Some time ago, in New Orleans. I was living above a strip club in the 300 block of Bourbon St. Flashing neon signs and all, I was that cliche! It was a company apt. My job title was bartender, that covered a multitude of sins. My neighbor across the hall was Albert “Shorty” Venable. My good friend and boon companion. Our head of maintenance and most important guy in the company. He fixed the AC and ice machines!
Down the hall at the front of the building, we were on the second floor, lived Erin and Roger. Really awesome couple! Roger is the ONLY actual rocket scientist I know! Works at NASA Michoud facility in New Orleans East. Really nice guy. His wife Erin was a French Quarter legend and the most professional bartender I’ve ever known. I’d met her back in ’97 when she worked at the Old Stage Door Lounge. Always a sweetheart! Like most French Quarter apts back then, it was overpriced, sub-standard and rat-infested! At least the ones my boss owned were? Lately we’d been poisoning, clubbing and I’d even recently shot one in my apartment!
Writer’s note: I was using ratshot. It’s a pistol round with a plastic head full of tiny pellets. Won’t penetrate deep on a large target — humans — but will ruin a rat’s day! You don’t want to be on the wrong side of it-though!
It took three founds and a coupe de grace from my baton to finish the bastard off!! It was a foot long, not counting the tail! We posed it on a dust pan with the murder weapon, my .38 Airweight and sent pics to our boss! He was less than amused but gave tacit approval!
I’m off one night and it’s raining fuckin’ crowbars! Street is dead, I’m hanging with Shorty, we’ve got our doors open, crankin’ tunes, Waylon and Johnny and Hank! And Shorty had made beef stew and cornbread; there were some bong rips and shots involved, I believe. We hit some ‘shine too? Shorty ALWAYS had some. Johnny was singing about Hwy. 61 when we hear a clatter in the kitchen? We look and it’s a big goddamn Norway rat on the kitchen table! Trying to get a plastic lid off a pic plate? The nerve of that bastard?!
“Goddammit!!” Shorty yelled as he jumped up, grabs a work boot and fires it at him! Scores a direct hit and knocks it off the table! It scrambled into the hallway awkwardly, it might have broken a leg? I run into my apt. and grab my Airweight and baton off the dresser, I knew I had two rat shot rounds left in the cylinder, I level it at the wildly scrambling rat in the caverous hallway.
“Shorty, watch your ears! It’s gonna get loud!” BOOM!! BOOM!! I squeezed the trigger twice! Rat mortally wounded! I flick out the baton, my ears ringing and hallway reeking of burnt cordite. I strike one sharp blow putting the little bastard out of his misery!
Just then, Erin and Roger’s door bursts open! Now Erin Churchill was always a beautiful woman, thick dark hair, lovely porcelain skin and gorgeous eyes, but now, hair standing up and hell in her eyes and me standing there with litterally a smoking gun in hand?! I’d rather been anywhere else?!
“Goddammit Jay, Shorty?!?! What the fuck?!?! You psychos shooting fucking guns in the building?!?! Are you outta your goddam fuckin’ minds?!”
I sheepishly try to explain we were killing a rat? It’s not flying. Shorty’s not sayin’ a word. The rat, a gory mess, twitched feebly. Erin storms back into her apt. Roger shrugs at us like WTF dude?! He follows Erin. We disposed of the rat after taking pics and wisely retired for the evening. I hated that Roger and Erin were mad at me? I thought the world of them and they’d always been very nice to me. I know I can be a bit much at times! I think that in 27 years of knowing Erin, that was the only time I’d heard her raise her voice? I was expecting some fallout over this? Gunfire in the building?
The next night I’m workin’ the Alley Bar at Temptations, I’m elbow deep in draft beer and Hurricanes, Shorty doing his usual lean-on-ice-well behind me, providing running commentary, the customers thinned out and Erin and Roger appear at the bar! Ahh shit! Erin scowling, then smiles and laughs, coming around the bar and gives me a hug! Roger shakes my hand. I start to say something.
“Jay I can’t EVEN!” Erin says, and laughs. They head down the street. “You got off light,” Shorty remarked. “You were in on it too!” I retorted. Some time later, I’m busy as fuck, 20 people in line, ringing and slinging, Shorty has pitched in and helping me make Fishbowl drinks. Our boss and owner walks in, the man with the plan, the cappa de tutti, in his trademark black blazer, customers looking at him with interest, he’s obviously someone important? “Jay did you pay your rent?”
“Yes sir, I saw Miss Denise this morning.” Miss Denise was the paytime operations manager and building supervisor. Customers are curious, sipping drinks and listening in.
The boss inquires: “Jay I’ve gotten reports of screaming and gunfire coming from your apartment?” Shorty, that fucker has disappeared back into the dark alley, but probably listening in? Customers wide-eyed! Screaming and gunfire!?
“Well…boss….it’s an epic saga…”
Dedicated to the memory of Erin Churchill — Gone But Never Forgotten!
— Jay Slusher