“I left my wife for this?” Gerry asked, a joint hanging from his lips. “This?”
“What’s wrong with her?”
The baby burped, then went on crying. There wasn’t a moment when she wasn’t wailing, but that wasn’t what bothered him.
“That’s exactly it.” His chest hovered over his knees as he leaned forward. “Her.”
His girlfriend Sandy bounced up and down trying to calm the baby. “You’re mad because she’s a girl?”
He took one more drag on the joint and got up. “I gotta go.”
Sandy rolled her eyes.
“What kind of weed is that, anyway? Tastes like grass from the backyard.”
“Got it from my cousin.”
He put on a random pair of pants from the floor. “I wouldn’t trust your cousin. That stuff’s crap.”
“Don’t badmouth my family.”
His shirt was missing. He rifled through the pile of clothes on the ground and only came up with a sweatshirt. The baby cried enough to make him crazy.
“Can’t you shut her up?”
“I think she’s hungry.”
“Are you hungry?”
She rolled her eyes again. His wife Artemis ate constantly. He was attracted to Sandy’s thin, long body, but he found himself missing hands full of his wife’s fat in his hands. Not once had he seen Sandy eat, leading him to believe that she wasn’t naturally thin, but anorexic.
“Get a haircut while you’re out,” she said over the baby’s crying.
He hadn’t even shaved since he showed up here three months ago. A hair cut and shave were Artemis’s job. It was something he could always count on.
“When I get back, you better have that fixed.”
“I can’t make her a boy, Gerry.”
“I mean the crying. And eat something, please.”
Five blocks away he could still hear the baby’s crying. It rang in his ears. He couldn’t believe he had a daughter. A daughter? The Shardens seldom produced girls. It was a mark of weakness in the man. Gerry thought about Vince: the one son he had produced, and he was his own breed of stupid. Nevertheless, he missed his only son.
Five minutes later he pulled into a parking lot of a bowling alley where a shiny blue truck was parked crookedly in one of the spots, emitting a blue cloud from the tail.
Gerry parked two spots away and got out. As he approached, the driver’s window rolled down an inch.
The growl of the voice sent a shiver up Gerry’s spine. He walked around the front of the truck.
“No, not on that side,” the deep voice called. “This side. I’ll scoot over.”
Brow furrowed, that shiver still licking his vertebrae, he got in the driver’s side.
“Holy hell it’s hot in here. You know it’s September, right?”
“Air conditioning’s busted.”
Gerry didn’t look directly at the voice on the passenger side. In his peripheral vision, he made out a dark man (dark as in charcoal black). It could be a black jacket and pants––he couldn’t tell for sure––but when an arm pointed in the direction he wanted him to drive, he saw red hairs jumping out of the dark skin.
Swallowing his fear, he moved the truck onto the street.