A short story about an unlucky guy and the end of his night at a crappy bar.
Brayden’s drink was getting low. All that remained was a viscous residue of ice, backwash and oak essence. He took it down in a single pull, shuddered and coughed.
He was drinking a lot more whiskey lately. Blended. After all, he was 30 years old. A mature adult with an adult job and adult problems. Light beer just wasn’t going to cut it. Brown liquor. That was the ticket. 1960’s business decanter classy. All he needed was a Carhartt jacket some Timberlands and a Silverado and he’d be set, just fucking set!
He fished through his wallet for a few rumpled ones. How many stripper tits have these bills been shoved between he wondered, placing them carefully beneath his empty tumbler. The fuzzy paper greedily soaked up the condensation.
Brayden pushed back his stool and came precariously close to tipping over backwards before locating his boots securely on the gritty wood floor.
“See ya later Sal!” He yelled back over his shoulder.
Sal, was a monstrously obese man with a neck beard and stained undershirt, who could generously be referred to as a gigantic piece of shit. Sal barely acknowledged the goodbye. He glanced at his other two patrons, cowboy looking motherfuckers with graying beards and huge knobbly hands. One of them shook his head slightly.The subtext was clear: “what a pussy.”
If Brayden had caught the meaning of that little exchange he would have gotten in the old dude’s face. He would have spread his arms out like some sweaty albatross as if to say “whaddya wanna do?” Then he would have yelled something like: “you wanna get live?!” with his mouth practically touching the diamond-hard stubble on that weathered face.
He would have gotten the living shit kicked out of him. Probably got stomped on by a pair of Timberlands with a thousand miles on the odometer. Might have even chipped a tooth. He would have told everyone at the plant that some guy sucker punched him, that he never had a chance to fight back. They’d act sympathetic but then later agree that he was probably acting like a cocksucker and got what he deserved.
Brayden slammed through the door into the crisp twilight. There was maybe another hour of sun at best. Thin, shitty, November sun, just barely peeking up over the tree line. Long, smoky shadows among the corn stumps.
The parking lot had about ten cars in it. Brayden found this somewhat mysterious considering there were only three people in the bar. There was a yellow Wrangler completely encrusted in mud, eight mid size pickup trucks with crew cabs and empty gun racks and Brayden’s 1992 Hyundai Elantra.
His friend Mike had once referred to the vehicle as a rolling vagina and that was just because of the way the upholstery smelled. It actually most closely resembled a Yugoslavian space probe. All round contours, pointless ridges and faggoty merged taillights.
It was high time to trade the old can in for a truck. It had been high time for five years at this point. The problem was that no dealership, even a Chevrolet dealership, was willing to sell, or even lease, any vehicle to an individual with such catastrophically poor credit.
Experion had called Brayden once wanting to know whether he was tanking his score on purpose. They refused to believe that anyone could be so reckless. Brayden had yelled something like “Eat shit!” and clapped his 2nd generation flip phone shut.
“They wouldn’t have the guts to say that to my face” he reasoned, grimly stroking the matched pair of nickel plated, pearl handled, Cobra edition, Colt 1911’s he’d bought for the low, low price of 6500$.
The repo man certainly had said something to his face. Brayden pretended he didn’t care enough to remember, but he did. The man had called him a “shitheel”, whatever the hell that was. He was short, burly and wearing jeans and flannel. He smelled like Barbasol, like a fucking geezer! He had a gun too, a pussy little Glock polymer pistol. But he’d taken Brayden’s .45’s...his stereo, his truck, his TV, his couch, his Korean ceramic-egg grill, his replica katanas, his faux tiger rug and his credit card. The joke was on him though. Brayden had fucked on that rug so many times (3 times) that it’d probably look like a glow stick under black light.
He flinched (despite his best efforts not to), and pivoted, fumbling to pull a cigarette from his pocket in what he imagined was a casual way.
It was Shauna. His most recent and longest term girlfriend. Well, ex girlfriend at the moment. It’d been 4 or 5 years since he’d fucked someone he wanted to. Canadian Club had a way of making anyone look good enough. Out here in the sticks, it seemed like every girl he met was either a bag of antlers or a sow. All those girls-next-door and steel magnolias and country girls must have up and moved to New York City.
But Shauna, Shauna had been a godsend. Pink streak in her black hair. Metallica T-shirt. Nipples standing out like a stack of dimes. Tight little landing strip of straight black hair. No hemorrhoids to speak of. And here she was again, leaning against the railing.
