Short Fiction: Too Cool

Beer-and-cigarettes_MichaelDrummond
Michael Drummond/Senior Staff

I remember thinking that each tree slanted toward us, shouldering the heavy fog above the spinach-green-and-maplewood Outback as it screamed muted music and tobacco-filled gossip. The canopy of the sequoias was blocked by a whiteness that expanded through the cloud.

We were excited. The cabin had always shown us a great time.

“I swear! They’re gonna get huge! Like the Beatles huge. Like Arianna’s tits huge. Like fucking huge.” I sat in the back, ass barely touching the seat to get close enough to unnecessarily shout at Eve and Rachel.

“I’m loving the sound. Very ethereal.” Eve let smoke out with her words and tapped her cigarette out the window.

“I hate this hipster shit. Put on Tupac before I bail.” Thin arms reached for the tangled black cord leading to the back seats of the car.

“Rachel, we’re alternating. You can go ghetto on us next song.”

“I’m going to tuck and roll out of the car.”

“Go ahead.” Eve smiled through her cat-eyed sunglasses, hands lazily draped over the wheel with her left foot tucked under her pointed knee.

“My feet won’t let you.” I wrapped my feet over Rachel’s seat to her bare shoulders to pinch her arms. “Endure it, bitch.”

“No! Get those off of me!” Rachel burst with mock outrage. She jerked forward, slamming her breasts to her locked seat belt.

“Strap her in, Mary. Ride’s getting curvy and hipstery.” Eve took another drag and turned the music up four notches.

“Oh, eat a cock,” Rachel laughed. Her hair bounced, aerodynamic in a black topknot above the headrest.

“Whose? Rico’s?” I gobbled imaginary dick to her glare.

Sister Helen had spent two weeks on sacrifice first semester. I asked if we had sacrificed a paradise for underwear. She got flustered like fat, middle-aged women do, saying that was not the lesson. She read a verse from the Bible to prove it. I was actually agreeing with her.

That day, Jake passed me a drawing of Sister Helen in a compromising position between two men high-fiving. I chortled, but Rico leaned over his desk and my shoulder to see and let out a bellow cut short by a shut-the-fuck-up glare from the devil herself.

“Mary, do you have something funny?” The fucking assiduous cunt lowered her chin with great difficulty.

“Nah, Rico’s just a flirt.” I pulled the slip of paper under my uniform skirt. Kids laughed. Rico is a flirt.

Sister Helen got lost in the next Bible verse against such impropriety, and Jake and Rico gestured like the boys in the drawing. Rico tipped his head toward Arianna Lane in the midst of his vulgarity, and Jake turned somewhat plum and shoved him.

They were already at the cabin. Had been for two days with Jake’s cousin Matthew, probably drinking Natty Lights, watching baseball and talking about tits. I don’t know why baseball is the most Catholic sport, but Saint Cecilia’s had decided it was. It’s the only sport we have, which is probably for the best, because the Trout isn’t exactly the most menacing mascot.

Jake and Rico had been around for 12 years, ruffling my hair and playing the I’ll- show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours game. Rachel and Eve were pretty new. I got high for the first time with Eve at a party at Rico’s and decided that was enough to form an everlasting friendship. Rachel sat with us back in geometry and mastered the class’s systemic plagiarism.
A week earlier, Jake had called saying that Matthew had his parents’ cabin up in the mountains for the week and that he and Rico were going to head up as soon as possible. Eve, Rachel and I decided to stick around for school and drive up Friday afternoon.

Eve got her brother’s Outback and crammed it with backpacks of clothes, cases of Stellas and a tacky purple lawn chair named Harriet that went on all of our adventures. We had to push her brother’s baseball gear under the seats and prop our backpacks and the beer on top of Harriet, but things fit with some fucking around.

“Hey, did you know Icelandic has been virtually the same for the last thousand years? It hasn’t changed at all, basically,” Eve said.

