Like Kissing an Atomic Bomb


Rich Mallery

Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 122 in March, 2010.

Trevor Bailey was used to the buzzing. He’d been working at Village Petrol ever since he started college and unless he was dealing with a soft-talker, the obnoxious static the overhead lights hummed never bothered him. Most of the regulars were used to it too, but at least once a shift, some prick customer would demand that Trevor’s bosses have someone look at them. Trevor would agree (it was easier than to tell the truth, and say his bosses wouldn’t give a tramp’s twat if the whole station rotted to the ground) and thank them for their concern.

“I’m joking,” she said, breathing heat into his open mouth. “Or am I?”

“You’re twisted.”

“Then twist me.”


No, Trevor Bailey was used to the buzzing. In fact, the only time he even noticed it was when he’d switch the lights off for the night. Then an eerie silence would smother the lot and Trevor would stand outside and listen to the flame crackling on the end of his Parliament.

Trevor sucked in until the stick fizzled down to his fingertips. He flicked the butt at the graffiti-covered garage door. It bounced off one of the windows and landed in the tiny oil spill that was streaming under the door. There was some environmental regulation against disposing of hazardous chemicals like oil, but Trevor’s bosses decided it would be more cost-effective if they waited till after dark, and had one of their off-the-books employees (i.e. Trevor) handle it. So after every shift, it was Trevor’s responsibility to dump over the designated drum, so that the used oil drained a path down to the sewer.

Like usual, Trevor took his time locking the pumps and shutting down. Between school and work he was exhausted, but even if he finished his closing checklist, he still wasn’t permitted to clock for another half hour. No matter how ghost the night was, he had to stay till midnight, even though the odds of seeing as much as a headlight past ten was about the same as him getting a raise.

With the exception of Kitty, the aging escort who stopped by six times a shift to buy loosies, tonight was no different, and he hadn’t seen another person since the after-dinner rush. He could’ve left the lights on and not even have had to open his eyes until closing, but Trevor didn’t take any chances. It wasn’t that he was too lazy to make change or to help some teenager pump gas into mommy’s SUV. No, Trevor couldn’t wait to be bathed in the dark quiet of the night.

“Ten minutes, Kitty,” he shouted at the row of cars by the fence. The Village Petrol mechanics were always overworked and kept about a dozen cars parked outside. Several oak trees dangled their branches over the tin roofs, keeping the interiors blacked out once the sun set. This made it the perfect spot to bring a piece and Trevor pulled ten bucks for every john Kitty brought back there.

A Lexus door opened with a squeak and Kitty stepped out. She adjusted a zebra-print skirt and immediately lit a cigarette. She inhaled and coughed a trail of dust. Behind her, a man stepped out, covering the crotch of his sweatpants with both hands. Kitty blew Trevor a kiss and disappeared into the night.

Kitty and Trevor had an agreement that as long as she didn’t leave behind any evidence, the cars were all fair game. They’d had this arrangement for almost three months now, but Trevor still didn’t trust her. Even if he did, it was the middle of spring and the backseat was pitch black underneath the mess of tree branches. Trevor tapped on his flashlight and scanned the backseat for love stains.

“Whore,” he spit, pulling a Trojan wrapper out of the ashtray. No matter how many times he warned her, she was often garbaged out of her skull and didn’t hear a word. Still, he cleared an extra fifty a night and as long as her sex puddle wasn’t absorbed into the fabric, he wasn’t going to rock the boat. He frisbeed the wrapper over the fence and locked the car door behind him.

Trevor stepped back into the attendant’s booth and counted the stack of bills in the safe. The stool scraped against the concrete floor as he sat down, the cushion exhaling air through the split fabric. Tonight, his drawer ended up eight dollars over. He folded the extra bills and shoved them in his back pocket. When he was short the cash came out of his check, so he didn’t think twice about pocketing any overages. Besides, his bosses were “douchebag, Jew cocksuckers.” Trevor’s words, not mine.

The digital display on the credit card machine read 11:24. Trevor still had another thirty-six to kill before he could skateboard home to his mom’s basement. He mentally scanned the top shelf in his closet trying to choose what porno to beat off to before bed. He grinned and selected the second scene of Ass Tales 4.

