My father used to listen to Chet Baker. He’d sit in his brown chair and drink Jim Beam and play the records. If you made any noise he’d yell at you to get the hell out. I saw him cry once. It was after my mother left. Sometimes he’d get out his trumpet and try to play along. One day he threw it against the wall. He tried to get me to take lessons but I hated it. I got twenty-five dollars for the records. The ones they didn’t want I threw in a dumpster. I bought some weed and went to my girlfriend’s. We smoked it and watched Pulp Fiction. When they stuck that hypodermic needle into Uma Thurman’s chest, I couldn’t stop laughing. Usually my girlfriend Bonnie was amused at shit like that, but she didn’t laugh. After the movie, she asked if I had any more money.
No, I said.
I’m hungry, she said.
I looked in her fridge. It was empty. I mean, there was nothing.
Don’t you ever go shopping? I said.
No, she said.
We drove to my father’s. We parked at the Hardee’s next door. From my car I could see the lights were off in his house. I figured he was asleep since he works for the Post Office and gets up shitass early. I let myself in. He hadn’t changed the locks. That was a good sign. Maybe he hadn’t even noticed. He keeps his wallet on a shelf near the front door, and I was groping for it in the dark when he grabbed me. Silent fucking ninja!
You stole my records! he said.
What? I said. No!
He slapped me. You’re a liar! he said. He got me in a headlock. He was fat but Jesus he was strong.
I can’t breathe, I tried to say.
Glen! Bonnie said. She turned on the lights. Glen, stop it! She picked up an encyclopedia. I can only assume she meant to hit him but instead she hit me in the face on my nose, which began to gush blood. Thanks, girlfriend! My father let me go. I collapsed on the couch, holding my nose. Bonnie gave me some tissues. Thanks, Bonbon!
My father made his way over to his chair. As I held the tissues to my nose, I got a look at him. His face was red and his eyes were darting around. He was drunk. A woman came out of the bedroom in a bathrobe and got my father a glass of water.
No, thanks, lady, I’m fine.
She was glaring at me. What kind of a son steals from his father? she said.
Who are you? I said.
What? she said.
Who are you? I said. The tissues were muffling my voice.
We should call the cops, she said. Stealing from a federal employee.
Bonnie gave me some more tissues. Thanks, girlfriend!
What did you do with them? my father said.
I didn’t take your fucking records, I said.
That’s a goddamn lie! he said.
The woman put her hand on his shoulder. I can’t believe you did this to your father, she said. After all he’s done for you.
Who the fuck are you? I said.
My father made to get up for round two but his woman put her hand on his shoulder again. You better leave, she said. Before we call the cops.
We sat in our car. I watched as their dark shadows moved around the house. It looked like they were dragging furniture to block off the front door.
That didn’t work out the way I wanted, I said.
Does anything? Bonnie said.
I didn’t say anything. Way to bring down the fucking mood, girlfriend.
When my nose stopped bleeding, I got out a cigarette. At this time we were supposed to be going through the drive-through and getting enough food to stuff our faces for a week. As I was smoking I noticed there was was some change in the ashtray. 17 cents. I got out of the car and looked in the seat cushions and on the floor. Bonnie did the same on her side. Fucking genius. We came up with 92 cents. We went through the drive-through just as they were closing. I ordered a Jr. Cheeseburger and two tap waters, and pulled up to the window.
Hi! I said. How are you?
You got to be very friendly in these types of situations.
Hi, the woman said. That will be a dollar, seven cents.
We only have 92 cents, I said. Is that okay?
What? she said. It’s a dollar, seven cents.
I know, but we only have 92 cents.
That’s all the money you have? she said. 92 cents?
She was grasping the situation!
Yeah, I said. It’s been a rough week for us.
You looked in your ashtray? she said. That’s where I keep all my change.
That’s where we found this money, actually.
In your seats, on the floor?
Yeah, we looked everywhere. This is all we have.
Okay, she said. She took the money. She was gone for a while. I thought maybe she was talking to the manager to get approval. Fuck, man. We’re only off by a little. She came back with a big bag.
Here, she said. We were going to threw these out.
I opened it. There were about ten burgers. Holy shit! I said.
She handed us another bag. Chicken sandwiches, she said. And some fries.
Wait one second, she said. She came back with two Cokes. On the house, she said.
Holy shit! I said. Thanks!
You want a microwave? she said.
It’s old but it works. We were going to threw it out. We just got a new one and now we have too many.
Sure, I said. I looked over at Bonnie. Motherfucker!
The woman handed it through the window.
Holy shit! I said. Thanks.
Hey, can I ask you something? she said.
Can you give me a ride home? My car’s in the shop.
I looked at Bonnie. She shrugged.
Sure, I said.
It’s only about ten minutes away. I’d walk but my feet are killing me.
Sure, we’ll just wait in the parking lot.
I’ll be right out.
We parked and started eating. I’d finished two burgers when she came out and got in the car. She told us where she lived.
Oh God, she said. What a day.
I agreed. I was eating another burger. You want one? I said.
No, thanks, she said. If I have one more burger I’m going to puke.
God, I hate the way I smell. My daughter thinks I smell like french fries. You got kids?
