“Tell Earl I have no problems with him,” I said. “Miss Carter was just showing me around town. Nothing else.”
He looked over my shoulder, then back at me. “Mister, I suggest you skip the bourbon and go back to the motel until you’re set to leave.”
“Take my word for it,” the bartender said. “You don’t want to be having a drink here today.”
I turned around to where he was glancing and took note of the two men in the booth. They were staring at me intently, their hands on their beer mugs but neither drinking.
I turned back to the bartender. “Let me guess. One of those guys is Earl Greene?”
The bartender nodded. I heard the shifting of chairs, and didn’t have to turn around to know that Earl and his buddy had gotten up and were making their way towards me.
“I don’t want trouble here,” the bartender said, putting the glass down and reaching under the counter. I had this flash image of him pulling a shotgun out and blowing my head off if I refused to take my problems outside.
“Trust me, big guy, neither do I,” I replied.
The stools on either side of me pulled out, and the men flanked me. The one on my right looked like he had just stepped out of a commercial for monster trucks, and the other looked like he had just been dragged through the mud and had a great story to tell about it. I guessed the one on my left was Earl.
“Afternoon, boys,” I greeted them.
“Well, what d’we have here, Lloyd?” Earl said to his friend. “If it isn’t Ludwig’s most notorious tourist.”
“I’d like to think I’m your only tourist,” I said.
Lloyd smacked me on the back and laughed. “He’s a funny guy, Earl.”
“Yeah, a real fucking comedian,” Earl smiled. “It’s good to have a sense of humor. Don’t I always say that, Lloyd? That it’s good to have a sense of humor?”
I’m in the middle of one of the worst movies ever, and the scriptwriter had even managed to fuck up the dialogue.
“Say, funny man, how about you tell us a joke.”
I took a drag from my cigarette and looked at him. “Sorry, buddy, all out of jokes since I got here. Your town seems to have sucked all the funny right out of me.”
“Well, then we’ll just have to change that, right Lloyd?” Earl said, clapping his hands together. “It seems like the clown’s lost his laugh.”
Earl nodded and rubbed his hands together. “Yup, as in a man who clowns around. I hear you’ve been doing that a lot since you got here.”
I squinted at him through the smoke. Not a bad looking guy, if you liked the greasy, mean type. “Is that right?”
“Yeah, that’s right,” Earl said, leaning in. “Like clowning around with my wife. Heard you’ve been spending quite a lot of time with her.”
I took a long drag from my cigarette then tapped the end on the ashtray on the bar. “Last I heard, Earl, she was your ex-wife.”
I felt Lloyd shift in his seat, moving closer until I could smell the alcohol on his breath.
“That’s temporary,” Earl hissed. “We’re in the process of healing.”
Lloyd grabbed me by the collar, and I turned to him quickly, putting my cigarette out in his forehead. He jumped back, hollering in pain, his stool toppling over. I immediately turned to Earl, and before he could register what had just happened, I slammed my elbow in his face and sent him sprawling to the ground.