I hadn’t been working at The Busted Knuckle for too long when Sookie started. Before working there I had been employed at one of those chain shops that charged way too much for labor, marked up the prices on the parts they used and went with subpar parts. All in all, it was a rip off. Plus, the company treated their employees like shit. My life didn’t revolve around my work but while I was there I didn’t want to feel like I was just some asshole they wrote a check for every two weeks.
So I started to keep my eyes and ears open. I was familiar with The Busted Knuckle because of the tow truck drivers that dropped cars off where I used to work. Word got around that they were looking for another service writer and so on my day off I decided to take a chance and swing by. Desmond Cataliades was a trip, for sure, but he was a good guy to work for. My resume and references spoke for themselves, but as soon as Des found out that my mother was Greek, he practically rolled out the red carpet for me. I didn’t look a thing like her. My father was Swedish and I had inherited pretty much all of his traits.
The very next day I put in my notice at the other place and I hadn’t looked back since. It was the smartest move I could have made. Of course The Busted Knuckle had its problems but no work place was perfect. There was always going to be drama and shit a person didn’t necessarily like about their job, but it was part of the deal. It still beat going to a place where I felt like a nameless drone.
Andre came in from the shop and leaned against the front counter with a curious look on his face. Sookie was in the office behind me, starting her training with Ras. Andre was a mechanic and sometimes tow truck driver if we needed a backup. He had a tendency to get pissy if he was in a truck too often, but Des had a way of calming his shit town when he got his nipples in a twist.
“Who’s the new girl?” he asked me.
“Her name’s Sookie. That yellow Honda shitbox is hers,” I told Andre. “And she’s the new dispatcher.”
“Lovely,” he said, “She seem cool? I saw you talking to her.”
“Yeah, I think she’ll be okay. Just has to get used to the filthy fuckers running around here,” I said. I had no doubt she was used to dudes hitting on her regularly. Sookie was a pretty girl with an awesome rack – not that I looked too hard – and an even better ass.
“As long as she isn’t one of those crazy sensitive broads I’m sure it won’t take too long for her to get into the swing of things. Did you get a chance to check out her tits? They looked nice when I caught a glance at her,” Andre smirked.
I just shook my head. I didn’t know if Sookie could hear me and I wasn’t about to say anything. Plus I had a girlfriend. I shouldn’t have been looking at Sookie in any kind of a sexual manner.
“Shouldn’t you be out back pretending not to flirt with the boss?” I asked him instead. It was a little strange how much time Andre and Des spent alone at Des’s lake house. There were rumors but nothing concrete. Mostly it was just bullshit the guys liked to toss around but the last time they came back from the lake together, Andre called in sick with a sore left shoulder.
After six hours in a truck riding shotgun. You figure it out.
“I don’t have anything else going on right now,” he said. He was either ignoring the comment or it went over his head.
Of course just as he said that one of the parts guys came in with a starter for an F-150 that was out in the shop. I signed for the part and handed it over to Andre.
“You were saying?” I smirked.
“It’s not like it has to be done right this second,” he shrugged.
He was a pain in the ass. Andre was the kind of guy who stood around doing nothing a lot of the time and was really good at looking like he was busy. Then he wondered why people called him lazy or thought he did nothing all day. It was just calling a spade a spade, a lot of the time. It’s not like he was completely useless, but he was a master at milking the clock.
“Has anyone picked up Hot Rain yet?” I asked him.
Great. So exactly nothing was getting done out there.
I dialed the number for the mechanic who may as well have a bed in the back of the shop. Hot Rain was probably at the shop seventy-five to eighty hours a week, no problem. He was married and had a kid but he couldn’t stand his wife. It wasn’t uncommon for him to be at the shop for twelve to fourteen hours on any given day.
“Well, if you’re not doing anything other than waiting around to give Des a handjob, will you please go get him so we can get that fuckin’ monstrosity out of the shop?”
“Yeah, I guess,” he sighed. “I’ll be back.” Andre turned to walk out of the lobby.
