Thursday, December 31, 2009

It’s Like Driving a Car


It’s Like Driving a Car

Jessie and I sit on my front porch every Wednesday night and drink beer. Have since we were fifteen. That’s one advantage to living in a nothing town no one cares much about. Tonight, like every Wednesday for the past three months, after his third Flying Monkey, Jessie starts in. I considered cutting him off at two. I lost my job at the mill; and I’m not sure I’m up to listening to his problems, but I can’t do that to my best friend. Besides, it’s not the beer that loosens his lips. Maddie left him on a Wednesday.

“Fifteen years of marriage, and she just up and ran off.” he says, shaking his head. “And on my thirty-third birthday to boot.”

Jessie stares at the floor and rolls the brown bottle between his hands. The Mets cap rides high on his forehead. A shock of graying brown hair rests on his brow, and a torn shirt pocket hangs in a neat triangle over his heart.

I take a swig of beer and wait for him to continue.

“I always thought it was like driving a car.”

“What was?” I ask.

“Being married.” His eyes follow a spider as it scampers across the wooden floor and through the aisle created by his steel-toed boots. “You know. You strap yourself in, start the engine, and you go where you need to, regardless of the detours along the way.”

“Can’t say I ever thought about it like that.” I’ve known Jessie all my life, and I’ve never seen him without a smile. At least not until Maddie took off with Brad, the insurance guy. She and Brad dated a few times in high school, but then he left for college. Maddie hadn’t seemed interested in him after that.

“Sometimes you get a little lost,” Jessie continues, “but you get back on course eventually. No need to ask directions. You just work it out.” He tilts the bottle to his lips and swallows a couple of times. “Course you need to keep the tank full and the chassis lubed.”

Beer explodes from my mouth and sails over the paint-starved railing. “Geez, Jessie.” I wipe my mouth on my flannel sleeve. “Take it easy. That’s my sister you’re talking about. I don’t need to know about lube jobs.”

“Well, it’s true, ain’t it?”

I rock out of my chair and stand up. “I need to take a leak. Want another one?”

“Not yet.” He rolls the bottle in his hands some more.

“You know, that beer ain’t like a woman.”

He stares at me, a puzzled look on his face.

“It’s better cold,” I say.

He gazes at the bottle for a bit, tilts his head back, gulps down the rest of the amber liquid, and tosses me the empty. “Now that’s something I understand.”

“Yep,” I say and head inside for a couple of fresh ones.

END

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Jim Harrington lives in Huntersville, NC, with his wife and two cats. His stories have appeared in Apollo's Lyre, Camroc Press Review, Every Day Fiction, Bent Pin Quarterly, Long Story Short, MicroHorror, Flashshot and others. He currently serves as a flash fiction editor for Apollo’s Lyre. You can read more of his stories at www.jimharringtononline.net.

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