Joey stared at the clouds, his mouth agape, his eyes unblinking. It went off without a hitch. And now, he's looking into the distance as if he'd lost his purpose in life after failing to take that shot. The only problem was that he had taken the shot. There were just no problems. He was just edged. In fact, he should be happy.
The last thing he wanted to do was flake out after preaching the whole story of Commander America to his people in his villain speech.
He was punched in the face, too.
But they were able to occupy this small compound of five houses. They were able to strip the surrounding houses for more supplies and furniture for firewood. No one was hurt. Some were visibly shaken, especially when they started the cleanup and moved the bodies to be buried, but there were no problems. Again, he should be happy.
He grabbed a stone and threw it. It flew, of course, but didn’t get as far as he expected. He clicked his tongue. He wanted to scream. So, he sighed and scratched his head. Maybe they’re talking about him now. He couldn’t stand them. But he’s the better man, so he chose to stay away, away from everything at the moment.
The last thing he wanted was the clouds to spell “loser.” Winds shouldn’t whisper that kind of thing either. Well, at least, he could bitch around here without much of a consequence. He also felt like heavy rain was about to come. He was sure of it.
And he groaned.
Going back now and announcing that he just knew that it was going to rain wouldn’t cut it. He could still remember that sensation. He cringed at how his legs trembled, how his fingers would shake, how his eyes would darken and tear at the thought of opening the doors that led them inside those houses.
He would always look back at the men that followed him. He wanted them to be ready, and they would nod back as they gripped their weapons.
By then, he would push the door, squeal like a fully grown man upon seeing a flying cockroach, and welcome them to a whole load of nothing. It should not be treated as a joke. Cockroaches were the shit, and they would always be. And it’s a different, darker story if they took flight.
This kind of shit happened every single time. Uncle had the fun of kicking doors down with Jonathan. Enteng made everyone else feel safe along with Enang and Lucy like they were on a field trip. The men that followed him were tired until they chose not to respond to him at all.
At least they were safe—for now.
And this cold wall embraced his back for comfort. It was fun. He had so many people follow his cues. For a moment, he felt like an actual leader. Now, everything’s done. They now have something to defend. They knew and could fight.
They don’t need him anymore.
Right, the sun was also sinking.
Maybe that’s the edge that he’s missing. He didn’t even lose anything to feel the burden of these people. Enteng lost his wife and children. Uncle lost his mom. Enang was probably the same. He didn’t have that drive for revenge. He couldn’t be the protagonist that he always wanted to be.
“Wow,” a familiar voice of a woman rang nearby. “you really are acting like a bitch.”
Enang peeked from the corner of the wall and handed him a water bottle. She scoffed at his unwelcoming demeanor and sat on the ground.
“I’m bitching and I am proud.” He closed his eyes, smiled, and rested the back of his head on the wall. “This is not a sign of weakness but of strength.”
“You’re a terrible loser, that’s what.” She stressed her words, and Joey’s cheeks sored a little. “That punch looked like it hurt you pretty badly. What did Uncle call it?”
“Heh…” She peeked at him again with a smug smile this time. “If you really didn’t mind, then you should’ve been around with the others instead of bitching here and being proud. Damn, after all of that speech.”
“Fine, I get it.” Joey sighed. “It’s my fault. I’m a piece of shit. I won once and went ahead and acted like a total bitch to everyone else in there. It’s my fault. I should go. I should start a new journey and pay for my sins.”
“Wow, you really are bitching.”
“I bet Uncle told you everything, especially with the one bailing out.”
“Nah,” she chuckled. “that one was from me. No one really said anything. I just had a hunch. Unlike you, I’m not pretending to be smart. I’m pretending to be stupid.”
“And I’m telling you this because no one would believe you.”
“That’s for stealing my thunder, you fuck.”
Crispy. Joey scoffed and found himself grinning.
“I was gonna ask if that’s something one should really be proud of.”
“There’s nothing wrong with being stupid,” Enang hurried her words. “I’m weak, after all.”
“I don’t think so.”
“What do you know?” Enang shot back.
“That there are better people in the world.” Joey smiled to himself. “It must be the Telemarketer in me, I suppose—”
“Shut the fuck up.”
Joey raised a brow. “Then, why are you even here bitching at my bitching corner?”
“People tire me out.”
Joey jerked his head and scoffed. “Am I just a grass to you?”
“You don’t say…”
Enang groaned. “I am definitely not pretty, but I am getting hit on… A LOT. It’s getting hard to brush them off… so…”
“You’re here to turn me into a fence?”
Enang peered from the other side and faced Joey with an unapologetic smile.
“Oh, you bitch…”
Joey jumped on his feet, patted his clothes, and sighed.
“Can you sit down for a few more minutes?”
“What, you into me?”
“I will peel your skin with a spoon.”
He sat back. Silence flooded his ears. He only heard the sound of his own heartbeat as he considered all the questions that she might ask of him. Maybe she’s going to ask about his family. Maybe there’s something more about his job. Perhaps it’s the world. It could be her crush, which was probably him. Maybe it would be something useful, or maybe about Enteng or Uncle. Oh. Oh fuck. He crossed his arms as he shrank back to the wall. Algebra would fuck him up.
“There are better people in this world, huh?”
“Yeah,” he smiled and nodded to himself in victory. It wasn’t about numbers.
“How do you know?”
“If you’re expecting me to have a checklist, I don’t. I just know.”
“Then…” Enang sighed. “This is so fucking dumb… but…”
“It is in character—”
Enang clicked her tongue. “Hey, have you ever thought about something that only you could do?”