It was raining when I stepped out into the real world today. Of course, I forgot my umbrella and I had to wait for the bus because I couldn’t find my car keys this morning. What a hell of a day it was at work. My son of a bitch boss kept asking me out. To me, if he was the last man on earth, humanity would be in trouble. I couldn’t believe his reply when I told him no.
“You no longer have that kid to worry about. So how about it?” He said.
'Uuck, what a pig.' I thought. 'Stupid asshole son of a bitch.' Yeah, that’s what I thought of him.
I’m pretty sure the look on my face said it all because he held both hands up like I had a gun. I wish I would’ve had one, that’s for sure.
It’s been 16 months to the day since my little boy Scotty was hit by a car. I took him to the park because it was such a beautiful day. I was sitting with a couple of friends who were also single moms, chatting with them about various things-most were of which were of little to no importance. If only I would have left a minute later, or maybe a minute sooner, Scotty would still be alive. We went to cross the street and both of us were struck by a man who had been drinking and driving. I didn’t even see him coming otherwise I would have stuck myself between Scotty and the car. The cops told me they had the guy. He paid bail, and disappeared. So no, they didn’t really have him. Like I said, they still don’t.
The bus was running late, so I went into my favorite little coffee shop called 7th Near Bar. I had been going there for the last seven years because my friend Tony owned it. We met when I was still in college and I had the biggest crush on him- too bad he was gay because he is such a hottie. I was there when he opened the coffee shop and I even helped pick out the décor. There was a sofa section facing a TV hanging on the wall. Along with a few scattered tables here and there. Who would have thought the sofa section would be the most popular. Tony had became my best friend and the only real family I had. That was until Scotty came along.
I freaked out when I found out I was pregnant. I was dating a man named Thomas. He didn’t like to be called Tom, “It’s Thomas, not Tom.” He would correct who ever it was he was talking to. He disappeared three days after I told him. I was so devastated, I stayed in bed for days just to cry. It’s funny the people who notice that you’re not around. Tony stopped by to see if I was sick. I told him about all of it. He climbed in bed long enough for me to stop crying then showed me I had so much to celebrate.
“New life is a miracle.” He said. “So, how do you want to fix up the nursery?”
I hadn’t even thought about that. I was so busy feeling bad about Tom leaving, I had forgot that there really was a lot to be happy about. Tony was with me every step of the way over the next nine months. As far as he was concerned, he was uncle Tony. There would be no argument from me.
When I went inside the coffee shop, I was drenched. “Tony, do you still have a change of clothes here for me? I’m drenched.” I said.
“Dam girl, what happened to your car?” He asked.
“I couldn’t find my keys this morning, so I took the bus. You wouldn’t believe the day I’ve had.” I said to him, still feeling a little annoyed by my boss. I told him everything that happened when my boss asked me out.
“You want me to kick his ass honey?” Tony asked.
“Naah, his dumb ass isn’t worth it.” I said. “Now, where are my clothes?”
“They’re upstairs in the loft. You have the key.” Tony said.
I walked up the stairs to change my clothes, so I didn’t see the lady in red walk in. She was sitting in my seat when I came back down all dried off and feeling like me again. I sat at the end , Tony brought me my usual. We were in our own little bubble so we didn’t notice when she got up. No one seen her walk to the door and turn the lock, just like no one noticed her pull out her gun. It wasn’t until she fired into the air we decided to come out of our own bubbles.
Marne, one of the regulars, jumped out of her seat on the sofa. This other guy was there I couldn’t stand, his name was Vennie. He always had such attitude about everything. I’m pretty sure he had a venial disease of some sort. He was disgusting with his slick back oily hair and his loud fake gold jewelry. He had so much hair sticking out of his shirt, the song from an old cartoon came to mind when I looked at him. “Grape Ape, Grape Ape.” So that’s what I usually called him. He is the Grape Ape.
Isn’t that always the way, we don’t notice something until it’s right in our face. Here it was, and I wanted her to shoot me. I wasn’t afraid, just numb. I wanted her to blow my head off…put a hole in me…splatter my grey matter all over the bar.
My only thought was, “Too bad my boss wasn’t here. I wouldn’t mind seeing him go first.”
The lady in red stood there for a minute without saying a word. With a shaking hand and a look of shock on her face, she aimed the gun at us. I think she may have been more shocked than any of us.
“Ok, everyone over here. Now!” The lady in red shouted.
