Grandfather's Bastards

Hooch Interlude #1

Another night at Moe’s. Not after a long run around the Waystation’s turf, no, but they’d tracked down someone who’d done them wrong and then gotten into what was (for them) a mostly friendly fight. So the 30 Violent Bastards were as rowdy as ever. Pierre had already tried to bottle Rawsteak again, but the new recruit had ducked and laid the guy out with a right hook. Kid was learning fast.

“Hell of a day, huh Hooch?” Harridan said, sitting down besides the chopper. For his part Hooch was just sitting there, steadily draining a mug while Nuff argued with Moe over how to cook an actual raw steak. There’d been some confusion. But when Harridan spoke up, he looked over at her.

“Yeah. Girl doing alright?” he said, asking after Shiva.

“Well, that’ll all depend on what happens to her daddy, now doesn’t it?” Harridan replied, drinking from her own mug. “Stupid bastard. She’s holding together for now, though.”

“Well. That’s good. Seems tough. Should be fine.” Hooch said, nodding as he glanced over at the small mob of Bastards, feeling a pair of eyes burning into his back. He had a good idea who owned them. “Helluva day is right.”

“Trouble in the Waystation. Dutchboy getting in your face. Hallux getting in your face-”

“That’s nothing new. It’s, whatchamacallit,” Hooch said, snapping his fingers for a second, “standard operating procedure. The medic’s always had guts.”

“Yeah, sure, but that many of them? Last time she stood up to you it was in the safety of the ‘station, not out on the road when everybody’s got their blood boiling. Might be worth keeping an eye on her.”

“If you say so, Harridan. We might have a different problem, though.”

Harridan nodded at that, taking another swig while glancing in the same direction as those eyes burning a hole in Hooch’s back.

“Think we’ll have to deal with Dutchboy more permanent-like?”

“Don’t know. Hope not. We’ll see.”

Both grunted and returned to their drinks, attention stolen for a moment as Skidmark got thrown over the bar and desperately scrambled to get back across it before Moe could get to him. Rawsteak was laughing at him.

“You ever regret this?”

“Huh?”

“You ever regret tying the Bastards to the Waystation?” Harridan asked, seemingly sincere. “From a certain point of view, the last Rawsteak was right before you smoked him. If we’d stayed out on the road, we wouldn’t be dealing with problems like this. Diplomacy and shit. Playing nice. It’s great to have somewhere to rest our heads with a roof over ‘em, fix the bikes, get a drink, but it sure as shit ain’t simpler.”

“Heh, no, sure ain’t. Let’s see, wazzatphraseagain,” Hooch said, snapping his fingers at Harridan a couple times until she gave him the words he was looking for.

“‘Hell is other people’.”

“Ain’t it fucking just?” Hooch said, grinning. It faded quickly, however, as he thought about her question. Eventually, he shook his head. “Nah. Nah, I don’t regret it. Shotglass was right to bring us here and make the deal with Grandpa, and once I was in charge I was right to keep us here. This is better. Reliable food, reliable repairs, reliable fuel. People to watch our backs instead of knifing them. Anybody who gets fed up with the road has somewhere to settle, instead of us taking their bike and leaving them somewhere to die.”

It wasn’t common, but sometimes Bastards burned out, wanted to settle down. In the old days, that was a death sentence. Now, well, it didn’t make any sense to Hooch, but he’d swear that Seatbelt (Sam, it was Sam now) looked happier as a farmer and a father than he ever had as a Bastard. People could be weird sometimes.

“Besides, the road’s always there. Marco shits the bed for good, we can always leave. Maybe even set up a new deal with Poland, if we can get that bastard of a skinner to make anything besides gin.”

“Fair enough, fair enough. Not that I want to leave. But you know I gotta ask these things, Hooch,” she said.

“Sure, sure. Hey, you ever regret it?”

“Huh?”

“Me, rather. Could’ve taken over easy after Shotglass died, but you put me in charge. You ever regret it?” Hooch smiled, making the question more of a joke than serious. Harridan smiled back, cold, dead eyes locking with Hooch’s.

“Trust me Hooch, if I had any regrets, you’d have heard ’em by now.” she told him, voice pitched real quiet, threatening even if Hooch didn’t know her. He laughed.

“Well that depends strongly on if one’s sense of hearing still works for a few seconds after the bullet hits, now doesn’t it? ‘Cause if not, I wouldn’t hear a thing.”

He nodded at her rifle; before Hooch, before Shotglass, there’d been Oddball. And all of the older Bastards remembered what had happened to him. Harridan just chuckled, drained her mug, and pat Hooch on the shoulder as she walked over to Nuff. Hooch smiled into his mug as he drained it in turn, before noticing that Skidmark was trying to brain Rawsteak with a stool. Well that wouldn’t do. Moe hated it when the stools got broken or bloody.

Skidmark nearly fell on his ass when the stool he was holding suddenly turned into an anchor in the middle of his backswing. He looked over his shoulder to see Hooch holding the other end of the stool. He saw that very briefly, before the fist Hooch had made of his free hand slammed into Skidmark’s face.

The Bastards cheered. Just another night at Moe’s.

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