Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Twist Of Noir 694 - Chad Eagleton


SMILE - CHAD EAGLETON

The dark turned everything cold again. She’s shivering in the Plymouth, shaking through shirt layers and the puffer coat she stole from her brother before he left for Afghanistan. The heater rages like a sermon, blowing a brimstone stink that coaxes something wet and hellish up from her tummy. She gags and grips the cracked dash.

“Stomach?”

She nods, hopes the grimace looks like a smile.

It doesn’t it. “I can turn it off.”

“Better’n cold,” she says. “Gives me headache.”

“Take something.”

“Nothing to take.”

She shrugs. The nothing stays down, but now she’s hot.

“If we had just the thirty five.”

She slams the vents closed. “Your aunt shouldn’t have to go back.”

“I know.” He picks at his face. “She’s took it for years.”

“Fuck the co-pay.” She kills the heater.

The Plymouth shakes as the engine quiets. “Yeah, fuck it.”

“What you want to do?” She asks, hoping he’ll say something that’ll make it better. Something he’s known all along, but hasn’t said because he’s been waiting for her.

“There’s nothing to do.”

“Gas stations open.” She points through the fogging windshield.

His face begins to bleed. “It’s always open,” he tells her, still picking.

“Let’s go in,” she says. “I need to get out of here.”

He doesn’t answer. He just keeps scratching and watching everything fade. The sound of his fingers scrapping dry skin, the jagged nail worrying the spot on his face, the slow trickle, it’s all so loud—

“I gotta go.”

He grabs her arm.  “Stay in the car.”

All of her twists. “Why? I want to go in. Don’t feel good. I’m fucking cold—hot. I don’t feel good. My head hurts and I want a fucking candy bar. I want a Kit-Kat.”

“You don’t got any money.” He’s still staring even though the gas station is gone.

“Enough for a Kit-Kat.”

“No,” he says, letting her go.

Puffy-lipped and big-eyed, she pouts in the seat hoping it’ll work this time, hoping for the apology she’s been waiting on someone to give her since she was little. It never came before and doesn’t now.

He reaches under the seat. Cans roll. MacDonald wrappers crinkle.

“What’re you doing?”

In the darkening, she doesn’t know what he’s holding until he says, “Getting money.”

“You can’t.”

He taps the .38 against the door. “Why not?”

“They know us. Lizzie works here. We’re friends.  We’ve got math together. She tells everybody everything. The only thing she keeps shut worse than her mouth is her legs.”

“What do we do?  Huh? What? I need it…you need…just to get through.”

She watches him chew a flap of skin in the corner of his mouth. “You’ve got that interview.”

“I can’t go like this. I can’t,” he says and she touches his wrist. He looks at her from under long lashes she wishes were hers, his blue eyes vacant enough that she fills the emptiness.

“Just give me a minute, k?”

He nods.

She turns, wanting to look out the window, but can’t. Her eyes start to tear and she reaches a thin finger to the glass. Her pink nails stab twice and arc once until the window smiles.

A shiny F350 rumbles into the space next to them. Through the smile she sees a tall man step boots first from the cab. “He’ll give us thirty five dollars,” she says to the smiley face. “He likes me.”

“How much does he like you,” he asks.

“A lot—he was nice. He used to work with my dad.”

“He like you enough for fifty?”

She smiles back at the window. “If I—do that thing.”

“Yeah, he’d like that.” She hears the gun slide back under the seat. “And it’s just a thing.”

The smile is slowly disappearing. “Right, it’s just a thing,” she says before it vanishes.

“That’s right and it’s not like our thing.”

“It’s not?”

“No,” he tells her, starting the car.

She opens the door. “I’ll call you.”

“I’ll be waiting.”

She climbs out and waits by the truck as he pulls away. She waves as he rounds the pumps, but he doesn’t see. Neither does the smile.

5 comments:

AJ Hayes said...

Some nights are colder than others. Some of them freeze your soul. This is one of those. It put me in mind of James Taylor's words:
"Lord knows when the cold wind blows it'll take your breath away."
Yeah.

Chris P. said...

As usual Chad, terrific stuff. Magical, envious lines, too.



"Her pink nails stab twice and arc once until the window smiles."

"she sees a tall man step boots first from the cab"

"the jagged nail worrying the spot on his face"

Love the little hints and pieces of the puzzle along the way.

Thomas Pluck said...

Fine story, Chad. You hold the tension long enough to make the desperation growl like an empty belly.

Claudia S. said...

I'm ashamed to admit I just read this. I like the ambiguity and how little by little we start to make sense of the story. The interaction betweem the characters did it for me. Short, aloof dialogue. Great writing, Chad.

Anonymous said...

The interaction between the characters does it for me. The short, disconnected dialogue sets the mood, and is as cold as the night. And I like how you don't understand what is going on at first, and the details and the dialogue slowly help make sense of the story. Fantastic writing, Chad.

Claudia S.