Fiction - Second Place
What was there to do? Nothing; he'd just sit. But sitting around didn't agree with him much; it wasn't part of his constitution. Bars excited him, but if there was anything to transfer the excitement to once the bars were closed, he sure couldn't find it.
Opening one beer, and then another, he thought about calling his ex, then decided against it. He looked over his videotapes, thinking he had watched all of them too many times over. He put on a CD but pressed the stop after the first song. He stared at the walls and became bored, then tired, then frustrated.
Finally, feeling a little pissed, he put his jacket back on and left his apartment. He drove down the street to a lonely pay phone that hung on the brick wall of an antiques store that had long been closed for business. For a moment, he couldn't find his sheet. He almost cursed to himself when he did find it, crammed into a corner of his wallet and in bad need of ironing out. He tossed a plastic bag crammed with quarters on top of the phone and unfolded the sheet.
Call Stephanie. Why not? It had been awhile.
He dialed the number and smoked most of a cigarette before she finally picked up.
"'Lo?" The voice sounded weary.
"Steph. It's me."
"Steph. Were you sleeping?"
"Yes. Yes, I was. I ain't now. I'm so tired."
"I'm sorry to wake you up."
She yawned. "You're always sorry."
"What are you doing now?"
"Like I said, I just woke up, now I'm just lying here waiting to go back to sleep. Listen, you know I work two jobs."
"I know what would keep you awake."
"Me putting my fingers inside you. That would wake you up."
"Yeah, probably would."
"You want me to do it to you? My fingers, you want that?"
"You really want that, baby?"
"Ummm, sure. I'm tired."
He shifted the phone to his other ear. "Hey, how's life in the dirt lane? Any new drugs or pregnancies going on?"
"Tubes are tied," she yawned. "I told you that before."
"It must be very, very tough, living in a trailer."
"Who cares. I don't care. It's a roof."
"I know the entire neighborhood must smell like shit."
"Uh-huh. Look, I'm really tired."
"OK, Steph, OK. Go back to sleep now."
Victor hung up. He put out his cigarette, rested his forehead against the brick wall. It was nice and cool, uncomfortable yet sort of relaxing. He held his forehead there for a while, then figured he probably looked stupid enough to arrest. Reluctantly, he stood straight and fished in his bag of quarters while squinting at the next number on the list.
This time the pickup was quick. Two rings.
"Randy. It's me."
"Oh, you again . . ."
"How are you? I didn't wake you up, did I?"
"No, I'm reading. A pretty good book. A biography of Frank Sinatra." She paused. "The man was a stone criminal."
"I've been staying home, really, and just reading a lot lately. I don't seem to want to go out. My friends, they call me and want to go out trolling for men with them, but man, I'm tired of that. Clubs really get on my nerves after a while."
"You're really fat, right?"
"I'm 230 pounds. I'm not fat."
"But how tall are you?"
"Well, I'm 5-feet-4."
"Randy, that's really fat. You know what I would like to do? I'd love to just mush all of that fat between my fingers, really get a good grip on all of it. Just sort of grab it, knead it with my fingers. Then I'd take a belt and whip your fat titties, your fat ass and thighs, whip them as hard as I can. That would really make my night."
"Would you like me to do that to you?"
"What about tying you up? Until your skin breaks from the rope pressure and you start to bleed?"
"Anything you want."
"Really? That would really do something for me, it would really make my night."
"Cool, very cool, very nice, beating you with a belt and then just tying you up with the ropes. Are you happy being fat?"
"I'm not fat, just chubby, and I've been chubby all of my life."
"Well, whatever, but are you happy?"
"Hey, life is short," she laughed. "Of course I'm happy. Never be a supermodel, but I'll never have bulimia either."
"The bright side of things," he said dutifully.
"That's right. I'll get back to my book now."
"OK . . . well, happy reading."
They hung up. He looked at the next number on the list, dialed it, waited for a pickup.
"Hey, Rachel. It's me."
"Oh, Jesus, hello--"
"When a Jew says, 'Oh, Jesus,' that's something."
"Yes, it is."
"I must really be making an impression on you."
"Well, yes, you could say that."
"I'd love to make an impression on you by just slapping your face. Really slapping it hard. Enough to leave a mark. Slapping your face over and over again, as hard as I can."
"Sounds just lovely. . . . You know what? I went to Wal-Mart today, and the bastards overcharged me for cat food--"
"What would be lovely is if I slapped you, slapped you while you were shopping for cat food. Or opening a can of cat food."
"I'm so sure it would be."
"I'm glad you agree."
"Another thing," she said, sounding annoyed, "is the goddamn fact that my PC is on the verge of blowing up. I had someone look at the fan. He says there's nothing wrong with it. Sure, nothing wrong. I'm taking it back to where I bought it, 'cause it's still under warranty."
"Do you wear thongs?"
"Sometimes. Hey, you know anything about computers?"
