MIKE BOCKOVEN

Short Story: Double Zero

Oct
23

Who’s up for a nasty little short story in time for Halloween? Content warning: gore, language, gambling, moderate torture.

I know what you’re going to say. 

Every single argument, I get it. I know them too. Personal responsibility, that’s a big one. People need to be responsible for their actions. You can’t control what people do, right? It’s legal. That’s another one. It’s legal and if it’s legal that means what you’re doing doesn’t have consequences, at least not consequences like this. The law washes you clean as the driven snow from any consequences of your actions, am I right? Am I close?

Let me run down your other excuses. It’s entertainment. It’s luck. I didn’t have to come into your casino. I didn’t have to put my money down. Nothing forced me to do any of this AS IF that somehow absolves you and your giant fucking obscene, gaudy monument from responsibility. I’m sure you give to charity. Just a matter of time before you throw that one out there. It’s the old “yes, I have money in my hands but money in my hands means charity and good works while money in the hands of people means drugs and misery and…”. Bullshit, bullshit bullshit. All of it. 

The truth is you decided, over all the other things you could have done with your life, to do this. To run a casino. And you had to know, in the back of your head somewhere, that gambling can cause misery. And, somewhere back there, you knew that eventually you’d run into a guy like me. 

Oh, who the fuck am I to tell you about your business? I have a very specialized set of perspectives to bring to your business, actually.  I could go on for a while, but I won’t. Let’s just say, I’ve suffered because of your business. I’ve lost everything. And now you’re going to lose something. Seems only fair.

Don’t believe me. OK. Let’s get one of those fingers off.

Ahhhh. Yep. Here it is. Oh, man, you know, you jam your fingers or sprain your fingers and it’s just pain, pain, pain all day long and you think those fingers are on there good and proper, but I am surprised at how easy it was to get this off. Just a snip, really. Not hard at all. Even the bone wasn’t that hard to clip if you do it fast enough. Good job keeping that elevated. You look like you’re losing a some blood there.

What do I want? Let’s talk about that.

My life is over. I knew that from the second I lost all that money at your place. Roulette, right? She’s a bitch. It’s that double green that always gets me. I’m sure you know this, but the green spots on the roulette wheel, they were invented to tip the odds in the house’s favor. Like the house needs a tip in its favor, am I right? Anyway, the moment I hit double zero, I knew life was over. Done. I was going to go to my favorite spot downtown, climb on the roof, watch the sun rise and off myself. That hasn’t changed. Nothing can change that, even if you gave me the money back. I’m done, which is why you are here.

It’s the lack of consequences that gets me. Always has. I rememberer once I saw a woman lose all her money in a casino and the guards ushered her to a back room where she wouldn’t have a break down on the gaming floor. See, to me that means this happens so often that there’s a protocol. Probably a code on the floor, right? Code “sad bastard” or something. You ruin people’s lives but the wheels keep spinning. It’s happened for so long it probably doesn’t even register in that big ole’ brain of yours. That business brain. That woman who was hustled off, she’s just a number and you hide behind the charity and the personal responsibility arguments and everything else. 

But you owe, motherfucker. I know you don’t believe it, but you owe.

You asked me what I want? Here’s what I want. I want you to play a game with me and here’s how it’ll go. 

You ain’t walking out of here with all your fingers, but I’m not going to kill you. That’s off the table. I’m not offing myself with a murder on my conscience. That ain’t me. But how many fingers you walk out of her with, and what condition the rest of you is in is up to you. I figure you need to go through something uniquely unpleasant, so I’m gonna take this finger here, the one I already cut off, and I’m gonna cook it up real nice for ya.

Then you’re gonna eat it.

Well, not eating any of it is certainly an option, but let me lay it out. I figure I can cook this into three pretty good bites. I’ll season them and everything. Get ya some fucking catchup if you want. But if you eat none of it, you walk out of here with two bloody stumps with no fingers attached. Maybe you bleed to death, I don’t fuckin’ know. You eat one piece, you keep all the fingers on one hand, lose all the fingers on the other. You eat two pieces, I beat the shit out of you and leave you here. The cleaning crew will find you in the morning. Eat all three pieces I give you my phone and you’re home by supper with nine fingers on your hands and another well on it’s way to becoming shit.

What’s it gonna be?

