Heads I Win, Tails She LosesbyTx Tall Tales©
Some things are better left to chance.
A short little tale of a price paid for infidelity.
"You're in here early today, Jack. What'll it be?"
Jack took out the worn silver dollar and flipped it in the air. "Heads."
Gina, behind the bar, grinned. "Maker's 46, coming right up."
Jack was a good guy. She gave him a generous pour, and placed it in front of him. She turned to the rear counter, and held up two bowls, pretzels in one, and Spanish peanuts in the other. She watched him flip the coin again, once more wondering about this idiosyncrasy of his. "Tails."
She placed the peanuts in front of him, and leaned against the bar. "How much longer is this crazy experiment of yours going to go on?" she asked.
"Actually, this may well be the last day."
Gina didn't know whether to be pleased or sorry. When he'd started appearing in the bar a couple of weeks earlier, flipping that damned coin, she'd wondered if he was nuts. Didn't take her long to realize he was a bright guy, comfortable to talk to, easy on the eyes, with a good sense of humor. It was the underlying aura of sadness that got to her. Not that she didn't see that often enough in her line of work, but for some reason this guy got to her.
"That gonna be the end of your visits?" she asked.
He grinned. "That would be kind of foolish, wouldn't it? I'm just getting to know you." She was surprised at the sparkle in his eye, and the flirtatious tone. Whatever was bothering him, must be getting better.
"Good. You have no idea how hard it is to break in a good regular," she teased. "What's with the tablet?"
He had his Android tablet open, watching some type of video. She couldn't make out what it was, but he seemed awfully intent on it. "Got a rodent problem at home. Trying to take care of it," he answered. Again, that gleam in his eye. He was enjoying something.
"Exterminator?" she asked.
"Not sure yet." He flipped his coin, and she watched him grin, before pressing something on his screen. "Heads, today's the day! You got the time, Gina?"
"And the place," she joked. "It's 3:45. You were a good 20 minutes early, today."
"Perfect. Any chance you can get Marty to cook me up that Murder Burger you keep warning me about?"
"You got it, handsome. Only one a week you understand. After the first one you're gonna be begging me, but I won't be responsible for your heart attack."
"Then you best stop wearing jeans that tight," Jack answered, ducking a crumpled napkin thrown his way from the grinning barkeep.
Jack looked around the bar, observing the small crowd. Only six people all told. He held his credit card up catching Gina's attention. "I feel like celebrating, gorgeous. Drinks all around, on me. You and Marty included."
That surprised her. He was a loner. Didn't talk to anybody except her, and Marty on occasion. She took his card and swiped it, then reached overhead and rang the old brass bell, catching everyone's attention. "Free drink to anyone who wants one. Courtesy of my good friend Jack..."
"Atkins," Jack said.
"Courtesy of Jack Atkins," she said.
* * *
Lauren closed her eyes, and turned her head slightly. She breathed through her mouth so she wouldn't have to smell the acrid sweat from the bastard's body. Even the half dozen scented candles she had arrayed around the bedroom couldn't neutralize his stench. She made all the appropriate noises, urging him on, trying to get him to finish.
It wasn't horrible. Five years ago when they'd been in college it had been alright. But things were different then. Now, she wished she could be anywhere but there, beneath him, but that wasn't in the cards. No, she'd put up with it for a little while longer. She'd pay for his continued silence, with her body, if that's what it took. He would be gone in less than two months, back overseas, and she could deal with it until then. The first time, almost six weeks ago had been the hardest, but she was becoming inured to it.
"Pound me, baby. That feels so good. Give it to me," she pleaded.
Doug thrust into her, gazing down at the beauty below him. "That's right," he growled, driving into her. "You know you missed this. Nobody could ever do you like me."
"Only you, Dougie," she said, adding a moan for effect. "Come for me."
Not for the first time, she wondered if she was making the right choice. He swore this would be the last, and she'd never hear from him again. Of course, that's what the bastard had said almost five years ago.
* * *
"Last chance to change your mind," Jack mumbled to himself.
"What was that?" Gina asked, sliding the massive bacon infused cheeseburger in front of him. A pound of ground chuck, 8 slices of thick cut bacon, 4 slices of pepper-jack cheese, two fried eggs, and a dollop of chili. More than 24 oz of burger decadence ensconced in a plate sized bun.
"Nothing," Jack said. "This is too big for any one human to eat. You want some?"
