Cross Genre

 

A bar with many bottles

Typical Friday night at The Roundabout, bar packed, mostly with guys hoping to get lucky, tables full, mostly with couples who already had. A few loners, some drifting about constantly casting for a nibble, others like me, content to sit and nurse their beer. I vaguely wonder how many of them are married but on the prowl, also like me.

I come here often, ever since I found out Jeffrey was cheating on me. He knows I come, assumes I’m cheating on him. Fine. Let him think what he wants. Actually, I’m hunting. Some day I’ll find the right one.

Joe and the Stringers play from the tight little corner set aside for the band near the back, a mix of blues, jazz, and something I can only characterize as “different.” Just in front of the bandstand another little square is set aside, supposedly the dance floor. Some couples actually dance.

I watch the crowd with feigned disinterest. A guy, maybe just out of college, brushes up against me, then gives me the grand apology, purely an accident, as if he didn’t mean to bump into my boob, all the while looking me up and down assessing my potential. I probe him more subtlety, assessing his. I’ll pass.

“Get lost,” I say, taking another swallow from my bottle. He moves on, still fishing.

Four couples are dancing now, trying to follow the music without much success. Joe is playing an actual danceable tune. They just can’t dance. One lone fellow is out there too. He dances like my dad at a wedding reception after having too much Champagne. I sort of feel for him. I stare too long and he looks up, catching me watching him. I quickly look down and swivel back around to face the bar.

I feel him coming toward me. At last, I think, I may have found the one.

He slides between me and the next barstool, violating any decent sense of personal space. I look at him coolly.

“Would you like to dance?” he asks, all puppy dog enthusiasm.

I shake my head, no, then brush the hair out of my face.

He wiggles his bottom up onto the barstool and signals to Mary for two more of the same, one for him, one for me. Mary pops the tops off two bottles and sets one before each of us. I glance down coyly and blush a bit.

“You come here often?” he asks.

“Yeah, pretty often,” I admit.

He’s taken aback. “I’m surprised I haven’t noticed you before. What’s your name?”

“Marie.”

“Kevin. Kevin Waller.” He extends his hand. I just look at it.

He slowly pulls it back and wraps it around his beer bottle. “So,” he keeps casting, “do you dance?”

I nod. “I’ve been known to.”

“Just not with me?”

I laugh and give him a soulful look of commiseration. “My feet hurt, and nothing personal, I’ve seen you dance.”

Now he blushes.

“You get an A for effort though.”

“Well, I try.”

We sit there in companionable silence for a bit before he goes on, unwilling to give up.

“So, Marie, what do you do for a living?” he asks.

“I’m a research assistant at the university.”

“What kind of research?” he asks with what seems like genuine interest.

I smile and shrug. “For all you know, I’m doing research right now.” His face lights up at my warm smile. In the back of the room Joe shifts from fast-paced to slow dance.

“I’m better at slow dancing,” Kevin tells me, extending a hand. I shrug, what the Hell, and take his hand. I spend the next five minutes trying to protect my feet.

When we get back to the bar I ask him to watch my drink while I use the lady’s room. He nods and watches me walk off. From the corner of my eye I see him slip a little white pill into my beer bottle. I smile to myself.

~

I have a little difficulty getting him up the steps to his apartment. After he drops his keys for the third time I snatch them off the floor and let us in. I don’t want to attract attention out here. I lead him in, close the door, and settle him on the couch. I don’t sit down, and keep on my white cotton gloves.

Switching the bottles was easy. I just waited until his was about at the same level as mine and then laughed at some goofball out on the dance floor. Of course Kevin had to look.

I’ve always had this strange power of suggestion. If I want to make someone leave me alone, I can usually get them to wander off. But to plant a complex suggestion, perhaps a suggestion a person would strongly object to, I need the subject to be compliant. Kevin was now putty in my hands.

I took a photo of Jeffery from my purse and held it in front of Kevin.

