It’s Just Beer (a 200 word story)

He picked up his beer bottle and cried.   Today had been such a rollercoaster.  He closed his eyes and relived their last conversation.


“I can’t believe you bought that,” she said.

He cradled his prize like a baby.  “Why not?” he asked.

“Just put that beer back or I’m going to leave you.”

“But it’s not just a beer.”

“What is it then?”

“Look, it’s in a copper bottle.  See?”  He slightly shook it in front of her face.

“You really want to do this again after the last time?”

“You’re the one wanting to do it again.  I am just getting my beer.”

“I can’t handle this.  It’s become a ridiculous habit.  Look, it’s either the beer or me.”

“Really?”

She placed her balled fists on her hips and cocked her head to the side.  “Do I look like I’m joking?”


He looked at the empty bottle of Sam Adam’s Utopia.  She had left him, but now so did the beer.  Life just wasn’t fair.  He wondered if he could get her back.  He opened his wallet to see if he had the $150 to buy another bottle.  Nothing was there.

“Damn!  Guess I’m back to Pabst Blue Ribbon.”

 

Image: moneyinc.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Sam-Adams-Utopia–750×563.jpg

Apocalypse Mom

This wasn’t her first apocalypse.  Hell, it was at least her third today, but now those around her were freaking out.  Yeah, things looked bad, but after all the stuff she had been through this latest meltdown was nothing.  She pumped her shotgun with one hand and grinned.  Today would either kill her or make her stronger.  It was up to her to find out which.  She threw open the door and the sun blinded her.

She bolted up in bed as the window shade spun.  The stupid thing must have decided to coil up on its own.  She took stock of her situation.  She was relieved that the world wasn’t going to end, but there was something about being a badass that she felt was missing.

Suddenly there was a scream, a crashing of something downstairs, and then someone crying hysterically.  Okay, so this would be her fourth apocalypse today, but she had this.  She just wished she still had the shotgun.

 

Image: cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/3572094950_ba7c27f9b2_b.jpg

Punched Out

As Krista worked the heavy bag, she could feel her knuckles bruising with each blow.  The dull ache helped her focus her mind in the moment.  A quick combo, followed by two left hooks, rocked the bag on its chains.  For Krista it was akin to the sound of church bells.  Here was her sanctuary.  Here was where she felt at one with her universe.  Clark, her trainer and owner of the gym, flashed his fifty cent smile as he headed to the office.  Too bad he didn’t really make any money on this place.  He could afford to buy a better smile.

“What did that bag do to you?” Clark asked as he came back out of the office.

Krista unleashed a furry of short punches before taking a step back, wiping her forehead with the back of her glove.  “It said I was soft,” she said.

Clark shook his head while letting out a cat whistle.  “Girl, nothing soft on you.  Your breasts have more muscles than half the dudes who hang here,” he said.

Krista shook her head.  Only Clark could say something like that.  “Keep that up and I might let them beat you black and blue.”

“No need to get violent with me.  I wasn’t the one who called you soft,” Clark said.  He threw her a towel.  “Take five and rehydrate.  How long have you been here?”

Krista let the towel fall to the floor and started to jab the heavy bag again.  “I got in about five,” she said between punches.

Clark grabbed onto the bag to steady it.  “Good thing I gave you a key.  I was still in la-la land at five,” Clark said.  “And you really should hydrate.  There’s leaving it all on the floor, and then there’s falling to the floor.  But what would I know.  I’m just some dumb washed up fighter.”

Krista stopped and stepped back.  She fixed Clark with a glare.  Clark had once fought for the world title.  Krista couldn’t remember which one since the sport was a proverbial alphabet soup of belts.  Still, Clark kept himself fit, but nowhere near his former chiseled glory.  It went nicely with his silvering hair, but Krista never told him about that.  She wanted to help him live with whatever little lies he needed to get by on a daily basis.  Heaven knows she had her own.  She had way too many of her own.  That’s why the two of them clicked on so many levels.  That and he was a sucker for redheads.

“Who am I to judge?” Krista asked as her glare evaporated into a smirk.  Clark rolled his eyes, but didn’t rise to the bait.