She laughed. "Right. I work damn hard to fit into these jeans, which I can't help notice you appreciate. Eating that would have me wearing a Mu-mu."
"One bite. I'm sure you can think up some exercise to work it off." Jack cut the burger in half. He glanced at the streaming video, reached over and pressed the blinking button. He laughed, picked up the burger, and took a huge bite, watching the antics on the screen.
Gina leaned back and observed him, wondering where the change had come from.
* * *
"What was that?" Lauren asked loudly, pushing at Doug and trying to sit up. She could swear she'd heard a door slam.
Doug kept screwing her. "I didn't hear nothin'."
"Luuucy, I'm home!
"Oh, God! He's here!" Lauren squealed, trying to push the idiot off of her.
"So what?" Doug said. "What's he gonna do about it?"
"Get dressed you fucking idiot! He'll kill us! The guys got more guns than the entire Canadian Army."
"Surprise, Honey! her husband's drunken voice sounded loudly just outside the door. The distinctive sound of a shotgun pumping preceded his next words. I got a present for you and lover-boy!
Doug leaped off of her, his legs tangling in the sheet, and fell off the bed, on his face. He grabbed for his pants. The explosion of a shotgun blast sounded like it was right beside them. "Fuck!" Doug, screamed. He scrambled to the window and tried it, but it wouldn't budge.
"Open it, you idiot!" Lauren hissed at him. "Hurry!"
Another pump of the shotgun, was heard, followed by a door pounding. You've got five seconds to open that door. If you do, I'll only kill one of you. The laughter sounded demented. Heads, baby. I win. Make sure you stand clear of lover-boy.
Doug wrapped the pants around his hand and hit the glass as hard as he could, shattering it.
"Go, go, go!" Lauren screamed, while Doug tried to clear out the jagged shards, and the house alarms started going off, a piercing siren. Shit, just what they needed.
"GO!" Lauren, yelled, pushing Doug hard from behind, sending him tumbling through the second story window. She turned around to see if her husband was walking through the door as she crawled through the opening.
* * *
Gina watched Jack chuckling, as he flipped the coin. "Heads," he said, looking up at her.
"No." He hesitated before the dual buttons on the screen. This was a pretty radical choice, but so far, leaving things to chance hadn't let him down yet. Not like his normal choices.
"You're fired," he chuckled. "Whoosh!"
* * *
Lauren saw the flames crawling up both sets of curtains, bracketing the window. Had the candles fallen over?
One! Ready or not, here I come!
She scrambled through the window, cutting her hand and leg on the way out. She jumped outward, trying to clear the landscaping below. She hit the ground hard, and felt a sharp pain in her ankle.
She was immediately soaked. Damn it! The sprinklers were on! Why were the sprinklers on? She looked for Doug, and saw him trying to climb out of the huge rose bushes, whimpering as he struggled to push the branches aside. The damn bush must have been six feet tall. She should have trimmed it herself, when her demands to deal with the overgrown shrubbery had been ignored. She should have known something was wrong then. Her husband had been in a sour mood for weeks. She assumed it was work. Now she was certain he'd found them out.
She turned away from the house, and almost fainted. The school bus was at the corner, unloading the kids. Everyone was looking their way.
She was naked.
With a squeal she turned and looked for a place to hide. She painfully ran to the garage, where both their cars were carefully parked, away from prying eyes. She entered the code in the outside remote three times, before she realized he must have changed it. "Fuck!" she groaned.
Doug was standing beside her bleeding from a thousand cuts and scrapes, one hand covering his crotch, the other covering his butt. Damn, there was a lot of blood.
"Open it, you stupid bitch!" Doug snapped.
"The code's been change, asshole!" she replied. She ran to the back yard gate, and tugged on the handle. Son-of-a-bitch. It was padlocked on the inside. The fence was eight feet tall and almost impossible to climb. They'd made sure of that when they had the pool installed, so they wouldn't get backyard trespassers.
Lauren looked back at the house, and stared in shock. The entire upstairs looked to be on fire. They'd made it out the window, but he must still be inside!
She turned back to the street, seeing her neighbors watching. Martha, from across the street was standing on her sidewalk, filming them with her iPhone. Lauren limped toward her, and grabbed the phone from her startled neighbor's hand.
* * *
Jack was surprised to hear his phone ring. He picked it up. "Jack Atkins."
"Baby! I'm so sorry. You gotta get out of the house. Get out now. It's on fire. Hide the gun, we won't say nothing. You gotta get out now."
