aqua fortis

Friday, September 15, 2006

Flickr Fiction: Broad Side of the Barn

"You never could hit the broad side of a barn, Adrian." I knew his aim was bad; really bad. And I couldn't help taunting him. I don't know why I did this, only that I felt compelled to do it, and all the time.

That day he dropped his arm, let the tennis racket swing at his side, and smiled sheepishly, nodding in agreement, like he did every time I said anything. Anything at all.

"Adrian, you suck at typing. Give me that letter." He'd hand me the letter, nodding and smiling.

"Adrian, you know you're a sloppy drunk. No more Long Island Iced Teas, only coffee for you. It's getting late." Enthusiastic nod; simpering smile. Coffee was drunk.

"Come on, Adrian. Hurry up." His steps would quicken so he could catch up to me, nod, and smile.

No doubt you've noticed a trend.

It didn't matter if it was his aim that was in question, or his excruciatingly slow walking pace, or his irritating habit of cleaning his glasses by audibly breathing on them with garlic or coffee or sandwich breath. It was as though I was compelled by some irresistible force, a geas, if you will. I lived to torment Adrian Bell.

I broke up with him six months ago, after I got sick of all those little things that first endear a person to you, the things that make them them, all the habits and tendencies and quirks. After a year, they all drove me nuts. Bonkers. Crackers. Apeshit. I realized that everything I had once loved about him now made me hate him.

So I ended the relationship. Oh, we were still friends. But it was one of those uneasy friendships, the kind where they hope every smile of yours might mean something, and you're afraid every smile of theirs does. We would see each other every week or so, to play tennis, or see a movie, or some other activity that doesn't require talking. Still, at every opportunity there was to open my big mouth, there I was saying something like "Don't you realize how silly that sounds?" or "You really shouldn't do things like that; it's so disgusting." Picking and picking and picking.

Until last weekend. We were on one of those rare outings that involved a long car ride--prime territory for our usual sort of one-sided conversation. The car wound through countryside on the way back from a concert in some podunk-ville winery town. Adrian was driving. That was one thing he could do well. I, on the other hand, woudl swerve every time I had to talk to someone.

It was a gorgeous day. We had the windows down and the smell of plants and fertilizer wafted through. The low, rolling fields were bright green with rows of shrubby crops and tethered grapevines. Every so often you'd see a truck in one of the fields, or a rotting barn way out in the distance. One of those barns was coming up real close on the right-hand side, all decaying weathered wood and peeling reddish paint. Inside, you could see it was an empty, abandoned husk.

The road curved slightly and suddenly you could see that the side of the barn used to have some kind of billboard painted on it. I chuckled.

"It's cute, huh," Adrian said, brightly.

"Cute?" My voice rose. "Because some poor sap of a farmer sold out his wall space to some company that would never be of any use to him? Can you imagine a farmer in Guess Jeans and a pair of fancy Ray-Bans? Maybe in Brokeback Mountain, but not here. God, Adrian, you really missed the mark again that time. Cute." I snorted.

Suddenly the car veered to one side. I screeched as I was thrown against the gearshift.

"Adrian! Don't be psycho!" But the car was inexorably turning, quicker now, bumping over the reflectors on the side of the road and right out into the field. Adrian drove expertly over one of the raised levee dirt roads that I hadn't even noticed, dividing a cornfield from the grapevines.

He accelerated, the car bumping faster and faster, me screeching the whole time. I could see the building getting closer and closer. I could see every detail of the peeling paint, the woman's once-perfect face rotting away like a million years had passed. And then there was an impact, a giant crashing noise, and splinters of termite-infested, flaky, musty wood were raining down on us through the windows. I spat a wood chip out of my mouth as the car ground to a halt in the middle of the barn. I could smell ancient manure.

"What," I panted, "in God's name, do you think you just did?" I gathered my breath to give Adrian the tirade of his life.

"What did I do?" he said. "I just proved you wrong, is what I did. I, Miss Nay-sayer, just hit the broad side of a barn."

This week's piece was inspired by this photo by Flickr user tangent. I have no idea what I was thinking here. Just some garbage I hacked up at the last minute. Check for more Flickr Fiction on the sites of The Gurrier, Tea and Cakes, Elimare, Chris, Mina, TadMack, and Linus.


tanita✿davis said...

Never torment the driver!
'Tis a lesson well-learned. And a cute pun.

Although I must admit Adrian geeked me out with the garlic-breath-on-glasses. Erg.

Anonymous said...

Ha! Brilliant, love the ending!

David T. Macknet said...

Got her, finally!

Your portrayal of the relationship was especially good - you've captured one of those "why in hell does this happen" things, which seem to happen with such frequency. It's almost a stage that someone has to go through (as either one or the other, or maybe both): the abuser / abusee, and nobody knows why two perfectly decent people would be such cruel-hearted / simperingly-accepting people.

I wished it was a picture of her on the barn or something, though, and was waiting, in anticipation of it being some monumental effort of his to have painted her in larger-than-life.

I'm glad it wasn't. Nicely done. ;)

Anonymous said...

Heh, heh, go on Adrian! Great ending.