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Don't Die Over a Spilled Merlot

a first date turns deadly

By Steve B HowardPublished 3 years ago 6 min read
Don't Die Over a Spilled Merlot
Photo by jisoo kim on Unsplash

There was nothing celebratory about that New Year’s Eve. Nirvana was playing at the Cow Palace, but neither of us had gotten tickets. Me and Sal, Salvador Puggio, the Pug Cell, had finished off the the fifth of Peppermint Schnapps he’d stolen from his mom’s liquor cabinet and we were wandering around Golden Gate Park at 11:38 pm as 1992 died away. Drizzly piss rain soaked us through and a bitter wind blew off the Bay. There were plenty of teen parties going on all over the city, but me and Pug couldn’t crash any of them. When it came to teen parties and getting wasted we were the worst type of opportunists. Jackals, hyenas and coyotes would have been more welcome house guests. We were skate punks with a rep for trashing houses when we got too twisted.

Pug was 5'3 with a middle weight wrestler’s build and a green mo-hawk. I was tall and skinny with a shaved head, a one time skinhead wanna be before I got my ass beat up in the Castro. I planned on looking like fucking Joey Ramone by summer.

Freezing and with our drunk wearing off fast I knew we had to do something quick to pull ourselves out of this black hole downer we were spinning into.

“Fuck it dude, call her,” Pug said.

“Call Marcie? Shit man, you really think that’s a good idea? She might think it’s a first date or something like that.”

“So what. You said her parent’s are out of town. Why do you think she told you that. It’s that or go back and hang with your mom for the rest of the night. Watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s or whatever shit she’s watching tonight.”

“What about your place?”

“Dude, how many times do I have to fucking say it? You’re banned. Mom shit a brick after you stole her Valium.”

“You stole the Schnapps tonight.”

I watched Pug chug the rest of it and then wing the bottle off into the darkness.

“Yeah, and my ass will pay hard for that shit later,” he said. “Just call her and let’s go get warm and more fucked up.”

I was hesitant because Marcie was kind of a friend. Well, almost like a friend. She was a little dumpy, weird, and she actually kind of looked like “Marcie” from Charlie Brown. I sat next to her in math class and copied her papers. She would come to the skate park and watch me and Pug ride. We never talked to her accept to pawn money off her or copy her homework. But she was always nice and we were scum bags.

Near the south entrance of the park there were pay phones. Stepping over the broken glass from the busted window in the booth I lifted the receiver and punched in Marcie’s number from memory. It rang six times and I was just about to bag it when I heard Marcie’s tired soft voice come on the line.


“Uh, hey Marcie, it’s, me Aaron.”


“Aaron!? Oh, hey you called. What’s up?”

“Nothing. Chillin with Pug. Uh, can we come over?”

“Now? Yeah, sure okay.”

I got her address, recited it twice to Pug so we both knew it, and headed out of the gloomy park to catch a bus to Eastland Hills Estates. On the bus ride we sat in the back. Pug huffed model glue out of a paper bag. He handed it to me and I waved him off. I didn’t do that shit. I watched the colorful city pass as the bus made it’s way up into the east hills.

“Haven’t been up here since dad bailed,” Pug said almost losing consciousness.

Me and him were lowlanders, former rich kids whose parents divorced and now live in condos or apartments down in the city proper. We knew these multi-million dollar gated communities well, but were outcasts. We still bused in to the schools the rich kids attended, but we were just well-dressed street rats to them.

The bus dropped us off two blocks away. A thick cement wall with a tall row of pruned fir trees behind it ran parallel with the sidewalk. It was 12:02 AM, 1993 officially. The rain had stopped, but it felt colder.

“How much farther? I’m freezing my balls off,” Pug said.

“Got to find a spot we can jump the fence. Can’t pass in front of the guard shack.”

“Why not? Let’s just go in that way.”

“You think they’ll let us in? You with a fucking green Mohawk? No way. We jump the fence.”

