A Mercury Slim Joint Short Story
It was 2 a.m. Sunday morning and the usual after mid-night crowd at Mitch’s bar didn’t stick around on the account that it was the lord’s day. The bar was located on Central Ave. Owned by a man with the same name Mitch Blake, a former actor who was once a pretty boy in Hollywood, but as he became an aging pretty boy his star began to diminish and so he left tinsel town to come back home and use his money to open a bar.
The watering hole sat between two future luxury apartment complexes, the type of housing for the young corporate executives to live in was now the in thing. Mitch didn’t mind because he knew that it could be only good for business. Inside the bar was like any other bar with stools, and tables with the exception of Hollywood memorabilia hanging on the walls, but nothing that Mitch had done because he was sentimental that way. He usually shut down the place out of respect for the lord, but a friend called in a favor and he obliged.
Mercury asked Mitch to hold the bar open for him and an old high school friend. Mitch didn’t ask why, he just said no problem, Mercury was one of his first customers and the two of them found they had a connection. Mercury peered through the window under the letters titled Mitch’s Bar. He saw Mitch behind the bar doing what bartenders do wiping it down and his old high school chum, Truit Foster.
Mercury didn’t go inside right away, he studied the man who hired him to solve his nephew’s murder. Mercury saw a man drowning his sorrows, problems, and guilt in hard liquor. Whiskey to be exact, Jim Beam, Johnnie walker, or Wild Turkey, Mercury couldn’t tell, but for now the bottle was Truit’s best friend. Mercury knew some people used the burning beverage as their shrink and it looked liked Truit was telling it all his problems.
Mercury waltzed in nodding to Mitch who continued wiping down the bar. He made it to Truit who sat with his back to the door. Mercury got his attention with a tap on the shoulder.
“So … how’s therapy?” asked Mercury.
Truit held up a half empty bottle. “I need a longer session.”
Mercury laughed. “Sure you can afford it?” Mercury perched himself at the table.
“Any of them white boys confessed to killing my nephew?”
“They’re all innocent.” said Pone.
“That ain’t the news I was expecting.”
“Don’t blame the weather man if you don’t like the forecast.” said Mercury. Truit took another sip of whiskey. “Always cool with the words. Somethings never change.”
“And somethings do,” remarked Mercury.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Tyree died with a gun shot to the back of the head. It wasn’t close range, wasn’t execution style either … the way he fell face down on the ground looked more like he was surprised if you can believe that.”
Truit frowned. “Surprised? What do you mean surprised?”
“Can’t quite put my finger on it, but like he was looking at something or better yet somebody told him to look at something and bang.”
Mercury watched Truit empty the bottle. He motioned to Mitch to bring another and a glass. Mitch set the bottle and glass on the table then went back to his duties behind the bar. Mercury poured Truit and himself a drink.
“You paying for this session?” asked Truit.
“It’s the least I can do,” said Mercury.
Truit drank then he grabbed the bottle and poured himself another.
Mercury nursed his drink. “You ain’t drinking just to past time, are you?”
“Why else would I be drinking?”
Mercury snorted. “Drinking like that … seems like a man trying to drink away guilt.”
“My nephew’s dead, man … you know some people handle grief differently,”
“Don’t I know it,” Mercury nodded. “I remember my father and me watching a football game and there were about twenty cheer leaders… “
Truit’s eyes were blood-shot and droopy. “You going somewhere with this?”
“Only one black girl was on the squad and my dad referred to her as a token.”
“Was he saying their should’ve been more than just one black?”
“You know it,”
“My nephew was a token, but he chose to be around all them white people.”
Mercury pursed his lips. “Tyree had a bright future in the corporate world and from what I heard he was about to go to grad school. He was the first in your family to graduate college and was setting an example to his younger cousins. All of that was taken away… “
Truit grunted. “Told ya them damn white boys …”
“His friends were devastated,” said Mercury.
Truit’s words began to slur. “Damn shame when a black start actin’ white.”
“Some whites act black.” remarked Mercury.
“Remember that boy back in high school?”
“You talkin’ about that white boy dressing black and hanging out with all the black kids?”
“He had jheri-curls, pattern dress slacks and shirts and all the white kids use to say he needed to be slapped. Despite all that, he went on about his business.” said Mercury. Truit shook his head. “Still though, you belong with your own kind.”
“What is this the nineteen sixties? Did it bother you that much to see your nephew having white friends?”
“Man, the guys at the barber shop always said to me why yo nephew think he white, acting white, and talking white.”
Mercury glared. “You need a new barber. Better yet what’s the name of the barber shop because they won’t get my service. That’s what you call ignorance, Truit. And it’s not talking white, it’s call articulate. Your nephew was articulate.”
Truit shook his head. “Got on my damn nerves.”
“That’s why you did it?” asked Mercury.
Truit gave a dubious look through his stretched blood-shot eyes. “What the hell you talking about?”
“I’ve seen you around Tyree acting like he was an itch you could never scratch.”
“He brought them white bitches to family outings”
Mercury snorted. “You definitely in the wrong century. In this century, bi-racial couples go together like macaroni and cheese. If you can’t stand bi-racial couples then you don’t like mac and cheese. You were jealous of Tyree, why?”
“I told you man, hanging around them damn whites … the kind that got in my way,”
“No!” Mercury shook his head. “This day and age only you can hold yourself back. You can’t blame anybody else for your short comings. If you don’t make it in this world then it’s on you. Using color of skin for failure is a cop out. I went to school with you… you might have qualified for trade school, but that would have been a challenge. School is not for everyone and that’s why I went into the military. You should have accepted your weakness and should have been proud of your nephew. He was going to take your family to the next level.”
No police sirens were needed, red and blue strobe lights flashed inside the bar from the outside window. Mercury looked at the bulge in Truit’s right pants pocket.
“Put the gun on the table nice and slow.” said Mercury. He motioned toward the bar where Mitch looked more than ready to pull something from underneath the bar if he needed to. Truit did as he was told. Mercury grabbed the .38 special and shook his head.
“The caliber of bullet came from this type of gun that caused the hole in the back of Tyree’s head. He was your nephew.”
Truit nodded. “That’s why I hired you. I knew you would help me face my demons and I hope you believe me when I say I did love my nephew, the token black.”