“Iceland’s too cool for us,” Rachel snorted and turned back to wiggle her eyebrows at me over her aviators.

“Their culture has the highest gender equality, too,” I wiggled my ears to move my own shades up and down. “Too cool.”

“What the fuck does that even mean?” Eve laughed.

“Smallest gap in pay.”

“Let’s move to Iceland,” Rachel declared.

“That’s what I’ve been saying!” Eve hit her horn for emphasis. “It also has the world’s largest glacier. It’s, like, just pure white for thousands of miles.”

“Too cool.” I grinned.

“Ha. Too cool.” Eve kept a straight face.

“It’d be nice to go there,” Rachel mumbled as she started to paint an electric blue onto her toes.

“Wear all white and see if we could see each other from far away.”

“Maybe we’d hear only one another. It’d be like invisibility,” I said, rolling a joint for later.

“Maybe we wouldn’t hear anything.” Eve took another drag.

“I think it’d depend on th—”

A glimpse of brown jolted ahead of us before a great tumbling rocked the car. I hit my head on the roof from the violent bounce, knocking my glasses onto the seat next to me. I tried to let out a yelp, but the air left my lungs in a heavy breath. Rachel screamed. Eve gripped the steering wheel and stomped the brakes so hard her thighs turned white. The Outback skidded to a sideways halt. It was then that I absorbed the crashing-of-glass sound of the beers slamming into one another. A trickling noise was followed by the scent of fermentation, which wafted toward the front of the car.

“Shit,” Eve breathed, her fingers talons, still gripping the steering wheel.

Blue nail polish was spilt in a chaotic jet on the dashboard ahead of Rachel. Eve’s cigarette lay smoking next to the speedometer. Harriet was much closer to the window.

My ankles almost gave out as I opened the car door and stepped down.

“Mary …” Rachel whispered. Eve followed after prying her fingers from the wheel. Rachel pulled herself out before she could be left alone.

It was a deer. No horns, but it looked bigger than a baby. Female, maybe 90 pounds. Muscles in its cheeks throbbed and twitched. They looked so strong from up close. It was so colorful.

Specks of white interrupted a rich chestnut color. A deep rust tainted parts of its abdomen.

We stood still in our ripped shorts and T-shirts, and I suddenly thought we looked stupid. Rachel had a stripe of blue down her leg. Eve’s blond bob looked oily with sweat. I was barefoot. The trees looked bigger from outside the car.

The deer’s top-right hoof twitched. The creature let out a terrible moan. Blood soaked the deer’s pelt. A few ribs, crushed inward, made the deer look incomplete. It looked like a flaccid balloon.

The fur was distorted where a tire had tread. The hoof continued to twitch with a growing violence. It swept clear a 2-inch path of bristles but did no more than scrape the asphalt in a low dissonance. Another moan.

We stood still. We watched it move its eye in a fluttering quickness that turned my stomach.

“It’s not dying.” Eve said, creating a pointed contrast with the purr of the wind and the scraping that we had not experienced since the tumultuous stop of motion. Everything felt aggressive after that screeching halt: the light breeze, the too-bright sun.

“What do we do?” Rachel said in a watery voice. She couldn’t seem to find a comfortable way to stand. Her legs were too long.

“Maybe there’s someone we can call,” I suggested.

“Do you think we could take it with us?” Eve squinted into the whitening fog.

“Would it fit in the car?” Rachel asked.

We all looked at the deer. Its eyelid was covered in a soft fur that vibrated. It sounded a quiet trombone in the back of its throat.

“Should we move it?” I asked with a slight nod toward it. We looked at the deer.

“We can’t just leave it here.” Rachel’s voice broke. “Fuck.”

“It’s in pain.” I glared at her.

“It’ll die.” Eve nodded. We nodded. We watched the deer.

Minutes passed. The hoof scraped the asphalt.

