Authors: Brian Kirk
She cupped her hand over the shot glass, slammed it against the barâcarbonated tequila sprayed out on all sidesâand drank it down. The bartender's whistle shrieked. Stacy reached out and shook Angela's head.
!” Angela yelled.
“Opa?” Stacy's laughter turned the word into seven syllables. She held Angela's head steady so she could look into her eyes. “What are you talking about, opa?”
“Isn't that what you say when you take a shot?”
“Yeah, if you're in ouzo drinking Greece.” They both paused, the music blaring in the background, then brayed laughter into each other's faces. “I meanâ¦ You know what I fucking mean.” Stacy pushed Angela's head playfully away.
“Sorry, it's been a while since I've had a tequila slammer,” Angela said. “I've forgotten the etiquette.”
“Yeah, right. Like, two weeks?” Stacy smirked.
“Oh shut up,” Angela said, feigning indignation.
“Then I'll remind you. You're now supposed to stumble up to some cute guy on the dance floor and let him finger fuck you in a booth near the back.”
Angela snorted. “Right. I'd forgotten that part. I'll be right back.” She spun the barstool around and pretended to hop off.
The bar was beginning to thin out, but a throng of people still pressed against the small corner stage where a cover band blasted Southern rock songs from the '70s. And a ragtag group of gamblers still huddled over tables in the pool hall. Red embers flared like demonic fireflies, while threads of smoke shapeshifted in bands of blue light. Bleary-eyed loners sat at the bar, staring at nothing while downing their drinks in synchronized sips. A string of faded shamrocks encircled the banister overhead, leftover relics from a St. Patrick's party many months, or years, ago.
“I fucking love this place,” Angela said, spinning back around to face Stacy.
“This place is a shithole,” Stacy said as she lit a cigarette.
“I know. That's why I love it.” She reached into Stacy's pack and pulled out a cigarette for herself, leaning over for Stacy to light it. The band started playing “Statesboro Blues” and a drunken cheer erupted from the crowd. Angela shot an arm up in the air and bellowed, “Wooo-hooo!”
Stacy leaned back and clapped her hands, laughing. “You crack me up,” she said.
Angela returned the laughter, then blew smoke up towards the ceiling, adding to the grey haze overhead. “Why's that?”
“'Cause you're like this Dr. Do Good by day and Little Miss Devil by night.”
“More like Dr.
Good,” Angela said, turning and ordering another round of shots. She placed her cigarette in an ashtray and tousled her hair, resetting the spikes. “I've got to blow off steam after work. Otherwise, I'd goâ”
Angela rolled her eyes and smiled. “You know what I mean.”
“I can imagine. So how are things at the old nuthouse?”
Angela backhanded Stacy on the arm. Then swiveled the stool to face her longtime friend still sporting the same frizzy, highlighted hair from high school. Still applying thick coats of concealer like spackling over blemished skin. The dim recesses of back-alley bars were Stacy's natural habitat. Angela couldn't remember the last time she'd seen her old friend in the unforgiving glare of daylight.
“I don't know. It's good, I guess. In a completely fucked-up kind of way.” She grabbed the cigarette from the tray. Twin creases dimpled her cheeks as she sucked in smoke. Her voice became husky as she exhaled. “I swear, the longer you work in a place like that, you start to lose perspective over who's really sane. I'm starting to think that we're all a little bit crazy. It's all just shades of grey.”
The shots came. Warm kamikazes filled to the brim. They clinked glasses before choking them down, chasing away the taste with beer that they'd ordered to back the shots.
Stacy propped her elbow atop the bar so that she could feed the cigarette into her mouth simply by rotating her wrist. “My ex-boyfriend used to have me step on his balls with stiletto heels. Trust me. I know what you mean.”
“No way! That banker? What was his nameâHank?”
“Henry. Yeah, it turned him on. He wanted to drink my piss too.”
Angela almost sprayed beer across the bar. “No way! Did you do it?”
“Fuck no. What, I'm supposed to piss into a chalice and serve it on a silver platter? Gross. That was too much. Even for me.”
