“Why… are… we… RUNNING??!!”
Dusk was well underway, and the sky over the city was bruised with darkness. As far as Hunter could tell, it must have been about ten-thirty at night when they scrambled out the back exit of the Ship and Anchor Pub and started running down the alley, dodging pedestrians and vehicles alike in their immediate desire to escape.
Bill took a sharp left into the parking lot for the Rose and Crown upon hearing the first shots. He looked back over his shoulder to see Hunter close behind and didn’t slow down until they were well down fourth street. Bill was puffing like a locomotive, hands on his knees, doubled over, heart pounding, threatening to burst from his chest like the title creature in Riley Scott’s Alien.
“Holy geezley crow, Hunter! Those assholes were shooting at us!”
Several more “pops” rang through the semi-darkness. Bill looked around desperately for the source, grabbing Hunter by the shoulders as if to using him for a Human shield.
“F-fireworks,“ Hunter gasped between breaths, shoving Bill away from him, “no-ones shooting at us.”
Revelation washed over Bill’s sweaty, red-flushed face, “Oh yeah… fucking Stampede…YAA-HOO!”
A couple of drunk chicks dressed like slutty cow-girls across the street responded with a “Yaaa-Hoooo!” of their own. Hunter raised his head in their direction and gave them a long, appreciating look and shouted across at them, “Evening ladies,” to which their only reply seemed to be “Woooooo!”
Bill was beginning to get his breath back, “Come on, lets move.”
The boys began slowly trudging north on fourth street, back towards Lond Ho, and perhaps an uncharacteristic early night.
“Where we goin’?” Hunter finally asked as they emerged from the ninth avenue underpass and ducked into an alleyway heading east.
Bill paused to light up a cigarette, “I think one last stop before home, maybe we can find a patio or something, to try and shake off the Michael Moriarty Incident.”
The memories of the last several hours hit Hunter like a tsunami, he had trouble believing himself that they had managed to escape unscathed! “Yeah, and you know the worst part of it is, we’ll NEVER be able to tell anyone what happened with him tonight, I mean who would even believe it?”
Within minutes the boys were standing before an iron railing covered with more cheap and cheesy, “saw-mill seconds” wooden corral fencing. The patio seating at the Henry VIII Pub (or as the boy’s were always calling it, Henry Vee-cubed) was packed, overly full in fact, so there was no chance of a seat.
Bill cursed under his breath and savagely ripped open the entrance door to the left of the patio. If the outside seating area of Henry VIII was packed with enough Humans to make it quite possibly fire-code unsafe, the inside was the complete opposite. Only a few booths were occupied, except near the front where there was the massive spill-over from the patio, there were only a couple of people sitting at the bar. The remainder of the patrons were spread out over the rest of the pub’s rather generous interior.
“Not with a bang but with a whimper.” Hunter said quietly, looking around at the relative emptiness of the pub.
“Pardon?” Bill asked over his shoulder.
“The way the night ends.”
Bill stepped up to the bar, “Not if I have anything to say about it!”
Brett, Henry Vee-cube’s absolutely fabulous bartender turned to the sound of a familiar voice. “Well, look what the cat dragged in! The two boys who complain constantly about the state of the city during Stampede, have decided to exit their hetero boy-cave and whoop it up in my pub! I’m sooo honoured!” Brett started pouring a couple of the boy’s “regular” pints as Bill and Hunter took to their barstools.
Bill exhaled, what a night! Tell me again why MacGreggor didn’t want to come out and hang with Moriarty with us… what was he broke or something?”
Hunter shook his head, “Yeah, no, he said if we were out with Dirk Benedict he might have considered it.”
The beers were down in front of them, “That’ll be $6.50 sweeties.”
Bill reached for his wallet, then stopped, “Can we get a tab going?”
“You know I would love to extend a tab to you two but you both know I need a credit card to do that.”
Hunter grumbled, “Come-on you know us!”
“More than my jobs worth honey. If you don’t have plastic I can’t,” Brett said, genuinely sorry, “A few bad apples out their running out on their bills spoiled it for the rest of you.”
Bill pulled out a twenty from his wallet, “Here you go.” He turned to Hunter, "that my friend was the last of the 'bottle and can' cash. We are now officially down to it.”
Hunter took a sip from his pint, “Dammit man, now not only has all that running made me sweat out all the booze I poured down my neck earlier, but now were broke, and I’m hungry on top of it!”
“The annoyances of life never end do they.”
