The couple sitting next to me at the bar isn’t really a couple. She is married, he is not. Now you can say he just isn’t wearing his ring, but if you eavesdrop just enough you will hear hints that they are still getting to know each other. Well then, maybe they are engaged and they really are still getting to know each other. Or still newlyweds. No, they are not married to each other; you’re just going to have to trust me on this.
I call them a couple because whether fucking or not they are into each other. You don’t have to be an expert to know this. Anyone can see the body language, the way she leans into him, the brief, but repeated touching of the hands. She is practically sharing a stool with him. Ah, young love.
The waitress walks up to me. “How you doing, doll?” she asks. She smells of vanilla and has a slight southern accent. She is dressed in a skirt despite the forty degree weather outside. A black skirt made of cotton, not so short as to be slutty, but enough to keep your eye as she walks the bar. Nice legs, too. Shaped perfectly, not anorexically thin. A loose fitting v-neck sweater begs you to wonder what you might see when she leanes over.
“I’ll take another,” I say as I glance at the glass, about an inch of golden wheat and barley still present. She smiles and leans over to grab another clean pint glass; yeah, don’t worry, I’m looking. She pours another and sets it in front of me. She pauses for a moment, daring me to chug what’s left of my first beer. Not that it would be hard to do.
I smile politely, but my hand rests firmly on the bar. She smiles back.
“Let me know if you need anything else, hun.”
“Will do,” I reply with a slight nod.
I watch her walk away. She certainly has the swagger.
I look back to the couple sitting next to me. I wonder how long they have known each other. I guess they probably work together. I imagine they locked eyes the instant she walked in for her interview and he practically tripped over his own tongue as she asked where the manager was. A bookstore I am thinking. She has the liberal librarian look with the black framed glasses, a throwback to the sixties. Her dark hair is cut in a bob with bangs. Not my type really, but I can’t ignore the high cheekbones and the pouty lips. Definitely a looker.
He is young, probably younger than her by four or five years, sporting a version of the ‘Bieber’ cut that Bieber himself no longer even wears. Dressed casually in jeans and a t-shirt, a bit of stubble on his chin. He is lean and reminds me of a shorter version of Shaggy.
He is drinking beer, I am guessing something common like Bud Light. She is drinking what looks to be a Cape Cod. Both seem to be downing them pretty quickly. I wonder if they’ve ever kissed.
I look across the bar and see Leslie Nielsen’s double grabbing a stool. I have seen him here once before and couldn’t help but to stare, wondering how many others had made the same comparison I had. I was sure I was not the only one.
The couple catches my attention out of the corner of my eye. The girl is sipping the last of her drink as she motions for the waitress.
“Can you close me out?” I hear her say over the din of voices floating across the bar.
“Sure, hun. All together?”
I wonder how she explains the larger tab to her husband. Or does she have her own money? Her own account? That’s how my mom managed it for so long.
The waitress disappears and the two begin to chat again. I can’t really hear them anymore. The bar is starting to fill up and they are leaning closer into each other as the voices around us begin to rise.
A young woman in her late twenties walks into the bar and sits next to Leslie. She doesn’t look at him, even as his eyes dance across her body. She orders and the bartender pops open a beer, something from a microbrewery. From the shape of the bottle I’d guess a Saint Arnold. She pays with cash and takes notice of Leslie as if he suddenly appeared. She doesn’t seem at all bothered by his gaze and smiles brightly at him as they begin to talk.
The bartender makes her way back to the couple with check in hand. The girl whips a card out of nowhere and sets it on the bar.
I wave the bartender over and whip out a pack of smokes. She nods with a wink that doesn’t really suit the situation as I stand from the bar. As I do she places a coaster over my beer and grabs the card from the girl in one swift motion.
I step outside and light up as I watch the waitress making the rounds. Her half sleeve is hidden by a leather jacket. She is usually in a pair of tight fitting shorts, but today it’s tight fitting jeans. Her blonde hair whips around her eyes as the wind picks up. She looks in my direction and smiles. She remembers me, that is obvious; but I am not one to make conversation. I smile back before dropping my eyes and turning to my left as I let the smoke drift from my lips.
