First appeared in Hardboiled #32, November 2004, Collected in Angel of Manslaughter by Cindy Rosmus, Copyright 2006, © Fossil Publications,
Reprinted in Yellow Mama, Issue # 2, Copyright May 2007 by Fossil Publications
A Chevy Camaro, that’s what they had. A ’69. Ricky knew jack shit about cars, but since that was the year he was born, it stuck out. The ugliest yellow, like the caked mouth of their mustard bottle. But some things cake faster than others. Like blood. And their car was splattered with it.
Hood, fenders, and grill. Outside their trailer, Ricky stood shivering, staring at the car. Early morning, but the sun was too bright. The time change, no doubt. A year ago, the light would’ve killed his bloodshot eyes. Hangovers were a bitch, he remembered: blinding headaches, boozy aftertaste, overwhelming fear that somehow things would never be right. Never get better. Ever.
But they had, at least for him. But now this. This, Ricky realized, wiping his mouth furiously, was not him. It was Sam. ALANON calling! His wife, Samantha, as active as ever. Over and over Ricky wiped his mouth, like it was smeared with her lipstick. But they hadn’t kissed, in a long time. My God, he thought, what has she done? Call the police! came the voice of reason. But his legs were as inert as the car itself. And he hated himself for it.
Last night, he’d been dead asleep when she came home. Strange for him, but lately Icky Ricky was changing. Oh, he still looked the same: short, dark-haired, with the same questioning dark eyes. But sometimes those eyes actually had answers. He’d kept his goatee, as a “souvenir” from his drinking days. He ate lots of veggies. Mornings he jogged. His new job, data entry clerk, beat slicing cold cuts at the corner deli. He even prayed.
Yes, Ricky was evolving, and he owed it to his Higher Power: A. A., ALANON, but also to “Mouse.” His sweet, accommodating little Mouse. Her real name, Giselle, just didn’t suit her. Petite, sandy-haired, with the palest of blue eyes behind the ugliest glasses: wire aviators like he wore as a kid. Mouse was Samantha’s opposite and secret rival. Last night, alone, snuggled under the covers, Ricky had dreamed. Crystal clear dreams of both his girls, the nights he’d met them, two years apart: nightmarish Sam, with hair of hellfire red, wildly sucking his cock after Ladies’ Night, and gentle, spectacled Mouse, trembling at her first Recovery meeting. Sam had spilled Jack-and-Coke on him, Mouse, her scalding coffee. “I’m so sorry!” Mouse shrieked, as he jumped up. “It’s okay,” Ricky lied, through clenched teeth. The pain was so bad, he’d nearly cried.
They’d been the perfect match: Sam and him. He hated lipstick; the mess it made, mostly the taste. But back then, he’d dug hers: “Blood Rose.” Even sucked on her lips for more. When they drank, he just couldn’t get enough of her. That first night they made out, so wildly, everybody in the bar snickered. “Get a room!” Some guy kept yelling. “Aw, shut up!” Ricky grumbled. Even bombed, he’d despised himself for falling so hard, so fast.
“You are so gorgeous!” he told Sam. “No, I’m Scorpio,” she said, giggling, playing with his goatee. “October thirtieth. Mischief Night,” she said seductively.
“Possessive. Loyal. Sexy.” He moaned, as she massaged his inner thighs. “Bet you are, too. Just look at those eyes!” Ricky melted. Hers were as dark, and nearly devoured his. “No, I’m a Sag,” he said, like some astro-wiz. True, but a moment later, she snatched back her hand.
“A control freak!” Sam screamed, so people stared. “Sagittarians suck. All brutally honest fuckers!” Ricky wished he could hide somewhere. “Who needs you?” Now she was sobbing. “Or the truth?” Annoyed, the bartender came over. “The truth is useless, you hear me?” Booze, Ricky realized now. Too much could set anybody off.
One look from the bartender, and Ricky knew they were flagged. Sam’s mascara connected with her smeared lipstick. She looked like a sad clown. His heart surged with...what? Something that terrified him. But the Sagittarian in him took charge. The bartender glared as Ricky softly spit into a cocktail napkin, and wiped Sam’s face. “Thanks, Sag,” she said, and hiccuped. “I...like...that,” she said between hiccups. Again they made out, heavy duty. He squeezed her so tight, he felt something crack...
He’d woken up, suddenly, once she was asleep. Maybe it was the light she couldn’t sleep without. That smell hit him, and his stomach lurched. Booze, and what else? All he knew was, he refused to touch her. “I’m a Scorp with Gemini rising,” Sam would brag. “Insanely jealous, but at the same time...a whore!” Ricky stiffened. Why torture him? Sure, she needed it, but not from him. Since he’d found Mouse, he didn’t care who Samantha fucked.
Or did he? Why else would he stay? Their trailer was a mess. From the outside it was charming: fairy tale blue, with wooden tulips on sills. Inside, it was like a litter box, thanks to her. Mouse’s flat was tiny, immaculate, smelled of vanilla. She would die for him to move in, take charge of her life. “Get out!” Sam demanded, at least once a week. And always he stayed. But why?
