Here’s the next installment of Master of the Drunken Fist. Enjoy!
Several weeks passed and Mike was sober for most of it. The past episode with the void and the hurt he gave Noelle were enough to set him straight for a time. Work was going well enough too. But to be honest, there wasn’t much for him to concern himself with there. He started at the job when he was sixteen and somehow worked his way up to senior custodian of the cap factory. He could be somewhat flexible with his hours with the crew he had working for him. The cap factory, Eagle Caps, was the last large manufacturing facility in Brownsville. There were rumors of their jobs going to Mexico, but so far, they were just rumors. They seemed busy, as far as Mike could tell. He never did finish his college degree, so he couldn’t get a position in management, and he never did get in with the textile unions, so here he was, the head of custodians for the factory.
It was a good job and paid the bills. Besides some of the large retail stores in the area, it was one of the few places left that offered any kind of benefits. He had a couple friends that worked there, as well as some he didn’t care for all that much. The twins Keith and Carl both worked in the finishing part of the line and would give the caps one last look over before prepping them for delivery or decoration, which they also did there. Keith would often give him a rough go of it, mostly because of his fondness for Noelle. He always had his eye on her and Mike knew it. Regardless of that tension, Mike enjoyed the job and worked hard at it. He figured it was as good a life as any and didn’t complain much and did his job well.
The big spring production rush was starting to settle down and several of the guys were going down to Gene’s after work for some drinks and food. They made the best pulled pork and their hot wings were famous. One just had to mention “Gene’s Wings” and your mouth instantly watered at the thought of devouring those moist, spicy wings. One of the other custodians, Jared, invited Mike down to the dive.
“Are the twins going,” he asked after Jared’s invite.
“Yeah, I think so but don’t worry about it man. Those guys are alright. They won’t cause any problems. Besides, it’s Gene’s special ‘shine night.”
Mike had instant flashbacks to the void when Jared told him that. The ‘shine did him in good last time and almost cause him Noelle. “Nah, I think I’ll pass Jared. I gotta get home. Thanks anyway.”
“Well if you change your mind, you know where we’ll bet. Those wings are damn good man, just saying!” He smiled and turned to walk out with everyone else.
Mike drove home and pulled into the drive. Noelle’s car was gone which was not like her. Mike looked at his phone and he had a missed call and voicemail from Noelle.
“Hey Mike, I’m going out with the girls tonight to go see a movie. I left some soup in the fridge for you. We’ll be back kinda late, so you don’t need to wait up if you don’t want to. If you get this before 6, you can call me back. Love ya, bye.”
Mike looked at his watch, it was too late. He silenced his phone at work, like normal, but forgot to put it on vibrate and missed the call. Oh well, he thought, Maybe I can catch up on some movies or something tonight. Noelle wasn’t a big fan of horror movies and he absolutely loved them. It looked like a night of soup and butcher knives awaited him.
As he started heating up the soup, the prospect of sitting around alone started to bother him. His mouth watered as he thought about those deliciously hot and spicy wings. His stomach grumbled. He could see Jared down there now, fingers all covered in sauce, enjoying his food while the music played and everyone had a good time. He could see Gene’s smiling face and balding head, passing around the ‘shine to all. It was too much. He dumped the soup down the drain, grabbed his keys, and took off down to Gene’s.
It was loud when he got there. There must have been like ten to fifteen cars outside and that was a lot for a Thursday night. The place could hold thirty, maybe forty comfortably, however when he walked in, it seemed like everyone and their brother was there. Hank Williams played on the jukebox and thick cigarette smoke clouded his vision. Just the kind of place he liked to go and unwind.
Jared turned when he saw the door open and smiled big when he saw Mike enter. “Hot damn man, I figured you’d show up! Can’t pass on these wings, can ya?” he said as he held up a half eaten wing in a sauce covered hand.
“No, I guess not,” he replied. There was an empty chair at Jared’s table and he took it without hesitating. “Stay here man, I’ll be right back,” and Jared got up and went to the bar. He returned with four small glasses, the same kind Mike busted the mirror with last time, all full of a clear liquid. It was fire. Mike knew it had to be the special ‘shine of Gene’s. He looked back to the bar and saw the mirror still had yet to be replaced, and a bare spot next to the bottles on the wall screamed at him as a reminder of his last time here. “I don’t think I need that Jared. I’m good, thanks.”
“Hell no man, we all drink it,” and he passed the glasses around the table, everyone looking cautiously at the seemingly innocent liquid fire in their hands. “Bottom’s up boys!” Jared said as he raised the glass and downed the whole shot in one gulp. The rest of the table did the same, all except Mike. In unison, they hissed through their teeth as the ‘shine burned their mouths, their throats, and their stomachs. Mike knew that feeling and as bad as it was, it also meant he’d be getting to feeling good in no time. They all stared at him as he held the glass, when finally he raised it high and said, “Why the hell not?” and drank it down.
“That a boy,” Jared commended him. “Now you can relax and let loose. This shit’ll get ya going for sure!” Instantly, Mike felt his entire body tingle with warmth and his mouth and throat scream in torture. It seemed like the usual addition of grapefruit couldn’t touch the heat this time. Mike’s eyes rolled back in his head as he swallowed the liquid rocket fuel.
When he opened them, he was in the void.
Thanks for reading! Please leave a comment below, your feedback is welcome. Come back tomorrow for chapter 5 of Master of the Drunken Fist. Click here for the Table of Contents and links for the chapters.