A Toast to Not Knowing

By Jeff Nazzaro

I found Pete in a corner booth in Busby’s, this little Highland Avenue dive we both liked. If Jimmy knew you and you’d never stiffed him, you could sit and drink a decent fifth of Scotch for just under two bucks a shot, and that’s what it seemed like Pete was trying to do. I’d told him I might swing by around lunchtime, and when I got there just after 11, the bottle of Bell’s on the table was a third gone. The ice hadn’t quite melted in the one waiting for me.

“Before you say a word, I did what I was told,” Pete said.

I slid into the booth. “This thing’s blown up pretty good.”

“That’s the job, ain’t it?”

“When it’s the right job.”

“You’re saying I did the wrong job?” He picked up his glass.

I made no move for mine. “I’m saying the job was wrong, that’s all.”

“I did what I was told.”

“Harris got a call from the guy’s wife this morning.”

“Another satisfied customer.” Pete raised his glass and drank.

“So how come she weren’t happy?”

“What wife ever is?” He finished his drink.

“The kind who gets fucked how she likes it.” I stared at him like he knew what I meant. I knew he knew.

“You drinking that or waiting for it to fucking evaporate?” he said, extending a palm toward my glass.

“You need it more than I do,” I said. I slid it across the table.

He let it sit. “Fuck it, Bob, what can I do here?”

“It’s done.”

“I did my job, I told you.”

“Someone told me you were friendly with her.”

“The wife? I’m friendly with lots of gals.”

I knew from his face it was true. Sneaky Pete. “And you took the job anyway.”

“I take what I get; I do what I’m told.”

“You didn’t think it was funny?” I said.

“Do you get paid to think? Because I sure as hell don’t.”

My glass was still untouched. “You gonna drink that or fucking cry in it?” I said.

“It’s your fucking drink.” He pushed it back across the table.

The scotch was cold, a little watered, and no ice to get in the way. I drained the glass.

Pete leaned across the table with the bottle. “I thought it was too good to be true.” He refilled my glass and his.

“And, as any idiot might’ve guessed, it was.”

“Idiot or not, I did as I was told.”

“So you didn’t fuck up.”

“Hell, no. What could I do?”

“Fuck up or set up, you did your job.”

“You’re telling the wrong guy.”

“You are the guy.”

“I wasn’t the only one banging her, though, was I?”

“You think me?”

“Not you.”

“Then who?”

“You know who.”

“I don’t know shit.”

“Then here.” He held up his glass.

I picked up mine. Touched his. We drank and he refilled the glasses.

“Because neither do I.”


Jeff Nazzaro lives in Southern California, where he teaches English and edits books on African history and politics in addition to writing fiction and poetry. Recent work has appeared in The Oddville Press, Angel City Review, and Flash: The International Short-short Story Magazine.

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