The couple that was sitting next to me steps outside. Their hands brush up against one another and neither makes an attempt to pull away. Might as well be walking hand in hand as he walks her to her car.
I watch as they step up to a blue Mazda 3. They don’t kiss, but the hug is a long one. No doubt they want to kiss. Give it a week and they will. Kind of thing that got my mom killed.
I drop my cigarette to the ground and grind it under my toe. I’ve seen enough. Time to finish my beer.
Fate. Do you believe in it? I do. It is fate that brings me and that girl together. Thought she was leaving didn’t you? Kind of thought the same thing. But she doesn’t. She walks back inside and sits at the same stool she had been sitting at earlier. She isn’t smiling anymore. She looks upset about something. I wonder if it is simply the idea of going home. Back to her husband, her life, her reality.
She calls the bartender over and orders a beer. On to the cheap stuff. Nothing mixed, just straight alcohol to dull the pain.
My mom, she was a beer woman herself. She could keep up with the best of them. Drank my dad under the table on more than one occasion. I think he originally liked that about her, thought she was one of the guys, but with tits. Every man’s dream girl, watching football Sunday afternoon with a beer in one hand, a cigarette in the other, and a plate filled with homemade pizza. It was the one thing she did do that you might say was traditional wife type stuff. Oh, yeah she could cook. Anything and everything. My dad liked to challenge her and see what she could come up with. Often he would grab three things randomly out of the pantry and ask her to come up with something. She never failed to come up with something.
Problem was the beer was rarely put down. At least at the house. My guess is she put it down plenty of times while getting fucked in the back of some random dude’s car. Then again, who could really say.
My dad had to have known. Really just about everyone knew what kind of woman she was.
I was too young to really get it at first. I just knew they didn’t talk to one another much. For all I knew that’s what parents were like. Dad paid attention to me and mom paid attention to the booze. She cooked and drank and passed out while dad and I worked on homework. But what did it really matter as long as they weren’t yelling at each other?
Looking back I wish they did fight. I wish my dad had spoken up for himself. More importantly I wish he’d spoken up for me.
And my mom? Maybe she could have gotten some help, gotten off the booze and taken better care of herself. Maybe she would have stopped whoring around; and maybe she’d still be alive today.
The girl stares into her beer. She twists her napkin between her fingers. She stares at her phone and giggles. She types something on the screen with a smile spread across her face. Is he already texting her so soon after leaving? Or is she flirting with someone else?
True, that is an assumption. It could be just a girlfriend of hers. This time you could be right.
I take a few big sips from my beer and order another. Those legs on the bartender just get better and better looking. I suppose it’s the beer talking so I should make this one my last. .
As the bartender (Rachel I think I heard her tell someone) places the beer in front of me I ask to close out.
The girl next to me is still texting, still smiling. She looks quite radiant in fact. But lust is not what drives me. It’s not what I am here for.
I step into the bathroom to take a leak. That local brew seems to be hitting me a bit harder than my usual Bud Light. I think maybe I should have stopped one sooner, but will just have to shake it off. I can’t really afford to lose focus. Not tonight.
I walk out of the bar, tab paid, flashing a smile Rachel’s way as I slip outside. I light one up and walk to the car. I slip inside the driver seat, close the door, roll down the window. Taking a drag, waiting.
My mom was the first person to hand me a beer. Weird, huh? Usually it’s your dad or your grandfather, but not for me. I am not sure if it was because I was being too loud or if she simply had better things to do. All I remember was the shock to my taste buds. I’m pretty sure I wanted to spit it out, but I knew that would have meant a slap to the face. At four the pain still put the fear into me; I wasn’t quite tough enough yet to handle her.
