This is the first chapter of a short story I’m working on.
Very raw, no re-working yet, but just because it’s the first thing I’ve had to post in ages.
My phone made an anemic beep in my back pocket.
I still smell like you, the message said. Not from any number I recognized.
It was signed xxxooo – Me.
I stared at it for a moment, trying to remember the last time I’d gotten a message like it, that was actually intended for me.
I touched the button for ‘delete’, and then my thumb hovered over ‘yes’ when it asked me if I really meant it.
I hesitated a moment, decided I didn’t, and touched ‘cancel’.
I put my phone away, and tried not to think about who it was that smelled of whom.
The bar-maid filled by glass. I thanks her.
“Don’t call me bar-maid, I fucking told you before”, she said.
“It’s better than tavern wench”, I said. She pretended not to hear me, but I’m pretty sure she’d spit in my next beer. With that mouth, though, I can’t say I minded.
I sipped my beer and tried to watch a ball game game on the shitty old tv above the bar.
I pulled out my phone and laid it on the bar next to me. should have left it in the goddamned car, I thought.
I should never have a phone in my hand after my fourth beer. I’ve kind of learned that the hard way, several times.
Was this three beers? Or four? I couldn’t remember.
I picked up the phone, and then put it down. I couldn’t make out which team had the ball; honestly, I couldn’t even make out which teams they were. I don’t know any teams that use static gray as a team color.
I ordered another beer. The girl glared at me while she worked the tap, but I kept my mouth shut and just looked down her shirt. I dug in my pocket for money, but came out with three quarters and a mashed-looking joint.
She rolled her eyes and walked away.
You don’t really like me that much, do you? I said in the general direction of her ass, though I’m pretty sure she couldn’t hear me. I shrugged; I’d win her over eventually, and she’d be butter in my hands.
I sipped my beer, and began to play with my phone, flipping it open and closed, like a pocket knife. Click, click, click.
Someone was winning. Or maybe losing. The guys at the the other end of the bar seemed to be following better than I was; one was swearing while the other one high-fived the bar maid.
My phone wasn’t flipping any more; I had it open now. I worked the menus without looking, and then clicked ‘call’.
I have no idea why, really. Nor did I have any clue what I was going to say.
She answered after three rings. A girl voice, or a woman voice, I can’t really tell. But I good voice. Friendly, but in that businesslike way that said she’s checked the caller ID first.
I opened my mouth, still with no idea what was coming out. “So, who is it you smelled like, today?”
“What?” she asked, just stridently enough that I knew she’s heard me. She just didn’t want to have heard me.
“I’m just wondering,” I said, “Who it was you smelled like.”
There was a long pause. I could hear noise, traffic maybe.
“Who the fuck is this?” she said. Just a little angry, like she was trying to figure out who was punking her.
I told her my name, but it meant nothing to her, of course. I sipped my beer, and gestured at the bar maid to fill me up again. She did that pushing-her-glasses-up-with-her-middle-finger thing, but that might have been an accident.
“About 1:30 today,” I said, “I got a text message. It said “I still smell like you.”
I kind of liked the way she said fuck. It made me want to hear her said it in different context.
The bar-maid was screwing around at the far end of the bar. I decided not to get insistent about a fill up, because I didn’t really want her to spit i the next one, not that much.
“…So what I wondered was,” I said into the phone, and then put it on my shoulder and cradled it against my ear, “who was it you smelled like, at 1:30 this afternoon.”
“Ok, I don’t know you do I?”
“No, I sure don’t think so,” I said. The barmaid had finally made her way over, and was filling my glass. She made a “money” gesture though, rubbing finger and thumb together. I fished for my wallet.
“…and I’m pretty sure I don’t know you, either. I know your phone number, though.”
“hmm,” she said.
“I think I’ll forget it though, or lose it as soon as I break my phone again. I’m hell on phones.”
She laughed softly under her breath. “Me too,” she said.
I let it hang for a minute, tossed several crumpled bills on the bar. The bar maid mouthed asshole at me, and fished out what she needed for my tab. I winked at her. Almost mine, I knew it.
I sipped, swallowed, and said “So, the thing is, you can tell me.”.
“Tell you what?”
“You can tell me – anything at all.”
I heard a slow, thoughtful intake of breath, and then a sighing release.
“You know what’s sort of fucked up?” she said. “Not that I think I could tell you. That’s just sort of odd. But what’s fucked up, what’s really fucked up, is that I want too.
I smiled, and then told her I was smiling.
“So? I asked. “Who was it?”
“That story is kind of long,” she said. “And I here’s my train.” There was a long pause, and I could hear more background noise.
“Tell you what,” she said; “if you tell me your name, maybe I’ll call you back tomorrow, and tell you the whole thing.”
“My name?,” I asked. She didn’t remember I’d already said it.
“Tell me A name. I don’t care if it’s yours.”
I told her again. I told her my real one, but laughed like it wasn’t, like I’d made it up.
“But what’s yours?” I asked her.
“Train, gotta go!” she said, and was gone before I could say wait.
I picked up the wad of dollar bills from the bar, and left the joint, along with a twenty dollar tip. I wasn’t above buying favor, from women or from bartenders.