Faye is standing behind the counter, leaning against a chair, spaced out and eating some chips from a small bag. Behind her the shelves are stocked with different sizes of liquor. A refrigerator is filled with soda and cartons of cigarettes hang in a shelf above the register.
While she stands, doing nothing, her expression is quirky, like she was remembering a funny moment from her past.
Johnni had just finished her purchase, a large bottle of wine from the wooden discount bin near the front of the store and some white-ended cigarettes that were in her jacket pocket. She meandered about the store, stopped by the newspaper rack and was flipping through the latest edition of the local paper. Her small, black jacket fit snug to her frame, accentuating her tiny features and chest. She flipped past the front page of the paper, past the third, scanned over the editorial page, looked at her horoscope, Libra, “Try to improve on communication at work.” She turned to back to the front and put it down on the rack. She hadn’t had a job in just over four years.
When he came in Tasky was more energized than usual, which isn’t really saying too much. He walked directly to the counter as Johnni watched him from the back of the store, glancing between two bottles of Bloody Mary mix.
“How’s it goin’?” he said to Faye. “A pint of black label DP, a pint of vodka and a forty of Miller.”
As Faye shuffled about gathering the items Tasky asked how she’s been and she said fine and told him about a new wine that they got in, which she thought was pretty good and not too sweet. She went on to say how she hadn’t seen “your buddy,” in the store in awhile and talked a little about the weather. He seemed interested in what she had to say which interested Johnni.
He had Faye throw in pack of cigars, the thin kind with plastic tips on the end. After making change and thanking Faye, Tasky gathered his supplies for the afternoon and made his way towards the door. Another woman, this one wearing sunglasses, jeans and sweater, entered the store. She was tall with a thin waist and large, heavy breasts. Tasky stopped, stared and told the woman she had “nice tits”
The woman stopped with a shocked expression and Faye yelled, “Damn it, Tasky” as he opened the door and left.
He walked out into the sun and wind. Johnni gathered herself and quickly followed as Faye apologized to the woman. Tasky was opening the door on his old, dirty Lincoln Mark VIII when Johnni walked outside.
“Hey,” she said, not knowing why. “Where you going?”
“Home. Why?” Tasky said.
She didn’t say anything.
“What. You need a ride or something?” he said.
“Yeah,” she said, walking straight towards the passenger door, trying to open it and realizing it’s locked. “I need a ride.”
Tasky stared at her without a hint of recognition.
He got in and unlocked the doors with a lift of his fingers. He sat his bottles in the back seat and climbed in.She was already sitting in the passenger seat, turned in his direction, with an anxious, appealing look on her face. His frame consumed most of the car and this surprised her. He fired up the engine, which sounded as dirty as the car looked. Besides being sprayed with dust, the back seat was littered with fast food sacks, soda bottles, beer cans, and newspapers.
“Where do you need to go?” he said, like he was more curious than bothered.
“Nowhere really. Where you goin?” she said and then glanced in the back seat. “You goin’ to drink that booze on the road or are you goin’ somewhere?”
“I told you I was goin’ home.”
“Well that’s go there then,” she said. “I’m Johnni. What’s your name? I can’t believe you said that to that women in there.”
“What?” he said. “The one who just came into the store?”
“Well it was true. Did you see them? If you did you would have said it too.”
“I doubt that. I’ve never heard anyone say that to a complete stranger.”
“Is that why you want to go home with me?”
“Maybe. But you shouldn’t drink all that by yourself and I shouldn’t drink all this by myself,” Johnni said, holding up her brown-sacked wine bottle.
“I do it almost everyday,” Tasky said and as he did he wished he could have grabbed the letters as they fell out of his mouth and crammed them down his throat, where they belonged.
“No time now to bicker,” she said and smiled, teeth surprisingly white and lipstick aptly applied. “Let’s go.”
After driving for minutes in silence, she looked at him and studied his expression, which seemed to fade. He paid relatively little attention to her.
“So, is this what you do?” he finally said. “You hang out at the Swizzle Stick and jump into the cars of complete strangers?”
“I find it works better than bars,” Johnni said. “Plus, I’m an early riser, which makes it difficult to, as they say, love the night life.”
Tasky looked at her as if he couldn’t tell if she was serious or not. She gave him a wry smile and reminded him.
“You know, you are going to have to give me ride home later.”