Doesnt ring a bell (roun.., p.1
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       Doesn't Ring a Bell (Round 1), p.1
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Doesn't Ring a Bell (Round 1)
Chapter 1

  The little notebook began: I'm writing this for your own good, and thats more than you deserve.

  Moe Biggie, more monument than man, would lean like the Tower of Pisa when he fished for the book in the deep of his pant pocket, down where the mop water couldn't stain it.

  He couldn't recognize the handwriting, it wasn't his own, but there was a familiar directness to the punchy prose so he trusted it.

  I'll keep this dirt simple, so even your dim wit can get it. It continued, disdainful but obliged. First off, keep this book to yourself. Don't let no body no about it. Keep it your secret, Biggie. So don't get seen with it, and lie if you do.

  Every time Moe read this he would straighten, like a Greek column being raised. And take two glances over his broad shoulders, and peer out in front of him as if he were in a dense fog.

  He read on. You was wronged, Biggie, and so was I. So I'm writing this down for you so you cant forget it. You cant let yourself forget.

  "What the hell! Moe! You reading that goddamned book again?" The words were interrupted by a shrill call.

  Moe violently stuffed it back in his pocket. He forgot that he was on the lower floor and the guards watch from above. He noted tiredly that he needed to remember to include a glance above him when checking his whereabouts.

  don't get seen with it...

  "What's in that little trick? You got some girls phone numbers in there, Moe? You got your mamma's number in that thing? You better not have my mamma's number in it."

  ...and lie about it if you do.

  "You got my mamma's number in there, Moe?" demanded the gaurd in an unnaturally squeaky voice.

  "This is my prayer book." said Biggie, with solemnity.

  "The hell it is. You've been checking it like its got naked girl pictures in it. If I catch you reading that dirty little book again, I'm gonna take it from you."

  Moe nodded with agreement like a Mac Truck piston head.

  "Damn it, Moe. You ain't a bad guy. You do what your told here, and I respect that you were somebody once. You know I could make life a lot shittier for you if I wanted to though. So why you go and test my patience by lying to me. Do you think I'm a stupid man, Moe? Do you think I'm dumb like you are?"

  "No sir, I don't" Moe replied politely to the pale skinny man, talking down to him. He now held the mop in his fearsome right hand.

  "That's good, because I'm a lot smarter than you, so you know that much at least. But you understand that I'm being your friend right now by letting you keep that book."

  Moe was losing his concentration, starting to forget why this bottle necked man was squeeking down at him. He still held the mop in his hand, and surveyed the floor. It was clean as a dinner plate up to where he was standing, near the corner of the holding cell block #1, but dead rat dirty around the corner of the last cell and beyond it. No point in starting from the beginning he figured, and drown the mop head in bucket water.

  Step lively, don't be a lead foot, said someone in the back shadows of his battered brain.

  "Hey Moe Biggie!" screeched the scrawny boy-sized-man above him. "You got bum ears also? I said if you tell me what's in that book, I'll let you finish early."

  "What book?" Moe asked with genuine interest, but without missing a beat with the push of the mop.

  Left, Left, Hold, Right Hook, Light's Out!

  "You know damn well what book. You know DAMN WELL WHAT I MEAN! I try to be your friend, Moe. To help you out a little. and you FUCKING LIE TO ME!"

  The noise was like a cave of scared bats. Moe leaned the mop on his chest and covered his ears with his saucer pan hands, and screwed his eyelids shut. Except for the ringing in his head, he found almost perfect silence. He didn't hear or see the warden enter.

  "What the HELL is going on in here NOW?!" asked the warden through a beet red, folded dough face, and a shoe polisher mustache. There was a thick slur to his speech, and anyone with adequate eyes could see the alcohol in his amber breath.

  "I'm sorry for the noise warden, but I saw Mr. Biggie here with a book of naked pictures and I was telling him to get rid of it."

  "Fredrick, you are a king sized ass of a pint sized man." Freddy snickered at the word pint. "What do you do for an ack-ack-actual...emergency? Do you pop your cap and spill over the railing?"

  "Ask him, warden. Ask him about his little black book of mamma numbers."

  "Shut your fool mouth. Just keep it shut for once IN YOUR LIFE." The last words from the warden were rushed together. He glared up at Freddy and then staggered toward Moe.

  "Do you have some kind of nude pick-pick... pitcher book, do ya Moe?" asked the warden with an obvious tone of sympathy for the giant.

  "Wish I did, sir."

  They both laughed, then the warden came to tears and buried his rouge face in Moe's shoulder.

  "I know your drunk warden. I know you are, but he's lying to you." whimpered Fredrick helplessly.

  The warden contorted with renewed anger that flushed his face an even deeper shade of red.

  "This man here is a champion fighter. He's in here 'cause of laws I won't soon understand; it's not my place to understand them. But show some damned respect for a former champion."

  The last word sounded like champagne to Freddy, and he snickered again and said "he's dressed like every other deadbeat prisoner in here. What say you, Moe? You some kind of prize fighter?"

  "I am?" asked Moe with wonderment.