Krista dropped her gloves, walked over to the ancient water cooler, and made it glub-glub-glub as she filled her water bottle.  She quickly emptied it into her stomach and then repeated the ritual.  Clark began to awaken the soul of the gym, spraying down equipment with disinfectant, making sure the weights were where they belonged, and folding the towels that hung in a bag by the front desk.  Krista wanted to do some of it when she got in early as a thank you for getting a key to the place, but Clark refused.  It was his gym, and this was the way he marked his territory.

“So what do you have planned for today?” Clark asked, never looking up from his folding.

“The usual,” Krista said.  “I have to go to the jail to meet a few clients.  Then I have court in the evening.”

“Court for you, or your clients?” Clark asked.

“My clients,” Krista said.  Clark didn’t reply, letting the silence draw out uncomfortably.  Krista finally filled it.  “My case isn’t for another couple of weeks.”

Clark nodded as he placed the towels on their spot.  Every one of them would be dirty and sweaty, discarded because they were dirty and used by the end of the day.  Krista could identify with those towels.

“You know, you could take a vacation till then.  You told me about your little nest egg.  This would be a perfect time to use it,” Clark said.  “Get your mind in a better place before you have to take the stand.”

Why did everyone have an opinion and felt the need to share it?  No one had any idea what they were talking about.  “Sure, drop everything.  Let him win again.  That will solve all my problems,” Krista said as she threw her empty water bottle to the floor.

“Whoa there.  That’s not where I was going,” Clark said.

Krista moved back to the heavy bag and began throwing haymakers for all she was worth.  She could feel her knuckles bleed freely as she smashed the raw flesh against the canvas bag, her gloves forgotten in the pain.  Her punches were sloppy, but she didn’t care.  It would have been easier if she could have seen through the tears.  Even here she couldn’t win.  Clark went back to steadying the bag for her and remained silent.  Krista gave him a point for knowing when he had gone too far.  Every punch seemed to take a bit more of the hurt, pain, and feeling of helplessness out of her till she felt as numb as her spent arms as they fell to her sides.

“Are you done now?” Clark asked.  “Or do you want to try head butting it till you lose consciousness?

Krista growled.  “How dare you?  You have no idea what I am going through.  What he did to me, what his lawyer is going to do to me, it…” She fell silent, unable to summon the words to express herself.  Not a good position to be in as a lawyer.  Another win for him.

Clark folded his arms.  “I might not have been sexually assaulted, but I know what it’s like to get your ass beaten so bad they had to put the pieces back together in an operating room,” he said.  He didn’t let her get a word in, no small feat, as he continued.  “I’ve had to watch my dreams get destroyed as my eye puffed close and there was nothing I could do to stop it because I just wasn’t good enough, or strong enough, or fast enough.  You think I planned on ending up here?  This is the gym for broken and misfit toys.  Why are you here?  Are you a misfit, or broken?”

Krista threw a punch and landed square on Clark’s jaw.  He took it and stood there, daring her to try again.  Another failure.  “You have no idea what it is like, what he did,” she said through gritted teeth.  “Don’t you dare to try to say you’ve been through the same thing.  Not even close.”

Clark nodded.  “You’re right,” he admitted.  “It’s not even close, but what I am trying to say is that I think you’re in the right place.  I just hope that you’re a misfit and not broken.  I don’t have enough superglue to put you back together, but misfit, that is something we can work with.  So which one are you?”

With that Clark held his hand out.  Krista looked at the offered hand and back into Clark’s eyes.  He had tears there just like she had had moments before.  She looked back at those towels.  Every night Clark picked all them up and brought them to a local laundromat to make them clean again.  Every morning he showed them respect by folding them and putting them back in their rightful place.  She realized that was why she was here.

Krista placed her hand into Clark’s.  The man had huge mitts.  “I’m the one who just landed a clean punch to the chin of the former almost champ,” she said.  “You tell me.”

Clark picked up her gloves and helped her slip them back on over her abused knuckles.  “Well we need to work more on your skills, because you didn’t even buckle my knees a teeny bit.  Let’s go back to some basics of how to put your weight behind your punches.”

“Are you calling me fat?” Krista jabbed as she assumed a fighting stance.

“Would that make you stop punching like a girl?” Clark countered.

Krista threw another punch at Clark’s face.

The Same Old

Linda waited while the sales clerk scanned in the bar code on the ring.  Linda looked everywhere but at the register and the clerk.  The clerk looked at the display.  “That will be six thousand forty-three dollars and eighteen cents,” the clerk said.

Linda almost choked, but she hid it well.  “Are there any discounts or sales on it?” she asked.