I drank that first beer and emptied the can. And I paid for it the next day. Swore it off for the rest of my life, as I am sure most kids who get that first taste do. It wasn’t until I was eighteen that I tried it again. I drank it slow, letting it get warm. I kept doing that until I got used to the taste, not only of beer, but of warm beer. Not something you adjust to easily. But I’ve had another hangover and rarely get even so much as buzz. I’ve learned just how much I can drink before it starts to kick in. Usually. Tonight was certainly one of the exceptions.
She doesn’t see me. They never do. I wrap my hand around her mouth before she has time to speak and shove her into the car and across the seat. Gun is pointed at her and I make sure she sees it resting across my gut.
“Don’t scream. Don’t speak. Do what I say and you won’t get hurt.” This is a lie, but she doesn’t need to know that. Not yet. “Nod if you understand.”
She nods as her eyes scans the parking lot. I am sure she is hoping someone saw something, is running our way for a rescue. The only person I see is a guy walking towards his car, hands tucked into his pockets, head down. Did he see something? Probably. Is he going to help? Not a chance. No one ever wants to get involved. They just pretend they didn’t see what they thought they saw. Pretend it didn’t happen and it goes away.
I start the car, put it in gear. It’s not easy driving with one hand, but it has become second nature. I turn on Rosewell, then hit the highway at seventy miles an hour and before long we are out of town.
My eyes focused on the road I cannot see the fear in her eyes. But I can smell it on her.
I was twelve the first time I saw her with another man. Walked in on them when I got home from school early one afternoon. We’d had a scheduled early dismissal, but no reason to have expected her to remember. My mom was bent over the arm of the couch; he was behind her. I’d seen enough stolen issues of Penthouse to know what they were doing and all I wanted to do was get out of there, but I was frozen, my legs numb, my brain going in ten different directions. My mom looked up to see me and our eyes met for just a moment. I felt sick to my stomach and finally got my legs in motion. I ran out through the back down and didn’t stop running until my side was split with pain.
Hard as I tried I could never get that image out of my head. I woke up in cold sweats, dreaming of my mom in ways I couldn’t fully comprehend. I was angry and hurt, but mostly just confused. I couldn’t wrap my head around why she couldn’t just be a regular mom to me. Most of the time I couldn’t look at her and we hardly spoke.
My dad noticed, but didn’t want to rock the boat with mom. Instead he got on my case about being ungrateful and not showing appreciation for what she did. What she did? What the fuck did she do? How blind was this man?
Things got really tense and my relationship with my dad was never the same. Only got worse a year later when I walked in on her again. You’d have thought she would have learned her lesson, but apparently not. This time she had her legs spread open as she sat on the kitchen counter and the flavor of the week went to town with his tongue.
This time I flat out wouldn’t sit in the same room with her. I’d head straight to my bedroom when I got home and wouldn’t come out again until the next morning. At first my dad would try to get me to come to the table for dinner, but would only ask once or twice and let it go. Eventually he was pounding on the door every night and cussing me out. “Get your ass to the table now,” he would yell. I would just put on the headphones and crank it up so I couldn’t hear him.
Finally he took the lock off of the door and grabbed my by the back of the neck. We’d sit there trying to pretend to be the Cleaver family. The only one really fooling himself was dad.
The whore got worse. Maybe she didn’t care anymore if I knew, so long as I never said anything to dad. It became a weekly thing and they guys she slept with were at the house later and later. I kept my mouth shut, my eyes closed tight, and learned to slip into the house without looking in her direction. As far as she was concerned I guess it was the perfect arrangement.
I was fifteen when dad busted her. He’d been let go from his job and had been home for hours when I had walked through the door. He was sitting in his chair drinking a beer staring at the floor. She was gone.
He didn’t look up, didn’t say a word. Just kept staring at the floor, mouth hanging open like a fly trap, eyes swollen and red.
“You okay?” I asked. Seems like a stupid question now, but it was the first thing that came to mind.
My dad didn’t answer. Just kept staring.
“Seriously, dad, you’re scaring me.”
“Did you know?” he mumbled.
