Grand Slam

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she opens her mouth again, I’m gonna fucking kill her. I am."

   I catch myself saying this, not out loud or anything, God no, but absolutely thinking it, you know, there inside my head, as I’m smiling across the table at her and nodding. Nodding for, like, the hundredth time as she rambles on about her mother and growing up in Wisconsin and the most inane shit I’ve ever heard come out of a person’s mouth. She’s been going at it, this talking stuff, I mean, for around three hours straight, seriously, without a pause, and it’s really getting me down. I almost feel sad inside, or lonely or something, because of it. Which is a weird feeling. To be with somebody, sitting across from them and at the same time having a moment where it’s like you are so completely and utterly by yourself that you wanna scream or weep or some emotion like that. Kind of like that one picture of the dude clutching the sides of his head and crying out, you know the one I’m talking about? It’s famous, I think. My high school English teacher had it hanging in her class — I don’t know the name of the guy who painted it —
but I used to stare at it a lot, especially during tests. Anyway, I’m sorta like that right now. Her talking is making me feel that way and I don’t like it. Not that I enjoy having these other thoughts, the ones about pounding her goddamn head in with a brick or a chunk of concrete or something, I don’t really want to have urges like those toward a person either, any person at all, so it’s depressing to be driven to a place like that. Some kind of murderous place all because the bitch can’t shut her fucking mouth.


   I didn’t even
want to go out with her in the first place, not that this is a date, what we’re
doing right now. Not an official one, anyway, the kind you’d call a “romance”
if you were talking about it with friends. It’s not that. She talked me into
having a meal because I was hungry and said "okay" and that’s how I find myself
here, but it’s not a date. I want to be clear about that. This is not the kind
of woman I want to be out with, spending my time on and things like that. I’m
not attracted to her, don’t even want to be seen with her, really, but
she lives two floors down from me and I figured food is food and so I said "Fine,
let’s eat" and now I’m living to regret it. She’s like some fucking Infomercial that
you wake up to at four in the morning because you fell asleep watching "All
in the Family," the thing is just going on and on and you know you can’t
really place small ads in hundreds of newspapers and make any money but you keep
anyway. I find her very much like that. Hell, I’d even pay the five easy payments
of $19.95 if this beast would quit sucking down Diet Coke and pay the check and
drive me the fuck back to my apartment. We’ve been done eating for, maybe, forty-five
minutes, did a piece of cheescake, even, and she’s showing no signs of letting
up. It really is unbelievable. She is definitely on a tear. I mean, Milwaukee!
What the fuck else can you say about that place? I bet if Jeffrey Dahmer had
known about this chick, he would’ve eased off on the little boys for a second
and done the world a favor, throttled this cunt and diced her up into little
bite-size chunks. Now, I know that’s not very nice, not a Christian-type thing
to say and I wasn’t raised like that but that’s how I’m starting to feel here,
trapped in our little booth and nodding my head and hoping to God somebody robs
the place and she gets caught in the police crossfire. I know I shouldn’t let
my thoughts spill over into such mean-spirited shit as that, but believe me,
if you were sitting where I am, you’d be reaching for the chainsaw right now.
I promise you would.

My “date” talks
about how she’s really, really horny and suddenly I’m thinking
extra food may be a bad idea.


I’m thinking about ordering myself a second Grand Slam as she
launches into another long rant about her mom. I mean, what the hell, why not?
If this is the way she’s gonna play it, promise me anything off the menu and
then practically hold me captive at the Denny’s for the better part of an evening,
then I should at least get something out of the deal. Slams’re on sale, anyway,
not like she’s gonna be out a bundle because of it. Not at all. I put my hand
up in the air for the waitress while holding eye contact. I mean, I’d
like to look away, check out the whole staff because the girls in here are pretty
cute — that one with the hair dyed candy-apple red especially — but
I’d better not because she’d notice a thing like that, this gal would, notice
right off and probably say something about it. And not just "something," either,
but a twenty-minute riff on me and guys in general and us being like animals
in the field and never opening up or worth her time and some big essay on the
current state of mankind and so I figure "fuck that," I’ll just signal with a
finger and keep listening to this fat sow go on about her mom’s failing eyesight
and the like. I’m so close to grabbing the syrup container there or the bottle
of ketchup and just going to town on her fucking skull I don’t know what, but
I’m trying my best to keep it together. I don’t honestly think a court in this
great country of ours would convict me, but you can’t just go around whacking
the shit out of people, that’s what my mom used to say, anyhow, and I’m doing
what I can to live by it. It’s fucking hard, though, lemme tell you. Right now,

   The redhead notices my distress call and waltzes over to see
what all the commotion’s about. It’s not really a "commotion" or anything, I
mean, I’m not doing shit, just sitting there, but this woman I’m with is not
just talking and talking and talking but waving her hands in the air as she goes
and moving those fingers of hers in all directions to emphasize every fucking
noun and verb. A cigarette sucked straight down to the filter in one ring-filled
claw. I glance over at this gal as she arrives, the cute one in the uniform,
and even toss her a little half-smile, just so she knows I’m sitting here but
in no way am I with this loud-mouth whore. Not at all. I think she gets the idea,
what with me making sure she sees I’ve got no ring on my finger and that I’m
plenty interested in her but my plate is kinda full at the moment. So I order
up the Slam, actually go with the All-American this time around, just to mix
it up a little and she nods — name is "Missy" — and walks
off the long way, back the other direction so I can grab a quick shot of her
ass when she rounds the corner up toward the counter. And no let up from this
one across the way, I mean, like, not even a goddamn breath the whole
time. My "date" hits about three dozen topics during the quick exchange with
the Denny’s gal and shows no sign on slowing. Talks about Medicare and how hard
it is to cash a Social Security check without I.D. and that Safeway has got a
sale going on Hungry Man T.V. dinners and how much she detests meeting guys
on the Internet but she’s really, really horny and suddenly I’m thinking the
extra food may be a bad idea. Did she just say "horny?" Oh come on, I’m gonna
throw up, I swear to Christ, if she gets into the personal stuff. I mean, you
know, it’s one thing to go get a bite and chitchat and things of that nature,
but I’m gonna just barf right here in her lap if she starts talking about getting
laid. I really, really will. And I don’t give a damn who sees me, either.

   Luckily, the Slam arrives to save me a couple minutes later,
but the damage is already done. Ol’ Chatty-Kathy has laid her course out, cards
on the table and any other fucking analogies you can come up with. That’s why
we’re here. That’s how come all the nice crap in the lobby and holding the door
for me and that type of deal the last few months. The bitch wants some sort of
sexual shit from me. Jesus, if that isn’t always the way. Worse part is — well,
not really worse than the idea of touching this big, sloppy lush but
very close — the
red-haired gal catches part of the conversation when she comes back with my hash
browns. Right as she’s leaning over me, and I mean way in close, her name tag
practically catching on my upper lip, the downstairs-from-me chick starts raving
about the ins & outs of giving head, about how much she digs it and craves it
and all this kind of thing — like how she is so great at it and can’t wait to
be doing it again and all that — but this waitress doesn’t understand that it’s
only talk so she just looks at me, this maybe twenty-two year old cutie does,
tosses a big "it’s your loss, buddy" look my way and off she goes.
The other
this time, back where I can’t see her. So now that’s dead. No chance, thanks
to little Miss Blow Job here, and that’s that. Fuck. Great. That’s really great.

   Point being, make a long story short and whatnot, all that
other shit I just mentioned — the Denny’s Grand Slam shit — is how
I find myself back here at the apartment complex, standing in some cramped back
bedroom at nine o’clock in the p.m. and missing the game while this lady slobbers
away on my thing. Both hands clamped around my ass. Nails digging in. I can hear
the T.V. in the other room, already the sixth inning or something like that — Cubbies
are down 4-0 now because somebody hit one out — but I am totally missing
it. The game. I look around the place, this "guest" room that she’s
done up in animal posters and throw pillows and stuff of that nature and try
to trace back just how the fuck I got here, to this very moment. It’s almost
like I’m there, you know, there in her place but removed from it, too,
some kind of out-of-body thing that you might hear about in the Reader’s
. I see her down there in front of me, sitting forward on the edge
of the floral comforter and going at it — she didn’t lie, she’s not half
bad at this — and I’m staring at all those dark roots growing out of her
scalp and I find that I’m thinking these thoughts and, I swear to Christ, I catch
myself tearing up. Seriously, starting to tear up a little bit in the, like,
half-light of this chick’s apartment. I mean, what the fuck? I notice this, this
very surprising shit that’s happening to me, and I suddenly wanna push her away,
toss her back on the bed and pull my Wrangler’s up and run the hell outta there,
up the stairs to my living room and sit on my sofa and watch the game, maybe
just be alone for a second. But I don’t. I do not do that. What I do is I keep
standing there, legs spread a bit and checking out some torn picture of a bison
that she’s push-pinned up over her bamboo headboard. I notice it, this big shaggy
fucker glaring over at me, and I can’t take my eyes off it. I can’t.

   And I guess, basically, that’s all there is. The sound of her going at it down there, the television in the distance. And this buffalo. Looking out at me and me looking at him. Not blinking, just staring straight ahead. Both of us. Quiet.

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Neil Labute‘s films include In the Company of Men, Your Friends and Neighbors, Nurse Betty, Possession and The Shape of Things, a film adaptation of his play by the same title. His other plays include The Mercy Seat, The Distance From Here, and bash.  LaBute’s fiction has also been published in The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar and Playboy.  A collection of his short stories will be published by Grove Atlantic later this year.

©2004 Neil LaBute and