Reeve Stockwell stared out the window of Kitty's shitty Blazer. He wasn't sure he remembered a more difficult night. To his left sat his own crappy beater, and it seemed a lifetime had passed since he'd left it in the park.
"I should go," he whispered, and he heard Kitty sigh in the dark. "My wife's going to kill me," he added.
A few moments of silence ensued.
"Maybe she won't," Kitty commented.
"She will," Stockwell replied.
"Maybe she'll just be glad you're okay," Kitty said.
"I don't think so," Stockwell commented. "Everything I touch turns to absolute shit. It's amazing, Kitty. Absolutely amazing. Did I ever tell you I once blew up my backyard?"
"No," Kitty said.
"Well, I did. I was grilling hamburgers. Seems innocent, right? I couldn't get the damn burners to stay lit. They just wouldn't, so I had this great idea, spray a little lighter fluid. Heck, maybe they're old and worn out, maybe they just need a little help. So, I went to the garage and got it. I sprayed just a little, I swear, this miniscule amount of fluid, and BOOM!"
Stockwell really emphasized his last word, and Kitty jumped and whacked her head on the Chevy's ceiling.
"Sorry," Stockwell mumbled.
"It's okay. At least finish your story."
"Sure. I should have turned on a light. I didn't realize how much I'd sprayed, and the flame came right up the stream, and singed all the hair off my arms. I screeched like a bunch of menopausal women at a Chippendales show, and threw the can of fluid right at the grill."
"Good Lord," Kitty remarked.
Stockwell smiled. "I don't think the Lord was anywhere around that night. People say there's a special God for idiots, but I don't think so. I was on my own."
"Is there more to this story?" Kitty asked.
"Am I 'Reeve Stockwell?' Of course there's more. So, the can hits the half cooked meat with a plop and the damn grill blew up. Just exploded. Meat flew everywhere. I had about a half pounder on there for myself, and suddenly, my wife's rhododendron went up in flames. Seems the old half pounder had landed at the base of the plant, and it was a particularly dry season, and that thing went up like a Singlewide. The appearance of fire seems to act as a 'wife activation system,' and she comes out of the house screaming about how her aunt planted it like a lifetime ago, and her aunt's dead, and the plant is burning like a fraternity bonfire, and she's holding a paring knife with the devil in her eyes."
Stockwell trailed off, as if the memory was too painful.
"What happened next?" Kitty asked softly.
"She chased me through the yard for ten minutes. She finally caught up with me."
"And?" Kitty said.
"She stabbed me."
"Jesus," Kitty whispered.
"She was wild. Kept on stabbing until she just wore out. Thankfully she only hit me twice, but I was bleeding up a storm, and I'm not a big fan of blood, in case you hadn't figured that out about me. I'm not the manliest guy who's ever lived."
"Stop putting yourself down," Kitty said, looking at her boss.
"My life sucks, Kitty," Stockwell said, looking down at his hands.
"Everyone's life sucks," Kitty replied.
"THAT IS NOT TRUE!" Stockwell practically yelled, and Kitty recoiled against the driver's side door. "Sorry," Stockwell mumbled again. "Your turn."
"My turn?" Kitty said.
"Share a story."
"We're bonding, Kitty. This is what people do, especially after an awful night like tonight. They share stories about their lives. They crack open a beer and they tell stories about their lives, and the people around them laugh, or offer a hug or some girlie thing, and they feel less alone."
"We don't have any beer," Kitty said.
"Let's go get some," Stockwell said. His eyes lit up and his voice sounded less listless.
"I am not going into the store like this," Kitty said.
"Let's go to a WalMart," Stockwell said.
"And end up in a YouTube video?" Kitty quipped.
"Aw hell. Let's just go," Stockwell nearly begged.
"Who cares. Maybe someone will steal it."
"Have you looked at it lately?"
"You have a good point. Let's just go," Stockwell nearly demanded.
Kitty turned the key and the Chevy started with a distinguishable groan. Five minutes later, they sat in the WalMart parking lot. Neither seemed inclined to move.
"Rock, paper, scissors," Stockwell said suddenly.
"What?" Kitty said.
"If I win, you go in, and I'll pay," Stockwell offered.
"And if I win?" Kitty asked. "You already owe me bail money."
"I'll go and you can pick what we drink, and....." Stockwell trailed off, seemingly wanting to raise the stakes. "I've got it! I'll wear this Barbie tiara." Stockwell grabbed a pink tiara that sat on the dash of the Chevy's dashboard. It was a reminder of a better time, a time when Kitty had spent more time on stage, and less stalking the aisles of Tommy's Tool Town.
"Deal," Kitty whispered.
Seven minutes later, Stockwell was crossing the parking lot in Tinkerbell sweatpants, wearing the tiara, and carrying a six pack of Woodchuck Cider.
"I'm going to have to leave town after this," Stockwell said, as he climbed into the truck.
"My wife's best friend's kid just rang this up for us."
That did it. Kitty started laughing and couldn't stop.
Stockwell cracked open a cider, took a long pull and gagged. "Dear God, how can you drink this?" he asked.
"It's good," Kitty said.
"If you say so."
The second cider tasted better than the first, and halfway through it, Stockwell reminded Kitty she owed him a story.
"Crap," Kitty whispered.
"You owe me," Stockwell said.
"Okay. I had this one boyfriend...," Kitty began.
"Shut up. Do you want to hear this story or not?"
Stockwell fell silent. Kitty finished off what was left in her bottle. Finally she spoke.
"I fell hard and fast for this guy. He was perfect for me. He loved theater, and all this weird stuff, and he was cute with fabulous hair, and I was in love with him for five years. I was sure we'd get married one day."
"What stopped you?"
"Crap," Stockwell said.
"He had a wife?"
"He did. That wasn't the worst of it, either. It seems he was involved with someone else the entire time he was supposedly divorcing her, and pledging his undying love for me. He is getting married again."
"What's his fiancé's name?"
"Her name is 'no'?"
"No, I am not going to tell you," Kitty said softly.
"I might not."
"So, what's her name?" Stockwell asked again.
"Shit," Stockwell said.
"I know," Kitty whispered.
"No, I mean, shit, here comes cops," Stockwell said, trying to hide the cider.
The officer knocked on the window. "Get out," he demanded.
Stockwell did. Kitty followed.
"You can't drink in the WalMart parking lot. There are open container laws," the officer said.
"We're like the only car," Stockwell said defensively.
"That makes no difference," the officer said.
"We're not hurting anyone," Stockwell said. He could feel three ciders coursing through his veins, and it was almost midnight. He had almost survived the worst night of his entire life. Something in that realization made him reckless, more reckless than usual. "There are rapists, and pedophiles and murderers on the loose, and people who toss bombs into crowds, and kids who shoot babies in schools, and dog fighting rings, and you are seriously going to give us a hard time for having a drink in a truck in WalMart parking lot? Seriously?" Reeve Stockwell's voice rose, and while he had an excellent point, the officer was unmoved by his performance.
"Sir, put your hands behind your back, please," the officer said.
Kitty just stared as Stockwell did as asked.
"You have the right....-"
"To remain silent," Stockwell whispered.
He was still wearing the tiara.