Frank Widen is having one of those days...
|Anthony L. Clure
Every Day Has It’s Dog
Jaysen Robert Wolfe
My eyes seemed to rip themselves open. I feel something dripping into my eyes. With trembling fingers, I wipe the blood from the gash above my left brow. Numbness creeps over my body.
Kicking at the passenger-side door, I pull myself from the car. I can hear the sirens getting close, and know they’ll haul me away. Julie is in the driver’s seat holding her head.
“Right here, Julie.”
“Get back in the car.”
I crawl to my feet, and I don’t know exactly what’s happened. I can see police cars swarming at me and I stagger to the car. The dog just sits there, gawking at me.
“What the hell do you want from me?” I scream at it.
“Frank?” Julie says behind me. “What are you doing, Frank? Let’s go."
The dog starts barking at me. “Why the hell won’t you leave me alone, you stupid mutt?”
“Who are you talking to, Frank?”
I point at the animal, finger jabbing the open space between us. “Don’t you see it? It’s laughing at me. It always laughs at me!”
“What are you talking about, Frank. Let’s get out of here.”
“Not this time.”
My pulse quickens, matching my pace, and I’m moving forward. “I’m gonna kill you, ya fucking mongrel.”
I know that cops are pointing their guns at me and yelling for me to get on the ground, but I’m beyond caring now.
“This is your fault.” My hands have become claws, eager to rip the throat of the bastard. “You just had to keep pushing me, and pushing me, right? Now the dog gets it.”
I didn’t see the truck’s grill until it slams into me, hard!
“I don’t care, Frank. I’m tired of seeing you like this every single night.” Her voice is on the edge of hysteria. I never wanted it to be this way.
“Listen, Vivian. I’ll be home after one more, okay?”
“No, you listen to me, Frank Widen. If you even think of coming home drunk, I’ll lock every single door in the house and you’ll have a better chance of getting a drink of water in hell before you step foot inside it again..”
“Just one more, Babe.”
“Don’t you ‘babe’ me. Stop this right now or I’m filing for a divorce, Frank. Do you understand what I’m telling you?”
The line goes dead, its tone buzzing in my ear. I jam my finger on the end button and rub my eyes, her voice echoing in my brain.
“Just one more,” I tell myself.
I motion to Brenda to give me a shot. She walks to me, bottle of Jack in her hand and a glass. She pours a double. I slam the glass back, feeling the sweet liquor warm my stomach.
I look at Brenda, and tap the empty glass.
“You’ve had enough, Frank,” she says, scowling.
“So now you’re my mom?”
“I’ve seen a lot since I opened this place, and I think you’ve had enough. I’m sure of it.”
“So, what’re ya gonna do, Barb, Shoot me?”
“Nope, but I’m cutting you off, Frank.”
“What?” My temperature starts to rise. “You can’t be serious?”
“I am. Go home, Frank. Sleep it off.”
I think of my conversation with Vivian. “I wish I could, but my wife told me not to. So, what the hell am I supposed to do, except drink myself into oblivion?”
“Tell ya what I’ll do, I’ll pay for your hotel, okay?”
“I can’t take money from you. You know that.”
“I’m not giving it to you Frank. You’re going to pay me back, I guarantee it.”
I look into her green eyes, the same eyes that broke a hundred hearts and I’m helpless. “Fine, I’ll pay you back. I don’t cherish the idea that my balls will be in a jar if I don’t.” I smile, taking the two twenties from her slender fingers.
“You got that right,” she laughs in a way that stirs my soul, and a few other parts of my anatomy.
“Why don’t you come and join me? We’ll make it a party, just you and me?” I hoped she would say yes.
“When you can teach pigs to fly, I’ll think about it. Now get outta here before I call Vivian and tell her what a naughty boy you’ve been.”
“Okay, okay. I get it. I’ll see you later then.”
“Don’t forget my money, babe. I’ve got the snips and jar waiting if ya don’t.”
Outside, I look for my car, a ’66 Chevelle Malibu SS, restored to its original beauty. Parked exactly where I remember.
Fishing for my keys, I see this dog pissing on my nine-hundred-dollar wheels.
“Hey!” I scream. “Get the fuck away from my car,” raising my hands like it’s gonna make a difference.
The dog acts like I shot it, bolts to the other side of the street, and sits there, tongue hanging out of its mouth, laughing at me.
