Give a warm TKnC welcome to Greg with...
Bullets for Angel
I wake with a hot streak of sunlight burning a blinding line across my eyes and forehead. I roll off the edge of the bed and land hard on ancient carpet. I can smell the smoke from a million cigarettes and maybe someone’s dog. I pull myself up and tug the drapes closed. My eyes throb when I keep them open for more than a second and I have to dig deep to fight from adding puke to the already fragrant floor.
I squint around the room. It takes me a moment to realize I’m in my own house. Jerry Springer is berating some white trash on the muted television. The coffee table is covered in empty beer cans. It tastes like Jack Daniels shat in my mouth. I’m fully clothed, sans boots and I can feel something cold and heavy tucked into the back of my jeans. I reach back and a blood crusted hand comes back holding my silver nine. I pop an empty clip. The stench of cordite stings my nose.
There’s a knock at the door and then a woman’s voice. I vaguely remember calling my ex. Not sure if we had another fight but something feels resolved as I open the door. She’s standing there, arms crossed in that angry/tired/fed up way. She looks beautiful.
“Tom, what the hell is going on? You can’t keep calling me whenever you get drunk and expect me to come running,” she says, walking in without closing the door. The sunlight exposes the mess of the house and flashes on the gun I tossed on the bed. She goes to sit down and then sees it. “Holy shit, Tom, is that a gun?”
“Think I might have killed someone last night, Angel. This gun’s been fired and this ain’t my blood.” I tug at the sleeve of my shirt and spread the fingers of my hand. “You happen to see my car out there?”
“It’s out back by the garage. I wasn’t even sure you were here ‘till I walked around the house and saw it back there. What the fuck were you doing behind the wheel last night?”
That makes me laugh. Here I am, sitting in the dark with a gun, covered in someone else’s blood and she’s concerned about drunk driving.
“You never did know which battles to choose, baby. You got a smoke?”
She reaches into her purse and roots around for a second before tossing me the pack where I’m sitting back on the bed. She still carries that big old brown leather bag. Thing that size would be better suited hugging the fender of a Harley than over the shoulder of a little blonde.
I dig into my pocket and bring out a Zippo. I run my thumb over the small letters engraved on it. Braille on a little silver tombstone. The hollow metallic click rings in the silence between us as I light up. I blow my smoke up at the ceiling and tuck the thing back in my pocket.
“You want a beer? I ask. I walk into the kitchen and grab a cold can from the refrigerator. The sound of the door shutting drowns out whatever reply she gives me. A picture of us at our favorite taco stand in Cabo is stuck to the door with a Donald Duck magnet. She looks happy. I look edgy and drunk. Dangerous.
“Hair of the dog,” I say, cracking the beer and swallowing half of it. It makes my eyes water. I set the can on the table next to the bed and sit back down. My head feels a mile wide. The Zippo feels hot against my leg. I take a drag from the smoke. The gun is next to me on the bed. I try to think of it as the guilty party.
Angel isn’t talking, just watching me. Her eyes go to the blood on my shirt and back to the gun. She grabs the pack off the table and lights up before putting them back in her purse and setting it down next to the recliner by the door.
“So, do you have any idea what happened last night?” she says. She’s pacing now, back and forth in front of the bed. A scuffle breaks out on TV. “I should have left as soon as I saw that gun, Tommy. Just being around one of those things violates my parole. I can’t be going back to jail over some crazy shit you did. Besides,” she says, taking a deep drag from the cigarette. “If J.B. finds out I came over here, he’s liable to start beating on me again.” She points to a greenish blotch under her eye, partially concealed beneath the thin film of makeup. “This shiner is just from burning his toast last weekend.” She blows out her smoke and drops the butt into an empty on the table. It sizzles in the moisture.
A day ago, that bruise would have pushed me straight into a rage. I want to reach out and touch her skin. She looks at me nervously. She’s trying to read me and I just smile. Looking at her like this, it’s difficult to remember how tough she really is. Angel, my Angel. My hard little girl. She doesn't return the smile. She walks to the bathroom and closes the door. I can hear the water running.
There’s something stiff in the fabric on the front of my shirt. I pick at it and deep red dust comes away on my fingertips. I unbutton the shirt and toss it onto the growing pile between my bed and the wall. I really need to clean this place. I should probably wash my hands at some point.
She returns from the bathroom and folds her arms. There’s more makeup covering that bruise. She’s pulled her hair back into a thick ponytail.
“Well, Tom,” she says, “if you’re just gonna sit there and stare at me with that dumb grin on your face and not tell me what happened, I’m out of here. I need to stop by the market before Jerry gets home.” She picks up her purse and pretends to look for something.
“Can I get one more of those smokes, baby?” I say. I want to hold her and tell her everything. I want to make her believe it will all be okay. I stand up and reach out for her. She hands me the cigarettes and pushes her palm out flat to make me stop.
“Take the rest, and Tom, please don’t call me anymore. I’m trying to clean up my life. Next time you get the itch to confess about something, go talk to a priest. I can’t deal with this shit anymore.” She turns and opens the door. For a moment, she’s framed in light, like a real angel. To me, she is.
“Goodbye Angel, my Angel,” I hear myself say as she shuts the door and I’m alone again in the darkness. I wrestle the last scent of her from the dank air before going to the bathroom to shower.
After the shower I pull on a t-shirt and jeans and head out to the back porch. The hot water has sharpened me up and the pounding in my eyes is almost gone. The afternoon sun warms my skin. I want to soak it in and push out the constant coldness I feel. I can hear the kids next door laughing as they chase each other around the back yard. My memories of childhood don’t tend to involve laughter. I’ve always felt chased.
I pull the Zippo from my pocket and light one of the cigarettes Angel left me. I close the lighter with a flick of my wrist and look at the initials “JB” etched into the chrome surface. The lighter winks at me in the reflected sunlight as if to show consent to the secret we share.
I load a clip with bullets and take the gun with me out to the Charger. I think of all the time that Angel and I have spent in this car together; road trips and drive-in movies, kissing in the moonlight on the crest of Signal Hill. At least I still have the car.
I turn the key and listen to the muted growl of the idling engine. The clock on the CD player says one-thirty. The interior is getting hot and very soon there’ll be a smell coming from the trunk that won’t be easy to cover. I figure it’ll take me about three hours to get through the border into Mexico. With luck I’ll be in Cabo in twenty four. Maybe I’ll hit that taco stand.
Greg Mollin is a fiction writer living in Orange County, California. He has been involved in everything from hardcore punk music to graphic design, and even a stint as writer/performer on a popular cable television sketch comedy show. His short story, The Monster on Myers Avenue, appeared in Dark Moon Digest#3. Burial Day Books featured his story, Where the Fault Lies, which was also included in their Gothic Blue Book: Haunted Edition collection.
Greg's website is here.