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Today's Story by Trevor Alexander

I reached into the backseat and slapped Tommy in the face.


The Camo high-gravity lager was thick and tasted like rancid beer cut with sour milk and rotten apples as I chugged the last half of my last one and struggled not to vomit the five double-tall cans I’d drunk as I rolled down the window of Tommy’s Mustang and tossed the can onto the highway. I couldn’t hear the can click along the I-35 blacktop over the wind rushing through the window.

Tommy and Larissa were in the backseat. It was 3:30 am. We were on our way home from Larissa’s favorite club that she went to with her sorority sisters on weekends when she stayed at school instead of visiting Tommy. She and I both happened to be home from our separate
colleges, but they’d decided to drive the three hours to get drunk in Des Moines instead of in Larissa’s parent’s basement like most every other weekend. Larissa thought I came along to meet any one of her ΑΔΠ sisters. Tommy thought I came because I did whatever he asked me to do and he asked me to come because he hated to drive and Larissa was a terrible drunk driver. I wasn’t sure why I’d come. Standing alone in a corner pounding whiskey cokes leering at Larissa and dancing with her whenever Tommy went to piss hadn’t been as fun as I’d hoped.

I was speeding to get Tommy back to Kansas City so he could get to work at the golf course by six. I kept the window down. The noise overwhelmed Larissa’s breathing as Tommy fingered her up her skirt behind me.

“Phil, roll that shit up. Trying to focus back here,” Tommy yelled over the noise.

“No,” Larissa giggled. “Don’t.”

I chose to believe she wanted me to keep the window down, rather than that she was pretending, for modesty’s sake, to want Tommy to keep his pants zipped. I rolled the passenger window down as well.

The sound was enormous. My hair whorled in the vortex. I depressed the accelerator to the max. The speedometer needle climbed over eighty, ninety, one-hundred until the engine cut out at a hundred and twenty. I kept the pedal down while the white hyphens dividing the
lanes formed a single line that I dodged left and right across.

The jet engine of the whooshing air lifted me up, up, up out of myself until I was flying in the sky, away from Tommy and Larissa fooling around, away from piloting the Mustang, away from my impending return to school and the series of classes I was failing, away from the
blonde sorority sister I couldn’t even smile at when she put her hand in my back pocket to drag me onto the dance floor, away from always being Tommy’s little bitch yes-man, away from loving Larissa. Back on the ground, only the car, the road, the night and I remained. Shouts from the backseat went unacknowledged.

I emerged from my blackout in Larissa’s neighborhood headed at fifty miles-an-hour for the telephone pole at the apex of a non-optional ninety degree turn. Fuck it, I thought and released the wheel while pinching my eyes shut, but at the last moment I opened my eyes,
crunched the brake and navigated the turn in a scream of rubber on pavement. Tommy and Larissa, I noticed, were asleep and didn’t stir as the car snapped from its slide into an innocuous straight line.

In the driveway, I got out of the car, unsteady on my feet. It was 4:30. I reached into the backseat and slapped Tommy in the face.

“Hey man, cut it out,” Tommy said, his voice thick with drunken sleep.

“Get out. We’re here,” I told him.

Tommy crawled out of the car and lay on his stomach on the pavement.

“C’mon. C’mon. Let’s go,” I said. I helped him to his feet and oxtercoged him toward the sliding door into the basement.

“Fun fucken time, huh Phil? Told you you’d have a good time,” Tommy said. He howled the name of the club, “Coconut Joe’s,” into the darkness.

“Shut up.”

“Phil, man, smell my fingers,” Tommy said. He held his first two fingers under my nose, as evidence, and gave me his Arkansas grin.

“Coulda been you, too. Fucken taco bar in that club.”

I dropped Tommy into a recliner in the basement, and he was snoring before I could get out of the room.

Larissa didn’t wake when I tapped her shoulder or when I shook her gently. I managed to guide her across the bench seat, and I lifted her, one arm under her back, one under her knees. She wrapped an arm around my neck in her sleep. I laid her down on the couch and draped her with a blanket. She curled her short frame.

I sat by her head. I slid my fingers through the hair that covered her face. It was crusty from dried sweat by her scalp, but soft and sumptuous toward the tips. I leaned forward and smelled her tangerine shampoo. I tucked her hair behind her ear and kissed her temple. She
didn’t stir. “Could’ve been me,” I whispered as I leaned back into the couch.

The alarm I’d set to get Tommy to work on time bleated, and I snapped awake. Tommy and Larissa were gone. Larissa’s bedroom door, open when we’d arrived, was shut. I tapped the door three times and mumbled, “Tommy, let’s go.” No sound came from the room.

“Well, I tried,” I said on my way out.


Trevor Alexander received his MFA from the University of Nebraska Writing Program and lives in Lawrence, Kansas. His work has appeared in The Mustard Seed Risk and is forthcoming in Strange Machine. Trevor received his MFA from the University of Nebraska Writing Program and lives in Lawrence, Kansas. His work has appeared in The Mustard Seed Risk and is forthcoming in Strange Machine.


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