By Jack Bristow
The man, Daryl Weber, woke at o'clock pm. To the right of him lay a woman—older, blonde, snoring loudly. Instinctively, he reached for the beer that he had known would be on the nightstand, that was always on the nightstand. It had tasted like half-warm piss water, but that was okay—he needed it to think straight. And then he had started to remember this woman. The bar. She had been drinking there pretty heavily, with a group of friends, all younger than her. She approached the man's table, saying, “Excuse me—did anybody ever tell you you looked like Tom Hanks? I mean, a young Tom
Hanks. Like, circa the '80s. Big, The Burbs, Bosom Buddies.”
The man was young—twenty-five, had only heard of The Burbs—and had mistakenly thought it had come out in the '90s. But he didn't correct her; instead, coyly, he said, “Ah, thank you very much; I'm a huge fan.” Really, he wasn't. But what the hell—a woman was a woman, and here was one standing in front of him. Older. Early forties, maybe.
But she had looked a good forty, like she had taken care of herself all her life. A real cougar, if the man had ever seen one. Capitalizing on what she had thought to be his coyness, she sat opposite him on the booth. The older lioness about to single out her prey and attack.
“I'm here to celebrate with my friends and daughter. It's my birthday.” The woman clapped both hands above her head to congratulate herself, lamely.
“Oh, happy birthday,” he said. And then he had thought—isn't it funny how things turn out? Just last year he was happily married to Sadie. Sadie, beautiful with blonde eyes and brown hair. Unassumingly optimistic, she helped counterbalance the man's cynicism perfectly; they had gone together like yin and yang, tomatoes and jelly. Something so wrong it had almost seemed right. But then something happened, during their fifth and final year together. The man had started to notice how other men-- waiters, passersby in grocery stores and even people at church-- would look at her, flirt with her. This had resulted in too many arguments which would eventually result in Daryl smacking her a few times across the face—not because he had hated but, rather, loved, her; abnormally.
“You don't say much, huh?” The woman had asked Daryl. He smiled again bashfully at her, and that was just enough to keep her around. “Well, I guess I'll give the introductions. My name is Mary-Lu, and I'm a real estate agent. When I'm not helping sell real estate I like to get out as much as possible—hiking, biking, go to the gym. Etc.... How about you, who are you and what do you do—for a living, for fun?” She sipped the big, salt-rimmed Margarita glass she had brought over from her table.
Daryl glared into his own glass—of La Grappa wine—intensely, almost hypnotically. And then he finally spoke. “Daryl Weber. I'm a stuntman, for the movies. Death Head. Hearts of Fury. Beach Cop. My latest work was on a film called The Pedantic Heart. It was a scene where Tom Cruise's character drives his Porsche into a brick wall and then jumps out before the actual explosion. Good gig. Good pay. Not much work—the way I like it.” There was a pause, and then he sipped from his glass, the more he sipped, the more he had seemed to come to life to the woman. Now he was almost animatedly discussing his interests. His life. When Mary-lu again mentioned her daughter Daryl opened his wallet and handed her the picture of his little girl.
“Oh. She's so cute—she's yours?”
“Yeah. She's Adriana. The love of my life—the main reason I got married. I knew I had to have her.”
Mary-lu frowned. “Your wife. Oh, I didn't mean to—I mean. I--”
“No. It's okay—she flew the coop, a year ago.” There was an uncomfortable pause, until the man resumed talking, it was almost as if he did not want to elaborate but there was some type of force—a compulsion—secretly goading him along. “Adriana doesn't want anything to do with me anymore. My ex has totally turned her against me. And I love that girl. It's so fucking painful.”
The man was sick, probably clinically depressed; she could see it as he chugged down the rest of the wine and called out to the waiter for another. But that didn't matter—what had really mattered was the man's mental state. He was vulnerable. Weak. He would need a big chest like hers to cry into tonight. And a nice, fleshy pouch to lose his face in.
“Forget about that other drink. You look like you've had enough.” She splayed her fingertips on top of his, the man felt his back and entire body go erect. “Let's go back to your place, and I'll take care of you—run you a little bath, give you a nice message.”
And what a night it was! The man was starting to remember it as he brushed his teeth and peered at his face in the mirror.
The things that woman could do, the experience. She would put a twenty-year-old to shame.
And then he had planned out this day—this day he had been planning secretly all year, since the two most important people in his life had left and abandoned him. He was to reshoot the scene from The Pedantic Heart he had told Mary-Lu about the night before—the one where he is to drive the car into the brick-wall but jumps out of it expertly, deftly before impact. Today, however, he would do it slightly different—instead of leaping out to relative safety on the cushioned tinsel town streets, he would stay inside, going out in an all-out blaze of glory.
It was the wise thing to do, the only thing to do. He was sure of it. But he had wished it could be different--that Kim and Adriana would be there to see him off.
Oh well, the man had thought miserably. That is life for you-- nothing's ever perfect.
- - -
Jack Bristow is a short story writer from Albuquerque, New Mexico. His work has appeared in several online print publications including, The New Flesh, visatergo, Magnolia Press and Death Head Grin.