The Loser Chronicles; Cookout (PART II)



Earl Petty Jr.


(Part 2 of 2)

I landed on my back about ten feet from the grill. It wasn’t that the world receded from me, I was launched from it. I hadn’t even touched the coals. A huge column of flame was still burning, as if I’d punched a hole into hell and dozens of demons were making an escape. I rolled over and something landed in the middle of the street. I stood up, wiped the dirt off my back and walked over to investigate. It was Beth’s lighter. I either threw it when the charcoal ignited, or the explosion knocked it there. I carefully inspected it. There was a long scratch across Rat Fink’s face. I cursed and slipped the lighter in my pocket.


I went back to check the grill. The flames had died down but there was a small blue flamed dancing on the surface of my martini, like a miniature Olympic torch commemorating my gold medal performance in the Idiots with Flammable Liquids event. I blew out the flame and poured what was left on the ground. 


I went inside, sat the martini glass on the counter, got out a heavy glass tumbler and filled it with ice and Old Granddad. I sat down on the couch next to Beth. I noticed the hair on my knuckles was singed. I took a drink. It was warm, glorious. The best minds on this planet are the ones running distilling plants. Who the hell needs a rocket scientist? Give me a man who can turn fermenting corn into whiskey, potatoes into vodka, wheat into beer, grapes into wine. He’s the alchemist. He’s the genius. I set my attention on the tv. The drill sergeant was screaming, red faced. Behind him was a wide lake. The scene cut to an alligator cruising through the water.


“Recruits!” he yelled. “We are going to hit the water, swim out to the middle of this god-forsaken swamp and make love to that alligator.”




“Are you with me!” he yelled.


“Sir, yes, sir!” the recruits screamed.


“Sir!” one of the recruits said.


“Boy” the sergeant screamed, “You got a problem, son? You eyeballin’ me?”


“No, sir!” the recruit said. “But that is a male alligator, sir!”


“Well,” the sergeant sneered,  “it looks like we got ourselves a god damned herpetologist here!”


“Sir, no, sir!” the recruit responded. He stared off into the distance. “I grew up in Louisiana!”


The drill sergeant moved his face just inches from the recruit’s face. “Then you of all people should know that when a full-blooded American male feels the urge to engage in sexual congress with the largest member of the reptile family that the gender of the lizard is of little consequence.” The sergeant stood back and scanned the group. “Recruits!” he screamed. “Follow me in.” The sergeant turned and walked into the water. The group of recruits just stood and looked at one another.


I took another drink of bourbon. I looked at Beth. She was pouring herself another martini without looking away from the television.


“Maybe you should switch to wine,” I suggested.


“I’m fine,” she said. “Shouldn’t you be checking your fire?”


“Good idea,” I said. I went to the refrigerator, put the four shark steaks on the plate, brushed them with some olive oil and went out the door.


Once outside, I saw the charcoal was gray and perfect. I spread the briquettes with a broken broom handle, then placed the grill over the coals and put the meat over the fire. It sizzled and popped. It smelled good.


I sat in the shade and had a drink of my cocktail. Beth seemed to be doing a little bit better. Maybe the meal would pep her up. She needed help. If I could just get her out on the town, out to Gary’s Pub, someone there would be able to make her laugh and maybe break her out of her funk.


I stood up, checked the meat, and turned it over. It was white and perfect. A cool breeze blew across the trailer court. I lit a cigarette, took a few drags, and waited for the steaks to finish. My mouth watered.


I put the meat on the plate, went inside and placed the food on the kitchen counter. I poured some more whiskey.


“Last time I grilled shark I sautéed some onions in butter and paprika. It was excellent. I bought some onions today but forgot to prepare them,” I said. “Well, what can you do?” I got out a pair of plates and sat them on the counter.


“Beth,” I said. “If you want to grab some silverware, we can eat in about three seconds.” She didn’t respond.


I walked over to the couch. Beth was passed out cold. She had switched to drinking straight out of the bottle. She still clutched it in her hand.


I took the bottle, screwed on the cap and put it, and the meat, in the refrigerator. I took Beth’s lighter out of my pocket and put it back in her purse. I found her wallet, took out two fives and sat her purse on the couch. I finished my drink. I lit a cigarette, turned off the tv and the lights, and went to the bar.