Another short story, unedited, for fun.
WHISKEY BULLET BY LISA VASQUEZ
© Lisa Vasquez
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, or distributed, without the prior written permission
Saturday: Guys Night
“Get your ass in gear, Chad. We’re leaving in ten minutes,” Mark yelled up to a window facing the drive. He was standing at the rear of his old Mustang where he’d hidden a stash of beer. The inside leather was always sticky and smelled like a locker room, but it was a vehicle. What that meant was Mark got to boss them around because we all kissed his ass. It didn’t matter how beat up his car looked on the outside, or that the ripped leather on the inside was peeling away to reveal the foam of the inner cushions. In the hierarchy of teenage boy priorities, Mark was the only one with a vehicle.
Growing impatient, he mashed his hand down on the horn and leaned into it, “Let’s go ladies!”
The three of them – Mark, Chad and John — had been planning this trip since the beginning of their senior year. It was supposed to be their coming of age vacation. Coming from a small town like theirs, crossing the country line to the city was about all the excitement they’d ever had. So, when Chad’s older brother sent him a text about a bar past the California border into Mexico where the women were as cheap as the beer and there was no I.D. check, the three of them began to save up every penny.
“I’m coming!” Chad shouted down to him from his bedroom window. He didn’t know the first thing about packing. He stood there, glancing around his room where his clothes were scattered and sighed. His mother was right, it did look like a cyclone hit it. Grabbing a pair of boxers off the floor, he brought them to his nose and took a whiff.
“You pack like a girl,” John smirked as he walked in, “I need to take a piss.”
Chad gave his friend the bird and shoved the semi-clean boxers into his bag. He had his toothbrush, a bar of soap, 5 pairs of boxers, a few t-shirts and a couple pairs of jeans. He was going through the mental checklist of things he wanted to bring with but Mark was shouting and blaring the horn out front.
“Damnit, Mark! You’re gonna get me grounded before I can leave the house!”
The toilet flushed behind him and John snagged his duffle bag off the edge of the bed, “Shotgun.”
“What? No!” Kicking the frame of his bed, Chad let out a frustrated growl. He hated riding in the back, it made him carsick. Especially when John and Mark started smoking. Brushing his fingers through his hair, he stared at the floor. Was it worth the stress? Fuck it, he thought.
Grabbing his bag from off his mattress, he flew down the stairs yelling goodbye to his mother who was still on the phone with her cousin down the street. Giving a wave of her hand, she turned and went back into the house. Chad slammed his bag onto the mattress.
“Sorry, slowpoke.” Mark teased.
The three of them gathered around the trunk and cracked open a few beers watching the sun begin to set over the flat horizon of their small Illinois town.
“To senior trips.” They said in unison, then gulped down the piss-water in a can.
The trip was mapped out throughout their fifth period study hall. Mark’s older brother had written to him about a bar he once visited in the middle of nowhere, Mexico. The women were cheaper than the beer, according to what the letter said.
Mark had was born and raised on farm at the edge of town. No one in his family had ever gone anywhere except Mark’s brother Jack who joined the army to get out of the small town life. Mark and his family hadn’t even pulled in enough money in profits from the year’s crops to go see his brother graduate from boot camp. Instead, they waited for weekly phone calls that eventually turned into monthly postcards.
The last post card was addressed only to Mark, telling him of the bar and enticing him to come out after senior year.
It didn’t take much persuading.
“You think we’ll … you know, get lucky?” John asked with a boyish grin sneaking a look into the backseat.
Chad’s face flushed, matching the color of his hair.
“For sure, dude. Chad might even get to watch!”
The two guys laughed before Chad threw a bag of chips at them.
“Oh seriously, I didn’t realize I was traveling with a troupe of comedians.”
John and Mark snickered and focused back on the road ahead of them. The windows were rolled down and the music was shaking the seats. Life was pretty darn good.
Sunday: Land of the Lost
“Uh…” Chad stuttered trying to remember the words, “Donde… donde estoy…”
The man with the brown skin stared at him without expression.
“C’mon Chad, for real? Four years of Spanish?”
“Shut up! I’m frickin Irish. I can’t dance. I drink like a fish. I can’t speak Spanish,” He sighed and went back to addressing the stoic face in front of him, “La…la… Shoot. Do you understand anything I’m sayin?”
