“And I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them ovr a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.”—Revelation 6:8
I used to know a gand of four that called themselves, a-hem, dramatic voice, THE 4 HORSEMEN OF THE APOCAYLPSE.
They were a travelling group of alcoholic, pill popping, train hopping hobos. Thieves, brawlers, and criminals who rode the rails and got arrested in cities coast to coast. I won’t say I ran with the crowd, but I lived with a couple of them for awhile and our paths crossed for years. The wild years, I call them.
The 4th Horseman was a rotating position that a few people filled. In that regard they were like a rock band that couldn’t retain a solid drummer in their line up. I don’t remember or know the different people that held the position of 4th Horseman.
The 3rd Horseman, Jess, found his way out. At some point he realized he could either change his ways or continue on a path of thievery, hard alcohol, morphine and other drugs, violence, and jail. One of the other Horsemen, Loose Bruce, almost cut his head off with a hunting knife one drunken night. He decided to go straightedge, become a Buddhist, and use his artistic talent (which was amazing) to become a talented tattoo artist. That is what I heard, at least. He decided to try to not talk to people from his past, for obvious reasons. Good on him.
This story is about the 2nd and 1st Horsemen, Rusty and Loose Bruce.
Rusty is dead. By suicide or by passing out in a very unfortunate location he was hit by a train and that was that. I had a different blog at that point and wrote an unflattering eulogy of him. “Well, it’s true,” I justified. It was wrong of me to do and I regret it. I don’t think it is a good practice to speak ill of the dead, even if it’s true, even if they are a total fuck up. We will all be there someday.
“Life is uncertain, but death is for sure.”—Traditional Saying
I’m not sure where Horseman number 1, Loose Bruce, is these days. Maybe he cleaned up his act. Maybe he’s in jail in any one of the 50 states. Maybe he’s walking shirtless, blood dripping down his face with a torch through a hobo jungle somewhere.
I have a LOT of crazy stories I could tell you about these guys. Stories of chaos and bloodshed and jail and empty bottles of Old Thompson. Big trouble from Utica to Milwaukee, Portland, Tennessee to Alaska.
But of all of those stories, for some reason I feel like telling this one. I didn’t see it firsthand, but heard the story straight from the Horsemen’s mouths.
Rusty and Loose Bruce had been drinking for days, probably weeks. They had a problem– they were out of booze, out of smokes. They had no money, of course. No one was bumming them anything, no booze, no smokes, not dime one. They were hanging out in people’s yards, wherever they wandered. They wanted to keep the party rolling, so in a sloppy, drunken lightning flash of Horseman thinking, they decided to do a beer dash robbery. They had done them before, everywhere they went, sea to shining sea.
So they headed to the Open Pantry. The plan: Rusty would take a carton of cigarettes, Bruce would grab two suitcases of beer and then they would run out the door. A “suitcase” is what we called an 18-pack of cans.
Staggering and covered with a layer of alcohol sweat and dirt, they entered the Open Pantry, trying to look casual. Bruce grabbed two suitcases out of the cooler. Rusty approached the counter.
“Uh, yeah,” he said. “I’d like to purchase a carton of Marlboros.” The cashier rang him up, eyeing him suspiciously.
“Well, I need to see ‘em before I buy ‘em.” Rusty said. “I got to make sure dem are the right ones, see.”
The woman held up the carton cautiously.
“GIVE ME DEM FUCKIN SMOKES, BITCH!” Rusty shouted, snatching the carton from the woman’s hand and bolting out the door. Bruce was chugging after him with the brews.
This is the part of the story where I like to imagine it in ultra slow motion, like in a movie. Guns N Roses’ version of “Knockin on Heaven’s Door” is playing. Bruce was running and turned to look over his shoulder, but he should have been watching where he was going. His foot hit the concrete bar at the end of a parking space and he tripped, falling forward. The suitcases went flying from his hands and he fell onto the ground.
In the air, the flimsy glue holding the cases together burst and a shower of silver cans rained down on the parking lot. Bruce shouted, “RRROOOOAAR!” He flailed and grabbed at the cans of beer. Rusty skidded to a halt and stumbled back. But it was too late.
The woman in the Open Pantry had pushed the panic button and the cops were just down the street and Rusty and Bruce were surronded by flashing red and blue lights.
And then they went to jail, again.