The Love Song of Big Rodge Prunty

Don't punch in the wrong selection at the bar's jukebox.

In The Gutter, it could leave a permanent ring in your ears.

The Love Song of Big Rodge Prunty by Tim P. Walker

The young guys were likely trying to rattle Boyle, who kept spanking them at eight ball to the tune of twenty per game. After a while, they were just doing it to amuse themselves, taking turns pumping dollars into the TouchTunes jukebox, picking the worst songs from the past quarter century. Ten insufferable minutes with Celine Dion led to five minutes in hell with Michael Bolton. That mambo song led to the Macarena, which led to that dance song with the guy who’s, “Blue da-ba-dee-da-ba-da.”
There used to be a remote that controlled the volume on the jukebox. Damned if Frankie knew where it went. He also used to keep ice picks behind the bar. Two would’ve done nicely. One in each ear. But he hadn’t kept ice picks in the joint since the time the next song they picked was popular. On The Wings of Love. The Jeffrey Osborne tune from ‘82. Two hundred and forty seconds of buttermilk balladry so flaccid that humming it alone buys another two minutes in the sack without blowing your wad. Works better than picturing nude grannies or Ortiz striking out on foul tips. Naturally, it was popular at weddings. Even Big Rodge danced to it at his own.
There he was himself – Big Rodge – sitting right at the bar, thumb and middle finger jammed so far into his eye sockets, the tears poured down his forearm.

Frankie felt his guts kick, as if to boot the rest of his parts to nearest exit, because there those young guys were, nearly knocking each other’s fedoras off as they doubled over, not bothering to snicker silently enough.

The older man stood leaning against the pool table, staring lasers through the back of Rodge’s head, pool cue slung across his shoulders.
“Holy shit, chief,” one of the young guys whispered way too loudly. “You were right. He’s bawling.”
“Turn that shit off already,” Frankie barked.
“It’s your jukebox, boss,” the other young guy said.
“Leave it!” Big Rodge bellowed, fingers still jammed in his sockets. He pointed to an empty spot on the bar in front of him. “Shot!”
“All right there, Rodge. I gotcha,” Frankie answered sheepishly. He fumbled for a shot glass and the bottle of Jameson, spilling several drops as he poured.

Rodge waited out the last of “Wings” before slugging the whiskey back and slamming the shot glass on the bar so hard the shards seemed to vaporize, leaving nothing but a powdery burn mark smeared across the lacquered top. Everybody’s assholes seemed to pucker at once.

“Why’s that song on there?” Rodge snarled.

“I don’t know how it got on there,” Frankie told him. “It’s computerized. Everything’s computerized these days. I don’t know how these things work,” he trailed off, wandering to the far side of the bar as he caught Boyle in the corner of his eye standing upright, taking practice swings with the pool cue.
“Whatsamatta, Prunty? Don’t like the tune?” Boyle said. 
Rodge, eyes swollen, caught the reflection of the man in the Ray-Bans and sparkly cowboy shirt in the mirror behind the bar. “Tell me something, Boyle,” he said with a grin. “It’s been twenty-five fuckin’ years. Was it you killed Carol?”
“Those were your bullets, you rat,” he answered coolly. “And wasn’t that a company van? That broad wasn’t supposed to be behind the wheel of no company property. You knew that.”
Rodge slammed his fist into the bar. “Well she didn’t know!” he growled. Then he quickly spun around on his stool and drew from under his khaki work jacket a dusty snub-nosed .38 that looked like it’d been hiding out with Frankie’s old ice picks. He fired off three rounds. Two of them hit the jukebox, which pissed sparks and spewed smoke. The other one hit Boyle in the tit.
“Not the fuckin’ jukebox!” Frankie whined, biting his knuckles.
Rodge hopped off his stool and approached Boyle. “Twenty-five years, motherfucker,” he spat, throat full of phlegm and grit. “It ain’t getting any fuckin’ easier.”
Boyle leaned back against the pool table, blood-tinted smirk on his face. “Prunty, you cunt,” he gurgled, his voice soggy. He tried to lift the cue, but it slipped from his grip and rolled under the table. “Pons shouldn’ta called off that hit on you, you rat.”
“Enough!” Rodge screamed. “I didn’t rat on no-fucking-body!” Rodge screamed again, and the .38 screamed. When they were done, Boyle was laid out across the pool table, blood soaking into the green felt. Rodge pitched the cashed piece at Boyle. It bounced off his chest and landed underneath the table next to Boyle’s cue. He turned and made for the exit, eyes redder still.
“Goddamn it, Boyle,” Frankie groaned when the big man left. “Don’t die on my fucking table!” But Boyle didn’t budge. 

The two young guys stood with their backs glued to the wall. Their pale complexions told Frankie they were too frightened themselves to budge. Even the tattoos covering their arms were looking milky.
Frankie sized the two of them up. “Do I even have to tell you not to say shit to anyone?”

They shook their heads vigorously.

“All right, fuck off then,” he told them.

They bolted for the door before any of them could think a second thought. 

The second thought came to Frankie shortly after they split. “Shit. Nobody paid their tabs.” He turned to Boyle’s corpse and said, “Hope you ain’t bleeding all over your money, too, kid.” 

Frankie whistled that “Wings” tune as he prodded Boyle’s pants pockets, pondering his next move. Shame that song didn’t buy that kind of time. 

Tim P. Walker hopes to have something longer out sometime before the tiny fingered Cheeto creature in the midst of one of his famous pussy grabbin' coke binges invokes the nuclear apocalypse. Until then you can find his work in Gutter releases such as Atomic Noir and Out of the Gutter 7 as well as the Baltimore City Paper.