The love of my life – let’s call her Alice – is a liar. She tells me she loves me and only me. She doesn’t just say it, she sings it, she bellows it, filling the room with these lies like smoke from a spent cigarette.
“There is nobody else in the world for me. Nobody else,” she coos. But she is a liar. Because I know about her other love. I’ve seen them caress in the tall grass behind that mattress factory. I’ve seen the eyes they make at each other when they think no one is watching, when they think that all other beings have vanished into the backdrop. I’ve seen them share those conspiratorial whispers, those peeks into each other’s secrets.
This is no fling, no respite from the grind of their everyday lives. These two are in love. Truly, madly, irreversibly. And that’s why they will both die tonight.
I sell household appliances: ovens, refrigerators, blenders. I’m good at it but I don’t kid myself about what it means in the grand scheme of things. I know It doesn’t make sense that a guy like me, making just above minimum wage plus commission, would wind up with a siren like Alice, a long-limbed blond with a pout seemingly tattooed to her flawless face. But I just accept my impossible luck and make the most of it.
Mandy waves me over to her register. Maybe she needs change or permission to switch breaks with somebody. It’s always something. And it’s always awkward.
“What it is, Mandy?”
“Um… me and some friends are going to see that Atlantis sequel after work and I’m thinking if you’d want to join us that would be okay?”
“I don’t think that would be such a good idea,” I answer.
“Well, I mean as friends and what not. Nothing more. Unless…” Her gaze drops to the floor.
“Mandy, it’s over between us.”
“As friends even?”
I walk to the break room and I can hear Mandy breathe for the first time in several minutes. It’s sad. We had something of a ‘history,’ Mandy and I. But it’s over now. Alice made sure of that.
My heart was all Mandy’s before Alice slipped between us and yanked me away into something I never before thought plausible.
It wasn’t a fair fight, really: Alice is a statuesque blond, with a smoky eyes and a voice that invites you inside with every laugh, with every sigh. With everything. Mandy is short and stocky. She smokes too much and has the teeth to prove it.
Alice kisses in short stabs, always promising more. Always emptying her soul into yours. Always the prettiest grin in the room. Never lingering long enough to grow boring. Always leaving you longing for another caress, another brush of her hair on your shoulder.
Mandy tries too hard and has hair in places that make me uncomfortable. She wheezes in her sleep and she complains about specs of toast left in the butter.
Alice: “I am eternally yours. In spite of it all. Because of it all. I am yours.”
Mandy: “I need some tampons. Can you grab me some when you go out?”
It wasn’t a fair fight.
I’m poised to approach a tiny Asian woman who seems interested in a toaster oven when I’m interrupted by Brett: “Hey champ, I’m gonna’ need you to take a time-out after work for a little talk. No panic, just need a quick thirty, maybe thirty-five of your time for a huddle. That work?” He actually talks like that.
I nod to him then try to find out where the tiny Asian woman has wondered off to. I slump inside Brett’s office after work.
The walls in this small place are decorated with pictures of the vaguely famous (a local news anchor, a baseball announcer, a mascot from a fast food place) giving ‘thumbs up’ gestures with him. Brett is a ‘thumbs up’ kind of guy. He talks like an unemployable football coach and has the most aggressive facial hair I’ve ever seen.
He greets me with this: “How’s everything going on your side of the world? Good, bad? Let’s talk. Let’s talk about team. Let’s talk about teamwork.”
“Everything is fine,” I say when I have a chance.
“Fine, really? Good fine, or just okay fine? Because I’ll tell you what’s not fine:”
“Sales. Sales are not fine. Your sales in particular. I tell you this as a friend. You’re slipping. You’re a home run hitter and you’re taking singles, doubles, walks occasionally. I need you to swing for the fences.”
“Swing for the fences. I got it. Anything else?”
He takes an exasperated breath, then finds my eyes and says this: “Seriously, you feeling okay? You seem distracted, preoccupied. Like your head’s not in the game.”
More awkward eye contact, brought to a merciful close with the ringing of his cell phone. He lifts a finger to say stay there, I’m not done with you yet, and seconds later he’s counting down a till with his phone cupped to his ear.
I don’t move. Until I spy a trophy on his desk behind him. It’s bulky, solid, but with a base that can be gripped firmly.
He hangs up and doesn’t see where I was standing. He never hears the sharp whistle of the trophy swinging to the back of his skull.
With a loud clack he stumbles forward, drops to the hardwood floor, splayed like a snow angel. He belches out blood and something resembling a muffled hiccup and that’s the end of Brett.
After scooping the cash from the register, I toss around papers from his desk and leave the side door – leading to the parking lot – lazily half open on my way out. It will look random and money-driven, like a million other such incidents in this shitty neighborhood.
It’s nice to hear him quiet for the first time since I’ve known him but this isn’t a pleasure offing. This is more practical: I need the money to buy a new knife. Alice and her new lover are very much in my plans.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Tomorrow’s Lunch Break Crime Read: The Sweetest Kind of Chaos Part 2