“I feel like a bag of smashed a**holes.” Tony’s raspy voice tumbles off the bed and rolls down the hallway to the living room where his roommate sits.
“Must have been some party at your cousin’s house last night. You came barging through the door looking like you lost a mud wrestling match.” Barry gets up off the couch and opens the window to allow the cloud of smoke to escape. He has already been up for hours studying for finals this week and inhaling menthol-one-hundreds. Many pots of hot Columbian brew have passed through his dry, chapped lips.
Tony’s heavy, slow, staggering footsteps can be heard coming down the hallway. He stops in the kitchen and pours the last cup in the pot, adding extra milk and sugar. As he stirs the thick liquid, he notices the crusted mud under his nails and dirt patches across the back of his hands.
His bearlike torso is soaked in night sweats, causing his baggy blue boxers to cling to every crevice. There’s a stench of stale beer that surrounds him like an aura.
“Yeah, I’m not sure what happened.” Tony rubs his hand across day-old stubble. “My jaw feels like it had been rode pretty hard.” He goes over to the couch and plops down next to Barry. He then sets his cup down and packs a bong.
“Your empty bed says otherwise. I’m betting that you got into a fight.” Barry’s hands shake a little from caffeine overdose as he lights up a cigarette.
After releasing the captured smoke from his lungs, Tony has a coughing fit, turning his complexion Tuscan red. “I was digging a hole,” Tony chokes out.
“A hole? What the hell for? What did you do to ruin Kevin’s fancy party?” Barry pushes his wire glasses back up his freckled nose.
“I don’t know. All I remember is digging a hole in some dark woods next to a heart-shaped stump.” Tony begins to repack the bong but stops and rolls the weed between his fingers as he continues to talk.
“It was more like some fancy barbecue. They had a freaking food truck catering all the fried grub you could want. It was called Barge Bag, Barf Bag. I don’t know. But they served their food smothered in pulled pork. It smelled so good that it would make a crack head hungry.” Tony finally puts the tightly rolled ball into the bong and smokes it down.
“Jazz was there, too, doing her thing with the music. There was a pyramid of 30 racks of beer. There was even a bar set up for shots. Everything cost nothing. I’ll have to ask my cousin for a raise Monday.” Tony drinks from his coffee to soothe his raspy voice. Then he chuckles at himself.
“A raise?” Barry blows air through his nose like a bull. “You ought to be begging him not to fire you.” He scratches his fire-red hair as Tony shoots him a smirk.
“You wouldn’t believe the type of crowd I was mingling with. One guy I spoke to is our county judge. I ran into my ex-wife’s nephew, and he’s now a state trooper. Oh, and just a sea of blondes. I’m not kidding, man.” As he pulls his underwear free from his crack, Tony turns to look at Barry. “Of every shape and size.” His hands motion in the air, showing multiple curves. “But not one ugly face among them.”
Barry offers Tony a cigarette as he goes in for another one. Tony declines, only touching them when he’s drinking.
“I would have thought I was in the wrong place if I didn’t know the other half of the crowd. There was a dealer for every kind of drug you could think of. Lines were being passed around on plastic plates. I seen some people I met while I was in prison. Many of them I recognize from the bars.”
“That makes you digging a hole much more suspicious. Was it on the property or on your way home?” Barry has just started studying psychology this year but hasn’t learned much yet, since he’s had to catch up on his English and math skills. Even so, he has always had a natural talent for solving problems, ever since he was young. “What or whom were you trying to hide?”
“I don’t know, and don’t fucking go there.” Tony drinks down the coffee until he can no longer taste the aged cheese from his dehydrated mouth.
As Tony heads to the kitchen to make more coffee, he hollers back to Barry, “I didn’t kill anything.”
Barry’s eyes follow a fly as it buzzes over the shallow ashtray, blowing a small sprinkle of ashes onto the coffee table. “How can you be so sure?” he carefully asks, knowing all too well that he’s close to Tony’s point of explosion. “Make sure you use five scoops. Anything less is like drinking colored water.”
