The Gun at the End of the Night, fiction by Paul Heatley

It was Sat­ur­day night. The bar was full. Bish­op didn’t like it. He didn’t like week­end drinkers. He sat alone at the cor­ner of the counter, nurs­ing a bot­tle of beer that had gone warm in his hand. A cou­ple of times he’d been bumped by pass­ing bod­ies on their way to the toi­let, or the makeshift dance floor in front of the wail­ing honky band play­ing hard in the cor­ner. Each brief con­tact brought a fresh gri­mace to his face.

The bar­tender was called Joe. He grinned at Bishop’s dis­plea­sure. “Maybe you should skip Sat­ur­days.”

Fuck em,” Bish­op said. “I was here first.”

I think you’re out­num­bered.”

Bish­op fin­ished the beer. He slid the bot­tle along the bar. “Get me anoth­er.”

Joe grabbed a new one, popped the top and passed it over.

Bish­op took it with­out thanks. Some­one brushed him and his teeth rat­tled against the glass. He slammed the bot­tle down and clenched his fists. “Some moth­er­fuck­er…”

Leave it, Bish­op,” Joe said. “It was an acci­dent. No one’s has­sling you.”

Bish­op looked round. It was impos­si­ble to see who had jos­tled him. He glared at every­one then turned back to his drink.

Calm down,” Joe said.

Fuck you.”

Calm down or I’ll cut you off.”

Bish­op grum­bled. He turned his back to Joe, watched the room. A girl caught his eye. A pale girl with black hair like a Bib­li­cal har­lot. She wasn’t wear­ing much – a grey vest, some black shorts that hard­ly cov­ered her ass, and some beat-up sneak­ers. She was danc­ing with some chin­less fuck in a truck­er cap. She danced with her ass. Bish­op watched it. He took a drink, mes­merised by it. It made the blood pound in his dick, and any ass did that had his atten­tion.

Below the truck­er cap was a skin­ny guy. Bish­op could take him, easy. Could break him in half. Bish­op was big. His hands were like bear claws. They were the kind of fists that aimed to knock a man out with one punch. He clenched them, squeezed them tight. His hands itched. They were always itchy.

The band fin­ished their song and Bish­op fin­ished his beer. He got up and made his way to the girl. She wasn’t danc­ing any­more, wasn’t shak­ing her ass. She stood upright and ran a hand back through her hair while the chin­less guy spoke to her. As he got clos­er, Bish­op saw that his top lip was sport­ing a weak mous­tache, the kind of smear that looked like he’d wiped his nose with a dirty hand.

Bish­op sidled up next to the girl, paid the guy no mind. “I like the way you dance,” he said.

She looked at him, star­tled, but then she smiled.

Uh, hey,” the guy said. What lit­tle jaw he had hung slack, showed off his teeth. They weren’t straight, and they weren’t white. “We were talkin here, bud­dy.”

Bish­op shot him a glance. “Son,” he said. “Fuck off.”

The guy blinked, then Bish­op stepped in front of him, pushed him out the scene. The band start­ed play­ing again. The peo­ple around them jumped and cheered and pumped their fists.

Why don’t we dance,” Bish­op said.

The girl shrugged. “Sure.”

I don’t dance too good.”

That don’t both­er me.” She took his hands, led him. She rubbed her­self up against him. Bish­op grinned. The girl’s eyes flashed scared at his smile, like she thought he was gonna try to eat her, but then she fell back into the music and avoid­ed look­ing into his face. Bish­op put his hands around her waist, so small he could almost hold her all the way round. He dug his fin­gers in and she cried out, the sound drowned by the band. She squirmed out of his grip and spun on him, but Bish­op winked at her and ran his tongue along his teeth. She gave him a side­ways glance, like he wor­ried her.

Bish­op held out his arms. “Come back to me, baby.”

Bish­op felt a tap on his shoul­der. He turned his head, nar­rowed his eyes. The chin­less fuck had come back, and he’d brought anoth­er guy with him, just as ugly, just as chin­less. They had to be broth­ers, though the new arrival was big­ger than his coun­ter­part in both height and width. Chin­less opened his mouth. Bish­op cut him off.

