It Had Been Just Another Day

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
It seemed to be just another day. Then a tragedy unfolds. Would it end up being just another day?

Submitted: November 02, 2015

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Submitted: November 02, 2015

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It was the beginning of just another day.

He slammed his coffee cup down on the kitchen counter.

“You’re inconsiderate!”

She leaned back against the refrigerator, and folded her arms across her chest.

“I told you, I was just tired.”

He took a step toward her, and raised a menacing finger up to her face.

“I did you a favor!”

She pushed his hand away. She retreated to the kitchen table, and spun around to face him. She put her hands on her hips.

“You did me a favor?”

He raised his arms upward in frustration.

“You were just going to ride the damn thing until it shredded!”

She took one hand off her hip, and pointed at him.

“Now, you know, damn, well…”

“You’re sleeping around!”

“WHAT?”

“You’re a Goddamn sinner!”

“You fucking bastard!”

She lunged towards him. Angry fists pummeled him about the face. He got hold of her by the throat, drew her in close, and threw her down to the floor. The back of her head struck the kitchen table. An empty flower vase sitting on the table fell onto its side, gradually rolled to the edge, then fell to the kitchen floor, and shattered.

She slowly rose to her feet. She limped to the kitchen counter. She grabbed her purse, and her keys, and made her way to the door. She hesitated.

“You should have killed me when you had the chance.”

It seemed to be the beginning of just another day.

******** 

He knew damn well she was not sleeping around. He also knew damn well why the gas gauge on his car read empty. The dreadful combination of her prior history, along with her current place of employment, resulted in a nightmarish work schedule, where, after a suicidal late night shift, she drove the empty streets home, alone, straining under the burden of heavy eyelids, with a mind pondering every single episode gone wrong during her existence, she would arrive, only to collapse into a passionless bed, and to plead for a few hours of sleep before the alarm clock screamed with the arrival of her early morning shift. Yes, he knew damn well why the gas gauge on his car read empty. He also knew damn well she was not sleeping around, but it’s hard to stop a collapse once it gathers momentum.

After she left for work, he climbed into his car, blew into the ignition interlock device, and drove to the Qwik-Mart across town. Standing in line, waiting to pay for the ten dollars worth of gas he pumped, something about the raven haired cashier rekindled memories of his first wife. As he handed over a crumbled and torn ten dollar bill, he considered the final time he took her by the throat, threw her down to the floor, and the cascade of events that followed. The trial, the mistrial, the retrial, and the plea deal. Grave habits carve well-worn paths.

He drove back home, walked inside, stepped over the shattered remnants of the flower vase still strewn across the kitchen floor, and lay down on the sofa. His thoughts were a spliced reel of scattered memories…

…insisting that she take his car to work…she’s screaming that she can get the tire fixed on her own…attempting to pry the car keys from her clenched fist…

…security escorting him off the premises…he’s cradling a box containing his possessions in his arms…his office manager trailing, explaining the company’s policy concerning suspicion of intoxication...

…that look of absolute terror in her eyes…she hit someone with her car…she was looking down at her phone…she didn’t stop…maybe no one saw her…

…faced down on the pavement…hands cuffed behind his back…she’s sitting in the middle of the road…knees to chest…her arms wrapped around her legs…left eye already swollen shut…

…she’s telling him that his car needs gas…he slams his coffee cup down on the counter…tells her she’s inconsiderate…she says she was just tired…


He awoke hours later to the sound of the grandfather clock chiming twelve noon. He yawned, stretched hard, rubbed his eyes, and sat up. The television was on. It showed what seemed to be the aftermath of an explosion. He saw the words BREAKING NEWS. He raised the volume.

Four Qwik-Marts have been attacked…

Qwik-Marts, which dot the country’s landscape, are convenience stores that sell food, beer, and gas. A few locations even perform routine car maintenance, like oil changes, and tire repair. Every state has at least one, some half a dozen. Around here, there’s the one across town here in Brandt, another nearby in Marksdale, still another in Leonard and the new one in Flushing. Only the Marksdale location had an opening after she’d served four years of a twelve year vehicular homicide sentence. She’s currently in month three of her Qwik-Mart life sentence. 

Here’s the latest, at 12:40pm, Eastern Standard Time, a suicide bomber, driving a rental van packed with explosives, drove thru the front entrance of a Qwik-Mart in Anaheim, California, and within moments, the truck exploded. That was followed, at 12:42pm, by a similar attack in Columbus, Georgia.

