Rudy with One Hand (sample page)

He was the cruelest son of a bitch who ever lived. Not all the time. Rudy was mean for a hobby or something most of the time, but behind the wheel of his car meanness was like a job, or bread and water: something that both sustained and liberated him. I guess I admired it in a way. He kept the one hand at twelve o’clock on the steering wheel, the left arm with elbow on the rolled down window’s frame and left hand out of sight resting on the top of the car. The left arm never moved. When Rudy gestured, he did so with his right. He chopped the air like firewood. Driving in his car, where we were going wasn’t important; it was the crude things he said and did along the way that mattered. Seriously, I would have thrown up sometimes if I hadn’t been laughing like crazy.

It was a Tuesday and that meant Rudy and I were going to play pool at this little place in town. It was a nasty little bar that smelled like smoke twenty-four hours a day, and on a bad day smelled like urine, but Rudy and I religiously played pool there every Tuesday night. We hopped in Rudy’s car and he pulled out of the parking lot at his apartments. There was a mean downhill curve heading out of the place, where Rudy was paranoid as hell. I mean he slowed down to about ten miles per hour every single time. I gave him hell about it, but he didn’t care. It scared him, you know?

So we drove around the curve and headed toward the pool hall and all the time it was quiet in the car, which was unusual. Of course it was dark outside and the streetlights are traffic signals made the town look eerie and pale. I don’t mean we were trembling with fear or anything. It’s not like we’d never seen the town at night. But I’m saying we were subdued is all. Rudy was wearing his shirt that had a white hand on a black background, with its middle finger sticking up and giant white lettering that said, “SCREW YOU!” Ever since he got warned by a police officer for wearing that shirt, it was like a sacred relic to him. He wore it all the time. We went through an intersection where a rose vendor was walking up and down the median, and I had to laugh.

Intersections. Sitting at intersections and the people who were always harassing you: the kid with the newspapers, the weirdo with the roses, the old guy with the sign that says “WILL WORK FOR FOOD”.

“Ooh, check it out,” Rudy would say as he watched the kid walk back toward the intersection, “what an ass on that kid, my God! Bend over kid, squeal like a pig!” And he would laugh. Rudy had a laugh that sounded like he was actually saying “Ha-ha-ha-ha!” and he liked to laugh at his own jokes a lot. “I want you to roll up that newspaper and spank me with it, kid! Spank me hard, baby! Ha-ha-ha-ha!”

“Look, Bill,” he’d say to me if the guy with the roses was walking by, “you gonna buy me a rose, big fella? Come on, sweetie. Ha-ha-ha-ha!” Looking back out the window, so that all I could see of him was his right sideburn, “No, I don’t want a rose, you ignorant bastard! Wake up! No one here wants a rose!” If it was a Mexican guy, he looked at me and called him a dumb spic, and we laughed. But I don’t really like racist jokes, of course.

“Will work for deodorant is more like it. Get a job, you homeless fuck! I got some food for ya…I got something you can sink your teeth into!” It wasn’t what he said, it was the fact that he would say it that made it funny. He was just that cruel.


This story and 8 other short stories as well as 1 prose poem are now available for your Kindle device or app as an Amazon Kindle eBook titled “The Rubberband Man and Other Stories”. You can buy all of them for just 99 CENTS!

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(c) 1992 by J. David Clarke


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