None of this would’ve been possible without the five tallboys he had swilled back at his apartment. Liquid courage. Or was it liquid stupidity? Either way, Simon was here, parked at the Mid-South Motor Court at 10:30 on a Saturday night.
Time to put up or shut up. Despite his emboldening buzz, Simon was nervous. And with damned good reason . . .
He had watched enough TV to know of the risks associated with pay for play. Sting operations were all too real. Piper had seemed sufficiently sincere on the phone. Still, it was impossible to know for sure. She might be a decoy. The cops could be inside right now, holed up in an adjoining room, coiled and itching to take him down.
Simon killed the engine and sat tight. He held his cell phone in both hands, debating whether or not to make the call. Piper had told him to give her a ring as soon as he arrived. Then and only then would she give him her room number.
He sighed wearily, regarding his shabby surroundings. The place was a total dump, one of several hourly rate establishments dotting a seedy stretch of highway.
“What in the hell are you doing here?” he muttered.
The answer came immediately, an authoritative voice booming inside his head: Trying to get laid, Simon. Because you haven’t gotten a piece of ass in almost eight months and you’re desperate and horny and starting to lose it.
It was true. Simon’s current drought was taking a considerable toll on his self-esteem, not to mention his sanity. Night after night found him at various watering holes hoping to get lucky. But he kept striking out, again and again and again.
Now, facing another jerk off session in his apartment, a desperate and determined Simon made the call. Piper picked up on the second ring.
“Are you here?”
“You’re not a cop, are you?”
“Hell no,” Simon said. “Are you?”
Piper’s laugh segued into a hacking cough. When she finally recovered, she gave him the room number.
It was midnight when a freshly showered Simon opened the sliding glass door and stepped out onto the little balcony of his apartment. He lit a celebratory Swisher Sweet and cracked open the last tallboy of his six-pack, basking in his recent victory.
The drought is over, he thought. Back in the game . . .
Piper’s online ad had been somewhat misleading. She had definitely gained weight since those photos were taken, gained weight and acquired many lines on her face. But he couldn’t complain. She had provided a good service at a reasonable rate.
Simon puffed on his cigar and laughed at himself for having been so paranoid. Sting operation. He shook his head in dismay. What a joke. You watch too much TV, Simon. Way too much.
He took a hefty swig of beer.
And felt excruciating pain in his throat . . .
Cigar clenched between his teeth, Simon dropped the can and clutched his neck with both hands. He sputtered and gagged. The cigar plummeted as something flew out of his mouth, but he hardly noticed. He was in a state of panic. His throat was on fire. He could feel his windpipe swelling, closing up. It was getting harder and harder to breathe.
His phone was on the nightstand in the bedroom. He had to call 911. This was an emergency. He needed help. He was dying.
Simon made it inside, made it to his bedroom, but that’s all he managed before the room started to spin. The floor dropped. And he went down.
Outside on the balcony, a wasp alighted beside the dropped 16 oz. can and proceeded to imbibe. Bud Light Lime. Good riddance, the wasp thought, hoping the next tenant would buy some better fucking beer.
Ben Newell dropped out of the Bennington Writing Seminars during his first semester, eventually resuming his studies at Spalding University where he earned an MFA. His first full-length collection of poetry, Fuzzball, was recently published by Epic Rites Press.