Trevor dropped a Vicodin and a few drips of water in a coffee mug and crushed the pill into a smooth powder. He poured the remains into his palm and chased it up his left nostril. The crystals scratched at his sore nasal tissue. After the initial rush he spit pinkish phlegm onto the floor. He spread it out with his foot until it was nothing more than a dark spot.

When he was high, sometimes Trevor would artistically stack the cigarette packs into colored mosaic patterns. Tonight he designed them into a red-faced devil. Marlboro packs for the skin, Green Newports for the eyes and Blue Parliaments for the mouth.

His head started dropping, so he dismantled his creation and slipped the packs back into their designated sections. With the door shut there was zero ventilation in the booth. The gas fumes soaked into his clothes permeated the thick air and triggered his gag reflex. Trevor had to concentrate to keep from vomiting all over the countertop. He shoved the collection tray out and inhaled a light breeze of fresh air.

Trevor rested his chin on his palms and stared out into the street. A bright light cut circles through the darkness. Thinking he was hallucinating, Trevor shook his head and rubbed his eyes. But the light only grew brighter. He blinked and leapt off the stool.

A pale blue Cadillac raced through the parking lot, missing the booth by half a foot. Trevor fumbled with the locks and made it outside in just enough time to witness the car slam into the rear bumper of a parked Toyota.

The crushing impact echoed through the stillness. A frightened flock of bats scampered into flight, their wings flapping ferociously as they painted a moving arrow across the sky. A pathetic squeak faded as chemicals finished filling the airbags.

Trevor rushed over to the accident. Blond hair peeked out from behind the ballooning airbag. The door was stuck and Trevor had to reach in through the smashed driver’s side window. He grabbed the body by the shoulders and pulled it out of the vehicle.

The girl shoved at him and stumbled over to a parked minivan. She coughed blood into the air, the thick specks spotting the front of her lime-colored tank-top. She fell to a crouched position and almost toppled over. Trevor cupped his hand behind her head and guided her up against the tire.
“My brakes,” she stuttered. “They stopped working.”

Blood bubbled from an open slice on her forehead. She rubbed her hand from the bottom of the wound to the back of her head, highlighting large sections of her yellow hair with red. Under the moonlight the painted parts glowed black.

“Shit,” she moaned, leaning over. She grabbed onto her jeans and dry heaved onto the pavement. She wiped at her lips with her fist, coloring her face with more darkness. “That was gross. I’m sorry.”

“No worries. Wait here. I’ll be right back.”

“Trust me, I’m not going anywhere.”

Trevor grabbed a roll of paper towels and an open Snapple from the booth. He tore open the package and tossed the wrapper behind him. He wound a few sheets around his hand and held them to the gash on her forehead.

“I can do it,” she grunted, snatching the paper towels from him. Within seconds they were completely saturated. She crumpled them into a ball and tossed it away.

“Here,” Trevor offered, handing her the rest of the roll. “There’s a bathroom around the back. The water’s kind of sulfury, but it’s clean.”

“Thanks, Trevor,” she said, reading the name on his work-shirt. “I think I need to sit for a few minutes. I feel dizzy.”

“You want something to drink? It’s peach.”

Trevor motioned the half empty Snapple bottle towards her. She scowled and waved her hand in front of her face. “No thanks. Got any whiskey?”

“Sorry,” he shrugged. “I don’t drink.”

“Perfect. You’re one of those types.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means you’re one of those pretentious, judgmental preachy types, who think every one who likes to drink is an alcoholic.”

“I assure you I’m nothing like that. I just don’t drink. I’ve woken up too many afternoons with hangover knives behind my eyes. I could care less what other people do. Drink yourself into a coma; it’s no skin off my shaft.”

“Then you wouldn’t mind grabbing the bottle from my backseat, right? It’s on the floor.”

Trevor was used to being ordered around by females. His mother and older sister were always screeching at him to do one thing or another. Usually he ignored them and let their shrills dissolve into the ether. But Trevor felt like he owed the girl on the ground something.

Tonight she was a total train wreck, but last week when he sold her cigarettes she was a knockout. She was still rocking her gym clothes, her bleached hair tailed behind her, fresh sweat marking a butterfly pattern between her breasts. Trevor spent the rest of his shift squeezing his hard-on under the counter, imagining her ass bouncing on an elliptical.

