“This is what I don’t get,” the clerk said. “You are standing there, telling me that you can get me anything I want, in exchange for two cases of beer.” He added, “And, because that’s not hilarious enough, you want to pay for the beer?”
“If you could get anything,” he said, “then why don’t you just get your own beer?”
“Were you a philosophy major when you dropped out of school?” I asked the clerk.
“I graduated, jackhole,” he replied.
“I see that worked well for you,” I replied back.
“Insulting the guy with the stuff you want isn’t helping, you know.”
“Respecting the guy with the stuff I want wasn’t helping me either,” I told him, “so I guess that leaves me at square one.”
“You got balls,” he said, “I’ll give you that. You just marched in here and told me you were eighteen without giving me any bullshit about a lost ID or even a fake.”
“That would mean a lot more to me if it came with a liquor purchase.”
“Well, it doesn’t.”
“A valid driver’s license or state ID with your real date of birth of more than twenty-one years ago,” he told me.
“Then we’re at an impasse.”
“No,” he clarified, “You’re at an impasse, and the chick behind you who’s probably not a minor is also at an impasse. Me, I’m right where I belong.”
I smirked and raised an eyebrow. “I was right! You really were a philosophy major!”
“Get the hell out of my store.”
“If I do what you want, will you let me buy the beer?” I asked, just in case.
His voice went up a couple of extremely frustrated octaves. “Are you fucking serious?”
“Only a little bit,” I admitted as I obeyed and whispered a quick apology to the chick behind me, immediately averting my eyes from hers, which were stunning, amber, and hidden behind thick-framed glasses.
Shrouded in frustration, I’d made it nearly a block and a half before a voice called out from behind me, “Hey, Bupkis!”
Since I didn’t remotely look Polish, I ignored it and returned to pondering my line of attack for the next gas station.
I looked around for a Mr. Bupkis and realized that I was the only person on the street–other than the owner of that voice, of course.
“Why are you yelling Bupkis at me?” I shouted back at the shadowy figure strutting up to me.
“Because your name is Bupkis,” the figure replied, stepping into the light.
“Why?” was pretty much all I could choke out at that point. That was because I finally got a decent look at the woman who had been behind me in line, with her black, boyish haircut revealing a neck that sloped from her jaw all the way to the collar of her jean jacket, which both concealed and hinted at the snug T-shirt beneath, with a hem that didn’t quite make it to the waist of her just-as-snug jeans.
“Because that’s all your incredible ballsiness got you,” she replied.
“My name’s actually–“
“Don’t tell me,” she interrupted with a grin. “Bupkis is cuter.”
“Hi,” she said, “I’m Mac.” After a moment of silence, she added, “Mackenzie, in case you were wondering, but I’ll be fucked if I’m going through life with a cutesy Scottish surname like that.”
“Hi,” I squeaked.
She held a case of Sheisse-Haus Lite to eye level and said, “Pay up, Bupkis.”
“I wouldn’t buy this shit for myself, that’s for damned sure.”
I handed over a wad of cash and reached for the case, but she yanked it away. “That just covers the beer,” she informed me. “For me getting you the beer, you owe me one or two.”
I’m not stupid. I knew what she meant by that. Unfortunately that’s not what I heard.
What I heard were eight-month-old sounds, which were echoes of sighs and moans coming from the only comfortable spot in the car graveyard just outside the boundaries of my trailer park back home. What I smelled was weed, which was perfectly normal in this private, hidden location. What I saw was the misshapen lump of a hand underneath a T-shirt, cupping a breast, which was also perfectly normal in this private, hidden location. What I tasted and felt was bile burning the back of my throat, because that breast belonged to my girlfriend, whom I loved hopelessly, and that hand belonged to my oldest friend, whom I loved like a brother.
“Well,” I replied in the present, “I was, uh, planning on using it to, uh, bribe this guy in the theater department for…”
“That’s fine,” she said. “I can’t stay up too late tonight anyway. Classes and all.” Her eyes never found their way back to mine by the time she turned and wandered away.
That’s right. I was Bupkis.