“Heist at Dawn”
a short story
Gary R. Baker, July 2013
“Remind me never to go to prison,” McKenna arched an eyebrow as her roommate, Bale, walked in with nothing but a towel tied around his waist and hair matted to his head as though from a torrential downpour.
She gaped, unnoticing as soggy cheerios dumped from her lilting spoon back into the bowl of off-white milk inches below. Befuddlement and wonder crossed behind her eyes at the words of the lean, muscular, man while he reached into the balsa wood cabinets to retrieve a bowl of cereal of his own. “I don’t get it,” she let dribble out, transfixed in the curves of his abdominals gliding across one another in the process of lifting his arms.
He shot her a quick grin, green eyes bespeckled with amusing embarrassment. “Literally: I dropped the soap fifteen times in there.”
A bursting guffaw breached like a mammoth whale from her core into the morning silence, shortly followed by a series of rapid giggles that seemed beyond her ability to withhold. Through eyes glossed with humorous tears, McKenna watched Bale glare at her for half a second before joining in just as enthusiastically.
“Think of it this way, Bale,” she mumbled pointedly through the aftershocks of further chuckles, “of all the inmates in there, you would live the longest, due to everyone protecting you to keep you as the go-to ‘butt buddy’!”
“Oh, yeah?” He mocked back at her, “and let all those poor, defenseless, single women out there go lonely because I’m not there to satisfy their... hunger?”
McKenna scowled and scooped cereal into her spoon. “How about you learn to satisfy your own hunger first, Bale.” She didn’t mean to sound as bitter as she did, since it was hard to believe she still expected him to stay single; he was practically a model after all, and surely the others of her gender would be just as eager to be with him as she. Just because she gave him discounted rent for encouragement to stick around didn’t mean he would ever return the longing favor in a physical manifestation.
A long pause broke out as the two ate breakfast in silence, Bale in his towel stood leaning on the stone countertop with bowl in hand, and McKenna solemnly at the table with the daily tribunal just off center. Light seeped through the curtains on the side wall, the glowing carrot yellow of dawn coating the countertops and utensils like the thick substance of dreams come true.
Really it all was: breakfast on such a wonderful morning, the colors, the early June warmth... the man of her dreams in nothing but a towel in the kitchen with no one else around....
McKenna felt it was more than obvious that she wanted him and she felt her heart throb at seeing his perfect form just standing there, within her reach yet so very far away by social terms unspoken and set in stone nonetheless. This ‘friend zone’ that she’d been put into was ruthless and tender, heartbreaking and sweet, uncouth and sophisticated. Her daily motions were constantly brought to their peaks by the hope to inspire him while in her presence, yet he saw nothing of them in the ways she wished him to.
If anything he seemed to treat her as the undesirable gay in their clique.
“So-o-o,” she drew out, “you’re up early. What’s going on?”
He smiled and finished a spoonful, then tilted his head to the side curiously. “Got an interview with the Macy’s down on the avenue.”
She took one last scoop from her bowl, then lifted the remaining milk, now sweetened, and began to drink it down.
“You?” He mumbled around a mouthful.
“I’ve got to meet someone at the Academy in an hour,” she downed the last sip and put her bowl down with a clack. “One of the professors agreed to talk to me about the proposed cutbacks that everyone else has been avoiding.”
He looked on approvingly like the meme of President Obama and nodded. “Forgot you worked as a reporter, actually. Good stuff.”
That cut deep. She had brought him into various events and breweries after their having reached full-capacity by flashing her press pass on her way to speak to certain people, and he somehow forgot she was a reporter. “Thanks.”
At that, she walked to the washer, dropped her bowl in on the top rack, and grabbed her handbag. It was a callous wave of her hand as she dismissively called “good luck at the interview” that ended her morning dream. Suddenly she was outside, pacing from the door trying to ignore the weeping sound of her heart as it ‘lub-dubbed’ deep inside her ears.
He didn’t have to say that. He must have known what she was even this early in her career; even if only by slim chance due to her many near-unethical uses of her press pass. Hell, she mused, he would know if he simply read the newspapers she left out on the tables where she commonly got front page status. The fact that he somehow forgot would have hurt less if he’d simply said outright that he absolutely detested her appearance and that she might as well chase after a cucumber.
She’d certainly get more out of it than she was with him, anyways.
When she got to her car she flipped out the custom butterfly key with the same motions of doing so with a butterfly knife, then stabbed the key into the lock and wrenched it to the side. The door opened like a minion afraid of his mistresses wrath, which she subsequently slammed shut even as she pulled her legs inside.
The silence within the late nineties BMW four-door consumed her like the maw of a monstrous entity hell bent on helping her escape from the world. And like the beast it was, at the turn of the ignition she pushed the pedal to let out a deafening roar of the engine revving. One would almost believe she had a hemi put in under the hood.
Forgot you worked as a reporter, he’d claimed, good stuff.
But it wasn’t ‘good stuff’, no where near it in fact. If anything it was ‘bad stuff’ or ‘horrid stuff’, yet such a phrase simply didn’t exist to most people.
McKenna sighed heavily and turned her head to back out of the driveway, her teeth grit against the cold chill that had settled in her car overnight. It seemed to her that the monstrous beast was cold blooded; and like a good companion should, McKenna chose to mimic it. She mentally let go, pressing the brake and switching the gears to drive, and let the icy air push ever-inward to chill her heart.
Today was not going to be good, she admitted, but at least she had the power to make everyone else’s much the same.