Bzzz Zzzz bzzzzzz

In honor of my weekend experience, another free chapter of Record of Wrongs:

MONDAY
11:04 p.m.

Seventeen

Mary Beaupre slept restlessly and dreamed about work.

She was pouring coffee onto customers’ plates like maple syrup, and they used their knives to cut the porcelain, spearing up bites with their forks. She wanted to tell them that wasn’t right, but then she stopped herself from speaking and cracked a smile. She passed two empty tables, each with a single dollar bill on it, and each time she reached for it, her meager tip dissolved into green dust.

Out of the cacophony of voices in the diner, different men and women called to her: “Honey?” “Waitress?” “Oh miss?” Now a bratty toddler boy in a man’s lap was pinching her on her face, pinching her hard – ow, stop little boy! And now an infant girl was biting Mary on the cheek, biting hard – stop it, baby!

Then Mary was half awake in her bed in the duplex where she lived alone, and the room was filled with buzzing. She felt sharp stabs of pain on her cheeks, arms, left ear. Dear Jesus!

Bees were stinging her, and when she flailed her arms the bugs only seemed to get angrier. There must’ve been hundreds of them, tickling her forearms and neck and buzzing, buzzing. Crushing pain at the sites of the stings, itching already starting, and all Mary could think about was her EpiPen. She wrestled the comforter and sheets and her swelling panic and stumbled through the open door to the bathroom, and they were crawling all over her and swarming around her head and stinging her more.

The shower first, the shower – she wrenched on the taps and plunged under the cold rain, stripping off the T-shirt she’d worn to bed and rubbing to make the bugs get off her. She could see by the street light that poured in through the bathroom glass that it was working; the wings of the ones that got wet bogged down, and they plummeted to the floor of the shower.

Ahh!

She’d stepped on a stinger. She wrenched the Shower Massager from its holder and sprayed the stream at the ones still flying, knocking down a lot of them.
Mary leaped out of the shower dripping water, oddly remembering not to slip on the tile. Now she could feel the skin of her face swelling alarmingly, her lips getting fat and her eyelids, too, making it hard to keep her eyes open. How many stings had there been? Dozens, and a single sting could be life-threatening for her. She had to give herself the shot.

She got to the medicine cabinet. It wasn’t there? It wasn’t there!

Okay, the phone. 9-1-1. Please, God, let them be fast enough. But her phone wasn’t on the dresser where she’d left it after work.

Now the bedroom light came on. She was wheezing already, her airway swelling shut.

A man’s voice: “Hey.”

He was standing in her bedroom doorway with a beekeeper’s hat and net over his head and face. Long sleeves and leather gloves.

“It’s me, Jamey. From high school. Look, I still have your picture.”

She hadn’t thought about this boy in a dozen years. Now he was standing there holding up a hand-drawn picture in a little notebook?

“You wrote them notes. You wrote them notes for them and put ’em in my locker.”

“That was,” she wheezed, “a mean thing for me to do. But a long – time ago.”

“Why’d you do it, then, if you know it was mean?”

“I was –” she breathed – “sixteen. Kevin was. So cute. But they. Just used me.”

She’d been the baseball team’s “student manager.” Kevin and his friend Elliott had used her to write the notes because they needed a girl’s handwriting. And Kevin had used her for the favors she gave on her knees in his Nissan when he’d drive her home late after away games, even though he ignored her the rest of the time. Then the other boy had driven her home a couple times after that, too.

“That – wasn’t nice,” she admitted. “But hey. Bad stuff – happens to – all of us.”

Jamey was shaking his head, his face turning purple. “You grew up in a trailer park same as me,” he spat. “You shoulda never been on the side of them country club boys, helpin’ them hurt me. You shoulda stuck up for your trailer rats. That’s a damn betrayal, is what that is.”

She thought to go after him, thought to run. Thoughts got confused and bumped together. After all the sh–ty decisions she’d made, the marriage to Ronnie, the times he beat her up, here it was: It was going to be a man with little-boy hurt feelings she hadn’t thought of since high school putting hornets in her house to kill her because he hadn’t gotten over it.

She gasped out, “How’d you know,” then wheezed in a breath, “I was allergic – to hornets?”

He shrugged. “Facebook.”

Of course. A couple of months back, she’d felt a sting on her ankle, worried it was a hornet, but it had turned out to be an ant bite. She’d posted a status update about it.

“That’s right,” he was saying. “And you thought I forgot how you did me. But I remembered. I been rememberin’.”

Mary tried to sit on the edge of the bed but slid all the way down to the floor, her vision just narrow slits through the swelling. Her breath wasn’t coming, and she was feeling a little bit drunk. She hadn’t felt this kind of happy in a long time. Yes, this was sure enough going to be the end of her.

Just like this little man here, Mary had nobody to press up next to in bed at night, and no kids to take care of. All she had was a car as old as her that barely ran, a job that hurt her feet and a s–thole two-room apartment with a 13-inch thrift store TV and an old computer somebody had put out with their trash.

Mary closed her eyes and welcomed the euphoric feeling creeping across her brain, like cold seeping through your jacket on a snowy day.

She hadn’t been to church in a while, and if you had asked her that morning, she’d have said she wasn’t sure God and heaven was anything but well-meaning bulls–t.

But right now she knew: Jesus was waiting.

Keep reading now. Buy Record of Wrongs in paperback or in Kindle format (readable on your Apple or Android device with the free Kindle app)

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