“What’s so hard about asking for a name when someone calls. Getting off her dimpled duff and waddling to the receiver is a major strain, but asking ‘May I say who called?’ is as easy as farting — and God knows she’s a wiz at that. But no, can’t be done in my mom’s house. Give me a freakin break.”
Keeping pace with Terry’s long strides, Mark took a hard last suck off a Camel and flicked it toward a graffiti mural. “What’s the big deal? She’ll call back.”
“She who?” Tight shoulders and pissed frown challenged Mark’s lackluster sympathy. They’d been friends since grade school — snot-nosed troublemakers — and underachievers through high school, sharing detention for smoking under the bleachers. Both worked the Dairy Whip counter now, across the street from Suntime Tanning and Nails, and hiked to and from work since Mark lost his license to a DUI.
“Well, who do you suspect it was?” Mark lit another Camel, dropped the lighter into his dancing-cow-logo uniform pocket. “You really can’t remember who you nailed?”
Terry stopped, his pinched face revealing a remedial-math brain was struggling through Heineken haze. “Oh hell, I don’t know.” His hand worried across his forehead before sliding into a greasy hairline. “I was wasted. Could be any of’m.” He crossed a lawn, Mark trailing after like a puppy, and crashed onto a bench. “I found a pair of pink panties in my pocket the next morning.”
“There you go, a clue.” Mark jumped onto the bench, cigarette clinched between his teeth, and nodded toward Suntime. “Three fingernail techs were at Randy’s party last month, right?”
“Yeah, Cindy, Tara and Lilly, I think.”
“Bitchin’ blowout. Randy can afford it too, pimps tips at Red Lobster.” Another Camel butt shot through the air, landing in manicured grass blades. “I did Tara. She wasn’t wearing any panties by the time I got on her.” Both men watched the nub smolder and fizzle out. “It was Tara, all right. I’ve never been so loaded to not know what broad’s under me.”
Mark was a jack-off with a smart mouth. A nobody going nowhere in no particular hurry. Still, his pickup lines seemed to work… after the girl was three sheets to the wind. He’d be a burger bum for minimum wage long after those pickup lines laid down and died.
Terry pitied the poor girl macho Mark might knock up — the ultimate hangover from hell. Tara was sweet, smarter than Terry and Mark put together. They’d talked a few times, about her wanting to manage Suntime one day and Terry signing up for a mechanics classes. A friendship or sorts kindled, she made him feel like Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever — the guy that got his shit together to impress a woman and went after his dreams.
“Whoever called said it was important. I’ve got a bad feeling.” Terry heaved himself upright and kicked at the sod, then set off for the sidewalk. “We’re gonna be late for work.”
“Fuck work. You still got the panties?”
“Take’m into Suntime and hold’m up. Whoever giggles or freaks is your caller.”
“What if they all freak. What if they were all wearing pink? What then, Einstein?”
Three boys on bicycles careened straight for, then around the two romeos. Mark whipped around and flipped the bird. “Get off the friggin’ sidewalk, ya brats! God, I hate kids.”
“Kids are okay, but I sure don’t want to own up to any just yet,” Terry deadpanned. The thought weighed heavy. Randy’s was the last party he’d gone to since finding the pink pair in his pocket, and Tara was dodging him. Listening to Mark’s crude brag at her expense made his stomach turn; sweat beaded his upper lip like foam off a tapped keg.
At the Dairy Whip, Tara stepped out and gave Mark a sideways glance, then reluctantly approached Terry. “Hey, can we talk?”
“Ding ding ding, and we have a winner.” Grinning, Mark snorted on his way through the door.
“Grow up, Mark.” Terry gave him a helpful shove forward.
She gently touched Terry’s arm and their eyes caught. The haze lifted and he remembered making out with Lilly. “I tried to call,” Tara began, then looked down, “about Randy’s party… and Mark.”
Wanda Morrow-Clevenger lives in Hettick, Illinois (population 200), with her husband of thirty years. By year’s end her work appears in the print and online magazines: Storyteller; Nuthouse; The Nocturnal Lyric; Up the Staircase; Flash Fiction Offensive; Leaf Garden; TheRightEyedDeer; and Clockwise Cat.