He’d probably speared off about a hundred times over the past year to visions of her. The only word she ever said to him was “Camels,” but that was all he needed. He watched her thick lips mouth the word repeatedly until he exploded all over his stomach. But that was when he was safe underneath his blankets with a tube sock sheathing his shaft. This time there was no inch-thick glass separating them. He was close enough to taste the strawberry body lotion on her forearms.

There were three bottles on the backseat floor. Trevor grabbed the one that was the most full and stood it on the ground beside her. The girl crumpled up another handful of reddened paper towels and tossed them into the pile.

“Thanks,” she said. She brought the bottle to her lips and leaned back. She swallowed with a grimace and a drop of drool dangled from her lower lip. “I’m Sayra,” she said, tapping the bottle to her chest.

“Nice to meet you.” Trevor held out his hand to shake hers. When he noticed the filth caked on his palm, he quickly jerked it away. Sayra smirked and took another gulp of whiskey.

“Sorry, didn’t have a chance to wash them yet.”

“Not a big deal. I like things that are a little dirty.”

Trevor nervously shoved his hands in his pockets. They grazed against his shaft and he panicked. He prayed that the parking lot was too dark for her to notice his erection pushing against his work pants.

Trevor hadn’t been with a girl since Sheila Thompson crushed his heart in the tenth grade. Correction- Trevor hadn’t been able to get hard around a girl since Sheila Thompson crushed his heart in the tenth grade. His therapist blamed the constant influence of painkillers circulating through his central nervous system, but Trevor blamed the girls, even the sympathetic angels who attempted to give him a pity hand job.

While most of those “angels” were bar leftovers, a few of them (Gina Hellian, the red-head from Mario’s Pizza, and the Indian girl who cage-danced at Poppy’s) were knockouts. Now Sayra was no knockout, but she was definitely a step up from an end of the night throw. With her mouth closed she was somewhat attractive, an exotic mix of Dominican and Chinese, but when she smiled her overbite pushed her teeth past her lips and it was hard not to stare. Luckily she didn’t grin often and her lips were usually sucked in a vicious scowl.

“You can bounce if you want,” she said. “You don’t need to stay and babysit.”

“It’s no bother. I have to stay till midnight anyway.”

“What time’s it now?”

“Twelve thirty.”

“And you’re sticking around to watch me drink? That’s sweet.”

Sayra finished off the last of the whiskey and tossed the bottle into the trees. The leaves rattled, shaking loose the rest of the remaining bats, leaving the two of them alone for the first time.

“My boss is gonna blow his colon over this,” Trevor said, pointing to the mangled front end of the smashed Toyota.

“What are you gonna tell him?”

“Not a damn thing. If he asks, I’ll say it happened after I left. He really should install cameras anyway. I’m surprised they don’t get trashed more often with all the degenerates living around here.”

“Good answer. I was shook you were going to want to phone the police or something. Then I was going to have to kill you.”

Sayra raised her fists jokingly. Her arms, skinny sticks attached to her torso, dangled in front of her. “Damn,” she moaned. “I’m more destroyed than I thought.

“As long as we can move your car out of here, you’re straight. Unless, of course, you want some pig sniffing around your ride.”

“No thanks,” she said, laughing for the first time. She moaned and clutched her ribcage. “I’m sure it’ll drive. Any chance you can help me? I can hardly see straight let alone navigate a vehicle.”

“I’m embarrassed to say, I don’t have a license. I know, I’m a loser.”

“You’ve played video games before, right? Same thing. Besides my cars already dented to hell. It’s not like you’re gonna damage it any more. And you’re not a loser. You’re too cute to be a loser.”

“Thanks,” he said, his eyes nervously wandering down to her Converse. “As long as I don’t have to drive too far, I guess it’ll be fine.”

“That’s the spirit,” she cheered, struggling to stand. “Now if you’ll just help a girl out, we can start our journey.”

Sayra fell forward into Trevor. She probably weighed less than a hundred, but gravity knocked them both into the car behind them. Trevor grimaced as the door handle jagged into his back.

