“You know why I did it, right?”
“Yeah,” Dan said, looking slightly peeved. “But don’t worry. Me and Terra completely understand and respect you for it.”
Spud chuckled. “You know, it seems like only people I know…and people who know me… are the ones that understand and respect me. It always seems like the people that don’t know me or what I’m about that called me a coward or a traitor or whatever.”
“Well, they got their heads up their asses. No hard feelings, little bro,” Dan ruffled his brother’s hair again, “but you wouldn’t have lasted five minutes over there.”
Spud smiled. “I know. That’s why I did it. God damn, the day after my 22nd damn birthday, of all the times, ya know?”
“Yeah, I know,” Dan said, poking at his pizza crust.
“I figured, I had three choices. One, go and die. Two, go and miraculously survive, come back majorly fucked up (because you know I would be) and probably kill myself. Or three…don’t go.”
“You chose three,” Dan said.
“Yeah, but it wasn’t as easy this time. That dickhead in the White House wasn’t sending the conscientious objectors to jail, he was arresting them and sending them anyway. For the good of the country, and all that bullshit. Threatened with treason, threatened with death, you know how it goes.”
“Yeah,” Dan nodded, “you’ll go to jail, but dying is something different.”
“Hell yeah, and I wasn’t gonna give that fucker the satisfaction of killing me, either by gun or by the zapper in some overcrowded prison. I thoroughly support the death penalty, but only for the jerk-offs that deserve it.”
“I hear that,” Dan chuckled.
“So, I figured…I had to find some way out of it. So I called up Mom the day my number was called. If I didn’t do something quick, I was goin’ out right away. Mom was all for it, she was gonna drive me to Canada, hide me in the basement, whatever. Problem was, they closed the borders and you know they’d try to find the dodgers. They’re fucking desperate for more bodies in the meat grinder.”
“Fuck!” was all Dan could grunt in angry response
“So, I ask Mom for her professional medical opinion. Mom got out her ol’ anatomy book, and showed me just what to do.
My plan was set. It was simple, really. Later that night, on my second day as a twenty-two year old, I drove up and parked outside one of the nicer hospitals in chicago. It was pouring rain, fuckin, POURING. Worse than last week when I got here. So I sit there, in my t shirt and jeans. In my right hand, a bottle of Johnny Walker Red. In my left, a brand new, shiny, .357 Mag. There are so many people moving around, going here and there, trying to get out of the rain, no one seems to bother with some bummy lookin guy having a drink, eh?
“Actually, that was the first time I really overdrank. Don’t think I’ll ever do it again, it was kinda nasty. But it got the job done. By the time I was ready, I wasn’t feelin’ nothin. I turned behind me, and I see a doctor, a motherfuckin’ doctor, of all people, havin’ a smoke outside the hospital. So I call to him,
‘Hey! You a Doctor?’
He goes ‘yeah.’
I say, ‘what’s your name?’
He says ‘Thomas Salk.’
I say, ‘thank you, Dr. Salk.’
He says, ‘what for?’
I say, “for takin’ me into the ER.”
“And that was that. Click, click boom. One little squeeze, and this.” Spud jerked his head towards his right foot, which was relaxing out of its special boot.
“Thanks to the Johnny Walker, and the shock, and the bloodloss, which was helped by the Johnny Walker, I passed out pretty damn quick. I woke up three days later, realizing that my parking was probably expired. Apparently, not only was there trouble closing the wound, but there was also plastic surgery, skin grafts, and treatment for alcohol poisoning needed. Guess I overdid it. Oh, and by the way, a .357 will take your foot apart at close range. Food for thought.” He winked and took a pull of his Coke.
“So the nurse comes in. Pretty hot too, nice ass. Anyway, I ask ‘where’s Dr. Salk?’
she says ‘He’s on call today at six.’
I glance over to the clock on the wall. 5:45. Damn good timing.
‘Could you send him over to me when he’s got a minute?’