The man took in a slow deep breath and when he spoke, it sounded as if he’d been drinking sand instead of whatever it was in the Styrofoam cup. The cup looked to be as old as Mark’s car.
“If I spoke Spanish, I still wouldn’t know what you were saying,” the old man said, “I’m Indian.”
Mark and John exploded into laughter from behind and Chad lifted his middle finger without looking back.
“Great. That’s awesome. Dude, can you please tell me where this highway is?” He pointed to the map and the Indian man chuckled.“You past it.”
“Past it? What? Where?”
“About 200 miles ago.”
The guys all groaned and John kicked the tire in frustration.
“I thought you said you could read a map, John!” Mark said with a shove to his shoulder.
Mark shoved him back and the two began to scuffle. Chad sighed and threw up his arms. His whole life had been watching these two work things out like this. Walking past them, Chad wandered into the old store. He ducked below the wind chimes used as a doorbell to alert the clerk who was nowhere to be found to customers coming in.
The air was hot and dry, he was sticky and irritated, and he wasn’t in the mood to deal with the two idiots rolling around swinging punches at one another. He decided to take his time and browse the shelves for something with an expiration date in the current decade. When it seemed his luck was running thin, he found his favorite candy bar and it looked brand new. Well, it had the least amount of dust on it. Chad snatched it from the shelf and headed toward the coolers when he slid on something and hit the floor.
“What the…!” he shouted.
He tried to turn to his side and get up but whatever it was he was swimming in made him look like a fish out of water.
The door shoved open and Mark was slapping dust and dirt off his clothing, “Yo, Jackass! What’s the hold up.”
Chad was still on the floor grunting and sliding trying to regain his footing when Mark came around the aisle, “Dude? What did you…”
Chad looked up at him. From the corner where he stood the shadows made it seem like he was in pitch darkness. The whole store was full of shadows and the walls were yellow from the nicotine stained fluorescent lights, and paper covered windows. Staring at one another in silence, it dawned on them that there was an awful stench, like rotten meat, coming from the back room.
“I swear to God that better not be shit I fell into,” Chad said bringing his hand up to sniff it but the look on Mark’s face caused him to freeze before bringing it to his face, “What?”
Chad finally stood up and attempted to step past him when the light above them flickered off, then on again. He looked down and could was able to make out the brownish-red stickiness that coated his arms and shirt.
Mark was already heading toward the front of the store, knocking a rack of stale chips down with Chad close behind. When the two reached the car John was still trying to make sense of the map. He had a cigarette dangling from his lips, dropping it on the center when Chad threw open the door and fell against him.
“Start the car!”
“That was my last ciga—“
Mark was on top of them and slamming the door when John realized that Chad was covered in old blood and the color in both of his friends’ faces were drained.
“Drive the fuckin’ car, John!” Mark screamed.
John swatted the cigarette off his lap and threw the car into drive, peeling out of the parking lot.
Monday: Highway to Hell
“Turn left.” Mark said.
“No, it’s a right.” Chad argued.
“Jesus, I can’t wait to be out of the car with you two. This better be worth it. And there better be a place to shower you stink like ass-maggots, Chad!”
“Just turn right!” Chad yelled, shoving his back against the seat even further.
He thought better of it once he felt the slimy way the shirt slid across his skin. His stomach churned and made a gurgling noise letting him know it was time to find a bathroom. Soon.
It was late and the heat of the desert was getting to them. The air was dry and they were all tired, drunk and probably a little high. Out of nowhere, a buzzing sign emblazoned against the dark sky like a neon sun flashed “MOTEL” … Okay, it was missing letters and said “O – EL”. It didn’t matter. The fact that it was in the middle of nowhere, had one truck parked in the back and looked like it was from another decade didn’t matter, either. All they cared about was getting out of the car. A warm shower and a clean bed was also a nice bonus.
Mark was the first one out of the Mustang, pushing the squeaky door open with an exaggerated groan. He stretched his legs out one at a time until the impatient Chad helped him the rest of the way with a shove.
Great. The nickname stuck. Like his shirt.
