Just One of Those Days When You Don’t Wanna Wake Up
“Everything is fucked and everybody sucks”
Once in a while a pair of eyes would meet his, with no sneer, no buzz, just a look and move on. Eyes like his own, the eyes of a beast that learned to walk like a human. Forged in anger and quenched in blood. Ruslan realised he already liked this town, that it had an edge.
Chaos briefly erupted by the bar, with one lunatic attacking a demented drunk, flooring his hapless target before dancing on his face. Watching the strangers lay into each other, Ruslan didn’t notice someone joining him in the booth from his left-hand blind spot.
In a way it was refreshing, nobody had been able to surprise him in years. “You’re in our booth,” the stranger announced. It was almost stereotypically American Redneck to show up next to the new arrival and say something like that. Ruslan had thought it only happened on the television. It didn’t take long for this meth-addict-looking stranger’s three big friends to show up though. They looked more like meth dealers than addicts – tattoos, gym rat bodies, scars on their knuckles but baby-soft palms. Not suited to manual labour but they were used to beating on people with jagged raisin teeth.
“Yo, you got business with us motherfucker?” the frontrunner introduced himself in as blunt a manner as he probably thought possible.
No. Ruslan didn’t have business with them. He didn’t even have to check the napkin with his day’s to-do list to know that. He looked to the tall one with the foul mouth, then the one sitting in the booth with him, and back. He turned his hands palm-up and shrugged. Maybe he did have some business with these fine rowdy gentlemen if he was in their booth.
“That’s a no. Now get the fuck out of our booth and find somewhere else to sit,” the tall one ordered, but judging by the way he pointed his thumb at the fire exit, he probably meant that Ruslan should skedaddle and maybe come back another day if he wanted to lose some teeth.
“Beat it,” the heaviest of the three large ones grunted, his voice slow and deep like an avalanche. “Your coat looks like Baghdad, and so’s your face. So go on. Beat it,” the fat one repeated himself, leaning past the group’s leader to rest a flabby, sausage-fingered hand on the table. If this was a Steven Seagal movie, that would’ve been the point where Ruslan gained wrist control and turned the conversation into a blurring whirlwind of broken arms and bad decisions. But he wasn’t Seagal and these guys weren’t stuntmen who’d just get paid a little more if/when he broke their arms.
Ruslan stood, keeping his hands visible, and stepped past them.
“I think the faggot with the patchy scarf should buy us a drink for the inconvenience first,” the third of the Big Three finally spoke. Not as tall as the (probable) leader and not as heavy as sausage-hands, he was one of those guys who was nondescript, other than the word “big”. Above average height and weight, dark hair, dark eyes, white, but he clearly had a bit of a kink in him if he was in the business of mugging strangers. And he apparently didn’t like Ruslan’s keffiyeh.
“No money,” Ruslan apologised, stepping backwards.
“Oh. Okay. Inside or outside?” the leader smirked. Definitely had more than just a bit of a kink in him. They all stank, smelled like sweat and cheap Vodka. Smell was one of those things that reminded Ruslan of everything – the Russians had always smelled like wet dogs. Or blood.
“Pay your tab,” Ruslan nodded towards the bar. When stressed, he mostly spoke in crappy one-liners because he learned a lot of his English from books, television, movies, and the internet, rather than actual English classes.
“I’ll pay it after I beat your ass. You wanna do this outside or you wanna do this in here and get your ass kicked by security too?” Leader Boy took a step towards Ruslan, looming over him. This son of a bitch must’ve grown up near Three Mile Island or something. He was huge. His breath stank of tobacco.
“Outside,” Ruslan sighed, moving for the door. He kept an eye on them with the mirror behind the bar in case someone got a wise idea and stuck him in the back with a broken glass. Ruslan had been there in his time. He’d like to not be there again. His kidneys were a little higher than most peoples’, which made that one time he had kidney stones even more Hellish, but it also saved his life when someone put a 4” window shard into his back in northern Dagestan. He didn’t know how many stitches he needed after that but he was pretty sure the student nurse who was working on him had gotten the total wrong, leaving him with a thick lightbulb-shaped scar on his lower back.
These guys just seemed intent on the fight outside, though, so Ruslan began to visualise the conflict in his head. He’d need to break the leader first. It wouldn’t be too hard, he talked like he had a soft head, and Ruslan’s hands were more like calcified bludgeons than fine dextrous tools. There were ways they didn’t bend but when he hit a man with a “bear swat”, a “Russian Hook”, or even just a closed fist, it was like punching with a rock. None of them tried any funny business until Ruslan opened the front door.
He got enough of a look at their reflections in the door that he could think to himself, “This is going to hurt.”
