Thursday, January 9, 2014

Choices


It had started out like any other Friday night for them. Cruising the streets in his El Camino, a six-pack of cheap beer and a couple of joints, they had nowhere to go and no place to be. They were young, poor and liable to stay that way for a long time to come. But they had their love to offset the big-ass stack of bills waiting for them when they got back to their cheap digs on the wrong side of town.

Last night they’d be out and about for a while they both knew. Between the three-day evict notice on the front door and the layoff the plant had given him, they were on the fast track to being homeless in a city of a million like souls. There was nobody to haul them out of this one and neither of them were the kind to go looking for a handout anyway. So, one last night of high times before reality came crashing in.

He’d stopped at a nameless bodega so she could go in and augment their “night out” with a pint bottle of something cheap and alcoholic. That was when both their lives took a wrong turn down a bad street that led to nowhere good. Halfway through his favorite guitar track booming from the car’s cheap stereo, he heard the gunshots. Two...no three shots…his barrio-trained ears knowing it was a pocket gun…not nothing big. Then she came out the door like her ass was on fire. In one hand she held a bulky plastic sack and in the other a smoking chrome-plated “lady killer”.

Climbing in, she screamed at him to drive and drive he had. For want of anything to say that would change what had already gone down that night, he just…kept…driving. He probably would have driven all night long if her voice hadn’t finally pierced the shell of disbelief he had cast over himself.

He’d always known she was tougher, more…street than him but he’d never have imagined she was capable of such a thing. Such thoughts retreated and he dimly heard her talking about needing to hole up somewhere. The fleabag motor lodge they stopped at asked few questions and wanted no answers…just $27.50 a night including breakfast.

After an uneasy night of sleep, they were both sober and scared enough to know just how hosed they might actually be. They couldn’t go back to their apartment…their neighborhood if there was the slightest chance they would be associated with the holdup. All they could do was lay low, stay cool and then head for parts unknown…never look back.

After a week and a half of beery, pot-smoking isolation they were still at large, still unsuspected and still in possession of a shitload of cash. It had been an unpleasant, too-quiet ten days and they had barely spoken for the last two. She’d chosen a path for them without considering her choice might not necessarily be his. She had taken a leap of faith without ever questioning if that faith resided in him as well.

Stubbing out a smoke, he took one last longing look at her before retrieving the sack and gun from the dresser. Calming the tremor in his hands, he reminded himself she’d done the robbery, she’d done the shooting, she’d been the only one the clerk had seen since their arrival. The El Camino had been parked on the street a couple blocks away since that first morning after.

Willing himself to just do it, he pushed the pillow tight over her head and fired two rounds into her head. Satisfied the impromptu silencer had worked; he wiped the room down, stuffed the bag under his jacket and left the only woman he had ever loved alone to the fate she had driven him to.


Music pumping and engine roaring, he drove away…all the while vowing to himself that if ever he needed a hand up or a handout again, then pride be damned he would take it. He would spend the rest of his days living with the memory of what being overly proud could cost. He was determined to never have to pay that price again.


This story was written for the Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction challenge and is loosely based on the song Heartbeats by Jose Gonzalez. 

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