They talked about how ashes from Marlboro cigarettes smelled better than those of generic smokes.
“You wake up next to a coffee cup full of Doral butts. You feel like God took a leak on you while you slept. It’s the cheap additives. Marlboro makes you want to go on, somehow.”
They had met outside the liquor store. She was coming out with a six-pack of beer as he went in. “You want to help me drink these?” were the first words she spoke. He bought another twelve and they walked back to his apartment. Listened to the radio and sipped at the beer. After it was gone, they took a shower together, steadying their tipsy bodies against the wall. She had a tattoo, “Jim,” on her arm and told him it was her brother’s name. She noticed that the tip of his left index finger was missing.
“I tried to put my finger where my face wouldn’t go,” he explained.
In bed, they made love clumsily, like high school kids. He bonked his head against the headboard and they laughed, but it hurt, it really did. After a time, her whole body tensed, and he felt proud of himself for her orgasm.
“I’m not gonna make it.”
“Whiskey dick,” she laughed. “It happens. Maybe you shouldn’t have drunk those last seven beers.”
They slept, fitting into one another like two cats in a box.
In the morning, he drove her home. Jim’s car was in front of the house, so he let her out
around the corner. She tucked his phone number into her jeans. And that was that.
He still thought of her years later, even after the name of her tattoo was forgotten.
Robert Penick’s work has appeared in over 100 different literary journals, including The Hudson Review, North American Review, Plainsongs, and Gambling the Aisle. He lives in Louisville, KY, USA, with his free-range box turtle, Sheldon. More of his work can be found at www.theartofmercy.net