“Fucking mutt,” I say, observing the damage. “Great, Now I gotta get ‘em detailed again.” I look at the dog, “Dumb-ass.”
It’s not too long before I find what I’m looking for. The vacancy sign shines bright through the fog. turning my eyes back to the road…
Something hunched over in the street brings my foot hard to the brake pedal.
It travels under my wheels with a sickening, wet crunch, and can I feel it dragging underneath my car.
My back wheels finally ride over it with a thump.
I sit for an eternity with the engine running, wondering what the hell I just hit. Praying it’s just an animal. Please God, tell me it’s an animal.
I fling the door open, and step outside, the cold air slapping me in the face. Suddenly, I feel sober. Suddenly, I feel sick, nausea retching from my open mouth onto the stretch of dirt under my feet .
Slowly, I stumble to the rear of the car, steadying myself on the rear quarter panel, my pulse echoing inside my skull. Peering over the trunk, I see dented cans of food all over the road, a torn grocery bag jerking in the wind.
No way. Not tonight. Please tell me it’s an animal.
Lying in a heap, I see what looks like a bundle of dirty clothes.
Edging closer, I hear a moan.
“Please, help me?” A woman’s voice creeps my way.
“Can you help me?”
“I-I didn’t see you…” I’m kneeling over her now, fighting the urge to discharge a second helping. Bile, bitter and sour, taunts the back of my throat like a bite of food too big to swallow.
“Can you help me?”
“The fog…, you were in the middle of the road, and…”
“Please, can you help me?”
I look around for somebody, anybody. The road is empty.
A dark realization creeps over me. I’ve been drinking all night. They’ll never believe this was an accident.
“Listen, I’m gonna come back for you, alright? I’m gonna get you some help, okay?”
“Can you help me?”
“Stop saying that!” I yell. “I’m gonna get you some help.”
I run to my car and hop in, slamming the door behind me, heart feeling like it wants to burst from my chest. I look in the rear-view mirror, throw it into gear and stomp on the gas.
I watch the water cover my car, bubbles rising to the surface. It disappears beneath the muck, tears dripping down to my chin. What the hell have I done?
I see the Hotel in the distance. My mind swims with the night’s events, and I feel exhausted. A bed, any bed would be a welcome sight right now.
Some guy, the manager I guess, is watching some old gangster picture on a twelve-inch Zenith when I walk in. He looks up at me, “You need a room?”
He sets a can of Old English next to the chair he’s sitting in, and limps my direction, metal cane supporting his weight.
“Yeah, I got forty-bucks, says you got one for me.”
“That’ll be fine, mister.”
He pulls out a ledger, while staring at me, slits for eyes.
“Okay then. I’m gonna need ta see yer ID and some kinda major credit card.” Wiping the back of his fist across his mouth, a black line of chewing tobacco smears into a graying stubble on his chin.
“Told you, I got cash.”
“Just fer the records, ya know?” He smiles, blackened gums shining threadlike against neon light.
“Fine,” I say. I pull out a Visa from my wallet and hand it to him.
Reaching over his shoulder, he pulls a key from a ring behind the desk and hands it to me. “Room nine, just down the walk. You need anything, you just let Jeb know. I’m Jeb.”
“Yeah, that’s what I guessed,” I say, taking the key from him.
I go to my room, with a hot shower and soft bed on my mind. I slip the key into the door, and see this dog from the corner of my eye. It’s funny how some dogs just seem to look alike in the dark.
I lock the door behind me, glancing out the window to see if anyone noticed me. Looking around the room, I see a television bolted to a table. Sitting on the edge of the bed, I grab the remote and turn on the set.
After my shower, I lie down and sleep hits me like a brick.
I wake to the sound of more sirens, then realize it’s the television I forgot to turn off last night. A car is being pulled out of a lake. A Red, 1966 Chevelle Malibu SS, with black deck stripes, just like mine.
“…looking for Frank Wider, in connection with a possible hit and run. According to officials, the car you see being pulled out of…”
I don’t have time to think, just act, so I throw open the door.
“Well, well, well. What have we got here? Planning a little trip, are we?”
“Outta my way, Jeb.”
Pulling out a .38 Special, Jeb levels it at me. “Yer not goin’ nowhere. They say there’s a reward for yer skin, and I’m gonna be the one to collect it.”
He tells me to go to the office so he can make a phone call. I do, the cold steel of the snub-nose, pressing into my back. Cold sweat pools on my forehead and runs down the side of my face.