I turned and stared at Eve. She turned her head, attuned to the movement. Our eyes met.
And then she turned toward the car and unlocked the trunk. We watched her dig under Harriet for a green-and-black duffle bag. She pulled out two metal baseball bats, silver with peeling layers of tape on the grips. Eve handed me one. We looked at the deer.

“It won’t fit?” Rachel whispered.

“It can’t fit,” I said, my sandal-tanned feet drifting toward the deer.

“It’s in pain.” Eve followed me.

“It’s in pain,” Rachel agreed.

I circled to the other side of the deer, inches away from the path of its hoof. Eve lifted her bat to point at its head. The bat hovered there, skimming its eyelashes. Rachel walked to the side, 5 feet from the deer’s head.

With weak ease, Eve lifted the bat high in the air — a focal point for the trees to bend toward. Then she brought the bat down in a shaking blow to the deer’s jawbone. An identifiably flesh-padded crunch ate at our ears. The deer moaned in a pitch I’d never heard. Eve lifted the bat again, bringing it down harder this time, splintering the snout. A gurgle of snot and blood now accompanied the forest-like rumble of the deer’s muted wails.

“Shit. Mary, you try.” Eve clutched her bat and wiped her forehead.

I put one foot forward, positioning myself to use my body’s weight for the blow. I brought the bat down, with the same fleshy splintering, slightly above Eve’s first mark. We could feel teeth clatter loose. The deer wheezed, and a few splatters of blood flung out in oozes. I lifted the bat again. I brought it down with more force, silver gleaming and blurring. The back of the skull caved in. A gurgle followed by another small burst of blood leaked out of the deer’s smashed snout.

Eve lifted her bat again. The deer’s ear was smashed inward and stuck against its head.

Rachel walked to the trunk and sifted through the clutter until I heard the clink of glass. She returned to the deer with the neck of a beer bottle ending in a lopsidedly jagged point. She squatted down, breaths away from the deer’s face. The blue stripe of color cracked with the new tension on her skin. Rachel plunged the sharp end of the bottle into the deer’s eye.

A milky liquid leaked from the point. The deer’s hoof twitched in a slightly irregular sharpness, and a gurgle splattered more blood by the snout.

I dropped my bat to the road in a three-crash landing and walked to the trunk. There were two bottles that were still intact in the closest case of beer, and I grabbed one. I returned to our friend, crouched and crashed the bottle against its skull. Beer spilt over the deer’s face and mixed with the blood spots. The deer was making bubbles in the golden liquid.

“God fucking damn it!” Eve shrieked as she brought her bat down again, splintering the glass into freckles on the deer.

“Shit, Eve, you almost hit us!” Rachel and I had swung backward, my feet dipping in the beer.
We watched the deer bubble, a pathetic balloon.

We watched it, but then Rachel said, “Maybe we should run over it again.”

We watched the deer. Rachel rubbed her bony arms against each other. Eve squinted and
twisted a thin silver ring around her middle finger. I noticed a new scrape on my pinky, probably from the crash.

We watched the deer, and then we walked to the car. We tossed the baseball bats under Harriet and parted toward our separate seats. It was like a dance. None of us went to the same place or opened the same door, but we moved in sync. We meticulously put on our seatbelts. I wiped my feet on the carpeted car floor, Eve inserted the keys into the ignition with authority, and Rachel threw the empty bottle of MAC nail polish out the window.

The car came to life with a shudder. Eve put it in gear. We each turned back to look at the deer.

One deep breath, and the car jolted backward. We saw it coming this time. My hands went to the ceiling; Rachel’s to the left shoulder of the passenger seat, bracing her twisted position; Eve’s split between the wheel and just below Rachel’s hold. The lurch tore at the left side of the car, and I felt myself fall slightly to the right as it jolted the car at the back wheels and then the front wheels. Eve slowed down the Outback and switched gears to repeat the experience. We turned our bodies to face the windshield and braced ourselves again. We gained speed, and I was so prepared, I barely felt the upness. I hiccupped. Eve brought the car to a stop once more. I got out of the car.

