- Zoe Kerr
Miscellaneous Drafts Monday: MEN AT WORK
Updated: Feb 23, 2022
As part of my eternal quest to write more often, I've done two things:
Started a Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/zoekerr) where patrons will have advance access to my work, including-----
Miscellaneous Drafts Monday! Basically, to motivate myself to keep working on older and newer ideas, I'll be sharing whatever I'm working on every Monday on my Patreon. I'll also be posting polls and accepting feedback from my patrons so that anyone who reads my work can participate in the creative process. If I make significant changes to the work, I may repost it at a later date with notes on what I did differently to show how fun editing and revising can be. Because this is a patron exclusive, I won't be doing that here on my website, but I will give a preview of what's to come on my page by sharing the first piece I'm working on: MEN AT WORK.
If you're interested in supporting my work, check out my Patreon at the link above and at the bottom of this page and keep checking back here for updates!
It wasn’t the blood that gave him pause. It wasn’t the blood pouring from her nose and temple or the bruising around her neck or the tears welling up in her eyes. It was the fact that she hadn’t bothered to smooth down her skirt (which had flipped up and exposed her girlish pink underwear) before throwing herself into his arms that signaled to Matthew how serious the situation was.
Poker is a tactile game. No one thinks about that. How you could close your eyes on someone else’s turn and be able to tell how the game was going. You can hear it in the sharp intakes of breath and the eager sloshing of beer in near-empty bottles. You can feel it in the vibrations of nervously jiggling thighs hitting one of the table legs. You can smell it in the air, all the sweat collecting on their bodies as the heat in the room rises.
That’s the gayest shit I’ve ever thought.
Matthew cleared his throat and recalled the old game he would play in elementary school. He’d try to conjure the most disgusting image he possibly could (at that time it was his baby sister’s vomit smeared all over his mom’s cheeks and hair after a particularly unfortunate morning feeding) and look around to see if any of his classmates winced, exposing themselves as mind-readers. He did the same thing now, glancing at his buddies and hoping his shifty eyes read more as a poker tell than his shame at thinking of their sweat and their bodies. Jordan, the newest member of the gang, caught his eye and exaggeratedly shielded his cards from Matthew.
Can you hear my thoughts, Jordan?
Jordan grinned and checked with a sharp rap to the table, apparently satisfied.
Matthew furrowed his brow.
Fergus heard the screaming first, right when the last hand was being dealt. It was down to him and Jordan, and the tension was palpable as they exchanged jabs and jeers about the other’s manhood or lack thereof. Fergus looked up, nose in the air like a pointer dog, and threw an arm out, nearly knocking the cards out of Kyle’s hand. Jordan started to crack a joke, something about Fergus having the most obvious tell, but Fergus simply brought a finger to his lips and shushed them all, the same way he did his twin girls when they tried to talk to him while he was on the phone. The gang swapped dubious glances and eye rolls.
He had a tendency to be over-dramatic, so this response was nothing new. They had to stop playing Dungeons and Dragons a couple years ago after his halfling bard was murdered and he threw the chips and dip Kyle’s wife made into the wall. She painted over the stain with Egg White Beige, but at around three o’clock in the afternoon, when the sun hit it just right, you could still see a splotch where the avocado fats had begun to rot before being scrubbed away.
Kyle heard it next. Then Jordan. Then Matthew. The unmistakable screams of a woman in peril. They all froze, as though thinking the same thing.
Maybe if we ignore it, it’ll go away.
Just as Jordan started to say he was going to call, Kyle leapt to his feet and sprinted to the sitting room at the front of the house. His wife decorated it with a large overstuffed couch smothered in plastic, placed directly in front of the massive bay window. Kyle crawled and climbed over the cocoon until he was able to smush his ear against the window to listen, apparently unable to see anything in the darkness. For a moment, his friends were impressed with his decisive action. They all crowded the doorway, waiting for him to direct them. Their shining leader in a holey Foo Fighters t-shirt and cargo shorts. Then his socked foot, jammed in between the cushions, slid out from under him, and he was sent sprawling to the hardwood floor with a twisted ankle.
At the gang’s insistence, all the wives had left the boys alone for the night and gone out to the movies with their respective offspring. Their calm presences were sorely missed as the men scrambled. Jordan wondered aloud what they should do while Fergus tore apart Kyle’s downstairs half-bath trying to find a first aid kit, apparently deaf to Kyle’s insistence that the first aid kit was in the kitchen—the kitchen, you moron!—while Matthew paced the front room, trying to see which angle was best for finding this mystery woman.
I could go find her. I’m pretty tall and I’ve been lifting. I could go and get her and save her and bring her here. Yes. I’ll do it!