Chad couldn’t wait to get into the shower, now. His shirt was clinging … no, it was crawling along his skin and he wanted it off. He could smell his own armpits. He was pretty sure his shoes had somehow grown attached to his feet and he didn’t want to think about what he’d contracted from the blood on the floor in the convenience store in the gas station the booked out of.
“Not that this place looks any better.” He whispered to himself and stared at the glass door.
Something ran cold inside of him but he ignored it. His grandfather always told him to listen to his inner voice but tonight he had two voices. One was telling him not to go in. The other telling him to take a shower. The one telling him to take a shower was screaming so it won and he shoved the door open and walked up to the front desk. The waiting room smelled of stale cigarettes and pine cleaner.
The guy behind the counter was wearing a yellowed t-shirt that once upon a time was white and a pair of polyester brown shorts. My night just keeps getting better, Chad thought to himself.
“Hellooo.” Chad said again when the man didn’t answer and followed with a ding to the desktop bell.
The clerk turned and Chad almost took a step back. He had one good eye behind the thick lenses of his glasses and the other was almost completely white. Because the lenses were so thick it enhanced the creep factor ten-fold and made Chad’s flesh crawl and his throat constrict.
“The Hell you wun’t Townie?” the clerk barked.
“A r-room, please.” Chad stammered.
“Cash only,” he said before leaning over and using his one good eye to gaze past Chad to the parking lot at Mark and John wrestling outside of the Mustang, “Y’all into that boy n’ boy shit?”
“What?” Chad’s eyes grew large with surprise and the color drained from his face, “No, sir!”
“We don’t have none of that stuff goin’s on here, ya’hear me!”
The clerk was shouting at Chad and leaning over the counter pointing his nicotine stained finger at his face. He was so wired up about what he perceived as foreplay by the horsing around outside that his bushy brows rose back on his forehead forcing his creepy eyes to bulge and his toothless mouth to flap spitting whatever mush was in his bowl at Chad’s already abused shirt.
Chad’s Irish blood was boiling. He was trying with all his might to keep his calm but the color that left his face earlier was returning to his cheeks.
“Sir! Can I have my dang room?” Chad slapped his money on the counter and then shoved back from the counter.
The old clerk stopped ranting and looked down at the money and slid it off the counter, shoving it into his pocket. He pulled a key off the peg board behind him and placed it on the counter.
“Check out is at 11. Don’t be late.”
Chad stepped forward, snatched the key off the counter and left muttering under his breath as he stomped down the walkway watching the doors and the numbers in the front of them. He didn’t bother calling after the knuckleheads still playing around in the front. He was done playing babysitter for one night. This was turning into a disaster and for once, he missed that stupid town and his stupid bed he’d had since he was ten.
“Hey! Wait up!”
He was always waiting up. He was done. He was going to shower. Get some rest. Then in the morning he was going to pull out the map. He was going to find that stupid bar, have some drinks, and find him a hot woman. For once, he was going to have something go right.
Chad stopped in front of the door that said Room 1301. This was it. He put the key in the door, and went in.
The smell hit him first. What the Hell is it with the smells in this town? He thought to himself. He was so tired, he almost didn’t care but just to be sure there wasn’t some dead animal or bird locked in the room he flicked on the light.
From behind Tweedle-Dumb and Tweedle-Idiot tumbled in almost knocking him over, “Oh my God, dude. Ugh!”
“Did you dust the room?”
“Shut up.” Chad said, dropping his duffle bag and walking toward the bathroom.
The two shrugged and snickered, flopping into the chairs by the table that sat next to the window. Mark turned on the television and tossed a can of beer to John.
Chad turned on the shower and looked in the mirror. He was filthy. Whatever he slipped in at the convenience store was dry and crusted all over his hair, his back and his shirt. His arms were coated in it, his jeans, his shoes and he smelled. It reminded him of the year that his old Frigidaire went out just after winter and the meat they had stored up went bad. The blood was jelly and stunk the whole barn up. His dad forced him to go out there with him and Grandpop to clean up the mess and he complained until he saw the maggots. He threw up until he thought his shoes were going to come up through his butthole through his nose.
He thought he would never forget that smell but he must have until today.
