Chapter 2: Bohemian Rhapsody
Second story in the tales of the cohort of recent college graduates employed by fictional Shield Insurance, a huge nationwide insurance firm located in the small factory town of Wanowee, Wisconsin. Even more than the first chapter, this is a basically character-driven romantic/erotic bit of fiction rather than a “quick wank” story.
It is partly inspired by many of the people I met while working emergency room security in college. Some (definitely not all) of the staff and the cops and ambulance drivers were amongst the best people I have known. Some of the patients and their friends and families made indelible impressions on me. Twenty years later, I can still see them. I was a good shoulder to cry on, and somehow it showed.
April Price cursed as she dropped the razor to the floor of the tub. Brigid was waiting to get into the bathroom to clean up for her overnight date with Ollie, at nice a hotel in Lake Geneva no less. April’s little hands just wouldn’t seem to obey her desire to get done quickly so that she could get out of her roommate’s way. Finally, she finished shaving her legs and turned on the shower to wash off the shaving cream. April couldn’t resist the urge to make it a full-shower. No time to play with the hose on the showerhead tonight, though, just a quick scrub. Besides, she didn’t want to use up all the hot water—again.
April finally emerged from the steamy little bathroom, wearing only a towel on her head. Brigid, a big bath towel draped over the shoulder of her naked body, just couldn’t resist a playful slap to April’s round little arse as she passed through the kitchen. “And sure, there’s ar little bohemian wench, always cleaner and more well-shaven than any rosspot yer like ta see! Except fer that beautiful ginger minger down there!”
“Told you, I’m a poser, Bridgey,” she said and walked on through the living room and into her bedroom. As the shower came on in the bathroom, April rummaged through her dresser for a nice pair of black panties and matching bra. She liked her bra to fit snugly; even after five years of having pierced nipples, she loved to see the way the little rings showed against the tight fabric.
Not that anyone was likely to see the piercings, not with the way things had been going of late. Brigid finding Ollie had buoyed April’s hopes for a bit, but that was old news now. It had been some time since April had seriously believed in the notion that she was going to find herself a man in Wanowee. April dropped the towel from her light brown hair and went to work with the hair dryer for several minutes before she walked to the closet and slid into one of the many flowing dresses she kept there. She went to the jewelry box and picked out her favorite crystal necklace. April checked her ensemble in the mirror. It was a weekend, so she didn’t need to worry about office rules. She slid a tiny stud into her left nostril and a small hoop into her brow. She looked basically the same as she had in college the past five years, maybe a little fuller in the bust. Her dress was only moderately low-cut, but since it seemed everyone was taller than her anyway, it gave an adequate peep to interested parties, should there be any.
April walked over to the canvas in the corner of the room, squeezed a little orange onto her palate and added a few licks of flame to the picture of nude Greek women dancing around a pyre while Dionysius leered down from an elevated throne of twisted grapevines. It was an eternal project, never quite finished to her satisfaction. No matter how much orange and amber she added, she could never capture the heat of the women’s frenzied lust. She knew the missing element was in the expressions of Dionysius and the women, but she was so far from being able to capture it that she never even put a brush near their faces. She had even tried to find inspiration playing with her battery-operated friend while watching her own expression in the mirror, but it was never genuine enough. She finally grimaced and put the brush down, double-checking her hands to make sure they had no paint on them.
With a heavy sigh of resignation, April grabbed her big bag with the long strap and headed toward the door. “Have a good time, Bridgey,” she called to the bathroom door. “Please do something I wouldn’t do!” With that, she stepped into the unseasonably warm late October night. She hit the steps at sidewalk level and turned left, then right, then back left. Feeling like a fool, she kept heading to her left, no idea where to go. She was in the “wild” town of Wanowee, Wisconsin. Where the hell was there for a faux bohemian girl to go?
With a tinge of regret, she realized she was headed toward the downtown “Strip” and Mitch’s store. Mitch was a cute little man, thirty-ish with a gentle smile and gorgeous blue eyes. But, like most of the men April had ever grown close to, Mitch was as interested in finding a good man as she. For almost as long as she could remember, bahis firmaları April had always been known as two things, a New Age hippie chick and a “fag hag.” Well, she was certainly guilty of the second charge. She had a sinking feeling she was about to help Mitch close up the store and then settle in with him for a marathon session of GLEE episodes or Mitch’s peculiar favorite, BIG LOVE. (What exactly drove a gay man to be captivated by a story of a conservative Mormon with a handful of wives, neither of them had been able to sort out. Perhaps opposites did attract.) At least she got free spiked gourmet coffee out of the deal, and besides, Mitch made her laugh when she wanted to cry.