Boy, I ain’t inter­est­ed.”

Chin­less stut­tered, his big tough-man moment not play­ing out the way he’d planned. He looked at his broth­er for help. Bish­op struck him in the side of the face and he went down. The broth­er lunged for­ward, tack­led Bish­op across a table, scat­tered bot­tles and glass­es, spilling beers. If the band noticed the fight, they didn’t stop play­ing.

The broth­er was stronger than he’d expect­ed, but Bish­op wasn’t wor­ried. He wrapped his mouth around a hand that had land­ed on his face and sunk his teeth in. The broth­er reared back and screamed, punched at Bish­op with his free fist to get him off. Bish­op felt his right eye close up. He released his grip and laughed, shoved the broth­er back then got a leg out from under him, used it to kick him square in the chest. The broth­er top­pled over the table they’d crashed through, but he scram­bled up to his feet the same time Bish­op did.

They start­ed throw­ing punch­es then. Nei­ther of them both­ered to cov­er up, they just wailed on each oth­er, head­shots and body-shots. A cou­ple of Bishop’s blows missed – he kept aim­ing for the chin, the knock­out shot, and found him­self swing­ing short by a cou­ple of inch­es. What lit­tle chin the moth­er­fuck­er did have was set back about three inch­es more than a nor­mal man’s. The broth­er didn’t make such mis­takes. Bish­op felt his nose burst, felt a tooth loosen at the back of his mouth, he tast­ed blood as it spilled down his throat.

Bish­op had expe­ri­ence though, and he was heav­ier. Even­tu­al­ly he start­ed wear­ing the broth­er down. Stopped going for the knock­out blow and decid­ed to bruise and bloody the son of a bitch instead. The broth­er went to a knee and spat out one mossy-look­ing tooth.

Then Bish­op felt weight on his back – the orig­i­nal chin­less was rejoin­ing the par­ty. He tried to wrap a skin­ny arm round Bishop’s neck, punched him inef­fec­tu­al­ly in the side of the head, but Bish­op just reached back, grabbed a hand­ful of his hair, and dragged him over his shoul­der and slammed him hard to the ground next to his broth­er. He kicked the broth­er in the chest for good mea­sure, knocked him down on his ass.

The band had fin­ished a song. Peo­ple were clap­ping, though it was unclear whether it was for the band or for the fight.

Joe was shout­ing. “Hey! Hey! That’s enough!” He looked pissed. His face was red and the veins popped in his neck. Prob­a­bly he’d been shout­ing at them a while already, but Bishop’s mind had been on oth­er things. “Get the fuck out­ta here, you’re done!” He motioned to the door as if Bish­op could have held doubts about where exact­ly he want­ed him to go, then turned to a cou­ple of his wait­ers and point­ed at the broth­ers. “Get them out, too.”

Bish­op sidled up to the bar, wiped blood from his mouth with one almond-sized knuck­le. He grinned. “How about one for the road, Joe?”

You’ve had enough,” Joe said, but his voice was soft­er now and the red was fad­ing from his face. “Go home. Sleep it off. You’re gonna hurt in the mornin.”

Shit son, I hurt right now.”

Get on home, else your lady’s liable to shoot you as you walk through the door.”

Hell, she just might at that. One of these days, huh?”

How about tonight you get home so ear­ly she don’t even wave the gun at you.”

Naw, she’s gonna wave the gun. Peo­ple have their rit­u­als, Joe. I’ll see you tomor­row.”

Joe sucked his teeth. “Sure.”

Bish­op turned, sur­veyed the bar. The girl was gone. Either she’d left or she was hid­ing from him. He spat to one side and probed the loose tooth with his tongue.

Out­side, the broth­ers’ chin­less were stood to one side, the big­ger one hold­ing the lit­tler one up. Bish­op gave them a nod. “Fel­las.” He pulled out cig­a­rettes, popped one in his mouth and lit it, offered them the pack. They each took a smoke and he lit them. “You boys have a good night?”

