By Heather Arneson
Trevor Jule loosened his red and blue striped tie and patted down his rumpled khaki shorts as he waited in line for another gin and tonic at the tiki bar outside of The Mata Hari Grill. Although he already knew the answer, he decided to make small talk with the woman seated nearby, and asked her if he looked sun-burnt.
She put down her glass of white Riesling and turned towards him, blinked a few times, then explored his ruddy face and replied, “I guess a little. Out on the boat this weekend?”
He instantly was attracted to her demeanor, she was relaxed and seemed intrigued, which was a reaction he wasn’t used to after scouring the patio for “friendly cougars” as he labeled the older women he targeted as of late.
“I know, right?”
“What do you mean?” She smiled.
“I’m just trying to make conversation. I like that phrase. My dog was out there with me, just me and him yesterday. We caught a lot of fish!”
“I like to use sun block, F.Y.I., not sun tan lotion. There’s a difference.”
“Well, you look pretty good,” Trevor grinned, then noticed himself leaning over her, so swung back the other way.
It was moments like these that he wished he had more friends. He recalled only a year prior to that he considered getting engaged to his high school sweetheart, Becca Mahler. They reunited after twenty years in 2010. He was thrilled because he was able to unearth the very first polaroid he took of her, his black jacket slung around her shoulders, and her expression showed amorous captivation. He was surprised to realize that at one time he thought he loved her more than life itself, and how strangely time changed his perception.
Now, during a career change and 2014 arriving with no wedding ever being fully planned, he was grateful. Mostly, he was grateful to Becca for not wasting his time needling him with a seemingly endless line of questioning about what décor would look best with what food and who not to invite, because only so many people deserved free drinks from their almost-married sound judging panel.
He mulled over the fact that he lived in Brainerd, surrounded by some of the best lakes in Minnesota, while his ex-fiancé moved away to live with her friend Tony, a used car-salesman who said he had it made in New Jersey. To top it off, a few days ago he learned that while he was out fishing with his dad, garnering wisdom regarding marriage, Becca made plans with a man she met on an online site named Big Catch.
He started to get over hating her and the disgust he felt for himself, but the one thing he still couldn’t wrap his mind around was that he held onto the picture of her shrouded by the mid-day shadows of spring, ducked under bleachers, and enveloped by material he gave to her twenty years ago. He just wanted his jacket back, or at least that was what he lied to himself about, but he wasn’t convincing enough, which made him want to drink even more.
“Trevor, that’s my name. And yours?” He interjected and jutted out his right hand next to her cheek.
Unaware of his subsequent advances, her friend nudged her and said softly, “Celeste, hey, that guy’s talking to you. He’s…the sun-burnt one, ya’ know?”
He stared at the back of the woman’s head, teetering from the newly minted gin drink, his eyes glazed from days of being out in the sun and drinking tap beer.
A security guard tapped him on the shoulder, “Excuse me, I think you need to leave.”
“Uh, no. We were just leaving. C’mon, Trevor!” Celeste grabbed him by the crook of his arm, and they escaped to the parking lot. She opened her palm, directing him to her car, a red corvette.
“Top down and everything, huh?!” He exclaimed and nearly stumbled into it.
“Bye Anise, I’ll see you at the wedding!” She said and waved to her friend.
Trevor’s head felt like it was about to spin off, so he steadied himself on the hood of the car with his hand and heaved several deep breaths in and out.
“Are you okay? Do you want some water?”
“No, that’s alright. I can’t believe…guy…what…joke!”
“I know, right? What do you think about getting out of here to somewhere better?”
“At a resort.”
“Oh, okay. But…alright, I’m buzzed.”
“And you’re cute. But I’ll only take advantage of you exactly 8 hours from now.”
“What?! But that takes the fun out of it. Miss Planny Plan! Plan B. right on time.”
“Wow, you are drunk. I was worried that guy was going to bounce you. But he was all puffing up his chest because he has a crush on me.”
“I’ll let you know up front, I’m not looking for anything serious, because I just got my heart gutted out by someone I thought deserved my jacket from high school. I can be sentimental, but I’m not mental. There’s a difference.”
“You’re fascinating. You wouldn’t by any chance be willing to let me cast your dog in a Porno Movie? No bestiality. Just a pet role.”
“Whoww, whooa, no. Hey, I’m glad I didn’t get further along with you! What a weirdo!” He yelled while he swiftly jumped out of the car. His Independence beads caught on the edge of the door, and dismantled like small sparklers onto the pavement. He continued, “Here’s the deal. No deal.”
Suddenly, an SUV barreling out of the parking lot hit him and his body banged into the back of her corvette. Without stopping, the driver sped away.
Trevor cried out in pain and gripped the bumper with his fingers. All she could see from the rearview mirror were white knuckles clenched between his red, scaly flesh.
“I think my arm’s broken. Get me to a hospital, now!”
On the way to the emergency room, the trauma of the event blurred with Trevor’s memories of his dad’s marital advice, and the new woman’s creepy offer. With fireworks shooting overhead and rock music blaring from Celeste’s vehicle, he heard his father’s words, Your mother—she can be like a motor going out, loud and cranky. Or, like knotted pine being uprooted in an explosive storm.
“Dad, what are you getting at? That mom’s crazy? I know that.”
Crazy as a tailless dog running in circles near an ice hole. But I love her and I’ll die trying to know how she runs.
Celeste turned to him and asked, “Who’s that?”
“My ex. She’s long gone, with that car salesman from Big Catch.”
“Oh really? That’s where my friend met her soon-to-be husband.”
“Just drive faster. Like you’re delivering an urgent package.”
“That’s a good line!”
“Can you forget about your stupid porn. I’m in pain! Are all women crazy! Oh, man, I’m sorry I’m so mean right now. Man, that breeze feels so good right now.” He rested his head back a little more comfortably on the leather passenger headrest, “You know Becca was a little overweight. So were her friends. And now she’s weighing on my conscience, now. I just thought of that.”
“Hmmm…you know, you should elevate your arm more.”
“I bet you have some Viagra for that, special arm Viagra or some shit.”
“Hey, you don’t have to be crude.”
“Coming from a porn producer, or whatever you are, that’s funny. I’m not trying to be ungrateful, I’m happy you’re driving me to the hospital, believe me. But you gotta’ get out of the entertainment industry. It is sleazy with a capital S. Maybe you should get into racing, you sure are good at speeding.”
“Oh, I have the cops wrapped around my pinky finger by now.”
“You’re too much. Here, I thought you were some innocent woman from Cougarville, Canada and you’re more perverted on the inside than my old friend Bear, who wanted to go to strip clubs every weekend. Thank you for the offer of that role to my dog, but please…just, no thanks, ‘kay?” He pronounced his words by hitting the armrest with his injured arm on accident, and his eyes searched the stars wildly as he wailed, “Aaaaaawwww!”