“’Cos...” Mouse had said wisely, and so sadly, “’Cos you love her.” He punched her pillow till feathers shot out. She went on, “You really do, Ricky.” How? How? Each punch seemed to say. “‘Let go,’” she quoted A.A., “‘and let God.’” Now that he was new, and clean, and sober, and in love with a newer, cleaner, sober woman...he couldn’t still be trapped!
But he was. He was totally, madly in love with Samantha, and equally in hate with himself. Just her tap on his shoulder made him cringe. Yet, some nights he lay next to her, watching her sleep, fretfully. This horrible, giddy feeling would come, sickening him, making him so happy, he could squeal. As strong as the stench of booze, and just as real. In her drunken stupor, he would...touch her, on the sneak, gently, so she wouldn’t wake up. A strand of that crazy red hair, maybe. Near tears, he’d feel, wanting to punch himself. “Love you,” he’d mouth, “Oh, Sam!”
They hadn’t fucked, since...when? God knows. Not since Mouse, anyway. “You make me drink!” was Sam’s new one, once he’d froze to her. An icicle one moment, an animal the next, Sam could suck Ricky dry, then climb on top, clench her twat muscles around his limp stuff, roughly ride him till he was rock-hard again. Mouse, was happy just cuddling. Still, he knew his incredible tongue brought Mouse to more orgasms in the past months than she ever believed possible. No matter who Sam fucked, Ricky thought smugly, she was too trashed to enjoy it.
Such denial. All the signs were there. Common sense said, just quit drinking! One day at a time. Don’t pick up. Ninety meetings in ninety days.
“Meetings, my ass!” Sam said, during her brief “dry drunk” period. “All your new buddies. Whining, self-righteous fucks. Who needs ‘em?” People willing to face the truth. Like Mouse.
Sam wasn’t stupid. Hell, she was smarter than him! A college grad! Till recently, she’d had a good job, in a law office. But she’d called in “drunk” too many times. “We’ll lose the car!” she wailed. “And this place. What’ll we do?” Against his will, Ricky pitied her. “I’ll pay the bills,” he said coldly. “You just chill.”
That same night, Sam went on the worst of rampages. 3AM, Ricky awakened to the wild honking of their car horn. Then drunken shouting. Outside, Sam had straddled the Camaro. “Hey, you! ‘Yellow Mama!’” She stroked the hood. “Know who you’re named after?”
Stunned, Ricky realized she was talking to the car. "Hey, Sag, ‘member that show? Betcha don’t.” She was obsessed with TV crime: forensics, serial slayings, the more brutal, the better. But this was Jersey. Only she would remember “Yellow Mama:” Alabama’s electric chair.
Both “Yellow Mamas” were killing machines. Ricky was clueless about blood splatter patterns, but one thing he knew for sure: this much meant something, or somebody was dead.
Yesterday he’d come home from work exhausted. The last thing he needed was a scene. The Big One. Before she’d even had a drink. “You’re my husband,” Sam screamed. Ricky was pinned against the fridge. “I need you!” A squirming mass of tits and thighs, she rubbed herself against him. His cock was rock-hard, but he resisted. Starved lips begged for his, but he jerked his head away. As they fought, the magnets toppled off the fridge door. Phone numbers went flying. She crawled down his body, tried eating him through his pants. “Stop!” he yelled. Grabbing her shoulders, he shoved her so roughly, she landed on her ass.
For a moment she looked hurt, pathetic. His heart swelled. Then her eyes narrowed. “Who is it?” she demanded. “You’re getting it from somebody.” He froze, as she snatched up the phone numbers. His A. A. pals, Mouse’s included. “Some pigeon!” As he tried snatching them back, Sam ripped, and crumpled all she could. She was clawing him, wildly, when he lost it.
The smack laid her out flat. She didn’t move. Fear made him want to puke, and he rushed to the sink. “You...fuck!” he heard then, very softly. Relieved, he hung over the greasy dishes. Once, way back, she’d got trashed on jello shots. 4PM the next day, he’d reached into her purse for the car keys and pulled out this red, pulpy mass. “I saved one,” she muttered, as he flung it across the kitchen. It oozed down the fridge. “I’m sorry,” she said, back then. “You fuck!” she said now, again, getting up.
He was scared to turn around. If she cracked his skull, it would be fast. Instead, he heard jingling of keys. Then the door slam.
He ran out after her, just as the Camaro roared to life. A wild screeching of tires. Sam! He almost screamed. Come back! I love... She slid all over, garbage cans crashing, just missing their neighbor, a Vietnam vet who looked about ninety. “Cunt!” the neighbor yelled after Sam. Ashamed, Ricky ducked back inside. “Ya drunken whoo-ore!” he heard. Even straight, Sam was the worst driver ever.
“It’s okay,” Mouse said softly. “She’ll be back.” Ricky grimaced. But her words, the touch of her small hand, even the smell of coffee brewing, comforted him. They were almost alone, up front, in the church basement. The meeting would begin soon, and it was his turn to chair. “I never hit her before,” he said. ‘Cos she called you a pigeon. Mouse, was, too. A newcomer Ricky had fucked too soon. “Thirteen-stepping,” A. A. called it. “She’ll be back tonight, like nothing ever happened.” But how did Mouse know?