“Look at this picture, Kevin. He’s the manager at the QuickWay on Jefferson. You know where that is?”

He nodded, yes.

“This guy’s a real asshole, Kevin. We hate him. Don’t we?”

Nod.

“In three weeks, at 8:15pm, go into QuickWay and shoot the bastard in the head for me. Will you do that, sweetie?”

Another nod.

“Make sure he’s dead.”

I repeat the routine a half dozen times to ensure it takes, then lead him into his bed room, have him strip and crawl into bed, then plant a false memory of him coming home with some blond who looks nothing like me.

I let myself out.

After I caught him cheating Jeff asked me if I wanted a divorce.

Nope.

I want the insurance.

~

© 2014 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved. Photo © 2014 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved.

 

I’m sure it’s unwise to visit the doctor’s office in the height of flu season, but I couldn’t seem to shake this damned sinus infection. I didn’t want to go to the critical care unit so I asked my friend, Paul, for a recommendation. He referred me to his own doctor, Morris Grennel.

I called and the receptionist told me Dr. Grennel was accepting new patients, be sure to bring a photo ID and insurance card when I come, arrive twenty minutes early to fill out the new patient forms, and the doctor could see me in three weeks. I asked if I couldn’t get in any earlier, and she said they’d call if there was a cancellation. Did I still want to make an appointment?

No thanks.

I went to the critical care clinic instead. It was wall to wall people, most of which looked like they may have technically died a week or two ago. The wait would be four and a half hours.

I called Doctor Grennel back.

Thank God for cancellations – after just two days a slot opened up for me. None too soon, either. My head felt like it was ready to split open.

My misgivings on going anywhere near a medical facility during flu season became magnified on the parking lot. It was packed. I managed to squeeze in between two over-sized SUVs.

The waiting room was worse. Not quite the necropolis of Critical Care, but way too many sick people for comfort. A guy sitting in the far corner was holding a trash can expectantly. Even more worrisome was one particularly energetic kid with a runny nose who seems to have to touch everything. The last thing I needed was to have this crud move down into my lungs.

The receptionist assured me that the doctor was running on time. Evidently the bulk of the waiting patients were Doctor Smith’s, and she had been called away to the hospital. They were in for a long day.

They called my name not long after I finished filling out the paperwork. I was so happy to leave the waiting room behind.

As the nurse escorted me down the hall I noticed a bicycle leaning against the wall at the far end. I commented on it and, as she took my weight, the nurse told me Doctor Grennel rides his bike to work every day. Even in the winter time. I think he’s nuts, but then most cyclists are.

Then it was off to a tiny examining room for blood pressure, pulse, and the inevitable question, “And why are you here today?” I told her my head was about to explode. She smiled, told me the doctor would be with me shortly, and left the room.

I was stunned when the door opened and I recognized the doctor. I’d seen this guy almost every day on my way to work. He’s that idiot cyclist. I only hoped he didn’t recognize me.

Doctor Grennel greeted me warmly and asked me to have a seat on the examining table. He sat at a small kiosk and asked me medical background questions, interjecting small talk as he typed in my replies. I understood why Paul likes this guy, he has a terrific beside manner. Finally he asked me what my specific complaint was. I told him about my sinus infection.

My examination was nothing if not thorough. The good news was that my lungs were clear. The bad news was that I did indeed have a nasty sinus infection. Most likely viral – antibiotics probably wouldn’t do me any good.

“I’ve had this thing for over a week,” I pleaded. “Surely you can give me something?”

He looked thoughtful, then tossed out his hands in capitulation. “Do you have any known allergies to any antibiotics?” No. He turned to a cabinet and took out a vial of something.

As he prepped a syringe I broached my transgression.

“So, you ride your bike to work every day?”

“Yes.” He looked up at me with a little twinkle in his eye. “You might think about doing that yourself. You could stand to lose 40 pounds or so.”

I smiled, chagrined, but forged ahead. “You ride on Jefferson?”

