William Taylor Jr. lives and writes in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco. His work has been published widely in journals across the...read more globe, including The New York Quarterly, The Chiron Review, and Poesy. An Age of Monsters, his first book of fiction, was published by Epic Rites Press in 2011. To Break the Heart of the Sun (Words Dance, 2016) is his latest collection of poetry. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee and was a recipient of the 2013 Acker Award. He has a great and unironic love of both The Incredible Hulk and Olivia Newton-John
Eddie sat on the couch and continued to stare down at the can of beer sitting in his lap just as he had been doing for the last twenty minutes or so. “Do what?” He eventually said to the beer.
“What we were talkin’ about just a few minutes ago! Let’s fuckin’ do it!”
Eddie really had no idea what they had been talking about a few minutes ago. Both he and Lola had started drinking at around 11 a.m. that day. Beer and whiskey. Eddie had no idea what time it was, or even what day. He just knew they had been drinking for some time. It was still daylight, that was the only thing he was fairly sure of. He could see and feel the sun shining through the window of the trailer.
Things hadn’t been going well lately for Eddie and Lola. Actually, things had never gone well for them, but lately things were going worse than usual. Eddie had lost his job at the pretzel factory a few weeks before. Habitual lateness. Too many days missed. The usual. He was having trouble getting unemployment. Lola didn’t have a job. Her mother used to send her money once a month but she stopped doing that. No more money until Lola got her life straightened out. To her mother, getting her life straightened out meant getting rid of Eddie. And to top it off, they’d been evicted from the trailer they’d been living in for the last six months. Mainly because they were three months behind in the rent. They were supposed to be out of there by today if they didn’t want the authorities to be involved. They didn’t have anywhere to go.
Eddie tried hard to remember what they might’ve been talking about a few minutes ago but it was no use. It could’ve been anything. He vaguely remembered hearing Lola talking, and himself as well, but he hadn’t really been paying attention. He had been staring into the void of the beer can in his lap, feeling rather numb. With some effort he looked up from his beer and tried to focus his eyes on Lola. “Do what?” he said again.
Lola was pacing about the trailer, wild eyed with a glass of whiskey in her hand. The whiskey was splashing out of the glass unto the floor. She was wearing blue jean cut off shorts and one of Eddie’s old Led Zeppelin t-shirts. “What do you mean, ‘do what?’ Let’s do what you said. Let’s go balls out! Fuck some shit up! Let’s take what we need and fuck anybody that gets in our way! It’s time we did sumpthin’ for ourselves! The good life ain’t gonna be ours unless we take it, right? Isn’t that what you said?”
Lola wasn’t exactly right in the head. She got funny ideas when she drank, and she drank a lot of the time. She was twenty five years old. She had been molested by her step father from the age of twelve. She was an alcoholic by the age of fourteen. Three half-assed suicide attempts. The usual. But Eddie was at least a little bit crazy himself, so he couldn’t really hold anything against her. Besides, she still looked pretty good in cut off jeans and a t-shirt.
“What...”Eddie said, trying very hard to piece something together. “You mean, about the...the liquor store an’ all? You mean all that? That was just talk, honey...I wasn’t really serious about all that...”
“Well, you sure sounded serious! You sure sounded serious a minute ago!”
Eddie looked back down at his beer and tried to think whether or not he had been serious. Maybe he had been. It was hard to remember. “Huh...” he said.
“You said we’d walk right in that fuckin’ store and take whatever the hell we wanted. You said we’d take the money, the booze, and everything! You said if anyone so much as looked at us sideways we’d blow their fuckin’ heads off, right? Especially that fucker behind the counter, remember? The one that wouldn’t cash my checks? You said we’d just blow his fuckin’ face off, remember? You sure sounded serious to me!”
“Yeah, I do hate that fucker,” Eddie said, remembering. It was beginning to make sense again. Perhaps he had meant what he had said after all. “Maybe you’re right, baby. Maybe I did mean it...”
“Well, I sure as hell mean it! I’m tired of readin’ about other people in the papers. I betcha by tomorrow we’re gonna be in the fuckin’ papers...just like...what was their names?”
“Those other two that fucked shit up.”
Eddie sat and thought. “Bonnie and Clyde...?” he said eventually.
“Was they the ones in that movie?”
“....I think so....”
“Then yeah, like them!”
