The First Time I Killed a Man

Don’t be nervous…. Jeez. The title is a prompt from a book, 642 Things to Write About by the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. It’s an awful catchy title. It certainly grabs your attention! The point of these fun prompts is to get you writing. So let me begin.

The first time I killed a man I had few regrets. Sitting in a smoke-filled bar, I luxuriated in my outback location where the act of smoking indoors was not forbidden, at least not when the owner was on site with his buddies. I felt sorry for all the chumps who elsewhere stood outside to get their fix as they sucked the sweet nicotine into their eager lungs.

I caught the bartender’s eye and tapped the counter with my finger. He gave me a lingering look. Appraising my sobriety? I’d been in the bar for hours. But wasn’t drinking the point of sitting in a joint that dispensed liquor? Why should he care how much I’d consumed? The man was new to the place, I’d never seen him before.

He brought me the white Russian—with skim milk. “You live around here?” he asked.

I leaned down over the drink and sipped it from the counter without lifting the glass. While down there, sucking on my small red straw, I squinted up at the man and got an unpleasant look up into his hairy nostrils. Maybe I’d kill him next.

“You ever think about grooming that nose hair?” I asked.

His eyes got wide, and he smacked his tongue from his top teeth as if to dislodge something stuck there. He walked away, possibly pissed.

That’s okay, I’ll tip him well. Maybe that would teach him that he shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and to keep his damn opinions to himself. Just pour the drinks, Bubba.

I swirled the drink and glanced at my phone which vibrated face down on the bar. I turned it over. It was George, my long-suffering husband. “Where are you?”

I brought my face down to the glass again and took another sip and considered my response. I’d been gone for hours and I hadn’t left a note, or any semblance of a prepared dinner for the man to eat. He was probably more hungry than pissed. He rarely checked on my whereabouts. It was easier on our relationship that way.

I lifted my phone and texted back. “At Martini’s getting drunk.”

I waited, mildly curious what he’d say. “You comin home soon? Can you bring takeout?”

I thought about that. How was I getting home? I knew I wasn’t driving. I’d walk the two miles if I had to. Sweet George didn’t offer me a lift. I leaned over the bar and looked down one way and then turned my head and looked down the other. No one I knew. It was an Uber night for me. Even in this backwoods country, I knew there was some poor schmoe who’d be available for the gig.

The thing was, I didn’t know if I wanted to go home at all. There was that damn corpse to worry about. Maybe George would discover it and then he’d have to deal with it. The thought of that cheered me. It’d give him something else to think about other than just his next hot meal.

Of course, if I went home, we could work on a solution together. Kind of like a couple’s exercise you read about in hospital waiting rooms in women’s magazines while you try to take your mind off the fact that your best friend was down the hall in surgery.

A tear surprised me as it ran hot down my face. I brushed at it with frustration and grabbed my pack of cigarettes and lit another stogie. I inhaled deeply, trying to shake the recollection of that moment when the doctor came into the hospital waiting room and told my best friend’s mom that her daughter was dead.

But Jenna was my baby too. Not literally, but she was the other half of my soul. And she was gone. Killed by some drunken asshole who hit her head-on as she was driving home from work in her scrubs, having spent the day doing God’s work, helping others. She was the brightest light I’ll ever know. Why God chose to take her- her of all people, I don’t understand. I never will. Six months later, Dickhead Driver, walked out of the courtroom a free man on a technicality.

Well, he wasn’t walking anymore. I gone and done society a real big favor, but I wondered what Jenna would think. Would she be happy that Dickhead Driver was off the road permanent? Would she be glad that Dickhead Driver, who we’d all discovered had four previous DUI’s, and several convictions for domestic assault was rotting in hell? Would Jenna be mad at me?

Maybe I should be more worried about what God thought. I closed my eyes and swayed on my stool a bit, definitely feeling the effects of the booze. I’d ordered the white Russians with Kahlua in them on purpose since I knew I had a long night of digging in store for me when I got back to the cabin. Kahlua, my brand of Red Bull.

I caught the eye of the nasty barkeep and signaled him over with my best ah shucks grin. He came over and I placed an order for a couple of cheeseburgers to go. I asked for a refill and patted the air as I assured him I wasn’t driving.

I picked up my phone and texted George.

Coming home with burgers, calling uber. Don’t look in laundry room! I got a really really special surprise waiting in there for you darlin.

I put my phone down. My shoulders jumped as I silently laughed, knowing George would go crazy wondering what the hell was in the laundry room.

I couldn’t help myself as the laughter bubbled up and came out in a loud explosion. People definitely looked my way and I distracted them by pointing at the TV as if I’d seen something hilarious on the tube.

I got myself under control as the burgers and the Uber appeared at the same time. I slapped down a very generous tip for barkeep and slid carefully off my stool. On my way out, I stopped cold in the entryway, a lump the size of a baseball formed in the throat. I stared at the familiar poster of Jenna, my angel, her face smiling back at me from a flyer announcing the benefit to raise money for a memorial for her at her hospital.

My bottom lip trembled. I touched my fingers to my lips and then gently transferred the kiss to the flimsy, lifeless piece of paper. “I miss you, sweet Jenna. Use those wings.”