Short Fiction

Page

Laundry

When the fight was finally over, he started to pack. She didn’t know what to do. She sat on the edge of the bed. Legs crossed in silence, she watched him. Her eyes wandered across the dingy wooden floors, where she spotted a basket of clean laundry in the corner. Her leg stretched far and toes snagged the edge of the bold blue basket. The heavy plastic scraped closer to her. Careful not to draw any more attention to herself, she slowly reached down for the clean clothes. He packed around her. As she folded his underwear, she wondered if she should pass them to him or just put them in a pile as usual. She piled them up. She didn’t want to seem insensitive, and apparently that was her specialty.

“I want to be with someone who wants to spend time with me, someone who doesn’t forget about me and answers the phone when I call.” He told her earlier. She folded their daughter’s tiny, pink pajamas and thought why in the world he even mentioned the want for someone else? In her mind this relationship and family meant forever. There would never be someone else in her life again. Of course she didn’t have a ring on her left hand, which now held baby booties. She wanted to marry him, but he hadn’t mentioned it and she was just too busy to plan a wedding anyway. She lifted one of his t-shirts from the basket and he snatched it from her hand.

“I’ll take this.” He said. She wanted to pierce him with nasty words, but didn’t. She reached into the basket by the bed and grabbed his pajama pants. She looked over at him before she folded it, just in case he wanted that too. He pulled socks from the dresser and for a moment she thought to just ask if he wanted the pants. This was not the time for her sarcasm, she stayed silent. She didn’t say much during the fight either, but he didn’t seem to notice.

“Did you? Did you forget that you were supposed to have lunch with me today?” He raised his voice then, waited silently for a response. She had to say something to him.

“Yes,” she said.

“I knew it,” he bellowed.

Definitely shouldn’t have said that, she thought. She blindly grabbed from the laundry basket, it was too late to explain herself. He was huffing and puffing across the room with arms full of clothes.

“I just lost track of time,” she mumbled.

“No you didn’t.” He said, then shook his head. “You haven’t called once in the past three days. You didn’t even know that you missed lunch until I called you at three o’clock in the afternoon.” His brown eyes glared at her and hand motions became more elaborate. “Yeah, yeah, the baby and class and homework, I get it. At least you could act like I still exist.”

She lined up the legs of his black and red plaid shorts. She loved those shorts on him. She didn’t intentionally forget lunch with him. She graduates from Business School in a month, she never took time off to become a mother. “You don’t understand.” She mumbled, but he wasn’t in the room anymore.

She got a stack of his t-shirts ready to be folded. He liked his t-shirt folded so he could clearly see the front of the shirt, like they do at department stores. She never folded a shirt that way in her life until they moved in together. She doesn’t fold her shirts that way, only his. Five years later she didn’t even notice anymore, instinct.

“Are you just holding on to this relationship because you don’t want to be alone?” He asked her earlier that evening. She never answered his question, but he never really waited for an answer, he just kept asking more questions. “You just don’t want to be a single mother? Is that it? Are we only getting married because your friends are all doing it? Because we think we have to?” He got louder with every question. She didn’t speak.

He stomped through the house. She could hear the wooden floors crack beneath his feet. She didn’t even know what she was folding, maybe the baby’s blanket. She could hardly see through the tears that swelled in her eyes. She heard the door slam, then lock and the tears rushed down her cheeks. She wiped them away and grabbed another piece of clothing from the basket by her bed. His new work pants. He’ll be back.

The Kind of Woman

It’s finally fall and the leaves are floating from the big maple tree in my back yard. The ground is colored burgundy and orange, green grass peeking through the leaves. Dan struts his way into the kitchen. I can smell the fresh air through the window and cool wind on my face. I sit at the kitchen table looking out. I can hear him, helping himself to a cup of coffee. Nothing is silent. Porcelain dings from the cupboard behind me. The leaves out my window rustle on each branch, holding on for dear life. I can no longer keep my mind at ease with the outside world. He grabs the bar stool from under the table and plops down across from me. The table between us is entirely too small. I can feel him breathing on me.

I turn from the window to look at Dan. Whiskers protrude from the sunken skin on the side of his face. He looks worn. Thick, dark hair is still miraculously in place from the night before. It was half past midnight when he stumbled to my door. I wonder if he even remembers. He passed out only a couple minutes after backhanding me – my eye felt as though it would burst. In the morning light, he doesn’t look a thing like the handsome, successful lawyer I fell in love with. I just stare at him, I want him to leave. He’s already dressed in the navy polo and dark blue jeans he wore last night. I can’t see his feet, but I’m really hoping he has shoes on.

