You ignore the NO PARKING sign and drive our aging mini-van behind the dumpster swelling with trash. “Wait here,” you tell me, like I have somewhere to go. You limp toward the motel office. Your ankle’s stiff from the drive. I pull a cigarette from your pack, then crumble it out the window. I’m two months pregnant.
Three days on the run. No money for motels you said. You drive during the day. I drive at night. Safer for me you said, since I don’t have a license yet.
The motel doesn’t take credit cards, and we don’t have one. I hope you have enough cash. I need a shower. You pound on the side of the van and toss me the room key. “Get the bags,” you bark. The brass key’s worn and looks older than you. Its turquoise tag says Room 23, and if someone finds it, drop it in any mailbox.
I slide the van door and grab your bag, red canvas with a faded Marlboro logo. The zipper’s broken. I see the butt of your pistol among your clothes. I tell myself, maybe later. I shoulder your bag. And mine — a handbag I swiped from a booth at Denny’s yesterday morning. It holds everything I own. We get to our room.
Your hands shake, and you tell me to go to the liquor store next door for a pint of Jack. I tell you that I don’t have any fuckin’ money for your liquor. I watch as you dig a ten out of your wallet. I hesitate, and you ask what the hell I’m looking at.
I sulk across the parking lot. It’s over a hundred, and my clothes are soaked with sweat. The clerk laughs when I hand him your ten and ask for a pint of Jack. He leers at my braless chest, so I lift my shirt and show him. I leave with a half-pint of vodka.
I get back to the room, and you’re curled on the bed, sweating worse than me. You cuss when you see the vodka. Your fingers struggle to twist the cap, and when you do, you gulp. Your stomach revolts, and you puke in the trash can. The second time, you sip. Your face contorts to the vodka burn. I hand you a package of orange cheesy crackers I swiped from the liquor store and head to the bathroom for a shower. You don’t say thank-you.
I wash my panties as I shower and lay them on the window sill to dry. There’s no rod or curtain. There’s no hot water, but in this heat that’s okay. Cold water floods my face. The tiny bar of soap smells wonderful as I wash my pits, my hair. I give my teeth a finger brush, wanting some toothpaste, and I slip on the same jeans and T-shirt.
There’s only one bed, a double, and I lie down at the edge away from you, listening to the rumble of the window unit as it struggles to cool the room.
An hour earlier we cased a local diner and ate grilled cheese sandwiches. You figured it an easy job. Lots of cash at closing time. A couple of waitresses and a beefy tattooed cook in the kitchen who owns the place. In and out in two minutes, top, you said.
You look at me lying on my back, mumble thanks for the crackers, and reach your orange stained fingers for my breasts. I slap your hand away. You laugh and return to your bottle. I need a Dr Pepper and head for the manager’s office.
I return with my soda, and see you fiddling with your revolver, a .38 special. You spin the cylinder and put it to your temple. You give me a “dare me” look, and before I can decide how to answer, you pull the trigger.
You point it at me.
You laugh and reach in your bag for a half-full box of bullets and load the gun. You tell me to wake you at seven-thirty. My watch says six. You chug the rest of the vodka, and in five minutes you’re snoring.
I think about the gun. Think about doing you right here. Instead, I head back to the manager’s office and watch some TV with his wife. She took a liking to me. I chat her up, talking about kids. Family. I start to cry and ask to use her phone. Got to call my momma, I tell her.
I check my watch and return to wake you. Your wallet’s on the table. I peek inside it, shocked at all the green. I pull a hundred. Liar. I pull another. Bastard. I kick the bed, and wake you up. We grab our things, and at eight we’re in the van. This time I’m driving.
You tell me where to stop. “Just sit here with the motor running, and I’ll do the rest. Think you can handle that?” It’s more of a statement than a question. You’ve never cared what I thought. I nod my head.
You get out and tuck the .38 in your waist. I watch in the rear-view as you enter the cafe. I sit behind the wheel and pull a smoke from your pack. I suck the first drag and blow a smoke ring out the open window and wipe my sweaty hands on my thighs.
By now you’re pulling the .38 and demanding the money. I turn on the radio, searching for some tunes. I hear the distinct sound of shotgun fire. Once. Twice.
It wasn’t momma I called from the motel office. It was the cafe. Momma died when I was eight.
I try to imagine what you look like, dead on the floor, and for a moment I hope it was merciful. I pull the last of your smokes from the pack and fire it up. I turn toward Texarkana and drive. It’s getting dark.
Jeff Switt likes to read and write. This is his fifth story published at Every Day Fiction.