A Bad Man
Jared Yates Sexton
The man sat in Room Thirty-Two of the Liberty Inn across from the Evansville Speedway dirt track. He sat on the bed and arranged some bottles and mugs on a table while listening to the buzz of engines. There was a bottle of Grandad's, a bottle of Dark Eyes, and a bottle of cheap champagne he bought from the drugstore. Next to the drinks was a bottle of pills. He opened the bottle, poured the pills into his palm, looked at them, and returned them to the bottle.
After sitting on the bed he turned on the TV and flipped through the channels. He settled on a World War II movie starring John Wayne. The man reached for the Grandad's on the table and took a draw. It burnt his throat and he took another while watching the TV.
There was a knock on the door he could barely hear over the movie and the racing. He knew it was the girl he'd ordered. The cashier at the drugstore had told him he could pay for some company if he were so inclined and given him a number. He'd called it when he got back to his room and a voice answered, a gruff-sounding voice, and asked for an address and whether he wanted a blonde or a brunette.
Blonde, he said.
The girl at the door had light brown hair. She wore a blue Nike t-shirt and a black pair of jeans.
You Russ? she said.
Yes, ma'am, he said.
She looked at him and saw a dirty old man. His arms and hands were sun-bleached and covered in hard scabs, his face pockmarked, the shirt he wore stained with sweat.
Fix yourself a drink, he said and nodded toward the table and the bottles.
She picked a coffee mug with a with a cartoon sun on the side and unscrewed the bottle of Dark Eyes. Does it matter which one? she said.
Nope, he said.
Do you have anything to mix it with? she asked, pouring the vodka.
Nope, he said, but I could get you a coke from the machine.
That's okay, she said. She took a sip. You here on business? she said.
No ma'am, he said and shifted on the bed. Don't have any business.
Reckon not, she said.
What? he said.
Nothing, she said. You want to get started?
Okay, he said and reached over to the table. He took another draw. How much we talking? he said.
Twenty, she said.
I got forty-six, he said. That enough to have you stay the night?
I don't do that, she said.
That's fine, he said and stood up. He reached into his back pocket and took out his wallet. There were four bills inside and he gave them to her.
It's just twenty, she said, counting the money.
Eh, he said. Keep it.
She stuffed the money into the pocket of her black jeans. You're a sweetheart, she said to him. I can tell.
You'd be surprised, he said.
Seem sweet enough to me, she said.
Nah, he said and pulled off his stained white shirt. His chest and shoulders were colored with faded tattoos. I'm a bad man, he said.
Bad man? she said. How do you figure?
Done some bad things, he said. Robbed some places. Hurt some people.
She took another drink from the mug full of vodka and set it down on the table. She lifted off her t-shirt and unbuttoned her jeans. Once she had her clothes off she laid down on the bed next to him and touched his back. You don't seem so bad, she said.
Well, he said, I am.
They stopped talking and she helped him get his jeans off. They got under the sheets together and rolled and sweated and he finished faster than either of them would've liked.
I can stay awhile, she said to him as he grabbed the champagne and pills off the table. We can have another go, she said.
Either way, he said and went into the bathroom.
She heard the pop of the cork and the rattle of the pills. A few seconds later and he returned with the champagne.
Want some? he said and extended the bottle to her.
Fancy, she said and had a drink.
Real fancy, he said. He turned off the light and got back into bed. Care if I leave the set on? he said.
That's fine, she said. I like the light.
Me too, he said.
He stretched and she leaned into him and rested her head on his chest.
I think this is only the second time I've ever had champagne, she said.
Have as much as you like, he said.
You're a real sweetheart, she said and had another drink.
Not long after she fell asleep and dreamed that the two of them were having breakfast. When she woke and opened her eyes it was still dark in the room except for the glow of the TV. She looked and saw there was an old western on. Some bandits were racing alongside a train and they had bandannas covering their faces and their guns were drawn. As they gained on the train they jumped from their saddles and climbed up the side.
The girl watched the movie and thought of the man and what he'd said. She imagined him riding a horse and robbing a train. The thought of it made her laugh.
Hey, she said to him. Is that how it all went down?
He didn't answer. She asked again.
She felt cold all of a sudden.
Hey, she said and shook him and waited.
About the author:
Jared Yates Sexton is a born-and-bred Hoosier living and working in The South as an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Georgia Southern University. His work has appeared in publications around the world and has been nominated for a handful of Pushcart's, The Million Writer's Award, and was a finalist for The New American Fiction Prize. His first book, An End To All Things, is available from Atticus Books.