Dan looks at me with blood shot eyes, his eyebrows raised as if he has something to say. Placing his arms over the black granite table top, he stretches his hands toward me. My body doesn’t respond. I shouldn’t have made such nasty comments about his drinking, I thought, especially when he was drunk.

“I’m not the bad guy.” I tell him, or maybe I’m telling myself. I sip my coffee and look back out the window. He shouldn’t have hit me, no way. There is no excuse for that, I thought, he should feel like shit right now.

“I’m sorry, Macy.” He tries to touch my hands that are cuffed around an oversized mug. I carefully slide them off the table and out of his reach. “I’ve got to go, I will get a hold of you, okay?” It sounds like a question, but I don’t know what to say. “Love you.” He says as he gets up to kiss my swollen cheek. I wince.

“Me too,” I respond quietly as he walks out. He turns and winks then closes the door behind him. I can only imagine the abundance of roses that will be delivered in the next couple of days. He sends me flowers every time we get into an argument, although he’s never laid a hand on me before last night. I will probably get lilies, mango lilies. He knows they are my favorite. He surprised me with them once before, after our trip to Cabo. On our second night there, he accused me of flirting with our waiter.  He changed his flight information and left without me the next morning. The flowers were waiting for me at the door when I got home.

I still remember the day we met over a year ago. My neighbor Kim and I walked up the street to Maloney’s, a quaint little neighborhood pub. We both had a Friday afternoon off work and decided to go for an early dinner and drinks. She and I were good friends in high school and almost ten years later, we are neighbors. We walked into the faintly lit bar that was unexpectedly busy for 3:00 in the afternoon. The tables were filled with men in suits and three or four couples sat closely at the bar, engaged in intimate conversation. Kim snagged us a table right away. We sat and looked around, thumbed through the menu for appetizers and discussed our weekend plans.

“We need our drinks ASAP,” Kim spouted as the waiter approached. She ordered two tall Miller Lights and fried pickles. Our usual bar binge.  The waiter walked away in a rush and came right back with drinks. “Great service comes with being so bitchy,” She leaned over and whispered as the waiter walked away.

“But then again, spit is hard to see in a freshly poured beer,” I chuckled. “Let’s go smoke.” We grabbed our purses and walked out the patio door of the bar. Kim grabbed her Jackie-O sunglasses out of her purse and put them on. She shook her head back and forth to straighten her dark, auburn bangs in their rightful place over her glasses. She did this every time she put her sunglasses on and took them off. Kim is a hair dresser and has wanted me to change my hairstyle since high school. Her hair has been every color in the rainbow, not to mention the change in style every season. Mine on the other hand has never changed, straight blonde hair, low maintenance.

“Do either one of you lovely ladies have a light?” One of the suited men walked toward us, dark hair and soft green eyes. He stood at least six two, broad shoulders underneath his plum dress shirt. His black tie was loosened around the neck.

“Damn,” Kim yelped. I jabbed my elbow into her ribs. “Macy has got one, don’t ya?” She leaned toward me and knocked into my shoulder with hers. “No wedding ring,” she whispered, not very quietly.  I handed him my lighter slowly, hoping he had already forgotten my embarrassing confidant and her big mouth.

“Macy, is it?” he asked as he handed my lighter back.

“That’s me,” I said with a smile.

“I don’t really smoke,” he said, taking another drag from the cigarette. “But I saw you walk in and I thought I might introduce myself.” He threw the cigarette down and put his hand out to me. “Dan Williams,” he said. I shook his hand and smiled. I gazed into his hypnotic eyes, long black lashes. I couldn’t have released my hand from that shake if I’d tried.

I walk toward the door to lock it behind him and step right on broken glass. A framed picture that hung on my living room wall fell and shattered during our scuffle. Blood began to seep out from under my foot onto the wooden floor. Great, I could use a throbbing foot. It will take the attention away from the radiating pain on my face. I hop, one bloody foot in the air, into the bathroom. I strip out of my sweat pants and large t-shirt, inherited from an ex-boyfriend. After pulling the tiny shards of glass from my blood soaked foot, I get into the shower. I turn the water on and just stand under it, going through the maddening details of this twisted relationship that I have gotten myself into.

