Edwin Balder realized that he was very drunk around the time that he turned off of 3rd Avenue, and began the longish decent down 75th Street. He had drunk too many scotches and made quite an ass out of himself once again. It was that damned Lawson, Edwin thought. If only Lawson had leveled with him about Natalie Chappel Presley then they could have a peaceful evening at the joint; and if Lawson knew nothing, as he’d claimed, the least he could’ve done was join Edwin at his low level instead of espousing such tawdry optimism. At least Ivan and Benny were there to soften the blow of strained friendships and deceitful ex-lovers. Ivan and Benny couldn’t care less about Natalie Chappel Presley and The Life and Times of Edward Beddor in the Real World. Edward Beddor, my ass! Edwin shouted, shaking his Strand bag into the cool night. He tried emulating Ivan’s new dance, knee slaps, arm rolls and all. Edwin stopped dancing. He sighed, looked at dark, milky Gotham sky (it had, in fact, drizzled a little bit), and started walking back to his apartment.
It was at Ridge Avenue that someone crudely took ahold of Edwin’s arm. Then he felt a knife in his back. “Is that you again, Mr. Mugger?”
“Don’t look back at me, don’t say a word,” the mugger said. In that moment, Edwin knew that he was in the presence of his old, brutal friend. To say nothing else of the moment, he was excited to have such a drama bestowed on him twice. “Just move.”
The mugger lead Edwin half way down the block and then turned him left into that familiar, small alleyway between apartment buildings. He turned Edwin around but between the dark and shadows of the alleyway, the streetlights casting a glare, Edwin could still not make out the mugger’s face. He wondered if anyone had found his wallet from the previous mugging.
“Are you going to mug me again?” Edwin asked.
“Again? Shit. Wait, I said don’t say a word,” the mugger said. He leaned in. “Damn, what have you been drinking?”
“A little of this and a little of that.”
“A ham and cheese Hot Pocket again?”
Edwin chuckled. “I do believe I’ve forgotten to eat a proper meal today. It’s a good thing Ivan bought all of that beef jerky from the corner bodega.”
“Veganism is the way to go, nigga,” the mugger said.
“Oh please,” Edwin said. “As if your precious soy-based cuisine wasn’t responsible for killing field mice and crows."
The mugger pushed him into the cold brick and alley wall, smacking the back of Edwin’s head a little rougher than he’d have liked. “At least I’m not roasting them.”
“A death is a death,” Edwin said.
“Are you calling me a murderer?”
“Well, you started it with all of that veganism business. Honestly, you vegans are like Democrats. Why can’t you be quiet about your causes and let us regular people get on with the business of living?”
“Because the world is an imperfect place, motherfucker,” the mugger said. “And if we don’t change it then who will? You know, we didn’t inherit the world from our parents. We’re borrowing it from our children."
“Fantastic soliloquy,” Edwin said. He shook his Strand bag. “Now could we get on with the mugging because I have important legal business to attend to.”
The mugger put the blade up to Edwin’s face. “Didn’t I tell you not to talk?”
“You addressed me first.”
“Did too,” Edwin said. “You asked me if I’d been drinking again.”
The mugger was quiet a moment. “Yeah, but you said is that you, Mr. Mugger.”
“That was a salutation and does not count in terms of conversation.”
“You spoke first.”
“Agree to disagree.”
“Fine, but I’m telling you to be quiet now.”
“As you wish,” Edwin said.
The mugger withdrew his knife a little bit, and began to pat down Edwin Balder in the alleyway. He opened the buttons on Edwin’s pea coat and searched the pockets. He patted Edwin’s pants until he found his new wallet and took it out. Then the mugger backed away into the darkness of the alley to check the wallet’s contents.
“Dag,” he said, coming back into the shadows and light. “You have like two hundred dollars in here.”
“I just got paid,” Edwin said. “Sorry it’s all in twenties, but you know how those ATM machines are”
“You know it’s not safe to carry around this kind of cash,” the mugger said. “Especially in this city.”
“Obviously. But I’m old fashioned. I refuse to be a slave to the debit card.”
The mugger hit Edwin in his stomach twice, and Edwin fell to the ground. This sort of brutality was expected from such a heathen as this mugger. Sure, he wouldn’t eat a lousy cow but he’d beat a man to a pulp two blocks away from his apartment. Humans had such skewed logic. Oh why did everyone have to be so pompous in their ignorance in this country? Perhaps Europe was better. Edwin wondered if they had invoice processors in Madrid. Then he went to rub his stomach but the mugger kicked his hand away.
