Shootings (Part Four)

Shootings (Part Four)

Shootings is a story about two men with completely different goals, and how their actions affect the same group of women. It will unfold here in serial format.

Parts: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Greg stopped at the liquor store on the way home from work. He was going to introduce his old friend Captain Morgan and his spiced rum to his own new friend, Coke Zero. Lately Raelynn had been watching her empty calories, and late at night Greg found himself searching desperately for them. The pantry, the refrigerator — anywhere one could stash junk food, she kept clearing out anything he brought home that didn’t fit into her diet. Finally he capitulated after finding a sweet drink his tastebuds could tolerate, nevermind what it might be doing to the rest of his insides.

Inside he saw Deborah Mason, a known Southern Baptist and suspected tee-totaler, in the wine section holding aloft a bottle of Ménage à Trois. On most days he would ignore her and try not to make eye contact, then share the mild scandal with Raelynn over dinner. Instead he decided to play a little game with Deborah. He turned up the wine aisle and headed her direction.

She still hadn’t noticed Greg when he stopped a few steps from her and said, “That’s one I recommend to all our houseguests.”

Deborah nearly dropped the bottle and let out a small yelp. She turned to face him. “Greg, you startled me.”

“Sorry. That really is a good wine, though.”

“I just had to know what was in it,” she said as she returned the bottle to the shelf.

He walked past her and around the endcap to the next aisle — where Captain Morgan waited. He stared down the booze-peddling pirate while talking to Deborah. “Let’s just pretend we’re both Methodists and then this little encounter won’t seem awkward at all,” he said.

She forced a laugh and grabbed a bottle of Reunite. “Don’t be a wiseacre, Greg.”

“It’s what I do in my off time.”

“Funny. I heard you were becoming a bit of a photographer when not working for the City.”

“Oh, you mean our calendar project? Please, spread the word and tell everybody to order them as Christmas gifts.”

Greg tossed the bottle into the passenger’s seat, its top barely poking out of the brown paper bag. On his way home he saw two homeless men sitting at the corner of a building. One of them held a sign that said, “Pay for me to get drunk, too.” He glanced down at the seat next to him and the brown paper bag with the spiced rum bottle inside.

“Sorry, guys, I’m keeping the Captain to myself,” he mumbled.

Greg tried to distract himself by considering the homeless guys’ station in life, but his mind kept taking him back to that prison court room. Why was Jocelyn there? Was he really sure it had been her?

Then his mind bounced back to something he had said to Deborah at the liquor store. About spreading the word about the calendar. The calendar in which Jocelyn Swinson was Ms. February. He also recalled Raelynn’s words when they discussed how to publicize it. “What you need is a sex scandal video,” she had said.

He pulled his mobile phone from its holster and tried to glance at the road every second or two while dialing Matt’s office number.

“Hey, boss, what’s up?” Greg loved the caller ID feature of mobile phones, because it made the beginning of a phone call so much more efficient.

“Matt, did you delete that video yet?”

“No. I was going to do it tonight during my usual maintenance time.”

“Good. Nothing good could come of it. See you at work tomorrow.”

“Okay, boss.”

Greg ended the call. “Still a chance,” he said to the empty car. Then, after another moment, “Nah, that’s stupid.”

As he pulled up his graded driveway, Greg reached up and clicked the garage door remote control clipped onto the visor. The door creaked in protest while rolling along its track. The car leveled off as he slowly entered the garage.

He heard a scraping sound, followed by a loud, wooden crack. He stopped the car and backed up. Wood cracked again. He opened his door and got out.

A traumatized bookcase rested on its side on collapsed cardboard boxes. Black spraypaint coated the shelves and most of the cardboard. Unpainted wood lay bare where it had splintered under the pressure from the car.

Raelynn never warned him about her home improvement projects, and finally it had caught up with her. He backed out and parked in the driveway.

As he walked around the mess, Greg noticed that black overspray had reached the cement floor. The bookshelf was black, but the coverage was uneven, with several spots showing where Raelynn had started spraying. He shook his head while he made his way through the laundry room and into the hallway.

“Stop! Wait! Stay in the laundry room,” shouted Raelynn from somewhere in the house.

He stopped. “What’s going on?” he said.

“You might have black on your shoes.”

When Greg looked down to check his shoes, he saw faint black footprints leading from where he stood, across the living room, fading gradually before they reached the kitchen. “You mean, just like you did?”

“Yes. I’m hoping it will come up if I borrow the Mathis’ carpet cleaner.”

“You might ask them if they have a spare black bookcase to replace the one I just ran over.”

“What?” she said and ran past him toward the garage.

“I couldn’t see it over the hood,” he called after her.

“Great, Greg. I worked hard on that,” she shouted back.

“Sorry. I’ve told you that I can’t see things that are low to the ground when I pull in.”

Raelynn was back inside, now following him to the kitchen. “You’re right. You’re right. I forgot.”

Greg stopped and set his keys and his brown-bagged bottle of spiced rum on the island counter, then opened the refrigerator. “Okay, you backed down way too easy. What’s going on?” Greg said.

“Did you hear about what happened to Brenda Yeager and little Lawrence?”

“Yeager… Yeager,” Greg searched for the name’s significance as he found a canned cola.

“You know, your Ms. July for the calendar?”

“Oh, you mean hot Brenda?” He pulled up the tab on the can, producing a chuff that would make marketers salivate.

“You could call her that.”

Greg wrinkled his brow. “What happened? Something bad? Please not something bad.”

Raelynn opened a cabinet and pulled out a highball glass and handed it to him. “It was bad for her and her son. She’s just a little banged up, but he’s spending at least one night in the hospital.”

“Banged up by what?”

(to be continued)

4 Replies to “Shootings (Part Four)”

  1. I quite like the dialogue you have going on here, Mark. Comes across very naturally.

    The only things I found jarring were the abrupt transition from conversation in the liquor store to car seat:

    “Please, spread the word and tell everybody to order them as Christmas gifts.”

    Greg tossed the bottle into the passenger’s seat…

    as well as your note about the chuffing of the pop can tab.

    Both instances pulled me out of the flow of the moment because of the respective incongruity. That is, uh, if you’re looking for critical feedback here.

    Very engaging overall, though. Will Greg get to the video on time so he can copy it before Matt deletes it? Tune in next time…

  2. Dave – The next part is already written, so the wait won’t be too long.

    Simon – Discerning readers are welcome here. One reason I put things out here is to improve my craft.

    I mentioned the canned cola briefly a little earlier in the scene, but I’ll examine its use more carefully to see how I can make it less out of place.

    The transition from the liquor store to Greg’s car is a bit sudden, and I could add something to indicate that we’ve skipped ahead a bit. Point taken.

  3. Simon – Also, I add things like the soda can to try to keep the reader in the scene, rather than making the dialogue look like a script. Backfired here.