Chad could feel his hands shaking and his lips trembling. He closed his eyes and he tried to drown out the laughter of his friends out in the other room. It amazed him that something as simple as a road trip changed the dynamics of a friendship. Morons, he thought with a sigh.
Reaching out with a hand, he turned on the cold water and began to wash the muck that was caked on his face. The cool water felt good against the heat beneath his skin. The sudden urge to get clean was overwhelming and he grabbed the soap and lathered up even using his nails to scratch at the scales of whatever was still clinging to him when he heard a thump.
“Damn, guys, you’re gonna get us kicked out! Keep it down!”
Chad lowered his head and washed the water off but soap got into his eye and began to burn.
“Ow, dang it!”
He reached out for the towel that was hanging next to the sink and pressed it against his face, then sat down on the toilet while the pain subsided. There was more thumping from the other room and Chad squinted enough to get an eye on the door, kicking it closed out of frustration. I just want a shower, he thought, If I get a shower, I’ll be me again.
He tossed the towel onto the sink and turned on the shower then peeled off the clothes and tossed them into the corner. His socks were soaked all the way through. As he sat waiting for the water to warm up, he stared at his shoes and sighed. He’d have to buy new ones before going anywhere tomorrow night.
The water on his hand grew nice and warm and he turned into the shower, letting the water fall over his body. Chad’s forehead pressed against the tile in front of him. He was mentally and physically exhausted from this trip. He hadn’t slept in nearly 24 hours. His brain felt like it was floating in a fish bowl. He closed his eyes to enjoy the moment and came close to falling asleep standing up. If it weren’t for feeling his forehead sliding down the tile he would’ve ended up in an embarrassing situation.
Chuckling to himself, Chad pressed his palms against the wall and looked down at his feet when he noticed the water was a dark red and something was floating up from the drain.
“What the –!”
He kicked his feet and stepped back, pulling the shower curtain and rod down in a loud crash as he slipped. Tangled up in the plastic, he could feel that whatever was in the tub with him was hair and was wrapping around his leg now.
“Oh God, what ….what is that?” He yelled, still sliding and struggling to break free of the shower curtain.
“Mark! …Jesus…JOHN! Jeeesus!”
He managed to unravel the curtain and backstep far enough away from the “thing” in the drain when he heard the knocking on the door.
“Hello!” it said, “Are you alright?”
It was a female voice.
Chad was trembling as he pulled the towel around him and went to the door. He pulled it open and looked at the woman standing there. She was tiny, about 5 feet 5 inches tall, if that. She had dark hair and eyes that were a strange reddish brown color.
“You were makin’ a lot of noise. Are you okay in there?”
“Yes, sorry. I …there was something in the drain.” Chad said, trying not to sound like an idiot. It wasn’t working too well.
The girl’s face changed. Her brows went from a thin, tightly knitted brow of annoyance to a softer more appreciative gaze. She was drinking in his half nude, freshly soaked body wrapped in a white hotel towel. It didn’t leave much to the imagination. And one didn’t need much of one because the towel was also very thin and worn.
Suddenly growing very bashful, Chad closed the door in front of him a bit more to try and conceal himself. The girl found this amusing.
“So’s there’s this bar up the road we go to all the time. It ain’t much but y’know it’s the local waterin’ hole. Sometimes the jukebox works and sometimes when Billy ain’t too drunk he might play a lil somethin’ live.” She smiled wide and hopeful, “Think you might wanna come out?”
He wanted to laugh like a madman. They were right there? Really?
“Well, yeah let me ask my friends if they…”
He turned to ask Mark and John and realized he was the only one there. Sonova…
“Ahh…Looks like they found it already.”
She smiled and looked like that green-fellowed character from the Dr. Seuss books.
“Meet’ya up there in a bit?”
“Sure. Just gotta put some clothes on.”
The girl let her eyes roam over his body again and then met his gaze again.
“Don’t forget. Down the road. That way.” She pointed, then waved with a little bounce in her step before she sashayed off.
Chad closed the door then cursed under his breath. Figures! Idiots left me here and didn’t say a word. Always doing dumb things, and I have to clean up the mess. Now, I have to go find them and walk down a dark road in the heat…
He stopped, took a breath and tried to get a grip. Sleep deprivation was getting to him again and he had to try and keep himself together. He forgot about the “creature” in the tub for a moment until he had looked up to find his comb.
