WHAT I LOST ALONG WITH MY KEYS - KEITH RAWSON
We'd been arguing for the past three weeks. Not over anything in particular, petty shit:
Why could I never put the toilet seat down?
Why could she never refill the ice cube tray?
Why didn't I ever want to have sex with her?
Why did she never cook or clean or do much of anything other than sit in front of the TV?
At one time in our lives, we both worked, we both contributed to the household income. But ever since my promotion and her "lay off" (that's what we were calling it, not fired, never fired), she spent all of her time at the house slowly losing her sanity. Not that I minded all that much (at least not about the "lay off", I wasn’t all too thrilled with the insanity thing), my promotion more than doubled my salary and made up for the overall loss of income; the only issue I had was without her job to keep herself occupied, she was bored as Hell and her over-active mind had nothing to occupy itself with except to dwell on all the negative aspects of her life, our life.
After thirteen years together, I personally thought there was a lot more positive than negative, but then again, I wasn’t my wife. She was thirty-nine and had sacrificed her child-bearing years for her career. The career had taken a shit on her; taken a shit, rubbed her face in it, and then made her eat a couple of nauseating mouthfuls of it. And now she realized the career would never make her breasts swell with milk, and then deflate and sag from hours of suckling; it would never keep her up into the early morning hours with its helpless squalling; it would never tell her it loved her and kiss and hug her around the neck with its tiny arms. It was the same old story trumpeted by most of the close to middle age women around my office, but at least they still had jobs to go to every morning; at least they didn’t start their days off at noon with a handful of percocets washed down with a half a fifth of Grey Goose.
I thought about buying her puppy, but I figured she’d end up drowning it in the bathtub in a fit of rage the minute the little furball took a dump on the carpet and would beat me unconscious with the corpse the second I walked through the front door; so I scratched the idea entirely and let her stew in her own juices.
What I did instead was avoid the scene entirely by either not making it home, or coming home so late she was normally passed out in bed. It wasn’t anything I was doing on purpose (okay, maybe I was doing it a little bit on purpose), but with all the new found income the promotion brought with it, there was also a sharp increase in my responsibilities and my hours spent at the office, or showing properties to high-profile clients. It was during the worst of our fighting that I was schmoozing the Russians.
Everybody in the office knew what the Russians were; everybody knew they were a bunch of gangsters. I mean, nobody walked into the office carrying three briefcases stuffed to the point of bursting with stacks of hundred dollar bills and wanting to spend every single one of them on as many high-end properties as we could sell them.
With the Russians being such high-end clients, my boss wanted me to show them the properties we had available personally. So I joined their entourage that included six heavily-armed, expensively-dressed bodyguards and a bevy of ten beautiful, but cowering young women. For nearly two weeks, I rode in the back of various limousines, directing the driver to three dozen Mcmansions the firm had up for sale as the gangsters shouted in my ear in broken English, pouring me glass after glass of champagne and ordering two or three of the girls to show me their surgically-enhanced tits and bleached assholes, asking me what I’d pay to fuck one of them:
"Anything you want, my friend! Anything! How much would you pay? How much to put your dick anywhere you want?" I would shrug my shoulders and commented how beautiful the girls were and have another drink.
I figured they were buying the properties to use as either high-end whorehouses or elaborate porn sets, or a combo of the two, not that it made a difference.
In the end, my Russian clients decided on three 6000 sq. ft. homes; two in the North Scottsdale area and one in Paradise Valley. As expected they paid cash, and they insisted on taking me out to lunch to celebrate their new purchases. The entourage decided on a high-end steakhouse close to downtown Phoenix. The meal went on for nearly four hours, although I don’t remember consuming a single bite of food, but I do remember hoisting fifteen or twenty gin and tonics and participating in a thousand toasts to the future success of both myself and the Russians.
The limo dropped me off in front of the office around three or four o’clock. I was teetering on my heels and my gin-infused stomach was trying to lurch up inside my mouth. There was no way I was going inside; I might have been a valuable asset to the company, but my boss was pretty tight when it came to boozing on the job, so I headed to the parking garage instead, intent on driving home, barfing a few times once I got there, and then sleeping for the next 12-to-16 hours. The only problem was when I made it to my Beemer, I couldn’t find my keys. I always kept them in the left inside pocket of my suit coat, always! I patted myself down all the same knowing that somehow they’d slipped out either at the restaurant or in the limo, somewhere.
I still had my Blackberry, thank god, so I had one of two choices:
A) Call a cab and risk another argument with the wife about spending money unnecessarily
B) Call the wife and have her come and pick me up and risk another argument about getting drunk with the Russians and losing my keys.
So, fuck it, I called the wife and prepared for the tirade.