She was not surprised to find “Beans and Books” deserted when she walked in. “Oh, you sexy beast!” Mitch declared without looking up as he heard the door chime. “How did you end up with me on another Friday night? Viggo Mortensen stand you up again?”
“He could stand me up or lay me down, Mitch. Either way you’d have to peel me off the ceiling when it was over.”
“I know exactly what you mean, sweet child. I know exactly what you mean. How many fingers you want?” She held up three. Mitch clucked and poured a healthy dose of Kahlua, peppermint schnapps and a dash of sugar into one of the extremely heavy, but somehow comforting to hold, mugs he made on his own pottery wheel. Then he filled it with his best coffee and topped it with creme. April took a seat by the open window so that a cool breeze washed over her. “I’ve got to go empty the trash can outside before I lock up. The town puts it there, but do they ever empty it? Sweet Jesus to fuck no!” April laughed and nearly spit her first sip of coffee. Even Brigid’s working class Irish-isms sometimes suffered in comparison to the colorful profanity Mitch effortlessly dropped in conversation. Mitch smiled at her and wiped a dollop of crème from her chin. “Great gobs of fellatio, what have you been doing, filthy bitch? Anyway, the frakking trash… I come in to open the store on a fall day and I’ve got a swarm of bees waiting to greet my customers. I have to empty it at night after the little buzzers settle down. Got stung trying to do it in the morning! Where’s my look of sympathy? Thank you! One of these days, we’ll have a good hard frost like Motherfucking Nature intended, and that will be the end of it until next year.” April smiled and nodded and grabbed a book to skim while she waited.
It seemed he was gone a long time, but she knew he had to go around the corner of the building to get to the dumpster in the alley. She looked out the window after a bit and noticed that Mikey Skardowski was standing across the street, looking toward the store. He had an inscrutable but intense expression on his face. Was he looking at her? She hoped not.
She and Brigid had gotten into quite a feud with Mikey and his friends, Jerry and Teddy (all from her Shield cohort,)after a drunken Packer Opening Night party at Vander Voot’s Sports Bar. Mikey had spent the whole night explaining American football to Brigid and then thought he was about to score himself. Brigid hadn’t known he was going for that; she thought he was just being a good friend. Embarrassed when he got rejected, he shouted at Brigid and called her a pricktease. Things got worse once he got Bridgey’s Irish up. Everyone’s night got all banjaxed; April had been in a heavy makeout session with Teddy and dropped him cold to go to Brigid’s aid. Except for dear sweet Ollie, the popular crowd that swirled around Jerry and Teddy had turned a big-time junior high cold shoulder to the roommates.
“Oh Goddess,” she whispered, looking at the hulking Mikey. “He’s going to give me a hard time, because he caught me without Brigid.” Brigid’s sharp Irish tongue and strong personality kept the brutes at bay most of the time, but April didn’t have that kind of fighting spirit. Everyone in this football-crazy town seemed to think Mikey was a big deal because had been a starting tight end for the UW-Whitewater Warhawks when they won a Division III National title, but even he wasn’t eager to lock horns with Brigid again. It had become almost comical the way he averted his eyes and tried not to start trouble with them at work. The football hero fumbled for excuses to leave the room when he was alone with one of them. “Oh, April,” she thought,” not that pun.”
Suddenly, Mikey launched himself across the street with an angry look on his face. “HEY!” he roared. April closed her eyes and prayed he’d go away. “Leave the little guy alone, ya pricks!”
What had he said? “Little guy?”
“Oh shit, Mitch!” April whispered and headed for the door. Mikey disappeared around the corner, into the alley. April followed, her three quarters-full mug of hot coffee still in her hand. She rounded the corner to see that two locals had been shoving Mitch around in the alley. One of them knocked him to the ground and kicked him in the ribs, but he stepped back away when they saw Mikey.
“Get kaçak iddaa the fuck outta here!” Mikey said.
“Hey, no problem, big boy,” one of them said. “You know that guys a fag, right? Just teaching him a lesson.”
“Sure thing. Sure thing. Be cool.” They began to go, but when Mikey turned away and offered a hand to help Mitch to his feet, one of the locals grabbed a piece of broken board and charged from behind.