“Well now I know what that smell was. Sorta.”
He tiptoed toward the bathroom and reached as far as he could without actually stepping in again and snatched the comb off the sink, then knelt on the ground and grabbed his shoes. They were still filthy so he used his towel to clean them as much as he could.
A quick glance in the mirror and he shrugged. It was good enough.
This Ain’t No Disco
The old saloon…yes saloon, not bar… looked abandoned from a mile away. Shutters hung from hinges, rusted out many years ago. There was a dirty hound flopped lazily outside and two guys that looked like the bonafide Bartles and James perched outside the door.
A faded sign swung back and forth. The weight of it against the rusted chains sang out in protest. “Whiskey And Bullets Saloon” was spelled out in faded old western lettering. What once appeared to be a local favorite, was now a ghost of its former self …. until the sun went down.
Chad’s legs were screamed in protest from the long walk but he was determined not to let his friends have fun while he took all the abuse on this trip. The music was live tonight. Just like the girl told him. Whoever Billy was, must not have been too drunk. Good, that meant more for him. Ignoring the blisters on his feet, he gave Bartles and James a nod and went in.
The stench of stale beer and smoke assaulted his senses and he laughed. It’s the best thing I’ve smelled so far.
He walked through the empty tables and squinted, trying to see in the dark. There was a pole and a strobe light that was making his tired eyes hard to keep open and even harder to keep focused as he searched for Mark and John. The amplifier was old and the humidity had gotten into it because it was scratchy and buzzing, making the music loud and distorted. In turn it made his brain feel like it was being put through shock treatment.
“This better be worth it.”
Stumbling past a few more chairs, he found a door that led to a back room, Chad held the heel of his palm to his head and decided he needed just a min to collect himself. Hoping it was quiet in there, he took a chance and went in. The good news was that there was no strobe light. The bad news was that it was much darker. There was a red light somewhere in the corner but the flashing light from the other room was still reverberating on the back of his lids.
He tried to squeeze his eyes shut for a few seconds to adjust them to the light but opening them was so much harder. After a few moments, he finally gave in.
“Just a few minutes…”
He wasn’t sure how long he was out before the sound of the shotgun went off the first time. Screaming pulled him from the depths of the unconsciousness like coming up from deep waters in the night. He had no sense of direction, no sense of where he was, and was out of his element.
With his heart pounding, he fell to the ground and sought whatever shelter he could.
Okay, Okay…where am I. he thought. This was just like when he was younger. He’d had night terrors since he was five. Sometimes he’d wake up in the next room. Sometimes he’d wake up outside. It was more frightening when he was out of the house or in the neighbor’s cornfield. As he got older, he’d learned to look to the sky and navigate which direction his house was. Tonight, the sky wasn’t there. Only blackness.
Close your eyes and listen.
More screaming. The screaming was coming from the below him. Below him?
“Help! Please! Someone help us!”
Jesus, that was Mark!
“Shut up, Townie.” A woman slurred.
There was a groan. A muffled groan and something else…something wet. Gurgling. The woman was humming now.
“Help! God, I know you hear us up there! Help me!”
“They ain’t gonna help you, idiot.” She said.
Mark began to scream again and another explosion of the shotgun went off. Chad was hiding under a dusty couch with his ear pressed to the wood floor and the force of its percussion made his ear ring with pain. For a moment he was deaf and couldn’t hear anything.
When the sound came rushing back, he could hear the footsteps coming up the stairs leading from the cellar to the room he was in. He tried to make himself as small as he could by curling into a fetal position under the dust ruffle. Even in the darkness, he was afraid of being spotted. When the woman came into the room, she was unsteady on her feet, he could make out the way her boots slid and scuffed with each step, and she drug the muzzle of the shotgun behind her.
“Ella!” She shouted, “I thought you told that other one to come, too!”
“I did!” the other girl screeched back from upstairs somewhere.
Ella must have been the dark haired girl that came to the door at the hotel. Chad was starting to put it all together as he lie there on the floor. He could feel his teeth start to chatter, so he tried to clench his jaw tighter to control it.