“I know it’s five scoops,” Tony snaps. He goes to shove the full basket back in, but it catches. He gives it three more jerks, spilling coffee over the filter. After winning the battle of the basket, he sternly pushes the power button before turning back to his friend.
“Listen, why don’t you tell me what you do remember?” Barry quickly suggests, to avoid a screaming fit filled with many filthy words.
Tony’s eyeballs sink back into their sockets. The still afternoon temperatures begin to rise, so Tony turns the black standing fan on oscillate.
He stands close to the face of the fan letting the soft air ruffle the hair on his chest as he stares at his image on the screen of the silent tv.
A smile spreads across his face as he rejoins his friend on the couch.
Tony smacks Barry’s shoulder hard and says, “You know what, dude? I did get lucky last night.” His evil grin spreads as the morbid details come rushing in.
“It wasn’t in the woods, was it?” Barry butts out his cigarette and gives his roommate his full attention.
“No, worse. It was behind a port-a-potty.” Tony pauses to wait for Barry’s reaction.
“You’re freaking kidding me?” Barry’s eyes are smiling. “How did you manage that?”
“It gets worse.” Tony laughs. “I pass by this babe standing in a long line. Usually, I don’t use those blue buckets, but I got in line right behind her.” Barry’s eyes stray away for a second, and Tony hits his arm again. “Listen. It wasn’t hard to convince her to follow me.” Tony nods and raises his eyebrows. “Real easy.”
“Your favorite kind.” Barry’s little stab only makes Tony laugh.
“She was all nervous at first. She kept looking out into the pine trees behind. The worst part is that I almost lost my enthusiasm as some person got into the bucket and started to crap.”
“Ugggh!” Barry’s nose wrinkles and his mouth curls. “No way.” They chuckle and share the dragon pipe.
“What did you do?” Barry asks, dropping the lighter on the floor. He ignores it and grabs another one from the littered table before him.
“I pulled my shirt up over my nose and did ninety.” Tony rocks his hips, shaking the couch and making the face of a screaming ape.
“You’re nasty.” Barry grimaces again.
“Like you wouldn’t have done the same thing.” Tony smacks his friend again in the exact same spot for the third time.
“First of all,” Barry starts as he rubs his shoulder and scoots further away. “I definitely wouldn’t have picked that spot. What did you do next?”
“Pulled my pants up. Grabbed my beer back from her. I don’t know, man. I’m sure I had more shots and more beer. A few joints and maybe a line or two.” Tony grabs his cup and heads for the spitting coffee pot, finishing its brew. This time he skips the milk.
Tony’s head pops up from blowing on his coffee, catching Barry’s attention. “My truck. I don’t know how I got it home. It is home, right?”
“I believe so. I heard the muffler when you were a mile down the road. But you did take a while to come in. I just assumed you were getting sick.”
Tony sets his steaming cup down on the bar next to the pot and quickly makes his way to the living room window. “I never get sick,” he says as he flings back the black-out curtains, and his rusty beast comes into view. A garden hose hangs off the fully dented bumper like a snake.
“Why is the hose hanging off my bumper?” Tony puts his forehead against the window and looks closer at his truck. “Fuck! My head light is smashed.”
Barry is off the couch and out the door before Tony.
Tony pulls the hose off the truck and throws it onto the front lawn. Barry bends down to examine the damage. It’s hard to tell if there are any new dents, but the broken head light is definitely new.
Barry stands up and says, “I think you washed off the evidence.” He points to the limp hose in the yard.
“Evidence of what exactly?” Tony spits at Barry as his eyes start to creep out of place.
“Obviously you hit something,” Barry points to the shattered glass that’s still clinging on and then stares down at his friend’s dirty hands, “and buried it in the woods.”
Tony gets close to him. “Must you say that so loud?” Barry looks around, as Tony just pushes by him to go back into the house. Barry stays outside, studying the crumpled headlight.
Inside, Tony launches at his coffee and has it half gone before he starts to feel the burn. He swallows hard and screams. Tony slams the coffee back down, spilling most of it onto the bar. He scans the table and finds the green and silver pack. He pops one out and starts twirling it in his meaty hands.
After Tony lights up, he starts pacing between the living room and kitchen. Every four steps he flicks the cigarette and then takes a couple of short puffs.