Dan and I had been seeing each other for a couple of months when he finally told me he was married. I remember it vividly. We had dinner at Charlie’s, an upscale seafood restaurant, on a Thursday evening. We sat at a table overlooking a small pond with ducks and geese that fought each other for the last bread crumb. After he told me, I was confused and upset. I asked question after question as he filled my wine glass.

“What kind of man takes off his wedding ring when he goes out for drinks? Why would you wait so long to tell me something like this?” He didn’t answer most of my questions. Of course, I thought to myself, of course he was married. Dan was thirty five years old, partner at a law firm, and handsome. He told me about his ten year old son and how his wife had gotten pregnant before they were married. The only thing I knew about his wife was her name, Rebecca. I didn’t ask questions about his family and never have. We’ve been together for over a year now. He always had that separate life, beyond us.

The warm water beating down on me is causing my entire body to ache. My cheek is pounding as though it has a separate heartbeat, pulsing right off my face. I have to get this anxiety and pain out of my soul. I can’t feel the tears, but I know they are there. They are rolling down my face, mixing with the warm shower water. I just scream as loud as I possibly can.

“Macy, are you ok?”

My body freezes, terrified, until my mind catches up and recognizes the voice. Kim cracks open my bathroom door.

“I heard you screaming. Your windows are open.”

“Holy shit, Kim, you almost had to revive me.” I say while poking my head out from the shower curtain. “I’m fine just letting out a little stress. Sorry about that.” We have each other’s keys in case of an emergency – something I often forget.

“Oh my god, Mace. What happened to your face?” I haven’t looked in the mirror yet this morning. Now I don’t want to, seeing the look of horror on Kim’s face. “Did that just happen? What did you do?”

“Last night,” I yell, shutting the curtain to continue my shower.

“What? No. Did Dan do that?”

“Yep,” I state, very matter of fact.

“Oh my god, we need to talk.” Kim sounds like a disappointed mother. “I’ll wait.”

“Everything’s fine,” I say, as she disappears from the bathroom door. I listen closely for a response but don’t get one. Hurrying out of the shower, I catch a glimpse of myself in the steamed mirror. I wipe the mirror clean. My right cheekbone is three times the size of my left. The swelling is taking over my eye as well. The color is turning from a deep red to purple, as a bruise begins to form. I’m so disgusted, my stomach churns. I definitely can’t go out in public looking like this. I look like a domestic violence poster.  Nothing I can do now but get my clothes on and listen to Kim’s lecture. Sure enough, she is lounging in the corner of my couch, her legs crossed. I keep watching her foot move back and forth rapidly, a nervous tick when she gets upset. This is not going to be a good conversation, I can tell.

“What in the hell happened? What are you going to do Macy?” She starts in with the questions. I don’t think she actually wants me to answer any of them, so I won’t. I’ll just listen. “I told you a year ago to let him go. He’s crazy, not mention married. Let his wife deal with him.” I immediately regret telling Kim everything about our relationship. Yes, he’s overbearing and aggressive at times but, I wouldn’t call him crazy.

“We need to get you out of this, as soon as possible. You need to learn how to let go of crappy, future-less relationships, Mace.” She continues. “You do this all the time. Remember Matt, from high school?”

Ugh. I do remember Matt. I dated him for a couple months until he moved down south with his family. I never really talked to him again, but I told people I talked to him all the time. I went on and on about Matt for four or five months after he left, pretending our relationship was better than ever. My friends knew the truth but played along. They must have felt sorry for me.

“I can’t believe he put his hands on you.” Kim continues on with her rant. “Who does this asshole think he is?”

Then it’s silent, we sit there staring off, deep in our own thought. She’s right. I have a hard time letting go of the men in my life. Especially the assholes, I start a rant of my own. “I am the one sacrificing. I want kids someday and I want to get married. He has all that. Your right, he’s wasting my time.” It feels good to get that off my chest. I’ve finally said what I have been thinking in the back of mind.

“Exactly…”

Suddenly, Kim and I hear a dull ring. We both looked at our phones then at each other in confusion. “That’s not yours?” I ask, already knowing the answer. We get up and hunch over, following the sound of the ring like drug dogs. We move slowly down the hall, careful not to make any noises so we can hear where it’s coming from. Kim goes into the bathroom in search and I ruffle through the bed.

“Found it,” I yell over to her. “It’s Dan’s. It says Home.”

“Answer it,” she yells, sprinting into the bedroom.