Didn’t you hear me? Did you not fucking listen to a word I said? I’m not after your money. My life is done. I fucked it up beyond repair. Even if you gave me every dollar your casino made in a year I’d still be offing myself in a couple hours. Nothing can stop that and nothing can stop this. You’re fucking doing it. Figure it out. I’m gonna start the burner. 

No, I’m not going to make you eat a bone. I’m not a savage.

Man, I didn’t think about the fingernail. Trying to cook this up and the top part isn’t cooking because of the fingernail. The things you don’t think about, huh? The things that don’t occur to you, am I right? I know you’ve got that really fancy place in your casino. I bet the head chef would have thought to pull the fingernail off, huh? Asshole probably makes more in a weekend than I’ve ever made in my life. 

All right, here we go. Three pieces, just like I told ya. Doesn’t even look like a finger. Could be anything. Here we go.

I figured you’d try threats, but man, you are convincing. A real screamer. Man. That threat sounded real, but do me a favor. No, just listen. Do me a favor. Turn your brain back on for me, OK, because…yeah…OK. It’s gonna go this way, then.

Oh, Jesus, you crying now? Never been hit in the face? Not once? God, what a privileged fucking life you must lead. I’ve been hit in the face, all my friends have been hit in the face. Shit, I bet each and every one of your employees on your casino floor right now have been hit in the face. Your security, they damn sure have been hit in the face. No question. You know what, let’s do that again.

There we go. Got some blood going from the nose, hair all out of place. You’ve never had to deal with anything like this in your life, have ya? Now we’re cooking. Speaking of cooking, it’s time. Start chowing down or I’m going to start chopping fingers. Yeah, sure. I’ll give you a minute but no more stalling. It’s time.

Keep it down. Keep it down. Don’t do it. Don’t…

Ah man. That’s nasty. What the fuck is that? Smoothie? It’s green. I’m not a sympathetic puker at all but, damn, that’s enough to get me going. Ha! You lost it right away. No hope of keeping it down. Well, let…me…just grab this. Don’t worry, I’ll rinse it off for you. 

Well, yeah, you’re still eating it. This ain’t gym class. You don’t get out of it just because of a little puke. Just be glad after all the shit you put me through I’m rinsing it off for you. You personally made fourteen million dollars last year. I should make you eat your own puke you greedy fucking pig.

Yeah, we can save that piece for last. You got your legs under ya? All right and open wide, here’s the first one.

Nah, that’s fine. Swallowing it like a pill is fine. There aren’t rules to this. Ain’t no double zeros here that I know of. You kept it down. Let me know when you’re ready for round two. Ready now? All right here we go. This piece is a little bigger, but not by much. Ought to be able to keep it down. 

Man, must get easier after you start, huh? That first one, that’s the rough one. That one was fine. All right, two down, one to go. 

Ahhh, you’re thinking about it. What’s worse, choking this down or getting a beating and spending the night with your hands and feet cuffed to a chair, right? Doing the math in your head, right? Well, let’s see if I can make it easier for you. 

That one, that’s for my house that I sold.

That, that’s for the look on my wife’s face when she found out.

That, and…fuck you, this! This was for the look on my daughter’s face when she left.

This? For the bullshit signs you put in your casino about gambling addiction. I called that number. A lot. Didn’t do shit.

And this? Yeah, this? This one’s for double zero you motherfucker.

Yeah, I know. I never gave you the choice but, let’s be fair. I was always going to beat you. You’re lucky it wasn’t worse or I didn’t have anything heavier handy. Smashing your head in doesn’t sound too bad right about now but then you’re pain’s over. Your pain has just started, my man. Just started. 

In fact, let’s do this.

Now I got the matching set. Two middle fingers. You gave me the double bird and then I cut them off. Not so bad for this life, if you ask me. 

Well, enjoy your time waiting for the cleaning crew, my man. Tell Rachel hi for me. She’s a good egg. Got a great singing voice. 

Well.

You know…

I was gonna let you go before you said that. I was going to be a man of my word. I was going to do exactly what I said I was going to do. Then you had to go and say that.

Now I’m going to have to do something else.

Now you aren’t getting out of this place.

Now I’m not getting out of this place.

Fucking double zero.