Barry finally comes back in and must quickly avoid Tony’s path.
“I couldn’t find any hair,” Barry announces. “Didn’t you say that your jaw hurts? Maybe you got into a fight.” He goes to pour a cup of black coffee. “Not saying that you killed someone. Just suggesting another memory that might lead to a clue to the hole you dug,” he adds quickly. He gingerly sips his coffee, watching Tony wear a path in the wooden floors.
Tony paces a few more laps as the ash falls to the floor, while the cigarette quickly burns down to the filter.
“Wait!” he shouts and stops between the two rooms. Noticing the smell of burnt filter, he puts the cigarette out before speaking again. “I did get hit.”
He starts walking again but much slower as he speaks. “I was running backwards, getting ready to jump to hit the Frisbee, when I tripped over this little girl in braids. I was playing Kan Jam with a couple of guys. You know, that game where you try to toss the Frisbee into the big can?” Barry nods. “Well, anyways she starts screaming. I just wanted to put my hand over her mouth because she was attracting a lot of attention. This couple comes running up all pissed off. When I saw the mom’s face, I recognized her from the blue bucket.”
“Aw, man. You mean the one you did behind the stink?”
“The very one. ‘You’re married!’ flew out of my mouth like an idiot. That fat cowboy took one look at his guilty wife, and in one swoop he about broke my jaw. If the crowd hadn’t jumped him, I would have showed him what I gave his wife.” Tony laughs loudly.
“Do you think you killed him?” Barry asks, getting a sharp glance from Tony.
“I doubt it. I don’t fight for pussy. Why would I kill for it?” Tony’s intense eyes cause Barry to look down at his feet.
While still staring at the dusty floor, he finally dares to speak, “Maybe it was an accident.” His voice trails off at the end.
“Stop fucking saying that. I didn’t kill him. It had to be a deer.” Tom’s fists are flying through the air, and his face is all crazy eyes.
“I don’t think you would have taken the time to bury a deer,” Barry says under his breath, but Tony hears him.
“I was fucked up, man. All rationality goes out the window.” A loud growl erupts from Tony’s throat, as he smashes his fist through the front door.
“There goes our deposit,” is on the tip of Barry’s tongue, but he doesn’t push it. Instead, he says, “I have an idea. Let’s retrace the route you took, and we can dig up whatever it is you buried.”
“Ok, good idea.” Tony runs to his room to find the keys, while Barry goes outside to get into the truck.
Barry taps the steering wheel while he waits. Each minute that passes seems like ten. He pops his head out the window, mouth open, ready to shout, just as Tony comes out jingling the keys.
“Found them. For some reason I put them in the medicine cabinet.”
Tony stops at the front of the truck when he sees Barry sitting in the driver’s seat with his hand out the window, waiting for the keys.
“No freaking way. Get out. I’m driving.” Tony stomps over to the driver’s door.
“This way you can look for the spot while I drive,” Barry protests.
Tony opens the door and says, “Get out. My truck. I’m driving.”
Barry doesn’t budge. “I have a license. You don’t. And the head light is broken.” Barry makes his point. Tony tosses the keys, and they land on the rusty floorboards beneath Barry.
Tony hops up in the passenger seat and slams the door shut. The door bounces back open, and he must slam it again before it latches.
“Drive south,” Tony pouts.
“Left, or right?” Barry asks.
Down the road a ways the small town of Ridge Fort disappears as the bickering roommates are swallowed by dense woods. Scattered here and there are nice houses for wealthy families. The shack with a gas pump looks out of place as they pass by.
“Turn left.” The corner is marked by a shell of a brick house, the trees and brush slowly consuming what is left.
To the left of the road they pass a paved parking area for access to some hiking trails.
“Does anything look familiar?” Barry asks, looking over at his friend, who is not paying attention to the roadside.
“Yes. Now speed up.” Barry looks back at the road but does not increase the speed.
“Take a right up here on Willow and then pull into the lot on the left.”
Barry takes a sharp right, almost missing the turn. He signals left and notices it’s a parking lot with two motorcycles and a luxury station wagon. In front of them is a shabby bar. The wooden structure is painted grey and has been chipping off for years. The black painted sign above the door reads, “Toppers,” only the first p is almost faded to nothing.
