At the Other End of the Barrel




 



At the Other End of the Barrel

 

Clicking the bullet into the chamber, I stared at the piece for a while, stroking the handle with my thumb, watching the trail of oil from my fingerprint smudge back and forth on the gun. 

A swarm of memories overtook me as I placed the barrel in my mouth and pulled the trigger.

***

"Colin, I know this is hard.  It's hard for me, too.  But we both know that a long-distance relationship would never work." 

"We're not going to be that far apart, Amy.  It would be only a six or seven hours' drive for me.  And I'd come see you every weekend," I pleaded.

"I'm sorry, Colin.  I don't want a weekend relationship." 

I hung my head and stared at my shoes.  I couldn't bear to look at her face any longer.  I felt a fool for begging, for wanting to sob on her cashmere sweater, but most of all, I felt a fool for falling in love with her when our relationship was all but doomed from the start.

It was the typical taboo romance.  Her, a rich kid with nothing to do but date the local white trash to piss of her parents and me-the white trash.  I'd been convinced she loved me after our weekly dates turned into a year-long relationship and her deflowering.  But as I stood before her, broken hearted, I knew I was wrong.

 

***

"Mr. O'Herlihe!"  I heard my name called as I headed out of the auditorium.  "I want to see you in my office."

Situated in a cozy, faux-leather chair across from my professor, I listened as he broke it down for me.

"Colin, I'm concerned about your grades as of late.  You started the semester out fine, but I haven't seen an assignment turned in for weeks now.  Is there anything wrong?"

I shrugged noncommittally.  How was I supposed to tell him that the reason I hadn't turned in an assignment is because I'd been partying?  He was lucky that I made it to class at all with the massive hangovers I'd had every day.

"You don't seem too concerned about this, Colin.  If I were you, I'd be."  He gestured in the air, as if indirectly pointing to all the diplomas on the wall behind him.  "You are not only in danger of failing this class, but in danger of losing everything you have here at Notre Dame.  If you don't pull your grades up, you'll be ineligible to play football this season. You'll lose your scholarship and have to find your own way to pay for college.  That is, if you want to continue on here."

I left his office only half caring about what he'd said.  I wasn't sure if I could quit partying, or if I even wanted to.

***

"Look, look'a there, Colin.  She's checkin' you out, man." 

I scanned the bar for any ladies that may have been looking in my general direction.  "Who?"

"The red-head close to the DJ booth."  I glanced over there expecting to see a big fat cow or worse.  Instead, the only redhead close to the DJ booth was so beautiful she could have easily been cyber-made by a couple of geeks with bras on their heads.  She had curves in all the right places, bright blue eyes that captured me from across the room, and not at all lacking in bra size, or anywhere for that matter.

"Yeah, right.  Like she would even check me out.  She probably thinks I'm someone else."  I nudged my buddy Terone in the ribs.  "Come on, let's go over to the bar."

            "You pussy.  Go buy her a drink," he said, slugging me in the shoulder.

            I slugged him back and put my arm around his shoulders, leaning him in close to me.  It wasn't easy to do.  Terone was one of the biggest and best safeties on the team.  "Terone, let me tell you a little something about that woman."

            "You don't even know that woman, Colin."

            "Yeah, yeah.  But I know the type.  Listen up.  Women like that-they have no interest in guys like us."

            "Who are guys like us?"

            "Jocks.  Ten to one, she's in law or med school, or trying to get to one of the two."

            "What would a classy babe in law or med school be doing in a trashy bar like this?"

            "What do I know?" I shrugged.

            "Listen, you big chicken shit.  She's not out of my league or your league or anyone's league.  So, go buy the girl a drink.  I'm telling ya, she was scopin' ya, man."

            "Fine."  Grudgingly, I walked up to her, strutting my stuff, trying to look as cool as possible. 

            I cleared my throat and she turned around. "Hi," I said.

            She smiled at me and for a second I thought Terone might have been right. 

            "Hi," she said back.

            "What's your poison?"

            "Excuse me?"

