Here is the entire story from my book Vacancy at the Food Court & Other Short Stories
Available on Amazon.
Mika, Tess’s girlfriend, was getting married. A few days before the wedding Tess had gone out with the rest of the wedding party for a night on the town, one last fling before Mika tied the knot. It was Mika’s fault.
Tess and the wedding party had gone to a strip club. Everyone had been drinking. The next morning he was checking fb and found it — a picture of Tess sitting, laughing, enjoying the male dancer grinding himself close to her. That was it. He didn’t even ask if anything had happened between the two of them. She was at work when he first saw the pic. So he did the sensible thing. He blew off work that day. He drank beer after beer. By the time she got home he had emptied an entire case of 24 by himself waiting until she arrived so they could have a little chat.
That’s all he wanted to do was to talk about that night, the night the photo had been taken. After all he was her boyfriend. He had a right to know what happened. He would simply ask and she would tell him. It would all be a misunderstanding and then they would kiss and make up. Plus there would be a good chance he would get laid afterward. It sounded like a fail proof plan to him.
The minute Tess walked in the door; he jumped up off the recliner and got right in her face.
“Did you fuck him?” His eyes bulged.
Tess took a step back. “What are you talking about? You need to back off.”
Pete did. He took a step back and stared at her. Maybe she didn’t know that he knew. Or maybe she figured she could get away with it.
Best to get everything out into the open right now. Once she saw the picture, she had to say something, she couldn’t ignore the evidence.
Pete marched right over to the desktop. It took him three tries to get his password right on his face book account. He was fuming. Finally he got it in and pulled up the damning photo.
“What, you going to tell me to my face that this is not you in the picture?” His eyes grew wider and he never took them away from her as he continued poking at the photo on the screen.
“Pete, are you serious? Hey, how come you’re home early today?” Tess looked at him warily.
“Don’t you dare try to change the subject on me. This has nothing to do with me. It’s you. You did it. You fucked him didn’t you?” He clenched his teeth and stopped poking the screen. The screen wasn’t to blame. She was.
“One of the girls must have snapped the picture. You need to calm down Pete. Right now. Nothing happened. The girls and I went out for Mika’s bachelorette party. We saw a few strippers, had a few drinks. Nothing happened.” She took a step away from him.
“So you did sleep with him. You admit it. How could you?”
“Pete, how much have you had to drink? Are you even listening to me? Nothing happened. I told you, we had a few drinks, had a few laughs, it was a bachelorette party, that’s what women do.”
“That’s the bullshit line you are giving me?”
“It’s not bullshit. It’s the truth. Nothing happened. You need to drop this right now. Let it go.”
SHE walked in to the kitchen and noticed all the empties. She was betting he never even made it to work again today. It was just a matter of time before he lost his job — if he hadn’t already.
“Pete, I thought we agreed to three bottles of beer after work during the week and no more. On the weekends you can drink to your heart’s desire. But during the week you have to be sober enough to go to work. We talked about this.” She waited for him to reply.
That’s when he lost control. He was so angry. Why couldn’t she just admit she had cheated instead of making it seem as though he was the one at fault. He had kept it in his pants. Without thinking, Pete raised his hand and slapped her across the face. Just one slap but it was so hard he knocked Tess right off her feet.
His eyes grew wide as he realized what he had done. He stared at her. She lay flat on her back, eyes as big as saucers.
She stared at him then shouted. “Who are you? You’re not Pete — the alcohol has turned you into someone else. I can’t believe you would ever do something like this. That you would ever lay a hand on me.”
And yet he just had. What should he do? Apologize, help her up, and run? While he stood still trying to figure out what to do, Tess remained on the kitchen floor. She had curled herself up into a fetal position. A minute later, he was still staring at her when he heard her crying. How the hell could this have happened? At that moment there was no way he could face her. So he made yet another mistake. Instead of going to her, saying he was sorry or just holding her close, he bailed.
PETE had never been the jealous type or so he had thought. It seemed pointless to him. If a girl wanted to be with you, she was with you. If she didn’t, that was fine and he would find someone else. There was always plenty of fish in the sea.
He wished he could take back what he done. Perhaps if he could, none of this would be happening right now. Of course he wasn’t blaming her. It was his fault. He had screwed up. Now he was single and on the fast track to becoming an unemployed alcoholic. Fuck. What did it matter anyway? It’s not like he had much to live for.