“You think we can really get in the papers?” Eddie asked, getting excited again about the whole idea. Eddie hadn’t been in the papers since he burned down the old Jenkins place as a child.
“Damn straight, baby!”
Neither of them said anything for a minute or so, both of them thinking about being in the papers. Eddie gulped down what was left of his beer then summoned up all the energy he could in an effort to raise himself from the couch. He landed unsteadily on his feet, putting his hand on the coffee table to keep from falling over. He raised his head and tried to get his bearings...the room was spinning. He wasn’t sure how long it had been since he had last stood up. “Maybe we oughtta get some sleep first...” he said.
“Sleep!? We can’t sleep, Eddie. When you get a great idea you gotta act on it right away. I heard that somewhere. If we go to sleep somebody else is gonna do what we shoulda been doin’ while we was sleeping, ya know?”
Eddie wasn’t sure exactly what it was Lola was saying, but it sounded wise enough, so he couldn’t really disagree. “Okay,” he said after a moment, “I guess you better get me another beer.”
But Lola was in the other room. Eddie could hear her opening and closing drawers and throwing things around. “Eddie, where’s your shotgun?” She yelled out.
Eddie was in the kitchen now, opening another beer. “My shotgun?” he repeated absently.
“Yeah, Eddie, your shotgun what daddy gave you last Christmas, the one you was gonna use to shoot old lady Johnson’s dog with.”
“Oh, that gun...” Eddie said, thinking about old lady Johnson’s dog and how badly he had wanted to shoot it. “It’s in the closet, I think, up top. Behind the magazines.” He stood in the kitchen and listened to Lola rummage through the closet.
“Did you ever shoot that dog, Eddie?”
“No,” Eddie said, shaking his head to himself, “I never did shoot that goddam dog...”
Moments later Lola stepped out of the bedroom with Eddie’s shotgun. She stood in the doorway and posed with it in her hands. “How would this look on the front page of the papers?” she asked. Eddie stepped out of the kitchen with his beer. He looked at Lola posing with the gun. She looked good, with her cut-off shorts, his t-shirt and the gun. She looked like a superhero. She looked like she should be on TV.
“Pretty good,” Eddie said.
40 minutes later they were parked across the street from Henry’s Liquors. They had packed some clothes and whatever else they could fit in the back of their Datsun. What they couldn’t fit they left behind in the trailer. Lola had written “FUCK YOU” on the walls of the trailer with her lipstick in very large letters. Eddie had thought it was a pretty good touch. They were never going back to that trailer again.
It was late in the afternoon now, and it was starting to get dark. Eddie and Lola sat in the car drinking whiskey and putting the final touches on their master plan. “Casing the joint,” Lola called it. They argued for a while about weather or not they should wear masks. Eddie at first had thought it would be a good idea. But what kind of masks? Ski masks? Nobody skied much in Kansas, so the accessibility of ski masks seemed rather limited. Halloween was months ago, so masks in general were probably in short supply.
Lola mentioned that in movies, when robbing liquor stores or banks, people sometimes wore pantyhose on the heads. Eddie would hear none of it. That kind of thing was for perverts, he said.
They eventually decided against the masks. There wouldn’t be much point in having your pictures in the papers and on TV if you were wearing a mask. It made no sense. It was eventually decided that Eddie would go into the store and do the business while Lola waited in the car with the engine running. Eddie was not to shoot anyone. Unless he had to, of course. They were rebels. Renegades. Saviors of the oppressed...not outright killers. But if anyone were foolish enough to make the mistake of fucking with them...bang!
Then Lola noticed something. She suddenly realized the guy currently standing behind the counter at Henry’s Liquors was not Jimmy (the dirty little bastard who refused to cash Lola’s checks), as they had hoped and expected. No. It was Freddy. It was Freddy Bower who they saw through the windows of the store. It was Freddy who stood behind the counter, staring, apparently, into space. Not Jimmy at all. This was an unfortunate development. Freddy and Lola used to be sweethearts. Before Lola and Eddie. Eddie and Lola still fought about Freddy on a regular basis. Eddie didn’t like the way Freddy looked at Lola when they went into Henry’s Liquors for booze or cigarettes. He didn’t like the way they made eyes at each other at the Sunday barbecues. One time a few months earlier Eddie came home from the pretzel factory to find Freddy’s hat sitting on their kitchen table. Lola said that Freddy had stopped by to borrow something, a flashlight. Eddie only half believed her.