“A bar? You want to stop at a bar right now?” The signal light is blinking too fast, another warning sign that needs to be fixed.
“Just pull in.”
Barry reluctantly follows instructions. He parks next to the station wagon, and Tony hops out before he even comes to a full stop. “I need a drink if I have to put up with your driving,” he shouts over his shoulder as he enters the bar.
Inside is a T-shaped stage with poles, and suddenly the name of the place makes sense to Barry. At the moment the stage is dark and empty of topless dancers. Two men in denim and leather sit in the middle of the bar.
Tony is sitting at the corner of the bar, and Barry joins him. They both enjoy watching the sexy bartender make her way down to them. Her shorts are cut high, and there’s a little red devil tattoo on her right thigh. A piece of emerald-green silk can barely contain the braless double d’s that bounce as she walks in her red high heels. Her pinned-up curls and dark-rimmed glasses give her that naughty librarian vibe.
Tony skips easing in with a beer and orders a Jack and coke. “Just coke for him.” He motions towards his roommate. “He’s driving.”
“When do the girls start?” Tony asks, as she hands him a plastic cup with two small brown straws. He gives it a stir before tasting his drink.
The brunette host makes eye contact with Tony and smiles with her pouty lips.
“Professor.” She pauses for a moment. “Where have you been? I haven’t seen you on campus since the first semester.” She stands there squarely in front of him with her chest heaved in his face.
He can’t help but stare at them as he speaks to her. “I’m not a professor anymore. I shovel gravel now.” He remembers the night he used that professor line at a party in a dorm room on campus. The night Barry and him became friends.
“Oh. I understand. Teachers’ pay sucks.” She pushes a lock behind her ear.
Barry cuts into their flirtation. He recognizes those bubbly blue eyes. “Can I get that soda?”
“Oh, yeah.” She quickly spins around and fills another plastic cup.
“I’ve seen you on campus before. You’re Betty from English 102.” Barry takes his cup.
“That’s me. Although Betty is such a plain-Jane name. Here they call me Poe. Partly because I’m in college to obtain my masters in writing.”
“Partly?” Tony asks interrupting.
“Yea. The reason is because the girls couldn’t think of any other writer to call me while trying to help me come up with a stage name. Most of the girls here aren’t big fans of reading literature.” She inches closer to Tony.
“Professor,” Poe starts.
“It’s Tony,” he quickly adds.
“I seen you at that party last night. Couldn’t help but pick you out of the crowd, with Kevin’s Saint Bernard following you everywhere. It was the cutest thing.” She bites her bottom lip and smiles at him.
A switch snaps in Tony’s brain. “Oh, my God. I forgot about that dog. They called it Loki. Which I thought was cool as hell. He did, he followed me all night as if I had beef hidden in my pockets. He was there behind the bucket. I remember because he stuck his cold, wet nose right up my ass, screwing up my rhythm.” Tony sucks both straws, inhaling half of his drink.
“And he was there when I fell over that girl. Standing there next to the man that suckered-punched me. That dog looked as if he was laughing at me. I wonder why I didn’t remember him. He was the coolest thing at the party.” He can see that Barry is holding back a laugh by the way he sucks in his lips.
The two bikers down the bar wave their beer bottles in the air. The huskier one calls down, “Can we get another, sweetheart?”
“Drink up,” Barry commands, as they both watch Poe walk away. “Daylight is wasting. It’s better if we dig in the light of day. It doesn’t look as bad as under the cover of darkness.”
Tony rolls his eyes and slurps down the remainder of his drink.
“Let’s go,” Tony says, as he slaps a five-dollar bill on the bar. Like lightning, he is out the door and in the driver’s seat before Barry even stands up.
Outside, Barry throws his arms up in the air. “Come on! How are you supposed to look and drive? You are going to kill us both.” Barry complains all the way to the passenger seat but is quiet once he gets in.
Tony drives towards Kevin’s estate, which is not far now. With a chill crawling down his spine, Barry notices that his friend is not paying attention to his driving and seems to be not even seeing the road ahead of him.