            "What're you drinkin'?"

            "Oh.  Coke."  She held up her cup and pointed to the blackish liquid inside.

            I signaled the waitress.

            "Rum and coke for the lady.  I'll have another Heineken."  The waitress nodded and started to leave, but the redhead halted her.

            "Just the Heineken," she corrected.

            I flinched as my ego took a right hook.

            "Do I know you?"  It wasn't said in a malicious tone of voice, more of an honest, I-don't-know-if-I-know-you tone.

            "Not personally, but you've probably heard of me."  I extended my hand for a handshake. "My name's Colin O'Herlihe."

            "Ah, yes.  I have heard of you- Notre Dame's finest kicker?  Number Eighty, is it?" She shook my hand.

            "Yes.  I'm impressed.  You know your football."

            "Sort of.  It's kind of hard to miss around here."

            "I guess.  Well, I told you my name are you going to tell me yours?"

"Claire."

 I shifted my weight so I would be leaning into her a bit.  "So why won't you let me buy you a drink, Claire?"

            "I don't drink."

            I laughed.  "So then, what are you doing in a bar?" I mentally kicked myself for sounding so rude.

            "See the guy up on stage doing sound check?" She pointed at a skinny looking dude with long hair taping up the voice box to the microphone.

            "Yeah?"

            "He's my boyfriend."

***

            The aroma of leftover McDonald's, half-eaten sandwiches, apple cores and various other decomposing foods assaulted my nose.  It didn't help that my head was a full twelve inches into the oversized garbage can.  Then another smell assaulted me-the smell of my own vomit-and I heaved again.

            I felt a hefty clap on my back.  "Loosen up, man."

            I spit into the garbage can and wiped my nose.  "I'm a wreck, Terone."

            "I see that, man.  Just relax and it'll be a'ight."

            "How can you be so calm? There's NFL scouts out there.  Fucking NFL Scouts."

            "Just go out there and do what you're good at, buddy.  You don’t need to try to impress them."

            And I didn't.  Last quarter of the game, wouldn't you know, we needed a thirty-six-yard field goal to win.  I choked.

            The ball was high and to the right.  We lost the game 32-29.  The horrible thing is, I'd made longer kicks.  My record was forty-nine yards. 

So, there would be no NFL contract waiting in the wings when I graduated from college.

 

***

            "Friends and family, we are gathered here to honor the memory of a beloved son, friend, and a hell of a safety."  The droning of the minister continued.  I didn't even care what he was saying. 

            Drug overdose.  What the hell was he thinking?  I didn't even know he used, and I was his best friend.  Sure, we'd partied together, but never anything heavy- a joint here, maybe a line of coke there.  There was never any indication that he'd ever gotten into anything heavier.  And there should have been.  Wasn't there usually?  Maybe I hadn't paid enough attention to him.  We had drifted over the past few months.  I mean, we still hung out and stuff, but I had been very self-absorbed.  My life was on a downward spiral to Shitville fast, and I had neglected most of the things in my life.

Laying a white rose on the casket, I walked back to the car, wondering if I could have done something.

 
***

            "Hey man, it's your turn again."

            Looking down, I saw the revolver on the table in front of me.  I picked it up.  Claire-the- non-drinker smiled at me from across the smoke-filled room. I noticed she was alone.

            "Come on, you pussy.  Put the fucking gun in your mouth.  It's your turn again."  Gary, the quarterback demanded.

I put the gun down. I could live in Shitville a little bit longer.



A.D. Hurley

A.D. Hurley lives in the scenic mountains of North Georgia, with her large brood of children, a fantastically domesticated husband, and two dogs.  She is a poet, writer, associate editor for Ariel Chart Literary Journal, and artistic photographer. Her poetry, prose, and photography can be found in zines like Anti-Heroin Chic, Horror, Sleaze, and Trash, Ariel Chart, Spirit Wind Poetry Gallery, Wayward Sword, and other internationally published literary journals and anthologies.  
Check her out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Justaddwordsadhurley
 

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