expecting to see his brother sitting there grinning around one of his crappy little cigarillos. But Roy was dead. His body was draped across the back seats, one hand clamped on the ragged exit wound in his chest, the other trailing in a puddle of congealed blood in the foot well. Tony leaned over, jabbed a bony finger into the bullet hole and wiggled it, just to be sure. 

Yep, still dead.

“Fuck you, Roy,” he said.

Tony turned his attention back to the car and cranked the engine. He kept at it until the battery barely had enough juice left to flip the motor.

“Don't say a goddamn word, Roy, not one.”

In the back a blue bottle fly strolled around on Roy's face, before disappearing inside his slack mouth.

Tony slumped in his seat; this whole thing was fucked up. Hitting convenience stores used to be an easy score, but now every swinging dick packed heat. That old bastard had pulled a fucking AR15 from under the counter for Christ sake. He unloaded on Roy's Buick, ventilating the hood and flaying the front tires. Tony had slammed it in reverse, lost control and piled into a dumpster. Roy, never one to stick around when his ass was on the line, bailed out down a trash filled alley. Tony followed with armor piercing jackets kicking up the concrete at his heels.

“You know you could go out and take a look around, maybe boost us some gas,” Roy said, sitting up in the back seat.

Tony blinked and stared into his rearview mirror. One of Roy's eyes had rolled back up in his head. Sallow skin gathered around his neck like his face was heading south for the winter. It gave him the jowly look of a bulldog.
“I ain’t going out there dude, it’s raining,” Tony said.

“For fuck sake, Gonzo, man up and grow a pair.”

Tony hated that nickname; a schoolyard brawl had got him a three-week suspension and a crooked nose like Gonzo the Muppet. Roy only called him by it when he wanted to push his buttons.
“You're the one who fucked up by jacking this piece of crap, you go look for gas,” Tony spat back.

“How the hell was I to know the guy had a piece, besides he got his. I’ve never seen a head go pop like that,” Roy said.

“I know. I'm sat in chunks of it.”

Tony shifted uneasily in his seat.

“Jesus, quit bitchin'. You ain’t gonna last five minutes without me around to bail your ass out of trouble, you fucking wuss.”

Tony turned ready to crack Roy one on the jaw, but he stopped mid swing.

Seeing his brother’s corpse laid out like a poster boy for rigor mortis he felt something stick in his throat. Roy had always been there for him, in his own way. Sure sometimes he’d beat him like they were married, but if some other punk was stupid enough to try it Roy would make them regret it.

Tony swallowed hard.

“You sure got a lot of mouth for a stiff,” he said and climbed out the car. 

He walked around back, opened the trunk and peered in. Rain dripped off his misshapen nose and plinked on to a five-gallon gas can. He shook it and felt fuel sloshing inside. It was about time he caught a fucking break. He’d get them out of this mess; show Roy he could hold up his end all right.

Tony was so busy thinking about how he was going to stick it to his brother that he didn’t notice the Metro cruiser pulling up across the street.

Rain drummed on the cruiser’s roof. The radio crackled, shot through with static.

Understood 15, suspects are believed armed, approach with caution. Back up is on route.

The two cops shared a look and got out. Behind them the traffic signal made another journey from green to yellow to red.

“Hands behind your head, easy now, boy.”

Tony looked up and saw them for the first time. Caps couched under wet weather plastic, guns out and up. He dropped the gas can and pulled a .38 from his waistband.

Somewhere beneath the rain, he thought he could hear Roy laughing.

Chris Leek lives mostly in Cambridge, England, and when he can in Henderson, Nevada. Recent examples of his work can be found at sites such as: The Molotov Cocktail, Near to the Knuckle, and In Between Altered States. Honky-tonk bars with nine ball and a killer jukebox are hard to come by in Cambridge, so he hangs out here instead: http://nevadaroadkill.blogspot.com/