The clerk smiled a disarming smile.  “I’m afraid this is a popular setting, so we hardly ever have a sale on that particular style.  Sorry,” the clerk said.

“Can you check if there is one coming up?” Linda asked.  “It would make things so much easier.”

“I can check,” the clerk said, “but I really don’t think so.”  He put the ring back into the case and slipped off to the small office behind the counter.

Linda looked around the store, wondering if she should just leave now.  This was a stupid idea.  Of course it was just the latest of a series of stupid ideas.  Linda took a step toward the door and hesitated.

That was the exact moment when the clerk came back.  “There is not a sale coming on, but my manager has agreed to take ten percent off if you buy it today.  What do you say?” he asked.

Linda kept her smile on her lips, but the light behind her eyes slowly dimmed and shimmered behind tears that were just barely held in check.  She turned around to face the clerk taking the ring back out from behind the glass.  He placed it on a silk pillow.  Of course it had to be a silk pillow.  Linda wanted to take the ring and throw the pillow to the ground, jumping on it till it was nothing more than a remnant of a bad dream.

Instead she picked up the ring and held it oh so carefully.  It felt far heavier than it had any reason to do so.  She put it back on her finger and it settled into the indent on her ring finger perfectly.  Well her husband had always the best taste in jewelry.  She couldn’t stop thinking about how natural it looked there, and at the same time how much her stomach turned at that thought.

“So what do you think?” asked the clerk, snapping her attention back to the world at large.

Linda took the ring off.  There were other ways.  She didn’t need to go back to pretending.  She… placed it back on her finger.   “I’ll take it,” she said, her voice sounding hollow even to her.

Back home Linda sat with her cellphone, deleting her history as fast as she could.  The front door closing caused her to start.  She quickly locked her cellphone and walked to the entryway.  Carl was shaking off the snow from his hat before placing it on the top shelf of the closet.  “Hey there, Beautiful, how was your day?” Carl asked.

Linda just held up her hand where the new ring sat upon the old wedding band which had been cleaned to gleam just as much as the new one.  Carl smiled a huge grin.  “You found it!  And it looks so new,” he said.

“Well I got it cleaned at the store.  I wanted them to check it just in case something had loosened,” Linda said.

Carl gave her an awkward quick kiss to her cheek.  “Great idea.  I’m glad you found it.  It cost me a fortune,” he said.  “Oh, next week I’ll be gone again.  Janet needed a partner for that big presentation next week and she called in her best hitter.  Nothing special to me though.  Just the same old, just a different day.”

“Yep, the same old,” Linda repeated to the closet as Carl turned on the TV in the other room.

“Have you got dinner ready?” Carl called out.  “I’m starving.”

Linda looked at the ring again, tears this time escaping her control.  “It’ll be ready in just a minute.  I made your favorite, lasagna,” she said.

She waited for a response that never came before going to the oven to check if the lasagna was still as cold as she felt.

Banshee Ain’t Got Nothing On That

Lifting her voice to near jet engine levels, my five month daughter lets me know with subtle nuance that she is currently unhappy.  To my fatigued brain I begin down my checklist.  Is it time for my wife to stick a breast in my daughter’s mouth?  While that would shut me up, my daughter only cares about when she is hungry, and she ate just an hour ago.  Let’s see if we can distract her with a toy.  Nope, that jet engine now has nothing on her.  Maybe it’s a wet diaper.  Off to change her.  Nope it’s dry.  What is next on the list?  My daughter shoves her pacifier in her mouth and the world begins to right itself on its axis.  Oops, that was just a temporary reprieve as the aural attack commences.  I roll my saving throw and fail, receiving 4d8 mental damage.  I walk around the house and share her boisterous malcontent with the neighbors in attempt to earn sympathy points for why my lawn isn’t mowed yet. As she reaches for yet another gear I try to remember the next item on the list?  Maybe she has gas.  I try to burp her while simultaneously giving her gas drops.  While the gas drops are a hit, the sound of my eardrum trying to cleave itself in two emanates from my daughter once again.  What can I do?  This screaming is turning what little brain I have left into a liquid mass threatening to pour through that split eardrum.  Suddenly a sonic boom burp tears through the air and the world is at peace.  I breathe a sigh of relief as I look into her angelic face.  She is such a perfect little baby.  At least until I try to put her down…