PICK UP - RICHARD GODWIN
She sat in the corner by the vending machine. After last night, she found its lights strangely comforting. The diner was empty apart from the guy in the corner. He had been leaning over his paper for an hour or more and she wondered if he had a cigarette.
This coffee ain’t gonna last much longer.
The waitress bristled past, all swish of starched uniform and the click of over-chewed gum.
She looked at Patty out of the corner of her eye, a slight curl of her lip.
Fuckin’ bitch, she ain’t no better’n me. Who wants to work nights in a motorway stop-off anyway? Maybe she enjoys being felt up by the truckers with their hard-ons.
She stirred the coffee with the brown spoon, and drank some of it, cold now.
“Excuse me, miss, I seem to have run out of matches. I don’t suppose you could spare a light?”
It was the guy from the corner.
Up close, he didn’t look quite so washed out. All the night hawks had a used look about them, as if they’d stepped off Desperation Taxi and landed at Border Control with no visa.
“Sure. Think this still works,” Patty said, flicking her lighter and quickly extinguishing the blue flame that smouldered briefly in her hand.
She noticed he was looking at her gloves, black lace.
“Mind if I borrow it?” he said.
“Tell you what. I’ll give you a light if you can spare a cigarette.”
She stepped outside into the mix of ice cold and diesel fumes. After the initial silence, they started the smokers’ chat. Weather, journeys, directions, bitching about this and that, and then he said it. Just like that. No interlude, no build up. As if he was ordering a pizza.
“Last night, I killed a man.”
Patty looked at him.
He winding me up? Doesn’t look like a fruitcake. But then, who am I to judge after that last bastard?
He took a deep drag and blew it skywards then turned and looking her right in the eyes, said,
“A guy got smart. He was nobody, really. I shot him. Twice.”
Silence. And just two burning cigarette ends in the cold and the smog. A truck whizzed by.
“Why you telling me this?” she said.
“Cause there’s one thing I always feel like doing after I kill someone.”
“Yeah. An’ that’s fuck a sweet young thing like you. You looked good to me in there sitting over that coffee. Thought you was gonna hit that waitress. First I thought maybe you was a dyke, seein’ how you kept lookin’ at her, but I figured what would you want with a used up old whore like that? Then I saw those little gloves you’re wearin’ and I knew for sure you ain’t no dyke. Those hands are made for one thing, sweetheart, and that’s whipping up its head in my pants. That coffee must have been colder than a frigid ass. ’Nother smoke?”
He held up the cigarette packet.
“Thanks. Though, I ain’t gonna sleep with you.”
“No. I ain’t askin’ you to sleep with me, honey.”
“Just so’s we understand that.”
“How old are you anyway, out here alone on the highway?”
“I always looked younger’n my years.”
“Well, younger or not, there’s some bad dudes out here. Much badder’n old Uncle Jim. I don’t kill ladies, by the way, just fuck ‘em.”
“I can look after myself.”
“Heard one young lady got herself into a real jam the other night. Out here, alone, just her thumb in the air and only her poontang to pay. Yeah, some trucker picked her up and fucked her and chopped her up and threw all little bitty bits of her all along the highway. Whooee! Jesus! Them po-lice officers were chasing bits of raw meat up’n down the state line for days, all sweatin’n bendin’ down. Ever see a fat man bend too much, darling? It’s a sight to behold and can set a fellow laughing. They’re calling him the Maniac Trucker, although I hear this particular guy drives a pick-up. What’s your name, by the way?”
“Look, let’s get one thing straight. I only came out here for a smoke. Not a fuck, not to get spooked by you. I ain’t a little girl. After this, I’m going back in and then I’m gonna hitch a ride.”
“Aw, don’t take off, darling, I’m only teasin’.”
She took a drag and looked long and hard at him.
Probably looked okay when he was younger, seen better days. I’ve fucked worse.
“Thank you for the smokes,” she said and walked back in.
The warmth made her feel drowsy, and she ordered another coffee from the waitress who chewed gum at her and said nothing.
Fuckin’ bitch, I’ll show her.
The coffee took so long in arriving, Patty was nodding off when it arrived. She noticed Jim sat back down, this time two tables away. She drank her coffee and ignored him. But the whole time he was giving her the eye and tittering to himself.
I’ll wait till daybreak and leave.
Finally she said to him, “What’s funny?”
He got up and walked over to where she sat and, leaning across the cheap plastic table, set his hands right down, all knuckles and tattoos right in front of her.
“You. I know you need the money.”
She looked away and stirred her coffee with the same brown spoon, shaking something off its edge. When she looked up at him, he hadn’t moved and was staring down her top.
“Come on, darling. We can do it in the john. I know you’s done worse’n me, ain’t that what you’re thinkin’?”
I’m gonna fuckin’ hit him, or take him in there and squeeze his dick so fuckin’ hard it falls off. Wonder how much dough he’s carryin’?
Her stomach rumbled. Jim straightened up.
“Just think about it.”
As he was walking off, the waitress came over to her.
“I want you out of here.”
“This ain’t no knockin’ shop, you fuckin’ ho. Get your little ass out of my place.”
Patty stood up.
“I ain’t hookin’, you old bitch. I’ve paid for my coffee and I’m stayin’ till I’ve finished.”