He nodded and swabbed my arm.

I had to fess up. It had been bothering me for weeks. “Ah, listen doc… I… I ah, sort of ran you off the road a couple of weeks ago. At least I think it was you.”

He jabbed my arm and shot the hot liquid into me. His grin turned feral. “Yes, I know.” He applied a little round bandage, and patted the wound meaningfully.

“Let me know if that starts giving you any problems.” With that he turned and walked out the door.

 

A glass of beerI hadn’t seen these guys in years, not since high school graduation. We used to hang out together all the time, roaming the neighborhood, never really doing anything bad, nevertheless always on the lookout for cops. Jack nearly always had a nickle bag of pot on him – just enough to keep us paranoid. People called them the Three Musketeers: Jack, Pete, and Darren. I was always the odd man out, the musketeer wanna-be. On most occasions they let me hang with them. I felt like I was in then, and took the ribbing they gave me as part of the dues for being cool.

Now we sat around a table in the dimly lit McNeal’s Bar and Grill. The place was crowded, loud, and smokey – no place I had ever been and no place I would have ever picked. But then, they never asked me. Pete still smoked like a chimney so they chose someplace where he could indulge his habit.

Jack signaled the bar girl, sticking up four fingers to order another round. He still liked to play the central roll, mister big shot, though now I knew I made more than twice his annual income. Who says high school reunions are worthless? Fine by me, let him pay.

“So what ever happened to Brenda Small?” Darren asked as he worked the shells off a handful of peanuts. Jack flinched. Pete took a quick drink of his beer.

Brenda and I had been an item in my Junior year. Beautiful girl, lovely personality, sharp as hell. Never did put out for me, but that made me like her even more.

“She died,” I said.

Darren’s smile drooped into a slight frown.

“Oh man, sorry to hear that. I didn’t know…” He tossed the shelled peanuts into his mouth and started chewing. “How’d that happen?”

“Her husband killed her.”

“No shit.” He shook his head. “Too bad you two didn’t get married.”

Wasn’t it though.

Jack abruptly stood to go to the bathroom just as the new rounds arrived. Pete followed shortly. Darren and I sat in awkward silence until he distracted himself by scanning the bar for likely pickups. No matter he had a wife and three kids waiting for him at home.

It was no secret the Three Musketeers were the ones who spread the rumors about me during our last summer of school. One of Jack’s football team buddies, Mark Ritter, had taken a shine to Brenda. Since we were going steady he needed something to break her away. I found out later that Jack came up with the idea.

Rumors started circulating that I poisoned a dog and tortured cats. None of it was true, but people started repeating it. A lot of my classmates started looking at me differently. I told Brenda it wasn’t true but when she asked around well, there were three of my closest friends all saying some version of, “Uh huh.” She dropped me like a hot rock.

Brenda went on to marry Mark Ritter. Then last year, two days before their seventeenth anniversary Mark came home drunk and beat her for the last time.

Now, a night after our twentieth high school reunion the four of us spent the evening catching up on where we were in life as if nothing had happened. I sipped my beer and bided my time. When the three of them were good and gone I suggested they’d had enough and should head home to sleep it off.

“I think Jack can still drive,” I advised as I led the way to Jack’s car.

Timing was important. I had to get them into the car before the roofies rendered them completely unmanageable. Jack climbed into the driver’s seat and fumbled to get the keys into the ignition. I helped Pete into the front seat and then barely managed to get Darren into the back. Once safely tucked away I put on a pair of gloves and turned the key. Jack’s Taurus fired right up.

The unsigned suicide note I placed between Jack and Pete read, “We made a pact in high school to go out together. All for one, and one for all. It’s time. The drugs and booze should ease the way. We are sorry.”

I ran the garden hose I’d stolen from Jack’s yard last night from the exhaust into the back window, closed the door, and quietly walked away.
~

© 2012 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved.

