After reading and re-reading what I have already shared with you, I realize that there is a great deal of context lost by keeping you in the dark about my first confrontation with Sandy Asbury. When I first met Sandy, two other villains had already entered my life: one a true super-villain, the other a mere comedy—a super-victim, if there is such a thing. In order to clear up my timeline dilemma I will deal with the three of them in order of their appearance.
November 12th, 2012
It was a bitter cold afternoon in my city; one that no amount of whiskey could warm up. The traveling birds abandoned my northern city much earlier, but had it been June there would’ve been a scold of Blue Jays perched on my fence encouraging my visit. I would flip through a book while I sat in my rocking-chair, sipping on a cold glass of lemonade and breathing the fresh air as it danced in the yellow green grass or rustled the leaves of my Black Walnut tree. If the sun were out, I would be busy enjoying my front row seat to this naturally orchestral noise that livened my summers, but summer was little more than an ephemeral, lyrical dream this frigid November; a romantic thought to be entertained indoors.
November in my city was cold and cloudy. The ice had long since stifled the song of my Black Walnut’s leaves and replaced it with phantom-sounding gusts that rustled its branches over my porch. I was just finishing the last cigarette in my pack before I was to drive to the liquor store and the smoke shop. Before I left, I took a few warming shots of scotch to limber me up for the drive—enough to thin the flow of blood to my fingers and legs. The heater in my 1986 Black Ford Pinto had broken earlier in the fall, so any hopes of comfort for my drive into town were squelched.
I drove slowly in the late autumn snow, and sifted through my ash tray for cigarette butts. My first stop was a liquor store called The Drunken Redhead. The man who watched the counter, Ed Something, knew me by name.
“Hey Miles.” He said.
“Hey-o Ed. What’s the news?”
“Well, the owner of the store is opening up another location further south—somewhere in Texas—and we’re having a sale on Rumple Minze.”
“I didn’t think that shit could get any cheaper.”
“Well, you’re in for a surprise.”
Ed started to drone on about his daily deal, but I ignored him. Instead, I searched around the store for his stock-pile of Johnny Walker Black, letting the monotonous colloquy fade out of my attention. As I let my eyes lite on superfluous vodka labels, boxes of wine, and bagged concoctions, I zoned out long enough to regain my limberness in the heat of the store. A few bottles caught my eye while I searched: one, a large bottle of honey liqueur, which intrigued me, because I had never tried it; the other a small bottle of Jack Daniels, which was also on sale. I grabbed both before Ed’s shouting pulled me out of a trance.
Though he had my attention, his voice, subconsciously muffled by my disinterest, was barely intelligible.
“What? Speak up. I’m a little hard of hearing.” I shouted at him, buying myself some time to regain composure.
“I said that I’ve got two bottles left.” He was still talking about the Rumple Minze. “I’ll give ‘em both to you for 10 dollars even. What do you say? Rid me of this minty burden, Miles. I’m beggin’ you.”
“Eat your heart out.”
“Ah fuck you, M. What are you here for anyway, just to tease me?”
“No, Ed, I’m here for whiskey.”
“Well, you got what you came for. Now pay me and leave.”
“Actually, you know what Ed? I think I will take you up on your deal, since it’s so close to Christmas.”
Ed retaliated, apparently offended.
“Oh, now don’t you go giving Thanksgiving the short end of the stick. Nothing gets in my crawl like somebody who skips over Thanksgiving. Why just the other day my sister put this thing on facebook—“
I drifted again, allowing myself the lucidity to deliver transient quips, hopefully, maintaining the illusion of attentiveness. He began a sermonette about Thanksgiving, complete with a reference to an internet meme in which a Turkey shoots Santa in the face, but my focus was on my aching needs for the two things that I longed for the most: a cigarette and a hasty departure. Ed’s incessant talking kept me from both. Finally, as a sop to his desire for my conversation or friendship, I resolved to pay attention, somewhat.
“Oh man, and when that little girl grows up she’s gonna be just like—“
Reader, I try my absolute hardest to maintain the illusion of being bonhomous, but my patience wears thin when a mere acquaintance fools themselves into believing that I care about their sleeping habits, what they saw on facebook, how much their little girl has grown, how their marriage is, what they’re doing about their hirsute back, etc.
“Ah, but I’ve been rambling.” He said, finally. “Your total is 24 dollars and twenty-seven cents.”
I paid him, thanked him, and left, placing one of the 200ml Rumple Minze bottles in my interior coat pocket before setting foot into the freezing wind. I pried my cold car door open and set my purchases on the passenger’s seat. The sun had already set and the street lights had started to illuminate my icy path to the smoke-shop. I smoked the last cigarette in my ash tray and shivered for the rest of the way there.
Fortunately, I didn’t know anyone at this shop. I was in and out in a matter of minutes.
After I had purchased my cigarettes and lighter I got back into my car, ready to head home, when I felt something press against the back of my head, followed by the crazed voice of a man I couldn’t see in my rear-view-mirror.
“Don’t bother checking for me, man. Just shut up and drive! Shut up and drive.” The shaky tenor demanded.
“Where should I go?”
“DO I LOOK LIKE I GIVE A SHIT?!”
“Well, I can’t see you, so I don’t know what you look li—”
“JUST SHUT UP AND DRIVE, MAN! I don’t want to regret something later.”
“…regret something later?” His prose (I am being optimistic) was barely intelligible (I am understating), but something told me I should feel threatened. I adjusted my mirror, hoping to discern what was delivering the cool, nuchal irritation.
“DON’T FUCKING TURN AROUND, MAN. Just…just…just….”
“Is it cool if I smoke in here?” I interrupted, already lighting my cigarette.
“Fuck, man, I don’t want skin cancer or enphysema or…whatever!”
“You mean emphysema.”
“Fucking cancer, man!”
“Well, it’s my car. I’m smoking. I was just making a joke. But you seem to be on edge, so I’ll take it easy with the conversational trumpery.”
“I don’t know what that means, man, but you better listen to me!”
“I will as soon as you start saying something.”
“Put out the fucking cigarette, or I’ll put it out for you.” He yelled.
“Can you just calm the fuck down?” I pleaded. “I already told you, it’s my car. I’m smoking.”
“Hey, you fucking asshole, I’ve got a gun, so why don’t you just…just…just…”
As he threatened me, he pushed his hand into the light, his bony fingers vehemently clutching the rubber grip, showing me his weapon. The streetlight made the barrel of his Taurus .357 revolver seem like an iridescent, space-aged weapon from Isaac Asimov’s nightmares. His wrists, thin and frail, trembled under the weight of the gun, whose steel pulled what little heat I had accumulated in my front cab. He pushed the barrel up close to my ear and engaged the hammer. Then, he pressed the cool steel against me, sending an icy shiver over my body. Half-panicking, I tried to make conversation.
“So, do you have a—“
“Shut the fuck up!”
My visitor preferred control over the conversation, so I yielded.
“Take me to your house.” He demanded.
“I’m not gonna take you to my fucking—“
“Did I ask you a question, Matthew Broderick?!?” I look nothing like Matthew Broderick.
He pushed the gun into the light again, convincing me.
“Alright, alright. We’ll go to my house.” I said.
“And put out your FUCKING cigarette. NOW!”
I stamped my cigarette out in my ashtray and remained quiet for the rest of the trip.