Dad said there are three simple rules for friendship. One, don’t smoke a man’s last cigarette. Two, don’t drink his last beer, and three, don’t mess with his woman. Easy enough, right?
It was early October and mother was on her way to get her last official piece of government paperwork. As the ambulance rounded the corner of my street, Don and Mick pulled into the driveway.
“Sorry about your mom,” Don said. “Are you gonna be okay?”
“I don’t think so,” I said and lit a cigarette.
“Hey, can I get one of those?” Mick asked.
I held out my pack and showed him that I only had one left — he took it.
The rain was cold and the wind wet underneath my favorite tree. Looking back, I realized that fairness was something we hoped for but never really got. Age has a way of changing perspectives. A cold beer on a cold day can bring cold revelations.
“You got another one of those?” Mick asked, derailing my train of thought.
“Uh, yeah, last one’s in the fridge.”
“You’re all right, man,” he said, and went for my remaining beer.
“Only a lousy bastard would take a man’s last beer,” I said to myself.
She was an angel with dark hair, radiant skin, and doe eyes — she liked my sweater. “Beautiful cable stitching,” she’d said, extending a soft hand to caress the weave. Unexpected justice rode on the wings of this angel.
We sipped wine and shared our pain, ate sandwiches on a cold beach — and loved each other. We married and promised God that we would forever be together. Shortly after that, I shot Mick.
It was a bad day at work. Everything that possibly could go wrong seemed to. Mick said my numbers didn’t add up and I wasn’t meeting expectations. I explained that I had used the figures from Corporate; they had to be correct.
Tugging at his scratchy wool collar, he asked, “Did you verify the numbers?”
“No, they were from corporate,” I said.
“Do you think the head office doesn’t make mistakes? Rework your calculations and get them right this time.” He pulled at the fabric again and brought to mind the medieval torture of hair shirts.
“I’ll have them on your desk after lunch,” I said.
“I won’t be in after lunch. Email them to me instead; I’ll forward them on.”
“Okay,” I said.
There’s nothing I like less than paperwork, especially that which requires mathematical computations. Nonetheless, I ran the numbers and found that everything corporate had sent was in order — Mick had been wrong. My work was correct. I emailed him: “Take another look at my spreadsheet. I believe you’ll find my work to be error free. Maybe you should chew your own ass and not mine.” I might pay for this email, but it felt good to stick it to the company man.
On the way home I got pulled over and ticketed for expired tags. The renewal sticker sat on the passenger seat. “It’s not on the plate, sir. That means you are in violation of the law.”
I had followed the law and purchased a registration sticker. The cop was being unfair; I was in no mood to press the issue.
”Yes, sir,” I surrendered, eager to put an end to a bad day.
In a flagrant display of arrogance, Mick’s car was parked in my driveway. I pulled in behind his BMW and gently crushed his bumper. Certain that rule number three had been broken, I ran my house key down his dark blue lacquer finish on my way to the door.
Mick and Marie sat on the sofa, discussing yarn.
“Red Heart is not the best quality. Always go with Blue Bird, especially for clothing. Blue Bird doesn’t itch so much.”
Mick touched the woven thread. “You really can feel a difference, can’t you?”
“Yes, it pays to use the best,” Marie said.
I had been ready to kill. I’d prepared myself for it. The shotgun was close and the trigger had an easy draw. Their innocence was not fair. Why not go ahead and kill him? He had been a jerk, and I needed a release. I opened the closet and my heart began to race. I grabbed the shotgun and cracked it open, exposing the breach. The shells were on the shelf next to the camera.
I shot them both, Mick with outstretched hands circled with yarn, and Marie happily rolling it into a ball. They didn’t know it was coming and I savored their expressions after the shot.
“Busted,” I said after the flash. “Wait till the guys at work see this.”
In this world, fairness is hard to find, and truth can be elusive. If only we could, upon occasion, remove our blinders maybe our world could be seen in a more proper light. Exposing the gun’s breach revealed the rips in my reality. Stitching them up is another matter.
I poured a shot of whiskey and sat down next to Mick. “Now, about your car…”
Ronnie Pruitt has been an Avionics Engineer for the past ten years. Ronnie’s favorite authors are F. Scott and Harry Crews.