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That's a Bunch of Bull

by Staci Troilo about a year ago in Short Story · updated about a year ago
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Younger Brothers and Ex-Girlfriends

Photo courtesy of Eli Christman from Richmond, VA, USA, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Chase Malone avoided Buffalo Buford’s tavern the way priests avoided strip clubs. He drove the long way around so he didn’t have to pass it and prayed it would close down and go away.

His issue wasn’t with the bar, though. It used to be his favorite hangout. His problem was with Kayla, the back-room bartender that every guy in town flocked to the pub to flirt with. She made the girls in Coyote Ugly look like prudes. He couldn’t stand to be in the same town as her, let alone the same building.

Ex-girlfriends had a way of ruining good things.

So did his brother.

Now, he found himself in the one place in town he swore to avoid on a Saturday evening. And every other night of the week.

Chase burst in the door of Buford’s, then strode to the corner booth in the back of the main room where Alex and his friends preferred to sit. He glared down at Jim, Paxton, and Hunter.

No Alex.

“Where’s my idiot brother? I got a text from him. It was completely unreadable, so I’m assuming he’s here. And drunk out of his mind.”

“Did the message say anything about Brianna?” Hunter asked. He popped a pretzel in his mouth without looking up.

“They break up? Again?”

Paxton nodded. He didn’t make eye contact, either.

“Like everyone didn’t see that coming. What is that? Twelve, thirteen times?” When no one answered, he figured they’d all lost track, too. “So, where is the genius? Throwing up in the bathroom? I’ll take him home. You didn’t let him drive out of here, did you?”

“No. I’m tonight’s DD.” Jim held up a set of keys. A silver “61” dangled from it—Alex’s high school football number.

His brother had been a center like Chase had been. His own key ring still had a similar “60” on it from high school.

“All right. What aren’t you guys telling me?”

Paxton sighed and finally met Chase’s gaze. “Don’t suppose the text said anything about a bull?”

“The text was a string of letters that didn’t spell a single word in the English lang—wait. A bull? No.”

“Yeah.”

“Why would you let him even consider it?”

“No one ‘lets’ Alex do anything. He’s as stubborn as you.”

He glowered at Paxton.

Paxton shrugged back.

“Who’s tending bar in the back room tonight?” But he already knew the answer.

“It’s Saturday, Chase.” Hunter grabbed another pretzel. “Buford has the all-female staff back there.”

“Go get Alex. Tell him we're leaving.”

“See, that’s the thing.” Jim rubbed the back of his neck. “The bouncers won’t let us back there.”

“Why not?”

“We kind of got banned for a month.”

“For what?”

“Buford said we got a little too… forward last week during the body shot contest.”

Paxton drained his drink. “Which was total bull!” He slammed the bottle down, then winced at the bang.

Chase rolled his eyes. “If you guys are suspended, how did Alex get back there?”

“He wasn’t with us,” Jim said. “Brianna made him go to some artsy-fartsy thing in the city.”

As Paxton examined his bottle for cracks, he added, “Anyway, since your brother deserted us last week, he isn’t banned from the back this week like we are. That leaves you. Of the four of us, you’re the only one who can go get him.”

“I’m sure Louie and Mark will let you in for a minute. Just to collect Alex.”

Hunter shook his head. “Maybe on a weeknight. But it’s Saturday. Buford’s here. We can’t get past the door.”

“Alex is gonna break his fool neck if someone doesn’t stop him.”

“Like Pax said, it’s a good thing Alex texted you, then.” Jim grinned at him.

“The three of you are utterly useless.”

“Hey. I stopped him from driving drunk.”

“Yet you didn’t stop him from getting on a mechanical bull.”

“There are mats on the floor. He’ll be fine. Look, he’s about to go!” Paxton pointed his empty bottle at the television above the bar, then raised it in a salute. “To Alex!”

“I want to video this.” Hunter fumbled with his phone.

“If my brother breaks his neck, I’m going to break all of yours.”