She was wearing light gray sweatpants and a puffy down jacket. Something like TASTY or JUICY was probably written across the ass, Brayden reflected. Shauna was still skinny, with mean little tits and a bony ass, but you could barely tell with all that bulky clothing.
She had a bunch of tattoos spread across her pale skin, like a chronology of poor decision making. Sometimes she had needle tracks too and that was when she was down for whatever. Ass sex, pile driver, ATM, passion propeller; when she was on crank it didn’t matter.
When they fucked, Brayden used to stare at this ideogram scrawled above her ass in a futile attempt to delay orgasm. He’d try to decipher it’s meaning be sheer force of will. Lotus blossom, egret on the wing, cum-dragon?
Now, when he was wanking, he would struggle to imagine her nude body. No matter how hard he tried his mind’s eye would keep focusing on those sharp oriental brushstrokes and he couldn’t come.
Since Brayden thought irony was something Asian ladies did with shirts he didn’t appreciate the meaning hidden in there.
Shauna was smoking an absurdly long cigarette, some kind of new lady brand perhaps. Brayden kept imagining a skinny penis pressed between her lips.
It was actually kind of disturbing how often these kinds of thoughts occurred to him. When he was drunk Brayden wondered whether he might have “homosexual tenacity” despite the digital labyrinth of pussy cramming his hard drive. He even tried watching gay porn once and found it remarkably similar except for the sharp increase in cocks.
“You’re lookin’ good babe” He said, simultaneously noticing the tremendous black eye and cut lip.
He winced, causing the Kool between his lips to tilt upward, like an erect pe… “There I go again” he thought.
She hit him with a withering glare and Brayden imagined himself as a clod of dirt being ablated by a blast from the garden hose; his muddy remains soaking into the bone dry gravel.
“You’re such a fucking idiot” she muttered, expelling a billowing cataract of smoke around her white teeth.
For whatever reason, Brayden found this immensely erotic and felt the characteristic stirring in the crotch of his Levi’s. He shifted his weight and covertly repositioned his erection so that is was pointing up towards his waistband. Shauna sighed in disgust at this somewhat less than discreet adjustment but Brayden didn’t notice.
“So uh, what happened with this whole thing?” He asked, making a vague circular gesture in the general direction of her face. He tried to smile in a pained, sympathetic way and his cigarette dropped to the gravel.
Shauna took a deep pull while he was rummaging around on the ground for the Kool. Her foot was impatiently twisting in the gravel. Brayden realized far too late how pathetic it looked to be searching for a 25 cent butt. Well, he was committed now, and anyways, he couldn’t afford to lose an unsmoked cigarette.
He finally located the errant Kool and stood up. Shauna was holding out a red plastic lighter, a thin flame dancing at the tip. He gratefully accepted the light, puffing reflexively. He leaned back and exhaled that first wonderful cloud. The acrid, sulfury smell of a freshly lit cigarette brought back memories of hunting, working on cars, and drinking Busch Light behind the middle school. He relaxed a bit.
“Tigger beat the shit out of me, had to walk here.” Shauna said, right elbow resting on left palm, cigarette perched between her fingers.
Tigger was one mean motherfucker, Brayden knew. Came back from Iraq a drunken, violent piece of shit. Joined the marines a drunken, violent piece of shit, come to think of it. Rumor had it Tigger had killed a bunch of civies over there. Rumor had it Tigger had an enormous dick. Maybe that was why Shauna shacked up with him.
Brayden wasn’t proud of it, but when he was masturbating to Shauna and having the whole tattoo problem he would sometimes imagine her getting railed by Tigger’s donkey dick...and it usually worked. Homosexual tenacity.
“Sorry about that.” Brayden said, practically whispering. He belched, but kept it silent, pushing a humid cloud of garlic-whiskey fumes out the sides of his mouth. He sidestepped the vapor as if that would keep Shauna from knowing it was him. She didn’t seem to notice.
Her glare had softened somewhat.
Brayden sensed an opportunity like a vulture sensed a bloated deer carcass. It was a sudden all or nothing realization that she might be up for fucking. He liked to think of this feeling as a kind of sixth sense, a unique skill passed down through generations of Milner men. He creatively referred to it as the “Pussy Detector”. Mike had come up with a better name in about 5 seconds (Snatch CatcherTM) but Brayden preferred the PD.
“It’ll be dark soon” He said “let me give you a ride home.”
