The Second Time Vince Broke His Armhttps://i0.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/rust.jpg?fit=1166%2C1600&ssl=111661600Kyle SeibelKyle Seibelhttps://i2.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Kyle-Seibel.jpg?fit=96%2C96&ssl=1
The first time Vince broke his arm, it wasn’t my fault. Not either time, actually, but the first one definitely isn’t on me. He sued the cop over it, after all.
We were in Orlando for the day, down from Jacksonville because why not and Vince finds some little taco place on his phone. Says they’ve got dollar beers. We sit down to order and when the beers arrive they’re not normal glasses, not really, they’re smaller. Vince drains his in one gulp before the waitress leaves and asks for another. I’m pretending not to notice. I can tell he’s waiting for me to say something, but I just sip slowly, not a care in the world.
Couple more rounds and he says to the waitress, Just bring me two at a time if you don’t wanna keep running back and forth, yeah? Doesn’t that make more sense?
What are you doing, I ask him finally.
How can they be making money on these? He is amazed, staring at the beer. Excuse me! This beer should cost at least TWO dollars! He announces this to the entire dining area. It’s just a fantastic deal, he follows up. He gulps two more beers. Just an outstanding deal, he shouts to me.
A cop comes in for take-out and at this point Vince has really got a lather going. Just goofy harmless beer talk, but loud for the lunch crowd. Probably nothing this place hasn’t seen before but still. He was asking for it.
Cop says something civil like wanna keep it down, but he’s got a look on his face like he drives around looking for shitheads and can’t believe his luck. Vince responds with a bunch of attitude. Free country last time I checked, that kind of thing. Not aggressive, not really, but anyone could see the cop wasn’t in the mood.
Cop says, Okay buddy, let’s go. Time to move along. Vince just sits there, gulps a beer, and crosses his arms. Ends up having to drag Vince out and that’s when it happens. Cop’s got him on the ground out in the parking lot with his hands behind his back and he’s using his knee to pin Vince’s wrists down. He’s grabbing the zip cuffs when Vince wriggles and the cop loses his balance. Shifts his weight back to the knee that’s pinning the wrists and it turns out to be too much. I can hear the snap and that’s the first time Vince breaks his arm.
Nothing happens for a second then everything happens all at once. Vince screaming, cop screaming, me screaming.
After the hospital bills and the lawyers, we had more than ten grand leftover. Couple days after the settlement, almost a year after the incident, Vince comes into the kitchen with something in his pocket that I can hear shaking in its plastic container.
He pulls out a big white bottle from his cargo shorts and sets it on the table. I ask him what it is and he says our future and I say no, really and he says it’s pills. It’s our future, he says again. And then proceeds to tell me how he’s going to sell it for twice what he paid. You’re not gonna believe this, he says, but it came out to be exactly how much broken arm money I had left.
I don’t even wait for him to finish the sentence before I start crying. I can’t help myself because it all starts hitting me at once. I understand for the first time that I’m poor, that we’re poor, that we’re poor people, and I don’t want this bottle of pills to be my future. I’m trying to say this but it’s not coming out right and we start fighting.
The cop didn’t break your arm, he says. You could’ve made me stop drinking but you didn’t, he says.
Which is it, I ask. Is the money all yours or do you blame me for letting it happen?
He stares at me. Both, he screams, throwing his hands up as if it was obvious. He’s lost in it now, pacing and cursing. Why does everything turn to shit, he shouts.
C’mon man, I say. I’m trying to pull him back, but he’s already gone.
Every good thing that happens to me ends up being a bad thing, he says, hitting his head with the flat of his palm.
Vince, stop, I say, but the way he’s punching himself means he can’t hear me, can’t hear anything. You gotta stop, I say.
You gotta stop, he says back at me.
Sometimes, at night, I close my eyes and replay in my head all our aimless boozy hustles. Because even though I ended up leaving, I stayed with him even after Vince broke his arm for the second time. Maybe even stayed because of it.
The second time Vince broke his arm was that night, fighting in the kitchen over the bottle of pills. He broke it so bad the doctor put in pins and screws and everything. You see, all his brain’s electricity was demanding his balled fists hit me, but he couldn’t. What he did instead was to punch our fridge so hard that it fractured his arm from wrist to shoulder. And how do you not love your friend forever, at least a little, after they do something like that?
Kyle Seibel is 36 years old and lives in Santa Barbara, CA where he works as a copywriter. He is a veteran of the US Navy and his stories can be found in The Masters Review, Drunk Monkeys, and Wrath-Bearing Tree.