(Author’s Note: Sorry this took forever. I found myself drinking a lot in September, got some ants in my pants, and then recorded an album. I’ll post that later on. Hope you guys are enjoying the story.)
Ann Marie absentmindedly scribbled on a notepad that she usually kept in her back pocket (if her pants had one). It was a drawing of an angsty looking girl with freckles. Her hair was sashayed to one side and her sleek body suggested forward motion. Her eyes did not look forward though; they gazed in the opposite direction, focusing on the horizon: something out of view. This poor girl, thought Ann Marie. What is she looking at? And why does she walk away from it? What in God’s name is she doing? And then suddenly she was urging this series of lines that she had birthed with all of her mental power, with so much focus, she was afraid that the paper might burst into flames: Go, damn you! Go towards whatever you’re looking at! Stop marching towards nothing and find that something, anything that you truly care about! You dumb bitch, how dare you?! And then she was out of breath, and couldn’t stand to gaze at the girl anymore, so she began scribbling over her with her pen. She destroyed the girl’s face, dashing through her hair with looping jagged lines, and then cut down to the grunge-themed outfit that covered the girl’s dainty body. She even took the time to scratch out the air lines that indicated which way the girl was moving. Within seconds, the sketch of the girl was no more. All that remained was a blob of swishes, swirls and scratches. An unknowing spectator would only have been able to speculate as to what had been there before.
“Annie, are you all right?” asked Jackson from the other side of the room. He was sitting next to Reggie, looking up from a forum that Reggie had pulled up on one of their laptops. Annie immediately stopped what she was doing and looked round at Jackson’s face which betrayed both confusion and concern. Annie took a couple of quick breaths and then flipped her notebook shut.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” she said. “Just scratching out some old notes.”
“Oh, gotcha,” said Jackson, absentmindedly chewing on his finger. He looked over at Big Mac who was reading a copy of Sports Illustrated and then back down to Reggie’s computer screen. As if psychokinetically tagged by Jackson, Big Mac looked up at Ann Marie and then shambled over and sat down next to her on the couch.
“Are you doing okay?” he asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” she said. “I just didn’t sleep well last night.”
Big Mac nodded his head. “Okay. Say, can I borrow your phone for a second? I wanna check my Facebook.”
“Yeah, sure,” she said and she handed it to him. It wasn’t an uncommon occurence; Big Mac had inherited his sister’s flip phone when she upgraded to a smartphone and had stuck with that. If he wanted to check something like Facebook, he had to either get to a computer or borrow a capable phone from somebody. “What’s the big deal?” he always said. “It’s just a matter of time before my sister needs the newest phone again and I inherit her smartphone and then I can quit bugging you guys.”
Ann Marie turned away and let Big Mac have at with her phone. He’s such a boy, she thought. Such a fucking boy. She absentmindedly felt her legs, and then her hips, and then moved her hand up to her face and rubbed her cheeks. Smooth, she thought. And then she was wondering what it must be like to have a beard, to not have to worry about shaving anything except for your face, and even then, you had a choice. Soon, she was thinking about what it must be like to be a boy. A fucking boy. So inelegant, but so powerful. Nobody really cares what you look like, and everyone takes you seriously when you talk. So free. She wondered what it must feel like to be able to stick it to people instead of being the one it got stuck to all the time. And then she was wondering what it must feel like to touch a woman as a man does, to caress her smooth skin, to feel the peaks and the valleys of her body, to make love to her, to fuck her until she cried out uncontrollably into the night, as the wolf does towards the moon. And then she was shaking her head. Gross, she thought.
The motion roused Big Mac, who turned to her and chuckled, saying, “Are you sure you’re all right?”
But before she could answer Reggie piped up, saying, “Yo, Big Mac, I’m a growing boy. Are we gonna go snag some food or what?”
“Yeah, not a bad idea,” said Big Mac. “All right, everyone. Let’s take a couple minutes for a snack break.”
“Gimme the keys.”
“No can do, Value Menu. My car.”
“It’s your mom’s car and you don’t have a license.”
“What the fuck do you care if I have a license or not? If we get pulled over, it’s my ass, not yours.”
“Do you really wanna try your luck with the cops in this town? Do you really wanna roll the dice with Officer Parker? Sure, Bishop might be able to pull some strings and get you off easily, but is it really worth another visit to the station?”
“Jesus Christ, Reggie. It’s four blocks. Gimme the fucking keys.”
Reggie slammed the keys in Big Mac’s hand and walked over to the passenger side of the car.
Big Mac drove them slowly and easily down Preston Avenue, careful to look both ways through three yield signs and coming to a full stop at the four-way that was kitty-corner to the Safeway parking lot. Big Mac parked in the row of spots that ran alongside the building and he and Reggie walked purposefully into the store.
“You get Funyuns. I’m on donut duty.” He started off but heard Reggie call out from behind: “Yo, B!”
Big Mac turned around. “Try and find something raspberry jam for me, huh? And do Boston Cream for Jackson.” Big Mac nodded and made his way for the donuts. He examined the cabinet and saw that the dinner crowd had picked over the selection pretty well. He was, however, able to find a six dollar variety pack that he assumed would do the trick.