“Unless you’re going to drive me across state to my moms I ain’t got a place to stay except Tigger’s” She ended the sentence with an upward, inflection. Even a man without the PD could tell she was indirectly asking to stay with him.
Brayden could practically hear the zipper of his jeans straining. He shifted his weight and jerked his head toward the parking lot causing a long tip of ash to drop down the front of his shirt.
He started walking, and heard the reassuring crunching of Shauna following. He stopped short of the Elantra to dig around for his keys, a massive ball of mostly useless totems to lost Masterlocks and apartments long evicted from.
By now, Shauna was standing on the other side of a bitching Silverado, Z71 edition, with the chrome package and the biggest set of truck balls Brayden had ever seen. Like stupefyingly vulgar and realistic truck balls, with wrinkles and even hair!
“You need me to drive?” Shauna yelled.
Through the cab, Brayden could only see the top of her head framed in the driver side window. She thought the truck was his! A wave of intense, boner shriveling humiliation swept over him. His pits started to sweat even harder than they already were, which was, biologically, probably a pretty amazing feat.
“Uh, no I’m good, my, uh, ride, is over here.”
It seemed like it took her a solid 30 seconds to walk around the truck, she glanced at the scrotum hanging from the tow ball and quickly turned away scrunching her eyes shut. When she saw the Elantra, she just gaped, gaped like she had stumbled upon a mass atrocity...and then she noticed the much less impressive truck balls swinging from a single rusty screw driven into the bumper .
Shauna’s expression soured and Brayden’s PD started to sound off alarm claxons, red police lights swirling around like in those old detective movies.
On a good day Brayden was politely referred to as “slow”. According to state testing he was “borderline retarded”. A rational observer, knowing nothing about Brayden would conclude that what he said next was clever, a good example of thinking on one’s feet. Anyone who knew Brayden intimately (Mike, Brayden’s mom) would be forced to admit that it was the smartest thing he’d ever said. A time traveller would inform you that it was in fact, the smartest thing he would ever say by a disturbingly wide margin.
“My truck’s in the shop” he blurted “this piece of shit's a loner.”
Shauna seemed to accept that explanation which was in and of itself amazing. When they were dating she had been skeptical of every word that came out of his mouth, even when she was so fucked up she couldn’t walk.
If Brayden could pat himself on the back he would have, but his rotator cuff got all torn to shit pulling a heavy box down off one of the shelves in the plant.
He unlocked the Elantra, which was objectively hilarious, considering the condition, age and styling of the vehicle. Like a desperate man with a million dollar insurance policy, this car was worth more stolen or wrecked rather than functional.
Brayden leaned in the door and beheld a mountain of chicken nugget boxes, energy drinks, beer cans and the fucking half dozen wrist bands from the titty bar out on main. He quickly swept the detritus over to the driver’s seat and onto the floor, careful not to let it clatter to the ground at his feet. A moment later Shauna dropped down onto the moist upholstery.
Even her meager weight was enough to significantly compress the shocks. They were so far beyond shot that driving over a pothole felt like a landing a Dukes of Hazzard style tractor jump.
Brayden got in and slammed the door...which ricocheted off frame and flew back open.
“Motherfucker!” he hissed, grabbing the handle. He slammed the door again and again and again and again before it finally latched with a weak plasticky click.
“Sorry about that” he said in a tone much more level than he felt.
“It smells like pussy in here” Shauna quickly blurted, to make him fully aware of how much this displeased her.
Even for a skank of Shauna’s caliber, Brayden found her diction jarring. He couldn’t think of anything to say in response. He jammed the key in the ignition, fiddled until it would turn and started the car.
The Elantra idled in a sinusoidal manner, increasing and decreasing its pitch, like someone was swinging a running lawn mower on a rope around their head. If Brayden had done anything in high school science class apart from trying to grope up Molly Hendrick's skirt he might have known this phenomenon as the doppler effect. As it was, he was smart enough to conclude:
“This car runs like shit.”
Shauna nodded wearily and lit another cigarette.
The car bottomed out as Brayden pulled onto the ridged gravel frontage road. Headlights were flying by on the interstate about half a mile distant. He started for home, a former trailer now rusted into place in a piney clearing about 6 miles up.
It took ten seconds to get up to 50, the Elantra whining like a jet turbine. Finally they stabilized and the driving became approximately as smooth as offroading in a shopping cart. Between jolts, Brayden glanced at Shauna to see if she was looking at him, but she was just staring out over the fields, pensive like. His head hit the ceiling and he bit his tongue.