Lola became upset when she saw that it was Freddie behind the counter instead of Jimmy. “Shit,” she said. “Shit. It’s Freddy...”
“So?” Eddie said. Eddie didn’t care that it was Freddy behind the counter. In fact, he was glad. He imagined the look on Freddy’s dumbass face when Eddie shoved his shotgun into it. Freddy would probably get fired, after letting Eddie and Lola make off with all the money and booze and cigarettes. Eddie imagined Freddy’s boss screaming at him, telling him, once and for all, what a useless fuckup he truly was. Eddie smiled to himself, thinking about it.
“Maybe we better come back tomorrow,” Lola said, “when Freddy isn’t here.”
Eddie quickly pointed out that it was too late for that. They had trashed the trailer, had written “FUCK YOU” on the walls with Lola’s lipstick...there was no turning back. They were on the verge of a grand new chapter of their lives. What did it matter if it was Jimmy or Freddy? They would never see either one of them again.
Lola eventually relented, only after Eddie promised, numerous times, that he wouldn’t hurt Freddy.
“Unless I have to...”
“I won’t hurt him,” Eddie said.
Lola stared at Eddie trying to decide if she believed him. “Shit, let’s just do it,” she finally said, “let’s just do it and get the fuck out of here...”
Eddie looked at the shotgun that sat in his lap. He made sure, for the third time in the last three minutes, that it was loaded.
“Okay,” Eddie said, “okay.”
Eddie stepped out of the passenger side of their yellow Datsun and slowly walked across the street toward the liquor store, the shotgun awkwardly concealed beneath his oversized jacket. Halfway across the street he stopped, turned around, and gave Lola a thumbs-up sign.
“Shit,” Lola said.
Lola watched from the car as Eddie walked into the liquor store. She watched as Freddy eyed him with undisguised mistrust the moment he stepped through the door. Eddie walked up and down the aisles, making sure no on else was in the store, just as Lola had told him to do. He eventually stepped up to the counter where Freddy stood. He set down a 12 Pack of Hamm’s in front of Freddy and then pointed to a bottle of something on the wall behind him. Freddy grudgingly turned around to get the bottle. When he turned to face Eddie once more he found a shotgun pointed at his chest.
“O shit,” Lola said.
Eddie and Freddy stared at each other for what seemed to Lola to be a very long time. They began to argue, both of them gesticulating angrily, Eddie keeping the gun pointed in Freddy’s general direction. The arguing went on for a while, Eddie gesturing to the cash register and Freddy angrily shaking his head. Eventually Freddy apparently gave in, for Lola soon saw him taking bundles of cash and rolls of coins from the register and placing them upon the counter. Eddie managed to hold his gun with one hand and scoop the money into the pockets of this jacket with the other.
“O shit, O shit,” said Lola.
Lola turned away from the scene in the liquor store. She stared straight ahead, her hands tightly gripping the wheel of the car. She was shaking, and she continuously cursed to herself under her breath. She revved the engine a few times and continued her mantra, “O shit, O shit, O shit”. And then she heard the gun go off. “O my god fucking shit.”
She forced her eyes back to the liquor store in time to see Eddie loping towards the car, the six-pack of Hamm’s in one hand and a bottle of something in the other. He climbed into the passenger seat and slammed the door. Lola stared at Eddie as if seeing him for the first time in her life. “O my god, Eddie, what did you do?!?“
“We better get going,” Eddie said.
“Eddie, what did you do?!?”
“I had to,” Eddie said matter-of-factly. “He called me a crazy redneck bastard. He tried to take my gun.”
“O my god fucking shit.”
“We better get going,” Eddie said.
Eddie and Lola drove. Or, Lola drove and Eddie sat in the passenger seat drinking from the bottle he had taken from the liquor store. It was a bottle of Captain Morgan’s spiced rum. Eddie had always wanted to buy a bottle of Captain Morgan’s for as long as he could remember. The drawing of the pirate on the label had always intrigued him. It seemed to be the kind of thing a dangerous man like himself should be drinking. From time to time he offered Lola the bottle. Each time she swore at him before grabbing the bottle from his hands and taking a slug.