The deer no longer lay on its side but looked crooked. Its legs had bent at grotesque angles, no longer in a discernibly animal way. Its skull was a smashed husk, and its ribs no longer fought an attempt to inflate. I grabbed its hind legs, soft and speckled with white, and dragged the deer out of the road, next to a sequoia. It was heavy. I wasn’t expecting the weight. It looked so small and jagged, but it felt heavy and bloated. It left a copper streaking across the asphalt and a lack of dried brown tree bristles. The clamminess of my feet lifted dirt and points of brown needles as I set the deer down and walked by a small puddle of beer and dark-green glass shards. They glinted in the foggy light, looked like candy.

I walked back to the open car door, pulled myself in by the roof and sat sideways with my back propped against the far door and my legs across the seats. Eve pressed the AM button under the CD player, and some NPR official blared then mumbled about driverless cars as Eve twisted the volume knob. The burnt-out cigarette still lay against the speedometer. Rachel crossed her legs and opened the window farther with the lever of old cars. Before the car started moving again, we each lifted our sunglasses to our eyes and lowered our shoulders. The car lurched forward, and we were off.

Silently sitting in the closed space, I heard my breathing. It was interrupted with a hiccup every so often. I remembered how the deer didn’t even have horns.

Minutes passed. Rachel started to cry. I picked at the scab on my pinky. After a while, Eve slowed the car down to a halt, opened her door and vomited.

“I brought Gatorade.” I dug behind my seat for my backpack and pulled out a blue bottle. She finished and swung an arm out to take it. She closed her door, and we carried on.

*****

The cabin was well stocked with Heineken, so we didn’t mention the Stellas we’d had that broke.

“What have you fuckers been up to?” Jake shouted from the porch. Rico and Matthew giggled out the screen door.

There was a moment of silence, and I was about to shout some sarcastic response before Eve grunted, “The usual.” She pulled her backpack across Harriet from out of the trunk. She smiled calmly at Jake and Matthew on the porch, but her knuckles, gripping the half-empty Gatorade bottle, were white.

“I need a beer.” Rachel swung her bag over her shoulder and crossed her arms to climb the steps to the front door.

“Plenty of those.” Rico opened the door and tried to pull her in for a hug.

“Beer,” Rachel said sternly as she sidestepped his embrace.

I grabbed my backpack and shut the trunk on beer-soaked Harriet. Jake jumped down the stairs to poke me in the stomach.

“Classic Rachel, shutting Rico down,” Jake laughed.

“Yeah.”

They did have a lot of beer. The night started early.

*****

Jake skimmed his hands across the hem of my panties. We’d moved to the bedroom with the tacky bear rug.

“You think she’s going to Alec’s next week?”

“I don’t fucking know, Jake. Ask her yourself.”

He lifted one hand up my shirt, lowered the other to his belt. I took another gulp of beer while helping him with his zipper. The bed opened, and he took my bottle and put it on the bedside table. Jake burped into my neck after a few short thrusts.

“Would Arianna like it up here, you think?” He leaned over me after finishing and lifted my beer off the table for a swallow.

“Nah, she likes the beach.”

After a while, Jake fell into a heavy sleep. He hummed low growls and twitches. I thought about Iceland. Naked, I walked out of the room for another beer. I could see Eve through the front window, smoking in a sheet on the porch. Rachel sat in a robe on the armchair, removing the nail polish on only six of her toes. I pulled a Heineken from the fridge and felt a blast of cold and bright.

The cold gave me this awful gust of loneliness that rattled in my ribcage. Rachel curled tighter into her hunch. Eve took in a thick and heavy drag. I scanned the kitchen counter for a bottle opener, spotted my prize and snapped the cap off. I took a sip and then a gulp. Half the bottle was gone.

“Too cool.” I hiccupped.

I wanted invisibility. I think they did, too, but then I went back to bed with my beer, pulled on a fresh pair of underwear and fell asleep.

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