Friday, May 6, 2011

"David Nickle vs. Joe" or "A Pair of Stone-Honed Machetes"

David Nickle (Monstrous Affections, Eutopia) shared this favourite, although disturbing, memory from World Horror Con:
My favourite convention memory?

Happened when Joe finally caught up with me, late Sunday, to settle things once and for all.

The rest of you'd fled for Toronto by then – there was no one left but a handful of straggling frat boys and sorority girls... the night shift at the Doubletree. Claude Lalumiere was somewhere, missing a train on account of flooding somewhere north, but he doesn't figure in this memory.

For that, there was just me. And Joe. Both of us looking for trouble, in our way. Both of us finding it, over $3.75 Shiner Bocks and a pair of stone-honed machetes.

I probably shouldn't have said what I said noon-time Saturday at the ChiZine table, loud as I did. I'll wear that. But Joe should've known better too. Hell. You don't do something like that – not without expecting consequences.

So when Joe swaggered into the bar, hauling the fresh-oiled machetes swaddled in Doubletree bath towels ... I wasn't going to back down, and he damn well knew it.

It got real quiet – the only sound was the soft "whoas" from the kid in the Abercrombie and Fitch polo shirt sprawled on the sofa by the fireplace and Barack Obama mumbling something on the flatscreen.

Joe set the bundle of blades on the bar, slid one out, stepped back and pointed with his chin at the other, like he does.

I didn't need more invite than that. I set my glass down, walked close enough he might've slashed my belly if he'd a mind, then took hold of the second blade.

Now, at this point security might've intervened. But as I was checking out early Monday, the night clerk told me it was on account of good behaviour. The assembled authors at the World Horror Convention – and particularly the ChiZine contingent – were so good-graced and kindly in disposition, that the hotel staff all just thought we were horsing around and figured they'd let it play out.

So it went a lot longer than it should've. Joe was good with a machete. He'd had plenty of practise working that place of his, and he could swing true and strong enough to split a mahogany credenza right down the middle. But I'll tell you – never under-estimate a middle-aged Toronto boy who got out of phys-ed by faking asthma attacks. I gave as good as I got.

We crossed blades in the lobby, and for awhile it seemed like I had the advantage. Joe couldn't seem to hold ground, and soon we were outside, steel flashing sparks up the courtyard so blue and sharp they lit the clouds. We fought around the palm trees, up and down some stairs... and finally, on the edge of the jacuzzi, I figured I had Joe for sure. But no. "I was left handed all along," he sneered – and just like that, the sonofabitch turned it around.

I damn near fell in that jacuzzi, ducking a swipe that was surely aimed at decapitation. Joe cackled like a swamp witch, and swung some more, and soon as I got my bearings – I'm ashamed to admit, but I cut and ran.

Made it up the stairs and into the third floor elevator lobby, and bought myself some time slamming the door shut on old Joe's machete arm. Didn't do anything about the machete – Joe has a grip of iron – but he surely did holler. When the elevator door opened, I let him go and got inside. Would've gotten away, but couple of the sorority girls were in there debriefing on the weekend debauch, and they were too polite to let the door close before Joe got in.

We took respite between floors Three and Six, while the girls made conversation asking us if we liked Texas and how we came to write horror stories, and we both answered best we could.

At Six, the girls got out, and Joe and I didn't have the heart to start up until the doors closed and the elevator was on its way back down.

I'll tell you something now: machete fighting's a different game in the close confines of a hotel elevator than it is across a wide courtyard under a Texas sky. A game with even fewer rules than there is room. A game where truly, it's easier to punch and kick and pull on a fellow's hair than it is to swing a machete around.

So that's how it went, for six floors down to the lobby. End of it all, Joe was on his way to developing a first-class Texas shiner, and his lip was bleeding from where I'd elbowed it. I was doubled-over from a well-aimed punch to the gut and a for-good-measure boot to the unmentionables.

"Well," I said, "I got a taxi coming for the airport in just an hour."

Joe whistled and spat. "Man, that's early," he said.

"Don't I know it. No rest for the wicked."

"All right then."

"All right then."

And that was that. Joe got out first, and held the door while I hobbled into the lobby. We left some things behind in that elevator: a pair of stone-honed machetes notched in battle, part of a left incisor, a healthy spray of blood and spittle and a good handful of Joe's hair. Didn't matter, though. We took what was most dear to us: that being, memories of the best damn convention the town of Austin has ever seen and ever likely will.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I'm Sorry I missed it!

    Sounds like a great time! So well told too. One might think it was a work of fiction, but not me. ;)

    Why is it so hard to post comments on Blogger?? It's like trying to argue common sense with a politician... I'd be better off trying to tenderize a brick wall with my forehead. Yeesh.