Photo by HeadCRasher via Flickr Creative Commons – attribution, noncommercial, and share alike.

 

Tonight’s #FridayFlash is a guest post by my daughter, Emelie. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. ~jon

Helping Hand

He felt a hand grab the back of his coat and pull. His body jerked backwards. Spared from certain death, he quickly looked around in hopes of spotting his savior. A bright flash of color was all he caught. Was the individual with the orange scarf the one? He ran after the person as fast as he dared in the ice. In retrospect, he decided, it must have made it look like he was fleeing the scene.

He had barely had time to catch his breath when he was told to “Freeze.” He froze. A pair of policemen glared at him. How was this possible? He had not intended to commit a crime. He had only slipped. He frantically looked for the person who pulled him back, but the person with the orange scarf evaded his sight. If he could just find his rescuer there would be no problem.

“Are you aware that it is a crime to receive services without payment?” asked one of the policemen after he had been read his rights. “To take without giving something in return is theft.”

“Please, I don’t even know who to pay,” he protested. He thought back to the incident, trying to remember everything he could. He saw himself slipping on the ice, remembered the screech of breaks as the car skidded to a stop. It would have been too late, except for the stranger who reached out to pull him back onto the sidewalk. But no memory of the stranger’s face came to mind, just the color orange. He was no longer even sure whether the color had been on a scarf or gloves.

“Do you see yourself as entitled? Your life was spared by the hand of another, and you don’t even have the decency to acknowledge his kindness by pretending you don’t know who he is.”

“But it’s true. I never got a good look at him. I’m not even sure it was a him,” he pleaded. “Whoever it was left the scene before I could offer my thanks.”

“What a cheapskate,” said one cop to the other, “I have half a mind to push him back into the street to see if anyone would be willing to pull him back a second time, knowing that they’ll get nothing for their troubles.”

He felt the color leave his cheeks. He was about to protest again when the other officer interrupted.

“No need to threaten the man, Mike. We just need to figure out who he owes and get their statement.”

“But I’m telling you, whoever it was left. They saved my life and left without asking for anything in return.”

“Why on earth would someone do something like that?” asked Mike. His partner thought for a moment.

“Maybe he’s on the run himself, and didn’t want to hang around waiting for this guy to give him his due?”

“Only thing that makes sense, if this guy’s not making the whole thing up,” agreed Mike. He turned to the bewildered man. “You wouldn’t be lying, now would you?”

He swallowed hard before responding, “Of course not. If I knew who saved me I’d gladly pay. But all I remember is the color orange. Some orange clothing.” He fumbled with his wallet, producing a credit card to demonstrate that he would have been able and willing to pay had his rescuer stuck around.

“Please. Isn’t it possible that whoever it was just reacted out of instinct to spare me? No one likes seeing someone’s guts splashed across the pavement. Maybe they just didn’t know I needed to repay them and took off because they thought not seeing the gore was enough?” The officers considered this for a moment. To the man’s relief, they did not reject this explanation.

“Sadly you can’t prove that. How about this? We’ll take you down to the station to get your statement and keep an eye out for the rescue-and-run guy. We’ll contact the media to let them know you want to pay. If someone comes forward, we’ll question them about why they fled the scene. If we like their excuse or find that they dashed because they’re already on the run, we’ll let you off the hook.”

“Really?” He could hardly believe this. He started calculating how much this kindness would likely amount to.

“What d’ ya say, Mike, does that sound fair?”

“As long as he actually pays the guy, I don’t think there’ll be a problem. We’ll just have to deal with the one who pulled a rescue-and-run, in that case. Honestly, those guys are almost worse than the cheapskates, making it hard for us to tell when we have a thief and when they honestly couldn’t pay back a service.”

“I’m sure I’d recognize them if I saw them again,” said the relieved man. “I’ll make sure to help you get the right guy, too. The trouble he put me through.”

© 2012 by Emelie E. Strother, all rights reserved.

© 2012 Mad Utopia Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha