“The Wrong Man”
by Jonathan Woods
At this very moment, here in the great city of Baltimore, I’ve been copulating with the wrong man.
How did this happen? Well, it’s not really that complicated a story. On the other hand, I won’t be surprised if you don’t believe a word of it.
Here’s the skinny:
After work I stopped at Shorty’s Tap (a barfly landmark), hoping to run into Ron, who I kind of liked. But Ron was nowhere to be seen.
I breasted up to the bar (I have lavish hooters—what some might call low-hanging fruit) and ordered my usual.
“Ron been in?” I asked Shorty, who is actually 6’ 3”. How he got that nickname is shrouded in the bloodthirsty fog of history.
“Hey, Lorraine, how’s it hangin’? And nope. Haven’t seen Ron in a while. Last time he came in, he said he was thinking about movin’ out to the coast.”
Shorty set down my drink on a cardboard coaster promoting animal rights.
Shit, I thought, drinking down my J&B in one long thirsty guzzle. Moving to the coast. How come Ron had never mentioned that to me as we lolled in postcoital exhaustion and ennui. Then I realized it had been at least three months since I’d seen (or fucked) Ron.
I stared into the mirror behind the bar. The person staring back at me wasn’t getting any younger. And Ron’s unannounced stage left exit to the coast had slapped me for a loop. Without even a farewell kiss, I’d been forsworn, abjured, dumped by my sort of heart throb/bar buddy.
Instantly down in the dumps, I ordered another drink. And another. And another.
Soon enough the liquor worked its mojo. I grew woozy. Carefree as a clam nestled in the silt of Rehoboth Bay.
A guy sat down on the stool next to me. I glanced over. Yikes! He looked exactly like Ron. His double.
No, scratch that. It was Ron. There couldn’t be two Rons. I wasn’t born yesterday.
He smiled at me. Same missing tooth. Same wavy black hairs, like eel grass, hanging out of his nose.
“How’s it going, Lorraine?”
“You still drinking J&B? Because I’m buying.”
By then I was cockeyed as a cockatoo, but Shorty, knowing I didn’t own a car, poured me
a double on the house.
“I just got back East,” said Ron. “Been out in L.A.”
“Cool,” I said.
He put his hand on my knee.
Now, I’m not usually a pushover for casual sex. But it was Ron. And it had been three
His hand slipped under my skirt. Shortly thereafter we left Shorty’s and walked around
the corner to my apartment where we engaged in sex, full-throttle, all-systems-go sex. Afterward we lay for a while on the bed contemplating the pointlessness of pretty much everything. Ron smoked a Kool cigarette.
Then a thought occurred to me. Ron didn’t smoke. Always made a big fuss about smokers standing in doorways blowing noxious clouds of smoke in his face when he walked by. I chanced to glance at Ron’s junk. He wasn’t circumcised. But the real Ron was. Suddenly, I was very undrunk.
“What were you doing out in L.A.?” I asked.
The now clearly fake Ron stood up and walked toward the bathroom. As he walked a switchblade suddenly sprouted in his hand. Light flashed off tempered steel.
“Oh,” he said. “I’m a contract killer. I was out West on a job when I met this guy named Ron in a bar. He could have been my double. We got to talking. He said you had dissed his mother. Said she was a skag hag and worse.”
Whoa, I thought. Dissed his mother? NFW. I’d never met the woman. Ever! Did Ron even have a mother?
“Bottom line,” said the fake Ron, “Ron told me he wanted payback. And since I was already about to head back East, I gave him a discount.”
The fake Ron stepped into the bathroom. “Don’t go anywhere,” he said. I could hear him pissing up a storm.
I had to make a run for it! It was now or never! I wondered what my odds were.
Jonathan Woods is an award-winning author of satiric pulp noir. His latest novel is Hog Wild. He holds degrees from McGill University, New England School of Law and New York University School of Law, and studied writing at Bread Loaf, Sewanee, Zoetrope: All-Story and Sirenland writers conferences and at Southern Methodist University. His earlier books include A Death in Mexico and Kiss the Devil Good Night and two collections of stories, Bad Juju & Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem (featured at the Texas Book Festival and awarded a 2011 Spinetingler Award for Best Crime Short Story Collection).