Table of Contents

Brian the Writer

After the Last Call

Brian McCorkle

Worse than a hangover.

Robby hurried into the bowling alley. He was in a half-run to get to the bar. The thought “She better still be there” was going through his head again and again. His stupid cousin Chuck had insisted on a ride home “Too drunk to walk,” had been Chuck’s words. Robby had to leave the lovely Lorelei at the bar with the risk that she would leave with some jerk.

He was not even sure he'd be able to recognize Lorelei. He remembered her dark hair and pouty smile. And her jokes about her name and luring men to their ruin. She came up to him and stared at his left hand for a moment. He bought her drinks; she accepted; they drank. When his jackass cousin insisted on a ride home, she said, “Go ahead. I’ll wait. I need a ride too,” and then she winked or blinked.

Bowlers were still at the lanes. Robby heard the sounds of the balls rolling, the clear clink of pins hitting pins, the lower clunk of balls hitting the pins, and shouts that signed a good throw or a bad hit. He wandered toward the front of the bowling ally and almost tripped into the little bar. Things were a bit foggy. He wasn’t sure if the woman he saw was Lorelei. The woman at the bar waved. Robby went to her bar stool.

She said, “Glad you made it back. I was afraid I might have to con a ride home.”

She looked different from what he remembered. Not as pretty, heavier, but then he thought, when did fat and ugly ever stop me! It is all between three-eight and four-O.

“Too bad, you missed last call.” She upended her brandy old-fashioned sweet and placed the glass on the bar. “Let’s go.”

He had a few problems as she gave directions to her apartment building. He missed the driveway twice and had to pull into other driveways to turn around. He finally steered into a roadway between two apartment buildings.

She told him, “Turn left and park by the dumpster. That’s supposed to be my space, but I don’t drive. No point in having a car, you know.”

Robby got his car into the slot on the first try. Then he blacked out.

Robby came to. He was in this apartment in bed with a woman. She had her arms wrapped tightly around his lower back and her legs hooked over his.

What the hell was he doing here. This wasn’t supposed to happen again. He remembered the pledge that he would only have a few drinks with his cousin. No chasing. Just a few drinks and back home to his wife, Jeanette. But, now he was with a stranger. How did she get him here? He couldn’t remember. She must have really enticed him, played on his weakness. How else could he have forgotten his vow. This slut was like the rest of them. She conned him.

All because of his good looks.

“Damn you,” he shouted.

“What?” she said. “What’s going on?”

“You goddamn slut!” he said. “What did you do to me?” And then, he hauled off and punched the pillow, near her head. “Damn you,” he whispered as he punched the headboard.

Lorelei was strong. She pushed him up and then over the side of the bed. Robby thudded on the floor.

“Get the hell out of here,” she shouted. “Get your fucking clothes and get the hell out of here.”

Robby found his clothes in a heap. He jerked his jeans on while bouncing on one foot and then the other. He pulled his T-shirt over his head. Then he put on his shirt on but didn’t bother to button it. He tried to put his shoes on, but his socks were still inside. He pulled the socks out and stuffed them into his pocket. Then he slipped his feet into his shoes, falling when he had the second shoe on.

Lorelei had turned on a lamp. Robby looked at her but, didn’t recognize her at all. He thought, hell I could’ve done better than that.

“You better go before the cops get here.” She laughed and added, “sucker.”

Robby ran into the hallway and closed the door. The snick of the closing door echoed way too loudly. He was sure it woke everyone in the building. He headed toward one end of the hall. Now he felt his heart thumping in his chest. For some reason, he turned around and headed for the opposite end of the hallway. He tried the door with a red exit sign. He headed down the stairs two treads at a time. When his foot hit a tread, he bounced off to keep going. Robby made it outside and then realized that he forgot his underwear.

He didn’t recognize anything. Where was his car? He couldn’t remember getting here. Maybe she drove him. As he wandered back and forth in the parking lot behind the building, he thought he spotted his car parked by a dumpster. Robby felt a little bit better. Then he remembered Jeanette. Well, maybe she wouldn’t notice how late he was. Robby heard a police siren in the distance. He hurried toward his car.

* * *

Robby woke to a loud voice. “You know, I’ve really had it with you. Coming home, stinking of beer and whores. I warned you. No more. You did more.”

Robby opened his eyes and saw Jeanette taking things out of a dresser drawer and then throwing them back. She breathed raggedly.

Robby cleared his throat, “What’s the matter Jen?”

“What’s the matter? What’s the Matter? What the hell do you think’s the matter. Smell that stinking perfume on you and tell me what’s the matter.”

She straightened up. Robby saw her slender bare back; her brief-accentuated hips; her small waist. Robby wanted to see her breasts. He waited for her to turn.