“Get up,” he said. Edwin slowly rose until he was face to face with the black void that stood in for the mugger’s visage. “I suppose I shouldn’t even ask you about a cell phone?”
“I think you know the answer to that one,” Edwin said. “By the way did you ever get your Android?”
“Last week. I took it from some Chinese kid who was walking down 86th with his head buried in it.”
“Don’t you just hate that? The ignorance.”
“The little fucker almost knocked into me. Don’t get me wrong, I love my cell phones,” the mugger said. “But people just don’t know how to act sometimes.” He pushed Edwin into the wall again, this time a little bit harder than the last. Edwin wanted to clasp the back of his head, for he feared eventual brain damage from these continued assaults, but the mugger made him put his hands above his head while he frisked Edwin once again. “What’s in the bag?”
“A legal matter not worth discussing with you,” Edwin said.
“Because you don’t know the parties involved. Also, it’s embarrassing.”
“It looks like a Strand bag” the mugger asked.
“I’m impressed,” Edwin said.
“Why? I know how to fucking read. Plus Strand is the bomb. It has like eight…”
“….miles of books. Yes, I know. But I don’t quite care for the place myself.”
The mugger slapped Edwin across the face. Edwin squealed like an excited child, although he didn’t mean to. “That was for dissin’ Strand.”
“Pardon me,” Edwin said, struggling to recover his masculine composure.
“Anyway, so what’s the book about,” the mugger said.
“If you must know it’s about me.”
“Yes. My former paramour has written a tell-all in the guise of a work of fiction.”
“Your girl wrote a book about you,” the mugger said. “That’s harsh, bro.”
“Harsher than you think,” Edwin said.
“Is it any good?”
“First of all, I don’t know. I was on my way home to read it until this pleasant encounter took place.
“What’s it called?”
Edwin sighed. “The Life and Times of Edward Beddor in the Real World.” The mugger was silent a moment, as if ingesting the title for future reference. “I suppose you’ll be taking it along with the contents of my wallet?”
“Nah,” the mugger said. “I’ll wait and see what the New York Times Book Review has to say about it.”
“You’re supposing that whore will get a review in the Times.”
The mugger raised his hand again but thought better of it. “Just because the woman sold you out doesn’t mean you have to call her a whore.”
“Why not?” Edwin said. “Perhaps you’d feel differently if someone wrote a book about you.”
“Damn right,” the mugger said. “Come to think of it, I’m changing my opinion. I think it might be cool.”
“So is walking home from the pub without being assaulted….twice.”
“I’d be like a celebrity.”
“I’m sure all of your hommies would get a kick out of it,” Edwin said. “Now can we end this transaction?”
“What’s the author’s name,” the mugger said. “I like to read new authors.”
“Natalie Chappel Presley,” Edwin said. “Tell you what, as soon as I get an angle on her address I’ll give it to you and you can go and mug her for her royalty money. In the meantime, I hope the entirety of my spending cash helps you out in all of your other endeavors.”
“I might actually go and visit my parents,” the mugger said, stuffing the cash in his pocket.
“At least yours don’t live on separate hippy communes.”
“Ever been to Slab City, Mr. Mugger?”
“No. But even if my folks did live on hippy communes I’d visit them,” the mugger said. “A man has to visit his folks.”
“I suppose,” Edwin said. “So can I at least have my wallet back? It’s new.”
“Sure,” the mugger said. “If you can find it.”
He turned and tossed Edwin’s wallet down the dark alleyway. Then the mugger turned back and punched Edwin twice in the face. The first time he caught Edwin off guard and this time knocked his glasses off, but with the second blow he was able to put up his hands and block the mugger’s punch. The second punch got Edwin on his wrist again, and it hurt like hell. He dropped the Strand bag. The punch must’ve hurt the mugger too, because he yelped and backed away in pain, shaking his right hand. Then he righted himself, and kicked Edwin so hard in the stomach that he thought the scotch and beef jerky would come streaming out at any moment. Edwin hit the pavement and lay there on the cold concrete. It was as good as any bed to him.
“Happy reading, motherfucker,” the mugger said, leaning down to Edwin’s ear, before taking off.