Broken Faces

03/29/24

The mouth heals quickly. In two or three days, this hole two-thirds of the way through the inside of my face will be gone. That is if I could just keep my tongue out of it. Ironically enough, I received this war wound preventing violence. Or, at least, attempting to prevent it.

See, my drinking buddy, Squintz, called me up at my home office.

“Alex,” he said, “I’m playing a house show tomorrow night and I need someone to have my back.”

“You afraid someone’s gonna pull something?” I asked.

“Nah,” he said, “I’m afraid I am.”

Services I offered my fellow punk rockers typically involved finding lost and stolen goods. I hadn’t done bodyguard work before, much less whatever bizarro iteration this was. Its oddity sourced its intrigue.

“Care to elaborate?” The unlit cigarette in my mouth wiggled. I kissed its tip to a Zippo’s flame.

Squintz recently got dumped by this girl, Katie, and when she told him she still wanted to be friends he actually believed her. Much to his credit, he honored that. Said he loved her enough to enjoy just having her in his life, and meant it.. With or without mohawks, true gentlemen are rare. Katie’s new beaux, Terry, happened to be the polar opposite. He’d been getting rough with her in ways that necessitated extra makeup, but there’s only so much you can hide from someone who knows every corner of your face.

Squintz wanted to kill him. Or at least bring him to death’s brink. Katie begged him not to. It was okay now. Terry stopped all that. Still, how far is the past if the bruises are still purple?

Katie was coming to the party to see Squtinz’s band and Terry was tagging along. So Squitz was offering me his cut of the door to keep him the hell away from Terry. I took a drag on my cig as I mulled over his offer. Before I blew smoke, I realized I admired the kid and would do it gratis. Because, apparently, that’s just the kinda guy I am.

When I arrived at the party, I spotted Squintz immediately. It ain’t often Coke bottle glasses share a head with a shaved dome. He was clutching a bottle of beer and scanning the room. I got his attention by gently confiscating his beverage.

“Best to keep your wits about you, son,” I said. He was unphased by the gesture, but also not entirely grateful.

“Yeah, yeah,” he said before catching the irritation in his voice and correcting himself. “Thanks for being here.”

“No problem,” I said, sipping the beer.  “They here yet?” He pointed over my shoulder. Katie gave Squintz a little wave and he waved back, prompting Terry to put his arm around her. Squintz tensed up and I put my hand on his shoulder. “Breathe,” I whispered. He took a few deep breaths before approaching the mic. His bandmates filled in behind him and they ripped into their set. Terry must have not liked how Squintz and Katie kept locking eyes because he tried to drag her away, but she broke from his grip.

You can always catch that look in a man’s eye when jealousy turns truly wicked. It’s a telegraph for violence. It was there in Terry’s, and when he grabbed Katie again, Squintz launched toward him. I managed to get between them and I kept them separated for as long as I could. But the crowd craved blood and someone pulled me away. As I lost my grip, Squintz’s arm came loose. His elbow accidentally smashed into my lip, crushing the inside of my mouth against a lateral incisor. Squitz and Terry crashed into the drink table, knocking it over. That’s when Squitnz got hold of a broken bottle. I tried to rush in to stop him, but some of the crowd held me back.

Squintz thrust the bottle into Terry’s neck three times before I got loose from the crowd, their grip having loosened. Apparently, the violence stopped being fun to watch.     

I pulled Squintz off Terry. He looked back at me. The disappointment in his eyes made his face look even more broken than mine.

~ fin ~

KD photo 2

Kyle Decker is a Chicago-based author, educator, and punk vocalist. His fiction has appeared in The Molotov Cocktail, Mystery MagazineHyphen-PunkMystery Tribune, and Punk Noir. His debut novel, This Rancid Mill, also stars Alex Damage and was released by PM Press in April 2023. He teaches high school special education and English as a second language and fronts the modern iteration of the punk band Bad Chemicals. For more info go to www.kyledeckerauthor.com