Tinkerbell Forgets to Knock

Previously published by Akashic Books. Thanks, guys!

Perry’s 20-foot RV was parked in the gravel drive of a little house with a sagging roof. Plastic deer nestled in the flower beds around it, amongst clumps of zinnias and cracked planters of wilting petunias. Some friends of Perry’s lived there with their ailing grandmother, no doubt appropriating her Social Security checks and pain meds. I’d only met them in passing, a lank-haired woman and her scraggly-mustached boyfriend.

I hated myself for being there, but I parked next to a dirty old Toyota sedan and hauled myself out of the car anyway. Fuck it, I told myself. Are you really trying to be one of those dorks with a clean life and an office job? Who are you kidding? I sank down beneath my guilt and worry, settling back into the comfortable hog-wallow of my ignominy as I mounted the stairs to the RV.

The door rattled when I opened it, and I stepped in. I very nearly fell back out again when I found myself at the end of a pistol.

My breath stopped, and I stood staring at the man holding it, afraid to blink. He was a Hispanic kid in a wife-beater, his head shaved close. He had tattoo scrawled over his neck that I couldn’t read at the moment, since my heartbeat was distorting my eyeballs. His look of panic quickly melted into surprise, and then a leering grin, but the barrel of the gun stayed steady, trained on my solar plexus. It was a solid-looking thing, and gleamed wickedly in the afternoon sun.

I heard Perry’s high cackle coming from the little dining room to my right, but I didn’t dare look at him; I couldn’t take my eyes from those of the man in front of me.

“Don’t worry, Andres, it’s just Gracie,” Perry said. “You should knock before you come in, Gracie.”

Andres smiled lopsidedly. “Gracie, huh?” The gun dipped to rest on the skin between my breasts. I was sweating, and the metal stung where it caressed me. “You’re pretty, Gracie,” he said.

I could feel my heart pounding against the barrel. Was it a .357 Magnum? If he pulled the trigger, my chest would split open like a firecracker. I swallowed hard, trying to breathe.

“She’s my soon-to-be-ex-wife,” Perry said. “How much would you give me for her?”

I clenched my fists, locked in Andres’ gaze. His eyes were green. He snickered. “A few grams, at least.” Then he took the gun away, shoving it in his waistband. “Sorry, Gracie, you just scared the shit out of me.”

“You should knock,” Perry repeated.

I took a breath as Andres sprawled out in the bench seat across the table from my ex, watching me. My legs felt like limp noodles. “C’mere, Grace,” Perry said. “I got a hit for you.”

I wiped my forehead on the sleeve of my work blouse, trembling. You should get the fuck out of here, a voice in my head said. But I ignored it. I was good at ignoring that voice until I was about two seconds from death or serious injury, and his gun was put away now, so it was cool, by my standards.

I shut the door and went over to sit next to Perry. Fumes rose up off the dope he was cooking, and my stomach twisted, bile rising into my throat as I simultaneously got a hot rush of anticipation. He tossed a little nugget of cotton in the spoon and drew a shot through it. I held out my arm, looking away.

Andres grinned at me impishly as Perry prodded around in my scar tissue, trying to find a vein. “You’re his ex, huh? You looking for something new?”

Perry pressed the plunger of the syringe, and ecstasy flooded through my chest, my spine. I took a deep breath and smiled at Andres. “No way, dude, you almost just killed me,” I said, leaning back in the seat.

“I wouldn’t have killed you,” Andres said.

“What do you expect, you come busting in without knocking?” Perry said, pulling the needle out and cleaning it with water, squirting it into the upholstered seat cushions. “Seriously, man, give me three grams, she’s yours.”

“Fuck you,” I said, and Perry let out his high-pitched snicker.

Andres raised his eyebrows at me. “I’ll give you the three grams,” he said.

“I get half,” Perry said, drawing up another shot.

“Fuck all of you,” I said.

Andres looked at me thoughtfully. “You don’t look like a junkie,” he said. “You look like a good girl. Why you do that shit?” He jerked his stubbly chin towards Perry, who was flicking the air bubbles out of the syringe.

I scooted over as Perry propped his foot on the seat, trying to find a vein in his ankle. My eyes fell to the pitted Formica of the tabletop. “Good question,” I muttered.

Perry cackled again. “Gracie looks like a good girl, but in her soul she’s a crazy revolutionary.” He was intent on his task, blood drooling down onto his pale, bony feet from failed attempts at hitting a vein. I looked away at the paneled walls.

Andres grinned lopsidedly. “I like the crazy part.”

I snorted, the dope a warm hum in my brain. “You’re the crazy ones. I’m quitting this shit again.”

Perry laughed.

“Fuck you, I am.” My throat closed up and I blinked back tears that sprang out of nowhere.

Andres’ green eyes found mine, and he smiled. “You will,” he said.

I smiled back.

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