“Mikey!” April yelled. The big man turned at the last second and got a forearm up to block the blow. With amazing fluidity, he kicked the assailant in the gut with a left leg front kick and used the momentum to come over the top of the crumpling attacker with a long straight right square into the face of his onrushing friend. Mikey didn’t get his full hip rotation into the blow, but it still dropped the second man like a stone. He stepped back and drew into a defensive stance, but neither man rose to challenge him. One was unconscious; the other incapable of catching his breath. Mikey glanced back to see if Mitch was okay.
“Chuck-fucking, Norris!” Mitch gasped as he rose up to his feet. “That was—oh shit! Look out! Incoming!”
Unfortunately, Mitch wasn’t the only one who had unexpected friends show up to the party. Four tough-looking men had emerged from the bar across the street. April knew instinctively that they weren’t there as a Neighborhood Watch.
“April, get behind me,” Mikey said softly. “Dude, can you fight?”
“I’d sure as Liddell better try!”
“Fuckin’ ay right, Iceman.” Mikey gave him a confident half-smile and a nod. “Don’t worry, bud. You got this,” he said. April had never been in a fight in her life. She had always been too much of a pipsqueak to even get in girl fights with her prep school tormentors. She knew she was more likely to get in Mikey’s way than be of service, but on some level she was driven to rage by what had been done to Mitch. She got behind them, but not very far behind. “I didn’t start this,” Mikey said loudly as the men approached. “They were roughing up the little guy.”
“That’ll make ’em fucking terrified of me,” Mitch groaned softly.
“Guess you should’ve minded your own business then,” the man leading the group said as they closed the final ten yards. “Get the big one first,” he told his buddies.
April’s heart raced in terror as they closed in and arced around Mikey and Mitch. A sudden impulse struck her as the leader stepped toward Mikey. She stepped forward and reached under Mikey’s elbow, throwing her hot, alcohol-laced coffee into the man’s face. He screamed in pain and swung wildly. Mikey brought up another front kick, but standing fully upright this time, he landed his foot right underneath the man’s chin. He was knocked senseless and fell backwards to the pavement.
Two more men jumped Mikey, and one went for Mitch. Mitch showed some guts and some quick hands as he landed three quick punches to his assailant. But the man was much bigger than him, and little Mitch just couldn’t put him down. The man grabbed Mitch by the front of the shirt and threw him viciously, sending Mitch off balance and into the wall. April rushed to the fray and tried kicking the man in the crotch from behind. She came up short and hit him square on the rump instead. He hit her on the cheek with a backfist and April went down hard on her rump. She had never been struck by an adult before. It hurt even more than she feared it would.
“Stay down, bitch!” he roared. “Or I’ll tear you a new cun—” He never finished his brutal threat. With a sickening crack Mitch punched the man in the back of the skull. An old garbage lid was in Mitch’s fist, and he threw three straight rights into the man’s head, always striking him with the center of his improvised “brass knuckles.” This time the man went down.
Mikey was in some trouble. The duo now fighting him was a fair deal more competent than the original pair of assailants. April grabbed Mitch and pulled him toward Mikey. They tackled the man closest to them. Mitch wound up underneath him and effectively used the trash can lid as a shield while the man tried to rain blows down on him. He roared with animal fury as he began to wrest the shield from Mitch.
April searched for something she could use as a weapon. She spotted her heavy coffee mug lying intact where she had dropped it when she had gone to help Mitch. She grabbed it, not having any idea how she should use it. She turned and saw the man had pried the lid away from Mitch and was rising up to hammer him. “Full mount!” he crowed. “Ground and pound, bitch!”
April decided to throw the mug at the man’s big ugly head. She missed and the mug struck Mikey, who had rushed over to aid Mitch after finally downing his tough opponent. Mikey toppled forward, out cold. His hulking body knocked the man off of Mitch, and pinned him beneath Mikey. Mitch scrambled to his knees, grabbed the trash can lid and smashed it down into the man’s face. He ceased to struggle.
The kaçak bahis leader of the group had managed to get back to his feet, as had the first man Mikey kicked. The leader pulled a butterfly knife from his back pocket and turned toward April. “Finish off the faggot. The bitch is mine.” April wasn’t quite sure, but she thought the twisted expression on his face was a smile. She was certain that after life of pacifism she was going to die in an alley filled with violent men. Mitch sprang to her side and held the shield in front of her.