The sound of bare feet hitting concrete interrupted this narrative. He looked up and saw a figure growing larger and larger, closer and closer. It was so quick, so fluid in its movements, it looked like a bird in flight. And just like a lost bird, their mystery woman flew right into the glass door and screamed once more, nearly tearing the doorknob apart trying to enter Kyle’s home. The men all jumped and instinctively took several steps back, suddenly unsure if they should help. They were good people but there were limits.
Kyle’s wife is going to kill us if this girl destroys the door.
That fear outweighed his fear of this poker-ruining creature, so Matthew unlocked the door. Suddenly, he was enveloped.
The woman, despite her predicament and their previous determination to help her, was not very nice to them. When Fergus asked her for her name, she yelled at them to call nine-one-one and shut the fucking door. Jordan did so with an irritated flick of his wrist and called over his shoulder that a please would go a long way. Matthew was already on the phone with the dispatcher, trying to remember his friend’s address.
No, I don’t know it, I just know how to get here—can I give a landmark? No? Why the hell not?
Matthew yelled for Kyle, who was preoccupied with icing his ankle at the table where they had been shooting the shit not ten minutes earlier. Kyle asked for the phone and calmly gave his address to the dispatcher before explaining the situation. Jordan pouted in the corner, swiping left and right on his phone, and Fergus had disappeared up the stairs without a word. Matthew was left to sit beside the woman on the cold hardwood. She was silent and relatively still, only one ever-jostling foot betraying her nerves. She still hadn’t adjusted her skirt, and Matthew wondered if he should tell her.
It isn’t pervy to warn her, right? What was that rule Mom told me? Only comment on someone’s appearance if they can fix it in under ten seconds. Well, it doesn’t take even five seconds to turn your skirt down.
He turned to her, ready to tell her the truth: He could see her underwear and she should probably fix it if that bothered her. He wasn’t bothered, but you know. Propriety. She gazed at him, chin lowered, staring at him through long mascara’d eyelashes. Her eyes were slightly down-turned and hooded, giving her the appearance of an old movie star. He used to love those flicks, the black-and-white ones with danger and mystery. He’d force his little sister to be the damsel in distress, crying for someone—anyone! He’d pretend to chomp a cigar as he sent imaginary Tommy-gun bullets into an invisible mafioso’s face, and their mother would tell them to stop jumping on the furniture for Christ’s sake before someone dies. Those were good times. Simple. He knew where he stood then. He was the man of the house and the hero in their stories.
She asked what was wrong with him. He shrugged, realizing he had been staring at her for at least thirty seconds without saying anything. She pressed him, asking if the cops were on the way. He mumbled an I don’t know and she left him alone, possibly sensing he was mainly there to make sure she didn’t run off or worse. He felt bad for this, though he couldn’t quite articulate why. Jordan broke the silence with a barking laugh from the only other seat in the front room. Matthew asked what was funny.
This guy posted a video of a goat falling down this mountain—and he falls for, like, thirty seconds straight and then pops up at the end without a scratch. And you’re like, whoa, life finds a way, huh? And then a fucking hawk swoops down and snatches it.
He laughed again. Matthew feigned a chuckle. The woman sighed. Jordan didn’t notice either of their responses, having already moved on to the next gag.
Five minutes later, when a red and blue tornado of lights and sirens arrived, Fergus reappeared with a large nightgown and explained apologetically that it was the only thing he could find in Kyle’s wife’s dresser. She accepted it with a genuine thank you, but didn’t put it on, instead opting to wrap it around herself like a blanket. The excess fabric pooled in her lap and hid her pink underwear from view. Matthew felt jealous he didn’t think of helping like that. Fergus sat on the floor between the woman and Matthew, and asked her if she wanted any water. The woman shook her head and relaxed, slouching, caving into herself, her shoulder almost touching Fergus’s. Fergus nodded and reassured her that everything would be okay. Matthew agreed, too eager. They both ignored him. As Kyle limped past the group to greet the officers waiting at the door, he murmured that Fergus better pay for a replacement nightgown or his wife would lose her shit.
A few weeks later, the gang met again to play poker. The game proceeded as it always did, and Matthew found his mind wandering once more. His eyes drifted to the spot on the wall, seemingly perfect in all of its Egg White Beige glory. He wondered how long it took Kyle’s wife to paint over it and if she was reminded of the stain’s existence whenever she sat down to eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Sure, it wasn’t visible anymore, but it was definitely still there. For a second his thoughts brushed on whether she enjoyed being married to Kyle. Then if any of their wives enjoyed being married at all.
Before Matthew could even begin to ponder the answer, Kyle asked him what the hell he was doing. Kyle was obviously annoyed, though Matthew couldn’t tell why. Fergus was busy counting his chips, and Jordan was absent from the table, having excused himself to the bathroom some time ago.
Kyle asked him once more, practically crumpling his cards in his hands. It was such a waste. Now everyone would be able to tell which cards they were, since they were creased beyond repair. They were marked forever.
Matthew shook his head apologetically and cleared his throat.