“What the fuck lady. This isn’t a bank. I think you’re in the wrong place.” Vennie said.
“Shut up Vennie.” Marnie snapped.
I didn’t know until then she knew any of our names. She was a mousy sort of girls who always had a book in her hand. She never deviated on her order and she never really spoke to us. She came in at the same time every day, always in some world she brought with her. I thought I was lucky to even know her name, because it must be nice to be able to sit and read without anything weighing on you.
There were seven of us in all. Each of us taken from our own bubble of what ever reality we lived in, like it or not. There was a tall thin man dressed in what looked like a brand new suit. His lapel pin was a set of dice. At first glance, he looked like a man who didn’t scare easy. With closer observation, he was more of a nervous ninny than a high pressure gambler. His lapel pin was false advertisement. Hell, I could probably take him for all he had in a card game. A couple plastics were there. At least that’s what I called them. They had fake blond hair along with fake boobs and lips. The two plastics were trembling with fear. They didn’t move, and they were usually the ones who complained the most. It didn’t really bother me to see them afraid.
Then I realized, I had lost all ability to feel. What was it like not to be covered in a numbness? It gets thicker everyday. What was it like to really laugh? I had forgotten that. I hadn’t laughed since the day at the park…not really. I had chuckled from time to time and even faked it when necessary. Today though, when I should have been afraid for myself and others around me, I wasn’t. I felt nothing. Did that make me crazy? Was I now going to spend the rest of my life numb to the rest of the world? Would I ever live again? How does someone make it back to life, when it has stabbed you to the bone? I didn’t know. I never thought to ask until today.
We all did as she said when she pointed us in the direction of the sofa area. She still hadn’t said what she wanted. I had a feeling though it was coming.
“We’re going to talk.” She said.
‘Talk, since when does a conversation have to take place by gun point?’ I wondered.
We took a place on the floor, I was glad Tony had added the floor pillows I was against so long ago. I was in between Tony and Grape Ape. Man I hated the way he smelled. It was a bad combination of old spice, sweat and garlic.
“We’re going to play a little game. I think you all know it, it’s called Liar, Liar.” The lady in red said. “I should warn you, I’m a trained professional, so I know when people are lying.”
The way she walked around us and in between us reminded me of an old professor I had. She pointed the gun at each of us, observing our reactions. Then she came to Mr. Diceman. You know, the one with the false advertisement.
“You first.” She said to him.
“Are you a gambler?” She asked.
The man was visibly shaken and his lips were trembling.
“Y-yes ma’am, I am.” He said.
“Do you win?” She asked.
“I can hold my own.” He said.
“Liar, liar pants on fire.” She said.
She pointed the gun at his head and pulled the trigger. When it snapped, the man pissed himself and began to sob.
“You’re lucky, that one was a blank. Now, don’t you think it’s time you stopped gambling?” She asked.
The man lowered himself to her feet and sobbed even more. “Yes, I do.” He cried.
“That’s a good boy, now be a dear and go sit down.” The lady in red said.
“How do we know they ain’t all blanks?” Grape Ape said.
He stood up to challenge her. She shot the gun at the bar and it drilled a hole in it. The plastics started crying again as they hugged each other closer. All I could think was she aimed it the wrong way. That bullet was meant for me. Grape Ape's face went pale and he backed away.
"Why are you sitting. Time to be in the hot pillow." She giggled at her own joke.
Grape Ape took a step towards the pillow. Each step made him sweat a little more, it got to the point that it dripped from his nose.
'Gross.' I thought.
His knees hit the pillow with a thud. He looked at the gun in her hand. It seemed a little odd to me. I would have looked in her eyes and just told her to go to hell. The gun didn't scare me, I wanted to be with my little Scotty and that's all there was to it.
I sat there watching Grape Ape sweat even more. She brushed the gun against his face when she walked around him. There for a minute, I thought Grape Ape was going to piss himself too. No such luck though, he just stayed still. Almost too still.
"So, What's your name?" She asked.
He just stayed there on his knees. Quiet. Still. Pouty.
"I asked you a question." She said. Then gave him a little wack on the back of his head with the gun.
"I know a couple people that won't like what you're doing." Grape Ape said.
"Well, I'm sure that you don't like it too much yourself." She said.
"Yeah, you could say that again." Grape Ape said.
Sweat poured from his red face now.
"You don't like a woman being in charge. Do you?" She asked.
