Rookies by AJ Hayes.

Rookies. Every single time it all goes shitfaced, there's a fucking rookie involved. Should have been easy, like falling off a sprung-spine hooker onto a feather bed when you got your cowboy boots on. Least that's what I thought, until the stupid kid the bossman told me to teach the trade to all of a sudden decided to go all bad ass chic on me and shoot the mark down through the top of his head instead of straight through the back. I mean holding the gat sideways was bad enough -- but through the top of his skull? C'mon. That’s plain stupid. He must have thought it was gonna be a trademark thing. Set him apart from everybody else in the game. It set him apart from me that’s for sure.

See, when you shoot a guy through the top of his head you’d better make sure you’re shooting straight down; otherwise a low velocity slug like a forty-five can ricochet off a bone and go most anywhere it wants to -- especially when you’re holding your damn gun sideways, fer chri'sake. In a nutshell, that’s what happened. The slug went through the top of the mark’s skull, bounced off his right jawbone, blew sideways through his left one and punched a hole in my pants as big as a tennis ball.

I woke up staring at overhead hospital lights and green masked faces looking down at me. It’s okay, one of them said. The operation was a success. From his point of view, it was. From mine, not so much.

And that’s why I'm tending bar in this shithole town and telling you this story. It don’t make no difference anyhow. It’s been forty years ago last Sunday. All the people involved with that hit back then are dead now. The kid caught the last ride on Old Sparky up at Leavenworth. The rest of them ended up dying in jail thanks to my testimony. Yeah, my testimony. The way it was, the way I’d finished up back then, the only thing I could do, was take the federals up on their witness protection deal.

Might have worked out different. I might have wound up rich and retired over in Europe. Might have done a lot of things. Except, laying there in that damn bed, I knew I’d never make another hit.

I knew, thanks to that fucking rookie, I just didn’t have the balls for the game anymore.

AJ Hayes lives in a small town near San Diego, California, where there is no mafia . . . now.  He misses stuff like "Old Vegas" and guys with Fedoras, cigars and bad attitudes.  You can find his stuff at places like Shotgun Honey, A Twist Of Noir, Yellow Mama, The Hardnosed Sleuth, Muck and Muse, Title Fights and Flashshot. One of his stories will can be found in Pulp Ink, an anthology edited by Chris Rhatagin and Nigel Bird. He was interviewed on Chinwag At The Slaughterouse by Richard Godwin and interviewed himself at Nigel bird's Sea Minor website.

28 comments:

David Barber said...

I just didn't have the balls for the game anymore

Classic ending to a great piece of flash, AJ. Nice one.

Thanks for sending it my way!

Julie Lewthwaite said...

Lovely stuff, as always. Just brilliant!

Mike Miner said...

That unmistakeable AJ Hayes voice, funny and bitter and tough as nails. Solid stuff.

Paul D. Brazill said...

Brilliant!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Mike Miner summed it up perfectly. Great tale.

Joe Clifford said...

Perfect tone, with a flawless last line. Short, sweet, slight psychotic. Just how I like 'em. Well done!

Chris Rhatigan said...

Your work has a feel all of its own. Cracking last line, too.

Christopher Grant said...

What I really love about this story is the whiplash effect that comes after the scene in the hospital and starts with the scene of the narrator tending bar.

And it's all down to the setup, making one assume that the grizzly old vet is going to take his shot at the wet-behind-the-ears rookie.

Nicely played, AJ.

Sabrina E. Ogden said...

short, sweet and perfect.

Angel Zapata said...

Ouch! So does that mean two balls blown into his side pocket?
Anyway, nice grit in this tale. Enjoyed it.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

smooth as silk narration throughout and the whole shooting through the top of the head bit was a grat touch. Lot's of excellent lines in there, this one I liked especially.

The kid caught the last ride on Old Sparky up at Leavenworth"

Madam Z said...

Ouch! Being of the female persuasion, I didn't catch the meaning of the final line, until reading Angel's comment. It's hard to be a hit man, if you don't have the balls. The kid deserved a "ride on Old Sparky" after that foulup.

ajhayes2 said...

Man, what a classy crowd of talent! To say I'm chuffed would be the understatement of the year. Very cool.

ABSOLUTELY*KATE said...

Leave it to eagle-eyes Sean Patrick to get the same voltage outta "The kid caught the last ride on Old Sparky up at Leavenworth." as I sure did. But that's all AJ, fedora and finesse -- one line zap-pow-whammo -- right in the kisser (or through the top of the head - eeeeewwwh) and the pileup is winding up right behind. So much so, you're caught up in the crazy cool ride and forget how swell this tough guy tells a tale rounding all the bases along the way -- then . . .

. . . big boffo finish - the Rookie lost the game balls. Hot Hayes, hittin' 'em outta da park.

Say David? You got any beer around here?

~ Absolutely*Kate

courtmerrigan said...

Now that's what I call an ending with stones.

tom pitts said...

Strong and bitter. Just like the drinks he serves.

Cindy Rosmus said...

Like with all AJ's stories, this one leaves me glad to be alive.

And I think Old Sparky & Big Yellow Mama oughtta get together...

ajhayes2 said...

Court, Tom, Cindy and AK. Now there's a hand to draw to. Thanks pals, you now it means a lot.

Richard Godwin said...

Tight as it comes Bill. You balance humorous and dark material to great effect.

Thomas Pluck said...

Hilarious, AJ... you set me up for that sucker punch like a champ!

ajhayes2 said...

Thanks Richard and Thomas. It's cool when writers like you guys my stuff.

Benjamin Sobieck said...

This piece oozes with personality. I can hear his black, cig-torched throat croaking as he tells this story. I'm right there in the bar with him, sharing whiskey doubles. You really sucked me into this one, Mr. Hayes.

Anonymous said...

David Harry Moss said-
AJ - Excellent story - read it more than once and felt the pain each time -

Groovydaz40 said...

The hallmark of an AJ story: Entertaining on EVERY single level!

ajhayes2 said...

Ben, David and Daz, thanks guys. Means a lot to me.

Bill Baber said...

AJ Hayes, that was damn near perfect!!

Claudia said...

Great voice, I love the matter-of-fact way he describes what happened, it makes the situation even funnier. Last line was both hilarious ad brilliant!!

Sunita Prusty said...

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