“I never would have imagined,” Angela said, shaking her head in wonder.
“Well, that goes back to what you're saying. We're all fucking nuts.” She motioned to the bartender. “Another round,
Angela's eyes brightened. She gave a mock cheer. “There's something liberating about the idea of losing it. About just letting go and giving in to our natural inhibitions. It's too stressful trying to be perfect all the time. I mean, do you think what's his name, Henry, would want his balls stomped on if he wasn't so repressed in his everyday life? I feel like we only get to be ourselves, I mean our true, authentic selves, a small fraction of the time that we're alive. The rest of the time we're putting on an act for others.
“And it's such a lame act, with all these stiff social graces, this pretentious etiquette. The perfect posture. The smug, insincere smiles. Safe topics of conversation. Fucking manners. I mean, who came up with this stuff? Whoever it was, was a fucking dork.”
Stacy did spray beer. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and sighed. “It's true. We're all expected to act like the most uptight asshole.”
“Seriously. That's why I love places like this. Here, no one gives a fuck. Everyone's just out to have a good time. But, I mean, look at the setup. It's dark, so we can't see each other very well. It's like we're hiding in the shadows or something. The music's loud, so it disrupts our normal speech patterns. There are all sorts of games and distractions.”
The bartender slid the shots in front of them.
Angela pulled hers close. “Not to mention everyone's completely wasted,” she said, her words beginning to slur. “Everyone's got some vice to help compensate for the fact that they have to pretend to be someone else. It's like our own minirebellion.”
Stacy narrowed her eyes, squinting through the helix of rising smoke. “Right. Some people get hammered.” She nodded sagely. “Other people just hammer their nuts.”
Angela looked sidelong at Stacy. They both held serious expressions for a moment, then burst out laughing. “I can't believe you actually walked on Henry's balls,” she said, her shoulders shaking.
“The things we do for love.”
Angela's barstool was bumped from behind. She turned to face a tall man wearing a Stetson hat pulled low over deep, wide-set eyes. Long, wavy hair cascaded down his neck, and a thick mustache was perched above his mouth. His smile bloomed in the blue light.
“Hey, cowboy,” Angela said, smirking.
“You ladies look to be having a good time,” he said in a deep Southern drawl. “Mind if I join in?”
Angela inspected him through narrow slits. “I don't know. You'll have to answer a few questions first.”
“Shoot,” he said.
“Okay. Well, are you a real cowboy, or are you just playing pretend?”
The man smiled. “Depends on how you define cowboy. I guess I herd things from place to place and spend most my days on the open road. I can sing songs by the fire and am handy with a rope. I can tie a heck of a knot.”
Angela looked at Stacy and arched her eyebrows. “You're good at tying things up, are you?”
He took a step closer. Light chased the shadows from his eyes. They were cobalt blue. “If something gets too wild on me. Sure, I just tie it down.” He rested his arms across the back of her barstool, forcing Angela to lean away.
She smiled and sucked deeply on her cigarette. “Okay. Well answer me this, have you ever had your balls walked on?”
Stacy bent forward and snickered into her hand.
“What, you mean by a woman?”
“I don't know. You tell me.”
His smile became slanted. He reached out and placed a heavy hand on Angela's thigh, giving it a firm squeeze. Angela pressed her legs together, clamping his hand between them. Heat rushed to her face as she held his gaze.
“I can't say that I have,” he said. “Personally, I prefer pleasure over pain.”
Angela relaxed her legs, allowing him to slide his hand up another inch. She reached a hand around his neck and leaned forward, sliding her smooth face against his rough stubble. “Hi, cowboy. I'm Angela.”
He turned his head so that the corners of their lips were touching. “Dale,” he said. “What're you drinking?”
“I'm done drinking,” she said, chugging the last of her beer and hopping off the barstool. Her legs buckled as she hit the ground, the alcohol rushing to her head, and she latched on to his arm for balance. “I want to dance.” She grabbed Dale's hand and led him towards the dance floor. She looked over her shoulder at Stacy and shrugged.
Stacy rolled her eyes and smiled, then turned back towards the bar.
