Old man Olsen could hold a broomstick with both hands and jump over it at the age of 60. In his youth he worked in a logging camp in Canada, wore cork boots, and devoured pancakes and bacon by the tray, which was the fashion. On Friday nights he and the loggers would go to the Beast, a place where men were expected to do real drinking. There they scrapped over pints of Molson and shots of Jack Daniels, which also was the fashion. It went without saying that one needed to learn the art of bar conversation, and be especially tuned to those still and fuse moments that preceded 16 oz. mugs tomahawked across the bar to the sky west and crooked. It was an otherwise typical evening, only on this night it turned for the worse and he was called out by one of the Frenchies.
Gazing from the snake room in a double visioned, drunken stupor, yet nevertheless feeling certain of his capability, Olsen accepted the challenge over a Molson and Jack. The next morning however Olsen was reeling with blanket fever as he walked out of the bunkhouse and into the giant Frenchman they called Brennus who as it happened was waiting for him surrounded by a greasy coterie of hungover men that from all appearances had just climbed out of the snake room themselves.
Olsen was barefoot in his long johns, and badly of need to urinate. He had held his own the night previous, but the Frenchie held some personal animus against him. The kind that was not settled at the tavern door, but parleys into the next day.
Let's skip this chin whisker Olsen said, nodding to the jakes.
Ah hush. Lutter contre. The Frenchie raised his fists and the fight commenced.
Despite his six and a half foot stature and singular prowess with an axe, Olsen was disadvantaged by Brennus' cork boots which tore into his chest and face (scars he would bear for life). Within 60 seconds Brennus had chopped him to pieces. Seeing Olsen dead or nearly so one of Brenus' coterie contemptuously spat a toothpick from his mouth as the group dispersed. Only after the row had subsided did the camp doctor emerge from his shed and see to Olsen.
The doctor held his head in his lap. Olsen gave him a half-hearted smile. I think I should be needing the epsom salts. Then he passed out. For nearly two weeks he laid up in the docs shed. The doc tended his wounds and gave succor in his near death bouts. On occasion when he awoke from the morphine the doc would spoon feed him chicken broth and talk to him gently.
There there my little Vali. There there my little Vali.
On the 3rd week Olsen came out of the shed but the camp paid him no mind. They had already assumed he was dead, and upon seeing him thought him no more as close to dead than aunt polly lodger. They went to the trees. And Olsen watched as the men walked out of camp. He went into the shed where the doc had a small mirror hung over the medicine cabinet. He looked at the disfigured wretch that was now the likeness of his own reflection. In his hideousness he saw that no woman would ever love him. Not such a grotesque. It was therefore his lot to be alone in the world.
Later that day he dressed himself and walked out into the woods. He walked deep into the forest and deeper still until finally he came upon a tree of enormous stature. There he made a prayer unto Odin and vowed vengeance upon the man who had scarred him for life. His first attempt was feeble and he turned his face from the sky lest Odin witness his cowardice. Then he stood and returned to the tree. He kicked. A staggering shock filling his body dropping him to his knees. He stood again. And kicked again. Again the pain only he did not fall. And he kicked again. And again. And again. It was dark when he returned to the camp and secreted himself into the doctor's hut.
I'm surprised to see you.
I have found the rigour.
Good. The doc put his hand on Olsen. That is good.
And the next morning the same. Day after day. March to the tree and kick. And kick and kick and kick until finally he could kick all the way up to his own face. He stared at the tree and the missing bark which made a ghostly outline of a human figure against the giant tree and from this he intuited that was ready. The Gods would have their combat.
On Friday night he went to the Beast and ordered a Molson but he did not drink. He stared at his nemesis at the end of the bar who could not help but catch sight of the man with the ravaged face starting down on him. He walked to Brennus and the tavern fell silent.
Tomorrow it's you and I Brennus.
On Saturday the men met in the camp courtyard, each in full kit. They did not stand ceremony. Brennus lunged out with his cork boot but Olsen deftly stepped aside. Brennus kicked again, and again. But each time Olsen was just out of reach. Brennus was visibly winded when Olsen looked at him. Now it is my turn. And Olsen kicked Brennus in the cheek, ripping his face to the jawline. He kicked him again tearing off part of the left. And he kept kicking until all that was left of Brennus was a bloody pile of mush that once was a logger. No one spoke.
About an hour later Olsen emerged from the doctors hut with his bag. The men stood silent. He did not give them a courtesy and left without looking or acknowledging a single one.
* * *
50 years later.
Olsen was walking by a laundromat in Los Angeles. He saw a group of hooligans roughing up an old man inside. The old man was scared and handing them his wallet as Olsen walked in.
Hey. You. Leave that old man alone. They turned to Olsen nonplussed, as though he were some kind of comic book aberration. The leader smiled sardonically and walked over to him.
Whatcha gonna do about it old man?
I'll show you what I'm going to do about it.
* * *
3 hours later.
KLAX: Late breaking news with Jenny Page. This just in. Three men were found dead tonight in a triple homicide at a San Pedro laundromat. We're going live to Trisha Nakamura who is reporting from the scene. Trish, what can you tell us about this gruesome event?
KLAX: Thanks Jen. Minutes ago I spoke with the police chief who told me investigators are on the scene and interviewing owners of nearby businesses. At this time authorities don't know who is behind these grisly murders but the initial indications all point to it being gang related. Perhaps payback for a drug deal gone wrong or a longstanding vendetta between two rival gangs. It's not clear. What we can tell you though is that for these men justice was harsh. One of the victims was found on the floor completely eviscerated. The two other men were found stuffed into spinning dryers.
KLAX: It is indeed Jen. And while normally a business such as this would have security system tapes the owner says the wires were cut before a robbery three months ago. However, this camera footage from a nearby business shows a homeless person pushing a shopping cart past the laundry at approximately the same time as the attacks. If you recognize this man, or have any information about what happened here tonight LA police are asking you to contact the anonymous tip line at the bottom of your screen. Back to you Jen.
- Aunt Polly: A double-entendre. Ref to Tom Sawyer's Aunt Polly and someone who, too sick to work, boards with her.
- Blanket fever: Hung over.
- Chin Whisker: Trifling. Small change.
- Epsom Salts: Camp doctor.
- Sky West and Crooked: Multiple meanings. Things knocked in all directions.
- Snake Room: A corner of the bar where stumble down drunks go to recover.