Powder Burn Flash #373 - Melody Clayton
by Melody Clayton
I had to give that slick motherfucker credit. Ernie did a real swell job of convincing the parole board that I’d be returned to a loving, stable, home life with all our past criminal activity far behind us. But we both knew it wouldn’t work out. I couldn’t have him putting my forgiveness on layaway, paying my “post-release supervision” fees like some folks pay for cable television. Course, the burden to please would fall on me cause if I stepped out of line at all, Ernie had the power to send me right back to prison to finish my sentence.
When I walked through the gates I could see him in the parking lot, leaning against a shiny new red Volks Wagon; the asphalt around his nice leather shoes littered with cigarette butts. He was nervous, fidgeting with his lighter. He’d put extra effort into his looks, wearing a navy blue suit and more hair gel than he usually wore on visitation days. He smiled at me in a tired sort of way I’d become familiar with at visitations. Nearly once a month for seven years we sat facing each other, not allowed to touch except to hug hello and goodbye. We hadn’t been alone, able to talk to each other without a room filled with other voices in years. And now here we stood in a wide open space, in a quiet parking lot, free to hug as long as we wanted. But we didn’t have a hugging type relationship no more. That part of our lives ended a long time ago.
He stomped out his cigarette. “Want something to eat? You hungry? There’s a KFC not far from here.”
“No. They just gave us lunch.”
Ernie was never the type to talk just to be talking. He’d let silences ride as long as it needed to. Sometimes too long. We got into the car. I’d been dreading the ride the most. The space felt too tight, the air too cold, the silence too loud.
He jams the gas and before long we’re a few miles from the prison in some backwoods town. I see the sign for the motel right where Dana said it would be.
“Let’s get a room. I’d love to have a shower and change before I go home. You brought my clothes right?”
He hesitates but pulls into the motel parking lot. “Sure.”
“Push up bra?”
“I’ve missed those.”
We watched a shirtless man with a pasty white beer gut scrub the moldy sides of an empty pool. After a few minutes I say, “This ain’t about sex. I just want a shower.”
“Sure. No problem.”
We head for the front office, a little glassed in shack that smelled like gasoline and burnt coffee. A plump young girl wearing dark red lipstick and silver eyeliner smiles when we come in. Ernie takes out his credit card.
“Cash only,” she says. She gives me a wink, smacks her gum.
Ernie puts away the card, unfolds a few bills and hands them to her. She gives us the key for room three. “No change?”
“What a dump.”
“I’ll let management know.” She goes back to watching some game show on a little TV by the phone.
The room is simple, more functional than attractive; pretty much the same way I reckon Ernie was thinking about me. I closed the curtains and turned on the lamp. Ernie sat on the foot of the bed and took off his shoes.
“Ernie,” I said, unbuttoning my top. I wanted to see how he’d handle suppressing his unease. “Remember the time we fucked in that old house on Maco road? The one in the cornfield behind your Mama’s?”
He was picking at his fingernails. He lit a cigarette. “Yeah. We didn’t call it fucking back then.”
“Yeah. We were stupid.” I threw my shirt on the bed, slipped my shoes and jeans off. I stood there in my dingy underwear watching him look and not look.
“That’s the night you said you’d love me forever. Stupid kid stuff.”
“I’m still here ain’t I?”
I walked over to the closet. There, hanging from a hanger was the plastic bag they leave for dirty clothes, only this one had a gun in it. I said, “Yeah, you are. Ernie? You remember how you cheated on me with that skinny bitch over in Johnston City? Oh you know. The one I went to prison for murdering on account of you.”
“Let’s not talk about it. You know I didn’t mean to kill that woman. I’ll make it up to you.”
Ernie was always having to make stuff up to me.
I put the gun behind my back until I was near him on the bed. Then I shoved the gun right in his face. I’d thought of having sex with him first, one last time for old time sake. I had loved the guy. He’d been my first true love but my first real betrayal too. When I threw myself at him, trying to get him interested in me, he was having an issue getting it up and I lost my patience. I went ahead and shot the scumbag. Sure I cried. I laughed some too. Then I called the front desk.
“It’s done,” I said.
The receptionist and two other women who couldn’t speak English came in with plastic shower curtain liners. They wrapped Ernie up while I took a hot shower. Cleanest I ever felt.
I put on the clothes Ernie had packed for me and gave my dirty prison clothes over to one of the girls. “Keep your friends close but your enemies in a bag in the trunk. No habla?” I said.
I slammed the trunk to the VolksWagon, gave the girl back the room key, some money, and Ernie’s leather shoes, his watch and wedding ring to pawn.
I headed down the interstate, ready to help Dana deal with her post-release supervisor.
BIO:I am a North Carolina writer, currently working on my first novel. My recent short stories have appeared in Needle Magazine, Pedestal, Short Fast and Deadly, as well as the anthology Dark Things II. Visit my website for more info at www.melclayton.wordpress.com