“Excuse me gentlemen,”
Both Bill and Hunter turned around on their stools to see a young man in a black suit and tie, and a crisp, white shirt standing before them, he had small gold name tags overhis suit pocket and was holding what looked to Hunter to be a bible, or some other heavy tome of holy scripture. Suddenly remembering he had to visit the gents, Hunter spun around the other way on his barstool, only to find another almost identical man cutting off his escape. As Admiral Ackbar would say: “It’s a TRAP!”
Bill took the lead, "Good evening Mr. Robinson, what can we do for you?”
“It’s Elder Robinson actually, and we were wondering if you two young gentlemen had found Jesus?”
Bill smiled, “I didn’t know he was missing, but my friend and I are just out for a pleasant evenings drinking right now, but if you would like to come by our place later in the week we would love to hear what you have to say about it!”
Hunter could barely believe what he was hearing! Did Bill actually just invite a couple of Mormon Missionaries to their flat??
Bill was scribbling something on a bar mat, “Here is my number, you can call me anytime after tomorrow.”
“Well, that’s just wonderful thank you so much, Mr. – uh…”
“It’s Bill, Bill Williams, and this is Hunter.” Bill reached out and gave Elder Robinson’s hand a big shake, squeezing it hard.
Elder Robinson prised his hand free of Bill’s meaty ham hock and turned to Hunter, “Nice to meet you Mr. Hunter.”
Hunter shook his hand, “It’s just Hunter, you know one name, like Cher.”
“Oh, ah Cher? Really, that’s very funny.” Elder Robinson said, although the look on his face suggested otherwise.
“It’s what I strive for.”
The two men stepped away and moved on to a table with two young ladies who were drinking Crantinis.
Before Hunter could take another sip he was surprised by a sudden, and unexpected, “BOO!”
Standing behind him was Kelli, all Stampeded up with a child’s sized straw hat with a red whistle on a string. She was dressed in a too tight chequered Western shirt with fake mother of pearl snaps that looked fit to burst across her bosom. A denim miniskirt and black cowgirl boots with white trim completed the ensemble.
“Kelli! I haven’t seen you in months.”
“Yeah, no I keep calling and leaving messages but no-one calls me back! Anyway, how come you’re not dressed for Stampede Week?”
“I don’t really like Stampede…”
“Oh, nonsense everyone loves Stampede, and you totally should too! I think you’d look great in a cowboy hat! Did you know I put this whole outfit together just from stuff I had in my closet?”
“I know! So what are you guys drinking? You got room for one more, oh never mind I see a chair.” Kelli sat down on the vacant stool next to Hunter and started spinning around making “whoot, whoot” noises.
Hunter looked at her chuckling, “Are you high?”
“Maybe a bit!” She said in a conspiratorial tone, “Rachael brought home a small bag of weed and we smoked a little before I came out!”
“Rachael, huh, is she with you?”
“JESUS Hunter, is that all you ever care about is where’s Rachael?!”
Bill got up from his seat, he had already downed most of his pint, and Hunter had hardly had a chance to touch his. “Going for a slash!”
Hunter took this opportunity to take a long draught from his glass, as he put it down, Kelli picked it up.
“Ohhh, what are we drinking,” she took a sip from his glass.
Hunter was an only child and not what one would call a good sharer at the best of times, and people, any people, grabbing his pint and helping themselves was something he would not stand for. He grabbed the glass back from Kelli before she could finish her sip.
“Get your own, “ he grumbled taking another long draught so that he was almost caught up with Bill.
“Well aren’t you old Mr. Grumpy-Grabby today!” Kelli said.
“Grumpy-Grabby isn’t even a thing, and it’s still impolite to take without asking.”
“Yes it is, it's totally a thing!”
“I’m pretty sure it isn’t, but oh shit, I almost forgot! I ran into Mia today!”
Immediately Kelli’s mood turned dark, “Why would I care about her?” She grumbled.
“Because, and this is funny, she totally stole one of your stories!”
Kelli was not amused, “What? What story?”
Hunter continued, “Remember that time when you were over, and Mia and her fiancé Dave were there, and you told that story about the giant wasp or something flying away with like, a bucket of chicken?”
“Look, it was a really big hornet, ok, and it wasn’t a whole bucket of chicken it was just a small bit, and wait, Mia,” she said the name like a curse, “fucking stole that story? What do you mean? That’s MY story! That happened to ME, not her!”
Hunter was laughing uncontrollably, he was picturing in his head a hornet flying away with a whole bucket of KFC.
