Sunday, December 28, 2014

Grenade (a short story)

      Alison tilted her head back and held the dropper steadily above her left eye as she pumped the gas pedal repeatedly to keep the car she was sitting in from stalling. The revving motor created a gentle sway to which she timed perfectly with each squeeze of the hollow rubber handle. She seldom missed. After applying several drops to each eye, Alison screwed the dropper back into its glass port and returned it to her purse. Using the rear view mirror, she dabbed her eyes with a small swath of tissue. She noticed Shawn standing across the parking lot, on the sidewalk hugging the building, sheltered from the drizzling rain by an overhang that ran the entire length. His arms were outstretched, pumping up and down, and looked as though he were comparing the weight of two imaginary objects.  He was mouthing something in her direction. She cracked her window.
      "Leeeet's go, already!" "C'mon, let's gooooooo!"
He stopped yelling long enough to snatch a smoke from his inside pocket, light it and take a drag, before resuming his verbal commands. Alison watched his dumb ass for a moment longer before finally killing the car's ignition. The gas needle left the 1/4 mark and disappeared beneath the horizon. She checked her eyes one last time in the rear view, grabbed her purse, and made a b-line to where Shawn was standing.
      "Hey, fuck face," she said, "why you gotta be so rambunctious?"
      Shawn took a drag and exhaled slowly. "S'bout time! I been waiting in the rain here forever, fool."
Alison peered through the mostly empty parking lot. She looked back at Shawn and noticed a strange stretch across his face. It was like it was never there before, but she couldn't be too sure.
      "You're a goddamn liar, Shawn."
      "Whatever, come on, let's get a drink already."
They walked past several storefronts until they reached Jerico's Bar. Alison stopped to clean her boot bottoms on the rubber mat and reached for Shawn's shoulder for balance, but he opened the door and disappeared inside without hesitation.
      "Shit head!" she called out to him as she reached for the door frame instead.
Inside, Shawn was already seated at the bar and waiting for his first beer. Alison slid into the stool next to him.
      "You order one for me?" she asked. Shawn shook his head no. "Asshole," mumbled Alison as she motioned towards the bartender. "A whiskey, please. Neat."
      The whiskey appeared before her and was placed onto a napkin. It came equipped with a little green stir stick.
      "What the fuck do I need a stir stick for?" she asked aloud in no specific direction. The bartender had already moved away. Shawn looked over and shrugged.
      "Maybe to prop open your pussy later?"
      Alison sneered. "What does that even mean anyway? You make no sense, Shawn. None." She stirred her whiskey and took a hit. "Hey, how are my eyes?"
      "A BEER, sir! Can I get that beer already?!" Shawn yelled across the bar. Embarrassed, the bartender hurried over to the tap, poured a PBR and rushed to where they were sitting. He set the pint down on a coaster causing some to spill over and run down the glass. "My apologies, I completely forgot. I'm truly sorry," he said before wiping the spill with a cloth and walking away.
      Shawn took a long pull of the cold beer. Alison sat and watched. His adam's apple bounced and lurched with every gulp and his throat looked as though it were writhing in pain. He set the beer down half full and belched.
      "Um, nice. So, how are my eyes, pig?" Shawn looked at her.
      "What do you want me to say? For fuck's sake, I dunno... they look like... eyes," he said while flipping his hands out to the sides. "Besides, I'm hungry. We should order food too," he added and started looking for a menu.
      Alison griped a few choice words as she stood up and slid out behind the tall, wooden stool. She reached in and took another sip of whiskey, this time removing the mini straw and placing it along the edge of the napkin.
      "If you'll excuse me, I'm going to the bathroom. I'll check my own eyes, thank you very much." She started walking down the length of the bar, stopping when she noticed a stack of menus. She grabbed one and slid it down to Shawn. "Order me a fucking steak and prawn, would ya?"
      Shawn reached for the menu and nodded.

