BACK / NEXT
a collection of short stories
I was in love. I was 18. She was 17. She was a little fat girl, who kissed really wonderful, but better than that, she was the first girl who had run her hot little hands inside my shirt and into my pants. She was the first girl who had ever caressed my one-eyed-snake. I was in love at first touch. She told me she loved me. Perfect. We were in love. We were serious in high school and our future was right in front of us. We were going to get married. I was going to get a job in the local lumber mill. We were going to buy a Corvair and then we were going to start having little children. Maybe two, maybe three. Yes, real true love… Life was going to be perfect. I should have known better, but what all do you know when you are eighteen and the one-eyed-snake is in charge? Nothing. Zero. Mountainous of bullshit, that is what you know. She suddenly got very interested in strange beliefs. She asked me if I really believed in God. I said maybe I did and maybe I didn’t. That wasn’t the right answer. Then she found other things that I couldn’t give the right answer to. Funny because for nearly a year I had all the answers and then I didn’t. Then one day she told me an old friend was coming to town and she was going to go out with him -- just because she wanted to know how he was doing, being that he was in the Marines.
“You understand don’t you?” She asked.
“Uh, yeah, I said.
I guess that was finally a right answer because it seemed to make her happy. Somehow it made me feel very unhappy and very weird. In fact what it made me feel was strange. A peculiar sensation came over me that I had never had before. The sensation grew until it was a monster. The monster was called jealousy, but being I had never encountered it before I didn’t know what it was, so I just regarded the sensation as some sort of insecurity. She would not lie to me, would she? I mean she loved me. She said she loved me. I loved her. In a perfect world we had that was all that really mattered. But somehow, some way, my perfect world didn’t seem perfect anymore.
The night she was supposed to meet the Marine, I was completely miserable. I picked up an old buddy and we drove around town. We did what was called Dragging the Gut. My buddy and me used to do that before I had a serious girlfriend. We would drive to the Molly’s Drive inn, which was on the north side of town, take a circle around it, check out who was in the cars or who we could see through the big plate glass windows. If there were any of our friends we would stop and go through the ritual of what’s going on and then head for the south side of the town where we would circle Shakey’s Pizza Parlor and go through the same process with friends there. That’s what we did in my small town in eastern Oregon. By the end of the night we had usually driven over a 100 miles. It was five miles between the two hangouts. So on this particular night, I am not really interested in seeing any of my old friends. What I am really doing is checking out all the possibilities of where my true-love could be and having a snoop on her. But I don’t see her anywhere. All right? All night I don’t see her anywhere. Strange? If she is just talking to the guy why isn’t she in one of our favorite places, like Molly’s or Shakey’s? She’s not even at the Superior Cafe downtown. Nowhere in hell is she... Just at that point a horrible suspicion came over me. Her parents were gone. I had to find out. My buddy and I had been talking about her all night.
“Why don’t you just drive over to her house and see?” My friend insisted
I said that I had more trust in her than that. By 1 AM my trust ran out. I drove my old 51 Chevy along the backstreets and to Maple Street that came into the street my girl lived on—about a half a block away. I didn’t want to pass in front of her house just in case she should see me—then she would know I didn’t trust her. When I got to the corner I could see her house clearly and into the driveway and the garage behind. At the very back of the driveway was a strange car. I could make out from the color of the license plate it was from out-of-state. My heart jumped into my throat and the feeling of icy hands ran down my spine. I could swear I heard the sound of ripping clothes—like sails being blown apart by high wind—I stopped the Chevy and backed up 30 feet from the intersection of street. I could see the side of her house and the strange car.
“What are you going to do?” my buddy asked
“Wait,” I said.
So we both set their smoking Marlboro cigarettes in steaming silence. An hour went by. It seemed like a year. No lights in the house. No one came to the car. No movement anywhere. The streets had grown empty and Sunday morning was dead quiet.
“Let’s go home,” my buddy said.
“No,” I said. “We’ll wait another 30 minutes then I’ll go and see if anyone is at the house.”
“What do you mean,” he said.
“I’ll go fucking knock on the door,” I yell.
“Oh man,” my buddy said.
The Marlboro cigarettes began to taste like shit and my throat felt like it was on fire. The minutes dragged by as I continued to smoke and cough. My buddy set there pissed off because he had to witness me driving myself crazy.
