>>> The Lady's Shave
By staff writer NG Hatfield
February 20, 2008

I’d been sitting in the passenger seat of Apple’s beat-up Mercury Cougar, spinning a CD around my finger, whistling an old Third Reich war hymn my grandfather used to hum while he peeled potatoes. The car, white and injured from front to back, was in the parking lot of a gas station somewhere between my college town of Morgantown and our destination of Parkersburg. I was waiting for my buddies to get whatever it was they were buying. Or, in Hoagie’s case, whatever it was he was stealing.

Outside the car, a thick July fog had landed between the Appalachians. I told myself behind the whistling that it was going to be a hot one and delicately arranged the side view mirror to catch the better part of an Asian girl’s ass.

She looked my age, dressed in a dark business suit, and was filling up her Volkswagen Beetle. A redneck in this old Chevy truck, the color of soot, parked beside her and got out.

“Hey there girl,” I heard him say. There was a brief pause between the girl looking up from the nozzle and from what I took by the claps of heels on the asphalt, her sprint over to hug the man.

“Hey Buck!”

“I woke up to a bunch of drunk guys mocking me and my ‘cry for help.'”

I was half-amused, half-pissed. I had expected her reply to be something that I’d hear, had I said something similar. When I noticed their familiarity, I realized there was no alternative but to listen, to see under what pretenses had the man and the girl experienced the pleasure of each other’s company. I, of course, assumed they were friends; it had been my experience that people who have fucked don’t act so cordially in any social setting, let alone the sluggish arena of an early morning parking lot.

“How’ve ya been?” she asked.

“Oh, shootin’ beers and drinkin’ deers.”

I thought, you can’t be serious, and watched the supple curve sliding down her backside appear in the mirror’s reflection and then rise out as the yokel lifted her up from the ground in another tight hug.

She giggled and they slipped inside the gas station, muttering under their breath.

I figured they had seen me watching in the mirror, but it was seven in the morning and I didn’t give a shit.

I reclined in my seat and rubbed a headache from my temples; a week before I had tried to kill myself and something about that hadn’t left me just yet.

“I’m sorry.”

To which I said, “I’m sorry too.”

We were both sorry, Apple and I.

I had been crashing at his place for the summer, not having a bed to sleep in besides the driver’s seat of my broken down Buick and the new and uncomfortable queen-sized or doubles of women I could get drunk enough to keep me around. Once I had run out of money, though, those women were few and usually too ugly to even bother with.

I hadn’t had a job since the car broke down and I’d been out of money about a month before the attempt.

“Yeah, well I was an asshole.”

I agreed and started shoving the last of my clothes into a wicker basket. The bongs and bowls we had smoked out of all summer clanged off the coffee table onto the dirty hardwood floor.

“I shouldn’t–”

“You shouldn’t have what?” I wasn’t for a discussion. Apple had told all of my buddies, from jail-time-serving miscreants to holier-than-thou straight-edge teenagers, about my suicide attempt in the context of a joke and I wasn’t about to hang around.

“Listen man, it’s just it was funny that it wasn’t sleeping pills.” Apple was always trying to be light-hearted about shit that was serious business. Except when he was drunk, the world could end and Apple wouldn’t give a damn.

“Yeah, well it was meant to be sleeping pills,” I said.

Which was true. I had grabbed a bottle of sleeping supplements—herbal deals that are very different than sleeping pills—and dumped the bottle into my mouth with the gin, assuming I’d die. But, I woke up to a bunch of drunk guys mocking me and my “cry for help.”

“I don’t want to deal with your funny shit any more,” I said to Apple.

“Then leave.”

“I’m going to leave.”

“Then get the fuck out.”

And I got the fuck out. I tossed my bags into the trunk of my broken down car and started walking into the woods around midnight.

But a week later, it was done with and we were pushing along Route 79 South towards Parkersburg and listening to an old cassette that Apple had dubbed before the trip; on its thin, white marking-tape, the words WHEN YOU GET THIS YOUR CAR WILL BE IMPOUNDED HAHA were scribbled: a testament to both Apple’s sense of self-deprecating humor and his tendency for bad luck.

“You ever going to get your old car back?” Hoagie asked.

“One of these days,” Apple said, and hit the fast forward button on the tape player.

Apple’s old car was nicer than the jalopy we were riding in, but had been impounded. He had an emotional attachment to the thing; his father, before he died in some freak work accident, had bought it for Apple on his all-important 16th birthday.

Aside from his somewhat strange musical taste, various horns and harpsichords blaring in odd meter, Apple’s car was silent for the first parts of the trip. That is, until we hit Route 50 and a box-truck—the color and size of a dirty, old box-truck—was in front of us swerving lane to lane.

“That guy is so fucking drunk,” Jaymee said, and laughed in her nonchalant way. I couldn’t tell if she was happy or

“Apple,” I asked, “you mind getting around this guy? I don’t want to die before this adventure begins.” I started thumping a pair of drumsticks on the back of Jaymee‘s seat. At the outset of our trip, she had forced me to sit in the back with Hoagie and I wasn’t about to let her enjoy the ride as much as I would’ve.