Neither Eddie nor Lola had much of an idea where exactly they were going, or what they would do when they got there. This part of the plan had never really been fleshed out. Eddie had decided they should head towards a border of some kind. He didn’t know much about the law, but he was fairly sure things would be better for them once they were across a border. He couldn’t tell Lola in which direction the closest border lay, but if they drove long enough they were sure to cross one sooner or later.
After a few hours of driving it became apparent that they might well run out of gas with no border in sight. They were passing through a small town, not even a town, really, more like a glorified truck stop. There were a few restaurants and a Comfort 8 motel. They decided to stop at the Comfort 8 for a bit of rest and a chance to figure out what to do next. Eddie parked the car where it couldn’t be seen from the freeway. Lola waited in the car while Eddie went to get them a room. The man in the lobby looked at Eddie strangely as he pulled the little bundles of money from his pocket and placed them on the counter. Eddie pretended not to notice.
Once in the room Eddie emptied the contents of his jacket onto a small table. He put the money in piles of twenties, tens, fives and ones. There were rolls of coins as well, which he did his best to sort. Lola paced about the room, talking and cursing to herself. She carried the Captain Morgan’s in one hand, taking a drink from time to time. She eventually paused and stared absently at Eddie as he rummaged through the money on the table. “How much…?” she eventually asked.
Eddie looked up from the table. “Huh?”
“How much did you get,” Lola asked.
Eddie looked at Lola, then down at the piles in front of him, and then back up at Lola. There’s at least four hundred dollars here…not counting the coins and stuff..”
Lola stared at Eddie in a way that began to make him feel uncomfortable. He took a long drink from a can of Hamm’s and looked back down at the table.
“What about the safe?” Lola asked.
Eddie reluctantly looked up at her. “The safe?”
“The safe…how much money was in the safe?”
“You didn’t tell me anything about a safe,” Eddie said.
“You…you shot Freddy for four hundred goddam dollars?”
“It was more than four hundred…“ Eddie mumbled. “and I told you…he called me a redneck.”
“O my fucking god.“
“and he called you a slut…a stupid slut...”
“…he did not.”
“…he didn’t mean it.”
“…sounded like he did.”
“Do you think he’s...dead?“
Eddie furrowed his brow, obviously giving the matter serious consideration. “Maybe so…I think I got him pretty good…”
“I oughtta kill you, Eddie! I oughtta kill your dumb ass right now!”
Eddie wasn’t sure why exactly Lola was so upset…things were going pretty much the way they had planned, weren’t they? What did it matter if Freddy were dead or not? They were just gonna get a little bit of sleep and then they’d be on their way again…soon they’d be across the border, living new lives…just like Bonnie and Clyde…“Everything’s alright, baby…” Eddie said as he rose awkwardly from the table and stumbled to the bed, flopping down heavily upon it. He stared up at the ceiling and the room was spinning. He closed his eyes but it didn’t help things much. “Everything….all….right…” he offered once again before passing out.
When Eddie regained consciousness his head was pounding in a terrible way. His eyes opened upon the dirty ceiling of the hotel room. It took him some minutes to piece together who or where he was…things came back to him slowly and in in random bits. He eventually managed to sit up. It was morning, probably. The clock said 11:15. Eddie looked around and didn’t see Lola. He called her name in a weak voice but got no answer. He opened the door to the little bathroom and found it empty. He walked over to the table where he had been counting the money. Most of the money was gone, only a few twenties and some rolls of dimes were left upon the table. There was a piece of paper. Large words were written on it with what appeared to be lipstick.
Eddie you shouldn’t have shot Freddy.
I told you not to shoot Freddy.
We cant go on like this. I have to leave.
Eddie stared at the paper not understanding. A few cans of beer still remained and he opened one and drank it in a few gulps, then took another. He walked over to the window and looked down to where the car should be. It wasn’t there. He stood there, looking out the window. Then there was a knock at the door. He walked over to the door and looked through he peephole. There was a group of men outside in the hall. The men wore uniforms of some kind. They had guns. Eddie didn’t like the look of them. He didn’t open the door. He walked over to a chair and sat down with his beer. The knocking continued, louder. Voices from the other side of the door demanded that he open it. Eddie didn’t open the door. He just sat in his chair and drank his beer, trying to figure things out. His couldn’t hold any one thought together long enough to make sense of it. He quickly gave up trying to think. The knocking and the yelling didn’t go away. He finished his beer and realized it was his last. This gave him a generally bad feeling about things. He sat back in the chair, closed his eyes and waited.
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