Thanks to the kind editors of Needle Magazine, we’re publishing a short story by Sophie Littlefield. This story, and many others like it, can be found in Issue 3 of Needle Magazine. Visit NeedleMag.com to subscribe.
Frank and me, we meet for happy hour every month or so. Last time was in March, when the crocuses were coming up through the rim of dirty snow at the edge of the yard, crocuses RoseMarie planted the year we bought the house. I stomped the shoots into a pulpy green mass with my work boots, and still some of the stubborn fuckers came back, opening their purple throats to the sun.
Now it’s May, and it’s irises rising up out of the ground to send me backward, only there’s been a new development and I don’t mess with RoseMarie’s flowers. Instead, I think of Frank. It’s time to call that old bastard, even if I didn’t have this other thing. But Frank owes me. After I think it through for a while, I see a way that Frank can fix my problem.
Frank shows up and right off I can see he’s doing fine. Looks to have taken off a few pounds, got a nice haircut and a new jacket, maybe pig suede, maybe the expensive stuff. Frank can afford it, ever since the Schapper boys put him in a half-million dollar house for free, contingent on him making it through that medically-induced coma with his head more or less glued back together after Josh Harrick took a bat to it.
Since he’s got no mortgage payment, Frank’s pension from the Toyota plant leaves more than enough to throw around. Still, you got to hand it to him: he never throws it in your face. Lets me buy a round when it’s my turn. A little thing that means something to me, on my cop salary.
“Fuck me, you’re prettier every time I see you,” I say, as Frank hugs me. It’s a full-on hug, with no back slapping. That’s all the therapy for you, the twelve step shit. I know it well enough for what it is – I’ve lost two partners to extended AA sabbaticals, which is another way of saying they’re drinking themselves to death on the installment plan.
But Frank’s no backslider. He’s one who found a way to make it work.
I get my beer, he gets his club soda, we order one of those piles of fried onions, he looks at me long and hard and he gets down to it:
“You got troubles, Gil?”
Shit yeah, I got troubles. If it was someone else sitting across the table, I might try all night and never get it out. But there’s Frank for you. I tell him the whole story. When I mention RoseMarie he winces like it’s him who can’t breathe the air as good ever since she left, even though it’s been two and a half years. When I tell him about that fucking Stroker she’s taken up with, about the “save the date” card – the long sleeves she wore the last time we had coffee, the bluish bruise on the bit of cleavage I managed to see – yeah, I was looking, sue me – anyway Frank listens to the whole thing.
Then we figure out how to fix it.
I was counting on that. There’s been that offer on the table all these years. The quid pro quo. We’re friends. But our friendship kicked off with the balance on my side. I’m forty-six this spring, old enough to know you can pretend all day long that the past doesn’t matter – but owing is owing. And Frank’s owed me since that day twelve years ago when I walked into the Harrick house with my Sig drawn and found him lying in his own blood, gasping like a trout on a June dock in the morning sun.
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