I’ve had bet­ter,” the broth­er said. “And I’ve had worse.”

I saw her first,” chin­less said. “She was dancin with me.”

And then she was dancin with me. Don’t let it eat you up, son. She ain’t worth it. Could be we all did our­selves a favour tonight, that’s how we got­ta look at it.”

How come?”

Hell, son – pussy like that comes with a price tag.”

She was a hook­er?”

Naw, but she had that look that some of them got. If it ain’t mon­ey they want from you, then it’s the fuckin mar­row in your bones, believe me. They want the heart from your chest.”

She was real pret­ty,” chin­less said.

She sure was,” the broth­er said.

And they’s the ser­pents you got­ta watch for the most. You ain’t got expe­ri­ence like me, boy. You don’t know. That girl woul­da chewed you up, spat you out, then hung you to dry.”

They smoked togeth­er. The broth­ers lis­tened to him talk, but he doubt­ed they were tak­ing in what he was say­ing. When he fin­ished the cig­a­rette he flicked the butt into the brother’s chest in a show­er of sparks. “Catch you boys anoth­er time,” he said.

He walked home. It was about a mile, and the truck was in the park­ing lot, but he didn’t care. He shoved his hands deep in his jack­et pock­ets and walked the qui­et road, pass­ing beneath the flick­er­ing street­lamps. The night air was cold in his cuts, made them feel like they were open­ing up all over again. To his left, beyond the grass, was swamp­land. Up ahead, in the road, picked out by the street­lamps’ yel­low radius, he saw a lizard skit­ter across the road, it’s tongue flick­ing in and out of its mouth.

By the time he got back to the trail­er park he felt almost sober. He reached his door and took the key from under the rock next to the porch, stepped inside to find Tilly with a hand­gun point­ed at his chest. She had both hands wrapped around the han­dle and her legs were spread. Looked like she meant busi­ness.

You fucked any­one, you son of a bitch?”

Bish­op walked past her, ignored the gun. He let the door close behind him and went into the kitchen. “Maybe.”

She cocked the ham­mer. “Don’t you mess with me, you bas­tard! Tell me straight.”

Bish­op took a beer from the fridge, took the top off and leaned back against the counter to drink it. He looked at his wife and raised an eye­brow.

I mean it, Bish­op!”

Bish­op took anoth­er drink.

The trail­er was in dark­ness, and he won­dered how long Tilly had sat in wait for him, the gun weigh­ing heavy in her hand while she delib­er­at­ed whether or not to blast him as soon as he opened the door. When she spoke to him, he knew he was fine. She wasn’t gonna do it. The day he opened the door and she just pulled the trig­ger – well, he didn’t think that day would ever come. She wouldn’t do it. She couldn’t kill him.

She loved him too much. She’d leave before she shot him, and she’d nev­er leave. He looked her up and down, and already he could see the resolve begin to fal­ter in her face, in her grip. Her legs were bare below her night­dress, and he saw goose­bumps there on her pale skin. Her dark hair was tied back and she wasn’t wear­ing any make up. Even in the dim light it made her look much younger. They’d been mar­ried ten years. She was still as pret­ty as when they’d met, but she just didn’t do it for him any­more. Cred­it where it was due, she’d nev­er got­ten fat like some wives had a ten­den­cy to do. He appre­ci­at­ed her for that.

Put the gun down, Tilly,” he said. “You ain’t foolin nobody.”

One day I’m gonna shoot you, Bish­op.”

You ain’t gonna kill me, woman.”

I didn’t say I was gonna kill you. I said I was gonna shoot you. I been takin lessons.”

That so?”

I’m a hell of a shot.”

Bish­op snort­ed. “A reg­u­lar hawk­eye, I reck­on.”

One day you’re gonna find out.”

Yeah. Put the gun down, damn it.”

Tilly low­ered the gun. She wiped the cor­ner of her eye but she was casu­al about it, then she sniffed. “You been fight­ing?”

Sure looks that way, huh?”

You want me to get some oint­ment?”

Nah, just leave it.”

At least let me clean it up. There’s still blood on your pil­lows from the last time.”