“No way, I don’t know where he went from my house. Maybe it’s his wife.” I like to imagine what his wife looks like. They have a lot of money so sometimes I think of her as this prissy little thing with perfect hair and nails. The kind of woman who wears size two, designer jeans and goes to yoga every morning. I can picture her toting a little rat dog in her purse, on the way to her plastic surgeon’s office. I sometimes imagine her as the typical soccer mom. With a haircut to match her ten year old son’s and high-waist jeans. I bet she drives a Benz either way.

“Maybe he is just looking for his phone,” Kim antagonizes me. She wants me to answer the phone. “If it’s his wife, even better, you can tell her she married an ass. Assuming she doesn’t already know that by now.” The phone stops ringing and I let out a sigh of relief. Before either one of us can get a word out, it rings again, with that same single word that’s haunting me, “Home.” I have to answer. The pounding pain on my face is telling me to. There is no way that it’s Dan on the other end of this phone. He would have come back. He never calls me from home.

“Hello?” All I can hear now is my heart pumping out of my chest.

“You have my husband’s phone,” a soft voice says. I can’t tell if she is asking or telling me. Her voice is timid. A cold rush of guilt runs through my bones. I can feel my palms sweat. I have to think of something quick, I have to lie. The silence through the phone seems to be lasting for hours. Say something.

“I do, I’m sorry.” I don’t know why I apologize. What am I thinking? I’m not thinking. How did I end up in a position like this? My mind is racing. I don’t know what to say. I say, “this is Macy.”

“Macy. I know who you are.”

“You know who I am?”

“You don’t stay married to a man for ten years and not know when he’s with another woman.” She didn’t sound as angry as I would see myself being. If I were in her position, that is.

“I think you have the wrong impression…”

“No, Macy, you have the wrong impression. It would be best for everyone if the relationship between you and my husband ended immediately.”

I opened my mouth, but no words would come out. She was direct and forceful but not emotional. She wasn’t crying, she didn’t call me a bitch or threaten to burn down my house. What is left to say to this woman?

“It’s over.”

“I’m going to come get his phone. I will need your address unless you would like to meet me somewhere else.”

I can’t meet her anywhere, I’m a mess. I hesitate for a moment, then rattle off my address. Thankful she didn’t already know it. We hang up. I walk into the bathroom, head down and close the door behind me. I can here Kim’s footsteps as they creak down the hall to the bathroom door. I cry, I’m ashamed that I was with a married man for so long. I look in the mirror and cry, my face is embarrassing. I don’t want his wife to see this. I let him hit me. I never put up a fight and he walk all over me, just as he was doing to her. I cry too, because I will never see him again and I know I will miss him.

I fling the bathroom door open. “She’s coming over to get the phone.”

“I heard,” Kim says. “What do you want to do? Do you want me to give it to her? I’ll meet her on the porch, she won’t even come in.”

“Yeah, I do. I mean, I can’t let her see me like this. Look at my face, I can’t cover this up. Is that what you think I should do?”

“Mace, I’m here to help you, I will do whatever you want. If you want my honest opinion, however I think you need to give it to her yourself. You owe her the whole truth, so don’t try to cover your face. You do need brush that hair though.”

Twenty minutes later, a white Ford Escape pulls up to the curb right in front of my house. I open the door and walk out onto the wooden porch. She comes up the stairs. She isn’t anything like I thought she would be. She doesn’t have a ten year old boy’s hair-cut. Her hair is curly and blonde. She doesn’t have manicured nails or a little dog in her purse. I can tell she’s a little older than me, but not by much.

She stands in front of me, neither of us saying the first word.  She has the look of exhaustion, the same way I feel. Maybe it’s the run down feeling that love sometimes brings. A tear glides down my face as I hand her the phone. She grabs it in one hand and with the other she reaches up and cups my cheek in her palm. I don’t squint, as I would have if it were my own hand reaching toward my wound. Her hands are gentle.

“Trust me,” Rebecca says quietly. “He has already moved on. Don’t waste any more energy on this. Pick yourself up and let him go.” She turns, phone in hand and walks down the stairs.

“What about you?” Suddenly I cared about her, more than I cared about Dan.

Rebecca looks back at me, “I picked myself up a long time ago. That’s why he was with you.”

The Flat

“Aw, damn it,” Tony said. He slowed the black Jeep and pulled off to the shoulder. The ruptured tire made a loud plop plop plop, as it came to a stop. Tony and Chris looked at each other in silence, both men waiting for the other to make a move.