"Calm down, Lauren. What's the problem?"
"Listen Jack! Get out of the house. The bedroom's on fire. You've got to get out. Do something with the shotgun. I'll deny everything about it, but I don't know what this bastard will do, so you gotta dump it. Go, go, go!"
Jack hit the camera selector and zoomed in on her, limping up and down their driveway nervously, her hand covering the phone as she spoke.
"I'm not in the house, honey," Jack explained carefully.
"God Damn it, Jack! I don't know what you think you're pulling, but there's no time for this. I can hear the sirens coming already. Leave through the Simmons' back yard, but dump the shotgun, and don't come through the front! Do you hear me?"
Jack stared at the coin in his hand. He didn't have a choice prepared for this eventuality. "Alright, honey. I'm out of the house."
He heard her sob. "Thank God. Now go. Hurry. I... I'm sorry, Jack. I never meant for any of this to happen. I love you."
* * *
Lauren looked at the architect of her troubles, squatting behind the holly bush beside the garage. Someone was holding a jacket over her shoulders, and she turned to see Cindy from two doors down standing over her.
"Cover up, Lauren," the dizzy blonde whispered softly. "Don't let them see you like this."
Lauren saw the fire truck pulling up, a police cruiser right behind it. She felt the tears well up in her eyes, and looked into her neighbor's concerned face. She reached an arm out and slid it into the windbreaker, then put her arm in the other sleeve, before buttoning the front. It was way too large, thank God, reaching halfway down her thighs.
"Thank you," she whispered.
Cindy put her arm around her, giving her a hug. "It'll be Ok," she said.
Lauren gave a pained chuckle. "I don't think so, Cindy. Not every again. But thanks anyway."
They both stepped back out of the way, toward the sidewalk, as the firemen poured out of their vehicle, two of them putting the hose into play, shooting a powerful stream of water into her bedroom, while a couple more broke through her front door to get into the house.
* * *
Gina leaned over the bar, and watched the scene play out on his tablet. Firemen were swarming around a house, while a naked, blood covered man was being escorted away from the camera. "What show are you watching? Is this live news?"
Jack chuckled. "Reality TV." He closed the tablet, and looked up at her. He flipped his coin. "Tails."
* * *
By 7:30, the bar had a good sized crowd. Gina was concerned for her new favorite regular. He'd been in such a good mood for the first time since he'd started frequenting the place, but now he was back to his quiet ways, working on his fifth drink, a Harp again. Everything was wrong. He never stayed more than an hour or so, sipping his two drinks before disappearing. She was glad he'd eaten the burger. It would soak up some of the booze.
The noise level in the bar dropped to nothing, and she looked around to see what had happened. A disheveled brunette was standing in the open doorway, looking around. The young woman peered Gina's way and started walking over, limping badly. She looked a right mess, barefoot, legs coated with rivulets of dried blood, bandages on her thigh, shin and arm. She was wearing a dark blue lightweight jacket, and not much else from the look of things. Seriously smeared makeup indicated she'd been crying.
The crowd next to the bar parted as she walked over. Jack got up from his seat, and offered it to her.
"How long have you been here?" the woman asked.
Jack turned toward Gina. "What time did I get here?"
"Around 3:40. Remember?"
The woman looked toward Gina. "And he's been here the whole time?"
Gina nodded. "Don't think he's left that seat once. I was beginning to wonder if he had a bladder the size of Lake Michigan."
Jack walked down the bar and grabbed the only empty stool, and carried it back, placing it beside the woman's. "How rude of me. Gina, this is my ex-wife Lauren. Lauren, this is the best bartender in the city, Gina."
Lauren just stared at her husband. "How?"
He shrugged. "Does it matter?"
She shook her head. "I guess not. Can you tell me why?"
"You know why. Besides, I should be asking you that question."
He expected anger, but all he saw was sadness. "I guess that's fair," she said. "Would you buy your 'ex' a drink? I seem to have left my purse somewhere."
She chuckled sadly. "I think I could use something a little stronger."
"Heads, Adios Motherfucker. Tails, a Zombie?" Jack sneered.
Gina spoke up. "Can I make a suggestion?"
Both turned toward her, expectantly.
"How about a Bastard on the Beach?" Gina said.
"You don't have anything called a 'Stupid Bitch Who Probably Deserves What She Has Coming' do you?" Lauren asked.