  Freddy exploded with raucous wails of laughter. Even the warden looked embarrassed for Moe. He shook his head in frustration. "Just finish mopping up and stop giving him reason to mock you." Then he stumbled toward the door, falling upon the inside near the hinge so the door did not immediately open, but eventually gave to the weight of his numb body, dropping him through to the outside of the room in a disgraced manner, leaving Moe to face the laughter, alone.

  You cant let yourself forget.

  Chapter 2

  In the low light of the jail cell, after hours, Moe Biggie was reclined on the gunk gray concrete, moving through his fitness routine. Now it was one armed push-ups. With only his tiptoes and right palm grounded, he heaved his massive weight parallel to the floor with the ease of a well oiled derrick.

  He had recently cleared 50 reps, but Moe wasn't counting, he was fixed on the little notebook he set in a spot on the floor where he could read it through the full tilt of his head.

  The book was turned to a page with the bittiest fold at the top corner; Moe had the page marked to resume reading during exercise, when he could focus best.

  You screwed up big-time, Biggie. And for what? To beat a nobody cheat with trick gloves?

  Sure, you gave that smartass Junior one hell of a final! Damn nearly killed the guy. Hes more a wreck than you are if you can believe it. They checked his body into St. Jude Hospital after the match. Those cheat gloves didnt help him much -- you savaged him like you was a cornered animal. But that wasn't the deal, Moe.

  We lost everything in that fight. Everything. Just look at you. Do you remember how to hold a spoon?

  Everybody knew you was a wreck before the fight, you had shit for brains long before you got in the ring with that punk. Everybody gotta fall sometime, that's what made the whole thing believable. It was a done deal.

  TURN THE PAGE ->

  The writing ended and there were dollar sign figures in the margin that Moe skipped past incuriously as he turned to the next page with his free hand. Letting the side of his body lay on the floor for a moment, he rested there, pinching his eyes closed and straining to remember the match.

  He could hear ringing from punches landing on his head, like the sound of a hammer hitting a crooked nail. No visual, only dark
ness. He opened his eyes so he could see the book again.

  Then he threw his body upward from his right palm like a catapult bucket and landed flatly on his left hand and resumed pumping without pause. His gaze still fixed on the notebook. It continued...

  Damn you Moe Biggie. Why couldn't you have remembered to take the fall? At least for old Pike? I made you, Biggie. I lost a lot more than your deal. I had all the bookies in on it. All of them -- its the truth.

  But you can't remember shit so none of it matters now. Go ahead and forget it. Leave the spit bucket to me, like you always did.

  I got a new strategy, Biggie. This is to settle the score. You took care of Junior, but Rene tells Junior when to piss. When you sent Junior to the ER, Rene took a train somewhere. We both did. The law got involved like they said they wouldn't. Can you believe it? Same guys placing half those bets now want us shut down cuz of one cheap fight. Its only a matter a time till they find Rene. You know I got the important screws in my pocket so forget about me. Forget the whole mess. You just gotta follow my next words exactly. I mean EXACTLY. Find a rat hole in that swiss cheese mind of yours and you put it there so you know what to do. Its okay, Biggie. You are gonna train with it so you don't got too much to remember.

  TURN TO NEXT PAGE ->

  Now Moe fell back on both palms and took a seat before the little book, crossing his mammoth legs, stooping his back, craning his thick neck, and bulging his eyes to spot every punctuation mark in perfect splotchy detail. Although he had read these words dozens of times before, he arrived at the next page with the zen of a beginner's mind. He meant not to memorize, but to become each concept. He began to read...

  1) Understand that you are a giant moron. Face it Biggie, you were a halfwit before. Now you are a no-wit.

  Moe breathed deeply. He didn't feel stupid, but he couldn't seem to remember anything he knew.

  2) Look around you,

  Moe straightened his back and swung his neck from side to side, then returned to bent posture for more instruction.

  ...this cell is your ring now, you fight here. The bars and walls are the ropes, the floor you stand on is the mat.

  Moe hesitated for a moment, trying to decide if he should be standing to read more.

  3) Now listen to me. When you hear the bell you start swinging. Go at any punk who is standing in your ring. Go at your own shadow if theres no one in with you. Got it? It don't matter if that person is the king of france or a dead rat, you hit em with everything you got left.

  4) you don't stop hitting em til the lights go out. I mean the real lights. You probably wont get a chance hit them once they go down so you gotta get em against the wall.

  5) Remember to move those lead feet of yours.

  Finally, keep this damn book your secret. Read it every day so you know what to do this time and you dont screw up like before. I mean it Biggie, you train with this in mind.

  STOP READING AND TRAIN.

  Biggie trained every day. He kept himself fit and deadly. Since he arrived in this jail cell he had never heard a bell ring. He wasn't sure what bell the writer was talking about, if it existed. Nevertheless, he was ready for it. At this point in his life the sound of the missing bell was all he had to look forward to.