“Come on man, it’s been 35 minutes—either go and see or let’s go home. I’m fucking tired man.” My buddy complained.
I was aware that the time limit was over but I couldn’t bring myself to facing what I might find. I set their feeling terrified.
“Come on,” man my buddy insisted.
“Oh fuck you,” I screamed. I jumped out of the car and trotted to the front door of her house. As I came to the porch I slowed to a very slow walk dropping my feet like I was deer hunting in the forest. When I came to the front door I actually heard the sound of a moaning female voice accompanied by something that sounded like a grunting pig. My stomach turned to a burnt hole. I hesitated. My finger hovered at the door bell. I could still hear a high moaning and an oinking grunt. Her voice became more and more rapid like tapping a tight drum—the sound of a uh uh uh uh uh growing louder and louder in my ears. Suddenly the pig began to make a loud bellowing squeal. Then I heard his voice say, “ oh God, Oh God, Oh god…” Somehow I knew they were not in there praying. Something in my mind went very white, like the spark from a welding torch. My finger came down onto the door bell. I heard her voice shriek and then there was a very low mumbling. After 30 seconds I heard the squeaking of floor boards as she came to the door.
“Who is it? “she asked.
“Me, Kenny,” I yell.
She opened the door. Her blouse was buttoned crooked. Her hair looked like it was brushed with an eggbeater.
“Kenny, I…,” she began.
“Thanks. Thanks a lot,” I said. I turned away before she could see the tears in my eyes. I walk back towards the Chevy like I had just got off a roller coaster. The streets seem to wobble under my feet. When I got to the Chevy door, I don’t know what snapped, but it did and I hauled off with my right hand and smashed my fist into the door window. Lucky for me it was safety class. The window cracked into 50 sections radiating out from the impact of my fist.
“What the fuck are you doing?” my buddy screamed at me as I got into the driver’s seat, started the car and peeled out turning the corner. I wound the old six cylinder engine up so many RPM’s that it nearly exploded before I jammed it into second gear. Then third gear. I drove the old car 80 miles an hour through town and back to my buddy’s house. I screeched to a stop at his driveway and yell, ”get out.” My buddy was completely white.
“Kenny, come on man, stop this shit. You’re going to kill yourself,” he began to plead.
“Get the fuck out of my life.” I turned to smash him in the face, but he jumped out and slammed the door before I could deliver the punch. I was yelling something, and he was yelling something at me as I peeled out nearly blowing the engine again. I was going back to her house. I was going to do something. I didn’t know what, but it was something horrible.
As I approached her house, I saw the strange car back out of the driveway. I decided to ram the car, but before I could get to him, the car was going too fast to catch. I could see that she was sitting in the passenger seat. I follow the car as best I could as he went through the middle of downtown. I was just getting up on the rear end of the car when I decided I would kill them both. I drove my old Chevy alongside of them and was just about to crash into the car and force it into a shop window. Suddenly he slammed on the brakes and I shot past. My eyes flicked down at the speedometer and I saw the needle was beyond 85. I jammed on my brakes and looked into the rear view mirror. I saw his car turn onto the street that ran to the east of town. By the time I got turned around and onto their trail again the taillights of his car were way in front of me and getting smaller. He had a bigger engine than my old rattletrap and he was scared shitless and was breaking more traffic laws than me. I could barely see the red lights when the car turned onto another street heading north. It was the street of my girlfriend’s best friend, and I knew where she lived. By the time I got to the house I saw my girl running to the front of the house of her friend and the guy in the car was burning rubber as he sped away. I roared up to his rear end as he slowly pulled away.
