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The Savior

The man in the wife beater

By Rick HartfordPublished 29 days ago 5 min read

By Rick Hartford

I see it coming from a long way off, a black speck wavering in the afternoon’s scorching heat, dust swirling, engine whining louder as the speck becomes a trembling black locust. I stick my thumb out. The black Dodge Charger slides to a halt.

I bend down to look in the passenger window. It’s opaque. The window opens halfway.

“Get in,” the driver says. And then a second later, an afterthought, he says: “Don’t look in the back.”

I wake up, sweating.

A nightmare.

It is just before dawn. I look at the sheets where the woman with me had been sleeping.

I met her in the Drop Dead Saloon just outside the city. I was drinking alone at the bar when she sat beside me. It’s early, the band is just setting up on the stage. Vintage country western radio is filling the void. Johnny Cash singing Delia’s Gone:

“First time I shot her

I shot her in the side

Hard to watch her suffer

But with the second shot she died.”

“Who do I have to kill to get a drink around here,” a woman says to the bartender, who salutes her with a shot of whisky and nods to me. “Don’t pay any attention to her,” he says to me.”

I look at her face, She has a black eye, but even this doesn’t detract from her looks. Stunning. I buy her a drink and we click glasses.

“Here’s killing ya,” she says.

The bartender, a bear of a man with long arms and hands that could strangle an elephant looks at her sideways, and then at me. It looks like he is going to say something, but shrugs as he changes his mind. He picks up a glass and cleans it and then moves away down the bar, mopping around the head of an unconscious alkie.

“What happened to you?” I say to her..

At that moment the bat wing doors of the saloon open. She looks at the person who came in. Her face is suddenly etched in fear. It’s a tall, muscular man with a tight white wife beater. He is obviously looking for someone. The woman grabs my right hand, pulling me off of the bar stool.

Bob Dylan is singing: “I helped her out of a jam, I guess, But I used a little too much force.”

I leave the bartender a big tip.

The man in the wife beater approaches the bartender as we slip out the back. He leans close to his ear to shout over the music: “Got white skin, got assassin's eyes,” Dylan sings.

“”Let’s go,’ she says heading to the back of the bar, pulling me along behind her, into the kitchen and then out into the parking lot, a yellow cloud from the French fry cooker following us like a greasy ghost slipping into the sky.

“Where are you staying?” she says, nervously looking behind us.

“Room six on the first floor.”

I let us both in and turned on the lights.

“What’s going on with you?” I ask. She reaches over and flicks off he lights.

She pushes me against the door and kisses me.

“What’s your name?” I say.

“Gloria.”

She leads me to the bed. We struggle out of our clothing. She pulls me down down down into a volcano of lust.

Late that night I am dreaming the same dream. The man with the wife beater is at the wheel.

I get in and immediately glance behind into the back seat, regretting it as I remember the admonishment.

There’s a person hog tied in the back seat, gagged, with terrified eyes that plead with me..

When I wake up she is sitting on the bed beside me. She strokes my hair. “Rough night,” she says. It is not a question. I am soaked in sweat.

“I owe you an explanation,” she says. “But you’re not going to get one. At least not now. You just have to decide if you are sticking with me or cutting me loose.”

“Like Gorilla glue,” I say.

I know a fatal mistake when I see one. But that never stopped me before.

“Who are you running from?” I say.

“My husband. I caught him cheating on me, with the wife of a very big drug dealer, well known for his amphetamine temper tantrums. I was blackmailing him. He decided to terminate our relationship.

I looked at the side of her face. “So that’s the man who came into the bar?”

“Yeah.

“So what are you going to do?”

She turns to look at me.

“I want you to take me. Anywhere.”

She puts her hand on my leg and looks me in the eyes. It’s the same look she gave the bartender when she first came into the saloon.

(“Who do I have to kill?”)

We order Chinese and sip on vodka gimlets. Then she takes me to bed. Rough sex. More sweat.

Screams in the dark. It is late at night when I finally get some sleep.

The same dream again. The same Charger. The man in the wife beater at the wheel. I look in the back seat into the terrified eyes of a man bound with ropes which cut into his neck.

The man in the back seat is me. I jolt awake like somebody goosed me with a cattle prod. She is sitting in a chair across from me, a big .45 held loosely in her right hand.

She looks at the gun like the long lost lover I could have been and then back up at me.

“See this? It’s what you used to kill my cheating husband a little bit ago. Thanks. I really appreciate it. Couldn’t have done it without you.”

“So I guess we aren’t running away together,” I say.

“Sadly, no. You have to stay behind to take the fall. Doesn’t it kill you?”

‘The irony,” I say.

I look past her out the window. It’s the bartender. He opens the door and lets himself in. He looks tired as he sits down hard on the couch.

“Come on, Gloria. Time to go home.”

“She’s not a bad girl,” he says.

“She just doesn’t know what she needs.”

“Which would be you,” I say, getting unsteadily to my feet.

He nods at me.

“What about her husband?

“He doesn’t exist,” the bartender says, somewhat sadly.

“So who’s the guy in the muscle shirt?”

“Another sucker. Oh, excuse me. Another true believer.”

“This happen a lot?” I ask.

“Every once in a while,” he says.

As I open the door to leave, I turn around

“Hey,” I say to the bartender.

“Who do I have to kill to get a drink around here?”

Gloria laughs.

“In your dreams!”

Stream of Consciousness

About the Creator

Rick Hartford

Writer, photo journalist, former photo editor at The Courant Connecticut's largest daily newspaper, multi media artist, rides a Harley, sails a Chesapeake 32 vintage sailboat.

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    Rick HartfordWritten by Rick Hartford

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