Charleston · Writing

Esquire Fiction Contest Part 3: Never, Ever Bring This Up Again

Girls, don’t you wanna own a bar? Boys, are you scared to bet on football? Well, here’s Part 3 of “Never, Ever Bring This Up Again.” If you missed Part 1, click HERE. If you missed Part 2, click HERE. If you’re caught up, then keep reading…

Never, Ever Bring This Up Again, Part 3

The smell of stale beer almost makes me vomit. The sight of Max hitting on Jessica makes it worse. My skinny bitch employee is fishing for her cell phone in her purse on the bar. Max leans next to her, and he’s doing his move where he acts interested and makes you laugh and it’s all just disgusting, isn’t it?

Outside the open front door, my dog, with jaws that could crush a teenager’s head, nuzzles against King Street’s token homeless celebrity, Byron. I walk past Jessica and Max and into the sunlight.

“Whoa,” I mutter as the sun hits me like a tack hammer between the eyes. “Byron—” I can smell him. Weed, his normal musk, and I suspect he washes his makeshift dreads in tequila every morning.

“What up, girl?” he says, like we’re old friends when, in fact, he stole my dog a couple weeks before and didn’t return for two days.

“What the hell are you doing?” I say, and Max steps up behind me.

“Byron, dude, I told you to stay away from Nolan’s dog.”

“Chill brother, I was just talking to the old boy.”

“He’s not old. He’s two,” I say, not knowing why this ticks me off.

“Byron, just get the hell out of here, man,” Max says, pushing me out of the way like I’m a distressed madam in a western flick.

“Max, I can take care of this.”

“I’m just trying to help,” he says, and I try standing on my tiptoes to be taller.

“I don’t want your help,” I say, when what I mean is I don’t want to believe I’ve fallen in love with you, you stupid little prick. Don’t you realize, I like being alone? Don’t you understand I don’t date? Don’t you know I don’t put myself out there because men are jerks and I’ll just get hurt again, you stupid, short fool? Why the hell did you ruin my life?

Max ignores my assertions, both stated and imagined, and says, “Byron, get the hell away from her dog.”

Byron shrugs. “I get lonely is all,” he says. He walks off down the street, whistling a tune with dreadlocks snake-dancing down his back.

Max turns to me with his hands on his hips and aviators in full force.

“Thanks,” I say.

“Huh?” he asks, because I’ve never thanked him for anything.

“Nolan!” James is in the doorway. There are smudged fingerprints up and down the tinted glass door, and I think about Windex before James says, grinning, “The phone’s for you. Something about a salon?”

“Aw, hell,” Max says, diving for the portable phone in James’ pudgy hand.

It’s easy for me to shove Max in the shoulder and send him tumbling, feet-over-head, onto the pile of discarded cigarette butts outside the bar. Once the man is down, I claw at the phone in James’ hand and run past a confused Jessica, back to my office.

“Yes? Hello?”

“Hello, is this Nolan?” says a voice that is clearly not of this country.

“Yes, this is Nolan.”

“You want his balls waxed?”

I say, “Yes,” and somehow, I feel like this woman knows Max—like we have some shared intention to cause him pain.

“It costs sixty-dollar,” she says, and I can picture her. She’s probably five-foot-two. She has close-cropped black hair. She’s Asian. Has to be. She sounds too sweet to be American.

“Yes, that’s fine,” I say. “Can I get an appointment for today?”

“We have opening at…two?”

“Yes, perfect.” I get the directions, and the salon is in walking distance, albeit in the ghetto. I hang up the phone, and when I turn around, James and Max are both giving me the stink eye.

“Well?” James asks, and I think Max has stopped breathing.

“The appointment’s in a half hour.”

“James, a little help here?”

But James shakes his head, and for that moment, I think James hates Max. “Nope, a bet is a bet,” he says. “Where is this place?”

“Upper King. Off Huger.”

“Oh, yeah, I know that place. Owned by Philippine chicks.” He glances at Max. “Don’t be a smart ass, dude. Nothing worse than a bitchy foreign chick, especially when she’s messin’ with your balls.”

* * *

The END. Part 3. Part 4 and FINAL comes at ya tomorrow.

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