He turned to make his way back to the register when he felt a vibration in his pocket. He immediately assumed that it was probably a text from one of the others back at Reggie’s place asking for Cool Ranch Doritos instead of Funyuns. He reached into his pocket and felt a long screen instead of the flip phone that he was expecting. He looked confused for a moment and then remembered that he had Anne Marie’s phone in his pocket. He shrugged, dropped the phone back into his pocket and continued back towards the front of the store.
He found himself in line behind an old woman who was buying pumpkin pie ingredients. The girl behind the register swiped each of her items through slowly and, when given the total, the old woman reached into her giant brown pleather purse to find her checkbook.
“Oh, you’re gonna pay with a check?” said the girl behind the counter. Big Mac looked down from her face and noticed that her nametag said “Margaret”. “So, this is actually my first day here and I don’t know how to do a check. I’m gonna need to call my manager up to figure this out.” She leaned down and pulled the long microphone to her lips and said, “Manager to the front. Can I get a manager to the front?”
Big Mac sighed and looked impatiently at the other registers to see if there were any other spots open. To his dismay, Margaret was the only checker at the front of the store. “Fucking Christ,” he said, under his breath. Within moments, the reading material at the register was exhausted. One headline informed him that new evidence regarding Clinton’s impeachment had come to light and that Hillary was finally going to leave him. Another said that Brad Pitt was now destitute because of alimony payments to both Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston. Gum, gum, jerky, candy bars, breath mints, why the fuck is this taking so long?
Big Mac absentmindedly grabbed into his pocket for his phone and realized once again that it was Ann Marie’s phone in his pocket and not his own. He illuminated the screen, deciding that he might as well check his Facebook again while he waited. The phone immediately informed him that the vibration that he had felt earlier was a text message from Todd Sizemore. What the fuck? Why is Annie talking to Todd Sizemore? Oh, wait, that’s the guy she works with right? Prolly just trying to swap shifts or something…
There’s something strange about reading somebody else’s texts; a breach of social contract occurs and suddenly you’re one of those men: you move on from being an overly concerned, slightly clingy boyfriend (or whatever the fuck you call it these days when you’re banging someone more or less exclusively but don’t wanna put any labels on it) and find yourself in abusive/manipulative/toxic territory. Of course, Annie didn’t have to know. There were things that Annie didn’t know about him that had never done anyone any harm. Not that he could see at least…
Big Mac sighed, shrugged, and then opened the text and what he read first made his blood run completely cold, and then boil immediately thereafter. It said, “Hey, so I’ve been trying to meet up because I have something I need to tell you. For whatever reason, we haven’t been able to make it happen and I’m starting to get this weird feeling like I’m not gonna get another chance if I don’t do it now, so here goes: Big Mac is cheating on you with Maggie Nice. I can’t tell you how I know it, but it’s the truth. Do what you will with the information. I just thought you had a right to know. Lemme know if you need to talk.”
Big Mac’s hands shook as he turned the screen off and put the phone back into his pocket. He looked around himself urgently for a second and then quickly pulled the phone back out and went back and reread the text. He scrolled up and saw a couple of texts where Todd had tried to set up a meeting with Ann Marie and then a bunch of other texts that were talking about work. He concluded that nothing else had been said about the matter. He scrolled back to the bottom, highlighted the text and then deleted it.
“Sir, can I help you? Sir?” Margaret was beckoning him forward. “So sorry about the wait, sir. It’s my first day…Just the donuts for you today?”
“Oh, yeah. No worries. Fucking checks, right?” he said, and laughed nervously. He looked back and saw that Reggie was two spots back in line. Reggie gave him an inquisitive look but said nothing.
When they were safely back in the car and moving down the street, Reggie said, “Dude, what the fuck was wrong with you back there? You looked like you’d seen a fucking ghost or something.”
“Nah, dude. I’m fine.”
“You’re fine? That’s it? No, ‘Fuck, dude, I was just checking out the knockers on ol’ Margaret. Goddamn, when did she lose all the baby fat?’ Nothing? Jesus Christ, you’re gonna have to do a little better than that. You think I was born yesterday?”
Just then, to his great surprise, Big Mac saw Todd biking on the sidewalk, getting ready to cross the street.
“It’s nothing, man,” said Big Mac through gritted teeth. He slammed his foot on the gas and the car lurched forward aggressively. “I just don’t like it when people FUCK WITH MY SHIT!” Just as he finished screaming, Todd’s front tire came into contact with the front fender of the hood of the car and Todd flew over the handlebars. Though they never mentioned it to each other, both Big Mac and Reggie admired Todd’s instincts as he tucked his arms over his head, carefully protecting his brainstem with both of his hands, and began to slowly rotate as he flew through the air, deftly landing on his feet on the other side of the car. Todd was surprised but lucid and then just completely surprised as he was bowled over by Big Mac.
“Grab something to put over his head!” Big Mac had yelled, as he pulled open the car door. Reggie, conditioned by years of following Big Mac’s orders on the basketball team, instinctually grabbed the bag from the back of the car and slipped it over Todd’s head.
“The trunk,” said Big Mac, as they overpowered Todd.