Monday, July 10, 2017

2:30 A.M. By Mike Lee


2:30 A.M.

A.

“This isn’t really going to work out,” said Corie, while placing her fingers around the bound stack of cash from a stolen duffel bag of Benjamins.  “I’m holding this like a baby, but it won’t be long now before we lose all this, honey.”

“Shush, baby,” Stahl responded, succeeding at falsely reassuring her.  “That’s the last stack.”  Corie passed it slowly across the counter.  Stahl fingered the stack, “You wrapped it tight, baby.  S’going to be alright, kay?”  He put his hand on her neck, nuzzling her nose before kissing her.  “S’going be well.”

“I-I understand.”  Corie wanted to believe him, but he has lied before.  Will again and probably is right now, she thought.

The old high school football equipment bag, which had belonged to her daddy, held the wrapped bricks of 100 dollar bills, those Benjamins, the new-new kind with the fancy strip and the thick paper, at least it felt this way for Corie as she counted the stacks, and held them in place while she wrapped them in plastic.  Their intention was to put them in a bucket in daddy’s tool shed, hidden sort of in plain sight.  It was her idea, but Stahl later claimed it was his.  Corie was used to this from Stahl—she didn’t care, anymore.  He was never going to change.

Stahl placed the last stack in the bag, zipping it closed.

Kissed her good-bye, and promised to meet her later at the club.

She watched him drive off, feeling sad for him, but not much else.

B.

“Sweet fucking sugar sassafras!  I just cannot believe you jus’ killed that boy.  What in the name of heaven were you thinking, Corie?”

Frances lit a cigarette.  Her eyes were puffy.  Corie would grow old to look like her.  “You know this goddamned paper is shit, right?  You do understand that?  You’re not going to pass a single one of these fucking notes without pigs snorting in my house if no longer than a day after you do.”

Corie held her head in her hands.  “I know.”

“Well, that good for nothing shithead ain’t gonna be missed by no one.  Machine head did him in, but I cannot think of what I can do about this money you got in my big brother’s football bag.”

She inhaled deeply.  “Seriously, who’s gonna take this shit unless it’s a Mexican?  And I am not going to talk to one of those people.”

“Aunt Frances, I can talk to someone.”

“The hell you ain’t, girl.  You don’t know no one.”

“You’d be surprised.”

Frances kicked out at the football bag.  “Then get this and your ass out of here.”

C.

Terry’s price was a blowjob, and more, for half the money in the bag.  The cut was still better than the initial arraignment with Stahl, who Corie suspected was going to take her for a walk in the woods and so she jumped the gun and took him out first.

At least they did it with her leaning over the wood dining room table; that position was preferable for her.  After he pulled out of her Corie lingered on the table top, staring out the window, letting his semen roll down her leg.  Kind of sort of like rape, felt violated in some ways, but in reality this was an agreed-upon transaction where she paid to get reamed.  Therefore, it was hard for Corie to ever feel exploited or used as a whore.  Finally, she had no other choice.  The other option remained the scumbags down by the river, and they would have slit her throat and fucked the wound.

She could hear Terry run the water in the bathroom sink behind her.  Through the window, she saw it was beginning to rain.

Finally, she pulled herself up, standing unsteadily in her clog sandals.

“You done yet?  I need to shit you out.”

“By all means, sweetheart.”

“I ain’t kissin’ you.”

Terry smiled.  He needed a shave.  “I don’t need to.  I got what I wanted.”

While Corie did her business, Terry went into his bedroom safe, extracting several banded stacks of cash, shoving them into a brown paper bag.

When she came out, he handed it over to her.

“Fifteen grand to start. Like I said, it’s all I got. I’ll get you the rest tonight.”

D.

Well, she killed Stahl.  Simple enough.  They never liked each other, even when they were kids.  Walking home one day, when Stahl was eight, and Terry six, Stahl started punching him, kicking him in the stomach when Terry hit the dirt.  No reason—no reason at all to do that.  Years later, Terry got him back.  Through Corie, of course, telling her that ripping off some Russians coming into town to set up a krokodil lab was a bad idea.  He had a better idea, though.

Corie listened, and while Stahl slipped cut-up newspapers between the Franklins, she replaced the bands and wrapped them tight.  Then she made a phone call.  Stahl never figured out Daddy had two football bags—one when was in JV.  That’s what Stahl brought with him to the shed while the Russians waited inside for him.

She hesitated going to Terry, but after what her aunt said, she decided to go ahead, give him what he wanted, and now waited in her car, on the dirt road near the Interstate where she and Terry and Stahl grew up. In fact, this was right where Stahl beat up Terry.

At 2:30 a.m., she saw a car come down off the highway, cross over the old bridge, coming toward her.  The driver flashed the headlights.  It was Terry.

Neither bothered to get out of their cars.  He handed the equipment bag to her, smiling.

“I’ll wait for you to check it.”

“I bet you’re gonna shoot me while I look.”

“I’d never kill you, even if I wanted to.  You always were my best friend.”

“I let you fuck me in the ass.  I figured you’d show your appreciation by letting me live.”

She opened the bag, flipping quickly through the bills.  Mostly twenties interspersed with odd bands of Franklins.  This made them easier to spend, especially after she got to Atlanta.

“So you’re out of here?”

“Yep, and I bet you too.”

“Not for a while, I believe.”  Terry reached in his pocket for a cigarette.  “I got something going with the Mexicans.  I have to be here a while.”

“I ain’t have no business here.  Want to go back to Atlanta.  Maybe go further.  Don’t know.”

Terry waved his hand.  “You’ll be fine wherever you go.”

“Well, it’s all here.  You’re a sweetheart.  You only fucked me once today.”

“That’ll last you a while.”

“Perhaps. I never spend it all in one place.”  They chuckled at that.

She looked at him and smiled.  “No kisses.”

“No kisses.”  As he began to back the car away, he said something Corie couldn’t clearly hear.  She wondered about what he might have said while driving down the Interstate, with the mountains behind her and the lights of Greenville-Spartanburg ahead.  She also wondered about her aunt waking up to find a sack filled with cash on the kitchen table and what Stahl’s last thoughts were when he saw the Russians.

“S’going to be well,” she whispered as she drove on the exit ramp which led toward Atlanta.


-End-

Bio Mike Lee is a writer, labor journalist and photographer based in New York City. His fiction is published and forthcoming in West Trade Review, The Ampersand Review, Paraphilia, The Roaring Muse, The Airgonaut, Sensitive Skin, Reservoir, The Avenue, Easy Street, The Corvus Review and others. His photographs are currently on exhibit at Art Thou Gallery in Berkeley, California. Website is www.mleephotoart.com.
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