The cot beneath Murphy Doyle Maher lets out a metalic creak as his legs are thrown over the side and his feet hit the floor. His toes wiggle and bend and crack against the faded linolium floor. He had made the drive from Memphis back to Evansville in 12 hours. In the old days he would have stayed around for hours after an event, but now that was pointless. Especially in that pisshole of a state.
He stood up and the rest of his legs cracked and popped, from his ankles to his knees all the way up to his hips. He slid his feet into his slippers and dropped a pod into his keurig. Pressing the button the customary 3 times it took to get the piece of shit to work. As he slid into the front area of the Irish Tiger bar, he sidestepped the screen printing machine which was in the middle of the bar, and ducked into the bathroom. A beat passes and Murphy pops his head out of the bahtroom with his toothbrush clutched between his teeth and an odd look on his face.
Elsewhere in the town, Jeb Staughmire stopped rocking on his porch and ducked inside his house, careful to not knock any of his wife’s knick knacks off their perches on every flat surface. Walking the very long corded receiver back out to the porch, he grabbed his coffee and took a sip, swallowing wit an ‘ahhhh’ before saying hello.
“JESUS CHRIST JEB. Do yeh not know how teh say fuckin hello when yeh answer?”
“Well wait now, who is this?”
“Feh fucks sake, how many people yeh got callin with an irish accent, huh? What the fuck is this t’ing in me bar, Jeb.”
“Ohh, Murphy. Hi. How was the road trip?”
“It was really nice actually, it’s been awhile since WILL YOU TELL ME WHAT THE FUCK THIS IS!?”
“Ok so here’s what occured. A ways back, Elias wanted to get rid of the old machine. Got one of them new’r ones from the town over. I says to him, I says ‘no Eli, don’t go getting rid of the older one just because you get the new one. What says it works? What says it stands up?’ And wouldn’t you know it, 10 years later it never did. So he ends up, he ends up keeping this ol’ machine for nothing. So when he closed up, he told me, he told I had to take it with me. Says both of us has been collecting dust in his backroom for so long we might as well be kin! Might as well be kin, he says!”
“Jeb, if i had to give out oscars for stories told that I don’t give a shite about, this would be the winner. Why is it in me bar?”
“Well I figured you, you would like it. So I had the guys take it ‘part, bring it on in. If anyone could appreciate it, i figured it be you, you know? It would be you.”
“Jeb. There is a finite amount of words I want to use on this subject. What the fuck is it feh??”
“Oh. It’s a t-shirt making thing. Makes t-shirts.”
“Jeb you’re a beautiful man and I won’t hear different on the matter. Give yeh misses me best and take the day off.”
“Well, if that ain’t the kinde-”
Murphy hung up immediately and looked at the contraption. If this was a cartoon, money bags would have taken over as the shape of his pupils.
“Now we’re in business, boys.”
It’s a few days later, and while the usual crowd sits around in the Irish Tiger, They are now joined by boxes of plain black and white t-shirts, piled high in the back of the bar and outside of the bathroom. Jeb had reached out to Elias and gotten them the remainder of his stock of shirts. Murphy had promised Elias a taste of every shirt sold. And then Elias died and with no next of kin, the shirts were just kind of free now.
“Hey Murf. Who you fighting next?”
“Got this mustached looking guy. Kinda looks like the tommy lee jones action figure from that movie with the dolls.”
Even the crickets don’t make a noise as Murphy’s reference doesn’t go over anyones head, it just falls flat at his feet. He spares not a moment explaining it, as with this crowd, he’d need a lecture hall and a laser pointer.
“Is he the one with the emoji on his tit?”
“Neh, that’s the fella he fought last, I believe. Anywho, he’s a pretty solid player from what I seent. Truth of it is, he’s not me concern. I gotta make all these shirts and get them to Orlando.”
“If you wasn’t such a dick about it, I’d let you borrow my t-”
“DO NOT START THIS SHIT WITH ME, JOE! It’ as much a truck as Ellen Degeneres is a kind person! Only two types of people call that shite a truck. College students and lesbians.”
“And you’re too old to be either!” said Dan, who was still missing his Qanon hat like a dead relative.
“First of all, There’s no time limit on being a lesbian or a student, so go back to not fucking speakin till spoken to, conspiracy believing ass.”
“I’m sick and tired of ya’ll making fun of my truck. I’ll have you know that my entire family loves my truck! My son does, I do, and my wife does!”
There is a long pause. Joe would like to think he’s made some headway. Maybe convinced them that it isn’t just him they’re teasing, but his entire family. In truth they were all looking at each other, waiting to see who was going to be the one to say it. And of course, it was Murphy.
“Hey Joe, I ask you a question?”
“…your wife go to college?”
“…well, she must be one of the other ones, then.”
The room erupts in laughter, and Joe slams his hand on the bar and hauls ass out, leaving his unfinished beer on the counter along with his change from his last purchase. Murphy goes to go out after him, but as he steps toward the door, someone else steps in. And that someone else is Judge Waylon. Every town in every part of america has a ‘guy.’ The one who they built the town around, it seemed. The one who they all looked up to and treated with reverency. In Evansville, Minnesota, It was Judge Abraham Waylon.