The rabbit punch jerked his head forward, slamming him into the door with enough force to swing it open. Thanks to the blow to the back of the head and the door to the front, Ruslan was only distantly aware of smashing his hand through a beer bottle as he tumbled across the front smoking terrace outside, skinning his knuckles and gashing his palm before he landed headfirst on the pavement. He wasn’t even aware that by rolling onto his back to see a little better, he had rolled himself into the street. As he stood, a passing motorcyclist kicked him in the back, learning a lesson in Newton’s Third Law in the process. Not wearing a helmet, the intrusive bastard didn’t rise from where he landed in the turn lane.
Ruslan backed up the street as the foursome rushed him. Untrained and unskilled, they compensated with a massive collective size advantage and years of working with a team. Ruslan felt a fraternity ring gash open his eyebrow before he managed to snatch his first weapon from his pocket. A little stubby hammer that he called Bam Bam. Loading his fist with the head, his thumb wrapped around the claw and the handle extended along his forearm, back towards his elbow. It was unorthodox – everyone knew the “hammer grip” so this probably looked odd, but it paid off when he raised an instinctive guard and had a bottle smash across the hammer’s handle instead of into the juicy veins of his wrist.
Ruslan went low, smashing the hammer’s head down into the knee of the nearest man. A painful knock for sure but it didn’t keep him from getting barrelled backwards by the fat one. Ruslan opened his hand, keeping the hammer in place with his thumb and delivered a brutal slap with the flat of the hammer head. Shifting his grip, Ruslan used the hammer’s claw to take wrist control, arm-dragging the fatboy towards him and delivering a headbutt. He felt teeth collapse inside the man’s mouth and finished him with a hammer blow to the temple.
Fatty keeled over, but not before Ruslan returned the hammer to his pocket while the vanquished prick’s girth blocked everyone else’s view. None of the four had seen the hammer, so even the twitchy tweaker-looker took a step back when fatty hit the asphalt. Ruslan undid his keffiyeh and wrapped it around his gashed fist, marching towards them. He’d given them a warning, told them to pay their tab. But no, these fat American pigs just didn’t listen. So close to the Russians. Nobody acknowledged it but everyone knew it – Chechens just wanted to be left the fuck alone.
The leader threw a long jab. The kind of long jab that had time zones. Ruslan slipped the jab, gripping his keffiyeh in both hands. He reached behind, and then over Leaderboy’s head, wrapping his neck in the Palestinian scarf and yanking his head down to an upwards-swinging knee. The young man’s face softened against Ruslan’s knee, as did his leg when Ruslan stom-kicked it. His knee blown out, their Leader was down for the count.
“Now. Which one of you fairies is the die hard and which one is going to run?” Ruslan pointed to the other two, now splashed with the blood of three men and dripping his own through the keffiyeh, “I want an answer before I get light-headed, because then I’ll have to kill you both. And if you run then you’ll only die tired like a stuck fucking Russian pig.”
Tweaker and Nondescript looked at each other, nodded, then assumed limp fighting poses.
“Seriously?” Ruslan said, tilting his head at them. That was what he said. What he thought was , “Oh shit.” He had already lost some blood, between having his forehead gashed, and his hand split open. He had a shard of glass poking up out of his forearm where that bottle had smashed across the grip of his hammer and that wasn’t helping either.
Strangely, Tweaker led the way with a lunging jab. The boy had been a boxer at some point – he boxed like he’d been taught by an old Russian Olympic coach. That being like a fencer. Long, straight, swift attacks, well-measured and rarely thrown in combination. Ruslan fought more like a less-burly Mike Tyson. He bobbed and weaved from the waist, turning on the balls of his feet to take himself off-centre. He sharked past the first jab, reaching up behind the back of his jacket. And he was glad he did so as Nondescript slammed into him with a kick that seemed to go on for miles.
Managing to keep his footing, Ruslan ripped his curved knife free. It was a wicked, talon-like blade he’d learned the art of from a Pilipino brother who had fought alongside his fellow Sunnis in Afghanistan and Iraq. Ruslan used the curve to control the punch that came at him from Nondescript as he took over, then he punched the tip into Nondescript’s triceps. Ripping the blade free, he splashed Tweaker with a face full of blood and sent Nondescript to the road surface in convulsions, the slab of muscle on the back of his arm all but severed.
A knife came at him. Folding knife, long straight blade. Like one of those fucking switchblades from the Broadway shows. Tweaker wielded it from a boxer’s stance in an icepick grip. Effective but far from the best way to engage a knife. Switching the karambit from his right hand to his left, Ruslan reached behind his back again and drew his own knife. Fixed blade. Benchmade. He saw on the YouTubes that they made good knives, so of course, when he was working as a cleaner on a gun range he stole one from stock and gave his two weeks’ notice, claiming that the customers were abusing him.
