TUESDAY: Awful Tender


Copyright is held by the author.

SHIVESH AND I were on the back road to Livermore that winds through the foothills. In front of us, a motorcyclist traced sine waves across both lanes. Speed, steering, everything — he was all over the map, drunk as a punk. Shiv started giving a play-by-play in his announcer voice to make me laugh.

Stuff began cataracting off the back of the bike — tissue, receipts, pens falling out of his jacket pockets. The wind moonsaulted a leather satchel off the pillion, and papers billowed out. But he kept sidewinding, doing about half the speed limit. Shivesh and I snickered, waiting for this jackass to eat asphalt.

Next we saw him drop his wallet. I hollered at Shivesh to pull over, then hiked back and salvaged the wallet. It bulged with cash. I couldn’t believe our luck.


We hadn’t eaten all day, so Shivesh drove us to Benny’s Burritos. Bean And Cheese for him, El Grande With Beef for me, plus 32-ounce Cokes. No pleasure in life can compare. Shivesh paid from the wallet.

Back in the parking lot, with the street lamps just coming on and Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam on the stereo, I thought it would be funny to chomp into our burritos on a one-two-three. Chomp! Shiv got a look on his face like the human incarnation of What The Fuck. My molars hit bone.

We spat and scraped our tongues. In my burrito, we found more gristle and bone shard than meat. In his, refried beans that smelled like cigar ash.


Spirits never failing, we hit Target. In the eyes of Loss Prevention at this location, Shivesh was the cat who came back, so we hugger-muggered through the aisles for a while to make them smell shoplifting. This peckerwood named Smalls (he’d arrested Shiv twice) kept slithering around displays, trying not to look like he was trying to catch us doing something. Hella funny.

Shiv picked out a Samsung Blu-ray player. For no reason I could spell out, I wanted a ceramic garden gnome. We both got strawberry Slurpees. All paid for by the wallet.

Smalls was lurking by the sliding doors, probably resenting us for wasting his hour. Shivesh gave him a read-between-the-lines finger, but wasn’t watching where he stepped. Bumped me. My elbow hit his Blu-ray player box. I dropped my gnome — it shattered like a starburst. He dropped his box; from the slap-crack! we heard, we didn’t need to open it to know.

And I had Slurpee down my blouse.


When Shivesh came back to the Datsun with a case of beer, I fished the wallet from the crook of his arm and checked our balance. Three hundred and something. No complaints. We each sank one in the gas station parking lot before heading back to his stepmom’s.

But I couldn’t shake this eerie feeling. It was like that one time we got really high and did Bloody Mary at midnight. And now she’d followed us out of the mirror.

Something was wrong with Shiv too. He was the king of driving after a beer or three. He was a rock, a Matterhorn. But tonight he started to veer. And that unease niggled at me.

We were out in the foothills again, where the windmills stand like whole gangs of crucified heretics. The Datsun’s tires ba-bump-ba-bumped on the rumble strip. Some prick behind us blared his horn. And I began to feel the volcano burble in my abdomen.

Don’t ask me how, but I knew.

I grabbed the wallet from the dash, cranked down the window, and flung it with a yelp. Shivesh didn’t notice — his head was whirlpooling.

But my lolloping stomach eased in a blink. My eyes stopped swimming. Shivesh heaved the Datsun into the lane and stuck there. Relief poured out of him on a sigh.

Behind us, I heard tires squeal as the honking asshole stopped.

1 comment
  1. Fabulous tight writing. The feeling of speed as you read. Great imagery. Thanks!

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