Nobody had ever hurt him like that before.
September 17, 2013
A VG Serial: Doing Max Vinyl
Some time later, it could have been seconds, it could have been minutes, he lay on his stomach on the pavement, blind to the world, touching his face, the burning areas. They felt wet. With the tip of one finger he felt his fluttering eyelashes, just to locate his eyes. To his amazement, he noted that they were open. His eyes were open, yet he saw nothing. Blinking but not seeing. The world completely dark.
Black as night, but a terrible rushing and whistling noise blew through his brain like a high dangerous wind. He felt the hard ground under him, the sandpapery pavement under his chin, and a stinging at his arms. He wrestled himself up on his elbows, aware of his own blinking, fighting against the rushing noise, trying not to panic at the pointlessness of it. These stinging sensations all across his arms were nothing compared to the burning, aching, gouging pain in his eyeballs.
Just as he was starting to wonder if he had been blinded permanently, the first blurred images in shades of gray, then blotches of pink, red and yellow started coming in. Some sort of pepper spray, probably. Tris packed pepper spray, he knew that. That she should squirt it into his eyes, as if he were a rapist, one of those monsters with violent animal urges they couldn’t control, now that was something new. That was plain wrong.
Pink and yellow blurs resolved into flowers. Some roses that lay crushed under him, the petals just inches from his eyes. This stinging all over his arms. He was bleeding. He struggled to his knees, everything blurry, his aching, stinging eyes filling with water as fast as he could blink it away, and tried to focus on the damage to his arms. They seemed to be covered with blood, the blood running from cuts and puncture wounds. The blood all over his arms was shocking enough, but his eyes stung like Christ. In the dirt to the right of the porch, one pink rose stood straight up in the dirt, where it had been driven when he fell, like things blown about in a tornado.
Another rose was stuck to the side of his face. He pulled at it and realized it had been hanging from the side of his face by a thorn embedded in his skin. He spat and stood up, then turned to look behind him. Tris’s door was closed tight now.
“Son of a bitch,” he said. Talking to himself now, his arms bleeding, blood dripping from a dozen wounds in his face and arms. His eyes ached and throbbed and stung all at the same time. Most of the roses still lay in a clump on the sidewalk, where they must have cushioned his fall. Roses lay scattered across the walk. Bargain-priced fucking roses. Those punctures ached like a sonofagun. The stinging in his eyes didn’t just blink away. They felt like they were full of sand. He stumbled down the walk, losing blood with every step.
That last glimpse of white t-shirt passing behind the attacker – it had been Tris, he knew it. She had given pepper spray to that brute. Or she had sprayed him herself.
She had done this to him.
He lined up like a place-kicker and launched the rest of the bouquet, hard, into her front door. The bouquet came apart on impact with his loafer. Some flowers sailed up to the ceiling of her porch, others landed in the hedges. The rest were catapulted with full force against the door. He hoped the paint was at least a little scratched. In the end sixty or seventy roses lay scattered at her doorstep and plenty of red blood was smeared across the front of the house. His blood. Someone should make her clean it up. While she was scrubbing his blood off the walls she could maybe for a moment stop and think about her outrageous treatment of him.
This day had actually gotten worse, just when he’d thought there was a decent chance of saving it. So much for one last look at her face. So much for clearing up misunderstandings.
He drove down the street slowly, trying to pull himself together. A drink of water would have gone down fine. His head clanged like a bell, the pain in his eyes like the clapper banging against the inner walls of his head. His eyes stung and his face and arms burned. He felt weak and banged up. He had lost blood back there. He must have gone down hard.
Still bleeding, he drove gingerly two blocks, then turned around in a driveway and doubled back. At the beginning of Tris’s block, six houses down from her place, there was a huge family-sized camper parked on the street, must’ve been twenty feet long. He snuck into a parking space behind it, so that he still had a partial view of her front porch and driveway, then speed-dialed her number.
“Hello, this is Tris.”
“This is Max. What’s left of me, anyway. Christ, was that necessary?”
“Were you born stupid? Or is it just happening more lately? I told you it’s over.”
“What did I do to deserve pepper spray?”
“Breaking in to my house.”
“What breaking in? I had my key.”
“You should have given it back. You had no right.”
“You expect me to think of everything? When we catch you trying to sabotage the company like that?”
“What exactly were you hoping to accomplish?”
“I thought there might’ve been a misunderstanding.”
“In your dreams.”
“Yeah, I guess I was still dreaming, till you did that job on my eyes.”
“I had a feeling you were going to have trouble with this.”
“I’m a human being, Tris. We had something wonderful between us.”
“Your opinion. What would I have done if I hadn’t had Luther here to protect me?”
“Who is this Luther? How can it be over so suddenly?”
“Are you blind, Max? You only see what you want to see. It was over weeks ago. Months ago.”
“But I’ve only known you for six months.”
“Give me that.” It was the man’s voice now. The man spoke slowly, putting childlike emphasis on every syllable. “Forget . . . Tris . . . now. Forget you knew her. Throw that key in the lake. Cold shower time. I catch you stalking her, I’ll twist up your sorry balls with my bare hand like a goddamn twisty.”
Reflexively Max gulped. He needed water. “You listen, hotshot. I’m not scared of some musclebound country grandpa.” His own voice came across something like a croak.
A tinny laugh came through the phone. “Cut your losses, Max. Vamos. Ciao.”
But the line was dead. He punched redial, then mashed disconnect. What was the point? Rodriguez had fired Tris, giving her the perfect excuse. Now she had attacked him with pepper spray and loosed this security prick on him. She was angry. Christ only knew what had set her off. She was tying him up in knots. No one had ever hurt him like this.
Fifteen minutes later, a car pulled in to the parking space behind him and cut the lights. It was getting along toward dusk. Max stared at his phone, waiting for it to vibrate. When it did, he pressed the button to connect.
“You see the blue house up there, six houses up on the right?” He pointed without looking back over his shoulder. “Stay watching till they come out. Get someone to come and back you up. Don’t go up against them alone. Also got a dog in there. Ike and Tranny, maybe. Report back in the morning. Move on that.”