Short Story – Eat a Dick

Jul
02

I never got caught. That was the crazy thing. I know there’s no statute of limitations on this sort of shit but I guarantee you there is no evidence left. Not a shred. As far as the authorities are concerned, I’m some big talker in a city of big talkers. Even if a cop were standing right here, full uniform and everything, I bet you a thousand dollars they wouldn’t take me seriously. Even those hard ass cops. They’d just shoe me away thinking I was a big talker and then tell their friends at the bar or their wives when they talk about how their day was. But I aint talking to a cop, I’m talking to you and I promise you this story is not bullshit. It’s more than a little gross, but it is not bullshit.

How’d it start? Well, the food out here is crazy. With all the casinos, how could it not be? I mean, you’ve got at least 15 entities up and down the strip and they all want to attract the big spenders so you’ve got restaurants that make guacamole by carving out the avocados in front of you and you’ve got the restaurants that use liquid nitrogen to chill your drink and you’ve got restaurants that create shells of chocolate and then pour melted chocolate over the hardened chocolate to reveal the chocolate confection underneath. It’s an arms race and the little guys, they get the shaft every time, I promise you. You could spend your life making tacos, perfecting tacos, being the guy who cracks the code at making the best tasting tacos in all these 50 states and if you don’t have a gimmick, doesn’t matter. You can’t just be good. You’ve got to look good on Instagram, so I kept that in mind when creating my food truck.

My first idea was to go all horror themed, right? I had read that there was a burger joint somewhere in Iowa or Nebraska or some fucking place that named all their burgers after zombies and the idea kind of tickled me so I decided that sounded like fun. I went full on Halloween, dripping red font, burgers with names like the “gut buster” and the “finger fries.” It was all burgers, that was sort of my thing, but it was the gimmick, man. That’s what would bring them in and for a while, it did. I wasn’t on the main strip, I was able to find some spots not far off of Fremont and, on rare occasion, I’d get invited down on the strip too. I did OK business on Fremont because tourists pack that place anymore, but when I went down near the strip I couldn’t sling burgers fast enough. Lines around the block. Those were the good days. I even started dressing the part, wearing those fake tattoo sleeves and and playing old monster movies over a TV I had set into the truck and growing my black beard out and wearing way too much leather than was appropriate for the desert, I swear. I still have nightmares about the rashes I would get but, what do they say, it’s all part of the business, right?

Get out of the kitchen? Well, I guess they say that too. 

So business is great and I’ve got a gimmick and then, just like everywhere, someone sees lines around the block and before you know it there are other food trucks aping my schtick but with different food. There were bloody burritos and gory crepes and festering snow cones and all manner of shit. The audience for my gimmick was big but it wasn’t impossibly big, you know? It was limited and when these other assholes cut in I started to bleed. And they were so smug about it, too. There was Raoul, who worked at the bloody burrito place or whatever he called it. He would follow me around like he was welded to my bumper. Even when I got invited down on the strip, Raoul would literally tailgate me all the way to the gig and try to get in the gate even if he wasn’t on the list. The first few times he tried that shit he got turned away at the door but the third or fourth time they let him in and I screamed bloody murder about it. I was so pissed off I made a scene, apparently, and they kicked me out and let Raoul and his knock off tacos sell at whatever the event was. I was hot after that, like Vegas in August hot, atomic hot, nuclear hot. I was ready to perpetrate some violence and Raoul must have known it, too, because he didn’t show up in my territory for a while.

Any time I get angry, like, really angry, I usually do this thing where I write out what’s making me so mad and see if I can figure out why. In relationships, this can be helpful. So, she texted her ex-boyfriend and it made me mad…why? The reaction is disproportionate to the infraction, why so upset, right? Well, in this case it was an easy exercise. Fucker stole my gimmick, and that’s when it hit me. I needed a new gimmick. The horror thing was playing out. Time to shift gears, right? Stay ahead. I loved cooking and running my truck and if I had to take down the Halloween decorations and put something else up, that’s fine. But what, right? Where to go after you’ve been serving brain salad with bloody dressing for a year and a half to moron tourists who needed a gimmick?

I wrote down a few ideas – surf pizza or everything made with beer, I’d been working on that for a while. I had a whole bunch of bad ideas. At one point I even tried to do a “Danger Burger” concept. It was a solid idea but once you got to the menu, it didn’t work. Some people would think Indiana Jones or James Bond or whatever and others would think, “Danger, Burger.” Like, don’t eat that burger it’s full of salmonilla or AIDS or something. So I abandoned that idea and really got to thinking.

