Instead of the Chuck Wendig Terribleminds challenge for my Monday post this week, I chose to follow a different path.
You may not believe this but I do end up with a number of half finished stories. Sometimes I run across something I need to get done right away so the story I was working on loses steam or I just couldn’t find a hook to keep me moving through a story.
Sometimes these old story pieces pop back up again and the hook you lost lives fresh in your mind. Such is the case for this story. The first half of it was written a few months ago, other things came up and I completely forgot about it. I recently spent sometime with it and finished it off.
As a side note: I have never read Of Mice and Men, never saw the movie either. But the characters are so much a part of our culture. When I started this piece they invaded my mind. It can be interesting at times how the world around us can come into our written words.
In too Deep
“How did you let that happen?” Terry asked. “Of all the asinine things you could have done.”
Al rubbed at the hand print on his cheek. It still hurt, but more his pride than his face. “I guess I wasn’t thinking,” he said. “Isn’t that what you always say anyway.”
Terry pulled back his hand and watched as Al cringed away. “Don’t you forget it either, damn ingrate. Who’s the one with the plans around here?”
“You Terry. You always know what to do.”
“That’s right. And don’t you forget it,” he said. “Next time you think of doing something like that, don’t.” They had a hierarchy. Terry was the leader and every now and then he had to remind Al of that. Sometimes Al got the notion that he could think. Terry never liked it when that happened. Better to remind him of his place now before he does something right and it goes to his head.
“Go get me a beer,” Terry said. “Maybe you won’t fuck that up.” He pulled out his papers and his tobacco then rolled a smoke. He pulled the lever in his easy chair and leaned back.
Al returned with a bottle of beer and a glass. He set them both on the table next to Terry’s easy chair. “You want me to pour your beer, Terry?”
“Hell no, you always fuck it up when you do. Sides, I didn’t want a glass tonight anyway. I’m drinking straight from the bottle.” He took a long drag from his cigarette, then slowly released the smoke from his lungs.
“You better figure out how you can get that necklace back. That thing is worth more than you will ever be.”
“I was going to call Sara soon.”
“You better, bitch will probably hock it soon as you turn your back on her.”
“No way, not my Sara. She told me she would cherish it forever.”
Terry sat up knocking his leg rest back into the chair. “Don’t be a dumbass. You know she only says that to get you to buy her shit.” He threw the last of the cigarette on the floor and ground it out with his heel. “Now get the fuck out of here and don’t come back without that damn necklace.”
Al ran out the front door. He didn’t want to stick around when Terry got like this. Nothing he could say or do would put Terry in a good mood again. Like this, all he would do is yell at Al and sometimes even hit him. Like he did tonight.
He never meant it. Sometimes Terry could be the best friend Al ever had. And then other times it was worse, much worse. Those were the times Al was happy he had Sara. She was so good to him. She made him pancakes and sausage. Didn’t matter if it was breakfast time or not. If he was hungry she got them pancakes working for him.
Al wanted to give her something for a while now. When they found the necklace, well, he thought that was perfect. And her face lit up. It lit up like Christmas. That was the only way he could think to describe it. When she smiled like that it felt just like Christmas morning to him. The anticipation and then the huge pile of presents under the tree. He always wanted to tear right into them.
But his daddy, well his daddy always told him to have some patience. They would get to presents after a little while, but his daddy always made him wait and it always made him feel like he was going to burst. That was the smile that Sara gave him. He liked that smile.
Her door, red and inviting, his hand trembled at the doorbell. Maybe she wasn’t home. He could put this off till tomorrow. Tomorrow was the better day, his daddy told him that once. Tomorrow always gave you the time to get the hard work done.
He could hear feet on the stairs beyond the door. She was home, maybe she din’t jnow he was here. He didn’t ring the bell yet, honest. Tomorrow he would come back tomorrow. He turned from the door and stepped off the porch.
“Al?” Her soft voice caught him. “Did you ring the bell?”
She caught him, he couldn’t escape. “No Sara,” he said. “I was bout to but remembered something I still needed to do.” He turned but avoided looking at her, his eyes cast to the ground.
“Don’t be silly,” she said. “You come inside and have some lemonade. I just made a fresh pitcher.”
“Ok.” He followed her into the house.
She led him through the immaculate house, so different than the dive hotels that Terry made them stay in. Everything had a place and she noticed when something had been moved.