When the woman who was in the room came into his line of sight, Chad realized his eyes had adjusted to the darkness and the red light was coming from a lantern hanging outside. There were spaces in the planks wide enough to see in… and out. This wasn’t looking too good for him making a stealthy escape.
He looked back at the woman, trying to see where she was and saw her come around the bar. In one hand was a bottle of whiskey, and in the other was her shotgun. She had on a black, leather vest and a pair of chaps. Chad’s brows drew closer together and he squinted. Is she wearing pants underneath her chaps? What the Hell?
She was bare-ass naked, and drunk as a skunk. How did his friends get taken by this woman? She was even holding the gun upside down!
When the woman got to the door, she let out a soft curse and looked down at her bottle and the gun and seemed truly at a crossroad. Did she put down the bottle, or her weapon to open the door? Without skipping a beat, she stuck the gun between her thighs, squeezing them together to hold it in place, then pulled on the handle of the door.
To her dismay it didn’t open.
“Ellie!” she shouted up at the ceiling, again.
“You locked me in again, bitch!”
The woman called “Whiskey” now tugged and pulled on the door in such a fury that her rear end jumped and twitched and her blonde hair flailed over her shoulders like a wild thing caught in a cage. She pulled so hard that she stumbled back and gave it a clumsy kick to which it opened in the correct direction.
Chad had seen enough of this and finally stood up in a slow, fluid motion from under the couch. This bitch was dumb, slow and drunk. His friends weren’t much higher on the food chain but he was getting out of here, and doing it in one piece. He tip-toed across the wood floor, careful of the loose boards like his old farmhouse and was so close behind her he could smell that high proof alcohol permeating from her skin. He crossed his arm and was about to backhand her when she turned in slow motion.
When she turned in his direction, he thought his world was turning in another. His own mind couldn’t comprehend what the fuck he was looking at. She was laughing at him. But it wasn’t her face. It was John’s face stretched over hers.
Chad started to back up and Whiskey was following him, using her shotgun like an old stick horse, “Bang, bang!” she yelled out, pointing her fingers at him.
“What the fuck is wrong with you!”
He tried to take more steps but was stopped by something behind him. He was scared to turn around so he just stood there, wide eyed and staring at Whiskey. He pressed his hands behind him and felt the flat surface, then looked up and saw Ellie wink at him before catching his neck in the loop of a rope and pulling up.
“I caught me a piggie!” she sang out, then made a squealing noise.
Whiskey danced in front of him on her stick-horse shotgun and sang from behind her John-face-mask, “Eenie, meanie, min-ee, moe, catch a Townie, by the toe, if he hollars, let him … go?” she put her hand on her hip and laughed, “Hell no!”
“You’re crazy, bitch!” Chad spit out at her.
Whiskey’s eyes narrowed to dangerous slits behind the eyeholes of her mask, “I am not a bitch.” she hissed. The words rolled off her lips and she turned grabbing the shotgun from between her legs. He ruined her game. He ruined her buzz.
Pacing in back and forth in frustration she stopped and let out a sigh before she lifted the mask of Chad’s friend’s face over her head.
“Fuck it. I guess I am.”
Whiskey took a deep breath and her face brightened again. She smiled wide and pressed the bottle of amber liquid to her lips, tilting her head way back and guzzling. The heat burned her throat and the fire curled into her chest. She let out a howl and then aimed the barrel at Chad and shot him in the face painting the walls of the Saloon with bone fragment.
The sun was high and the sky met the sand in a golden wave of heat. Down the road dust followed an approaching vehicle for a mile until it came to a stop in front of the saloon. The hound that was there the night before was still lying there but the two old men were long gone. In their place was a petite blonde woman with a worn cowboy hat tipped low over her face. A man stepped out of the police car taking his time and in no particular hurry. He looked around a bit, then walked over to the woman until he was standing in front of her never saying a word.
Whiskey didn’t bother to up.
After a long moment…a moment that would seem awkward to others… there was a buzzing near her ear and she lifted her hand to give a lazy swat at a mosquito.
“Mornin’ Sheriff.” The dark-skinned, Native American man said before he spit into his cup, “Got a welfare check from the townies this mornin’. Three male teenagers.”
Whiskey smiled under the brim of her hat before lifting her head and getting to her feet, “Another day in paradise, ain’t it, Chief?”