Poor baby had to do something other than stand around and drink coffee or talk shit. I almost felt sorry for him.
My phone buzzed in my pocket and since there wasn’t any set in stone policy when it came to phones, I pulled mine out to see what was going on. I had a text from my girlfriend. Not too surprising. She usually sent me several texts throughout the day. It had started out fun but it wasn’t as much fun anymore. She was starting to play games with me or try to trap me into saying things I wasn’t saying. It was a lot of word twisting and I was getting pretty fed up with it. It was starting to be more drama than it was worth. The sex was okay but it wasn’t worth all the bullshit.
Jess: Am I going to see you tonight?
I sighed heavily. Truthfully, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to. I knew the chances of getting lucky were pretty high but I also knew that came at a price. Des was always telling me to just cut her loose. The longer we stayed together the more dramatic things were going to get when I did finally tell her I was done. I knew we weren’t going to end up married and I really, really didn’t want to have a kid with her.
Me: You can come by if you want.
Jess: Do you want me to?
No, no, no, no, no.
“Fuuuuuuuuuuck,” I groaned and closed my eyes. My head fell back and I heard the office door behind me open.
“Trouble in paradise?” Ras chuckled.
“Paradise lost,” I muttered and put my head back up. “I feel like I’m walking into a fuckin’ trap.” I showed him the messages.
He read over it before his grin widened.
“The pussy can’t be that good,” he laughed at me.
“It used to be,” I sighed.
Me: I want you to do whatever you want.
Yeah, that was just going to cause more shit.
Jess: I want my boyfriend to stop playing around and tell me the truth. Do. YOU. Want me there?
If it wouldn’t be such a chick move I might have burst into tears.
“Jesus Christ why do they do this?” I muttered to myself.
Me: If you want to come over, come over.
Jess: Fine. I’m not coming until you ask me to.
“She’s probably young and insecure,” Sookie predicted.
Me: Fine, but that’s your loss. You’re welcome anytime you want to come by.
“Or she’s an idiot,” I countered.
“Then why don’t you break up with her?”
It was a question I had asked myself on several occasion. The problem was that I was a nice guy. Sometimes too nice for my own good. I wanted things to get better. Sadly, I wasn’t sure they were going to improve.
“It’s crossed my mind,” I admitted.
“You might as well rip the Band-Aid off,” Sookie said. “You’re just going to keep getting womaned. Girls like that don’t change.”
That much I knew. I had enough experience with relationships to know that. Still, it wasn’t easy pulling the plug. Even when I knew it was the right thing to do it sucked. I didn’t like hurting someone’s feelings, even if they annoyed me.
The fact that I considered my girlfriend annoying wasn’t a good sign.
In all fairness, Jess wasn’t that bad. Like anyone else she had her off moments. Sookie was right, though; Jess wasn’t going to change. It wasn’t the first time we had one of those semantic type arguments.
“Why do women do that?” I was wondering out loud more than I really wanted an answer. I didn’t see what was wrong with my response. If she wanted to come over, cool. If not? Okay.
“Insecurity,” Sookie answered. “Usually, I mean. Some of us are just flat out nuts.”
I didn’t think Jess was nuts. Mostly she was normal.
“I’ve had my share of nutty ones,” I chuckled.
“A good lookin’ fella like you, I’m sure you attract them like bees to honey,” she snorted.
“More like flies to a turd,” Des corrected out of nowhere.
“Dick,” I laughed. I was used to being shit on. I didn’t take it personally.
Sookie giggled quietly at that. She wasn’t offended, which was a good sign.
“How’s the training going?” Des asked Sookie. She hadn’t thrown up her hands and walked out yet. That was a good sign too.
“So far, so good. It seems easy,” she said. “I’ve only had to smack Ras twice for staring at my chest.”
“I was not staring. It was the glare from the screen,” Ras said, trying to defend himself.