“Nice catch, tiger,” she flirted. Her head wound was no longer bleeding, but scattered splotches still stained large areas of her face. Up close, Trevor noticed a red pool swirling next to her right iris. The damage to her Cadillac was minimal, but Sayra looked like she had survived a suicide bombing. But underneath all the scratches and clotted blood scabs, she was still the girl who’d been stuck in his head for the past year.

Sayra smiled but Trevor was too distracted to stare at her overbite. He was preoccupied over whether or not he’d be able to keep his pecker hard if she gave him the green light to pounce. She pushed her fingertips under his chin and raised his head so he had no choice but to stare into her eyes. Trevor sucked in the burning stink of whiskey as she exhaled.

“I have to come clean,” Sayra whispered. “My brakes didn’t fail, I just didn’t feel like stepping on them.”

“You wanted to crash? Why? Are you stuck on a death wish?”

“No, nothing like that.” Sayra tugged on her belt. Trevor’s eyes shot downward, but all he caught was a glimpse of darkness. “Truth is, I wanted to grab your attention.”

“My attention?”

“A gentle tap on the shoulder pales in comparison to a sledgehammer across the face.”

“I don’t understand.”

Sayra’s finger traced a circle around his lips. She blew soft breaths and Trevor’s flesh tingled.

“I’ve wanted to get you alone since the moment I saw you. You were reading a book about the Zodiac killer. I read that book a dozen times just to have something to talk to you about. But every time I had the chance, I’d freeze.”

“Stop jerking me off.” Trevor squirmed back, the door handle sticking deeper into his spine. “If this is some kind of joke, it’s not funny.”

“I’m serious like swine flu.” Sayra leaned in for a kiss. Trevor slipped backwards and bumped his head into the roof behind him. Sayra grabbed the belt loops of his work pants and pulled him forward. She stepped in between his legs so that their thighs pressed against each other. “I’m completely mental, but I’m not joking. I’m a psychopath who’ll toss your pet bunnies in a pot of boiling water if you cross me. I’ll start fires, crash cars, burn buildings, whatever it takes to get what I want. And right now, I want you.”

“That’s intense.” Trevor closed his fist around a crease in her jeans. After her confession, he was terrified, but he wasn’t going anywhere. “Are you for real? You don’t know how many times I’ve drifted off into a daydream about something like this happening.”

“I think I am. I’ve often felt that I was living stuck in a dream, but I’m pretty sure I’m part of this world.”

He leaned into her and surprised her with a kiss. It was sloppy and wet, the kind of kiss that you’d see in cartoons, when the boy ends up with lipstick smeared all over his face and birds dancing around his skull.

“Trust me, you are definitely part of this world.”

Trevor ran his hands up the back of her shirt. Her flesh was cold to his touch. She shivered but didn’t stop him. His staff throbbed against his jeans. If her weight wasn’t crushing him, he would’ve shoved his hand down his pants to adjust it. But he wasn’t going to ask for a time out. He had his whole life to be uncomfortable. This was not the time.

“So, you’re not creeped out?” she asked.

“No. I should be, I guess, but to be honest, I’m too turned on to be creeped out.”

“That’s too bad,” she said, her eyes wandering around the car.

“Too bad?”

“The sex is always better when you’re a little frightened.”

“Sorry to disappoint. Now if you told me something like I reminded you of your father, than I’d be afraid.”

“You’re nothing like my father,” she said, playfully dragging her index finger down the side of his cheek. “He was a much better kisser.”

Trevor recoiled back as far as he could slither. Sayra threw her head to the side and laughed at the starless sky. When she swung her head forward her hair tickled his nose. “I’m joking,” she said, breathing heat into his open mouth. “Or am I?”

“You’re twisted.”

“Then twist me.”

Sayra shoved her lips against his and forced her tongue into his mouth. Within seconds, Trevor forgot all about Sheila Thompson and the short-list of girls he’d screwed up with. Sayra’s kiss shot electric currents through his bloodstream. It was like kissing an atomic bomb, a mushroom cloud filling his lungs and rupturing a tidal wave of saliva into his mouth. When he was with other girls, he’d panic and try to conjure up the most depraved scenarios involving Sayra to keep himself thick. This time all he had to do was open his eyes.