A BAD DAY GOT BETTER • by Milan Smith

“Tell me about it.”

It’s an odd thing, strange and odd and all right really.

“Yes, yes, but what happened?”

Things had gone bad for me, my wife had left me for my best friend–that’s a double whammy right there–then I got laid off from my job, and no one else wanted to hire me, a 45-year-old guy. Then my debts got out of control and bill collectors were calling all day long and they were going to take my house. I couldn’t see any way out. My life had fallen apart.

“Sounds rough.”

It was. Everything I’d ever worked for was gone. I was ready to give up. Actually, I did. I bought all the rat poison I could find, poured it in a whiskey bottle–my best bottle of whiskey–and I drove out to the bluffs. I was going to drink it and watch the sunset, thinking I’d watch the light leave the sky and my life all at once, sort of a metaphorical ending, you know?

“Very dramatic.”

Yeah, I thought so. So I drove out there, walked down to the beach and looked for a place to sit, as the sun dropped and the sky got red and purple in these ripples of color–

“Very poetic.”

Yeah, I guess. Well, I sit down and start to drink, when these two kids come up, waving baseball bats and threatening to kill me if I don’t give them my money. Well, these were just teenagers, maybe 16 or 17, thin and wiry, and I’m still in pretty good shape, so I tell them off, and I hit one and knock him down. The other comes at me, and we roll around in the sand, him kicking and biting and I just keep hitting, and I get him on his back and start beating him, when I feel something hit me in the neck. The first kid had gotten back up and whacked me, I guess. So, the next blow puts me out, and I don’t move ’til the next morning. When I wake up, my head is bloody, my money’s gone, and so’s my bottle. I figure I’m lucky they didn’t kill me, and I’m relieved.

“I thought dying was the idea.”

Yeah, but I forgot all about that during the fight. I was ready to kill myself, but somebody else tries and it’s different, I fight like hell. So when I woke up, I felt good about being alive. Except for the headache; that didn’t feel so good. But, seeing the sun on the horizon and feeling the wind on my face was awful nice that morning.

“I understand.”

So I walk back to my car, and there’s people in the parking lot and I ask for an ambulance and some guy calls on his cell phone, and a few minutes later a cop shows up and starts asking questions, and my head is ringing so bad I tell him the whole story. Any other time I would have kept my mouth shut, at least about the rat poison, but this time I didn’t. The cop kept asking questions even when the paramedics wrapped up my head and put me in the ambulance. Then I passed out.

I woke up  later in the hospital, and there was another cop there, but this time he did all the talking, and I finally found out what’d happened. The cops had already found those kids. After they left me, they drove off somewhere, drank my whiskey, and died. They’d been wanted for robberies and a liquor store killing and had been on the run for a week.

“So you were a hero.”

Sort of. I got the reward, so someone thought I was. It was more than enough to pay my debts and a little left over. With all the attention I got, someone saw me on TV and offered me a job, at better money than I had before.

“It worked out good for you.”

Sure did. At my new job, I met my new wife-to-be, and we’re getting married in a month. We’re already talking kids, and I’ve been told I’m getting a promotion when the guy above me retires this summer.

“Any downsides?”

Yeah, one. I lost my taste for whiskey.

Milan Smith has  published 23 short stories in such magazines as Lines In the Sand (Sept.-Oct. 2000); PKA’s Advocate (Dec. 2000-Jan. 2001), (Oct. – Nov. 2001), (Apr.-May 2002), and (April-May 2007); Enigma (Fall 2001), The Circle (Winter 2002), and one in a regional zine Mylxine (#15). Milan says: “After I got my B.S. degree in business from the University of Florida, I worked in the business world for two years, then got job as a reporter at The Destin Log, in Destin, Florida. I’d written poetry and short stories in my spare time for several years up to then, and I finally decided to work at it full-time. I now work a part-time job at night and write during the mornings. I’ve been working on a novel the past few years and am now back to writing stories.”

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Every Day Fiction