I snickered, “That’s probably true. He likes Andre’s tits–”
“Keep your whore eyes off my tits,” Des scoffed.
And they wondered why people whispered…
“So… is Andre your boyfriend?” Sookie asked seriously.
Ras, Des and I all laughed.
“Nah, I have a wife and two terrors at home,” Des told her. He reached up to answer his Bluetooth.
“Oh,” she blushed looking back at me. “I’ll get used to all this. You guys are like a kicked up version of my brother and his friends.”
Sounded about right.
“You’re looking for who?” Desmond asked, speaking in a thicker Greek accent than usual. “No, he’s not here. You know that plane crash in Malaysia a few months ago? He was on that plane. Yes, yes, it’s very sad…”
Ras and I were almost pissing ourselves while Des stood in the lobby, lying through his teeth to whoever was on the phone. Oh, and he was stroking an imaginary cock as he talked. Poor Sookie didn’t seem to know what the hell was going on.
“My name? Ricky,” he said. “Ricky Ricardo.”
Sookie’s eyes went wide before she finally joined in on the laughter.
“Is he for real?” she whispered to me.
I nodded, unable to speak. All kinds of crazy shit went on around the shop. She’d get the hang of it soon enough.
“R as in Ringo. I as in idiot. C as in crabs. A as in alpha. R as in Ringo. D as in dillhole. O as in oh my god you’re an idiot,” Des said and hung up. By then I was in tears I was laughing so hard.
“This day has been very enlightening so far,” Sookie chuckled.
I had no doubt it was for her. That conversation wasn’t abnormal either. Des was always telling telemarketers all kinds of nonsense. The plane crash story was just one of many.
Three days later I still hadn’t seen my girlfriend. If she wanted to get into a battle of wills over stupid bullshit, she could just stay home. It was my day off so I was at home doing stuff around the house. I had busted my ass and saved up the money to buy my own house. It wasn’t the nicest house out there but it was mine.
Little by little I was making repairs to the place and fixing it up the way I wanted it. There was a certain satisfaction I got from doing the work myself. I mowed my own lawn, cleaned my gutters, and I was about to rip out the carpet to install hardwood instead. Carpet was just a dust and filth trap. No thanks.
The kitchen slider opened and I turned to see my best friend Jake walking in. We’d been friends since preschool. He was the brother I never had.
“Hey,” I said.
“Hey, man, what’s up?” He closed the slider behind himself.
“Not much. I’m not looking forward to breathing in whatever shit might be trapped in this carpet.” I bent down and started to pry up the carpet. Even though I’d vacuumed that morning I could see the dust and whatever else in the air coming from the carpet. The carpet had to be at least twenty years old. It was disgusting.
“That’s gross,” Jake cringed. “Looks like I got here just in time though. Need some help?”
“I won’t turn it down,” I replied. “How you been?”
“Not too bad, been going through some shit with the girl. She’s been pestering me to “start our lives together” which means she wants me to pop the question and then have her pop out a shitton of babies.”
“Yeah, we’re getting to that age,” I said. “Jess told me not to talk to her until I want her to come by, so I haven’t seen her in like a week.”
“Dude, you need to shit or get off the pot with that one. She’s way too young and not experienced enough,” he said. “You need someone more on your level. Perky tits don’t last forever, unless they’re altered.”
There was a slight age difference between Jess and me. She was turning twenty in May and I was going to be twenty-eight in August. Jake was probably right about her being too young for me.
“But they’re still perky right now. Besides, I don’t see you running out to buy a ring for Luna.”
“They can be as perky as they want to be, but if you’re not seeing her they’re not benefiting you at all,” he pointed out. “Luna doesn’t beat around the bush and make me say I want to see her. She asks for what she wants, kinda like an adult.”
“And didn’t you just say she’s a pest? Face it, perky tits or on your level, they’re a problem.” I started to roll the carpet up.