He jumped up from the sofa and frantically searched for his phone. He found it on the kitchen counter. There were no text messages or missed calls. He located her name in the recent call list.

We have just received confirmation of two more attacks, one in North Carolina, and the other in Arkansas.

He dialed her number. It rang. He considered that to be a good sign. It rang a second time. He put the phone on speaker. It rang a third time. She answered. He screamed.

“WHERE ARE YOU?”

“What? Where the hell do you think I am?”

“GET OUT OF THERE NOW!”

“What?”

“THEY’RE BLOWING UP…”

He was interrupted by an announcement over the loudspeaker.

“WHAT DID THEY JUST SAY?”

“They said to evacuate the store immediately. What the fuck is going on?”

“THEY’RE BLOWING UP QWIK-MARTS! GET OUT OF THERE!”

The sound of a commotion came over the phone. She suddenly sounded panicked.

“Oh my God, people are screaming and running!”

“GET OUT OF THERE NOW! GO!”

Muffled sounds came over the phone as she ran.

“WAIT! DON’T GO THROUGH THE FRONT ENTRANCE!”

The line went dead.

He felt a violent rumble beneath his feet.

“No. No. No, no, no.”

He redialed her number. The call went straight to voice mail. He dialed again. Voice mail. He made several attempts, each one failed to go through. He began to feel nauseous, his knees buckled…

********

Night fell. There was an unsettled chill in the air. The sound of distant sirens filtered through the screen door. The remnants of the shattered flower vase had been swept up and disposed of. There was a strong smell of bleach in the kitchen. The television provided the only light in the room.

He sat slumped on one end of the sofa. He slowly rose to his feet and staggered to the kitchen. He took a dust-covered bottle of whiskey down from above the refrigerator, and poured a shot into a glass. Whiskey had been her favorite drink. He briefly stared at the palm print on the dusty bottle. He then rubbed his hand against his pants, walked back to the sofa, sat down, and placed the glass on the coffee table.

He heard the toilet flush, then the sound of the faucet in the bathroom sink being turned on and then off. The door to the bathroom opened. She limped out. A small cast covered her right wrist. She sat down next to him. He offered her the whiskey. She shook her head no. She hadn’t said a word in the last three hours.

They both stared at the television as it recounted the horrific events of the day. Eleven Qwik-Marts attacked in eleven different states. A van was driven into a twelfth, but the driver did not, or could not, detonate the explosives inside. Three vans were found abandoned. Five are still unaccounted for. Over two hundred confirmed causalities, five hundred injured.

She arrived home to find him lying face down in a pool of vomit. He hadn’t moved since their call was cut off. He opened his eyes, turned his head, and saw her sitting in the middle of the road, knees to chest, her arms wrapped around her legs, her left eye swollen shut. For a second, he thought he was dreaming. He shut his eyes hard, opened them, and she was still there. Only this time, she was sitting next to the remnants of the shattered flower vase on the kitchen floor, knees to chest, her arms wrapped around her legs, her right wrist swollen, and purple.

As she attempted to run out of the store, someone tripped her and she fell. Others trampled over her in their rush to get out. She struggled to her feet, and was promptly knocked down again. Her phone fell from her grasp, and disappeared from her view. As she was lying face down, helpless on the floor at the Qwik-Mart in Marksdale, he was lying face down, hopeless on the kitchen floor at home in Brandt.

She eventually was able to exit the store through the front entrance. Law officials, paramedics, and fire fighters had arrived. She gradually made her way through a maze of fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars. Lights flashed in multiple colors and various sequences. The sound of loud sirens pierced the air. A helicopter circled overhead, kicking up a vicious wind of paper and dust.  She got to her car, climbed in, and closed the door. She just sat there.

After a time, there was a knock on the window. She turned her head. It was a police officer. He asked if she was okay. She responded with a look of despondency. He told her that it was not safe to stay there. He told of the attack at the Qwik-Mart in Brandt. People had died, many more were hurt. He asked if anyone would be worried about her, wondering where was she.

She turned her focus back to the scene unfolding before her. With an unsteady hand, she put the key into the ignition and started the car. The officer took one step back. She drove slowly and carefully out of the parking lot.

********

They continued to stare at the television.

The grandfather clock chimed the midnight hour.

It had been just another day.


© Copyright 2019 Doug Hebert. All rights reserved.

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