Gina laughed. "That would be a Lindsay Lohan - a Red Headed Slut with a splash of coke. But you're not a redhead."
"Bastard on the Beach will be fine for her," Jack said. "I'll take Screaming Sex with the Bartender."
Gina gave him a grin. "Kind of fu-fu for a bourbon drinker." She turned and started preparing the drinks.
Lauren reached across and grabbed Jack's half-full glass of Harp. She chugged it down. "What do you want to know, Jack?"
"Why? Why would you cheat on me? I thought what we had was perfect."
"Blackmail." She said it calmly, without expression.
"How? How could he blackmail you? And why wouldn't you just tell me, and let me deal with it?"
Lauren brushed her hair back, self-consciously. "I did some really stupid things in college. Really stupid. Experimented with drugs, to start with. That led to even stupider things."
"You? You don't even drink or smoke," Jack said.
"Not anymore. Not after what happened."
Gina leaned in. "Bastard on the Beach part I. The Suffering Bastard." She pushed the drink toward Lauren, who took a long sip.
"What happened?" Jack asked.
"A very dirty video. Shameful. Disgusting. Me, another girl, and a room full of guys. I was completely out of it, and don't remember the occasion at all, but it was definitely me. I do remember the hospital stay afterward."
"You still could have told me. It was before we were married. I wouldn't hold it against you."
She shrugged. "Maybe you wouldn't. How about my work? My family? Your family? Our friends? Our church?"
"You're kidding, right?"
"Not at all. Debbie, the other girl found out the hard way."
"Screaming Sex With A Bartender," Gina announce, pushing the orange colored drink in the hurricane glass toward Jack. "Just a hint, Jack. No bartender in her right mind would scream for a man who drinks anything that fruity."
He chuckled. "Sorry, Gina. I couldn't help myself. I always wanted to order one of those." He flipped his coin. "Heads."
She grinned. "That's more like it. Maker's 46. After your companion gets The Bastard Part II."
Jack turned back to his wife. "You still should have told me, Lauren. I don't know what we could have done, but we could have worked it out together."
She drained the last of her Suffering Bastard. "It was only going to be once a week for less than three months. Then he swore it would be over. I was stupid, and scared. I didn't want to lose you. You're the best thing that ever happened to me."
"You should have told me," Jack insisted.
She lowered her head. "I know. I'm sorry. You'll never have any idea how sorry I am. I... I didn't know what to do. It all happened so fast. The first time he insisted I do it right then, or he'd send the DVD out to everyone. Post it online. The works. So I did it. I hated every minute of it, but I did it. Once I'd gone that far, I figured it was too late. A few months, and it would all be over. I'm not very smart, am I?"
"Dying Bastard. Why don't you put him out of his misery?" Gina said, taking the empty glass and replacing it with the new drink."
"I'm sensing a theme here," Lauren said.
Jack leaned closer to her. "No. It wasn't very smart at all. We're supposed to be a team, Lauren. I would have stood by you no matter what. After the first time, you should have come to me."
"I know. God, don't you think I know, Jack? It's too late now. I'm sure everyone we know will be getting a copy soon. I imagine Doug is not very happy with me."
"Why did you call me, Lauren? I threatened your life. You and your lover."
"Please don't, Jack. Don't call him that. There was no love. You have to believe me."
Jack nodded. "Alright. I threatened you and your blackmailer. Why did you call me?"
"I couldn't let you get hurt. None of it was your fault. I knew you were hurting. You were drinking, acting morose. You hadn't touched me in weeks. I wanted to fall into your arms and explain everything, but all I could think was just a few more weeks, and it would all be over. I could spend the rest of my life making it up to you. No, I couldn't let you get hurt or get in trouble, over my screw-up." She sipped on her drink, making a face.
"Maker's 46," Gina said, pushing the bourbon toward Jack. "You gonna drink this thing?" She asked, lifting the orange colored concoction in front of him.
"I think I'll pass," Jack said.
Gina smiled. "I was off the clock 1/2 an hour ago when Angela got here. Mind if I have it?"
"Please, be my guest."
Gina leaned forward, sipping on her drink, shamelessly eavesdropping on the odd couple in front of her.
"I don't suppose there's any chance for us now, is there?" Lauren asked anxiously.
"You fucked another man in our home. In our bed. For months. You hid it from me, made me an unknowing cuckold. You treated me like crap for a month, a complete basket-case. No, I don't think there's much left of our marriage."