I found a spot with a metal post on top of the wall and a tree behind it we could climb down. A hop. skip, and a stoned tumble by Pug and we were in. Marcie’s house was a few houses away. The streets were still slick with rain and the Christmas lights from the houses reflected back at us like a mild acid trip. I missed Christmas. My mom had converted to Buddhism three years ago and we hadn’t celebrated since then.

We found Marcie’s house, stark white, big and looming, dark, no Christmas lights, she was Jewish, with faux Greek pillars at the entrance. I rang the door bell and she was there in a flash.

She squealed out a loud “Aaron!” and gave me an awkward hug before inviting us in. I caught Pug’s look and shook him off. We had been to enough drunken and drugged up teen parties over the years to know what happened to girls that passed out sometimes. My moral compass wasn’t willing to swing as low as his had.

“Where’s the fucking booze?” Pug growled out as soon as we were inside the house.

“Well, my parents let me have one glass of wine on holidays. They have a good Merlot in the back,” Marcie answered.

“I am not fucking drinking any Merlot!”

“Okay, shit. Don’t go all sideways on me Pug.”

“Fuck it, I’m out,” Pug said turning to leave.

Marcie’s eyes found mine, but the “Bros before Hoes” line in my brain beat her to the punch and I started to follow Pug towards the front door.

“Wait! Wait, I can get something. In my dad’s study. I’m not supposed to go in there, never supposed go in, but I’ll get it.”

“Cool,” Pug said casually.

Marcie dashed off into the bowels of the giant house and me and Pug stood in the foyer waiting. She returned in a few minutes with a glass of Merlot and a bottle of expensive looking Scotch.

“I brought Scotch. And I have my glass of Merlot too.”

“Give me the fucking bottle,” Pug said grabbing it away from her and batting the Merlot out of her hand and into a thousand broken shards of wine glass on the marble floor.

“Oh my God. Oh dear Jesus. What did you do?” Marcie said.

Pug and I starred as she dropped to the floor and huddled the broken glass into a pile close to her knees. Then she grasped the broken stem and held up to her face and started hyperventilating badly. “Dean Martin gave that to my parents, oh my God, oh my God.”

Another shriek and she was up off the floor clutching the shattered stem of the wine glass.

“You,” she said pointing it at Pug. “I never liked you.”

Then she dashed off down the hall screaming and banged though a door and into another room.

“Should we bail?” I asked.

“Fuck it, let’s finish this shit first,” Pug said tipping the bottle.

He handed it to me and I was about to take a chug when I heard Marcie screaming from the room down the hall.

“Guess I should go check on her,” I said taking a quick swig and handing the bottle back to Pug.

“Whatever dude,” he said.

“Marcie?” I called gently as I walked towards the room. The hallway was long and wide, but well lit like an old fancy hotel. Already I was spinning a lie she could tell her parents to explain the broken glass. I found the room, knocked once on the door and slowly opened it. Marcie was sitting on the floor with her back against the bed . Blood was pouring out of a large gash on her right wrist and her face was whiter than I’d ever seen. I ducked back out of the room and yelled,

“Oh fuck! Pug! Pug, get over here!”

The urgency in my voice was enough to sober him into a sprint for the room. But, when he got there and looked in I heard him say, “Oh fuck,” and he was gone so fast I barely heard his foot steps sprinting out the front door.

It was all me now, Pony Boy and Johnny saving the kids from the burning house, only fucking Johnny had ditched my ass. Just me and Marcie. I went and sat by her noting the white Princess phone on the dresser.

“Don’t die Marcie. I love you. Hang on for me.”

“Okay Aaron. Okay, for you,” she said weakly.

“I’m going to call 9–11”, I said and dialed.

Teenage years

About the Creator

Steve B Howard

Steve Howard's self-published collection of short stories Satori in the Slip Stream, Something Gaijin This Way Comes, and others were released in 2018. His poetry collection Diet of a Piss Poor Poet was released in 2019.

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Comments (1)

  • Mcgrotha Brinker2 years ago

    Well written

Steve B HowardWritten by Steve B Howard

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