Jeanette bent slightly, grabbed a tube top, and slipped it on over her head. She strode to the closet and grabbed a pair of jeans and then a blue shirt with no sleeves. She pulled the jeans on. She put the shirt on while turning toward Robby. “I hate you.”

He was confused. Robby kind of remembered last night. Oh Yeah: His cousin Chuck wanted to get a couple of beers. That was ok with Robby. Chuck had said, “just a couple of beers” and then back home for both of them. Jeanette had looked real mad. Robby had promised “we’re just going to get a couple of beers and then we’ll be back. I promise Hon.”

Jeanette had just shaken her head. Her mouth had twisted, lips pursed. She gave him a look with her head slightly bent and her eyes looking up.

“This time, I’ll do it. I really will. I got willpower,” Robby had pledged. Then he touched his cousin on the shoulder as the signal to move on out.

Robby got a sucking feeling in his gut. He didn’t remember much but, sure enough, last night had not been different. If only his damned cousin hadn’t come over. If only. Then, everything would be all right now. He had a feeling that just getting too drunk, and coming home too late was not everything. It was those damned blackouts again. Sometimes memories came back, sometimes they didn’t. There was something nagging at the back of his mind. Maybe he got a drunk driving ticket. No, then he wouldn’t be home. He beat the cops one more time.

“Gee Hon, I was only going to a couple of beers. It was Chuck’s fault. He didn’t want to leave when I wanted to.”

“Sure, like he was driving. I would’ve just left him there. Instead, you just drank more. His fault? Bullshit!”

“Jen, I’m really crappy today. Call the gas station and tell Bob that I can’t make it today. Tell him I caught a bug and uh, I’m afraid I’ll be contagious.”

“Call him yourself. I ain’t going to call for you no more. What happened to you? You weren’t a drunk when I married you. You promised to be faithful, and I believed you. You didn’t chase then. What happened? What did I do to you for this?” Jeanette continued, “I’m going to work. You make me sick.”

She left the bedroom. Robby heard the drapes pulled open. He heard the slamming of the kitchen entry door to the garage. Robby heard the garage door opener, and then the rough purr of Jeanette’s car moving out of the garage.

He thought, he was like this when they married. How often had they gotten really drunk or stoned together. He had jumped some woman a couple days before the wedding; for old time’s sake. Jeanette didn’t know that but, she should remember the drunk and drugged parties. Well, she should know. He remembered that at one of the parties, Jen punched out a woman she thought was hitting on him.

Robby swung out of bed. The room jittered. The left side of his head slammed and vibrated. His forehead felt swollen. He brushed his right hand against the night-stand. Pain from his knuckle jarred his hand. He jerked his hand away from the night-stand and saw a yellow-white spot on his middle knuckle. A purple edge feathered into the yellow-white.

Suddenly he remembered Lorelei. He felt sick. What if the cops were after him. He didn’t mean to hit her. She made him forget his wife. He was mad, that’s all. Well, she was too. Maybe she did call the cops. She had to know he was married. He wore his wedding ring all the time for protection. He heard a siren. It was far away.

Robby found his pants by the bed. He pulled them on. He discovered his socks in a pocket. He viciously threw each of the socks into a corner. Robby ran into the living room and closed the drapes. He sat there in the dark, thinking damn, damn, damn, what did I do now?

There had been others since he married Jeanette. Once, he stopped to see his brother, but only this sister-in-law was home. Before Robby knew it, he had her in his arms. She was saying, “don’t do this.” But, Robby felt a breast pointing into his chest. He knew she wanted it. Later the slut told his brother what happened. He hadn’t seen his brother since. There was one of Jeanette’s girlfriends. She was angry. “You know, if I get pregnant, we’ll both be in trouble.” That girlfriend stopped seeing Jeanette.

Jen had to know some of this. She stayed married, so it must be ok.

The phone rang. Robby let it ring six times and before he answered, “Hello, Robby's Donut Shop.”

“Hey Robby.” It was Don, from the gas station. “Why aren’t you at work?”

“Well, I’m really sick. I don’t want anyone to catch what I have.”

“Tell you what,” Don replied, “when you feel better, stop in and pick up your things. I’ll write your last paycheck.”

“Come on, If you don’t mind everyone getting sick, I’ll come. Right now.”

Don said, “forget it.” The line clicked.

Robby listened to silence, change to a dial tone before he hung up.

Now he was in deep trouble. Jeanette would be really pissed. The fourth job in the two years they had been married. Robby heard a siren. It sounded closer than before. He went to the window and pulled the curtains slightly apart. He didn’t see anything. He felt a rush of relief.

