ONE FLASH – Thomas Kearnes

Posted: February 27, 2012 in Fiction, Flash
Tags: , , , ,

TAKE ME HOME

After the movie I saw alone, I wandered into the bar. My throat clenched and my chest heaved to spot Cody. The ease of his toothy smile, the way he slung his arm around the shoulders of whomever made him laugh, the sandy blonde hair sweeping over his eyes. I discarded my paperback novel on a nearby table. While we were together, Cody mocked how I brought a book everywhere. From across the bar, he’d caught me staring at him, so I shyly waved. He smiled back, so I approached the pool tables and waited for a lapse in the conversation.

I asked how he’d been. How were his classes? He rattled off good-natured complaints about his professors, the university rules. I never heard a word. All that skipped through my brain was our final conversation, when he broke up with me over the telephone and insisted a good man like me would surely find someone else.

“I went to see a movie tonight,” I muttered, gazing at the grimy floor.

“Really? Which one?”

“Just some horror flick. You would’ve hated it.”

“Probably.”

I mustered the courage and asked him to join me for a drink. He stroked his chin, his lips drawn flat. “Why not?” he said.

I ordered us both a whiskey and soda, sitting across from him. I took a small sip, stifling the urge to get as drunk as possible. Cody used to complain about my drinking, so I wanted to show him I was making strides, trying my best.

“You know,” he said, “I’m thinking about just quitting cold.”

“Quitting what?”

“Drinking.”

“What brought that on?”

“I was at a party last weekend. I got tanked and wound up kissing some guy I don’t even like. He thought it meant we were going out. It just sucked.”

I wanted a conversation with Cody, but not this one. He spoke with the plainness of a casual friend. It had vanished, the electricity that sparked between us in our first week. We’d discussed the presidential election for hours. I wanted to flee the bar, paperback novel in hand.

“Well, if that’s what you want to do,” I said.

“I swear, I keep stumbling into these bad romances. What’s my damage?”

After a gulp of whiskey, I said, “Cody, all your bad relationships have one thing in common: you.”

He looked struck, his eyes wide, jaw dangling. I’d offended him. I placed my hand over his. He drew back his hand and snapped, “You’re not my boyfriend anymore.”

Our chat dwindled into the usual empty promises to keep in touch. He polished off his drink, thanked me, and rejoined his friends at the pool tables. I began to read. The minutes mercifully passed. Who knows how long it took me to notice the slender, short-haired boy at the bar gazing my way? He wasn’t attractive—too skinny. Acne scars puckered his cheeks. Believing it my daily good deed, I smiled weakly then resumed reading.

After twenty pages and a few more drinks, the bartender clanged the bell announcing last call. I glanced at the pool tables, but Cody and his friends were gone. I collected my coat and headed toward the exit.

In the chilly air, I scanned the gravel lot for my car, forgetting where I’d parked. It was then I saw Cody walking with a dour-faced man who was at least fifty. “Cody,” I called out. “Where you headed?”

He paused, turned away from the older man and shrugged. “We’re just going to watch some TV,” he said. The older man clapped his arm around Cody’s shoulders, and the two retreated into the night. The streetlamps emitted a dazzling light on the broken glass scattered among the lot’s gravel, creating a sinister glitter. In the distance, a car sputtered to life.

Cody was going home with this man.

Underneath the awning, I slumped against a pillar, my head down. I thumped my paperback against my thigh. Like the first time, I had no idea how long the ugly boy had been staring. He stood in the doorway, hands in his pockets. I knew the look on his face—it was the same one Cody gave me the night we first met in this same bar. How long ago? The ugly boy approached me. Before he spoke a word, I said yes, yes, yes.

 

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Comments
  1. I find the continuously present book an amazing element in this story. The fact that it is discarded, then clutched, then thumped down models the full story well, and adds to my understanding.

    Also, I sometimes do the same thing with my books. 🙂

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