Latest Flash

Going Over

When your friends are bookies you need to remember
the odds are always against you.

Going Over by Rob Brunet

 “Fucken mutt.”
Carl didn’t care about Jamie’s dog problems. “Did ya get paid or not?”
“Yesterday. That’s how come I bought the table.”
Carl worked his ring finger with a nail file, the phone cradled between his right ear and shoulder. “What’d you call it?”
“It’s an inversion table. For my back pain.”
“Hurts, does it?”
“Gonna hurt more, I come over there, beat nine bills outta your hide.”
“I told you I’d pay you end of the month.”
“Next week.”
“First pay in December.”
Carl checked his watch. Eight fifty-five. His show was about to begin. “So why call me tonight?”
“I told you. The dog. Guess he got excited seeing me upside down like this.”
“On the inversion chair.”
“And you’re on it.”
“Yeah, ankles strapped in tight.”
“Hanging upside down. The fuck for?” Carl picked up the remote, tuned the channel, and put it on mute. “How much this thing cost?”
“Six hundred fifty. I got the deluxe model.”
“So, you coulda paid me this week.”
“A side benefit, it’s supposed to aid digestion.”
“You start talking ’bout how regular you are, I’m gonna hang up.”
“Don’t do that, Carl. You gotta come over, get me down.”
“Why should I?”
“The fucken dog. Like I said, I set it up, tilted over, and he runs in barking.”
The credits rolled on the eight-thirty show. Just enough time to take a leak. Carl went to the bathroom and put the phone on speaker, setting it on the sink edge.
Jamie said, “He knocked the carton over.”
“What carton?”
“The one the table came in. It jammed under—hey, you taking a piss?”
“My show’s gonna start.”
“Yeah, but…ah shit, now I gotta go.”
“So go.”
“I’m STUCK. Don’t you get it? I need you to come get me off this damn thing.”
“Before you piss yourself.”
“I been upside down a half hour already. Just lucky I had my phone in my pocket, but I only got maybe two minutes left on the battery.”
“And you call your bookie.”
“It’s not like I got a lotta friends. Besides, I have half what I owe you, right here.”
“So you want I miss my show, rush over to see you, and come away half empty.” Carl flushed the toilet. “I’ll see what I can do.”
“I’m feeling woozy.”
Carl hung up the phone. The show was a rerun, but he watched it anyway. What else would he do on a Wednesday? When it was over, he called Jamie back. Hearing his chipper voicemail greeting rubbed Carl the wrong way. Jamie was always cheerful. Even when he lost and doubled down. He had this way of making it sound like it was exactly what he wanted.
Tonight was maybe the first time Carl had heard the man upset. It had felt good. For all the times he’d let Jamie ride, dealing with his excuses, putting up with the way he slapped Carl’s back when he won big, acting like they were friends instead of doing business. Let him hang there a while on the damn upside down chair or whatever the fuck it was he bought instead of paying his bill. Let him piss himself and get humped by his damn dog.
If he hadn’t fallen asleep watching the news, Carl would’ve gone over, but after midnight? Forget it. He left it for morning.
The dog barked like a nutcase when he got to Jamie’s apartment. The door wasn’t locked.
Carl was only half surprised Jamie had died. His pants had dried out, but he still stank of urine, and the wad of bills in his pocket was disturbingly damp.
Untying his ankles and watching his body flop to the floor, Carl wondered how quickly the table would sell on eBay and whether it would make up the difference of Jamie’s last tab. The buyer needn’t know Jamie had died while strapped to the thing.
He didn’t get why anyone would want to hang upside down. To each his own.

Mostly, looking at Jamie lying there on the floor, his face a purplish blue mash, Carl was surprised that much blood could fit in a man’s nose, lips, and tongue.

Rob Brunet laces character-driven crime fiction with dark humor. His novel Stinking Rich was published by Down & Out Books and received end-of-year nods from Crimespree Magazine and MysteryPeople. He teaches creative writing at George Brown College in Toronto, and spends as much time down dirt roads as life allows.