Here’s the second flash fiction piece in the one-per-week project I’m undertaking for 2011. It has connections to the first story, something I didn’t plan. But if that’s where my unconscious wants to go, I’ll follow.
I Shoulda Married Jerry Brown
By Laura McHale Holland
I was riding along Doubie Avenue the other day with my sister, Wendy. We were on our way back from Christmas shopping at the Bellyup mall, and even though it was out of our way, she insisted on driving by Marvin’s.
“Do you still do this, drive by Marvin’s butcher shop—just like before you were even dating?” I asked her.
“What are you smoking?” I asked.
“Duh, what does it look like?” she asked, turning her head to face me and blowing a smoke ring. It drifted my way, and I leaned toward it as it dissipated. It smelled like tuna fish.
“Man, that’s crazy. How do you do it?”
“Make your cigarette smoke smell different ways like that?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said. She faced forward again and then shrieked and braked just in time to avoid hitting a huge bird darting across the road.
“Was that a roadrunner?”
“Nobody knows for sure.”
“You’ve seen it before?”
“Yeah, we’ve been having sightings here ever since the economy took a dive back in 2008.
“Roadrunners aren’t supposed to be turquoise and black.”
“They’re not supposed to be that big either.”
“Or live in the Bay Area.”
“Good old Jerry Brown,” I said. “Governor Moonbeam.”
Wendy put her cigarette out on the dashboard and burned a hole in whatever synthetic material it was made of. The car began to smell like the perfume Opium I used to wear back in the ‘80s. She smiled. We were pulling past Marvin’s now, and my thoughts began to drift, as often happens after Wendy and I have been together a while and finished with all our catching up and don’t have anything new to say.
I thought about Jerry Brown, how he used to be with Linda Ronstadt back in the day.
“Is he married?” I asked Wendy, who was creeping the car along, not even five miles an hour.
“Of course he’s married,” Wendy said. “He’s married to me. You were my maid of honor.”
“No, no, not Marvin. Jerry Brown.”
“Oh him. Yeah, I think he is.”
I slumped down in the passenger seat, thinking that something had gone wrong along the way between, say, 1978 and now. Jerry and I were supposed to have met by now. I am perfect for him. I have no major talents like Linda, so I wouldn’t steal the spotlight from him like she probably did or like Princess Di did to sad, old Prince Charles. No, I’m not flashy, but I’m nice enough to look at. And while I’m smart, I’m not too brainy like I imagine the woman Jerry married probably is. I mean she’s probably all pinched and lawyery. And Jerry is, well, not exactly rough around the edges. That’s not the right way to put it. It’s like if he were in a choir, he might be singing a little bit on the sharp side. He’s not warm and fuzzy and resonant like I am. And after Arnold’s Maria, California could use a warm and fuzzy first lady. I fit the bill to a T, and I’m willing to sacrifice myself for the good of the state and, let’s face it, for true love, too, which I’m sure Jerry and I would share if only we could meet.
I’ll never understand how all this time could have passed with him and me living in the same state, and our paths haven’t crossed. I suppose I could have worked on one of his campaigns. Or I could have moved to Oakland, so it would have been more likely that we’d pass on the street. But I wouldn’t want to be obvious, like a stalker or something.
“Hey, earth to Caris, earth to Caris,” I heard Wendy say.
“I said, ‘look at Billy Redmon with that mutt with shimmery blue hair. Have you ever seen anything like that? The dog’s coat is actually shimmering.’”
“Billy? Go on. No way.”
“Your first crush in the flesh.”
“Should we stop and say hi?”
“I don’t think that would be a good idea.”
“He’s always around, and I have to get home before Marvin does, or he’ll see me walk in with all these presents. The shop’s closed. He’ll be heading home any minute.”
She accelerated. I looked at Billy approaching the corner, and I thought things could be worse. I could be married to Billy and be all scruffy, walking alongside him and that strange dog.
We started chugging up the hill toward Wendy’s neighborhood and I looked back to see if maybe I could get one more glimpse of Billy, and I saw a magenta stretch limo rising up behind the buildings behind us on Doubie Avenue. It looked like it was right near Marvin’s.
“Stop the car!” I yelled. Wendy hit the brakes. I jumped out, pulled my camera out of its case. “Hey, get out. Bring your iPhone. There’s something peculiar up in the sky.”
“Wow!” Wendy said as she tapped her phone to take a video of the vehicle as it got smaller and smaller as it rose into the sky.
Soon it disappeared. We got back into the car and rushed to Wendy’s so we could upload her video to YouTube and my pictures to Facebook. We were so excited we forgot all about the presents. But the video and pictures were all blurry. We kept checking YouTube and Facebook to see if anybody else saw the thing taking off and got better pictures, but hours went by, and nothing showed up. Then we realized that Marvin hadn’t come home, which was very strange. We were getting tired but we couldn’t even think about sleeping not knowing where Marvin was, so we sat in her kitchen and stayed up all night. And he never came home.
We went to the Bellyup police station to report Marvin missing, and Chief Homan said we should wait a little while. Marvin probably went out drinking with friends and wound up sleeping it off on somebody’s couch. Wendy said everybody in town knows Marvin doesn’t drink or do drugs, and we stormed out of there and got back in the car. We drove around town through all our old haunts. And then we came home and heated up some leftover split pea soup.
“I shoulda married Jerry Brown like I was supposed to do. Then none of this would be happening now.”
Wendy snorted and said, “That’s a bunch of horse pucky, Caris.” Then she started laughing, and she hasn’t stopped.
I’m wondering what we’re going to do with all the presents we bought yesterday. They’re just sitting all rumpled up in the back of the car.