Click for larger view
View full resolution
[End Page 30]
It smelled like one of those nights.
“That’s shee-at,” Fitzy said. He said it that way when he wanted someone to know they were full of it: two syllables’ worth. He could break the back of any word like that. He did a number on “lo-uh-uhve.”
Fitzy was just five ten, maybe one-sixty. He had one stud earring, and on the other side of his bald head he had a slit where a hoop had been ripped out of the lobe. He wiggled the two flaps of milky pink ear skin back and forth sometimes when he seemed to be thinking. Maybe he wasn’t thinking at all. He had a habit of turning the bad ear toward people, as if it heard better. He had that fucked-up ear and the occasional odd speech patterns, and his eyes wanted to peel back your [End Page 31] skin, peek under. He could scare the shee-at out of people just by talking to them. That’s why I valued him so much. That’s why he worked the door on Saturday night.
“Nah, man, nah,” some guy said to Fitzy. It was a white guy in a suit, but the jacket sleeves weren’t quite long enough. He was showing too much cuff. He had thinning blond hair. “If my buddy’s here, I’ll come on back and pay the cover!”
“Cover’s ten bucks,” Fitzy said, and he waited a beat and just looked at the dude with his head cranked, and then two fives found their way into Fitzy’s hand. Roger ran the metal-detecting wand over the guy. It yelped at his front pocket, but Roger didn’t even flinch.
“Check it,” I said.
“Just keys,” the man said.
I reached over, grabbed the wad of keys through his pocket, crunched it a bit the way you’re supposed to, felt the serrated edges and the shape of them. It just takes a second. When you get the hang of it, you can tell if there’s a razor blade in there or even just change, a lonely nickel. The suit was wool and poly—you learn that stuff, too.
“Keys,” I said, and I looked at the dude with the short jacket and jerked my head back toward the inside of the club, and he scampered down the long velvet hallway—there was something organic and tubular about it— toward the booze and the music and the monetary exchange: if you gave us ten dollars, we gave you fun, or at least liquor and a dance floor, a chance to create laughter, to initiate various physical responses that could veer toward intercourse. Roger and Fitzy and I watched the dude disappear through the doors at the end of the tube, but I could see Roger, too, from the lip of my eye. He had a shimmer to him, a shake.
“Roger?” I said. “You okay?”
“Yeah, yeah,” he said. “Sort of. Not really. Mimi broke up with me last night.”
His eyes looked oozy; his breath was pure malt. He had a round face, and he looked like he was about to cry. A fat, stubbly baby.
“Are you fucking drunk?” I asked.
“Kinda,” he said.
“Go bar-back,” I said. “I’ll run the wand.”
We watched Roger wobble down the tube. He’d drain some more scotch as he bar-backed, and I’d send him home early.
“Big-man master’s gonna run the wand, eh?” Fitzy said. [End Page 32]
I smiled, and Fitzy smiled back the way he did with half his mouth. It used to be the two of us all the time, working the door, but that was a couple of years ago.
“You got a problem with it?” I asked.
“Sort of. Not really,” he said in a nasal way that didn’t sound at all like Roger, even though it was the voice Fitzy always used to mimic him.
“Who the fuck’s Mimi?” I asked.
“Fuck if I know,” he...