Indie Author Answers, Episode Three
No tip of the week this week, instead I have a story about one of my books, and the mobility that comes with being an indie author.
THE PROBLEMATIC VIRTUE (PART 2 OF 71)
Miguel Garcia lugged the cooler up the stairs to Thomas’ apartment. With each labored footstep, ice water sloshed from one side to the other. Beer bottles clinked together. He paused halfway up the stairs to catch his breath, set down the cooler and dab the sweat from his forehead.
He knocked on the door, and Eduardo welcomed him inside. Miguel dropped the cooler at the first opportunity. “Holy mother,” Miguel said, “next time, we doing this at my place. I’m not taking that thing up the stairs again.”
“Maybe if you took the stairs a little more often, it wouldn’t hurt you so bad,” Eduardo said.
Miguel flinched to see if Eduardo would jump, but Ed shuffled his feet and put up his hands like a boxer. Miguel pantomimed a slow-motion right hook, which Eduardo ducked, and then he patted Miguel on the belly. They laughed, and Eduardo helped him move the cooler inside. “You’re late. Ray got bored and started arm wrestling.”
Miguel entered the living room just as Ray was finishing off Thomas over the coffee table. They both grunted like feral dogs battling over scraps of meat. Ray had Thomas’ arm bent, the back of his hand almost touching the table. His face strained with the force of his effort. Ray seemed to have some unfair leverage, as he was practically leaning over the table. With a final rumble, Ray forced Thomas’ hand down, and Thomas leaned back, massaging his bicep.
Ray threw his hands up in the air. “Drunk as fuck and I still kicked your ass,” Ray said. “Miguel, please tell me you brought us some more beer. I’m getting tired of beating up on these fools.”
“You mean you’re tired of cheating?” Thomas said.
“Don’t be a sore loser,” Eduardo said.
Miguel shook the excess water off a bottle from the cooler, and twisted the cap before offering it to Ray. Ray leaned in close to Miguel and said, “tell Maria I think I left my watch on her nightstand.”
“Why can’t you tell her?” Miguel said.
“I have to go out of town for a couple days. Wiles got me mad busy this week.”
“Okay, I’ll tell her,” Miguel said.
Ray conducted a head count by pointing at each person in the room. “You got twenty beers left in that cooler?” Miguel nodded. “Well, then, let’s set up for some Hour of Power,” Ray said.
Thomas fetched four shot glasses and Miguel arranged the beers in groups of fives around the coffee table. Each player positioned a chair in front of a shot glass and a cluster of beer bottles. Eduardo, customarily the timekeeper, took off his watch and placed it on the table.
“Get ready,” Eduardo said.
They each opened a bottle and filled their respective shot glasses.
“Ten seconds,” Eduardo said.
“Do you want me to do something about the watch?” Miguel said.
“No,” Ray said. “I told you just in case you saw it or she maybe mentions it.”
Miguel puzzled over why his sister’s boyfriend felt the need to raise the topic. Ray wasn’t one to speak out of turn, and the statement seemed pointed. Miguel didn’t like it.
“Shot,” said Eduardo. They each drank the beer in the shot glass and then refilled them. Miguel didn’t normally drink with the sun still up, but was now along for the ride.
“One down, fifty-nine to go,” Thomas said, belching a cloud of Coors Light into the living room.
“Why did you think Maria would say something about your watch?” said Miguel.
Ray traced his finger in a circle around the lip of his shot glass. He grinned, his eyes trained on Miguel. “I just thought you’d like to know.”
“Fifteen seconds,” Eduardo said.
“Your sister is a very special lady,” Ray said.
“Miguel, don’t pay no attention to him. He been drinking since breakfast,” Thomas said.
“Shot,” said Eduardo. They all knocked back their glasses and replenished them.
“Fifty-eight to go,” Thomas said.
“You don’t need to tell us every single time,” Ray said. “We can all count, can’t we, Miguel?”
Typical Ray, drunk and combative by mid-afternoon. Miguel shook his head and elected not to answer. Whenever Ray got into one of these moods, playing dumb was the best choice.
“You don’t have anything to say?” Ray said.
“Come on, Ray,” said Thomas. “Can we just play the game without you starting shit?”
“Ten seconds,” Eduardo said.
“He’s a big boy, he can speak for himself,” Ray said. “Can’t you?”
“You can talk all you want. I know you’re just trying to get under my skin,” Miguel said. “It’s not going to work today.”
“You know how I know your sister is special?’ Ray said.
“Shot,” said Eduardo. Thomas and Eduardo drank theirs, but Miguel and Ray sat still. Ray picked up his glass and tipped it towards Miguel. Ray swayed in his chair, his eyelids drooping.
“Last night, when I was with her, she told me that I was the most important man in her life,” Ray said. “You know what else she told me? She told me that when she’s with me, she feels like nothing in the world can hurt her. I just thought you should know I left the watch there on purpose.”
Miguel downed the ounce of beer in the glass and slammed it on the table. Ray’s needling was starting to puncture Miguel’s surface. “Why did you do that?”
“It’s a reminder,” Ray said. “That I’m there to protect her. And also that she belongs to me. I’m there with her, do you know what I mean?”
“Guys, please. Let’s just play the game,” Thomas said.
“Fifteen seconds,” Eduardo said. “Ray, you still need to drink your last shot.”
“She’s not your property,” Miguel said.
“The main thing is, I also want you to know, that if sometimes she happen to wear a lot of makeup in one spot, or dark sunglasses inside, that’s not your business. That’s my business.”
“If you put your hands on her I’ll kill you,” Miguel said.
Ray laughed. “Who you think you are? You don’t know shit. How you know I haven’t had to put her in her place already?”
“Shot,” said Eduardo.
Miguel reached not for his glass, but for the half-full bottle, and flipped it in his hand so that the fat end jutted from his grip. Beer spilled out of the bottom as he stood up and raised his arm. Before anyone could stop him, Miguel leaned across the table and smashed the bottle against Ray’s forehead, sending brown glass and foam scattering over the coffee table.