Every place I touched on the side of my head was sore and my fingers came away with flakes of dried blood. Sitting up damn near caused me to pass out from pain. It hurt when I took a breath. It hurt when I turned my head. Shit, it even hurt when I tried to think.
I looked around trying to get my bearings. Nothing. All I knew was that I was sitting in some tall weeds with my back leaning against a dumpster. The weeds were wet and I was wet and I was freezing my balls off. I couldn't breathe through my nose, and judging from what I could see of it when I crossed my eyes, it was bigger than it was supposed to be. Bloody evidence of the damage was all down the front of my shirt.
It didn't take a genius to figure out what happened; I got the shit kicked out of me. Again. And as bad as I felt, I didn't doubt I was going to feel a hell of a lot worse when my abused liver managed to filter out the rest of the alcohol floating around in my system.
I rolled onto my hands and knees, groaning from the painful effort, and managed to stand by walking my hands up the side of the dumpster until I could reach the rim and pull myself upright. Not a good move. As soon as I stood, the world spun and I puked. Every time I retched, it felt like something inside me tore loose.
When I'd finally managed to gag up every drop of bitter green stuff from my stomach, I looked around and saw a door a few feet away from the dumpster. I was behind a building of some sort with cases of empty beer bottles stacked against the wall. Beer bottles. The fog slowly lifted and I finally figured out where I was. I was behind Sam's Place. He'd hired me to play a gig.
My legs were really cold, and when I looked down, I could see why. I'd pissed myself! I couldn't smell it because my nose wasn't working, but I could see it and I could feel it. Aside from the physical discomfort, it meant I'd reached a new low.
Any effort to remember how I wound up in such a state ended in a blank. The last thing I could recall was being up on the stage and singing old C&W songs for a rowdy crowd, and slugging down the shots and beers the waitress kept bringing me. What was her name? Oh yeah, Millie.
So what the hell happened?
Squinting against the sun, I looked up at the sky and guessed it must be early-morning. I limped toward the door, hoping someone was inside so I could retrieve my stuff. Every step sent jolts of pain through my battered body. I was almost there when the screen door was kicked open and Sam stepped out carrying two cases of empties. He stopped for a moment to look me over then shook his head and stepped around me to stack the cases against the wall.
When he turned to go back inside, he said. "Come on in n' git your gear and your money. Then I want you gone, comprende?" He took a sniff of the air and added, "You stink of piss."
"Uh, Sam, what happened?"
He let out a kind of barking laugh and answered, "I guess I ain't too surprised you don't recollect nothin'. Hell, you couldn't find your ass with both hands when a couple o' boys hauled your sorry ass out the door last night. And here you had me thinkin' you was a nice kid, but you ain't. You're just another drunk."
"Well, but who beat me up?" I probed a sore spot on the side of my head again and regretted it.
"Don't know nothin' 'bout that, son, but I can tell you a lot o' folks would be cheerin' for whoever done it. You should be ashamed of yourself, the way you treated Millie. Hell, if you wasn't already in such a sorry state, I'd be half way tempted to whup your ass again!"
"Millie?" I was afraid to ask but I had to know. "What about Millie? What'd I do, Sam?"
"You mean besides treatin' her like a common whore and backin' her up against the bar with one hand on her tit and the other grabbin' 'tween her legs? Do you really need to know any more'n that?"
My heart sank. "Oh fuck, no!"
"Oh fuck, yeah! Son, you're lucky you still got two legs to stand on. If you still got a lick o' sense left in that liquor-soaked brain of yours, you best be usin' 'm to git your things and git the hell outta Dodge, if you git my meanin'.
I slapped my hands on my knees, "FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! Sam, you know I didn't mean it! I was drunk!"
"Like that's an excuse?" He shook his head again and started to walk around me but stopped and asked, "Son, how old are you?"
My brain was so muddled, I had to stop and think. "Uh, twenty-two."
"Twenty-two! Well ain't you just a pitiful example of manhood! Let me give you a little piece of advice. The way you carry on when you're drinkin', if you don't stop with the booze today, right now, right this minute, I wouldn't give you a snowball's chance in hell of ever seein' twenty-three. Now come on inside n' git your shit n' go find some other town to baby-sit ya. We sure as hell don't need ya hangin' around here.
I followed him in the back door and down the hallway passed the restrooms. My guitar, guitar case and my backpack were still on the stage. I packed up and hobbled over to the bar to pick up the fifty bucks Sam had tossed on a bar tray. He'd promised me a hundred and fifty, but I didn't say anything because I knew I was lucky to get anything at all. I stopped halfway to the front door and turned to ask, "Sam, when you see Millie, would you tell her how sorry I am?"
"Yeah, I'll tell her, but she ain't likely to be in a forgivin' mood. Now, go on n' git b'fore one o' them ol' boys who cleaned your clock sees you're still upright n' decides to have another go at it."
I nodded and headed toward the door. As insane as it sounds, all I wanted at that moment was a drink ... and a bottle of aspirin ... or better yet, a gun to shoot myself with.