“Yeah, they are. We’re fuckin’ idiots for falling for their shit,” he sighed. “It’s usually worth it, though. I don’t think it’s worth it for Jess. If you’re not even talking to her, there’s no point. My suggestion is to call her and tell her you want to see her, or break up with her.”
The general consensus was that I should dump her. My older sister Pam wasn’t talking to me because of it. She didn’t hate Jessica, per se, but it did bother her that my girlfriend was closer to her son’s age than mine. Pam had Alexei when she was a little older than Jessica and there was a reason why she didn’t have any more after Alex. He was a good kid but my sister hadn’t planned on being a mom. She kept him because it was the only choice she could live with.
“Alex is bugging me to take him to a Mavericks game this season. You wanna go too?” I was moderately into sports. Basketball was the only thing I really kept up with. I played football in high school because it was practically mandatory unless you were wheelchair bound, but I played basketball because I liked it.
My nephew was born halfway through my eighth grade year so when she could, Pam brought Alex to my games in high school. Alex grew up thinking I was part Superman. He was severely disappointed when he found out his bio dad was a five-foot-seven Russian with more hair on his ass than sense in his head.
“Sure,” he shrugged. “I haven’t been to a game in a while. We also haven’t had a good guys night either.”
That was partially my fault. I was usually at work somewhere between fifty and sixty hours a week, depending on how busy we were. More often than not I got home from work, ate dinner and passed out. On my days off I usually had some kind of project lined up. Not that I never went out or had fun, just not as much as I wanted to. That damn adult thing.
“Yeah, I know. It’s about to get busy again with tax refunds going out, so I might as well have fun while I can. The Mavericks are playing the Nuggets in Dallas if you think you want to road trip to Dallas.”
“I don’t see why not,” he answered. “Should be fun. Maybe we can take Alex to a strip club.”
“He’s only thirteen,” I reminded him.
“I know. Get him started young,” he grinned.
“You tell Pam we’re taking her kid to see tits and let me know how that goes,” I snorted. My sister would turn his balls into paperweights.
“I’m sure Alex can keep a secret,” he chuckled.
“Dude, you touched Jenny Hobart’s boobs in seventh grade and told everyone you saw,” I reminded him. Alex was no better.
“Kids are better at keeping their traps shut these days.”
Was he mentally challenged?
“You mean like the kids who post everything on Facebook and YouTube?”
“Hmmm, is that what they’re doing?” He didn’t have a Facebook account.
“Yeah, Throwback, that’s what they do.” I shook my head at him. “I’m surprised Luna hasn’t made you open a joint Facebook account.”
That was the mark of a guy who had officially surrendered his balls.
“I don’t even think she has a Facebook,” he shrugged.
“Oh really?” I was friends with her there.
“Does she? Let me see,” he requested.
“How do you not know she has a Facebook? You know she’s friends with Hugo, right? They poke each other–”
“What the fuck is a poke? And why didn’t you tell me this sooner?”
“Because I thought you knew, Mr. Garza,” I snickered. So much for Luna being an upfront adult. “A poke is just some stupid thing you send to get someone’s attention.”
“And she pokes him back? I might need to check this shit out,” he grumbled.
“Or you could just tell her you don’t want her poking Hugo anymore.” Hugo was the dipshit she couldn’t seem to get rid of, no matter how big of a twatnugget he was.
“You better believe I will. I’m going to have to give in to the fuckin’ hype and get a damn Facebook,” he sighed.
“It’s not that bad, man. Just don’t put the app on your phone.” I stood up to open the front door so we could carry out the old carpet.
“I don’t know. Maybe I’ll just talk to her about it.”
“That’s the adult thing to do.” I wasn’t going to bring up that social media was one of the leading causes of modern divorce. He didn’t need to hear that. Yet.
Jake helped me carry out the first load of carpet and dump it in the dumpster I rented for the projects I had planned. I stopped short when I saw Jessica’s Ford Focus pull into the driveway. Fuck. I didn’t call her. What was she doing at my house? It wasn’t the time for one of her tantrums. I really needed to cut her loose. Stat.