Carlton Ailse, is a thing, a wretched thing that could happen to anyone at any time. Sometimes you can beat a person like that and sometimes he gets you. We needed a proper cure for the likes of Carlton Ailse.
Carlton Ailse pulled a knife of his own invertebrate volition. It wasn’t a complete shock at all that someone would do such a thing. The truth was people pulled knives all the time. I could neither confirm nor deny the use of knives from our own team. Was it heroic or cowardly for Carlton to bring a knife to a fight that numerically leaned in his favor? Was it absolutely necessary for him to break out a knife at that particular point in time? Why weren’t his hands good enough? Every altercation has its own set of tenets, I supposed. I only wished I had a knife on me to counter. Some argue a knife takes nerve because you have to be up close and personal, I’m not always so sure.
Ozzy stood in his place when the fight pulled the rest of us to the back like an ocean’s current. We were caught in the riptide of the brawl, but not Ozzy. Momentarily distracted, Ozzy was struck across the face with a beer bottle. It shattered and left minor cuts all over his face. Ozzy grabbed the kid, who Viggo had previously dropped to ignite the fisticuffs, Ozzy in a fit of anger picked the kid up and slammed him hard against the wooden floor. Ozzy pinned the kid down with his right hand and repeatedly hammered his face with his left fist. Carlton stood and witnessed the clashes going on around the bar but only cared about the kid Ozzy was pummeling. Carlton, never one for being regarded as tough or hard, made a decision he would have to live and die with.
We walked back up the street to The Vault. Cheri had informed the owner and they were on the premises. People were out front. More people were inside. The door was locked but since there were no longer any glass panels and we easily ducked under the aluminum bar to enter against the owner’s wishes. It wasn’t how it was at the Memorial Park Bar, but we were tight with the owners. They were not pleased with that evening’s events. I guess we would always carry that reputation for being troublemakers.
When we got close to Ozzy it was apparent that something was off. When it felt wrong, it was wrong. Something terrible in the air filled our lungs with dread. I think we collectively sensed that something was not right with Ozzy. He stood at the end of the bar with a towel to his face, but his face wasn’t the problem. My eyes glossed over at the thought.
“What’s wrong? What’s the matter?” asked Martin. We weren’t ready for the truth.
“He stabbed me,” said Ozzy, as lifted up his shirt, his hooded sweatshirt and the T-shirt underneath it were drenched with blood and stuck together. A darker shade of black. His body was stained with blood as he exposed three deep stab wounds like Orion’s belt down along his ribcage and abdomen. As devastating as it was to see, I don’t think it was the first time for any of us to witness something like that, the difference was that Ozzy was our brother. It was harder to process because of who the victim was. Ozzy did not shed a single tear. He was relatively unfazed for someone who was just gored. Ozzy was calm and collected. Easily one of the toughest people I have ever met and he had a resolve that never swayed no matter the circumstance. He was true to himself and to the ones he permitted into his life.
“When? When did this happen?” I asked.
“Ozzy. I didn’t know. I thought he had just pulled it out. I didn’t know he used it. I didn’t know,” said Martin.
“It’s not alright,” said Martin, his eyes welling up. “I have to call dad.”
“No. Your tears don’t help me right now,” said Ozzy, “Call dad after I leave. I thought the dude was just kicking me. I didn’t know I was being stabbed. Philip caught it after the fact.”
“Should you be standing, bro?” I asked him. “Maybe you should sit.”
“It’s fine,” Ozzy said, “Cops are here. Philip called the ambulance. Should be here any second.”
The blood, Ozzy’s blood, a most precious blood, was opaque and vibrant, to the point where it looked almost fake like a scene out of a Hammer film. It was an absurd amount of blood, more than in any movie, even some of the gorier ones. It flowed from his wounds in spurts, like the plasma had its own pulse, its own heartbeat. The blood is the life, isn’t it? I couldn’t recall how much blood the body held but I didn’t think Ozzy could stand to lose anymore. I was worried but Ozzy was always invincible, this wouldn’t be able to stop him. He was mythic. The stuff of legend. This would just be a story to tell, another page in the book of lore we were writing for ourselves. I told myself that he would be fine, as I held back my tears and my negative thoughts, Ozzy would be just fine. It should have been me instead.
The ambulance arrived and though Martin and myself were losing our shit, it was internalized. The Emergency Medical Technicians forgot what the letter E stood for in their title. There was nothing urgent about their presence as Ozzy bled everywhere. They were direct, as we were having panic attacks, they were by the book, no more no less, they were nonchalant and procedural. They weren’t invested but we certainly were. It was a job for them. They might as well have been checking off items on a grocery list. They were going through the motions, step by step, as he stood there, his life force draining out of him. They asked Ozzy questions about himself. What was his full name? Ozzy Craven. They asked him his address, they asked him about the fight, they asked him how much he had to drink, they asked him if he had taken any drugs. They asked all things of that nature. Ozzy answered everything honestly. I was so scared for him but he showed not one iota of fear, he never did in all the years I knew him. I always wished I had that in me, but I didn’t. Martin and I were visibly upset whereas Ozzy was not, he was composed.
They walked Ozzy out of the bar and we followed suit. Everything was business. When we got to the ambulance they situated Ozzy, Martin stepped up into the ambulance and as I was about to do so I was stopped by the EMT. I wasn’t family so I couldn’t ride with him to the hospital, plus they didn’t want more than one extra passenger. As the back doors closed Ozzy looked at me and called me a fucking sellout, and I could see them administering things to Ozzy and hooking him up to wires. I watched and cried in the street as they drove off to the hospital. Ozzy was a tank, seemingly invincible. I cried because I was scared for him, and what might be on the horizon. I figured he was in for some surgery and a painful recovery. I didn’t want any of that for him. There was never a thought that he wouldn’t survive. He would be alright, I thought. Is anything ever really alright? Everything can change in a heartbeat or lack thereof.
That would be the last time I saw Ozzy alive, that would be my last memory of him, him grinning wide on the gurney. There was no real goodbye, no proper send off, but then again maybe in a weird way he pulled the ultimate Irish. Perfect endings don’t happen in real life, they’re messy and unpredictable. His last words to me were not profound, he didn’t tell me to stay gold, there was no grain of wisdom or insight, instead it was Ozzy being typically Ozzy and playfully giving me a hard time. Fucking sellout. I knew Ozzy was kidding, or at least half kidding but it stung.