No, I said. I glanced over at Bonnie. She was silent, staring straight ahead. Fucking Chatty Kathy. How old’s your daughter? I said.
She just turned seven last week. She was looking out the window. You like it here? she said. This town?
It’s alright. I was born here. You’re not from here?
She shook her head. I’m from Poughkeepsie, in New York. She looked over at me. Let me ask you a question, she said. If you drove me to Poughkeepsie, how much is that worth to you?
I don’t know, I said. Where is that?
About two hours from New York City, she said. It’s about five hours from here.
Make me an offer, I said.
A hundred dollars, she said. Plus I’ll pay for gas on the way up.
Jesus, she was desperate.
Okay, I said. Yeah, I’ll do it.
Fuck yeah, tonight.
Okay, we have to get my daughter.
We pulled up to her apartment building.
I just have to get a few things, she said. It won’t take long. We’re staying with a friend so we only have a few bags.
We’ll be here, I said.
You want me to drop you off at home, I said to Bonbon.
No, she said.
So you want to go with me?
Yeah, she said.
Is this woman crazy? I said.
No, she said.
Wow, fucking great conversation, girlfriend. Here was the interesting thing. I knew she had an ex-boyfriend who lived in New York City. In Harlem. He was black. He wanted them to get back together. That’s what his most recent emails to her said. In light of this fact and her fucking moody non-communicative bullshit I thought her decision to come with me was real fucking interesting.
The woman came out, leading her daughter by the hand. The girl was holding a pillow, a blanket, and a stuffed lion. I got out and put the microwave and their bags in the trunk.
My ex-husband owes me some child support, she said. Can we stop by? It won’t take a minute.
You sure that’s a good idea? I said. At this hour?
Yeah, it’s fine. He won’t give any trouble.
Okay, I said.
We drove to his place. She went up to the porch. A big bearded man appeared in the doorway. He was wearing a bathrobe that was too short. Or maybe he was too big. Anyway it looked fucking comical and I would’ve laughed if he couldn’t have the beat the shit out of me. He walked down to the car and looked in my window. I smiled and gave a friendly little wave. He opened the side door.
Karly, he said.
She woke up. Hi, daddy! she said.
Hi, Sweetie. You sure you wanna go to New York?
Mommy says we’re going to see grandma and The Lion King.
That’s exciting, he said.
He looked at us. How do you know Barb? he said.
Who? I said.
Barbara, he said.
Bonnie hit my arm and pointed to her on on the porch. Oh, yeah. She gave us a microwave, I said. My nose had started bleeding again and I had more tissues pressed to it. Don’t worry, I said. We’ll take good care of them.
He looked back at Karly. Okay, baby, I’m going to miss you. I love you.
I love you, daddy!
They hugged and he kissed her on the forehead.
Barb came down. She’d been talking to someone on the porch.
Okay, she said. Let’s go. Here’s fifty up front. I’ll give you the rest when we get there.
You sure you wanna go? I said. All the way to New York?
What, you don’t want to drive anymore?
No, I do, I said. I’m happy to. I just wanna make sure you wanna leave everything behind?
Just shut up and drive, Bonnie said.
We stopped for gas and I got some coffee. Once we got back on the highway pretty soon everyone was all asleep. It was just me and the empty road. I started having some crazy thoughts. They just came into my head, I couldn’t help it. I was thinking about the day. It was an epic day. It felt like a whole lifetime. I looked over at Bonnie. She was sleeping, her mouth open, snoring a little. I thought about driving the car off the road as fast as I could, right into the trees, killing everyone. They wouldn’t know even what hit them. They’d die in their sleep. It’d be a pretty nice way to die. Just out like that without any pain. The police would think I’d fallen asleep at the wheel. I thought about getting the knife under my seat and slitting everyone’s throats. Could I do it fast enough, so no one woke up? That might be more painful, if they woke up as they were bleeding to death. What would I do with the bodies? Bury them in the woods. It’d be a lot of blood. I couldn’t clean it all. I’d have to get rid of the car. Maybe set it on fire to hide the evidence. I could light the gas tank with a rag. Hitch a ride then. I thought about Barb, leaving everything. Her car was still in the shop. I was gonna ask her about that. What was she gonna do in Poughkeepsie? Was Poughkeepsie a magical place where no one had to take shitty jobs at Hardees? If I was going anywhere I’d go to North Dakota. My friend Todd was making a fucking killing in the oil rush out there. How long was that going to last though? I imagined getting there just as the last black drop was pulled from the ground. That’s my fucking luck. I looked at Bonbon. I love you, sweetie, I whispered. I love you, baby. I love you, you fucking bitch. If you ever leave me I’m going to slit your throat. I swear to God. I’ll dump you in the woods. No one’s going to know where you are. I’ll say you went off to New York City and disappeared. I’ll come up with a beautiful story. No one will know. No one will fucking know, sweetie. Except me. I looked in the rearview mirror. Karly was looking right at me. She was clear-eyed and awake. I smiled at her. Hi, I said. I was just kidding. Everything’s okay. That’s just how we talk to each other. Go back to sleep. I smiled sweetly. Go back to sleep, I said. Everything’s a-okay.