You know who comes to this city? They want to make it seem like “everyone” but that shit ain’t true. That’s marketing. People come here, by and large, to drink with their friends and act like a drunk douchebag in public. That’s the appeal of this city, man. If everyone is a drunk asshole, no one is and as long as you’re not the sort of drunk asshole who hurts someone or messes with the constant flow of money coming into town then you will be left alone. Believe me. I have seen some behavior that would cause riots in some cities shrugged off. Fights, vomiting, public sex of all kinds. One time, I swear, I saw a guy walking on one of those walkways that are above the main strip yelling the “n” word as loud and as fast as he could and everyone was like, “what you gonna do?” In a city not as sick as this one, someone would have ushered the man inside or told him this was not cool or call the cops or something but in this place, that’s a fucking Tuesday.

Anyway, why do people come to this city? To be drunk and to be naughty. That’s it. So, I figured, if people want a gimmick and nobody bats an eye at any bad behavior, why not capitalize. So I changed my gimmick from “Calvin’s Horror Hut” to “Big Dick’s Swinging American Cuisine.” I knew this artist who claims is big into R. Crumb and he came up with this design that was basically a cartoon pinhead with this massive dong but the dongs are covered up by burgers, like they’re on a ring or something. It doesn’t make any sense to describe it but when you looked at it you got the picture. This nutty cartoon had a dick big enough to support five burgers and then, off to the side, you had these cartoon women in bikinis who were gaping at it, like “oh my God, what a big dick” and this one girl wasn’t so much in awe as she was “that burger looks great” and was licking her lips. Their nipples were visible through their bikinis and it was gaudy and gross and the first time I pulled up I got my old lines back, maybe even more. I worked like a dog and pocketed so much money the first day I had to go back and recount to make sure. Drunk bachelorette parties would swarm the place, man, just swarm it. Guys would position themselves so it looks like they were “Big Dick” and when they found out the food wasn’t bad, they came back. Again, good times.

So what does Raoul do? What do you think he does? He redoes his truck too from his bloody burritos or whatever to “Hairy Tacos.” I have to hand it to him. He outdid me. He improved on my concept. He was gaudier and more overt and I was still doing fine but he was doing better than fine business wise.When I first saw his truck I had it out with him, man. I went over there and pounded on his door and, I believe my opening salvo was “what the fuck, man. One idea wasn’t enough” and he just sort of shrugged and said “Whatever you do I do better,” and shut the door and he might have been right when it came to his truck. His personal life, that was another matter.

He had a very attractive wife named Marcella. She was very tall but, like, thin and hot. She had this intimidating sexuality thing going on, like, you remember Sandra Bernheart early in her career. That sort of menacing thing where you wanted her but you weren’t sure if you were man enough? That was Marcella. They would fight all the time, loud and  proud, which I figured was a Mexican thing, or whatever Raoul was. I never bothered to learn because fuck that guy, but they would scream and they would throw shit and they would get so bad sometimes they would drive people away from the truck and that was always a good day when that happened. That’s the sort of business you don’t get back, you know? I’m a scary looking dude and I’ve got the anger issues sometimes but even I know enough to never lose it in front of the customers. Raoul and Marcella, they never got that memo and it cost them a few times. 

I know, I’m going on and on but wait for it. I’m getting to the good part.

So one day the Hairy Taco is parked right next to me, as usual, and they we were pulling decent crowds, both of us, so it wasn’t a bad day. I was still pissed but Raoul knew to say away from me so I very rarely had to see the sonofabitch. He stayed on his side which was the wise play. Like I said, I’m a big dude with the anger issues on occasion. We close down, it’s about 3 in the morning and immediately, the fighting starts. I hear Marcella’s voice, it was low but she could really get the volume up if she wanted to, and she was giving Raoul the business. I don’t know what she was yelling about as I don’t speak Spanish but you don’t need a translator to tell she was laying in to Raoul with all the force she could muster, which was considerable. Then it calms down and gets quiet and I’m doing the accounting for the day when all of a sudden I hear this “thunk” noise on the side of my truck. It sounded like a drunk hitting the side so I went out expecting to have to shoe some overly blitzed white girl away when I see it’s Raoul. He’s in a greyish green T-shirt and boxer shorts, like he was getting ready for bed or something and he’s holding his crotch and there’s blood, everywhere. 