Finally Brayden said: “So about this staying over…” he trailed off.
Shauna flicked her cigarette out the cracked window, turned her torso towards him and crossed her arms.
“It’s just for a while”
Brayden liked the sound of that. To him, a while meant more than a week. His erection returned with a vengeance. He jammed his hand into his front pocket to get a fresh Kool. A cigarette of celebration. His mind already spinning wild orgasmic fantasies of exotic positions, day long orgies and perhaps even dildoes.
“Before you get any ideas though” his penis drooped slightly “this is just as friends”.
The gear(s) in Brayden’s head were spinning furiously, figurative steam whistling out his ears. This was a critical crossroads.
“You know I’ve changed. I’ve got my shit together now. Got a job, got my anger under control, cut back my drinking...” he trailed off again.
Shauna wasn’t making her bullshit face, at least not yet. Brayden was encouraged to continue.
“Maybe we can work things out you know? We had something.”
Brayden actually meant what he was saying for the first time in a long time. If it was possible for such a sack of shit to be sincere, he was doing it now.
Shauna smiled a little bit, actually smiled. She leaned over and lit his cigarette.
Brayden rolled down the window and exhaled a narrow plume in its general direction. The cloud lingered briefly, before being sucked out of the car and into the night. He rested his right hand on the gear shift and leaned back into the musty seat. Shauna put her hand on his. She rubbed the back of his knuckles with her thumb.
Brayden looked over and met her gaze. “PD places chances of success at 97% plus or minus a 3% margin of error” he thought, realizing he had no fucking idea what a margin of error was.
He glanced back out the windshield in time to see a large flock of Canada geese waddling across the road. He slammed on the brake pedal and felt a firm crunch as a can got wedged beneath it. Brayden swerved through the flock. Shauna screamed. Blood and feathers and plump goose bodies buffeted the Elantra.
Without warning a large gander burst through the open window and crashed into Brayden’s chest. It thrashed and honked, biting at his face and neck and clawing at his belly with its clumsy webbed feet. It’s massive wings spasmodically flapped pummelling his chest and arms with surprisingly fierce blows. The cigarette flew from his lips. He tasted blood. Shauna was screaming bloody murder in between wing beats to the face.
He was aware that the car had veered into an empty cornfield. His foot still punched spastically at the brake. The car finally stalled and shuddered to a stop. Shauna burst out the door and tore off like an antelope.
The goose attack continued unabated; the beast was as relentless as a welter weight prize fighter. Brayden clumsily clawed the door handle and rolled out onto the dirt. The gander was caught underneath him, it’s snake like neck savagely striking at his eyes. He pushed himself up and started raining frantic haymakers down on the goose’s body and anywhere he thought it’s head might be. All he could hear was the blood rushing through his ears. The stoney earth bit into his knuckles.
Finally he became aware that the flapping had ceased and he cautiously wiped the blood out of his eyes with the back of his arm.
The ruin of the goose lay underneath him. An impressionist tangle of feathers, blood and protruding bone. Its neck ran up to his belly, tiny needle like teeth caught in his T-shirt. It’s dead eyes still radiated an intense hate.
Brayden pulled the head free with a tearing sound. A large piece of his shirt went with it. He screamed: “Cocksucker” in a voice trembling with adrenaline and kicked the carcass as hard as he could. The goose rolled a few feet and settled in the dust. He spat a thick gout of mucus and blood in its direction.
He was shaking, tearing up. It was the post fight let down. He felt exhausted, weak. His shirt hung in tatters about his neck, his left eye was swelling shut. His face felt hot. His belly was covered in burning gashes. Grey-green goose shit mingling with his sticky blood.
“Shauna!” he yelled, louder than intended, in a quavering teenager-like yelp.
She was standing on the other side of the car. Her back to him. Head in hands. Sobbing. Sure enough, “JUICY” was emblazoned across the ass of her sweatpants.
He started to laugh hysterically tears streaming from his eyes.
“Can you believe this shit! Jesus fucked up Christ!”
Shauna looked over her shoulder and he saw only intense sadness, desperation.
Brayden stood there, steaming in the chill autumn air, blood and shit and sweat.
Shauna started walking back the way they had come. Back to the road. Back to Tigger’s house.
Brayden shook his head in disbelief, wanted to shout something but couldn’t make his lips move.
She was just about back to the bar when he got the Elantra running.
He pulled out onto the road wobbling. The rear axle was broken.