Angela threaded her way through the throng of people, spilling drinks as she careened off shoulders, pulling Dale behind. Sweat trickled down her side as the warmth of the crowd washed over her. She turned to face him and the room kept spinning.
Dale was a head and a half taller than her. When he pressed his hand into Angela's lower back, pulling her close, the soft flesh of her lower belly pushed against his groin. She felt him harden, and began to move against his stiffening member.
He stepped forward, his lead leg slipping between her thighs, and began to grind his hips. The crowd pressed against them from all sides as they started gyrating to the pulsating music.
Angela wrapped both arms around his neck and gazed into the dark shadows obscuring his eyes, biting her lower lip.
The band began a slow, swampy version of Creedence Clearwater's “Run Through the Jungle”. Angela turned, reaching overhead and caressing Dale's neck, pushing back against him. He wrapped his arm around her waist, placing his hand on her stomach. She grabbed it with her other hand and moved it lower. His fingers slipped inside her waistband, pressing below the elastic of her underwear. Angela leaned against him and moaned. He thrust his hips forward, driving the full length of his erection against her soft backside.
Angela closed her eyes. Her head felt heavy; she let it sway from side to side. Her mind wandered then returned without recording where it had been. The temperature continued to climb and her shirt clung to her chest. Dale's hands felt slippery against her skin.
For a moment, she forgot who was behind her. She had to turn to refresh her memory. Her legs turned rubbery so she leaned against him, forcing him to carry her weight. Her face fell into the crook of his neck and she began to kiss it, running her tongue along its length, tasting his salty tang.
“Let's get some air,” he said, turning Angela and pushing her back through the crowd. She wobbled, and he wrapped an arm around her to hold her steady, guiding her towards the back of the dance floor.
“Hold on, I just need to check on my friend.”
“She's gone,” Dale said.
Angela scanned the bar. Stacy's seat had been filled by someone else. She was nowhere to be found.
“Where'd she go?” Angela slurred.
“Come on. Maybe she went outside.” Dale walked Angela towards the exit.
The lot was quiet. The air outside was cool. A single streetlamp bathed the cars in a dull, sickly light. Moths careened against its yellow casing, casting erratic shadows across the cracked and pockmarked pavement. Angela laughed for no reason while Dale shuffled her along.
“Are you gonna fuck me?” Angela cupped Dale's crotch. “Are you gonna ride me, cowboy?” She continued to snicker, then slurped back a string of saliva from the corner of her lips.
Dale stopped beside a dark-green Camaro with tinted windows and shiny chrome wheels. He fumbled in his pocket for his keys and then opened the passenger door. He reached in and pulled the seat forward, then grabbed Angela and pushed her into the back, where she landed and bumped her head against the far armrest. Dale followed her in, closed and locked the door.
Angela scooted herself onto her elbows, attempting a seductive stare. Her eyes were half-lidded; her lips looked raw. Her chest heaved as she stifled an emerging burp and tried to play it off by tossing her hair out of her eyes. When she did, her head banged against the side panel.
Dale looked down from above, grinning, massaging his cock through the fabric of his pants. He reached down and grabbed Angela's panties from underneath her dress and pulled them off, lifting her legs in the air, driving her head into the corner of the car seat. He pushed the hem of her dress farther up her body until she was fully exposed. She closed her eyes and spread her legs in anticipation. It felt like she was sinking; she started to drift. The last thing she heard was the sound of Dale unzipping his pants.
Angela awoke to a honking horn and the sound of laughter.
“What's up, egg roll? You need a lift?” A male voice, young.
She opened her eyes and the world spun around her. It stretched and swooned before assuming its proper form. Her head was buzzing, as from an electric charge, and her eyes felt like they'd been pickled in salt. Finally, she was able to focus on the face peering out from the car window. A young man with splotchy skin, wearing a mesh ball cap, its folded bill pulled low.
“Hey, girl. Come on, let's party,” the man said. “The night's still young.”
She was sitting on the pavement, her legs splayed out before her, leaning against a chain-link fence. “Fuck off,” she said, holding a hand up in a feeble attempt to hide her face.