      Alison wasn't even a third of the way into her steak when Shawn finished the last bite of his meal. He wiped his mouth and surrounding beard and mustache clean, crumpled the napkin, tossed it onto his plate, and slid the whole thing forward. He nodded to the bartender. "Another PBR, please."
      "Wow, you really finished that food quickly. I have NEVER seen anyone eat that fast before."
      Shawn turned toward the voice. It was a pretty, blonde haired woman. She too, was eating. The man seated next to her was not, but was leaning in on his elbows while caressing a pint of beer between his hands. The neighboring blonde continued.
      "I bet you could do real good in one of them eating contests!" she giggled, pleased with her conjecture.
      Acting uninterested, Shawn acknowledged her with a "yeah, I guess so" while Alison rolled her eyes and continued eating her steak. She'd seen this whole bit with dozens of pretty girls before in dozens of other bars; each one hoping to end their evening by fucking Shawn's brains out. Alison waited for the next brilliant pick-up line by silently counting down with every chew of her meat. It arrived before she even had time to swallow.
      "So, where'd you learn to eat like that? I'm Courtney, by the way," the girl said while extending her tiny hand up and over her bright red purse. She wore rings on her fingers and bracelets that made clanging sounds against her wrist. Her hair was straight, medium length and hugged the sides of her smiling face. She had poofy bangs and her lipstick matched the redness of her purse. Her blouse was see-thru lace and a red skin tight shirt could be seen beneath. It was low cut, exposing her soft tits. Tight jeans and black boots completed her attire.
      Shawn took her hand in his and squeezed it lightly. Without thinking, he quickly answered her question.
      "In the Army. I was a Ranger. We learned to eat fast, kill faster, and fuck hard."
      Alison shot a him glaring glance and nudged him hard in the side. Shawn ignored both. She leaned in.
      "You are un-fucking-believable," she whispered, half smirking. "I can't believe I even know you."
      The blonde girl's interest in Shawn increased immediately as she turned more to engage him, completely abandoning her purse and plate of food, but before she could produce her next sentence the man seated next to her spoke out. He was still leaning forward on his elbows grasping his beer, but shifted and slid one arm in the blonde's direction as he spoke around her as though she didn't exist.
      "2nd Battalion right here, brother. Let me buy you a drink." The man raised his hand and snapped his fingers loudly, then pointed at Shawn. "Sir, I'm buying this man another one. Oh, and another for me if you don't mind, thank you." The bartender nodded and immediately served them a round. The man held up his own beer and motioned for Shawn to do the same.
      Shawn thanked the man, held up his beer and took a gulp in unison. He set his beer back down and turned nervously back to Alison.
      "You get no support from me, you dumb fuck," she said quietly. "Why on earth did you say that?"
      "I.. I.. I don't know. I just blurted it out without really thinking," Shawn replied even quieter.
      "Yeah, well, you better do some quick thinking... because he's coming over."
      The man walked over and stood with his beer in hand, partially wedged between Shawn and the pretty blonde (who was now visibly flustered by the sudden turn of events). Still ignoring her completely, the 2nd Battalion Army Ranger spoke again.
      "I'm back from deployment: Iraq and Afghanistan. State-side for the first time in over a year. Fuck, it feels good. What about you, brother? Where did you tour? Which battalion?"
      Shawn fumbled through his thoughts. His throat grew tight and his hands clammed up. He spun his beer anxiously in circles. He'd been in this situation countless times before, but always with women, never with a full grown, battle-hardened soldier asking questions he could not answer. His thoughts jumped from being slammed against a wall and punched repeatedly to the smell of the blonde girl's hair and the taste of her skin. He wondered what type of panties she wore, if any at all. He wondered if the sex was even worth the lie he told in order to try and get it. She was probably a bore in bed; a total snooze. One of those girls who cringe at the thought of sucking dick, but love to get eaten out. Karma certainly was a dirty bitch, and he definitely invited it in this time.
      Still punch drunk and swimming in an endless dream, Shawn slowly raised his head and met the man's eyes for the first time. They were deep brown, and his stare, intensely unwavering. He stood powerfully over him; a tight Affliction t-shirt contouring to a muscled body beneath. A 75th Ranger Regiment tattoo could be seen peeking out from underneath his sleeve. Below it were other tattoos- all portraying scenes of chaos and violence. Shawn almost managed a chuckle thinking about the dangerous frailty of his situation.
      "Fucking karma, I swear," Shawn mumbled incoherently as he drank more of his beer.
      "Didn't catch that," the man answered back.
      "He said, 'fucking car won't start'. That's all he's been talking about all night, and I swear, it's starting to rub me raw." Alison stood up and moved in, whiskey in hand. She wore a semi-short black skirt which revealed two gorgeous legs. She loved her legs and considered them to be her best feature, hence the wearing of skirts nearly every day. "I didn't catch your name?" she asked as she placed one of her legs against him.
      "Staff Sergeant Curtis Fletcher, ma'am."
      "Oh, come now, Curtis, you can drop all the military speak. It has taken me forever to train my... friend, Shawn here, of that. You Ranger boys are all the same," she teased playfully while placing her arm around his neck and shoulder. "Always so polite too, I might add. Complete gentlemen."
      Shawn could hardly believe what he was witnessing, but he dared not interrupt. He watched while Alison single-handedly, and almost certainly, saved his lily white ass. In a matter of minutes, Staff Sergeant Fletcher's interest in talking to a fellow Ranger had diminished and was replaced with buying whiskey and flirting with his new friend. They relocated to the far end of the bar and continued drinking and flirting. Shawn watched in disbelief as Alison continued the charade, even allowing herself to be felt up under her skirt. As the heavy petting progressed to a full on "anything goes" make out session, Shawn decided that it was time to leave. He paid his bill, got the pretty blonde's phone number and left Jerico's.

      He sat outside in his car smoking a cigarette and watched as the drizzling rain collected on his windshield and formed a dizzying, opaque shield between him and the outside world. His head still reared from all the alcohol and his mind was numb from disbelief. His cell phone beeped and vibrated several times in the empty seat next to him. He flicked his cigarette, rolled up the window and retrieved the phone. The first text was from mom asking where they were at and if they were coming home for dinner. The second text was from Jenny asking if he was with Alison. A third text from Jenny asking why Alison wasn't answering her phone followed by another text demanding her whereabouts and that he call or text her immediately. Shawn tossed the phone back into the seat and rubbed his face with his hands. He leaned his head back and wondered some of the same things his mother and Jenny were wondering. He knew only a little more than they did. He had texted Alison a few times over the past few hours, but no response. He was already way past the point of worry; he was downright scared now. His kid sister had jumped on a grenade for him, but why? Why would she do that? And what could he possibly tell his mom and sister's fiance about Alison's sudden lack in communication? This was bad... really bad. He cracked the window and fired up another smoke. His trembling hands made the simple task annoying.
      "Where are you, sis?" he said aloud. "Why on earth did you go with him?"
      The realization that he basically abandoned his sister and left her in the arms of a drunk, horny man, suddenly struck Shawn hard. He felt sick and tormented at the thought of what she might be experiencing. She had never even been with a man before. She came out of the closet in her teens and had been with girls ever since, never a boy. And now, because of his stupid endeavors, little Alison was who-knows-where doing who-knows-what with you-know-who. Yanking the door open quickly, Shawn leaned out and started throwing up. After finishing he closed his door and wiped his mouth with his jacket. He picked up his phone and tried calling Alison one more time, but was interrupted by an incoming text message. It was from an unknown number and all it said was, "Fucking karma, I swear."