Flower Man By Morgan Boyd

With a six-pack under his tattooed arm, Cash steps into the crosswalk. Brakes squeal, and a pickup skids over the white line. Crashing over the hood, Cash bounces off the front window. He lands on his head in the middle of the street. Beer cans roll on the asphalt, hissing foamy little lager geysers.

“Flower Man, this the guy?” A mountain of a man asks the driver as he hops out the passenger-side of the truck.

“You know it is, Fat Ass,” the silver ponytailed driver says, wearing a sunflower patterned shirt.

“How do I know?” Fat Ass asks with a distant look in his eye.

“It’s fuckin’ Cash. Used to be our boy, ripped off Capo. You know him,” Flower Man says.

“Just asking,” Fat Ass says, taking out his pistol.

Cash reaches for his .38, but the gun is not in his coat pocket. In the gutter, just out of arm’s reach, he spies his weapon. As a bullet ricochets on the concrete near his head, Cash rolls. In a single motion, he grabs his pistol and pulls the trigger three times. The big man collapses in a massive heap, his head a gory mess.

Climbing to his feet, Cash recovers his wallet, phone, and an intact can of beer with one hand. He points the gun in his other hand at the truck. Flower Man stomps the gas. Cash fires three rounds into the cab. The vehicle swerves hard left into oncoming traffic, and then hard right, colliding head on with a lamppost.

Cash touches the swelling around the back of his head as he enters the apartment’s courtyard. Derelict cars, used diapers and a rusty shopping cart litter the weedy lawn. On the landing, Cash reaches into his pocket, but finds no key. He searches his other pocket, but locates only lint. With a sigh, he sets his beer on the welcome mat.

His head throbs as he skinnies onto the ledge, reaching for the half open second floor window. Cash pops out the screen, and pulls himself through the frame onto the kitchen table. Movement from the front room has his finger on the gun’s trigger.

“What the hell, Cash,” Eva says, hunching in fear.

“Thought you were somebody else. I lost my key, so I came through the window.”

“Try knocking next time. What do you mean somebody else?” She asks, smoothing down her short black bangs.

“I just ran into Flower Man, or rather, he ran into me with his truck in the crosswalk.”

“You okay? Your hair’s a mess and your jeans and jacket are torn.”

“He had that big son of a bitch, Fat Ass, with him,” Cash says, running his fingers through his greasy pompadour.

“What happened?” Eva asks, sitting at the table, and putting on her wing-tipped glasses.

“I don’t care how fat your ass is. Three up top, and you plop. His head cracked like an egg on the curb, and his brains slid into the gutter.”

“They couldn’t have been very big brains. Fat Ass was the dumbest shit in the pit. Did you do Flower Man too?” Eva asks, putting on red lipstick.

“I think so.”

“Is he dead or not?”

“I don’t know. I squeezed off every last shot into his truck, and he crashed into a lamppost.”

Somebody pounds on the front door. Looking through the murky peephole, Cash draws his gun.

“Who is it?” Eva asks as Cash opens the door.

“What a dump,” Big Ray says, drinking the beer Cash left on the porch. “What’s wrong with your hair? You need some Pomade?”

“You’re not staying with us,” Eva says as Big Ray belches, rattling the toothpick in the gap between his front teeth.

“Anymore beer?”

“You got the first and last one,” Cash says, and describes to Big Ray his encounter with Flower Man and Fat Ass, and the loss of five of his six beers.

“You got some real heat coming down on you,” Big Ray says, removing a flask from his pocket, and taking a long pull. “Robbing Capo has that effect. He wants his drug money back, and he wants to staple your balls to your tongue.”

“Charming,” Eva says.

“No matter what two-fuck, fogged out beach haunt you hide in, they’ll find you. Flower Man did, so did I,” Big Ray says, slicking back his hair with his hand. “Capo’s on your ass, and he’s about the nuttiest hitter ever was. How much you pilfer anyway?”

“I didn’t steal shit,” Cash says. “I’m not stupid enough to rob Capo.”

“That’s not what Capo thinks,” Big Ray says, lighting a cigarette, and taking a long drag. “Come on. Don’t hold out on me.”

“I got nothing to let you borrow if that’s what you think. Besides, you still owe me five hundred.”

“Not borrow. Earn,” Big Ray says, plopping down on the couch, and popping a few pills. “You have the weight of a criminal organization stepping on your dick. Flower Man and Fat Ass are just the tip of the toe. You need protection.”

“We aren’t hiring you as our bodyguard, Big Ray,” Eva says, lighting a cigarette. “Get your ass up. You ain’t staying here.”

The fire alarm wakes Cash and Eva in the middle of the night. Cash stumbles into the living room, and finds the rug on fire. Cash flips the rug, and stamps out the flames. Upon investigation into the source of the fire, Cash quickly deduces that Big Ray zonked out on the couch with a lit cigarette in his hand. The embers fell onto the rug, and ignited the fire. Even now through the horridness of the wailing alarm, Big Ray sleeps. Cash thinks about slugging the fathead in his snoring face, but instead he decides to deal with the situation in daylight. He returns to the bedroom when the alarm stops screaming.

In the morning, Eva steps into the kitchen to brew coffee, wearing a red-checkered dress. Cash slumps into the kitchen behind her, rubbing his swollen head.

“Goddamn, Big Ray,” Cash says with a yawn. “Wake your ass up, and get out. You almost burned down this shithole. Dumb bastard thinks I robbed Capo. Ray, wake your ass up. Big Ray. Ray?”

“Cash?” Eva asks, “Where did these flowers come from?”

Cash sees a bouquet of daises on the kitchen counter, and then notices Ray’s slit throat.

“Flower Man. When he hit me with the truck, my belongings scattered every which way. I gathered my gun, wallet, phone and a beer, but when I returned home, I didn’t have my key. I left it on the street. I thought I killed Flower Man, but instead, he found my key, and followed me home. He let himself in in the early morning hours, killed Big Ray, and left flowers as his calling card. We would have been pushing up daisies too, had the fire alarm not scared off our would be assassin.”

“Grab the keys,” Eva says. “We should have left yesterday.”

Cash and Eva exit the apartment, and climb into her 61’ Impala. Flower Man appears behind them with a pistol in his hand. He unloads his weapon into the back of the car as Cash stomps the gas in reverse. Flower Man tumbles onto the hood. A smear of blood sticks to the windshield. Cash punches the car forward, and stomps the brake, causing Flower Man to roll off the hood. The old man with the ponytail and floral shirt kneels on the asphalt. Blood pours out his mouth.

“This is how you pull off a hit-and-run, asshole,” Cash says, lighting a cigarette.

Two jarring thumps later, and Flower Man is just a piece of twisted refuse, fading in the rearview mirror. Out on the highway, Cash uses the windshield wipers to clear the blood from the glass.

“Got me in the leg. Hurts like hell. Won’t stop bleeding.”

“I know a vet named Hal. He’ll fix you right up on the hush.”

“Cash?”

“Yeah?”

“I hid the money I stole from Capo in my sister’s attic. She doesn’t know it’s there. I want you to take half, and give her the other half.”

“Hal is going to fix you right up.” Cash says, obliterating the speed limit.

After a few minutes of silence, Cash lights a cigarette and looks at Eva. He pulls over, opens the passenger-side door, and lets her lifeless body slump into the dirt. In the rearview mirror, Eva’s red-checkered dress flutters in the wind, dissipating in the distance. A few miles later, he finds a southbound onramp.

If Cash remembers correctly, Eva’s sister lives in LA.

morgan