Tuesday, August 20, 2019
The Shrewd King 5.2: A change of plans
It took Satish twenty minutes to calm down after his confrontation with the Blastics.
He heard the wagon and team of horses leave his property. Satish looked out the window to ensure both men rode away.
When he had his breath under control, he pinged his brother on the CB. He started the conversation in Hindi which instantly tipped off Prakash that something bad had happened.
They had agreed to speak English on the radio so people didn’t jump to stupid conclusions.
Satish told Prakash what had happened. Two of Chernovsky’s fighters were in the store as Satish poured out his tale of woe. Their ears perked up when they heard Chernovsky’s name mentioned in the rapid-fire, incomprehensible chatter.
Putting down the microphone, Prakash asked “Do you suppose it would be possible to have Mr. Chernovsky visit Satish’s store three miles south of here?”
Five minutes later, Chernovsky and Sullivan got a bump on the radio from the M-99 bridge Team Leader. Chernovsky sighed. It was going to add 12 miles to the daily route, minimum, but protecting civilians against threats was the entire reason for his force’s existence.
Chernovsky was not able to give Satish much satisfaction beyond listening to his story.
“In fact, Blastic volunteered to guard the Bunker Highway bridge and he probably does need to raise taxes to feed his soldiers.” Chernovsky was forced to admit.
“My guys are to protect us against outside threats.” he continued.
Satish was visibly perturbed. “You mean Blastic can just claim three square miles of property and nobody is going to stand up to him?”
“That is a gray area.” Chernovsky admitted. “My guys are spread too thin to be both cops AND a soldiers. You are going to have to work it out between the two of you.”
“What about his threat “..shame when something happens to it.” Satish said.
Chernovsky sighed. This is not what he had signed on to do.
“Tell you what, I will inform Salazar, Tomanica and Seraph of what happened. One of them will have a word with Blastic.” Chernovsky said.
After Chernovsky left, one of the men who had been examining Satish’s supply of pocket knives cleared his throat. “Were you talking about Denny Blastic?”
“Yes. Do you know him?” Satish asked.
“Yeah. I kicked his ass in fourth grade. He was an asshole back then, too.” the man said.
Satish looked doubtfully at the man who barely stood 5'-6" tall. "You whipped Denny Blastic?" he asked.
"Hell ya! I punch way above my weight. I just kept punching him in the throat. He kept dropping his chin to protect it and his teeth cut the hell out of my fist." the man said.
"Never pick a fight with the little guy." the man said. "There is no upside. You didn't prove anything if you beat him and you lose a hellova lot if he beats you." the man said with a smile.
"What happened? Didn't he try for a rematch?" Satish asked.
"Of course he did." the man said. "He jumped me from behind the next day when the bus dropped me off." the man said.
"Then what?" Satish asked, horrified.
"My little brother and my cousin were getting off the bus right behind me." the man said.
"Blastic got a broken nose and three broken fingers." the man said.
"How do you break somebody's fingers by hitting them in the throat." Satish asked. Something didn't add up.
The man grunted humorously. "He got an old-fashioned boot-stomping. Thing is, Eric and I were wearing tennis shoes. My cousin Ethel was wearing cowboy boots. She was fed up with Blastic teasing her about her name. She is the one who busted his nose and fingers."
Satish smiled. He wished he could have seen the fight.
“I am new to the neighborhood. Help me out. I don’t remember your name.” Satish said.
“My name is Warren Wood.” the man said.
“You know, it might solve a few problems if you moved your store to the other side of M-99. My place ain’t all that great but I don’t think Blastic will bother you over there.” Warren said.
“And why would that be?” Satish asked, still wallowing in misery.
“Bullies got long memories but he won’t mess with me. Why do you think his ‘kingdom’ ends at M-99?” Warren said.
Satish shrugged his lack of comprehension.
Warren laughed a cynical laugh. “I got about a hundred kin-folk who live around here 'sides my cousin Ethel. Something happened to me they would go burn Blastic out, maybe even tar-and-feather him. That thing about lawlessness...it cuts both ways. As long as he doesn’t mess with me then he and his pretty horses don’t have any accidents.”
Satish and his family spent the next two days moving the contents of the store and the house they were moving across M-99 and a quarter-mile closer to Columbia Highway. The facilities were much more cramped than his first store and the building could not be seen from the road. Satish didn't know it, but his pulling a gun on Denny Blastic, even though Trey had the drop on him, made him an honorary member of the Wood clan.
The class of enemies we earn as we pass through life defines our character more starkly than the list of those who we would cultivate as friends. A man with no enemies has no character.
The taste of bile flooded the his mouth every time he thought about how he had been run out of his store. Bullies are not the only ones with long memories.