‘Sure thing, hon,’ she says. She called me ‘hon.’ I always got a kick out of that…
Anyway, she also says ‘He wants to talk to you, too, you know. Wants to talk to the guy whose life he saved. You know he used his own jacket to stop the bloodflow?’
‘Awwwww fuck,’ I said, ‘now I gotta buy him a new coat!’
She giggled, and told me she’d send him up. Round about 6:15, he walks in. I offered to pay him back for the jacket, but he won’t take any of my money. He says I’m gonna need it later. We talk for a bit, and he’s a damn good guy. Sadly, though, not a podiatrist.”
“Damn,” chuckled Dan.
“This was six AM, by the way, not PM. So I still got most of the day left. Helluva day too. At about nine, some jack-off with a fancy suit comes in. I ask if he’s an insurance guy or something. He says no, he’s with the United States Government. This jackass had been coming every day since I failed to show up after the lottery. Every. Fucking. Day. I guess I was finally alive enough to get served my papers. I’m still in my God damn hospital bed, and this dickhead is serving me my papers. I told him, in no certain terms, that he and his bullshit administration of fear mongers and murderers could go fuck themselves. He said he’d see me in court.
“So they let me out after a couple of days with a cane. I still got the cane, but I’m trying to do without it. I’m getting pretty good, actually. Anyway, I went back to that damn hospital ever day, trying to get Salk to take my money. After my court date, Salk told me to stop coming in and keep the money, because I was going to need it. And boy was he right.
I couldn’t find work. No one wanted to hire a lame draft dodger. Within about a year, I was flat fucking broke. Did a little freelance writing work and odd jobs to keep me alive, but nothing was ever constant, ever stable. Looking back, I coulda borrowed Dad’s .38 and bought some shitty cheap Silver Wolf Gin and gotten the same results and saved some money. Money, ha, I can’t remember the last time I saw twenty dollars. What a fucking waste I made of my life, eh?”
Tears were starting to show in poor Spud’s face. Dan didn’t know what to do, only to let his kid brother vent his spleen.
“You’re doin’ all right, though, Mr. Ron Burgundy, Mr. TV Newsman. You’re doin’ all right. Maybe…maybe I should get outta here, before my bad luck rubs off on ya, or before someone at the station fires you for housing a felon.”
“Hey,” Dan spoke up sternly, “you’re not going anywhere. Don’t worry about money or bad luck or whatever. I’m here to help you out.”
Spud sighed. “I know…it’s just the rest of the family couldn’t help me. They’ve all got their own problems making ends meet in this shitty economy. You were really my last hope. I know we haven’t exactly been the closest of brothers…”
“But we are brothers,” Dan smiled, “I’m not perfect, and neither are you, Spud. But we’re still of the same blood, there’s no mistaking that. And I’m gonna watch out for you until you feel better.”
He looked around the house, noting the clock was close to tolling eleven.
“Hey,” he said, “we need to get outta here. We need to relax a bit. Come on, I’ll take you to the NTG for a drink.”
“The NTG?” Spud said, wiping his nose.
“Yeah, the Non-Threatening German. The owners a chubby old good natured Kraut, just like you used to be,” Dan winked at Spud’s retaliatory raspberry, “it’s a good place, we’ll hang out and have a drink. You know what? I think this is the first drink we’ve ever had together, it’s on me. Come on, Hopalong, but on your Moonboot and let’s go.”
“Ass,” Spud sneered playfully, “awright, let’s go. They got a grill there?”
“Yeah, but you just ate,” Dan asked quizzically.
“No, you ate,” Spud smiled, “I talked.”
“Sorry,” Dan laughed, “nervous eater?”
“No prob. Just buy me a meal to go along with that drink.”
“Sounds like a plan, bro.”
“No Johnny Walker.”
The brothers shared a good laugh as they headed out the door for Dan’s beat up old Chevy pickup and off to the NTG.
“You know why I did it, right?”