“Can you stop with that shit? You’re not a drummer.”

“Doesn’t the act of drumming,” Hoagie asked, “equate one to a drummer?” He started packing a bowl with dank green weed. He held a stolen bottle of juice—the spoils from another raid on a gas station right outside of Morgantown—between his legs as he worked with a grace and dignity reserved for only the most serious marijuana smokers.

Jaymee, who never had much for direct contention, sighed and pushed the rewind button.

The highway was a boring thing. The farthest from our original intentions. And the radio was the only device in the car that had any serious amount of entertainment value. Outside: trees to our left, to our right; trees behind us, in front. Trees frozen as still as only trees in a thick fog stand; trees that frame the road with green and brown and black. Trees, trees, trees.

And with all those trees taunting us, Hoagie, Apple and I smoked a bowl on the way. Hoagie and I played hangman in the back to pass the time. Hoagie's sentence: THAT TREE WAS A GREAT FUCK. Mine: MY COCK IS RAW WITH HERPES. We had a good time and when we broke through to sobriety, I was in a parking lot of a gas station somewhere between Morgantown and Parkersburg, admiring the ass of that Asian girl.

“I can’t believe this shit,” Apple said from behind the raised hood of his car. He gave it a pound with both fists, I thought, for dramatic integrity.

“Well shit,” I said, and lit a cigarette.

“So much for an adventure,” he replied, ignoring my pessimism, but remembering my word choice of “adventure” from earlier. But in a way, that was Apple. He had a tendency to have big dreams and big heartbreaks as a result of their failure. Then excuse both with a bowl weed.

“Let me take a look,” Hoagie said. I heard the tinking and clunking of metal on metal as he studied under the hood for a few minutes. “Yep, we’re fucked. Alternator's gone to hell.”

I got out of the car and stood beside Jaymee, who was leaning against a brick wall near an imposing, green dumpster. For some reason, it smelled of hotdogs and liquid cheese.

“You see that Asian girl and that redneck go in?” I asked.


“Did they sneak by us on the way out?”

“No, they’re still in there talking to the attendant.”

I peered around the building into a large window and saw the blue jean suit of the redneck rocking back and forth in laughter. A red bandana hung from his jacket’s pocket. He was blocking my view.

“Well if I know anything about rednecks, it’s that they know cars.”

Jaymee laughed and lit a cigarette.

Hoagie had apparently overheard me and galloped over. “You think that guy has a good alternator laying around?” I saw that his run to our spot was just to mock me.

“No, but he’ll know of a good towing place, asshat.” I was proud of myself for thinking of an ego-saving idea on the spot. I winked at Jaymee, then Hoagie.

“Well go talk to him then.”

And I headed inside with the intention of introducing myself to his good-looking companion.

The Asian girl and her country-bred step-brother, as it were, knew of a good towing company, but the price wasn’t right. So Jaymee ended up calling her uncle’s towing place back in Morgantown and we were instructed, almost haughtily, to stay put.

“Stay put?” I asked. “Where the fuck are we going?”

“I don’t know. It’s familial input, I guess. Just shut your mouth.” Jaymee defended her father with a balled-up fist and when I sat down on the hot hood of the car, she began drawing faces in the dirt of the parking lot with her unsandaled foot.

“Say, friend, you look awful sweaty. Can I get you something?” The hick and his step-sister reappeared from the gas station.

“You can get him a new outlook on life,” Apple said, smiling. I had an inkling that his recent interest in my suicide attempt had a lot to do with the fact that I had made successful conversation with the Asian girl earlier. But, with as much control as I could muster, I lit a cigarette and let him explain to our new friends that I was a raving lunatic. In about thirty minutes, he had told the story.

“That’s…great,” the Asian girl said and hugged my arm.

I asked what.

“That you decided to live.”

I wouldn’t call it “decide,” I thought, but I just smiled and nodded.

She handed me a number on a business card and her step-brother gestured with his hand on his stomach, “Well I guess I should go say goodbye to Daddy. He’s that guy right there.” He pointed at the attendant, who waved a withered arm out at us and smiled.

“You know if you buy the large soda, you can get a free bag of those chips, dog?”

I thanked the Yo, donned head to toe in shiny black fleece, for his unsolicited help and ended up stealing both the large soda and bag of chips.

When he noticed that I hadn’t paid, Hoagie said, “I’m proud of you,” and gave me a square pat on the shoulder.

We got back to the Cougar and watched the Yo leave with the drink and the snack he had presumably paid for, in a neon purple RSX.

“What do you think possesses a dude to drive something like that?” Jaymee asked.

“He’s resentful,” Hoagie said.


“His triflin’ hoes, obviously.”

We all laughed.

Apple pushed his head through the driver’s side window to see what was up.

“Just stole this,” I said.

With his hand on the receiver of his cell phone, he instructed both Hoagie and I not to steal again, at least while we were still stuck in the parking lot: “There’s no means of escape, you know.” He then turned and began pacing through the gas pumps as he talked to whoever it was about the price of alternators.

“He’s right,” Jaymee said.

Hoagie and I nodded and began to offer suggestions to beat the heat, which had welled up significantly since our arrival.