Jep leaned on the bar, staring at the empty street through the front window of The East Side Pub. It seemed so lonely, so brutal outside. The buildings along the street were crumbling beyond repair, a vestige of man’s neglect, a decaying symbol of a once beautiful and respectable neighborhood. It was once a place where people not only cared about their community but one another as well. It was the neighborhood where the four brothers in tar were born and raised. Like the neighborhood, they too were now gone, with the exception of Jep. Leaning against the bar, he too was a crumbling building, years beyond repair.
From the back room, Harmon came walking toward Jep with his head low. The news of Nave’s death had left him with a gash in his heart that would never heal. To Harmon it seemed as though he had lost a son. In his abounding years, Harmon had endured many tribulations, but nothing as devastating as this. Unwavering as he was, it was still his job to keep the bar of The East Side Pub on Friday nights, and it was always his job to be there for his friends, even if only one remained.
Pouring a beer, Harmon’s hand trembled and sagged. A glass had never before felt so heavy. It was as though the weight of the world’s troubles was contained in the golden elixir that poured so gracefully from the tap. “Here you go, Jep,” Harmon whispered, sliding the mug along the bar.
“Thanks, Harm,” Jep replied, lazily reaching for the cold mug.
Harmon paused for a moment, watching Jep take a long drink. “Jep,” he finally said.
“I figure we ought to talk about this.”
Jep closed his eyes tightly, turning his head toward the ceiling. His eyelids were a dam, his eyes a mighty river. “What’s there to talk about, Harmon?” he finally cried. “We fucked up, we fucked up bad and now everyone is dead.”
Harmon wanted to shake Jep with all of his might, but all his might could only muster a feeble clack on the bar with his chalky brittle fingers. “You’re not dead, god dammit, and neither is Tommy,” he said.
The dam that was Jep’s eyelids finally cracked; tears swept over his face. “Tommy,” Jep whimpered, “Tommy was arrested this morning, Harmon.”
“What do you mean? What for?”
Jep’s tears subsided, his trembling lips chuckling through his sobs. It wasn’t a happy laughter, but an angry one. “Well, Harm,” he said still cackling, “he was arrested for the murder of Jules and her lover.”
“I don’t understand,” Harmon replied baffled, nearly hyperventilating, “I thought she killed herself.”
“I wish I could say that that was the truth,” Jep replied. “The fact of the matter is that Tommy killed them, Harm. He found them in bed, and he killed them.”
The tear in Harmon’s heart grew wider as if Jep’s words had tiny fingers pulling at the wound. He wasn’t surprised at the news but was nonetheless devastated. “How did the police find out?” he said slowly, reaching for a bottle of whiskey, which presently he hoped had tiny fingers of its own that knew how to sew.
Jep finished his beer gesturing for another. “From what I gather,” he said, smiling hatefully, “Mable Jog blew him in.”
Harmon retrieved another beer quickly, never taking his gaze from Jep, “How did she know what really happened?”
“I guess Buck told her everything, Harm. He told her about Tommy, he told her about our plan. Everything. So she took it upon herself to call the police on Tommy. The wickedest thing about it is that she knew Buck, her own goddamn boyfriend had lied to the police about the murder. So not only is Tommy is jail, but her fucking boyfriend too.”
“Did Tommy put up a fight?” asked Harmon.
“I heard he put two cops in the hospital. He’s gone for life.”
“I can picture it,” said Harmon, shaking his head sadly.
“All because Mable had to open her mouth. But then we could blame Buck. Then again, Nave let Buck in on the plan…” Jep replied trailing off. Who’s really to blame, he thought, when everyone was a victim of the person before.
“Then I can only guess that she must have told Rhoya about the plan you boys had,” Harmon replied. “That would explain why she did what she did.”
Jep shook his head in disgust. “I suppose so,” he replied. “I guess you could say Mable had the last laugh on us all, Harmon.”
Harmon sat on his stool, taking a long sip of whiskey, which incidentally had no fingers or a sewing needle. “She’ll get what she’s got coming to her, I suppose,” he finally said.
“That’s just it, Harmon,” Jep shouted, flinging himself from his bar stool. “She didn’t deserve what she got in the first place from Nave. He never should have been fucking her in the first place knowing full well that she had a boyfriend. That poor son of a bitch didn’t deserve what he got either. We never deserved to be cheated on by our girlfriends so long ago and in turn, no one deserved to die because of it. And now I’m alone because of some stupid, evil plan. What the fuck were we thinking, Harmon?”
“You guys were hurt, Jep, and you were just trying to figure things out.”
Jep took his seat once more, slamming his hands on the bar. “If just once along the way, any one of us simply decided to turn the other cheek, none of this would have ever happened. Why is it that if someone does something bad to someone, that evil has to be reciprocated? We live in a world full of terrible people doing terrible things to one another, and I don’t see any end to it. If we don’t start being good to each other now, right now, we’re all fucking doomed.”
“It’s a nice thought, but people won’t listen,” Harmon replied.
“We were hurt. We were victims. Then we made victims of our own. If you think about it, the first victims on Earth were Adam and Eve. God tempted Eve and she ate. God, the great victimizer. So in turn, Adam was Eve’s victim because he got tossed from the Garden of Eden too, no fault of his own.
“And it hasn’t stopped since. All the way to here. Nave wasn’t victim zero, but he acted like he was. So instead of playing the role of victim, he decided to play God instead…and then we followed him.
“I asked him once to define himself to me. You know what he said? He said ‘You can define me when I’m dead. But for now I’ll describe myself in one word.’ That word was ‘angry’.”
Harmon sat, quietly waiting for Jep to calm down from his frenzy. After several moments and a few sips of whiskey he finally spoke, “I’ve lived a long long time Jep. And I can sum life up like this…when I was 18 years old, I thought that I knew every possible thing that there was to know about life. At 74, I’m amazed at how much of what I did know, I have forgotten.”
Jep sat smiling a genuine gleam. It was the first happy smile he had worn in months. “It’s funny you say that,” he laughed. “When Nave was 14 years old, we used to say he acted like a damn middle aged man…and go figure.” Jep paused for a moment, his smile fading, “At twenty-eight, he’s dead.”
Harmon leaned forward hanging his head low. Hearing Jep say those words finally made it real for him that Nave was gone. With a shallow exhale he spoke, “I suppose now we can define Nave once and for all.” To him, Nave was his son, gone far too soon before his time. “So be it.”
“If he were alive, he’d describe himself as the original victim who found happiness through retribution. Victim zero turned God, with us as his blind disciples. But where he is no doubt living now, I suppose he’d define himself simply as Sisyphus.”
“I was asking for your definition, Jep,” Harmon said.
Jep sagged in his stool taking the last sip from his glass. Looking up to the heavens, he spoke slowly, “A false prophet.”