I didn’t understand him at first; only realized later what he’d said. “I’m sorry?”
He turned his head towards me, meeting my eyes for the first time. Like a scene in a movie, the light cast a shadow across his face in such a way it sent a shiver up my spine.
“Did you know my wife–you’re mother–was fucking someone behind my back?”
My eyes quickly dropped to the same spot in the floor my dad had been staring at earlier. My heart was pounding and felt like it might just rip through my chest at any moment. I opened my mouth to say something and it was suddenly as dry as a bone. Nothing came out. Not a sound.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.” He said coldly. He went back to staring at that spot in the floor. I just stood there for a moment, waiting for him to yell at me. I needed him to. He never did. But I knew he blamed me. That’s just the way it was.
I escort her into my hotel room. Through the backdoor and up the stairs so no one sees us. I shut the door behind us and motion her to the bed. She sits down and I flip on the television. Don’t want it too loud; can’t afford to have complaints. But it needs to mask any sounds she makes. Gagged or not they always make a sound.
My mom looked up at me with pleading eyes. She mumbled something through the tape as I took the knife from my pocket. She mumbled more and pulled at the tape binding her hands to the chair.
No one would have heard her even if I took that gag off. We were well off the main streets, deep in the country, the chair planted there two weeks ago, the same day I saw her in the hotel an hour out off two-ninety.
My dad blamed me. I blamed mom. Had a feeling she blamed someone else. All that mattered was no one talked anymore. Until that afternoon, knife in hand, my mom trying to say the first words she’d said to me in two years.
I tied the woman to the bed, taped up her mouth. had plenty of it in my bag; my killing bag as I liked to call it to no one but myself. She didn’t put up much of a fight, which is not as uncommon as you might think. Guess some people really think if they don’t fight it they will live to see another day. Trust me, no one is letting you live unless you’re lucky enough to be their first. And even then it’s a fifty-fifty chance.
I disappear into the bathroom and grab some towels. Best way to avoid too big of a mess was to be ready for it, get to it before it has time to set. White towels will never get clean with as much blood as they end up soaking up, but that is why they always leave with me.
I plac a few of those towels around her as she looks up at me with pleading eyes. Those same pleading eyes my mother had.
She squirmed as I got closer to her with that knife still pressed firmly in my right hand. “Remember when I was young? When dad and I would do stuff together all the time?” She just looked up at me, tears streaming down her cheeks. “I remember when we used to toss the baseball around the back yard. Or the football. Whatever the season was.
“I swear he knew all along. Maybe he did and just didn’t want to admit to it. Looking back I can’t see how it wasn’t obvious to anyone. Even at my age I should have seen it.
“Don’t know why he cared either. Don’t know why anyone would care about a train wreck like you. But he did. He does. And for some fucked up reason he blames me.”
She was full on crying and gasped as I leaned over and looked her dead in the eye.
“You’re the biggest piece of shit I have ever known. I could never love you.”
He was probably at home now wondering where his wife was. Wondering why she hadn’t walked in the door. Maybe pacing the house, looking at the clock every thirty seconds or so. He’d already called her a couple of times before I tossed the phone. Probably called a few more times since then.
By now he was picking up the phone to call the cops, then putting it back before even dialing. Wondering if it was too soon to call; not truly wanting to admit his wife might not be coming home. Not tonight; not ever. Surely she was fine; surely she’d call back soon. Too soon to panic.
That wasn’t his only thought. He probably knew who she was meeting at the bar. Should he be worried or pissed off? Should he call the cops or wait for her to walk through the door smelling of sex?
One thing he’d never do is appreciate what I was doing for him. It was a thankless job I was doing. Well, I suppose it always had to be since I could never tell anyone what I was doing. I could never show my face.
I pull the knife from my pocket. I always keep it close. I could hear her gasp as I flipped it open. Those tears streaming down her cheeks as I turn to her.