Suddenly, a familiar “br-whoop” rent the air. Then a voice boomed over a PA. “WANOWEE POLICE! Eddie, drop the fucking knife or my partner will fire.” Two cops stood outside a cruiser that had pulled up to block off the end of the alley. A grizzled sergeant held a PA mic in his hand; his partner lay with his upper body draped across the front of the car and a 12-guage shotgun leveled at the knife-wielding man. It was a can’t-miss shot. April and Mitch hit the deck. Another cruiser squealed to a stop behind the first; then two cops on bicycles arrived, and finally a county sheriff’s SUV. All the cops cruised the Strip on Friday night.
Eddie and the other man had apparently done this before. He dropped the knife and they both put their hands on top of their heads and waited until the cuffs were slapped on them. “Which one of the boys finally knocked the big fucker out?” Eddie asked as two cops brought him to his feet.
Mitch looked at April. “I did,” she whispered, crawling to Mikey and cradling his head. The cops and Eddie all stared for a moment in disbelief. Then as Eddie turned his foot struck the coffee mug, and he put it all together.
“Fuckin’ crazy hippie bitch!” He cackled to himself maniacally as they led him away. “Caffeine is a drug you know!” he called as he was shoved roughly into a squad car.
“Bobby, thank god,” Mitch said, addressing the police sergeant who had taken control of the scene. “We were in some trouble here. That fucking amaze-atastic boy in the polo shirt saved my ass. Along with my little wildcat here!”
“Mitchy, you’re my favorite little cousin, but are you telling me the three of you took on Eddie Waller and five of his friends?”
“Of course we did.”
“That’s what I said, cuz.”
“Sergeant, Mikey’s hurt!” April said.
“So’s everybody else in this alley. You got a hell of a shiner, there Mary Moon!” Mitch grabbed Bobby by the arm and walked him away for a moment. In a whispered conversation in which he talked urgently and gestured emphatically, Mitch explained the situation. Bobby nodded.
“Ellis, Powers. Can the county do us a favor and take these two to the hospital and keep an eye out for the other ones when they get there? These two are big damned heroes from the sound of it. Biggs, call for at least two ambulances. Vanderhouk, look up priors and warrants on the rest of these assholes. Not a one of them I haven’t seen at the station before.” Two burly sheriff’s deputies dragged Mikey to their SUV. Bobby gently took April by the arm. “Don’t worry, April. I love Mitch like a little brother. None of these assholes are going to bother him or his friends again. We take care of the good people in Wanowee.” April had never been spoken to respectfully by a policeman before, but she could see how sincere Bobby was. She stood on her tiptoes and kissed him on the cheek and then hurried to catch up to her ride.
On the ride over to the hospital, with the two friendly deputies occasionally checking to see if she was okay, April had a moment to try and piece together her thoughts. It was difficult to make sense of the last ten minutes, even moreso with Mikey’s head in her lap. He had been one of “the enemy soldiers” for so long. Now, she had to admit that she looked at him as kind of a hero. A song lyric popped into her head. “He’s gotta be strong;he’s gotta be fast; and he’s gotta be fresh from the fight!” Bonnie Tyler had never mentioned conscious.
Mikey stirred a little and began to come to. He looked up at her with blurry eyes. “April, the Pretty Hippie,” he muttered and slipped back under for a minute. She blushed.
“What did he say, Ellis?” one of the deputies asked the other softly.
“I think he called her a pretty hippie.” Ellis chuckled as he answered.
“Nothing wrong with his eyes,” Powers responded.
“No shi—sorry, miss. We didn’t mean nothing disrespectful.”
April progressed to another shade of crimson. “‘Pretty Hippie’ I can live with. And you guys have been great.”
The deputies struggled to get Mikey out of the back seat and into a wheelchair, but he came around and was able to help a little. “Wait!” he slurred as they started to wheel him inside the ER. “Bridjuh!”
“I’m April, Mikey.” She put her hand on his.
“Tell her I’m s-s-sorry. Ize drunk. Ize wrong.”
“I’ll tell her.” April followed them inside, displeased with herself for the little feeling in her belly when he had been concerned about her roommate instead of her. But what did she expect? Mikey had hit on Brigid before, and the Irish lass had always drawn more men than April. She stayed with Mikey as they entered the ER proper.