Just a few months ago life had been good. No, actually life had been great. Money was coming in. Things were going good with Tess. In fact he had started thinking about marriage. Very unlike him, he always figured he would remain a lifelong bachelor. But believe it or not, after sleeping around and never having a woman on his arm to go to various events with, it became a little too monotonous for his liking. Not to mention his mother. For the last freaking decade she had been begging him to find a nice girl to settle down with. At that time, “settle down with someone” meant a boring, routine life. There was no way he could live like that. Or so he had thought.
THEY had met at a coffee shop he had frequented over a dozen times. One day he ordered his coffee and looked up to see her. Tess. She was beautiful. He was six feet and she was just a couple inches shorter than him. With gorgeous blue eyes, short blonde hair, too short even for a pony tail, she looked sexy and from what he could see she had a great body. She must be new because he had never seen her before.
Her smile melted his heart and he couldn’t stop thinking about her. So instead of just asking her out like he had with all the other women he wanted to get his hands on, he decided to keep dropping by the coffee shop. She was only a woman for cripes sake. Of course he always bought coffee.
Finally one day, she teased him because he kept coming back to see her on purpose. He surprised himself when he admitted it was true. He invited her out to his favourite pasta place for dinner. Afterward, they continued seeing each other a few times a week. Eventually she invited him to move in.
Tess wasn’t like other girls. She didn’t bug him about where he was going, who he would be with and when he would be back. He came and went as he pleased. Most of the time he would stay home with her because he realized he actually wanted to. A foreign feeling but he liked it.
HE wasn’t sure how long he’d been sitting in the parking lot. No one had bothered him yet so this was good. After all he wasn’t bugging anyone. He was just trying to pull his thoughts together. Trying to make sense of what happened. He had a brand new 24 pack of Molson Canadian to help cheer him up later back at his mother’s.
As he sat in the driver’s seat, a few crows landed a couple metres away from his truck. He peered out the window to get a better look. They were interested in bread crumbs or something. He watched them for a few more minutes. All of a sudden the crows became intriguing.
Now they were making more of a racket. Hey, there were more of them now, the numbers kept growing. He counted eleven of them in all. Whatever was on the ground must be addictive as they couldn’t seem to get enough. Pete can relate. He felt the same way when it came to beer which gave him what he needed. He wanted to get closer and see what all the fuss was about. He stepped out of the truck and shut the door as quietly as possible. He didn’t want to scare them away.
Leaning back on the truck he pulled out a pack of Paul Mall’s and lit one up. He had quit smoking over a year ago, but this thing with Tess had driven him back to it. Beers and cigarettes helped calm his nerves.
It seemed like two of the crows were arguing about something. Strange, what the hell did crows have to argue about? They had it pretty good. They didn’t have to pay for anything; they always had a place to live. Plus they didn’t have to live with their mother if they got kicked out of their girlfriend’s place.
DAMN he wanted a drink. But there was no way he would chance getting picked up by the police for drinking and driving. Truth was he wasn’t completely sober just now but he could fake it if he had to. Now on the other hand if the cops caught him actually drinking a beer, well there wouldn’t be too much to argue about. Best to keep smoking and figure out what the hell happened to his life. And the crows. The two of them were still yakking at each other. Come to think of it, it seemed as if the pair of crows had moved about a foot away from the rest of the pack.
Pete inched closer to the crows. Surprisingly they didn’t budge. The two arguing seemed to have quieted down now but were still separated from the rest of the group. Funny, as he lit another cigarette, it seemed to him the two of them were staring at him. He shook his head back and forth. How pathetic. His life had come down to this. Half tanked, smoking a cig, alone in a parking lot analyzing the behaviour of crows. Good thing Tess couldn’t see him now, she would laugh. It would be embarrassing as hell.
THE crows were his friends now. Nice and quiet, they weren’t judging him. He lit another cigarette. The parking lot was nearly empty. All the stores along the strip were getting ready to lock up for the night.
Pete was a coward. He had left her crying on the kitchen floor and ran. Not sure what he should do, he had driven to a bar and downed a few more drinks then passed out on a buddy’s couch.
Yep, the crows were staring at him. Not just the original two either. Although now he wasn’t sure which were the original two. All the crows had gathered into a circle. Strange for sure. Most likely this was a hallucination brought on by the alcohol. A couple more steps away from the truck and he was practically right beside the crow crew. The crow crew, hey, now that had a nice ring to it. Maybe once he got a few things sorted out and back on his feet he would be able to get his own little business up and running. The name would be perfect. Perhaps he should write it down. Nah, he’d remember something cool like that for sure.
Being around the crows was relaxing. In fact he felt quite content and decided to sit down on the cement. All the shops were now closed and not a single vehicle remained in the parking lot, save for his. He sat beside the crows, crossed his legs and just watched them.
