Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Short Story :-)

My short stories can be a bit morbid sometimes. Forgive me. This one is called "Getting Even":

“Mikey, does Brooke know you’re here?”

“Nah, she thinks I’m at Todd’s bachelor party.”

“Todd’s getting married?”


“But I work right next to the guy. How come I wasn’t invited?”

“Maybe because you’re always rolling your chair over there to show him another stupid card trick.”

“My tricks are genius, man. Oh! I got a new one for you.” He searched his coat pockets. “Dammit. I left my cards at home. I’ll show ya on Monday.”

“Alright, Rex.”

Michael was not a religious man, but every time he stole out to the city to hit the casinos with Rex he prayed. Past every mile marker he would pray that Brooke would not find out. ‘Cuz God (if there is a God) knows that he loved her. She just didn’t understand that it was all harmless fun.

“So, you gonna try something different tonight? Or are you gonna stick with the same old shit that you always do?”

“Same old shit,” he said before downing the rest of his drink and walking over to the roulettes. Rex followed him.

“One dollar on evens, please,” Michael said.

“Man, sooner or later it’s gonna be odds. Five on odds.” Rex put his chips down on the table. “And you better be getting’ riskier than that my friend. We got a whole month’s paycheck to work with tonight.”

“Dammit, Mike! How come you keep kicking my ass?”

Michael smiled, tipsy and triumphant. He always won. But even though this was a good night, he knew he should be sobering up to go home soon. “C’mon, let’s go sit down at the bar for a while, get some water.”

“What? It’s only eleven-thirty and you’re done already? Aw, you’re no fun. You’re hot tonight, man, you can’t stop yet.”

“Nah, I gotta drive all the way back to Mesa by a decent hour or else Brooke will get suspicious.”

“She thinks you’re at a bachelor party, Mike. She’s not expecting you to get back at a decent hour anyway. C’mon, one more spin, then you can spend the rest of the night being a loser.”

“Alright, this time you can’t be a pussy. I wanna see you risk some big bucks,” said Rex.

Michael put five chips down.

“I said you can’t be a pussy. Where’s the thrill if it’s not a huge risk, huh?”

Michael took out his bag and poured all of his chips out.

“That’s more like it!” Rex clapped him on the back. “Put it all on the lucky numbers. Evens.”

Michael saw through the window that the kitchen light was on. She was still up. He closed the garage and made his way through the collection of bikes, toy cars, wagons, and sidewalk chalk scattered about. When he walked in, she was sitting at the table stirring a cup of coffee. She looked up.

“How was it?” she asked.

He shook his head.

“What happened?”

He couldn’t lie to her this time. So he told her everything. How he went to the casino again, even after she’d warned him. How he’d won a whole lot of money and was gonna come straight home, maybe stop at the grocery store and buy her some flowers. How he risked all his winnings on one last spin. How he lost them all and tried to win it all back with the money from his paycheck. And how he lost most of that too. She stopped stirring her coffee. When he was finished, she stared at him for a few minutes like she was acknowledging the moment that she had always known would come. Then she stood up, pushed her chair in, and walked down the hall and up the stairs. When she came down, she was carrying Isabelle. She peeked out from her windbreaker with sleepy eyes and brushed away the chaotic curls from her tiny face. Brooke slipped a pair of shoes on, grabbed the keys to the car, and closed the door quietly behind her.

* * *

A bead of sweat dropped down Michael’s panicked face. “What do you mean they only come in packs of twelve?”

“Uh, well, we also have cartons of twenty-four. But they’re a different brand.” A tall, wiry teenage boy awkwardly lifted a large package of water bottles off the shelf. Michael shook his head with frustration and quickly grabbed a gallon jug of water from the bottom shelf before deserting the boy in the middle of the aisle. Down the next aisle, among other things, were garbage bags. He remembered that he was almost out. Might as well get some, he thought. He turned down the aisle and immediately froze. Staring straight back at him were four big blue eyes. Twins, strapped inside a double stroller while their mother decided what size snack bags to buy. He closed his eyes and quickly retreated to the main aisle. I’ll get some next time, he told himself.

After he had gathered a few more items in his cart, he headed to the front and got in line to check out. He read the cover of a People magazine as he unloaded the groceries from his cart so as to keep himself from counting his items. His hands were shaking by the time all of his purchases had been scanned and bagged.

“That’d be forty-four even, sir,” said the cashier.

Michael fumbled through his wallet. He handed the cashier nine five dollar bills. He grabbed his cart and bolted out the automatic doors before the cashier could give him his change.

Once he was in the parking lot, he slowed down and exhaled. He crossed the lot and wheeled his cart into the alley between the dry cleaner’s and the pet shop. There stood his customized vehicle: a red tricycle with a storage compartment nestled between the two back wheels. He loaded his bags into the compartment, got on the tricycle and rode away leaving the empty grocery basket in the alley.

After a short ride along the main road, he turned left down a one-lane dirt road. Half a mile down, he got off of his tricycle and walked it up his driveway and into his garage. He took his bags into the house and set them on the circular island in the middle of the kitchen. There were two messages on his machine. He erased the first one and played the second one as he put the groceries away.