“Do you have a spare?” Chris asked.

“Do you know how to change it?”

They flashed grins at one another. Macy felt an eruption of panic from the backseat. Men are so incompetent, she thought. Her panic turned to rage as they snickered and giggled.

“Seriously?” Tony eyed his friend.

“Absolutely not, man,” Chris responded.

“What should we do?” Tony brushed his shaggy curls to the side. His tone was very casual, as if he were trying to figure out weekend plans. Never mind the fact that they were stranded on an empty stretch of highway, in the middle of Iowa. Darkness crept in. The long Memorial Day weekend was coming to an end. The last gas station that looked open was at least a half hour back. Macy had pointed it out so she wouldn’t have to endure anymore bathroom breaks on the side of the road.

“Call your Dad,” Chris said. “We are only about forty-five minutes to Council Bluffs.”

“Yeah, let me use your cell.” Tony put his hand out.

“Uh, why don’t you have a phone?”

“Cause it’s a piece,” Tony stated. “Can’t hold a charge, can’t hear anybody. I always leave it at home. What a waste.”

“Dude, just get a new one.” Chris laughed and checked his pockets. Macy rolled her eyes. Tony’s nonchalant attitude about every situation – regardless of the seriousness – was really annoying. To Chris, this was surely part of Tony’s appeal, they were friends since high school and Tony had yet to grow into a responsible adult. This attitude, which Macy also used to love, was just childish. Wow, she rubbed her forehead.

“Shit,” Chris threw his head back in disbelief. “I left it at the hotel.”

“Wow, dude.” Tony laughed. “Mace’s got one.” He turned and extended his arm across the seat to the back. Macy rummaged through her backpack and handed her phone to Tony. He dialed his Dad. Macy watched Bob Marley’s head dangle from the rearview mirror. She glared over his shoulder. His bony fingers circled every number before pushing it, like he forgot how to use a phone. He probably had.

“Nothing,” he said while he stared at the phone. “It says ‘No Service’. Here,” he handed Chris the phone. “Get out and walk around, maybe we’re in a dead zone.”

Macy’s heart raced. Soon the cars on the highway wouldn’t see them. She reached up into the front seat around Tony and flipped on the flashers. Wordlessly, they watched Chris walk around, back and forth, holding up the phone then putting it to his ear. When he lifted the phone, the faded black sleeves on his shirt fell up toward his shoulders that revealed the distasteful tattoo of a woman’s legs on each side of his armpit. Gross, she thought.

“Nope,” Chris shouted toward the windshield. He shrugged and hoped back in the Jeep. “This whole area must be out of service. On the bright side, at least the man can’t find you everywhere.”

“Technology,” Tony nodded his head. “What a joke.”

Neither of the men attempted to look for the manual. There was no talk of changing the tire or even checking for a spare. Macy watched them stretch out with ease as if help were already on the way. They must have assumed some mechanically inclined person would come along soon to rescue them, no biggie. As usual, Macy thought. Tony didn’t worry about much. She turned toward the back window to watch for cars coming up behind them. Maybe someone would stop. But the highway was dead. It was like zombies had taken over the world, they were the only ones left and now doomed to be eaten because of a flat tire.

There were spurts of smoke and reminisces about the weekend while the time passed. Macy remembered her father. He jumped out of their beat up Bronco at least a dozen times to change a flat tire. He did it successfully every time, in what seemed like moments.

“Mace,” her father once said while he struggled to get back in the car, losing breath. “I really ought to teach you how to change a tire one of these days.”

“What for Daddy?” She replied. “I’ll just call you.” He reached across the center console and gently petted her head.

“I won’t be around forever.”  She laughed at him. That was long before he was diagnosed with cancer.

They were nothing like her father. Boys, she thought, not men. This wasn’t the first time she was stuck with Tony and Chris for an abnormally long weekend. “Road trip reunion” is what they called it. The term itself made Macy squirm. Tony and Chris took little road trips at least twice year, to visit his friends from high school. Most of their friends had moved on and became successful, although, it wouldn’t be hard to look successful next to Tony. This weekend was Macy’s third trip with them. She spent her time forcing a permanent smile, laughing at jokes that made no sense and only speaking when spoken to. She despised herself for buying new, cute little dresses for these ridiculous occasions and spending so much damn time getting her hair perfect. For what? To overhear Tony’s perverse friend call her “smoking hot”? It wasn’t even a compliment anymore.

