One Sumbitch Asks Another for a Coke

Day 64

“Alright, so what’s the big deal? You killed someone. I kill people all the time. Bang. Dead. On to the next one.”

As Arlen said these words, he poked at the fire with a forked stick he had torn from a nearby tree. His movements were like his words: lazy and careless. Bingo wondered again how he could be so ruthlessly efficient. Maybe his carelessness bled into his lies.

“Yeah, well… this was my first.”

There was a short silence, punctuated by the low crackling of the fire. Arlen continued his lazy poking, then — irritatingly — changed the subject.

“You got any Coca-Cola in that rig over there?” He tilted his head to the dark mass a little away from their circle of light.

“A…a what?”

“A Coke. You know… just for the taste of it. I’m thirsty. All this smoke — ”

“We’re out here, running from — ”

Bingo was angry. He had inadvertently opened up, got vulnerable, and then — well, then this two-bit twat went and called his battered pickup a rig. To him, rig was what non-truck people called other people’s trucks. It was a god damn truck, god damn it.

“My rig, Arlen? Does it look to you like I’m hauling logs and stopping at every god damn grease joint — ”

“Alright, your truck Bingo, easy. I just wanted a Coca-Cola.”

Arlen’s cool reply disarmed Bingo. He felt suddenly contrite, as though he’d scolded a dog for wagging its tail. Damn him for that.

It was part of what made Arlen so effective: he disarmed each woman with his easygoing, almost self-deprecating way. He’d talk low and slow, get them to laugh a little, buy them a few drinks — gentleman like — and, once he’d taken them to bed and convinced them he was the next incarnation of Chris Pratt or whoever their Prince Charming was, he...

Bingo never saw, but deep down he just knew none of them saw it coming until the very end. That’s when Arlen, no doubt casually — as though folding his clothes — snuffed them out.

“Well, I doubt it, but I’ll go and check — ”

“Nah, don’t bother. I’ve still got another coupla beers here.” He lifted the remains of a six pack of cans from the darkness, pulled one from the plastic rings, and tossed the rest to Bingo.

He caught the cans and cracked one open without thinking, taking a long drink before the thought even hit him that he hated warm beer.

And then he saw the distant but unmistakable flashes of red and blue.

“Arlen — ”

“I saw,” Arlen replied. “Yep, I think we best get moving along. I didn’t much think this fire was a good idea, but I was sure cold. Cold to my bones.”

This is but a small piece of my lifelong daily writing practice. If you enjoyed this, you may also like some of my other writing, which includes short fiction, novel excerpts, and other essays.