“Now, you sit right there while I call the cops.” He motions to a seat in the lobby, which only reminds me of an electric chair. I move, feet feeling like lead and sit down. Jeb walks around the desk and picks up the receiver.
His back is to me, so I leap, grabbing his collar.
He starts to turn.
The barrel of the gun makes a wide arc...
The gun fires, bullet slamming into the wall.
“What the hell?” I can see the confusion in his eyes while I’m grabbing his wrist, the revolver fires again, punching a hole in the ceiling.
He’s a small man, weaker than me. I’m trying to wrench the gun from him, but my palms are sweating. He clutches the pistol against his chest like his life depends on it.
Another shot rips the air between us. His eyes turn glassy, and distant. He releases his grip and I yank the gun from him.
Dropping to his knees, he looks at me, bringing his hand to his belly.
“You-you shot me…”
He looks down at his hand, crimson dripping from his fingers. I step away with the gun pointed at him, reddish ink, swelling on the front of his shirt. Smoke drifts from the barrel, filling my nostrils with its arid stench.
I stuff the iron into my waistband, the hot barrel stinging my flesh and fish a wallet from his pocket, a set of car keys from another. I rip the cash from the wallet and toss the leather billfold on him. Credit cards spill onto the floor like leaves from a dying tree.
“Sorry, Jeb,” I say, but he looks too far gone to hear me. Through the office window I see an old, two-door sedan parked out front.
I open a bottle of Seagram's, and pull it down in one swallow. It burns my throat, smoothing my nerves. I thought I was going to have to ditch the car and hoof it. I can’t keep driving this and keep a low profile.
I see a Nissan 350z sitting at a Shell station, and this guy jumps out, running for the pay-station. I park the car, tuck the thirty-eight caliber into my waist and get out. I keep my eyes on the front door of the station and walk to the driver’s-side door of the Nissan.
I’m putting it into drive, and the driver’s screaming at me. I can’t tell what he’s saying over the roar of the engine, but I know it’s probably not very nice. I flip him off, and punch the accelerator, engine screaming, and tear onto the open road.
“Hey,” a girl’s voice says behind me. “You’re not Earl.”
“What the hell?” I almost lose control and whip my view to its source, screeching to a halt in the middle of the street. “Who the hell are you?”
“Well, Julie, unless you want to be on America’s Most Wanted, you should get out of the car.”
A smile creeps across her face, eyes lighting up like a Christmas tree.
“Seriously, get out of the car. You don’t need this.”
Her smile turns around, the light dimming.
“Get the fuck out,” I say, popping the passenger’s door open. She sits there, eyes staring ahead. I hear a siren coming at us fast.
I’m covered with sweat, hers mixed with mine. My breathing is slowing and I look down at her, head on my chest. I’m exhausted, but it feels good.
“What did you say your name was again?” I ask her, twisting another Seagram's open.
Her sweet lips almost breathe the answer, “My name’s Julie.”
“Are you sure you want to do this?”
“What?” she says. “This?” Her hot tongue licks my nipple and I feel myself get aroused. “Or this…,” she says grabbing my crotch, and squeezes it. A slight moan escapes me, but I push her off of me, fingers pressing into her tender flesh.
“I’m serious,” I tell her.
“I’m in a lot of shit here, and I’ve dragged you into it.”
“You didn’t drag me anywhere, Frank. I told you, I wanted to, remember?”
She was right. The only problem was I didn’t know how to drag her away from it all. Even now, I felt something in my soul that told me something was different about her, and I wanted to be with her.
She gets out of bed, pulling her jeans above her supple hips.
“Where are you going?” I ask, my eyes never leaving hers.
“Ice. I saw a machine by the office. And I know, don’t talk to anyone.” She leans over me, sucking my lower lip into her mouth.
At the door, she turns to me, “Don’t worry, Frank. I’ll be right back,”
I’m lost in my thoughts when someone knocks at the door. A siren passes by the hotel and my pulse quickens.
There’s another knock, hard enough to rattle the window to my room “Yeah?”
“Mister Widen?” A voice bellows from the other side.
My heart is racing, pounding in my ears.
A siren blares past, “I need to speak with you.”
“I-I just got out of the shower,” I lie. “I need to put my pants on.”
I look at the window in the bathroom. It looks way too small for me to climb through. Now what the hell am I gonna do?
“What do you need? I’m really tired and just wanna go to sleep.”
“It’s the management, mister Widen. You forgot your credit card, sir.”