Macy cursed them under her breath, the same thing she had done the past two days in Kansas City. On the way out there, Tony repeated, “I totally know where we’re going, I know exactly where we’re going,” whenever Macy or Chris questioned his navigation skills. In fact, he had no idea where they were going and missed the exit by an hour.  Macy sat in the backseat, tense. The sky turned grey. Her teeth clenched, she begged the sun not to go but it disappeared over the flat plains. It was official. Darkness had fallen.

“Ya think we should get out of the car?” Chris suggested. “I don’t know, I mean what if we get hit or something?” Tony nodded and flung the driver side door open. The others followed.

They all stood off the shoulder, knee deep in prickly weeds. Macy rubbed her legs together, trying to scour out the itch all over her calves. They all swung their arms, swatting flies and mosquitos. The car sat on the asphalt and they watched the glow of the interior lights. The battery will go next, she thought, but never spoke a word of it. After staring at the jeep for a bit she began to feel a bond with it. The poor thing sat there, helpless, using the last of its energy to save these dumbasses, who didn’t know a thing about the vehicle to begin with. She wanted to protect it, to keep it safe but she was too scared to suggest turning off the lights. In a way, it was protecting her as well.

Every so often, a car flew by. The three of them backed further from the edge of the road each time another passed. Pictures of police cars and ambulances filled Macy’s head. Terror rose in her throat and her hands began to shake when headlights appeared in the distance. She thought for sure, one of these speeding cars was going right for the Jeep. She thought of her last phone conversation with her mother earlier that day. She wondered how her mother would react, when the State Trooper knocked on her door in the middle of the night to tell her that her daughter was in a terrible car accident. Macy was all her mother had left.

“I’ve gotta pee,” Tony announced. He kicked his legs toward the tall weeds and fumbled down a small ravine.

“Don’t go too far down, man,” Chris shouted while Tony disappeared into the darkness. “If you get lost we’ll be forced to leave without you.”

“Permission granted,” Tony called out from nowhere.

As she watched Tony re-emerge, Macy now felt the sudden urge to go too. She clenched tight and her legs crossed against her will. She was too scared to go hide behind a tree, alone right now. She turned back toward the road, blinking rapidly. She tried to divert her attention to something else, other than her sudden need to pee. Macy was completely alone and unprotected. She was the only woman, out of three of them and felt no comfort. She was supposed to be the weakest. She was not supposed to know how to change a tire. Now, all she wanted to do was cry.

Tony walked toward them, still keeping a physical distance from Macy. He didn’t put his arm around her shoulder or whisper in her ear that everything would be okay. He didn’t even ask how she was doing and if she was scared. She wanted to be comforted by skin. Instead, all she could feel were the weeds that scraped against her calves and the mosquitoes that swarmed her arms and legs, feasting on her blood.

Suddenly, she noticed that a set of headlights was slowing their speed, they approached the Jeep slowly. She straightened her stance like a hound that just caught a scent. The car stopped, glaring headlights in their direction. She squinted to see around the bright lights and followed Tony and Chris toward the vehicle.

“Car trouble?” a woman’s voice belted from the car.

“Yea,” Tony stated. Macy froze. She saw the lights on top of the car and the silhouette of a police woman, in full uniform. She turned and looked at Tony, whose eyes were wide, staring in the direction of Chris. Macy ran her palms down the back pockets of her shorts and around to the front, they were empty. Phew. At least she wouldn’t be the one going to jail tonight.

“Uh, yea, yea, we’ve got a flat.” Tony stuttered.

“Where are you guys headed?”

“Home, uh, we live in Omaha.” Tony was nervous, Macy could tell. That’s what cops did. They made people nervous – even the people who didn’t have pot stashed in the glove compartment. As a child, Macy was taught that the police are there to help. She was taught to dial 911 in case of an emergency and find an officer if she was ever lost. Her child-like view on the role of a police officer changed quickly.

