Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Tagger

Mark looked down at the boy from the top of the club steps. Mark watched as he took out a spray can and tagged the club door. He was done in a matter of seconds. Just a couple flicks of the wrist and the hiss of aerosol. The boy turned to leave and saw Mark. Mark was over six feet tall and nearing 300 pounds. He filled the stairwell. The vandal looked up at him with a frightened expression. Mark placed the kid to be about sixteen years old. His time manning the door of the nightclub made him a wiz for guessing people’s ages. Most of the time he knew he was about to be handed a fake ID before a customer reached for his wallet.
“Go inside,” Mark said. The boy hesitated for a moment, then opened the door and went into the basement nightclub. Mark followed a few steps behind. The club lights were on. It was nearly four in the morning. Bar backs were refilling stock. Waitresses were cleaning off tables or counting tips at the bar. Bartenders were reconciling the registers.
“Go over there,” Mark said to the boy. He gestured to a group of men all in black. The club bouncers had already finished their duties and were hanging out in the raised VIP area, drinking beer and laughing. The boy meekly walked over. Mark was a few steps behind.
“What have we got here?” Stan asked. He was the club owner. He was over-skinny and pale. His thick black hair was plastered to the back of his head with gel. Mark saw the gleam in his eyes. Stan liked his Martini’s and by Mark’s estimation, he’d had more than his fair share.
“The tagger,” Mark said.
“What?” Stan asked.
“This is the kid who’s been vandalizing the door,” Mark said.
“That’s him?” Stan pushed back from the table. “That fuck! I’m going to kill him.” Mark and the club bouncers stood up and surrounded the boy, who had been meekly studying his feet. Mark went over to the bar. The bartender stopped counting his register and handed Mark a beer. Mark reached for his wallet, but the bartender shook his head and went back to counting the register. Mark took a long pull from the bottle.
“You’re the asshole who thinks he can do whatever he wants with my door?” Stan yelled at the boy. Mark saw that Stan was inches from the boys face. “Answer me!”
“I’m sorry,” The boy said.
“Sorry doesn’t cover the hundred bucks I’ve been spending every time I have to get that door refinished.” Stan said.
“Shut the fuck up,” Stan said. “Do you have money to cover all the damages you’ve caused to my club?”
“No.” The boy said. Mark looked at the boy. He seemed so small when he stood in the middle of the huge nightclub security men. Mark thought Stan looked like and angry Mosquito.
“You don’t have the money,” Stan said, “I guess we’re going to have to take the payment out of your ass then.”
The front of the boy's pants darkened as his bowels released. The bouncers laughed. One pushed the kid from behind and he fell to the floor where he lay prone.
“Stand the fuck up,” Stan said. The boy didn’t move. One of the bouncers lifted the kid up and settled him on his feet. The boy was crying. “Don’t think you’re tears are going to help you. You didn’t have any tears being a baddass outside as you tagged my door.”
Mark drained his beer. “I think you’ve made your point Stan,” he said.
“I didn’t ask your fucking opinion,” Stan said.
“He’s just a kid,” Mark said.
“And you’re going to be fired if you don’t shut the fuck up,” Stan said. He turned angrily toward Mark. “You want this job?” Stan said, “You think you can do this job? This is part of it. Taking care of trash like this. I'm going to take care of him myself.”
“He’s crying. He’s wet his pants. I think he gets the picture,” Mark said.
“Go home Mark,” Stan said.
“Okay, I’ll go home,” Mark said. He got up from the bar and walked over to the bouncers he gently pushed into the group and grabbed the kid by the shirt. “He’s coming with me.”
“You take him out of here and you’re fired,” Stan said.
“What do you want me to do,” Mark said, “This?” Mark slapped the kid hard across the face. The kid let out a shriek and would have fallen if Mark didn’t have a good grip on his shirt. Stan’s face went white.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Stan yelled,.
“This is what you want me to do?” Mark said. He slapped the kid again. The kid’s shirt tore in Mark’s grasp. Mark hefted the sobbing child to his feet.
“I didn’t say hit him,” Stan said, “I just wanted to scare him a little bit. Shit.”
“You scared him enough,” Mark said. “I’m leaving and he’s coming with me.” By now the bouncers had stepped back from the scene making a wide circle. All other activity in the club had stopped. Every eye was on Mark, Stan and the boy. The boy had a small line of blood dripping from his quibbling mouth.
“Okay, Mark,” Stan said. “Get the fuck out of here and take him too. I don’t care. Just make sure he doesn’t come back or it’s your ass. Shit, Mark you’re fucking crazy.” Stan went back to the VIP area and called for another Martini.
Mark looked at the other bouncers for a moment. They wouldn’t meet his gaze. He took the kid back to the front door and shoved him out of it. The boy stumbled up a few steps and looked back down at Mark.
“I’m calling the police,” The kid said.
“Really?” Mark said. “You should be thanking me.”
“For assault?”
“I thought you’d rather take a few slaps in the face,” Mark said.
“He wouldn’t have hit me.”
“Yeah, you looked pretty sure all covered in your own piss and whimpering like you did,” Mark said. “I don’t know what ‘taking payment out on your ass’ means to you. But liquored up like Stan was I wasn’t sure he meant a beating.”
The boys face went pale. Mark pulled a tobacco pipe from his pocket and lit up the bowl he'd packed hours before. The tobacco tasted sweet. Smoke smelling of Maple and honey filled the air.
“If I was you,” Mark said, “I would go.”
The boy walked up the club steps and vanished down the street into the brightening horizon.

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