I exhale a gust of relief. “Can you slip it under the door?”
The card slips through and I retrieve it. “Thanks.”
“No problem, Mister Widen. Can I get you anything?”
“No. Thank you. I’m just gonna rest now. Good night.”
Minutes later, Julie enters the room, a container of ice under her arm. “There’s this weird dog outside.”
“I dunno. Some dog in the parking lot. It’s just staring at the room, like it’s waiting for something.”
I get up from the bed and part the curtain of the window, peering outside.
The dog is there alright, just like she said it was. It’s fur, a tangled mess, like it’s been roaming the streets for weeks. Dried swamp-water, caked on its paws. Something weird about its eyes I just can’t place, staring directly at me!
I yank the curtains closed with a gasp, a coolness crawling up my spine. My scalp tingles, unseen fingers running through my hair, and I feel the blood rushing to my face. Suddenly it’s cold in the room, and I shudder.
“Are you okay?” she asks. “You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”
“The dog,” my voice, a whisper.
“I told you. Weird, huh?”
“Hey, what’s wrong with you?” she asks. “It’s just a dog. Probably a stray, or something.”
“No!” I yell, more at the image of the dog than at her. “It’s not just a dog.” Cold panic, gripping me by the throat. “That sonofabitch has been following me since…,” my voice trails off, cold reality punching me in the gut.
“What?” she smiles, “You think it’s a ghost or something?”
I step toward her, “You don’t believe me?”
“I believe you think it’s a ghost, but would you listen to yourself?”
“So now I’m crazy, is that it? That fucker keeps showing up everywhere I go. It just sits there, staring at me. That’s all it does, Julie. That’s all it does!”
Tears pool at the corner of my eyes, my hands covering my face so she can’t see. I feel her pressing against me now, hot breath on my neck, breasts, firm against my chest. She reaches down the length of my body, and squeezes, slender fingers gripping my manhood.
“I can make you forget all about that, lover. Come here,” she says, leading me to the bed. “Let Julie help you forget about everything.”
And she does.
My cell rings. It’s Vivian. With trembling fingers, I open the cover.
“Frank? Don’t hang up, please.”
The sound of her voice settles in the pit of my stomach. “What the hell do you want, Vivian. You told me to stay away, so I did. What else do you want to take from me?”
I look at Julie, She’s staring at her feet, lost in thought, but I can feel her hanging on everything I say.
“Listen, Frank. I heard about what happened, and I know it wasn’t your fault.”
“So I had a drink or two. I wasn’t drunk, Vivian.”
“I know. That’s why I reported your car stolen. Told them you were just freaked out about everything. Told them you were out of town, visiting your brother. He vouched for everything, Frank.”
“Look, Vivian. I need to think this over. I’m feeling really sick right now. Let me call you later.”
“I love you.”
“I’ve gotta go,”
I close the cell, tossing in on the bed. “We gotta get out of here.” They probably put her up to this.”
“What? Put who up to what, Frank?”
I tell her what Vivian said. “They want me to put my guard down, but I’m not that stupid. Do I look that stupid to you?”
She tilts her head to one side, “I never said…”
“Never mind. Let’s just go, okay?”
She stands there, confused look on her face.
“Come on!” I shout. “Get that cute little ass of yours in gear. We haven’t got time to be fucking around. They probably know where I’m at already.” I grab the duffle bag and stuff my clothes into it.
Grabbing the car keys from the table, I sling the door open and get in the car. After getting in the car, she shuts the door. I see the dog across the street now, watching, waiting.
Waiting for me?
“Stop being stupid,” I tell myself, starting the engine, shaking the thought of 'ghosts' from my mind.
“What?” Julie asks.
“It’s nothing,” I say, putting the car in gear, and back out of the stall, slamming the car into a post or something. I feel the impact as the taillight shatters.
“Dammit!” I punch it into traffic, tires begging for mercy as they gather traction.
“Put on the radio, would you?” I ask.
“…hunt for Frank Wider has ended. According to officials, they are searching for Luke Roland, a known carjacker and killer. Roland is responsible for several thefts and burglaries in the local area…”
The announcer goes on about Luke Roland and I feel a weight being dragged away from me, and I know everything’s okay now. I turn to Julie, smile on my face. She’s looking behind us, eyes wide in horror.
I look in the rear-view mirror, the red-and-blue lights from a patrol car flashing in my face. Normally, I’d be hitting the gas about now, but with the news I’m free, I feel compelled to keep it cool…, for now.