There was no way I could keep up with the other car until I saw that he was headed back into town on the Burns Highway. I knew a shortcut that knocked off several blocks so I cut onto it and just as I came to the Burns Highway the guy was coming to my trap. As he crossed the intersection ignoring the red light I swung into his side and was planning on battering him into a concrete underpass he was rapidly approaching. Suddenly he veered off into the lot of a used car agency. Without thinking I wheeled my car in behind him, nearly rolling the old Chevy as I slammed into the small curb and bounced into the parking space right behind this fucker. He had driven into a dead-end as they were cars blocking all of the exits except for the way he had come in. He screeched to a stop nearly slamming into one of the used cars. I stomp on the brakes and slide right in behind him. We jumped out of our cars at the same time. He had on a dress-green Marine suit and jumped to face me as I ran up to him. He had a beer bottle in his hand holding it by the neck. He crashed it into the edge of his open door and left a jagged broken neck in his hand. I stopped in my tracks and looked at it for a couple of seconds. Then I said, “okay so you’ve got a fucking weapon man – well fuck you—I’m going to kill you anyway.” I was totally insane and I knew even if he cut my eyes out I would smash his head to pulp into the asphalt. I looked into his eyes and all I could see or feel was hatred and bloodlust. He was going to die even if I was going to die. I didn’t care and nothing would stop me. Apparently what was in mind was communicated to the young Marine I was facing.
As I took a step toward him to bring about our mutual destiny, he said, “Wait, this isn’t a good place to fight…”
“Of all the things he could have said, he somehow managed to say the right combination of words to slip past the confusion of my insane mind.
“Oh yeah, it’s not a good place to fight…,” I said. I was blocked in my own steps. “…yeah, this is not a good place to fight.”
He said, “I know a better place to fight.”
“Oh yeah, let’s fight there,” I said. I was in a trance, a place to fight, a place to fight, ran through my mind like a Buddhist mantra. “OK—where is it?”
“Just follow me and we’ll go there,” he said.
So we both got into our cars. I had to back up first so he could get out. It didn’t occur to me that he could run away again, but he backed up and then he drove very slowly down the street as I followed. All I could think of was that he was going to die very soon. There was nothing else in my mind. When we came to the center of town there was an all-night gas station and he swung into it and stopped. I leapt out of my car and before he could move I reached through his window and had him by his neck.
“Wait, wait,” The guy screamed as I started dragging him out the window.
“Wait for what, you motherfucker?” I screamed back
“I need gas to get where we’re going to fight,” he croaked.
Once again he had the words in exactly the right order. My mind flashed a signal that it was a perfectly reasonable thing to wait for, so I dropped my hands from his throat and got back in my car with smoke coming out of my ears. I watched the service station attendant pump two bucks worth of gas into the guy’s car. The guy handed the dollar bills out the window and started his engine and then screeched out of the gas station. The bastard was trying to escape again. I laid rubber as I wheeled out of the station never taking my foot off the floorboard. I speed-shifted through the gears and was right on his ass within three blocks.
All at once the son-of-a-bitch slammed on his brakes while turning sharp to the left and on begun to broad-slide. He came to a stop right in front of the police station. I jammed on my brakes and was out of the car even before the smoke of burning rubber had lifted from the street. This time I was prepared and I had picked up at 12 inch crescent wrench that was always under my seat. I ran to the guy then caught him by the arm. He jerked loose and turned to face me
“Look man, I didn’t even know that she had a boyfriend—man I just came home on leave from the Marines—and I didn’t mean to cause any problems man. I’m sorry—I didn’t know…”
I looked at him with hatred and even though I heard his words and somehow understood, I was about to kill the wrong person, I couldn’t stop myself. He was going to die. Someone had to die. I didn’t care who died, including me. I just started to move toward him when there was a loud boom of thunder and a cloudburst crashed down like I had never seen before. I stopped as if I had come out of a nightmare. I looked down at my hand at the crescent wrench. I ran my eyes down my body to my feet seeing enormous pellets of water exploding on the pavement. My eyes drifted to his feet. I slowly raised my eyes until I was looking directly in his eyes. I couldn’t say a thing. I just started crying, feeling the tears mixed with the rain run down my cheeks. The guy just stood to there looking back at me. Then the police station door opened and two crops walked out looking at us suspiciously. “Is everything okay here?” One of them asked.
I didn’t know what the cop meant. The guy, not taking his eyes from my eyes said, “Yeah sure, everything is okay.”
Then I could feel the clear cold wind and the rain on my face as I stood in front of the Marine. The rain, it washed away the madness, but not the pain—the awful pain, I thought would never stop. I could still hear the Marine’s voice, “Look, man, I’m sorry. I didn’t know she had a boyfriend. I mean I wouldn’t have screwed her if I knew that ... “