A Sweet Deal by Chris Rhatigan

Crissy slid on a pair of pink fleece pants with Juicy scrawled across the ass and scampered out of my apartment. Soon as the door closed I bounded over to the computer and Googled “delaware age of consent.”

Sixteen. Righteous.

I fired up a celebration joint and flipped on the TV. Probably should’ve been down at the boardwalk arcade or out at the Double L trying to recruit customers. But fuck it. Gotta take a personal day once in a while.

***

I assumed the thing with Crissy was a one-time deal. But she stopped by a few days later in a low-cut tank top and a skin-tight pair of jeans.

I brought out her eighth and she pulled a glass bowl out of a leather pouch. “Wanna smoke?”

I closed the window and shoved a towel under my bedroom door. The way she inhaled was kind of funny—like every puff was a surprise. Her eyelids drooped and she started telling me about her boyfriend.

“We used to be really into each other. But now he’s so, what’s the word for it . . .” A couple of old containers of Play-Do across the room suddenly grabbed her undivided attention. “Oh my god—I used to love this stuff!”

We cleared off my desk and constructed a miniature zoo in blue and red and yellow with animals that all looked more like snowmen. When the neck of her giraffe collapsed for the fifth time, she fell on the floor laughing, a strip of coffee-colored midriff peaking out. I remembered when getting high was like that for me—pure joy.

Pretty soon she was moaning and I was thinking about routine baseball plays—ground ball to shortstop, flips to second for one, throws to first, double play—in a futile effort to last more than a couple of minutes. I wondered why the hell she was doing this. Never got girls like her back when I was at Cape Bethany High. And that was when I didn’t have twenty pounds of beer and munchies orbiting around my midsection.

She was smoking a cigarette, sheets wrapped around her tiny waist, and must’ve read my mind. The stoned giggly girl had left. Now she was all business.

“I have a proposition.”

“All right.”

“You don’t sell to the high school kids anymore. In fact, you’re not really selling to anyone.”

“That’s kind of a buzz kill.”

“No—I want to help you. I know everyone at that school. And guys do whatever I tell them to. We could split the profits, fifty-fifty.”

I guess she slept with me to sweeten the deal. But euphoric as it was, there was no need. Dollar signs distracted me from anything else.

“Where do I sign?”

***

The next two months were the best of my life.

Crissy was selling. A lot. And far as I could tell, she kept everything on the level. Friggin incredible—I raked in more cash than ever before, and all I had to do was sit on my doughy ass and play Halo until my eyes hurt.

If that wasn’t enough, we were banging three or four times a week. Not a commitment kind of guy, but I dug her. Super smart. Relaxed. Smelled like cinnamon gum. Maybe we were headed in that direction.

One time while I was rubbing her shoulders, I asked her what a hot, young thing like her could possibly see in a washed-up loser like me. With most girls I wouldn’t ask a question like that, but Crissy didn’t put up a front.

“Well, at first, I wanted to make Josh jealous. But I’m done with him now. Even though he hasn’t exactly received that message.” She turned toward me, her breasts pressed against my chest, and stroked my beard. “And, I don’t know, I guess I like you now.”

So that’s who was texting her all the time. I was pretty sure he used to buy from me. Weird kid, grungy chunks of blond hair, all sensitive and such. He smoked so he could “get in touch with his inner muse” and write these depressing, Elliott Smith kind of songs.

Other than that, didn’t know much about him. What I did know was that a couple of months ago I thought I would have to get some shit job—washing dishes or cleaning out bedpans at the old folks home—and now I was on Easy Street. With his girlfriend.

Josh lost. I won. Game over.

***

I did sort of have a real job. Need to maintain appearances for The Man. The guy who owned the arcade by the beach boardwalk, Artie, would report to the IRS that I worked there thirty hours a week. In exchange I’d offer him some of my finest.