“They’re drunk,” Jim said. “Ignore them.”

Chase shook his head, scared out of his mind to see his brother climbing onto that mechanical monster. More agile men than him had gotten hurt on the thing. Rather, been flung off it.

He dashed toward the back room. Didn’t slow as Louie and Mark closed ranks. Even though he was outnumbered two to one and they were both built like WWE contenders, he’d take them on to protect Alex. He lowered his shoulder and picked up speed. But when they saw it was him, they opened the doors to let him pass—just before he would have tackled them.

Instead of a collision, he exploded into the room. He'd been pumping his legs like he used to on the football field, thinking he was going to have to bust through a wall of muscle. But when the bouncers stepped aside, his momentum had no outlet.

Chase saw her but couldn’t stop. Like magnet to metal, he couldn’t turn away.

His ex had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was walking past the doors on her way to the bar, and she bore the brunt of his impact.

He plowed into Kayla, driving her across the floor. The two of them flipped over the fence, then landed together on the mat.

A second later, the mechanical bull bucked Alex off. He hurtled through the air with a “Whoo, boy!” then plopped down next to them.

Chase was dimly aware of hoots and hollers, a few yahoos, and a lot of applause.

But he was acutely conscious of Kayla’s limbs tangled with his own, her scantily-clad body pressed tightly against him. Every curve seemed molded specifically for his frame, and memories he fought to bury rose unbidden to the forefront of his mind.

Her breath was hot in his ear as she whispered, “If you wanted me in your arms again, you could have just asked. I might have said yes. Especially if I got to spend the night between both Malone boys.”

Chase pushed her off of him.

She lay there, blonde hair spread around her like a halo, laughing at him.

Louie hauled him up. Mark already had Alex on his feet and was dragging him toward the back door.

“You’re both banned from this room for a month,” Buford called out as Chase crossed the threshold.

“Take it easy on them, B,” Kayla said. “Alex just got thrown from the bull. And Chase has been wallowing in it since I dumped him.”

Everyone burst into laughter.

It echoed in his ears long after the doors closed behind him.

“What were you thinking, Alex?” he asked as he dragged his brother around the building to the front parking lot.

“Bri broke up with me.”

“So? You were due. She dumps you every other month. Hopefully it sticks this time. Best thing that could have happened to you. She’s a nightmare.”

“Shut up, man. I loved her.”

“See? Loved. Past tense. You’re already over her.” He folded his brother into the passenger seat of his Camaro, then he walked around to the driver’s side. After a deep breath of the fresh night air, he climbed behind the wheel. “If you really were hurt, maybe you tie one on. But you don’t try to break every bone in your body.”

“I wasn’t trying to get hurt. I was trying to impress a new girl.”

“Well, that proves my point. You’re obviously over Brianna if you were already trying to pick up someone else.” He started the car, gunned the engine, then put it into gear.

“I guess.”

“So? How’d it go? You get her number before you rode the bull?”

“No. But I know she liked seeing me on it.”

“Yeah?”

Alex nodded.

“How are you so sure?”

“I heard her tell you she wanted both of us. If you’re not interested in Kayla, you think I have a chance? Or was it a brother-thing? 'Cause I'm not into that.”

Chase floored it as he pulled out of the parking lot, tires spinning and gravel spitting out behind him. After he got control of his car, he glanced at his brother. “You’d be better off getting back with Brianna.”

“I thought you hated her.”

“Everybody hates her.” He wasn’t sure which girl he meant. Either. Or both.

“Then I don’t get it.”

“Don’t think I could be any clearer.”

Alex rested his head against the window. “Can you stop? I think I’m going to be sick.”

As Chase pulled over, he said, “Yeah. Me, too.”

Short Story

About the author

Staci Troilo

Staci's love for writing is only surpassed by her love for family and friends, and that relationship-centric focus is featured in her work, regardless of the genre she's currently immersed in. https://stacitroilo.com

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