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Authors: Keith Lee Morris

The Dart League King

BOOK: The Dart League King
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Table of Contents
Also by Keith Lee Morris
The Greyhound God
The Best Seats in the House and Other Stories
For my part, I have walk’d about the streets,
Submitting me unto the perilous night,
And, thus unbraced, Casca, as you see,
Have bar’d my bosom to the thunder-stone;
And when the cross blue lightning seem’d to open
The breast of heaven, I did present myself
Even in the aim and very flash of it.
Julius Caesar
Men at some time are masters of their fates.
Julius Caesar
Dart Night in Garnet Lake, Idaho
Tonight was Thursday,
and Thursday night meant dart league, and Russell Harmon was the Dart League King. For that reason, and for others, Thursday night was Russell’s favorite time of the week. His least favorite time of the week was Friday morning, when he would have to step down from his role as founder/commissioner/team captain/ individual champion two years running of the Garnet Lake Dart League and resume his job on a logging crew, a type of work for which he was unenthusiastic and ill-suited.
But this was Thursday night, not Friday morning, and in just a couple of hours dart night would be in full swing, and the thing for Russell Harmon to do now was to lay out a few lines of coke for himself and his boss/best friend Matt down in his mother’s basement, where he’d been living for almost a year now, as a kind of preparation for and celebration of another excellent evening of darts and various related activities.
Dart night had become a big thing in the community—bigger, for instance, than country/western dance night on Fridays at the Elks Lodge. In the two years since he formed it, Russell had seen the dart league expand to ten teams from four, and darts, rather than pool, which Russell had never been very good at, had become the game of choice at most of the local bars. Even the Garnet Lake Monster, the most upscale bar in town, now sponsored a team. Russell’s team, the 321 Club, was hosting the Monsters tonight, which meant that Russell had his work cut out for him—he would be playing Brice Habersham in singles. Brice Habersham was the only other undefeated player in the league this season, and Russell feared, when he got down to the very bottom of his soul and started being honest with himself, that he couldn’t beat Brice Habersham, who had once been a professional.
But Russell wasn’t much of a thinker—more of a doer, he liked to imagine—so it hadn’t been hard for him to go around all week telling everyone how he was going to kick Brice Habersham’s ass come Thursday night, and even now, consulting with Matt over four lines of coke spread out on the glass of his framed high school diploma, Russell felt reasonably sure of himself.
“I figure we win both the doubles,” he said, “and you win your singles match and I beat Brice Habersham and that’s it. We’re champs, no need to wait till next week.”
Matt nodded, perhaps a little uncertainly, it seemed to Russell.
“You go first,” Russell said.
Matt rolled a twenty and snorted two lines, one up each nostril, and handed the bill to Russell, who did the same, pocketing
the twenty when he was through. That was the customary price Matt paid for these Thursday nights—that and Russell’s beers. It didn’t actually cover half the amount Russell had to pay, considering he had a second bindle in his pocket for later in the evening, but it was close enough, because Matt was his friend, and Matt was his boss, and he probably wouldn’t even have a job if Matt hadn’t put him on his logging crew, and Russell wasn’t as handy with a chain saw or as easy at the controls of a skidder as he was with a set of darts. Tomorrow morning would be hell, like it always was, and it helped to have Matt a little indebted. It had helped a little bit last Friday when Matt found him sleeping on the seat of the backhoe while he was supposed to be clearing brush.
So he put the twenty in his pocket and called it good, and he and Matt both took a swipe at the glass with one finger and rubbed their gums, and Russell folded up what was left of the first bindle and slipped it into his pocket with the twenty, and he hung the diploma back on his bedroom wall. Then they left the basement and went to the den and played Xbox for a while and headed out the front door without saying good-bye to Russell’s mother, who was in the kitchen cooking a dinner that Russell wouldn’t wait around to eat.
In the parking lot of the 321 Club Russell flipped open the glove box and got out his darts.
“You bring the heavy ones tonight?” Matt asked. He was standing outside the passenger door thumbing through his wallet.
Russell nodded, checking his leather case to make sure he’d brought a fresh pack of flights. You didn’t want old, ragged flights when you were playing Brice Habersham. “These ones
feel better to me lately,” Russell said. He knew Matt liked the lighter set with the thin tungsten barrels, but Matt always played with the same set Russell used, regardless—hoping the good luck would rub off. But there wasn’t any luck involved when it came to Russell’s dart playing. He took out the darts and held them in his hand, stuck a flight on one and held the barrel with his thumb and first two fingers, his third finger edging down toward the point, and he moved his wrist back and forth slowly. These ones were fit for a dart king; they’d cost well over a hundred bucks at the Pastime Sport Shop, where Russell had bought them on credit several months ago and hadn’t paid yet. “Fuck Brice Habersham,” he said, and got out of the truck and locked it.