Artie was the only friend I had left—everyone else had moved on—and I dropped by one rainy Thursday afternoon to get his advice. The place stank of buttered popcorn and adolescent body odor, even though it was empty. Artie was in the back office, nodding off as the five o’clock news materialized on the little TV, a dark tuft of wooly chest hair sprouting out of his Hawaiian shirt.

I reached over the desk and smacked his stubbly cheeks. “Wake up, asshole.”

“Huh, what? Oh, it’s you.” He rubbed his temples. “Scared the Bejesus out of me.”

I sat on a squeaky rolling chair and planted my Converses on his desk. “I’m thinking of taking off.”

“What do you mean?”

“Don’t worry. I’ll hook you up before I go.”

He opened a bottle of Aspirin and dry swallowed two. “But I thought we had a good thing going here?”

“We do,” I said. “I’m just thinking, I don’t know. I’ve been making a lot of bread lately, man. Actually, a fucking shit ton of bread. And I’ve got this chick. Maybe I take off while I’m ahead. Go to Cabo for a few years. Just chill. What do you think?”

“I don’t know.” One of his furry eyebrows shot up. “Since when do you have a girlfriend?”

“Guess I don’t. Just this hottie I’ve been hanging out with the last couple of months. She’s a sweet girl. Real class act.”

“Who is she?”

“Rather not say, bro.”

***

Crissy’s shift at Mr. Video ended at five, and I was late, but figured that was cool. Nobody expected me to be on time. I trudged through the puddles, regretting that I didn’t own a raincoat, and ran through what I wanted to say to her.

I thought I’d take her over to Jonesy’s, a pool hall that didn’t card. Buy her a couple of cosmos, or whatever girls drink these days, make my pitch. Something along the lines of we both know we’ll eventually get caught, so it was time to cut ties while we could. Man, the idea of her and the beach year round—sounded like exactly what I wanted.

That’s when I turned the corner and saw the crowd gathering. The video store was wrapped in yellow tape. Streaks of blood dripped down what was left of the shattered windows.

Greg Van Deusen stood next to his cruiser, rattling off a bunch of numbers into a radio. He was an old high school buddy who’d bought schwag from me for years before joining the force.

“Hey man. What’s going on?”

He hesitated, gestured for me to come closer and lowered his voice. “You know Crissy Watson? Cheerleader with the amazing rack?”

I rubbed my matted, wet hair, and shivered. “Nah.”

“Well, her ex-boyfriend—some kid, I don’t know who—he comes in here with a twelve gauge and starts yelling some stuff about how she’s a whore, how she’s sleeping with everyone in town. Shoots her and then sticks the barrel in his mouth.” He shook his head. “This is going to be a shit storm.”

I felt dizzy, like I needed to puke. Couldn’t believe our fun would end like this. How could that stupid fucking kid do that to her? I should’ve known—Josh seemed the obsessive type.

I tried to invent something to say, but VanDeusen’s radio started crackling, and I slinked away.

They’d be asking questions about Crissy—questions that would lead back to me. And not all the cops were as cool with my little business as Van Deusen was. So I booked it back to my apartment, grabbed my stash and the cash in the lockbox, threw some clothes in a plastic bag and took off, headed for BWI and the next flight out of.

I’d make it to Mexico. But not on my terms.

Chris Rhatigan’s fiction has been published in A Twist of Noir and Mysterical-E and is upcoming at Pulp Carnivale and Yellow Mama. His blog, Death by Killing, is all about the world of short crime fiction.

9 thoughts on “A Sweet Deal by Chris Rhatigan”

  1. that’s a great story. the opening’s a real thrill, very clever, and the building up of their relationship is warm and beautiful. for a while i was jealous and in the end, just sad it had to be that way. reminded me of the weight i carry round my middle these days, too – better pop out for a walk.
    i’m hoping there’s more to come.

  2. Stonker of an opening line, Chris. Brilliant. And I loved the pace and the insight into each character. Skilfully done, mate. Top notch dialogue and an ending that rounded the whole thing off very satisfyingly indeed.
    A great write, mate.

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