Most people go to church on Sunday. I go to the bar. The place is called Cheers Too and it's a dive. This isn't where everbody knows your name. Smells like a dive - stale beer and week old grease in the fryer that sticks to everything. No smoke. The anti-smoking laws in Phoenix take care of that. Now you go outside.
It's hot and muggy - the monsoon season - so when I step inside I'm already covered in a film of sweat. A giant Mexican with pockmarked face sits at the end of the bar near a white prick with a bushy goatee. The prick's whiter than white, red hair, probably got Irish in him. He glowers at me and I think sour milk. The Mexican ignores me; wears a light blue bandana over his head. The prick wears a West Coast Chopper cap; Smash Fight Wear denim biker vest. Fucking tool. Fat hangs off of them in layers. The Mexican has bitch tits.
The seat in-between them is open. I sit down. Order a Blue Moon. The bartender, she's a skinny brunette in tight top that shows off her waist, and even tighter shorts. Long hair tied in pig tails. Eyes like a Siamese cat and I think ditzy. She sets my beer down, I take a sip, then turn to the prick and say hey, what's going on? but he just gives me a sideways look, so I say how's it going buddy, you doing alright?
“Fine,” he says.
“Don't mind him,” the Mexican says. “He's just pissed about some shit earlier.”
“You're pissed about some shit earlier?” I say. “What happened?”
The prick takes a swig from the bottle of Budweiser he's holding and tells me how he goes out to the patio earlier, and there's this bike club of vets out there holding some kind of meeting. They tell him the patio's only for members, that he has to split, but he says that's bullshit, he ain't going nowhere. It's about to turn ugly, when he finally backs down, does an about face, and exits the patio.
“Vets?” I say. “What kind of vets?”
He looks at me this time. Looks me up and down. Sees my buzz cut, says, “Vietnam Vets. I've had run-ins with them before.”
“That's fucked up, man,” I say. “I'm military myself. Army. Served in Iraq, but they teach us new vets to be more respectful.”
“They got some new vets too,” he says.
I tell him what they did wasn't right. Even though I don't know them, I still apologize for them. Tell him don't let them ruin his image of the military. We're not all like that. Offer to buy his next beer, turn to the brunette tending bar, and say I'm buying his next one. He doesn't say anything. Chugs down the rest of his Budweiser and she puts another bottle in front of him.
“Name's Javier,” the Mexican says. “That's my homeboy Tony.”
“Good to meet you. Name's Mike,” I say.
“I agree with you about the respect thing,” Javier says.
I say oh yeah? as I stand and pull a roll of twenties from my pocket. Toss one on the bar. I can feel their eyes light up. Can hear the squeaky wheels turning in their heads. I go to the cigarette machine. Eight bucks for a fucking pack of smokes. Good thing I only smoke when I'm drunk. The bartender, she throws some fries in the fryer, and it's not long before the stench of grease is thick enough to clog arteries.
Javier tells me about this one time, he's at a bar called Iron Horse, and how as soon as he walks in this white guy starts talking shit because he's Mexican. Javier doesn't want no trouble, says he leaves the bar, but the guy follows him out and starts swinging, dropping bombs. Javier swings back; lays the guy out cold.
I say no shit, damn, you fucked him up? and Javier grins. Turns out the guy's the brother of an inmate who just finished a twenty year stint at Florence. Javier says the brother and some of his friends come calling. They catch up with him at Iron Horse; sit him down; want to hear his side. He tells them he didn't want to fight; how the brother came at him. They say okay. Get up and leave.
“I earned their respect,” Javier says. “Used to be you fought someone, then bought 'em a beer after. Now they just wanna shoot you.”
I open the pack of smokes. Go out to the patio. It's covered, fenced off, t.v. flat screens in the walls, mist sprayers line the underside of the roof along the edges. I light the smoke. U2's Sunday Bloody Sunday plays over some speakers. The t.v.'s show news clips about Iraq. How we're withdrawing troops to outside their cities because they want sovereignty. Iraqis cheering and celebrating en masse. National Sovereignty Day they call it. Fucking ungrateful cock suckers.
I finish my smoke. Marlboro Menthol Smooths. I throw open the door. I step back inside at the same time I pull out the .45 Glock tucked in my waistline. Tony sees me and his face is complete surprise. I pop one into the back of Javier's head, and a cloud of red sprays the air from the back of his head and his right eye and half his nose spatters the brunette when the bullet ruptures out the front of his face. I can smell and taste the grease and blood on the air. The brunette covers her face; screams and drops to the floor.
“I lied,” I say to Javier's body slumped over the bar. “I'm not in the Army, and you didn't earn their respect.”
I point the Glock at Tony without looking. He screams like a little bitch. I pull the trigger and the Glock silences him. I take the beer in front of him. Slide it over to Javier.
“There's your fucking beer.”
BIO: Jason Duke is a Sergeant in the U.S. Army and served 15 months in Iraq as part of OIF 07-09. He was borderline before going to Iraq, but now he's totally fucked in the head. He mostly misses killing shit and blowing shit up. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Thuglit, Plots With Guns, Pulp Pusher, A Twist of Noir, The Hiss Quarterly, 3AM Magazine, Suspect Thoughts, Shred of Evidence, Outsider Ink, Dungeon Magazine. He can be reached at email@example.com.