Dinger downed his drink and burped loudly. No one ever dared say anything when he did that, he simply was too much to handle. It was true that, when he was keeping himself far from the bottle, he could be quite the nice fellow. But most days he essentially was a douchebag on wheels. His big greasy hand was still seizing Nadia’s arm and she, although smiling broadly, looked rather worried. There had been rumors about how he treated girls making the rounds, and each and every girl in the neighbourhood had sworn some kind of secret oath to avoid him at all cost. In reality, the fact of the matter was, some of them really needed the money, and however abusive he was, he always paid more than enough. Nick had heard all kinds of stories about Dinger, some bad and some worse, and he damn well knew that there was nothing else to do but wait. So everytime he saw the giant enter his little joint, his jaw tightened and he prayed internally for an impending apocalypse.
NOLT YOU POOR BASTARD! he had yelled this time as he stepped into the pub. Nick turned around in a bolt and almost fainted with sudden anxiety. On the other side of the room were Tiny and Tony Monkovic, the newest tag team around. The Monkovic had settled their business in the hood a couple of months back, and Dinger, who autoproclaimed himself a child of the hood, highly disliked the change. He said that nothing could be settled as long as he said no, and for the time being he was saying fuck off my part of town. The thing was, Nick learned later on, the Monkovic brothers were coming straight from Koshmar – some sort of old Russian prison. Slowly, it seemed, everything started to fall into place, and Nick feared the idea of seeing his own joint, and himself, caught in the crossfire.
Hey Dinger, how you doin? Nick had said back to him, getting the usual wink and the nod towards the bottles of whisky. Nick smiled with all his missing teeth and quickly turned around to see whether or not the Monkovic brothers had seen the newest patron in. They were engaged in a fiery debate, unrecognizable words bursting out at time, fists being raised in the air like some sort of communist hommage. Dinger had solemnly refused to let them take care of their business on his grounds, but that didn’t exactly stop them from doing anything. In fact, it didn’t even stop them from beating down to a pulp a bunch of henchmen that he was hiring on a daily basis. Word on the street was the poor dudes had mocked their Russian accents. Nick thought they could be glad to have gotten out of it on their two legs, or almost.
He drew the curtain between the back room and the bar to make sure there would be no unfortunate eye contact. He smiled and bent and poured drink to the Mankovic brothers who toasted Prochnost with him and nodded in agreement when the curtain was drawn. Meanwhile Dinger had moved his hand upon the buttcheeks of a second girl – his hand large like a dustbin lid, covering both cheeks with ease. Nick’s eyes were fixed on the strangeness of that image – some bodies associating like matters in fusion. He couldn’t help but imagine him slapping one of those girl around – in about a slap, there wouldn’t be much girl left to bully, and that, given the actual population of the hood, was a real shame.
Of course he himself knew it would be a long time before he could do that. Cover buttcheeks with his hand that is. Even one would be a dream. Living and working there, among them and the girls, meant you had the right to remain nonchalant, and prude. That being said, at times, here and there, there had been some girls who had stayed on a bit too late, looking for comfort. Nick wasn’t one to prey on poor girls for a dime, but like any other men, the flesh still tempted him a bit too much. He had never been much of a thinker, and the biggest consequence to that was that his brain didn’t need excessive amounts of blood to function. Erections and other problems of that nature were then rather frequent, and he had had to learn how to deal with them, not to get in too much trouble.
Promethee was the first girl he swindled from Dinger. Not that he actually did swindle her from him for real, but he liked to think so. There was still a part of Nick who liked to tell and write stories, and at times, during dull moments, he told himself or some unknown visitors that would end up in the pub by mistakes, that he had boned a bunch of girls here and there, girls of high standards. High being, obviously, arguable. But Promethee, as it had seemed to him, had something different. She came regularly during a long period, and they had started to develop a sort of camaraderie. Both of them knew the rules and knew that nothing more than polite friendliness was required out of them. But at times, after a gin or two, Nick could swear that he had seen her wink at him, or look with insistance, or just smile randomly. He felt like Winston waiting for Julia, that was his world. Escape Big Brother, find yourself a cabin, and fuck your brains out among logs of woods, who the hell cares. To the present day, this thought still amuses him.
One rainy Thursday, Nick was about to close early when she came in. He served her and quickly saw how upset she was. She didn’t reveal the reason, but Nick later gathered that Dinger had changed his mind on something important he had promised her. They made it three times that night, and Nick only had to serve her two drinks. After it all, when facing his bathroom mirror, he’d thought to himself – maybe there’s still a way for me. Maybe not. Love is a fog that burns away with the first lights of morning, or something along those lines. That fog was gone as quick as it formed, and two days later, Promethee was gone missing. Nick never knew whether or not she had left town. But in his mind, he wished her the best.
Some others had followed from time to time, maybe two or three, no more than ten that was for sure. Dinger never ever said anything, and when the time came for him to have suspicion on someone banging some of his girls and giving them heart troubles and having them think too much, he came to the pub and asked good old Nolt for help. Taken aback, Nick only said that he had heard about some dude in town, with a thick accent, perhaps eastern, who loved to be a womanizer. Perhaps he had something to do with it all. But other than that, Nick was still waiting for his old lady to return, or more precisely, to divorce her current husband, leave the kids and come pick him up. Dinger laughed and slapped the shoulder off of Nick’s body before going back to his business. He never came back after that.
Nick liked this story. He often told that he, like many before him, had fallen for a girl he could not get. He meant, he was close to getting her, but never really did. They were close, so close, tight even, best friends, soul mates, but something came in the way. It was the usual Romeo and Juliet pattern, the star-crossed lovers. In all his years of barkeeping, he had learned that the best storytelling comes by telling classic stories. And that really happened to be true. Most people, when he told them that somewhere, somehow, there was a woman going to bed thinking about him while he was thinking about her. That for some reason he would make up on the spot, she had married another man, a Lancelot of sorts, and wouldn’t leave him for fear it would ruin the kids’s lives. There was sense in this, a modern triangle love story, this was what he liked to tell, the story of a man trying to stay up while everything is falling appart around him.
HEY NOLT! Dinger called. His glass was empty and and his second hand had moved on the breast of the first girld. Would you care for some company from my girls? he asked. I’m afraid I don’t understand, Nick said as he poured some more whisky. You’ve been here a while and ‘A never seen you with that old lady of yours. I tell you, gotta use it before it rots away. He burst out laughing and it took ten seconds for the rest of the group to laugh too. Nick didn’t move and looked for the appropriate answer. Surely, mentionning the girl one more time could do the trick, but a part of him wanted to try another story, a bolder one.
PRIVET MR. DINGER, called a voice with a thick accent. Nick’s heart leaped and fell down hard on the pavement of his chest – Tiny Monkovic and his 6ft tall stature had appeared from behind the curtain, and he was not looking like he wanted to hear a sob story. Dinger’s expression froze, and his hand immediately left the comfortable restings where they had been placed. There was tension and danger and conflict. Nick poured himself a gin and prayed that his old lady, somewhere far from here, tucked in a large bed with nice white sheets, thought about him.