The phone rang again. Robby looked at it as it rang. Finally, he picked up the handset and said, “Yeah.”

Jeanette asked, “Aren’t you at work yet?”


“Did you call Don?”

“Not yet,” Robby answered.

“I’m thinking real hard about dumping you,” she said, voice crackling. “I don’t know why I put up with you this long. You’ve been a real asshole.”

“Yeah, I know,” he said. “But, I’ll change, hon. I promise. I won’t let Chuck talk me into driving to the bowling alley no more. I’ll come home early. I’ll get a new job right away.”

“What do you mean, a new job?”

“Um, well, Don called here. He doesn’t want me any more. I’m sorry. I just forgot to call him”

There was a brief moment of silence on the line. “I’ll have to think about it,” Jeanette said and then hung up the phone.

Robby felt jumpy. He paced out to the kitchen to look at the door to the garage. He returned to the picture window, fingering the drapes.

He peeked out the window. He saw a squad car driving down the street. The squad was driving slow, maybe ten, twenty miles per hour. Robby started to shake. He quickly crossed the flaps of the curtains. Then he went to the sofa and sat down. He noticed his shaking and thought about that bitch Lorelei.

She had to have seen his wedding ring. She took him anyway. Right at a time, when Jeanette was pissed at him. She was just something to make everything worse. That damned bitch.

Robby lay on the sofa. He was sweating. But felt cold.

He got up and peeked out the curtains again. The cop was gone. Good, must not be for me he thought. He remembered his underwear that he left at the bitch’s apartment. thinking, I’ll bet she give it to the cops. Could they use that? Make him try it on?

He went back to the sofa and sat down. He folded his arms and bent over. He closed his eyes. His eyelids swelled.

He remembered the girls; the women. Some very willing. Some he had to push. Some got mad and threatened him. His mother called it his wild oats. “You’ll find a nice girl and marry her Robby,” His mother had said. “She'll straighten you out.” Well he must not have married a nice girl. Jeanette sure didn’t straighten him out. She just got madder and madder; more and more often.

That was his problem with women. He couldn’t find the one that would straighten him out. Robby understood now. The wrong ones got to him first. The nice ones just didn’t have a chance.

The doorbell rang. Robby opened the door without thinking. A woman cop was there. Robby felt himself freeze.

“Your garage is open,” she said. “There’s been some thefts in this area. No point in helping the crooks.”

Robby had stopped breathing.

“Are you ok?” the officer asked. Robby stared blankly “Make sure you close the garage, all right?” she continued.

“Yes ma'am.” Robby closed the door and locked it. He quickly entered the garage and pushed the garage door button.

The phone rang again. Robby stared at it. It rang many times before it stopped. He heard a siren. It sounded as if it were coming down his street. Then the sound stopped. Robby’s heart started thumping. He ran to the picture window, and pulled the drapes with his hand just wide enough so he could peer with one eye. He didn’t see anything. Robby felt a little bit better.

The phone started ringing again. Robby strode to it and answered, “Rob’s donut shop.”

It was Jeanette again. “I don’t want to see you any more,” she said. “I’ve had it with your bullshit. Hell, you’re lucky if you can keep a job six months. I don’t know what happened to you.”

“But…” Robby tried to get in.

“I want you out. If you’re there when I get home, I’ll call the cops. I’ll tell them about all your driving while you’re drunk. I’ll testify. They’ll throw you jail and you’ll never get out. Then, maybe my girlfriends can stop in without you drooling and trying to get them.” The line clicked.

Robby slowly hung up the phone. He took a deep breath. He felt very weak. He collapsed to a sitting position on the floor. Tears came; gently.

He didn’t know how long he had been sitting. He knew he had lost feeling. He felt hollow. He was mad at Jeanette. “Damn it, she was supposed to save me.” He was angry with his mother. She lied to him about a woman straightening him out. He was mad at himself. He just couldn’t stop once he started. He couldn’t stop the drinking. He couldn’t stop the chasing. That damned Lorelei, she told him he was doomed. He thought she was just saying that.

Robby got up. He felt dizzy. He looked around. His home looked different. Nothing was familiar. There he was, lost in his own place.

He walked into the kitchen and turned to the garage entry door. He didn’t have his car keys in his pocket. He went to the bedroom, picked them up from the floor by his bed stand, and returned. He returned and closed the door, thinking, I’ll fix her. Doesn’t want me here? I’ll be here.

Robby opened his car door, got into his car and closed the door. He put his key in the ignition.

The End?
First Appeared in Ego Trips Number Four (Autumn 2005)
Experimental Literary Journal of the Fox Valley Writers Club (Wisconsin)