Ruslan stepped into a long fighting stance, gripping his knife like a fencer, a long, relaxed grip. The knife was between himself and Tweaker, held out well-forward of his body. Tweaker really had just learned of knife-fighting from movies, or was using familiar ergonomics. His reactionary gap was just the length of his rear-hand to his chest. Ruslan’s was much, much larger, presenting far more of a chance to carve up the little bastard.
It was unusual to have the smallest dog in the pack stick around though. Maybe he was related to Fatty or Leaderboy. Ruslan inched forwards, managing to look somewhere between menacing and comical as he seemed to glide forward by wiggling his feet. He feinted at Tweaker, trying to gauge his reactions and willingness to get sliced up. Tweaker whipped his knife forward at the air then stepped back well-clear of Ruslan.
“Fuck him up Josh!” someone yelled from the smoking terrace.
“Come on Josh,” Ruslan hissed, “Show me your moves.”
“Please fucking show me your moves before I bleed enough to pass out,” Ruslan’s eye twitched as blood from his eyebrow began to reach it. Josh took it as a signal, lurching forward with a lead right cross, aiming to use the familiar motion to slash at Ruslan. The Chechen’s long reactionary gap worked well – he whipped his blade across Josh’s forearm, lacerating the muscle and leaving a long strip of skin hanging down like a piece of bacon. The counter-attack didn’t stall there, though. Ruslan, visualising a clock that he had entered along a two-to-nine angle, exited on a nine-to-six angle, lunging down and gouging his knife across Josh’s right knee. He returned on a six-to-eleven blow, driving his knife up into Josh’s triceps, past his humerus, and out the front of his biceps. Right arm ruined, Josh lost his grip on his knife and blacked out from shock to his system.
Ruslan heaved his knife free and staggered to the closed dollar store across from the saloon, sitting down on the steps and trying his best not to vomit. Either he’d died and an angel was coming to escort him to heaven for mutilating four kuffar, or one was coming to him to help him retain his fragile mortal coil. Warm hands wrapped his head and pulled him to his feet as the edges of his vision lost all colour. She brought him back across the street, dumping him on a table outside. It stung like all balls, but she cleaned his wounds with whiskey and bound them with blindfolds from the bedrooms. This place was a whore house!
While she pinched the cut on his eyebrow together and sutured it with fishing line and a sewing needle, another whore held a bottle of gin to his mouth to dull the pain. The cunt nearly drowned him though, and he snatched the bottle away from her. He was dimly aware that they looked magnificent, even to his bloodstained eye. Maybe that was the concussion and blood-loss talking. While the whore worked on his head, Ruslan pulled the glass out of his arm and wrapped his keffiyeh around his elbow, pulling it tight to staunch the flow of blood. Some passer-by tossed four wallets on the table, open to show the driver’s licenses of his battered victims. Names, ages, addresses, and most importantly, their cash. Just as the whore finished on his eyebrow, someone cast her aside and kicked Ruslan out of his seat.
The Chechen didn’t quite comprehend what the big motherfucker said, but he recognised the voice that had cheered on Tweaker. Or Josh Rothstein as his mother had named him. Running on empty and instinct, Ruslan passed his head outside the incoming punch, clearing it for sure with a slap to the elbow as he clapped his right hand over the stranger’s ear. His balance disrupted so, the stranger was easier to stiff-arm away. As Ruslan regained control and stole his attacker’s momentum in the fray, he retained control on the man’s arm, bending it and pulling his hand into a figure-four wrist lock. Sliding his feet through his own blood, Ruslan threw the man over his hip and snapped his wrist in tandem. He then ended the fight for sure by breaking his elbow with a swift kick while he still had wrist control.
“Gimme that fuckin’ drink,” Ruslan slurred, pointing at a man who looked like he had escaped from a Wild West period drama. The stranger nodded frantically and handed his bottle of Bud Light to the bloodied brawler.
Turning to the whores who had mended him admirably, only just noticing that the blonde had gone to work on his forearm, Ruslan cleared his throat and swallowed the urge to demand to see her tits. He had better questions to ask.
“Where can I get some work in this town?” he grunted. She just nodded back to the saloon doors, one of which had his bloody face print on it from the very start of the fight.
- 1 x Strider PS Karambit.
- 1 x Benchmade Protagonist (Drop Point Blade).
- 1 x 8oz. Stubby Claw Hammer.
- 1 x Palestinian keffiyeh.
- Some feedbacks. Specifically, was the action clear-enough? Did it flow? Did I use too many “combative” terms to skip awkward descriptions and leave it a jargon-riddled mess?