5 min read

My Idiot Mitts

You don’t even want to know what the platinum tier is.

Previously: Batya timidly seeks the counsel of the local oracle, some kind of mystical sea-bro named Cha-Cha. He is terrifically nude. Like most oracles, he gives her a vague prediction of her future, which she forgets almost as soon as she finishes her brunch cocktail.

— 24 —

The bookie’s deadbeat hangs his hat at the shipyard, which is nestled against the lumber mill, upriver from central Fort Hook, downwind from the cannery. That part of town tends to coat your tongue with a fine grit of pine and sawdust which isn’t entirely unpleasant.

Batya and Mina go up to a little office on the second floor of a warehouse where a brigantine is being constructed. There’s the sound of many hammers striking wood, sometimes in sync, sometimes not. The door has Creevey & Jallagad Marvelous Shipbuilders painted on it. Mina stops Bat before they go in. “Don’t do the gold tier. Just give him the bronze and see what shakes out.”

“I ain’t doing any tier,” Bat says.

“What are you going to do, breathe your stink breath on him?”

“Remember that time you told me I didn’t know shit about shit?”

“You’ll need to be more specific.”

“You said most things can be resolved with words instead of my idiot mitts.”

“It’s coming back to me.”

“Well it was really loving and supportive life advice and I took it serious and that’s what I’m gonna do here.”

Mina makes a show of looking at her watch that doesn’t exist. “All right. But the bronze tier is faster.”

Their guy is sitting at a desk made out of a saloon door and two sawhorses, playing random notes on a recorder.

“Ahoy,” Bat says. “You Creevey and Jallagad?”

He greets them with an affable smile. “Just Creevey and, I’m afraid,” he says. “Jallagad skipped town years ago with my wife.”

“Mr. Creevey,” Mina says. “Normally we’d let you get decent, but we have pressing business.” Did I mention he was completely nude?

“Two naked men in one morning,” Bat says. “My diary’s gonna lose its mind tonight.”

“My apologies,” Creevey says. “I am profoundly anxious right now and am seeking inner peace via nudity and song.”

“Reckon our visit won’t help matters any,” Bat says.

The shipwright’s smile turns wistful, then fades. He sets down his recorder. “You are here to collect something, I suspect. Are you representatives of the Oarfish?”

“I don’t think so,” Bat says.

“Deaf Chef Geoff?”

“What? How many guys you owe money to? Finch sent us.”

Blank look from Creevey. “Finch?”

“Sweaty guy over at Cha-Cha’s? You hurt his feelings by not paying up on some wager?”

“Oh, the bookie?” he says, tension falling from his shoulders. “Fee-yew! I thought you were from someone serious.”

“Excuse me but we are very serious.”

“I’m sure you are, I meant no offense. But Finch? Is not serious. He’ll get his money at the precise moment he gets it and no sooner. I have far more pressing concerns, like the Harbormaster, who will gut me if his ship isn’t ready by the weekend, which it won’t be.”

“Yeah but we’re here now. That makes it the pressing-est concern.”

“Here is what I propose,” Creevey says, shoving blueprints aside and feeding a piece of paper into a typewriter. “I shall draft a memorandum stating my intent to pay Mr. Finch at the earliest possible date.”

“We politely decline your garbage proposal,” Mina says.

“I’ll be sure to detail the horrific acts you threatened me with,” he says, typing. “Listen to this: a thorough working-over of my tender parts with my very own stapler.” He looks up, proud of himself.

“Hey thanks for the idea,” Bat says, coming around behind him.

“Just pay up, will you?” Mina says. “I’m tired of looking at your nipples.”

“Miss, I assure you I am cash-poor. You are free to rifle through my office and knock things about, as your kind enjoys doing, but I guarantee the search will be fruitless. And as you can see I have no pockets to speak of.”

Bat gets in real close. “If you think I’m afraid to check your cheeks—you’re right, I am, but I’ll find a way to conquer those fears.”

“What about that safe?” Mina says.

“What safe?” Creevey says.

“The safe behind that painting.”

Bat looks over at the framed artwork on the far wall, noticing it for the first time. It’s a painting of a safe.

“That,” Creevey says, “is a painting of a safe. Perhaps you should invest in a monocle or two.”

“I think you hid your safe behind a painting of a safe,” Mina says. “To throw people off the scent.”

Bat goes and tears the painting off the wall. There’s a safe behind it.

“Actually, I did it because I thought it was funny.” He picks up his recorder and plays a merry tune.

Bat hauls him up by his armpits and flings him toward the safe. “Then we’ll all have a good laugh while you crack that open and find five hundo.”

“Five hundred? Is that all this house call is for? Pshaw.” He starts fiddling with the combination lock. “You gals might want to find a more lucrative line of work if they’ve got two of you sweating so much for so little.” Then he pulls apart his recorder to reveal a hidden knife and flings it at Mina. Bat jumps in the way, putting up her elbow to deflect the weapon. She has this theory that if you’re going to get hit anywhere it might as well be the elbow, it’s just bone and thick skin, but Creevey’s knife manages to strike her ulnar nerve and stick there, sending a funnybone shockwave through her arm.

The pain feels delightful. She happily knocks him to the floor, kneeing his unclad bollocks and leaning her full weight against his throat. He punches at her but she pins down his arms. Then she says, quietly, “Why would you do that.”

Creevey tries to answer but can’t get any wind through his windpipe.

“Said it yourself, this amount ain’t worth the trouble.”

“Batya,” Mina says in a calming voice. “Let me get the knife out of your arm.”

“Leave it,” she whispers into Creevey’s ear. “I’m taking it with me. And the five hundred dollars. And another five hundred dollars. That will be just for me. I need to buy a new coat since this one now has a hole in the elbow. I’m starting a new job and I think I should have a new coat to feel confident in myself, right?” She eases off his throat and he desperately gasps for air. “Answer me.”

Creevey nods, rasps, “You deserve a beautiful new coat.”

“That’s right. Now I hope you’ll get me my money and not be a ninny about it. But I’m not gonna threaten you. I’m just gonna do this and be done with it.” She grips the middle and ring fingers of his right hand and snaps them upward. He shrieks, and the shriek goes up another octave when she pushes his broken fingers even further in the wrong direction.

“OK, killer,” Mina says. “Enough of the silver tier.”


This has been Chapter 24 of Chokeville, a novel by Josh Fireland.

Next up: Lip, Throat, Armpit