“Stop laughing! That skinny little bitch stole my story! She’s a little Story Stealer!”
“She probably just liked it so much it stuck in her head and got mixed up or something, I mean your both from Toronto, and she probably took weekends out in cottage country the same as you-“
“NO! We are not the same! Don’t ever say that! Gawd I hate her!”
Hunter finished off his pint just as Bill was returning.
“Finally!” Hunter grumbled, “I gotta piss like the wind!” He got up and headed down the bar, through the hallway next to the kitchen, past the hot plate where a chef was calling out orders, down the next hall way to the men’s room three feet from the rear exit. If the toilets were any further away from the bar we’d be pissing outside! He thought grumpily.
When he'd finished, Hunter stepped out of the men’s, shaking droplets of water from his hands, annoyed by the lack of towels when a blur in the shape of Bill blew past him and burst out the back door, telling him to, “RUN!” At first, Hunter didn’t know what to think, it looked like (but couldn’t be) Bill had an unboxed pizza in his hands…
Hunter ran after Bill, into the alleyway, the dark of night was full-on now and it took his eyes a few seconds to adjust, and a few more to finally spot Bill running straight-backed, arms out in front of him, juggling a pizza complete with pan in his hands.
“Come on Hunter!”
Hunter rolled his eyes, and for the second time that night began running away from the back door of a pub.
* * *
The boys sat on the concrete landing at the top of a long set of stairs leading to the heavy, ornate wooden front doors of an inner-city church. The thick, meaty pan-style pizza sat between them, uncut, waiting.
Hunter looked up at Bill, “What the fuck do we do with that?”
“We eat it.”
“Eat it? The things still whole! What are we going to cut it with? The power of our minds?”
Bill frowned, “Hadn’t actually thought of that, hey maybe-“
“I got it, “Hunter interrupted him, and reached into his shirt.
“Don’t tell me you have pizza cutter in there!”
“No,” Hunter said, “but I do have something I think will do.” And with that he pulled the keys to Lond Ho flat 1401 and the leather lanyard they were attached to from around his neck. He checked them to see which one looked like it might have been the sharpest, “yessss, this should do nicely…”
Hunter savagely attacked the pizza, sawing off two pieces of the delicious, steaming pie for them both to enjoy.
Bill took a large bite, then spoke around chewing, “You know Hunter I don’t say this often enough, but you are a freaking genius.”
“You're right, you don’t.” Hunter said taking another bite of cheesy, saucy, meaty goodness.
“I love the smell of hot greasy pizza in the morning.”
“It’s actually not even midnight yet…”
“Still and all, it tastes like victory…”
* * *
The sunlight of a new day was blasting over the rooftops of the city as Bill and Hunter sat on the decrepit, grey sofa on the balcony of flat 1401. Hunter was smoking a Colt tipped cigarillo, and Bill was lighting another DuMaurier. In between then sat the deep-dish pizza pan, at this point filled with nothing but scraps of crust, ashes, cigarette, and cigarillo butts.
Bill exhaled a cloud of grey-blue smoke into the morning air.
Hunter spoke, “You ever get tired of this?”
Bill gave him a sideways glance, “What, smoking on the patio?”
“No, I mean this life! It’s been almost a year since we moved in to Lond Ho and nothings changed. We’re both still working at shitty McJobs. We're broke at the end of every week. I still haven’t found a publisher, or even a lit agent. All the agents I talk to just want me to pay them money I don’t have up front to read my shit, and only then after the money is already in their pockets do they decide whether to take me on or not. I can’t afford to pay these assholes two bucks a page to read my work! I can barely afford rent, food, and booze! What the fuck is that about anyway?”
“Hey, you’re preaching to the choir here man, the only direction money should be flowing is towards the artist, then if the agent does a good job, they are more than welcome to take their 10%. I mean that’s how it should work, right?”
“Yeah, it should… ah well, I’m off to hit the sack… been up –holy crap- like 20 hours! Anyway later.” Hunter stubbed his cigarillo out in the middle of the deep-dish pan, stood up and slid open the screen door. He tripped a little on the threshold from booze and exhaustion, stumbled into the flat, and headed straight for his room, closing the door.
“Later Hunter,” Bill took a long satisfying drag on his cigarette and thought about what Hunter said. It had been almost a year, and they did both work at shitty jobs where they were overworked, under-appreciated, and under-paid for all the shit they had to take day after day, week after week. Maybe it was time for a change of scenery… maybe one day, but just not today. He thought, and watched the sun rise over the rooftops.