“Hi Michael, it’s Brooke. I’m calling ‘cause the check you sent for this month was only seven hundred and thirteen dollars and I thought maybe you forgot that the monthly child support was actually eight hundred and twenty four dollars. Anyway, gimme a call back so that we can figure something out, ok? Bye.”

He stiffened at the sound of her voice. The voice of someone simply conducting business. Doing what needed to be done. He sighed. Picking up the phone, he began to dial. One. He took a deep breath. Six. He let it out. Zero. Two. His eyes started to water. Two. He wiped his eyes and refocused. Six. Eight. A wave of nausea swept over him. Four. Come on. It’s not that hard. Four. Eight. Seven. He put the phone up to his ear and collapsed onto one of his custom-made, three-legged kitchen chairs. The phone rang twice before she picked up.

“Hello, Brooke.”

“Michael, are you okay?” Her voice was sprinkled with concern.

“Yeah, why?”

“You sound…I don’t know, out of breath.”

“I just got back from a bike ride.” Technically speaking, he wasn’t lying.

“Oh, I see.”


There was an awkward silence before she spoke again.

“Do you have the rest of the money?” Her question seemed more like an accusation.

“Of course.”

“Then how come you didn’t send it? Did you forget?”

“No. I sent the rest of the money three days ago. You should be getting it soon,” he said.

“You sent the rest of it?” She asked.

“Yes, one hundred and eleven dollars.”

“Oh. Okay.”

Another wall of silence stood between them. She climbed over and ventured into the unknown.

“Is there any particular reason you didn’t send the whole amount?” She asked hesitantly.



He paused and thought. “I didn’t have enough money in my checking account at the time.” He said.

“Are you sure that’s why, Michael?”

“Yes!” he shouted angrily, but then calmed himself.

“Okay, okay. I’m sorry. I just don’t want to be taken advantage of or anything, you know? I don’t like to be lied to.”

His stomach dropped. He twisted his hands until they were sweaty.

“Brooke, you left me. You took my daughter from me. You got your revenge. We’re even. Don’t try and make me feel guilty,” he pleaded.

“I shouldn’t have to try.”

He got up and opened the cabinet above the kitchen sink. From the lowest shelf, he retrieved a bottle of large blue pills and set them on the counter. He stared at the label. For Mr. Michael Shipley. Take two tablets every twelve hours or as needed. Do not exceed six tablets in a twenty-four hour period. Two tablets. Two! He stared at the bottle for a few more minutes before he decided to take the pills into the living room with him. That way, he could watch T.V. while he took the pills, so that he wouldn’t count. He poured himself a glass of water and carried it to the living room, as well as the pills. He set them on the round coffee table in front of him and sat down on the couch that wrapped in a “U” around the T.V. He picked up the remote which, at first glance, did not even look like a remote. There were stickers and scraps of paper taped as best they could be taped to the small buttons. At a closer glance, one can see the improvised system with which the man had decorated his remote. The number 2 button had been taped over and replaced with a handwritten note that read, “The number after 1.” The next revision had been made to the number 4 channel button. Taped to this one was “The number before 5.” And such was the nature of other revisions to 6 and 8. Even the 0 had been covered and replaced with “nothing.”

He turned the T.V. on and found a channel that could sufficiently distract him. He grabbed the glass of water and set it between his legs while opened the bottle of pills. Focusing as hard as he could on the romantic comedy that was playing, he placed one pill on his tongue and washed it down with a large gulp. He watched the boy and the girl dancing awkwardly while he popped another pill and swallowed. Engrossed completely, he was not aware that he continued with another large pill. And another. And another. Finally, a commercial drew him from his trance. He put the cap back on the bottle and struggled to keep himself from wondering how many he had taken. He put on a pot of coffee. That would relax him.

A sizable mug steamed before him as he got out a plate, a knife, and sugar cubes. He placed one cube on the plate and cut it diagonally so that it was triangular. He dropped the five-sided sugar cube into his coffee and put the other half in a plastic baggie. Twice more, he carried out this sort of ritual. The last cube that he dropped in the drink caused the coffee to spill over the lip of the mug. He got a paper towel and wiped up the spot. With another piece of paper towel, he wiped up the stray granules of sugar on the counter and threw the paper towels in the wastebasket. While he was stirring the sugar into his coffee with the knife, he glanced in the wastebasket and stiffened. Two lonely paper towels sat at the bottom. That won’t do. He put down the knife and ripped off another piece of paper towel, crumpled it up, and threw it into the wastebasket. He relaxed again. He sat down at the table with his coffee and blew on the surface to cool it down.

He looked up at the clock. It was 6:20. He quickly looked away, but he was nervous now. He began tapping the table with his fingers. He began to sweat, and the steam rising from the coffee didn’t help. He glanced at the clock again. This time it read 6:22. That won’t do. He leapt from his chair and almost knocked over his coffee. Standing on his chair, he ripped the clock off of the wall and threw it face-down into the trash. He sat back down with his coffee, but he still felt tense. He scanned the room. Everything else seemed to be fine. He picked up the knife and nervously stirred his coffee some more. He watched his hand swirl it around and around. Then slowly he came to a shocking realization. Two hands. That won’t do.


Josh said...

Interesting story line.

I feel the need for more at the end, and how he got to that point. I understand why he got to that point, but I want more of a reason than that I guess. I don't know how to explain it.

I've got more to say, but not more time. I'll get back to this.