The Gambit

Hank’s still been a no show at Marlin’s Inn, and it’s been a no go for me to hit the bingo hall.

Fuck it.  There, I said it.  I don’t know why I care so much that Henry Chinaski has parted ways with the bar he’s frequented for at least fifteen years by my summation.  I don’t know why I give a damn about his opinion of me.  I couldn’t care less that he’s staying away because of something I did.

Okay, I feel completely the opposite of all that.  What’s wrong with my brain’s wiring?

Jump.  That’s the first word Hank ever said to me.  Shit or get off the pot, so to speak.

I was standing on a freeway overpass where a stretch of chain link had been stripped away.  I was positioned on the railing, my hand clasping the aluminum pole so tight my knuckles went numb.  Cars below were honking their horns.

“What?” was all I could muster.

Hank had been riding his bike.  I never turned to see him while I stood at the brink of my demise, but once I faced him I realized I had noticed him down below on the shoulder of the highway, racing to get to me.

I’ve seen a lot of stupid people do a lot of stupid things.  And most of the stupid things those stupid folks do transcend their levels of stupidity.  You look like a smart guy, and jumping into traffic is fucking idiotic.  I’ve never seen such a fucking distance between bright and foolish as this.  So like I said.  Shit or get off the pot.  But know this – whatever she did to you, you’re going to do a hell of a lot worse to somebody down there.  As pretty as she may have been, what you’re aiming to do ain’t.

At the time, I didn’t know how he knew.  As soon as I wavered back toward the bridge’s concrete, he grabbed me to help me down.  This septuagenarian asshole was telling me to jump.  As I thanked him, he hit me in the back of the head.

What the fuck were you thinking?  He was visibly shaken, and when the reality of what almost happened set in for me, I was shaking.  Why don’t you come with me to this little place I hang out and get a drink? 

It’s funny, though.  Since Hank left, I haven’t much thought about Ashleigh.

At least until that night she called.