What Happened Next


Cards, cash and a mountain of poker chips covered the round table between them. The fancy pistol atop the pile of everything had been emptied of bullets as a precaution — but not the guns the men had aimed at each other under the table. Those were loaded.

“Now what?” the fat man asked.

“Now what what?” The fatter man could no longer disguise his frustration with this situation. His face was flushed a purple-red. “Only one of us is going to leave here.”

“Is that right? Well, I’ll be honest with you then. I’ve got plans — and I’ve never missed an appointment with your wife.”

“Is that your idea of a joke?” The larger of the two’s breathing was heavier and more fitful than before. Despite the oxygen tank propped up against his straining chair. “Because do you hear me laughing? Do you, asshole? You don’t. You’re a piece of shit.”

“I shoot your balls off, your wife will come running to me. No question about it.”

“Shoot my balls off? That’s your plan? Good luck, once I shoot you in the knee. Your good knee, motherfucker. I saw how you hobbled in here earlier. You bet I did. You’ll be tootling around on one of those scooters for cripples when I’m done with you.”

“That’s big talk from a man about to die in his own garage,” the fat man chuckled. “Because even if my bullet misses its mark or gets lodged deep inside your layers of lard, what I’m thinking is I’ll crush your skull with that stupid tank that keeps your ass alive.”

That was when the fatter man’s wife emerged through the door from the kitchen, holding two plates of sandwiches. Never mind that it was four o’clock in the morning, that the first hint of the sunrise was starting to transform the horizon beyond the garage windows.

The fatter man said “Thanks, hon.” without taking his eyes off of his card partner, who dared a wink at his opponent’s unlikely missus. She looked like she belonged in a spring break or wet t-shirt video, flashing what God gave her for a free pair of panties. The flimsy silk robe she was wrapped in didn’t do much to quell his perverted thoughts.

That she didn’t seem to care if it stayed closed helped even less.

The thinner fat man got more than an eyeful when she leaned over to offer him his plate. So that’s what money buys, he thought.

But rather than say something that might further stir the pot of his current circumstances, he simply smiled and offered a nod of thanks her direction.

The men waited until she’d disappeared back into the kitchen before they started eating. Their free hands grabbed up the sandwiches and napkins. Neither their guns nor gazes wandered.

They tasted nothing at all out of the ordinary. Whatever it was the fatter man’s unlikely wife had sprinkled on their last meal, roast beef and mustard and onion covered up for it.

In the kitchen she heard their guns bang against the garage’s cement floor, then gagging. Now that they were choking on tongues as fat as the rest of them, they weren’t so fast with their tough talk. She could tolerate the glances, but she’d put up with as much macho bullshit as one woman could stand. Either you walked your talk after a while or else you shut your lying mouth.

Unless the swollen tongue that was slowly suffocating you was in the way.

The fatter man’s widow stood listening just a moment more, before padding down the hallway to change into something ratty that she wouldn’t mind seeing burn in the kitchen sink later.

How she was going to dispose of their bloated carcasses, she’d not quite figured out.

~ fin ~

Brian Beatty is the author of the poetry collections Borrowed Trouble; Dust and Stars: Miniatures; Brazil, Indiana: A Folk Poem; and Coyotes I Couldn’t SeeHobo Radio, a spoken-word album of Beatty’s poetry featuring original music by Charlie Parr, was released by Corrector Records in January 2021. Beatty’s stories have appeared in Cowboy Jamboree, Floyd County Moonshine, Hoosier Noir, Monkeybicycle, The Quarterly and Seventeen