She was true to form. She came blazing into the garage in her Lexus at 60 miles an hour and slammed on the brakes a couple of feet in front me. I tottered over to the passenger door, which she kept locked a couple of minutes to prove some kind of point. I don’t know exactly what. Once she finally let me in the car, she did nothing but stare straight ahead, not even acknowledging my presence and she pulled out of the lot at the same speed she entered it. She was all cold shoulder for the first fifteen minutes of the drive home and for this I was one happy Goddamn camper. The silence let me get my head straight; it let me gather my thoughts and think about where I left my keys. The quiet didn’t last long and she asked the same question I was asking myself:
"So where did your keys go?" Her voice was icy and slurred; I figured she was probably just as drunk as I was or glazed over with pills.
"I don’t know, I’m..." I tried saying.
"Are you drunk? I can’t fucking believe it! You’re fucking drunk! It’s the middle of the goddamn day, Steve!"
We merged into the carpool lane of the 101, her foot pegged to the floor, her mouth running just as hot and fast as the car. I let my chin sag to my chest, the movement of the wheels beneath me and her litany of bitching lulling me to sleep; my eyelids heavy, drifting to black.
I thought my body being thrown forward and the wet kiss of metal against metal was all a dream, like the nightmare where you’re endlessly falling and only come awake when you finally hit the ground.
The seat belt cutting into my chest and collarbone and the wife repeatedly screaming, "Oh my Gawd! Oh my Gawd! Oh my Gawd!" solidified the world around me.
Her airbag had deployed and exploded, her face was a sunburned red and her blouse was shredded; I stared down at my own lap and saw a heavy patch of wetness spreading from my waist. I started to panic, thinking I was bleeding, cut by the strap of my seat belt, but I was relieved to find that I’d only pissed myself. We stared at each other, my face shocked and blank, hers tear-streaked and panicked. She was the first out of the Lexus, her door opening with surprising ease; mine took a bit of effort, the hinges groaning, diamonds of shattered safety glass dropping down the back of my shirt. I looked at the ruined front end of the Lexus, shaking my head over the damage. The cops would be on the scene at any second, and no doubt they would give the wife a breathalyzer, and most likely it would come up positive, maybe even two or three times past the legal limit, and I would end up having to come out of pocket to pay for the damage she’d done to the car.
I forced myself to look at the other vehicle. I could see it was once some Japanese or Korean hatchback, something cheap and gas efficient; the type of car you’d expect a cash-strapped high school student to be tooling around in. But the driver wasn’t a teenager, he was a middle-aged man; his hair a salt and pepper black with a finely trimmed beard the same color. His face was florid and a thin rivulet of blood coursed from his right eyebrow. My wife was stumbling toward him, her purse clutched in her arms as she rummaged around inside of it, her shaking hand searching for something.
"Oh my God," she said, voice trembling. "I’m so sorry—"
The man reached my wife in three big steps and wrapped his hands around her throat and started to squeeze, his teeth gritted, black pupils the size of pinheads. I stood there frozen, watching my wife’s face turn purple, her thin pink tongue darting out between her teeth, her nails cutting into the man’s wrists, attempting to pry them away from her throat.
I started laughing.
I don’t know why. I think it mostly had to do with the look on her face. The bugged out eyes. The shade of bright red and then purple her face took on. The way her thin legs scrambled beneath her, attempting to find purchase. Something.
The man had her pinned to the asphalt by the time the DPS officers dragged him off of her and she remained there, motionless, white as a sheet.
The paramedics tried reviving her, but you could see from the looks on their faces that it was a lost cause; they went through the motions all the same. They rushed her away in an ambulance, but the cops kept me on scene to take down my statement and I had to sit and watch as the fire department cut open what was left of the demolished hatchback with the Jaws of Life. I had to sit and watch as two weeping firemen gingerly lifted a small body out of the back of the car. A young female cop threw up at my feet and started to cry even harder than the firemen over the tiny ruined body.
I had to turn and walk away from the whole scene. I drifted in a haze, away from the stink of anti-freeze and gasoline and patted down my pockets searching for my pack of cigarettes. I was almost exclusively a social smoker, but with being around the Russians so much over the last couple of weeks and their constant chain smoking, I’d picked up on their habits and had started chuffing a half a pack-to-a pack a day. But at least the Russians had decent taste in tobacco, Dunhill’s, and they would give me a pack anytime I asked for it.
I fished out my crushed, piss-saddened pack in my left hand pants pocket and started to shake them out into my hand to see if I could find one that wasn’t too damp to light up. And, as I shook out the five or six bent or broken smokes that were left in the pack, my car key slid into my hand, the black key fob heavy in my palm. I stared at it for a minute, feeling its weight. I closed my hand around it and tucked it into my inside coat pocket where it should have been all along and then stuck one of the cigs between my lips, lit up, and watched the dying sun turn blood orange.
BIO: Keith Rawson is a little known pulp writer who lives in the alkaline desert wastelands of southern Arizona with his wife and very energetic three-year-old daughter. His stories have appeared in such publications as Plots with Guns, Pulp Pusher, CrimeWav.com, Bad Things, Powder Burn Flash, A Twist of Noir, Beat to a Pulp and many others. You can find him most nights dicking around on either Twitter or Facebook, or stroking his already over-inflated ego at his blog Bloody Knuckles, Callused Fingertips.