“How much money you got?” Matt asked, putting away his wallet, eyeing Russell from beneath a strand of long brown hair.
“Enough,” Russell said.
“I mean if Vince shows up,” Matt said, still not raising his head all the way.
“Enough,” Russell said. But there wasn’t enough to satisfy Vince, he knew. That was a possibility he didn’t want to think of—Vince Thompson showing up on the most important night in recent memory.
In the bar they warmed up for a while, and the throwing felt good to Russell, smooth and easy. He would be ready with the help of a couple of beers to get rid of the last little tightness. He shared a line with Bill, the bartender, back in the kitchen, because it was good form and because Bill was a good guy. He worked on the matchups for dart night. He and Brice Habersham had agreed to play the final singles match—that
way, no matter what the outcome as far as the league championship went, there would still be some suspense at the end, because he and Brice Habersham were undoubtedly playing for the individual championship—they were the only undefeated players in the league, and neither of them was about to lose to anybody else. Here’s what Russell was thinking—he’d split himself and Matt up in doubles, pairing himself with Tristan, and Matt with James. That was risky because it was spreading the real talent—him and Matt—thin, but if they could pull off both the doubles then he would have Matt scheduled first in singles, and if Matt won, they would be guaranteed at least a tie for the evening when it was Russell’s turn.
Russell worked out the calculations on a sheet of scratch paper and then transferred them to the official dart league sheet that Tristan had made up on his computer, and he paused for a moment to look at this sheet with satisfaction—he had started the league, and without him there would be no such sheet, with its official look and regular lines.
It was just past seven o’clock, and the match didn’t start until eight, and Russell and Matt more or less had the place to themselves. A couple of guys from some office downtown sat up front at the bar, their ties loosened, drinking dark beer. The host musician for open mike night was setting up for later on, turning his little dials and knobs, testing out various beats with that fake electronic drum thing. Russell hated open mike night, which started at nine thirty. He usually scheduled himself first in singles so that he would be through with his matches before the fake drum banged out its annoying rhythm, which always interfered with Russell’s own rhythm at the dartboard. But tonight he was playing last, which meant he would have to face
Brice Habersham with that awful
da da boom, da da boom, da da boom tisk boom
coming from the front of the bar. It didn’t matter what the guy was singing or playing, it was the fucking drumbeat that stuck in Russell’s head, tempting him to speed up his throwing motion. If it weren’t for the cool 321 T-shirts—depicting a beer mug lifting off from a launchpad shaped like the state of Idaho—that Randy, the owner, provided the team, Russell would have taken his business elsewhere.
The dartboard was at the back of the bar, and when the fake drum started up Russell called time-out from the 301 game he and Matt were playing and went to look out the window. Back behind the bar was a little cedar deck with wooden chairs and two big birch trees and beyond them the hill sloping down to Sand Creek with the boat slips at Garnet Lake Marina. To the left was Sand Creek bridge, which Russell and his friends used to jump from when they were kids, eyeing the bridge traffic for cops before slipping off their T-shirts and climbing the bridge rail, plunging down through the air and the summer sunshine to hit the cold water. But Russell wasn’t the nostalgic type, and even though it was summer now and the weather was warm, the perfect season for fond recollection, he didn’t dwell on the memory. The birch trees, the water, the bridge—they were there, just like they’d always been, and that was it. Russell left the window and sat down at a table with Matt and their pitcher of beer.
“So what if Vince shows up?” Matt said. He was looking at Russell the way he had been lately, kind of half disgusted and half concerned.
“It’s not a problem,” Russell said. He poured himself another glass and took a couple of big swallows and licked foam from
his upper lip. “Just quit with that shit already.”
a problem, Russell,” Matt said. “What are you gonna do—run out the back and jump in Sand Creek?”
“What the fuck,” Russell said. “Why are you going on with this shit? He comes in, I deal with it somehow. I came here to play darts. No problem.”
But it
a problem, and as that fucking musician started messing with the drum thing again, Russell felt a tension in his gut and his foot started tapping when he didn’t want it to. He wanted to go do a line in the bathroom before too many people started showing up, but he hadn’t had enough beer to find a proper equilibrium yet—an absolute essential for dart throwing, a proper equilibrium—or enough to make him forget about Vince Thompson. He owed Vince Thompson over two thousand bucks for the coke he’d bought over the last nine months, when it went from being a pastime to something resembling a habit. He was buying from someone else now, a precocious high school kid, and it was embarrassing to call the kid up at his parents’ house with some pretext for a meeting somewhere, but what could you do? Start doing meth, which was cheaper and easier to get, but which Russell associated with lowlifes living in rundown houses on the edge of town? Certainly not buy more drugs from Vince Thompson, who had become the scary figure in Russell’s dreams, chasing Russell through the downtown streets with the gun Matt claimed he—Vince—had been carrying lately.
BOOK: The Dart League King
13.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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