All Comers

They say most men lead lives of quiet desperation.

In the Gutter, lives don’t last long, so there’s less time for regret. And some men have a tougher time keeping their mouth shut.

All Comers by Paul Heatley

Zeke and Gloria came by the bar every Friday night. Zeke would sit with me and some of the other boys and Gloria would make her way ’round the tables, get her drinks bought by any man willing. She wore short dresses, low cut, way too much skin on even the coldest of nights, and she was a damn flirt. Zeke kept his face in his drink and pretended like he didn’t see the way she whored herself round the room, and didn’t hear her too-loud laugh.
Then one night, real late, she got up on the pool table, hitched her skirt, and let some man she’d gotten real friendly with fuck her. The people gathered ’round, they began to cheer, and poor Zeke he wouldn’t turn, played it dumb again like it could’ve been any woman getting laid behind him, not his wife, but when I looked over I could see the muscles twitching in his cheek and his hand was wrapped so tight round his glass it was like he was tryin’ to smash it.
They went home after that, back to the trailer like nothin’ had happened. Next time they came, it happened again. Zeke looked beaten, like he knew it was gonna and there was nothin’ he could do about it. His shoulders were slumped, his eyes were down at his shufflin’ feet and he wouldn’t look anyone in the face, and winced at the way some folk slapped him on the back and greeted him real enthusiastic. A few drinks into the night, once it got late enough and everyone was drunk enough, Gloria got up on that table. “Why don’t you take yourself home, Zeke? Ain’t nothin’ for you here.”
He pushed off his stool, got up without lookin at her, and left. Men jeered after him, Gloria included. “I’ll fuck any man here,” she said, cried it to the room. “Hell, I’ll fuck every man here, all comers!” There was a cheer went up and she lay back and men took their turn and some of them took her drinks, but she didn’t fuck every man in the bar. A few of us stayed where we were, kept our backs turned to the whole damn mess and did our best to ignore all the men laughin’, and Gloria laughin’ with drink bubblin in her mouth.

Zeke stopped comin’ along. Gloria showed up solo, and she showed up late so there was no waitin’ ’round. Seemed on the nights people knew she was gonna be there it was a full house. Everyone said she was good pussy and they all wanted a piece of it.
She’d call us sometimes, those of us that kept our eyes on our drinks and didn’t want any part of her. The usual kind of thing—she’d insult our manhood, ask what we were scared of. One time, I turned ’round, looked her right in the face ’cos I didn’t wanna see any other part of her. “Lady, I ain’t scared of anythin’, but you oughtta be ashamed of yourself. Zeke’s a damn fine man, he ain’t deservin’ of this that you’re puttin’ him through.” Then I turned my back to her.
She didn’t like that. She got off the pool table. She came over, put her chin right on my shoulder, spoke into my ear but loud enough for everyone to hear. “He ain’t deservin’ of this? What about what I deserve? You wanna know a little story about Zeke? He can’t get it up no more. Just lies on top a spell, slobbers all over me, then rolls off and cries. You hear that? He cries. So fuck Zeke. He ain’t half a man anyway.” She flicked my earlobe and went back to the table and the gathered men laughed for her.
Then, one night, Zeke came back.
He didn’t kick the door down, he didn’t come in shootin’. He came in quiet. No one heard him. No one knew he was there until he had the shotgun pressed to the back of the head of the man fuckin’ his wife. He gave him both barrels. Covered Gloria in his blood and his brains. Everyone went real quiet. Zeke pulled out a couple more shells, reloaded his shotgun. He took his time. No one moved. Everyone expected him to turn the gun on Gloria and no one wanted to draw attention to themselves should he turn it on them.

Zeke shot the nearest man in the face, a single barrel. Gloria stared to scream. Zeke turned to the next man, blasted him too. People scattered then, ducked and dived and got behind cover.
Zeke looked casual, he took his time, but there were tears runnin’ down his face. He ejected the spent shells, stuck a fresh two in. He turned the shotgun on Gloria. She’d screamed herself hoarse, there was no noise comin’ out anymore. She scrambled backwards up the pool table, tried to get away from him. He lined her up in the sights. His finger hovered over both triggers.
He didn’t shoot her in the face. I wish he had. She found her scream again, and she kept it until she eventually bled out. It was a godawful noise to hear.
Zeke left her there and went back to reloadin’ his shotgun, looked set to kill every man in the bar. He painted the walls with blood, the place looked like a fuckin’ abattoir. I don’t think there was a man there expected to see mornin’.

Then he took out a shell and he looked at it for a long time, loaded it in and turned back to Gloria, still screamin’, both hands buried in her blood like she thought she could maybe hold herself in. Zeke took one last look at her, stuck the shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

Paul Heatley’s writing has previously appeared in Thuglit, Dead Guns Press, Horror Sleaze Trash, Spelk, and The Pink Factory, among others. His story Barbie appeared at the Flash Fiction Offensive back in March, 2013. He lives in the north east of England.