I’ll do it.”

You say you will.”

Why don’t you get on to bed?”

You fuck any­one tonight, Bish­op?”

No.”

You try?”

Yeah.”

Those girls you do fuck, you get it up for them all right?”

Bish­op held beer in his mouth. He gave her a hard stare, then swal­lowed it.

You nev­er had a prob­lem answer­ing any­thing else.”

Then yeah, I fuck them real easy.”

So what’s your prob­lem with me?”

I walk through the door and you got a gun point­ing in my face. Kill any man’s hard dick.”

It wasn’t always that way.”

Yeah, well, that kin­da life and death shit will real­ly get to a man.” He fin­ished the beer, put the bot­tle to one side. “Come here.”

Tilly hes­i­tat­ed.

Come on. Get on over here. Bring the gun.”

She went to him, her bare feet padding soft­ly on the cracked linoleum.

Bish­op took the gun from her, wrapped his oth­er arm around her so she couldn’t get away, then pressed the gun to her chest. “How d’you like it? That fill you with a warm fuzzy feel­in?”

No.”

That’s right, it don’t.” He cir­cled the gun’s bar­rel on her chest. He ran it up to her neck, then along her jaw. He used his oth­er hand to loosen the front of her night­dress, let it fall open. She didn’t try to get away. Her lips part­ed and he ran the gun over them. “You taste that?” he said.

Yeah.”

What’s that taste like?”

Tastes like death.”

He ran the gun down her chest, between her breasts, down her stom­ach to her tight­ly curled pubic hair. She gasped in his ear. Bish­op put his mouth to hers. “What’s that taste like?”

She licked her lips. “Like blood.”

He went behind her, bent her over the kitchen counter. Tilly breathed heavy. He spread her legs, stroked the insides of her thighs with the gun.

Yes,” she said.

He slid the gun inside. She gasped hard. He saw her bite her lip. He worked it in and out, grip­ping the han­dle, his fin­ger on the trig­ger.

Blood and death,” he said, while he fucked her with the gun.

Tilly cried out, reached for some­thing to hold, grabbed onto the tap with her right hand and the edge of the counter with her left. She start­ed to scream and Bish­op slowed. He pulled the gun out and put it down. It glis­tened. Tilly lay flat on the counter, still bent. Her hair had got­ten loose and it cov­ered her face. Her grip on the tap and the edge had loos­ened.

You get hard?” she said.

Naw.”

Then what good is it?”

Bish­op looked at her, but he couldn’t tell if she was look­ing back. A few strands of hair blew up and down with her breath, but oth­er than that she didn’t move.

He went to the fridge and grabbed anoth­er beer. He popped the top and took a long drink, then left his wife where she was, made his way through the trail­er, to bed.

He hadn’t gone five steps when he head the ham­mer cock behind him. He stopped and slumped his shoul­ders, tired of this bull­shit. “For Christ’s sake, Tilly.” He turned. The bot­tle of beer explod­ed in his hand, foamy suds soak­ing his jack­et and his boots. His ears were ring­ing but he was too stunned by what had hap­pened to reg­is­ter the pain there. He shook his head then looked at his wife.

She held the gun in both hands. Her legs were spread. Her mouth was a tight line. The gun wasn’t point­ed at his head. It wasn’t point­ed at his chest. It was aimed much low­er.

Bish­op froze. He held up his hands and realised his right was bleed­ing where it had been cut by explod­ing glass. “Tilly –” he said. He took a step for­ward.

Tilly squeezed the trig­ger.

heatleyPaul Heatley's sto­ries have appeared online and in print at pub­li­ca­tions includ­ing Thuglit, Spelk, Near To The Knuck­le, Hor­ror Sleaze Trash, and Shot­gun Hon­ey, among oth­ers. His novel­las The Motel Whore, The Vam­pire, and The Boy are avail­able for Kin­dle from Ama­zon. He lives in the north­east of Eng­land.

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One Response to The Gun at the End of the Night, fiction by Paul Heatley

  1. Bill Baber says:

    Great stuff Paul!

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