  Chapter 3

  It was a god-awful piece of work, in Fen's opinion. The back-board was cheap maple. The gaudy brass ticks were uneven. The antique paint on the face wasn't bad; the image depicted a rowdy audience, standing in ovation, some pumping their fists wildly into the air, big white toothy grins on a few (nobody makes a face like that, Fen decided). Another smoothed piece of wood was glued in the center, shaped like the body of the worlds skinniest heavy-weight and painted like the stupidest (not a winning bet). Two more sticks of wood were pinned in the middle of the boxer's small shoulders, giving the carved figure a posture that was anatomically improbable. Worse yet, the frail arms wore over-sized gloves, each entirely round, offering little indication of what time they were pointing at. Below the boxer's knobby knees was a bulbous ringer paired with a thick metal hammer -- it looked damn loud.

  I'm gonna get headaches from this, the warden predicted. He held the clock in one hand while the other made lazy circles with a drip of brandy at the base of the bottle. He would look until he couldn't stand the sight and then turn his attention to the gamely envelope of money that lay flat on his desk. Then he saw a note pinned to the back of the clock.

  A Gift For Moe Biggie, so he can remember lights out. Note to sender, please set 5 minutes ahead of that hour. See below.

  Below the nail hole on the back of the face, the warden saw a little black gear box with two small ridged wheels, each with painted white numbers, the larger of the two labeled 1 through 12a, the other had the minute marks in increments of 5.

  "Christ Almighty." groaned Fen, with no detectable motivation to follow the instructions. I'll get Bullfrog to do it, he smirked. Then he turned his full attention to the envelope smiling weakly from the desktop.

  He strangled the last drop of brandy from the bottle neck and tossed it in the waste bin near the office door. Then he pinched up the envelope with two thick fingers and thumbed through the row of ten dollar bills. Fen counted 25 of them. He probably burned another fifty on the junk clock for Biggie, Fen mused sourly.

  He tugged the cash from the envelope, sending a slip of folded yellow paper fluttering to the ground. It landed between the warden's numb legs.

  He stared at the slip for five round minutes, then he slouched low in his chair and dropped an arm down the leg to sweep for it. He grunted as his hand pawed at the dirt caked floor tiles, brushing the note farther and farther away from him.

  The warden muttered some profanity at the note, then he slid out of the chair and crashed to his knees to find it. In doing so, the clutch of tens escaped his fist and tumbled joyously through the air like parade streamers. The warden enjoyed the effect of falling bills until he noticed the mud brown tile grit they were settling in.

  Fen cursed at the money, then apologized to it as he sifted around for the note. When at last he found it, and unfolded the paper and raised it before his disapproving, bloodshot eyes.

  Dear Mr. Barstowe, I realize this does not fully restore your losses, but see it as a first of two installments towards a sizable sum. In return I ask for a simple change in housing procedure for the cell designation of Mr. Maurice Biagio (Biggie) upon the capture of wanted criminal, Rene Vanguard. I ask that the two be placed together.

  Fen choked at the suggestion, and shook his head in disbelief. The brazen note continued.

  I understand the risk this poses to you professionally. I promise to make it worth your while. The outcome of that match came as a blow to several bettors of status and power, names i cannot disclose but you would surely recognize. Understand that I am not alone in this request and make it with the knowledge and favor of one or more of these unfortunate gentlemen. Please follow through with this simple request for my sake and theirs.

  Respectfully,

  Thomas Pickens (Pike)

  Fen sank lower to the floor, kneeling in the dust of ages, still holding the note while ironing the stress from his brow.

  "Drink. I need a drink," he moaned.

  Seeing the bottom drawer of his desk was within his desperate reach, he flung himself towards it with open arms and grasped the handle as he flopped down. He ignored the sharp pain from his stunt and eased open the drawer. Inside was a brigade of liquor bottles, one of every color, creed, and constitution, ready to serve. He surveyed his company with a mix of pride and regret.

  "Something... Something old," he said to himself. "Old and cheap, and in poor taste like Pike's gift to Biggie. Aha, there we are, 'The Commodore's Finest' -- a honorable discharge of rum."

  He sped the cap from the neck and flew the drink down his gullet until he was choking it from his lungs. It was acidic to taste, but the warden didn't care. The numbing effect of it was sweet enough.

  Now stunned from he
ad to toe, he rolled limply to his side like a wounded cow, rearing his head occasionally to spit excess rum through his dusty mustache.

  In his last moments of consciousness, he thought about the situation. Seeing that he was presently piss drunk, laying on a dirty floor littered with bribe money, Fen realized the last thing needed was scrutiny for his job performance.

  Maybe Pike is bluffing about his connections? Fen thought it possible but didn't like the odds. After all, he was placing bets on inside tips himself and Pike knew as much.

  Cellmates with Biggie? That's a sure way to get killed. Then again, the guy probably can't remember how to throw a punch...

  No, Fen amended, Biggie can't change what he is, 100% wrecking ball. God love him for it. Old boy just refuses to quit. Junior comes at Moe, no padding in his gloves, and Biggie sends him away on a stretcher. That's a true champion.

  Fen trained his sight on the blurred clock balancing on the edge of the desk above him.

  What he really deserves is a trophy, thought the warden.

  "Give him a trophy" Fen managed to say with a swollen tongue. Then, after urinating uncontrollably, he passed out cold.

 
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