“Mr. Maher.” he said but it came out as ‘Mr. Mayor.” A joke that ran it’s course about a year earlier. “I was wondering if I could bother you for a beer.”
“I got a few of those, have a seat.”
This wasn’t a big deal. It was a huge deal. Judge Waylon went two places. The courthouse and his porch. He didn’t do grocery shopping, had people for that. Didn’t go to the auctions, or even take his car to the mechanic, had people for that. Murphy always assumed if he drank, he had people who would bring the drink to him.
“Awfully quiet in here for a bar. Feels like the temperature dropped a few degrees, too. You think it has something to do with me?”
“Aye.” Murphy said, sliding the ice cold Pabst blue ribbon toward the judge. “Not every day The Man hisself steps down the mountain and into the bar.”
“Well, I came here for a reason, if you’ll believe it. Them shirts over there. Jeb, you worked with Eli for most of your life, so it stood to reason that if you were going to take over that printing press, none of us could stand to stop you. It was your right. And I won’t get into it why you won’t. That’s a man’s business. But if it’s to be left to rot, that’s an issue. Enough rot in this town as is. So I came to make you an offer, Mr. Maher.”
“And what’s that?”
The offer was a simple one. Murphy would take over the sign shop and stop an outside company from moving in on the land. An issue that Evansville has been against for as long as anyone could remember. In exchange, the town would give him a small business loan at a fantastic rate to upgrade the equipment however Murphy saw fit. They would also rent him Eli’s house to buy at an even better rate. Murphy knew that Judge Waylon was the one who gave him, an ex-con, his liquor license. And could, should he feel unappreciated, take it right back. But that wasn’t the deciding factor. That was something else, and something that Murphy had been looking for his entire life.
“You got yehself a deal, Judge.”
“You know, I figured I might. Good luck, Mr. Maher.”
“Because you saw something in this town, Mr. Maher. Figured it only right we do the same.”
The judge finished his beer, and even went so far as to reach for his wallet, which Murphy quickly objected to, unsuccessfully. As Judge stepped out of the bar, everyone else that had failed to do much but breath in his presence, surely had a lot to say. Murphy simply smiled and went back to trying to figure out the screen press, which was at this point, second of his now three full time jobs.
“Steven Solex. Solex Mustache Guy. I have to tell you, this match means about as much to me as a kick in the shin from a dancing horse. I’ve never been much of a team player so to speak. More of an individual amongst many. I don’t appreciate the idea that I’d be forced into working with people I don’t know or much like. And I especially don’t care for being drafted by some guy who nah met me. But what I like even less than all of this, is the idea that I’d get me ass beat by the DC comics version of the mario brothers.”
“Picture it for just a sec. Yeh a down and out plumber who starts to fall into depression, right? Then one day yeh get real drunk with yeh brother and yeh fall down a sewer. Yeh wake up in this grey and brown version of the mushroom kingdom, and yeh find out that there’s a princess in trouble, so yeh gotta step on some pieces of shite with legs to save her. Only there’s a fucking lizard with a dog face at teh end and he’s got the bitch locked up. So yeh cut the allidoggy in half with an axe and yeh inches deep into the princess when yeh wake up in the sewer with a gahs on yeh head, a concusion, and yeh mouth fuckin’ a dead rat. All of that, all of that, is more appealing to me, than being on any team that would swap you fer me.”
“You can take it personally, but yeh not even close to me calibur. I’m the Eleventy guy, my man. Top ten ain’t strong enough to contain me, yeh get it? I give so much smoke yeh can call me a dirty foremen grill. Or a fucking chimney, if that makes more sense to yeh. I don’t come to play nah games with some cesar romero looking GI Joke such as yeself. I came to fight real warriors. The type that get drunk in alleys and start fights with dead relatives over some shit a cat once said. I’m talking head the ball nutters, me boy. And you don’t strike me as someone capable of that kinda bad assery. And if you strike me at all, yeh nance, yeh never fucking will.”
“I know I can be quite amusing, but this here is something you might want to jot the fuck down; I’m only funny when I want teh be. Other times, most times, I’m not a laugh track having arsehole. I’m the sound of ravens that you hear for miles when yeh go someplace yeh shouldn’t. I don’t let up because I want to get up. To the fuckin top tier of this business and I sure as shit ain’t gonna get that done fucking with the half’s.”
“Half the time I look at half the roster and see that half of these people have half the skills they’d need to do half a decent job. And you, you wario are a prime example of that. You done good here I suppose, but that wasn’t because of who was here, but because of who wasn’t. And if you can extrapulate from incomplete fucking data, you can tell I mean me.”
“I don’t want a spot on this team or any. I don’t want to represent anyone or anyting other den meself. But what I want even less, which is surprising to even me, is for you to have it. Because as nice of a person as I try to be, as good and wholesome as I want to be, there is one thing in this world that I love more than denying someone something I think they want, and deciding, if I feel it so, to deny them it. Well, that and apple pie. But I can’t bake worth a shit, so guess which one I’m getting sooner, Stretch marks?”
“Don’t worry. Take your time. You’ll get it.”
“..if I want yeh to.”