Playing Patience

By: Tabatha Vargo

Prologue





There’s a place you land right before you hit rock bottom, a sort of cushion before the blow. It’s full of fresh air that fills your deprived lungs and so much light that even in its darkest corners it warms your skin. This place prepares you for your plunge, holds you in its calming presence and rocks you softly. Zeke was that place for me. He was like a rainbow in my black-and-white movie, a soothing touch against jagged scars.

And then I reached the bottom.

As I stood over the lifeless body of a man who didn’t deserve the peace that death would bring, I knew I was no longer the girl I used to be. The broken parts of me were on the mend and his soul was the glue that would hold them all together.





One



Zeke





I exhaled a stream of smoke, and a rib-rattling cough took hold of me. My chest ached and my lungs sizzled. The burn in my throat intensified and then relaxation began to seep into my pores. The smoke-filled space swam before my glazed eyes as I melted into Finn’s ripped leather couch. The couch separated the band space from the rest of his junky garage.

“If you don’t cough, you don’t get off,” Finn said as I passed him the joint. “So what happened with Ashley?” He took a hit. The tip of it lit up and crackled. “Did she blow you or what?” His voice was strained as he struggled to hold in the smoke before he finally blew it out and hit it again.

“I don’t want her mouth anywhere near my junk. Did you see that nasty blister on her lip last week? She tried, but I wasn’t having it.”

“Can’t blame you there. You need to get laid, dude. It’s been two weeks since that freak at The Pit. What was her name again?” He lifted his legs and dropped his heavy, mud-covered boots onto the coffee table in front of his couch.

“I dunno. I didn’t ask.” I shrugged.

I strummed my guitar as I tried to tune it.

“Lucky son-of-bitch. You always get the ones that disappear. I get stuck with clingy bitches. Remember that one last summer that followed me around for a month? Damn, she was a good lay, though.” He took a swig from his beer and shook his head at the memory. “Anyway, I say get a piece of ass before this weekend’s gig. You play better when your balls aren’t in a bunch.”

He passed the joint back to me. The smoke filled my lungs as I hit it hard, held it, and then exhaled.

“Yeah, we’ll see.”

I wasn’t feeling it. Too much shit was going on around me and I was getting burnt out on the same old slutty girls.

Once the rest of the guys got there, we practiced for two hours before everyone split and went home for the night. After throwing my guitar case in the back of my rusted El Camino, I drove around for the next hour. My old man didn’t usually pass out until eleven, so I knew better than to go home before then.

After a good amount of time, I rolled my car into my yard and cut the engine. All the lights in our single-wide trailer were out, but I could see the flicker of the TV in the front window. Falling asleep in front of the TV was my dad’s thing.

Drizzle splattered against my cracked windshield and streams of dirty rainwater started to run down my windows. My boots sank into the softening dirt when I got out of my car, which meant the yard would be a muddy mess in the morning.

A stray cat ran from underneath the bottom step as I walked across the small stretch of front yard from my car to the front porch. Dad’s tow truck was parked sideways in the rocky driveway and the cat disappeared under it.

I crept up the broken, wooden steps and stuck my key in the doorknob. The hollow aluminum door begged for some WD-40 as it creaked when I opened it. The door would be my demise one day since it seemed to love waking my dad. The rotting plywood porch buckled under my weight before I stepped into the smoke-filled space.

The scent of beer, Marlboro Red’s, and motor oil filled my nostrils. I slipped through the cluttered living room to the hallway that went to my side of the trailer. Dad was passed out in my mom’s old mauve recliner. The lights from the TV screen danced across his greasy face. He still had on his dirty work clothes and the bottle in his hand was bent just enough so the matted shag carpeting was getting sprinkled with beer when he breathed out. The ashtray next to him was full of ashes, cigarette butts, and beer.

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