More people were coming in. “Where’s she now, do you think?” Mouse asked Ricky. “Which bar?” A strange question. “Boxer’s Brew, probably.” he said, suspiciously. “Our old hangout. Why?” Mouse’s smile was mysterious, daring. She patted his shoulder as she got up. He watched her head towards the back. By the time he said, “Hi, I’m Ricky! I’m an alcoholic,” he’d forgotten Mouse’s peculiar behavior. He never even noticed she’d left...
Now, this morning, it hit him. Why had she left? Where had she gone? She’d left Recovery meetings early before, but was always home when he called, no matter how late. How sad, that Mouse was at his beck and call, and he was at the mercy of Sam’s. But no more, Ricky thought. Fists clenched, he glared at the car. The bloody headlights seemed to taunt him with Sam’s own eyes. He had to do something. But what?
Confront her? Wake her, or just drag her outside by the hair, and force her to face this? “Fuck you!” she’d scream, waking up the whole trailer court. It was Saturday, too early for these people, mostly drunks. Sweat crawled down his neck. Then everybody would know what happened. Somebody was hurt bad, maybe dead. Right now, as warped as it sounded, his world was at peace. Somewhere a blue jay screeched. In a neighbor’s trailer, a phone rang, was almost immediately answered by a mumbly machine. He was still safe.
He? Ricky thought bitterly, pacing. Safe? He was innocent! Sam was the culprit. Vehicular homicide. How many years would she get for this? She would know, he thought wildly. The Queen of Forensics. An accident that might never have happened, if the driver wasn’t shit-faced! So what if it happened in a blackout? Her fingerprints, DNA would convict her. He stopped pacing, felt his mouth stretch in a horrible smile. Good for her! He stepped back, studied the car almost in admiration. And good riddance.
A moment later, he sunk to his knees, sobbing. Out of nowhere tears had come, and he bit his fist so hard, it bled. My wife, he thought, as tremors shook him. Can’t live with her, my God, could he really live without her? Mouse. He had to call Mouse, ask her what to do. Only she would understand, in her selfless way. And he, Mr. Control Freak himself, would obey her!
No answer, still. He was confused, anxious. Where was she? As he slipped past their tiny bedroom, Ricky glanced in at Sam. On her back, she was now, still out cold. Nude. He hadn’t noticed before. Something about her body was different. He crept closer. The huge bruise under her left breast matched the one by her eye. Not his doing. All he’d done was slap her cheek. The impact from the accident. When she woke up, oh man, the pain she’d be in!
Furious with himself, Ricky tried Mouse again. Nearly slammed down the receiver this time. How dare she? Didn’t she know he was worried sick? Was she playing hard-to-get, so he’d leave Sam? Suddenly, in his mind, he saw Mouse the way Sam would: a helpless Plain Jane, not in Sam’s league. Somebody you’d kick aside, or wipe your shoes on. Muddy, bloody shoes.
In the back of his mind was a thought so abominable, he instantly forgot it. Or thought he did. Keeping his mind blank, he got to work. Bucket, big sponge, detergent. Dish or laundry? He’d use both. As the water rushed into the bucket, he found himself whistling cheerfully, like some lunatic. Sudsy water spilled, as he passed the bedroom. Fuck you, he told the phone.
Enabler! The word disgusted him. Haunted him, as he hurried outside. As he splashed water on the Camaro, a worse word described him: accomplice. Quickly, he soaped up the hood. His heart raced like it used to, when he’d first started jogging. After he finished the big clean-up, he’d go for a run. Or...something. Oh, God, he thought, he would kill for a drink.
Mouse, he thought wildly. Save me!
The fenders, next. So much blood, pink suds ran over his hands. Gloves, he realized. He should’ve worn rubber gloves. Too late, now. He and his wife were partners in crime. Sorry, Mouse. Should’ve answered the phone! Ricky wrung out the sponge, tightly, like he was wringing her little neck. Now she’d lost him for good! Well, she knew he was married, didn’t she? Dopey little four-eyed fuck! Wearily he soaped up the sponge again, then bent to scrub the grill.
They were there, all twisted, imbedded in the grill. No lenses, just the frames. Those geeky wire ones, like he wore as a kid. Puke filled his throat.
Inside, the phone rang. But Ricky never heard it. On his knees, he and “Yellow Mama” shared the kiss of death.
BIO: Cindy is a New York textbook editor by day, a hardboiled Jersey female by night. Her fiction has appeared in Black Petals, The Beat, The Cynic, Red Fez, Zygote in My Coffee, Hardboiled, NVF, MediaVirus, Mysterical-E, The Monsters Next Door, Out of the Gutter, Devil Blossoms, 13th Warrior Review, and Beat to a Pulp. She has four collections of stories out: Angel of Manslaughter, Gutter Balls, Calpurnia’s Window, and No Place Like Home. She is the editor of the e-zine, Yellow Mama. She is also a thrill seeker, a Gemini, and a Christian.