As Barry looks out the window past Tony’s head, the sun bouncing off broken glass on the roadside catches his attention. “Tony, stop the truck.”
Tony drives as if he never heard Barry speak.
“Turn around. I saw something back there,” Barry speaks fast.
Tony drives past his cousin’s house, now empty of all the partiers that were there just hours ago. He utters, “That damn dog.”
“What did you say?”
“That dog. I remember. I killed Loki.” Tony turns away from the blue house with the big yard. “I remember. He followed me to the truck, and I had to shoo him away. As I left, driving down the road, I see him, and he just comes running out of the woods, big furry face looking all happy to see me. And then a thud that made me sick to my stomach. I must have panicked and buried him.” Tony’s chest heaves, as he takes in a deep breath.
“Turn around. Let’s go make sure.” Barry’s voice is soft.
Tony does a U-turn and heads back to the spot that Barry points out for him. In the dry dirt they can see his tire marks, and spread across the pavement are pieces of his headlight. They both get busy picking up all the shards and tossing them into the back of the pick-up truck.
“Do you have your shovel?” Barry asks.
“No, I don’t. Besides I don’t want to get caught with a shovel. Kevin’s house is too nearby. I dug the grave with my bare hands.” Then Tony looks down at his filthy hands. “It shouldn’t be hard to remove some dirt.”
Tony leads, weaving through woods until they reach a clearing where trees have been cut down. He stops at the edge of the grave that is near the heart-shaped stump closer the wood line. Barry walks around his friend, and they both stare down at the disturbed earth.
“It’s been dug up!” snaps Tony.
“No. I don’t think so.” Barry bends down and pushes back some of the loose dirt. The grave is shallow, and loose dirt is thrown all around.
Then something to his right catches his attention.
“Look there.” Barry points to a couple of large paw marks between a few of Tony’s old boot prints. “I think your dog dug himself out and went home.”
They look at each other.
“I buried the dog alive?”
“You probably just knocked him out. If you had just pulled out of your cousin’s driveway, you hadn’t time to gain enough speed to actually kill him.” Barry smiles.
“That big bastard.” Tony grins. His footsteps are lighter as they make their way back to the side of the road.
Once out in the opening, Tony stops so suddenly that his roommate smacks right into him.
Kevin is leaning up against his rusty hood, and sitting at his heels is Loki, wagging his bushy tail, kicking up a dirt tornado.
“What’s up, boys?” Kevin calls to them.
“I lost my wallet last night.” Tony spills out what he already had prepared in case this happened. Staring down at the happily panting dog, he walks towards his truck. “I stopped here to take a piss last night. Thought I’d give it a quick glance before coming to see you.”
“Did you find it?” Kevin asks.
Tony reaches into his back pocket and pulls out his wallet. “It took some digging, but we found it.” He reaches the driver’s door and holds it open as he waits for his cousin to leave.
“That’s good. But you better get that headlight fixed. You’re going to get pulled over. And I don’t want to get a call on Monday saying you’re going to be late to work.” Kevin smiles at both of them.
“Come on, Loki,” Kevin calls to the massive hair ball that reappears from behind Tony. They both walk towards Kevin’s work truck “This damn dog was out all night,” he calls out. Then he opens the truck’s door, and Loki leaps inside.
Tony and Barry hop into the truck feeling as if they had just gotten away with murder.
Immediately their noses are filled with the stench of fresh dog crap. Tony reaches under his blue jeans, and his hand comes back coated in dark brown slime.
“Fuck!” Tony screams, as he watches Kevin’s truck rolls by with Loki looking out the back window grinning at him.”
Barry is laughing hysterically.
“What do you find so funny?” Tony asks, while searching the littered floorboards for something that will clean his hand.
Barry bursts into another fit of laughter, as he looks down at Tony’s pissed off face.
“For the first time today, I am happy that I’m not the one driving.”
About the author
I am a published writer and a traveler, with a touch of insanity. I have had many titles, including a COB(Civilian On the Battlefield) training soldiers for Iraq, but Writer is my favorite. I write short stories with a unique voice.