I have come to fear absolutely nothing – not ceiling fans, not blood, broken clocks, broken noses, nothing. Take this broken cuckoo clock. It’s in a million pieces. I’m not afraid of any of them. Or Johnny’s broken nose. I’m not afraid of that either.
There is one thing I’m afraid of, though, and that’s that Johnny might get up.
If he does, he’ll kill me.
A man is not supposed to be afraid of anything. But he is. Men are afraid of lots of things. Some men are afraid of other men. Some men are afraid of all women. Some men are afraid other men will see they are fearful. Some men are afraid to fail. Some men are afraid of hearing their name called out in a dark alley. Some men are afraid of Johnny because they owe Johnny’s people lots of money and Johnny came here today to collect it. Some men are so afraid of Johnny that they sucker punch him as soon as Johnny walks through the door. Some men are afraid of Johnny’s blood all over the linoleum floor and wonder does Mr. Clean get blood out of it and how fast can Mr. Clean clean it up, kill Johnny once and for all and skip town before Johnny’s people find out. But before all that gets figured out, Johnny gets up.
“You hit me,” Johnny says. He rubs his face and gingerly touches his nose. “It’s broke.”
I looked at him. I wasn’t afraid.
“I came here to get that money you owe us. In fact, we were going to give you another week. Now you know what I’m going to give you?”
He was going to give me a beating. But I wasn’t afraid, not when the beating was right here. A man fears things most when they are far away and come creeping up slowly and he has to wait for it. A man hates waiting. His mind works against him and makes the beating get worse and worse, waiting for it. ‘Get it over with,’ he says to himself. ‘Beat me, kill me. Just do it so I don’t have to sweat out waiting for it.’ That’s what a man wants.
“Know what?” Johnny asks, slowly touching his nose. “I’m not going to do it now. That would be too easy on you. I’m going to give you that week we planned on giving you. I’m going to wait so you can worry about it beforehand. You can wait a long time and see it coming here – maybe in your crummy apartment with its lousy ceiling fan and lousy linoleum, maybe under the fire escape, maybe in the parking lot.”
Johnny picked up the clock’s lousy pendulum, walked up to me and scratched my face with it so blood ran down my chin. My blood was redder and richer than his, running down my face into the linoleum. I let him do it. I was scared.
So I kicked him in the balls as hard as I could, just to make him angry.
I made him angry.
My second-last thought was that I was going to die in my crummy apartment with blood all over the lousy linoleum and a bottle of Mr. Clean under the sink, laughing at me. My last thought was that I have come to fear absolutely nothing.