Silent, he ran his fingers along the sseam of his pants on the outside. She observed his every move with a straight face. Then it lit up like an "ah-ha" moment.
"Stand up." She said.
A confused look rushed over his face. His eyes were wide when he stood up in slow unopposing movements. She stepped towards him and whispered something in his ear. His face turned angry.
"No! I would rather you shoot me! You really are a crazy bitch!" He said.
She pointed the gun at his head the cocked the gun. For a moment, I thought he was going to take a bullet.
"Ok, ok, alright! There. Happy?" He said when he dropped his pants to the floor.
I had to cover my mouth to keep from laughing. Grape Ape wore a little purple women's thong with sparkles on the front. I looked around the room and seen the reaction was the same for everyone, then laughed so hard I almost busted a gut. I laughed. For the first time in a long time. I laughed for real. I don't know if it was the situation or the shock of seeing his pretty purple thong. It didn't matter though, because I knew I could laugh again.
The lady in red turned towards us, waving the gun around. "So, you think that's funny huh? Pull your pants up you stupid idiot." she said.
Grape Ape rushed to pull them up and stumbled back to his place next to me. I couldn't help but stare at him. All this time I thought he was a womanizer. Talk about being wrong. He just liked women's things and tried to play it off.
“I’m so sick and tired of being lied to. I mean it’s everywhere. Why can’t people just be honest? I mean is it really that hard?” the lady in red said. A tear dropped down her face.
I might have actually felt sorry for her if she wasn’t holding a gun. Maybe…I don’t know.
“That’s the world we live in lady.” Marne spoke.
“What is that suppose to mean?” She asked.
“I don’t want shot, but, come on. That’s the world we live in. People lie. They lie about work and take credit when it isn’t theirs. They lie to their spouse about some affair. They even lie about what you’re wearing. It’s the world that’s fucked up. Not just the people in here. We all have our problems. You don’t see any of us pulling out a gun and making others have some fucked up counseling session.” Marne said.
“Well well well, aren’t you the little know it all. I bet you come in here everyday with a book and not speak to anyone. Am I right?” The lady in red said.
“Yeah, so what of it?” Marne said. “You gonna shoot me because I like to read?”
“Yeah,” she said.
It all happened so fast. The lady in red pulled the trigger and Marnie had a hole in her stomach. She fell in front of me. Crying, I grabbed a jacket and pressed on the wound. It was the first time since the funeral I had cried. Anger filled my heart. Marnie never hurt a single person, just like Scotty.
“Have you lost your mind?” I screamed. “She was right. Everything is fucked up. We’re all fucked up. I walk around numb because my son is dead. I’m more fucked up than any of you! Why shoot her? She didn’t do anything wrong.” I yelled.
The lady in red looked shocked at my reaction. Truth is, so was I.
Grape Ape stepped towards her. She shot again. The gun barreled a hole in his head and he fell with a thud on the floor. She pointed the gun back at me. Tony went to speak. I watched in horror when she pointed the gun at him. I can’t remember what was said. All I could think of was dear God, please don’t take him too. I stood up in front of him, just when the gun went off. I felt a sharp pain in my shoulder and fell to the ground.
I laid there staring into Marne's eyes. She gave me a grin. “Thank you.” She whispered.
Her eyes went blank then. I knew she was gone. I passed out, hoping this was it. All the pain and numbness would be gone for good.
I don’t know if I died, but I did get to see my Scotty again. He ran to me like he always did when he saw me. I picked him up and hugged him close. I cried when I saw him. We’re taking good care of him a voice said. Tears welled up in my eyes and it all faded away. . I woke up in the hospital. Tony was sound asleep, sitting in the chair next to my bed. It was well past visiting hours. I guess the nurses knew the term visiting hours didn’t apply here. He opened his eyes and looked into mine.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi,” I said back.
He started telling me about all the commotion that took place after I passed out. It turned out, the plastics saved our lives. One of them had a cell phone and sent a text message to her husband. The cops showed up and shot the lady in red. He paused for a minute.
“What is it?” I asked.
“It was her husband who killed Scotty. The police found him dead a couple days ago with a letter. All it said was, ‘I’m sorry.’” Tony said.
Tears streamed down my face. For the first time in 16 months, I had closure. The numb shell surrounding my body melted away with each tear. I cried for Scotty and Marne. I think I may have even cried for Grape Ape. Tony hugged me until I was done crying. He is my family. I thank God for him.