Macy began to recall the high school parties she used to go to every weekend. She hid in dark rooms for fear of getting busted by the cops, who were pounding down the door. Once, her boyfriend picked her up from one of those parties. He was supposed to take her home but he refused. Rob, he was the jealous type and had already graduated high school. He wanted to know how many boys were at the party, whose car that was parked in the street. He’d demand to know who exactly she spoke with and laughed with during this so-called party. Macy was drunk. She laughed at him and told him that he was crazy. She just wanted to go home and sleep it all off but he took her to an abandon parking lot. They screamed at each other, he didn’t trust Macy and she just wanted to go home. She refused to leave the car, knowing they were far from her home. Rob got out of the driver’s seat, walked around, opened Macy’s door and dragged her out of his car by her hair. She used a pay phone to call the police, told them what happened, and waited for an officer to pick her up and take her home. They picked her up, alright, and took her to jail for minor in possession of alcohol.

“You can’t change it?” The lady cop asked skeptically. She looked at Tony and Chris. Her eye wondered over to Macy, who stood arms crossed, staring down the two men, waiting for one of them to answer. She didn’t say a word, only hoped her mutual distain would carry over to the other woman through dust particles floating in the air. “Let me see if I can get you guys a tow,” she got back in the cruiser and closed the door behind her.

Macy couldn’t help it, she casually whacked Tony across his shoulder as if to say “you dumbass.” There was nothing they could do at this point. If she smelled it, she was calling for back up. If not, she was calling for a tow. They waited without a sound, all three of them, watching.

Only a couple of minutes later, the interior light of the cruiser flipped on and the petite woman stepped out. “Well,” she shouted from the driver door. “Tow truck’ll be here soon. They said it will be about half hour, forty-five minutes.”

“Thank you so much.” Tony started to walk toward her, in attempt to shake the woman’s hand. His motion startled Macy. They were in the clear, what in the world was he doing? She reached up and cupped his elbow in her hand. She pulled him back, hoping he would catch her drift and not move any closer. Tony yanked his arm free and continued up toward the gravel.

“I would suggest staying put for now, down off the shoulder. You may want to think about turning those lights off soon so your battery doesn’t die. I have got to go, good luck, guys.” Just like that, she was back in the car, lights on and disappeared down the dark highway.

“Oh my god, dude, that could’ve been bad.” Chris let out in one long breath.

“Ah man, so lucky,” Tony stated, “so lucky.” He walked back to his own little circle of already broken down weeds.

A mosquito, Macy thought. She could not believe that she was swatted away like the damn mosquitos that have been eating her alive. “What an asshole,” she said aloud. Her voice cracked, did they hear that or was it a whisper? She could only hear her heart, beating with anxiety. She wondered if Tony heard, but nobody spoke. Macy legs began to shake. She walked up and sat in the gravel. She was mute, but waited for one of them to speak up and tell her not to sit up there, so she could give them a piece of her mind. Chris followed her to the gravel a couple minutes later. He sprawled out across the gravel and laid his head into his folded arms.

It had been an hour when headlights slowed in the distance. Tony had been tossing rocks at the flat tire for a half hour at least. Macy stood and spotted the triangle beams above the cab of the truck. She could no longer keep in the built up emotions that had been gnawing at her. She gave in to her body’s need to cry. She tried to keep in each burst of emotion as she cried secretly. Wiping away the tears, one by one as she felt them overflow onto her cheeks. In this moment, she was nothing but thankful for the loud, annoying hum of the tow truck. Honest Auto. Council Bluffs, IA.

Tony walked over and kicked Chris in the side to wake him. The driver cut the ignition and pushed open his rusted door that was just as loud as the engine. An old man stepped out. Gray hair snuck out from under his John Deere hat. He was short and hunched over.

“Been out here long?” The man asked.

“Yes, sir,” Chris replied loudly as he jumped to his feet in excitement.

“Well, let me get ya fixed up and out of here.” He walked around to the back of the Jeep, removed the lug nuts and the tire with ease. From the misty glare of the headlights, Macy watched him intently. She watched his every move. He leisurely knelt in front of the flat. All his weight bore down on his left arm which shook as he slid the jack under the vehicle.

The tire was replaced in a flash. Tony got into the Jeep and started the ignition. “We’re good, man. Thank you so much, you saved us.” Chris jumped into the passenger seat with a wide grin and began getting comfortable.

“Hey, we’re going the same way, right? Why don’t you let us buy you a beer when we get to CB?” Chris suggested, leaning over Tony and peering at the man.

“Oh no, no thank you,” the old man said as he threw his tool box into the back of the white, rusted tow truck. “Is there anything else I can do for you?” He looked at the two men in the Jeep, then at Macy, who was standing next to Tony’s window.

“Yeah, if you don’t mind,” Macy spoke shyly. “Could I catch a ride back?”

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