“I wish somebody had told me, you know? If somebody had just stepped in and said something, anything, none of this would be happening.”
The tired, downtrodden voice traveled across the bar. For the good part of an hour, I had been mostly ignoring it, choosing instead to focus on the drink in front of me. As far as I could tell, the source of the voice was just another one of us down and out losers; talking in hopes that somebody would actually listen to him for once in his life. It wasn’t that I didn’t care what the man was saying. I just had my own problems to worry about, just like everyone else at the bar. The man wasn’t really even talking to me. More at me, than anything. But something he said about half-way through his depressing monologue caught my attention. He mentioned guns, and lot of them. After that, his story turned into a Michael Bay movie.
Guns don’t interest me—I don’t even like guns—but the chance that I may have stumbled upon something illegal was too much to pass up. The monotony of day-to-day life is often broken up by the bizarre and taboo. While gun smuggling was nothing terribly outlandish in a world of endless action movies and cop dramas, it was certainly something new in my treadmill life.
My life wasn’t anything terribly difficult, just dull. Working a desk job isn’t so bad, until you fall into a routine. Once that happens, you’re doomed to live every day the same as the last. Over and over and over again. Then, one day, you walk in to find a seemingly harmless envelope on your desk. You open it, expecting some complaint about you not putting a cover sheet on your TPS report, only to find a nice little pink slip. Add a messy divorce from your psychotic wife and the fact that your bother is involved in some sort of cult on top of getting fired, and your life really starts to look rough.
Like all losers, especially the recently unemployed kind, my first instinct was to flop into the nearest bar and make like a fish. Soon after, though I didn’t seem him come in, a string-bean of a twenty-something kid flounders over to the bar. At first he seems calm enough, despite his incessantly tapping foot, keeping to himself outside of a quiet “Hey” as he sits down. The façade doesn’t last long, though, and within minutes and about two drinks, he’s reduced to a hunched over, nervous wreck of a man.
“This whole thing is just... a lack of communication, y’know? I’m new to this sorta thing. I don’t run guns. I’m not a criminal. I wasn’t looking for trouble. But my brother, big man that he is, gets involved in this smuggling operation. He tells me all about it, going on and on about how he’s going to be making big money now and all this stuff. Now, I wasn’t sure if he was serious. I mean, he makes ‘jokes’ like this all the time. So, I kinda tell one of my friends about the whole thing, right? Turns out, he tells a friend who goes and tells the cops. They think it’s real. The big twist ending is, it is real. My brother’s big operation gets stomped by the cops. He makes it out okay but they lose all the merchandise and a couple of his guys. So, now he’s coming after me. Me, his own brother! How was I supposed to know that he was serious, huh? I thought it was just a joke! He was drunk when he told me, and I wasn’t even the one to tell the cops, man. But he’s coming for me. Or, somebody is. I think it’s him, but I… I don’t know. Whoever it is, they mean business. They’ve already killed my friend and the guy that went to the cops. I guess I’m just scared, y’know? I don’t want to die.”
When his story was finished, he downed the contents of the shot glass in front of him and turned to leave after dropping far too much money for the drinks. Putting a hand on my shoulder, he says:
“I’m not sure you were even listening to me, but thank you. I needed someone to tell me story to. I everything works out for you, whoever you are. Just remember to watch whatcha say, alright? You never know who’s listening.”
With that, he walks away without even telling his name. As he leaves, I consider stopping him and finding out more, maybe offering to help. But, deciding it’d be better for me to just stay out of it, I turn back to the bar. The ringing of the bell attached to the door announces his departure. Suddenly, tires screech outside and a dull thud sends me running for the door. I don’t know what made me run. Maybe I had cared about the man’s story more than I thought. Maybe I felt guilty for not having stopped him. Whatever the reason, I ran as if my own life depended on it.
Outside, a crowd had already begun to gather. In the midst of them all lay the virtually unrecognizable corpse of the man I barely knew. Clutched in the remains of his left hand lay his mahogany two-fold wallet, stained with blood and brake fluid. Picking it up I flip it open, revealing his driver’s license. Johnny. Johnny Hawkins.
Staring at the license, I reach for my phone to call 911. Realizing I left it at the bar and noticing the twelve other people with their phones already out, I sigh and head back inside. Unsurprisingly, my phone is gone. Sitting back at the bar, I take another look at the wallet in my hand.
“Johnny, I hardly knew ya.”