My hands shook. I don’t know if it was fear or adrenaline; it was probably both. My mother continued to twist in the chair, moaning beneath the tape. Pleading. If I’d loved her maybe I would have stopped then. Maybe I would have felt her pain and let her go. But the only thing I felt anymore was pure hate.
I stabbed her once deep in the gut. Her eyes grew wide. I could tell she was shocked I had done it. Shocked that I had actually stabbed her. I pulled the knife back and stabbed her again. Over and over so many times I lost count. Even after I could feel her go numb in my arms.
I don’t know what was happening. Had I been sloppy? I had been feeling a bit drunk from the beer. One too many. Fuck.
I was being pushed backwards as the girl launches from the bed, the knife slipping from my fingers and falling to the floor. She kicks me between the legs and I writher in pain as she pulls herself free of my weakening grip. She reaches the door of the hotel room and pulls it open, but she doesn’t unlock the door on the inside and the door catches. She is crying through the tape that she has still not torn from her mouth. I gather myself, still in pain, and I lunge for her as she struggles in her panic with the lock. I pull her back into the room, kicking and screaming, tossing her to the floor.
This was my second mistake as she lands next to the knife. The adrenaline is flowing as she glances to her left and spots the knife, then looks back at me. She slowly reaches over and takes the knife in her hand as I hold my ground. I know if I move too soon I will only make a bigger mistake. I am trying to give myself time to clear my head a little and think this one through. No one has gotten away from me. Tonight will not be the first.
I sat against a tree as I stared at my mother’s limp body. I couldn’t really describe what I was feeling. It wasn’t happiness or satisfaction; grief or horror. It was a mix of these and more. Something I had never felt before and never would again; that is until I took another life.
As I sat against that tree and stared at my mother’s body I could not imagine killing again. I didn’t see any reason to. I had taken the only life I felt needed to be taken. Killed the one person in my life whom I truly despised. Killed the woman that had ruined my life.
I eventually moved from that spot at the tree, feeling exhausted and not sure of what to do next. Guess I hadn’t really thought past the killing. It just seemed obvious to dump the body in those same woods. I headed back to town, bought a shovel, and headed back to that spot. I don’t know why I got nervous walking up to where I knew my mother’s body would be, but some voice was trying to convince me she would be gone. Some voice deep down that just got louder and louder with every step I took to that chair. Someone had found her. Or maybe she was never truly dead. Did you even check her pulse, that voice had asked. Did you even make sure?
My heart was pounding, my palms sweaty, my head swimming.
Yet there she was. Just as I’d left her. Her dead corpse slumped over in the chair she was still tied to.
I buried my mother’s body in a shallow grave that took me nearly all day to dig. Ten times longer than it did to take her life. I covered her body in dirt and leaves, tossing in the ropes and tape, packed up the chair and drove away.
I waited for weeks. Waited for the cops to come by. Surely I had not buried her well enough to stay hidden. Surely I had been sloppy. Surely someone had found her.
Maybe she would have been if someone cared enough to look for her.
Seems like we have been staring at each for hours. She laying on the floor with the knife held loosely in her fingers, me standing a few steps in front of the door. I can see the fear in her eyes. She wants to cut me, to stab at me, the anger welling up inside. I know that feeling well.
She finally does just that. She lunges for me and I sidestep her. At first I think I made it away clean. I am better at this. I know death. I know that blade.
I am wrong. I noticed the blood pouring from my left leg. Not dripping, but pouring. She may not have intended to, but she got me good. I can feel myself growing weak. I have to move now.
I lunge again as she lays on the floor, stunned. I grip her by the throat and pull her to her feet. Instinctively she stabs at me again. This time she misses and I grab her by the wrist, wrenching it, the knife falling to the floor. I grip her throat tighter. She struggles with me and I can almost feel her pulling my fingers loose as the room begins to spin. But I hold on with everything I have and eventually she stops fighting. Her lifeless eyes stare back at me as we both fall to the floor.
I let go of her and look down at my leg as the blood continues to flow. The room starts to grow darker.
No one ever gets away from me. No one ever will. But today my prey will not die alone.