She scolded him once when he picked up a ballerina figurine. Made of china and fragile, she made him put it back right away. She didn’t scold him like Terry though, not Sara. He felt so much worse than when Terry scolded him. Al never wanted to upset Sara.
Sure enough a fresh pitcher of lemonade was set out on the back porch table, with two glasses. “Would you like some ice for your lemonade?”
“Yes.” Her eyes burned through his, deep down. “Yes please.”
“I’ll be right back.”
Al loved to look out into Sara’s backyard, the grass trimmed and neat, with flower beds and a vegetable garden around the sides. A small koi pond with a bridge across it lay in the center of the yard. On a warm summer day he liked to feed the fish.
A bucket with chunks of ice in her arm, Sara returned to the porch. She poured lemonade over the ice in their glasses. “Where is your friend today?”
Al accepted the offered glass. “He had business to attend to.”
“He didn’t take you with him?”
“He gave me a job of my own,” he said. She would ask him, he knew it was coming. But he couldn’t do it. The necklace was a gift and Sara deserved it.
“That’s a pretty big deal,” she said. “Him letting you have a job of your own. I have every confidence in your ability to get it done.”
She didn’t ask. His legs quaked while he sighed with relief on the inside. He looked out toward the koi pond. “How is your fish doing?”
“Adjusting to the outside again. I kept him in a tank inside over the winter.” She sipped at her glass. “Not too sweet is it?”
“What?” He asked then looked down at the lemonade in his hand, untouched.
“It isn’t too sweet is it? I only ask because you haven’t touched it. You have loved my lemonade in the past.”
“I’m sorry Sara. It’s just… Well, it’s just I don’t think I should do what it is Terry wants me to do.”
“Oh? If I may ask, what is it Terry wants you to do?”
Al bit at his thumbnail. “He told me that I had to get the necklace I gave you back.” He shrunk away from her as he said the last of it.
She said nothing as she ran a finger around the rim of her glass. He expected an outburst, anger, tears, something more than the silence. “You let him push you around too much,” she said.
“He doesn’t push me around, we’re friends.”
She leaned in close to him and placed her hand on his chin, then turned his head to the side. “If he was nice to you, you wouldn’t have these marks on your face.”
“Terry is a good man. He keeps us safe and provides for us.”
“And then sends you off to take gifts back from friends…”
“He said it was important and I shouldn’t have given it to you without asking him first.”
“Be that as it may, you should stand up for yourself when he gets like this.” She stood up when the doorbell rang. “Drink your lemonade while I answer the door. I’ll be back soon.”
Gone into the house she left him alone on the porch. The lemonade left him with a sour feeling in his stomach, but not from the lemonade itself. She made the sweetest he ever tasted, and usually felt great after having a couple glasses with Sara. He called it her shot of courage, cause he always felt so much better after they had their time together.
The screaming at the front door brought him out of his thoughts. Was that his name being shouted? He rushed inside, the table knocked over in his haste, lemonade and glass scattered across the porch.
“Sara?” He called into the house, only to be answered by the explosive report of a pistol. “Sara?!” He called out again, but there was no answer. He found her at the front door, on the ground. Terry stood over her, his .38 still smoking.
“What did you do?” Al asked. “Terry, what did you do?” He rushed to her side as tears streamed down his cheeks.
“I came for the necklace,” Terry said. “I knew you’d screw it up.” He put the gun back into his pocket, then nudged the body with his foot. “Well, she isn’t wearing it anyway.”
“No more,” Al said.
“We need to search the place quick before anyone calls the cops. Heck, we might even find more than just the necklace.”
“Let’s get to searching. That necklace isn’t going to find itself,” Terry said. “I bet it’s in her bedroom. You know where that is right.”
“No more.” Al stood up and blocked Terry from moving further into the house.
“Al, we need to get the search done. We can’t stick around here much longer.”
Al raised a fist and smashed it into Terry’s nose. “No more.” Another fist into terry’s face, then another. Al knocked him tot he ground, each time a fist landed on Terry’s face chest and throat, Al repeated “no more.”
Al left Terry on the floor, broken, bleeding. His life slipped out of him in the last rasping cough of broken ribs and punctured lungs. He then picked up Sara’s body and carried it to her room. He left her there in her bed to sleep.
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