EVERYTHING’S COMING UP DUANE
By Michael Pool
“That’s the best I can do for you,” Duane told the woman. “Take it or leave it, but I ain’t got all day.”
He didn’t have time to go back and forth with this stay-at-home trophy wife, woman dangling her chesticles out, telling him what the work was worth. Wasting his time.
She made some other smartass comment and he walked back out the gate, looked back and gave her the finger when she called him a loser. Let her replace her own pool pump, she knew so much. Give him more time to post up on a stool over at the Shadybrook Cabaret, maybe siphon a couple free rounds off Carol, the bartender.
Snotty-ass bitch could have just left it at that, too, like most people would have. Or called another company, if it bothered her so much. Instead, Cindy-Lou Stepford called him stupid to the office secretary when she lodged the complaint, saying it like it was public knowledge. Which got her put though to his boss, Jerry Styles.
That prick had been looking for a reason to fire him, and here comes this rich bitch with a beautiful reason sung like an opera into the telephone receiver. Jerry telling Duane afterward that he knew Duane had been spending half his shifts over at the Cabaret anyhow. Like Duane had tried to make it a secret.
He had not.
Every single person at the Cabaret knew Duane on a first-name basis. He’d have gone somewhere else if he wanted to keep it quiet.
Duane suggested only the nastiest breed of woman could squirt out a turd like Jerry. Afternoon turned into evening with him bellied up to the bar pouring alcohol on his attitude until it pickled into rage.
He stumbled out the door around ten and cranked his ancient Ford pickup to life, drove over the damn curb, took a right, tires squealing. Pretty sure he could remember the right house, on account of the fancy-ass vines they had growing up the limestone facade. This was Palestine, Texas, home to gangbangers and crank cookers, not some English countryside village.
Let them consider this a reminder that you don’t fuck with a man’s job.
He found the house and parked a few doors down, stumbled his way across two yards and down the side of the house, all the while dragging along the bucket of dog shit from the bed of his truck, shit he’d collected at his other job at King Scoupers. When he showed up to it, that is.
Duane picturing that rich bitch’s face as she watched some poor fuck scoop the shit out of her pool tomorrow morning. Knowing they’d have to drain it and scrub down the sides to sanitize it. Be a week or two before she got back in, at least, not even counting the low-functioning pump. Plenty of time for an attitude adjustment.
He punched in the side gate’s code five times before he got it right and stumbled through into the side yard. He saw them when he rounded the back corner to the pool.
The same woman, her ass hiked up against the pool wall with a little naked troll tucked between her thighs going fifty pumps per minute.
The woman moaning in that shrill voice, the same voice that convinced Jerry to fire him a few hours earlier. The moaning shifted into a scream when she saw Duane come around the corner. Duane’s adrenaline spiked so hard his vision tunneled for a moment. He had to shake his head to reset his eyes in place.
The troll pulled out and spun to face Duane, his stubby pecker casting a shadow across the pool from the light positioned right between the woman’s legs.
“Who the fuck are you?” the man said, his voice deeper than Duane would have expected.
“That’s the guy,” the woman broke in, trying to cover her bulging breasts with her palms. “The loser asshole from the pool company I told you about.”
“Hey,” Duane said, “I ain’t no fuckin’ loser.”
The man pumped his short sausage legs through like a runner coming off the starting block. Duane moved to cut him off before he made it up the stairs in the shallow end, would have made it except the woman wrapped around his knees like an octopus as he stepped past her, pulling both him and the shit bucket headfirst into the pool. The bucket dumped out on her head as Duane sailed over her into the water. She let out a shrill noise that sounded like a siren again as the turds surrounded her and covered her face.
For Duane’s part, he was lucky not to hit his head on the rock feature in the pool’s center. The obnoxious structure what made Duane give the rich lady lip in the first place. What kind of snotty-ass people put a waterfall in the middle of their pool in Palestine, Texas?
He came up for air swinging, really feeling the alcohol then on account of the cool water. The man’s bovine shape came hurtling through the air off the side of the pool. Duane dodged the man’s spear-like penis and swung blindly, wincing at the loud crack of his fist making contact with the guy’s jaw.
The man collapsed face-first into the water and floated there, motionless.
“Holy fucking shit,” Duane said, having to dodge the woman now, who’d decided to wade over and into the fray.
She clawed for his eyes and dragged her middle finger across his right cheek, grinding bits of shit into his face. A cloud of it surrounded them both in the water with the man facedown in the middle of it.