She had calmed down, seduced him out of his clothes and cut his dick off with a knife from the truck.

The second I figured out what was happening, he screamed and sort of fell in my direction, his hands still on his crotch, and I sort of half catch him and he half falls into my chest. I never bothered to take off my smock so he got blood all over it so I scoop him back up and had this collapsible deck chair by my truck so I put him in that and it immediately folds up and he falls down screaming, blood streaming through his fingers and as he’s crying, I swear to God, Marcella comes around the corner with a bloody knife in her hand. A blood knife! That happens in bad movies, it doesn’t happen in real life, but there she is, nearly six feet of her with a serrated, 12 inch kitchen knife pointed down like in the movies. Fucking crazy.

None of this really scares me. I was definitely alarmed because Raoul the dickless wonder blead all over my smock but Marcella didn’t scare me. She was already screaming at Raoul, again, I don’t know what the hell she was saying and she’s waving the knife around but she doesn’t seem to care that I was there. Raoul is too busy bleeding to give her much of a fight and after a minute of screaming she disappears for a second and comes back and throws something at Raoul and she misses and hits me. While, yeah, of course it’s his dick. She wasn’t about to chuck a taco at him, I didn’t figure. But, yeah, she chucked his John Thomas and it hit me in the chest and it fell to the ground somewhere and she’s off again, screaming while he’s crying and bleeding so I pull out my cell phone and call 911. I’m able to get through the entire conversation without mentioning the word “dick” or either of them noticing and in this town, you call the cops and they show right up. I swear it wasn’t 4 minutes before there were at least 10 cops on the scene and that crazy bitch was in handcuffs and old Raoul was on a stretcher before you could say “what happened to the dick.”

Well, I’ll tell you what happened to the dick. I picked it up, that’s what happened to the dick. I had a dick in my pocket of my smock, that’s what happened to the dick.

Why? It seemed like the thing to do, to be honest. I don’t mean to be flip about it, but, honestly, it just seemed like the thing to do. I mean, he was going to want it back at some point and fuck that guy. He stole two of my ideas and was sucking blood out of my business. I don’t want to seem like a psycho or something but I had fantasies of cutting off his ear, his tongue, his dick because I hated that guy. I’m not normally a hateful kind of person, I’m the guy who breaks up fights and tries to avoid conflict if I can but I hated that guy and all of a sudden his crazy knife-wielding wife throws his dick at me. What was I supposed to do? I put it in my pocket and went back into my truck.

A couple minutes later the cops start poking around with their flashlights, clearly looking for something and I knew it was only a matter of time before they knocked on my door. I had taken the smock off at this point but hadn’t taken the dick out, so I quick found it and tossed it in the meat grinder I keep in the truck and throw some raw meat over the top of it and just start grinding away. I grind and grind and grind and by the time the cops knocked on the door his dick was indistinguishable from 10 pounds of ground beef I was getting ready to put in the freezer. 

The cops, they knocked and they were pretty chill about the whole thing. This one cop, he was bald and clearly the no bullshit type, he was like “have you seen Raoul’s dick?” that’s the language he used. So I gave it right back to him, “no, sir, I have not seen nor do I want to think about where Raoul’s dick is,” and he laughs and his partner chuckles and that’s the end of it. They take off and I clean up and go to sleep with a big old grin on my face. 

The next day I keep that “special” batch in the freezer until I get my first bachelorette party, a drunk, whooping bunch of girls wearing sashes and dick shaped hats and lugging around yard long margaritas and I fry it up and serve it to them and that’s that. They don’t notice or say anything and that’s fine. It would have been weird if they noticed I had put a dick in their hamburger meat, plus the cheese and the onions and the pickles are more than enough to cover up anything funny. But one of them noticed that I was smiling and thought I was hitting on her so she was over under the awning of my truck and was all flirty. I flirted back a little and she gave me a quick kiss on the lips before she and her friends got back in their limo to go wherever they were going. It was a great day.

Raoul? Never heard from his sorry ass again. He’s out of the food truck game. Truth be told, if I were him I wouldn’t be in the mood to do anything ever again, but if I ever see him again, I’m definitely going to tell him. I’d make a meal of it, too. I’d include detail, kind of as a courtesy. If someone had made a meal out of me, I’d want to know exactly how it went down. 

Until then, it’s a hell of a story.