“When you’ve done, get, or I’m callin’ the po-lice,” she said and marched off. Two tables away, Jim sat tittering.
Fuck her. I ain’t gonna let no bitch push me around.
The waitress went out back and Patty walked over to Jim’s table.
“All right, how much you got?”
“Whooee!” He rubbed his hands. “I knew you were a pick-up. What with those cute little gloves, I knew you liked dick. What are you, one of them Goths?”
“Used to be. How much you got?”
“I reckon a hot young thing like you’s worth a hundred and I’ll give you–”
“Hundred and fifty and we do it now and that’s it, no funny stuff.”
“Now, I don’t know what you be meanin’ by funny stuff, but I’m a straight in-and-out man with a little mouth action maybe thrown in.”
“One suck, one fuck, money on the table now.” Jim looked at her. “Take it or leave it.”
“Done.” He peeled a stack of tens out of his wallet, which had some nasty stain on it.
“I’ll meet you in the john,” she said and walked away before the waitress returned.
After a few minutes, Jim made his way there. She waited at the back, past the urinals and outside the only clean-looking cubicle.
Jesus! Why can’t men pee straight?
She listened for footfalls, checking her switchblade in her pocket. The door opened and in walked Jim. He put a broom handle up against it.
“Well, hallafuckinlooya baby, I can smell your sweet lil’ pussy from over here. You got my money and I want it.”
“Come on, then,” she said and watched as he walked straight through the puddles of piss that lay scattered all across the floor.
“I ain’t lying down in this john, it’s against the wall or in there,” she said pointing to the cubicle.
Jim just shrugged and unzipped his fly.
“Don’t bother me, darling, so long’s I get what I paid for.”
She walked into the cubicle and started taking her clothes off.
When she turned round, Jim was right next to her and he closed the door.
“You’re as sweet as cherry pie, ain’t you?” he said, running his hands down her body to her crotch.
She felt calluses and cuts. She knelt down and felt him press his hand against the back of her head. She thought she heard someone trying the door.
“OK, darling, now.”
She stood against the wall and looked over his shoulder at a fly crawling across the graffiti.
Sally’s a ho and Tammy’ll do it for nothin’ written in a childish hand. She followed the scrawl of the letters with her eyes. She could feel her buttocks knocking against the cold wall and then Jim stopped.
After he left, she waited and washed at one of the sinks, hoping no one would come in.
I knew he’d be all right. All mouth.
She spat into the sink, watching the saliva, thick and glutinous squirm its way down the cracked porcelain, holding onto the sides and leaving a trail behind it. Outside, she heard a truck start up and drive off. She fumbled in her pocket.
Run out of fuckin’ mints.
She checked herself in the mirror. Her blade was hurting her in her pocket, so she transferred it to her coat, noticing the mark it had left against her thigh.
I’ll get a room for the night, a good meal, some cigarettes, Jesus, I could use a smoke.
She spat in the sink again and started towards the door when it opened. It was the waitress.
“I fuckin’ knew it,” she said. “Knew you was a hooker. I’m callin’ the po-lice.”
“Why the fuck you such a bitch?”
The waitress stood there chewing, opening her mouth wide and slowly chomping down on that piece of gum she must have had in there all day. Patty could see her cracked make-up beneath the fluorescent lights and the hard lines around her eyes.
“You just made a big mistake.”
“You don’t get to call me no hooker; you’re just a fuckin’ waitress.”
She turned and started to open the door, but Patty grabbed her from behind, yanking her backwards by her hair. The waitress squealed.
“Get off me, you fuckin’ little bitch!”
She turned round and struck Patty hard across the face, making a bright red mark burn there.
“You been checkin’ me out all night. What are you, a fuckin’ dyke or somethin’? All you do is serve up fuckin’ coffee!”
“I’m gonna serve you up to the law.”
“Oh, no, you’re not.”
Patty grabbed her, yanking her starched white uniform so hard the buttons flew off as she pulled her switchblade from her coat. Flicking it open, she hacked through the cheap bra, slashing first her breast and then upwards catching her throat in a sharp shower of blood that shot its lot in a quick spurt up against the wall and graffiti that covered it like the piss lying all over the floor.
The waitress staggered and reeled backwards, all popping eyes and shock, her mouth moving but uttering no sound. Patty stood and watched her fall, one hand on the floor, one to her throat, reaching for something she never found because she just toppled into the piss and laid there shaking and trembling until it stopped. Then she stepped over the body and hailed a passing pickup truck.
Travelling out of the state, she didn’t see the police cars.
Jim went back to the diner a while later and heard the waitress had been killed by the Maniac Trucker. Every time he took a piss there, he thought of the hot little thing in the black gloves as the steam rose from the urinal like a mist and circled the stained men’s room.
BIO: Richard Godwin lives and writes in London, where his dark satire ‘The Cure-All’, about a group of confidence tricksters, has been produced on the stage. He has just finished writing a crime novel. His writing appears regularly at Disenthralled and Gloom Cupboard, among many other magazines. He has a Twitter account and can be found there under the User Name Stanzazone. You can check out his portfolio here. His first crime novel will be published later this year.
His blog, RICHARD GODWIN, is now up and running.