It sounded like they were talking to each other. What were they saying? Perhaps they were making fun of him thinking he was a loser or something. He leaned in closer but that didn’t help either. He still didn’t understand what the hell they were saying or even if they were talking about him. But honestly they probably were. They were mumbling. Just like Tess used to mumble. Tess. It was all her fault he was in this mess.
PETE took a couple deep breaths in and out. He had to be imagining this. Everything would be okay. Surely this was a nightmare. Soon he would open his eyes and Tess would be naked and snuggling up to him with that cute little smile of hers.
But no, he was still alone in a parking lot. Now it seemed as though he was surrounded by crows. In fact, as he looked from side to side he noticed the crows were circling in around him. When the hell had that happened?
He was in the middle of the circle and the crows surrounded him. Kind of freaky. Perhaps it would be best if he got up, got back into the truck and drove off. He had no idea where he would go. But staying put didn’t seem like a good idea just now.
As he placed his right hand on the ground to give him some support to get up, a couple of crows came over and started pecking at his hand. He lifted his hand off the ground quickly. Fuck! It hurt. Pesky buggers. A few more came around and started pecking at his knees. He tried kicking them away. Two of the crows were doing something with their wings. Some different kind of movement. Perhaps it was some sort of SOS call sign. Seriously this shit was getting weird. Once he got back to the truck he would have to double check and see what the hell he had been drinking.
Another crow flew just above his head; it was so close he felt his hair move. But the crow did it again and again. He started waving his arms around stupidly in the air to get them off. Not only did the crows refuse to leave him alone but they made him lose his balance. He fell flat on his back on the concrete in the middle of the parking lot.
Was it his imagination or were there even more crows now? No way, it couldn’t be. No, he was right, he tried sitting up but couldn’t. His energy felt zapped and his back was tender. He saw more crows coming, flying close and swooping down to the ground. They just kept coming. Wait until he told Tess about this! She would never believe him. Oh yeah, he had nearly forgotten. This was all her fault.
Again he tried sitting up but couldn’t. He remained flat on his back on the concrete. They were many, many crows now. They kept moving so they were hard to count. Probably at least three dozen. Slowly they started creeping in, surrounding him; they were at his feet, his head, his arms, his legs. There was even one sitting on his stomach.
All of a sudden they started pecking at him. It hurt, he tried to fling them off but they wouldn’t budge. Fuck, it hurt! He screamed and screamed. No one could hear him though, the parking lot was deserted. It was just him and the crows and they were doing whatever they wanted. What the heck did they want with him? He was just a pathetic loser.
They kept pecking and pecking and pecking. His clothes started tearing. He could see patches of blood here and there. He kept hollering and hollering but they didn’t stop and no one came. Several times he tried getting up but couldn’t. He was trapped. He was being pecked alive by crows. This had to be a really bad fucking nightmare.
Tess. It was her fault. What had she done this time? It didn’t matter. He would deal with her later. It was time to wake up. It was time to start taking a good look at things. Perhaps it was even time to back off the booze, just a smidge. Surely, it would make a difference.
More crows gathered. They just kept coming. As more arrived the more pecking they could do. They were going to keep pecking and pecking until he was dead. By that time most of his clothes would be torn off. Just his pale white flesh would be exposed. His body would feed them for a while.
An hour later he stopped moving. He was gone. But they continued the incessant pecking. The two crows, that had originally started the altercation, had come to an agreement. There was enough to go around for everyone. It was stupid to fight over something like this. There would be other opportunities but for this one, they would share the honour.
Suddenly all the crows stopped pecking and turned in the direction of Pete’s face. The two fighting crows were by his head. There was one on his left and another on his right side. The rest of the crows watched. Who would be the leader? To their surprise, at the same time, both fighting crows made a move. Both went for his eyeballs and both succeeded. The others were surprised. Usually they had one leader, not two, but this was definitely an extraordinary feat.
Each fighting crow held one of Pete’s eyeballs inside its mouth. They bobbed around in a circle making their victory known to all the others. After three rounds of circling, the two leaders flew off. The other crows waited a minute and took off, following behind them.
Both fighting crows dropped the eye at the same time. One eyeball landed on the street and kept rolling slower and slower until it came to a complete stop. The other eyeball hit a poor old lady on top of the head, bounced off and landed on the ground. She had been out walking her toy poodle. As she felt something on her head, she looked around. What the hell hit her? She touched her hair gently and let out a sigh of relief. Thank heavens she wasn’t covered in bird shit. She had had her hair done at the salon that very morning.