I pull to the side of the road, an empty looking stretch of highway, and turn off the engine. The street‘s lights barely penetrate the fog I’ve noticed for the first time. A silhouette of the police car pulls into view behind us, search light blinding in the rear-view mirror.
The officer strolls to my window. “License and registration,” he says, flashlight staring me in the face. I notice his name-plate reflected in the light. Wallace it says.
“Mister Widen, could you step out of car for me?”
“Is there a problem officer?”
“Your taillight. Now, step out of the car.”
He motions me to the back of the car and I’m looking down at the busted light. A hand grabs me by the arm and twists it behind me, another slamming my face into the trunk of the car.
“What the hell?” I say, wondering what is happening.
“Shut up!” the cop says. “You’ve been busy, haven’t you, you fuck?”
“What are you doing?” I’m asking.
“Hey, what are you doing back there?” Julie says.
“Stay in the car,” the cop says. “You think you’re pretty clever Widen? I think you’re pretty stupid. Did you think I wouldn’t figure it out?”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“I said, shut the fuck up.”
I lay sprawled over the trunk of the car, my cheek throbs against the cold steel.
What the hell is he doing. ”I’m innocent. The radio said so.”
“And that’s supposed to make it alright? I’m not buying’ it you sonofabitch. I know who killed my mother and it wasn’t any Luke Roland.” He slams my face into the trunk again, to drive home his point, “It was you!”
“Look, I’m sorry about your mother, but it wasn’t my fault.”
“Do you even know her name?”
My mind draws a blank, and I can only guess what he’s thinking. “I-I don’t know. It happened too fast for me to ask.”
“Maybelle," he says. "Her name was Maybelle Wallace!" Driving his fist into my kidney, I suck air, but it doesn't come. "You know what happens now?” he asks, the answer forming on my lips.
Before I can say a word, he’s tossing me to the ground, my forearms skidding on the gravel from the road’s shoulder.
“Listen,” I say, coughing, bloody spittle spraying from my torn inner-cheek. I'm rolling onto my back, trying to sit up, My arms are burning, my head, throbbing. “Stop!”
“Is that what she said before you ran her down like a dog in the street?”
He draws a nine-millimeter from a holster. I’m staring into the darkened barrel, and it fills my thoughts with promises of salvation and eternal rest.
“You got anything to say to me before you die, dick-head?”
I hear glass shatter and the cop’s head jerks forward. He drops to his knees, eyes staring at someplace distant, the automatic dangling at his side..
“Go fuck yourself.” Julie stands with a busted bottle of Seagram’s in her hand.
“Come on,” she says running to the car and jumping in the driver’s seat.
Climbing to my feet, I look at the cop, and smile, “Now who’s the dick-head?” I say and kick the fucker in the face. He flops onto his back. Satisfied, I run to the car and get in.
We drive, and I hear a bullet shatter the rear window.
“Keep your head down!” I shout.
Sitting in the middle of the road, I see it. Grey fur, matted against its body, blood-red eyes glaring at me, and yellow teeth, bared. Dog doesn’t know when to give it up!
“Hit the fucker!” I shout.
“What?” she says, voice rising a decibel.
“Run the bitch down!”
We’re moving too fast and I know I’ll never get another chance to kill this devil-dog. We start to pass it, so I yank the wheel toward the animal. The dog looks like it’s laughing now.
The world spins, turning over and around. I feel my body flung onto the ceiling. Why am I on the ceiling?
I look at Julie. She’s sprawled over the steering wheel, legs pressed under the dashboard, suspended in space. Gravity grabs me and shakes me like an animal shakes its prey in jaws of death. My eyes draw blackness, as my mind is sucked into a dark tunnel.
My eyes flutter open. Body’s numb all over. Warm puffs of air pulse on my right cheek. I seek its source, and smile.
Her warm eyes gaze into mine. I reach for her, but an invisible force restrains every muscle, every fiber, in my quest to touch her face.
Maybelle looks at me, tears in her eyes.
“I’m so sorry for what I did to you. Can you ever forgive me?” I ask.
I know that some things are unforgivable, and I thought that I had sinned too many times to be saved. She licks my forehead, telling me she does.
“Thank you,” I say.
Laying her head upon my chest, I know that everything’s gonna be okay now. Closing my eyes, I smile, and drift to a better place.
X X X X X