“Ahhhhhhh,” Duane screamed.
“Eat shit, you fucking loser!” the woman yelled like a war cry.
Duane covered his eyes with his hands and made for what he hoped was the steps, wanting to get the hell out of there ASAP. The damage was already done anyway, poor execution notwithstanding. The woman let him go as she noticed her husband unconscious and facedown in the water.
“Bill!” the woman said. “Bill, get up!”
Duane hit the steps full steam, came up out of the pool looking like Swamp Thing with shit on his clothes, which were dingy enough to begin with. He shook off what he could and headed for the gate.
“Wait!” the woman called out to him.
Duane stopped and looked back for some reason. The look on her face was complete and total panic with a side of desperation slathered on top like shit icing.
“Please, help me,” she said. “He’s drowning and I can’t move him. Please, he’ll die…”
Duane took two more steps before he stopped. If he let the porky little fucker drown he’d have to kill the woman, too, on account she recognized him from that afternoon. No way he was trading in the Shadybrook for the Wall down in Huntsville. Not that he wanted to kill anyone either way. Which left him with no choice.
He had to help her.
He waded back into the browning water, scooped the man up, rolled him over, and dragged him up the steps onto the concrete decking with the woman on his heels.
“He’s not breathing,’ she said.
Duane shuddered as his lifeguard training kicked him into action. He’d been a Coast Guard rescue swimmer way back in his early twenties, best shape of his life. Jumping out of helicopters, putting all those high school swim meets to good use on the deep blue sea.
He’d learned to care for pools working with the swim center’s maintenance crew in high school, then as a lifeguard in the summertime. Never even touched a drop of alcohol before those days in the Coast Guard, only kid in the trailer park who didn’t drink or do drugs.
And look at him now. Drunk, unemployed, and about to go mouth to mouth with a shit-covered sausage man to avoid a murder rap. You could say some things had changed over the years, or you could say not so much. Both would be true.
Duane timed his breaths, one…two…three… He pumped on the man’s chest as the woman kneeled next to him and cried. Her tears made him pump harder, like something he did mattered, for once.
The man’s first breath came as a gasp. He coughed up a lung full of brown water, gasped a second time. Rinse and repeat a third.
“Hell yeah!” Duane said, meaning it, this the first time he’d done anything honestly useful in half a decade.
“Bill, you’re alive,” the woman shouted, tears streaming down her cheeks as she cradled his head.
“Hell yes, he is,” Duane added.
When she turned to Duane, he reached out as if to hug her, caught up in the moment. Then he saw the loose brick in her right hand. She hit him so hard his knees buckled and he fell straight to his back. The world flickered in and out of existence as his head slammed into the concrete.
The naked woman climbed on top of him and straddled his chest like a high school bully. Duane, only half conscious, couldn’t help thinking that in spite of everything, he hadn’t had a woman like this on top of him in years. He squinted to get an up-close look at her tits. Half conscious was pretty well his default mode anyway.
She hit him again and he tried to roll away. The next blow broke the brick on the side of his face. He saw another sharp flash of light, realized he could no longer move his arms or legs. Just like him to be so hardheaded that he’d end up paralyzed instead of knocked-out cold.
Well shit. Ain’t this something? Maybe he could sue her after this was all over, get some sort of settlement for the damage. Spend all day every day at the Cabaret afterward, instead of just half.
He heard the stubby man mumbling something but couldn’t make out the words. The woman responded, but it all sounded like gibberish, as if the words were out of order. The meaning came clear when they each grabbed one of his legs and began dragging his limp body toward the pool’s steps.
He tried to yell for help, but couldn’t move. Imagine that, Duane rendered speechless for the first time in forty-seven years. If only his mother could see him now.
His body took one last automatic breath as they turned him face-first into the shit-clouded water, vision tinting to a brownish blue. His goddamn eyes wouldn’t even close.
He started to panic, but then something strange happened. Duane began to feel calm for the first time in many, many years.
He stopped fighting. Nothing he could do anyway, arms and legs and eyes betraying him now, like everything else in his life. Most of all himself.
What a way to go, surrounded by a shit cloud of your own creation. As the air ran thin in his lungs, he found himself going over how things might have been different in his life.
He’d been drowning in all the ways that mattered for years now, mostly in booze. He supposed this was as good a place as any to stop treading water and finally sink. Other than the shit, of course. He could do without that part.