"No, not really. Listen, I'll grab your thong and--"
"Oh, that blows. Listen, this sleepy girl has her sleepy boyfriend here, so we're gonna go have sleepy premarital sex now. Sorry to cut this short, but I have to go."
Victor held the phone up, staring at it, shocked. He didn't know what to think. He didn't know how to feel.
"You're serious? You've got a boyfriend over there?"
"Yes. He's in the next room right now."
Victor didn't say anything, just stared down at the ground.
"Listen," she said. "Are you OK?"
"Yeah. I'm OK. I'm just kind of put back. It's weird."
"Well, I'm sorry."
"It's OK. I'll get over it."
"But I don't even know you. I don't even know who you are." She paused for what seemed like minutes. Then she said, "Really, I don't think you should call anymore."
After getting off the phone with Rachel, Victor dialed the rest of the numbers dutifully, but for some reason it was no good. Everyone he called answered, some quickly, others dragging, but he couldn't quite think of anything to say, so he just asked them how they were doing, and how their friends were doing, and what kind of movies they had seen, and had they eaten at any good restaurants lately--at times he remembered he was a very good cook and thought enough to bring the subject up--and the talk would go on like that for a few minutes. But he had the feeling that they really didn't want to talk to him, and after the lapses and silences became too much he just hung up. And once he finished the last call of the night, he stood on the street for a very long time, motionless.
Back at home, he opened a bottle of wine and sat at the window to stare out over the parking lot. He decided to drink, and not think of anything; he was reasonably successful. He was yawning and thinking about bed when the phone rang.
"Hello?" he answered.
"Hello. Who's speaking?"
She giggled. "You don't know me."
"Well, that's kind of the point. I don't know you. So who are you?"
"Just someone who wants to pour hot oil all over your dick, and all over your balls. Really hot oil, enough to singe the skin and turn it red. How does that sound?"
He thought for only a moment. "It sounds OK."
"Really, it does. I'm serious."
There was a long pause. Neither of them said anything.
"You're kidding," she finally said. "You can't seriously want me to do that to you."
"Why not?" he replied. She didn't say anything, so he went on. "To be honest, I'd love to get my hands around your neck and just choke you a little bit, just a little, while I'm having sex with you. It's really a good feeling--strange, but good. So would you like that?"
"Yes," she replied immediately.
"So," he sighed, "there you go. I want the hot oil on my dick, and you want me to choke you while we're fucking. Sounds fair."
"Yes, it does," she laughed.
There was another very long silence, and Victor thought she had fallen asleep--it was very late now--when she spoke again. "I never thought I'd do this, but do you want to come over, maybe? I can give you my address."
When Victor got to the house, it was almost daybreak, and the air was very cool and fresh on his face. It energized him, just like the bar had done earlier. He observed the house for a moment, taking in its neat simplicity and attractive lawn, then walked up the path and knocked on the door.It opened instantly. She was standing there, wearing a robe, smiling. She looked about 35 or so, tired and somewhat wrinkled, but still undeniably attractive.
"Come on in," she said. "I have some coffee brewing."
He sat down in the living room and stared blankly at the tasteful furniture and well-selected paintings while she made the coffee. She brought it out, placed his cup in front of him, then sat down gracefully in a chair facing him from across the table.
"You're very nice-looking," she said.
"So are you."
"How old are you?"
"My god, I would have guessed 30. You're very beautiful."
They sipped their coffee and looked at nothing for a minute.
"Look," she said finally, sighing. "I really don't want to put hot oil on your genitals."
He shrugged, scratched his forehead.
"And," she went on, trying not to smile, "I really don't want you to choke me and fuck me at the same time."
He shrugged again, smiled tentatively.
"To be honest," she said with apologetic gravity and looking squarely at him, "I don't want to do anything sexual. I really hope this doesn't disappoint you, or anger you."
"No," he said, sipping his coffee. "It's fine."
He rolled his eyes. "Because I really didn't want to do any of that stuff either, truthfully."
"No, not really. I'm kind of a straightforward guy."
"I can see that. I really can."
"I just hate my job. I can't really stand most people either. It's hard for me to relax. So I call people up--listen, this is embarrassing for me to admit, OK? But it's too late for me to care. I call people up, mostly girls, and just screw with them over the phone."
"Me too," she admitted heavily.
"Really? Figure that. Why?"
She shrugged slowly, elegantly. "I'm not a shrink."
"No," he smiled, "I guess you aren't."
"Thank God for that. So what did you want to do?"
He thought about it. "Jesus," he said, "I have no clue."
"Neither do I. Neither do I, seriously."
They stared at each other for a moment, then laughed. He sipped his coffee and regarded her poise. Much class. An educated woman, most likely. A painting on the wall caught his eye, and he gestured toward it. "You know, I bet there's a story behind that painting. The one behind you and to your left."
"That one? There is a story. A good one too."
"Why don't you tell it to me, then?"
And she did.
Keith A. Berry lives in Laurel and works in the printing industry when he is not working on finishing a novel. This is his first published story.
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