It Comes With the Territory

Jared Yates Sexton

Listen here, Les said into the phone, if I ever find out who this is I’m going to kick your head in.

Who is it? Eve said, walking into the front room.

You know who the hell it is, Les said.

Is that her? the voice on the phone said. Is that that fine piece of ass?

Kick your head in, Les said again and threw the phone at the wall. It exploded into a shower of plastic and circuits.

That’s the fourth one this month, Eve said. Honey—

Don’t honey me, Les said and went to get his coat from the closet by the door. I’m sick of it. Sick to goddamn death.

It’s not my fault, Eve said and weakly crossed her arms. I promise honey, I didn’t do anything.

The hell you didn’t, he said. He had his coat on and was reaching for his keys. If you didn’t, who did?

I don’t know, she said. Somebody in town? An ex-boyfriend? A drunk?

It’s always somebody else, Les said. The buck’s always passed on, right?

No, she said. She moved to cross the room, her arms already extended toward him. Stay in, she said. Don’t leave.

The other phone, this one in the kitchen, rang then.

Honey, she said.

Well, he said, opening the door, you’d better damn well go and answer it.

Les slammed the door behind him and got in his truck. As he pulled out he saw Eve standing at the window, her face already wet with tears. He made his way then into town, past the Wendy’s and the Ponderosa and the Kroger’s. He parked in a strip-mall lot that housed El Capitan, the Mexican restaurant, Jo-Anne’s Fabrics, and a party store that’d been closed for two years. At the end of the building was Johnnie’s, the one and only bar in town.

Being a Tuesday night, Johnnie’s was empty save for the bartender, a fella named Gillan who Les knew from high school. Les got him a seat at the bar and ordered two Miller Lite’s. He drank the first one in three prolonged gulps and sipped the second.

How’s business? Gillan asked.

Same bullshit, Les said.

Different day, Gillan said.

You said it, Les said. Say, he said, any chance you could put on the Bucks’ game?

Sure thing, Gillan said and put down a lime he’d been slicing. He grabbed a remote from under the bar and flipped through the channels until he landed on the game. The Bucks were playing the Knicks in New York and were already down by ten. I don’t know why you torture yourself, Gillan said, shaking his head.

You and me both, Les said. He finished his second beer, watched a Knicks player swish a three from five feet behind the line and ordered again. Two more, he said.

Gillan got the pair of beers from a cooler and popped their tops. He set them in front of Les and took the empty ones. In a hurry tonight, he said.

You got it, Les said. On the TV Milwaukee’s center dribbled straight into a double-team. Way things are going, Les said, I can’t hardly leave the house.

How you figure? Gillan said.

Shit, Les said, bunch of fellas been calling and asking for Eve. Bunch of perverts.

No kidding, Gillan said.

I can’t sleep for it. They come all hours. Two, three in the morning. Doesn’t matter. Saying shit you wouldn’t believe.

No shit, Gillan said.

Some of ’em, Les said, they just breathe. You can hear what they’re doing. Clear as day.

That right there, Gillan said, that’s a bad situation. I mean, someone started calling Janice like that? I’d probably kill ’em.

You’re telling me, Les said.

You think she’s running around? Gillan was leaning toward Les with his elbows on the bar. He was whispering. I mean, is that the deal here?

No, Les said. I don’t think so. Way I figure, there’s somebody writing about her on a bunch of bathroom walls. Found one at the Kroger’s.

What? Gillan said.

Yeah, Les said. Written right there in marker. Eve’s got the best ass in town, give her a call.

Son of a bitch, Gillan said.

You said it, Les said.

Now, Gillan said, I don’t want you to take offense. I’m about to say something and I don’t want you to take it the wrong way.

Les took another gulp of his beer. All right, he said.

I mean, that’s the last thing I want.

No, Les said. No, I won’t.

All right, Gillan said. I just want to put it out there. I mean, you went and married the best looking girl in town. Everybody knows that.

Okay, Les said.

Back in school she was all there was, Gillan said. I remember she was all anyone wanted to talk about.

What’re you getting at? Les said. He gripped the neck of his beer.

Nothing, Gillan said. Just that something like this? Maybe it comes with the territory.

Les looked at Gillan, who already seemed sorry for what he’d said. Then he looked at the TV and saw a huddle of exhausted Bucks in a timeout. I’m going to the pisser, Les said and released his grip on the bottle. I’m gonna come back, settle up, and pretend this conversation never happened.

Yeah, Gillan said embarrassed. Maybe that’s best.

Yep, Les said and got up.

Les, Gillan said, I’m sorry, buddy. I didn’t mean nothing.

Nope, Les said, you didn’t mean nothing.

In the bathroom Les picked the stall near the back and locked the door. He unzipped his jeans and braced himself against the wall while he pissed for a long time.

It comes with the territory, he said to himself, mid-stream.

When he was finished he zipped up and flushed the toilet. He thought of Gillan in high school, acne-ridden and chubby in the gut and hips like a teapot. And then he thought of Eve, a knockout who walked the halls and kept an army of pissants like Gillan shooting in their pants.

With the stall still locked, Les removed a marker from his back pocket and quickly wrote on the door EVE’S GOT THE FINEST PUSS IN TOWN GIVE HER A RING and then their number. He left the stall and washed his hands.

He walked back to the bar and finished his beers. When he settled his tab, he left Gillan a big enough tip to let him know there were no hard feelings.

Les, Gillan said. I really didn’t mean anything.

No big deal, Les said. He was almost out the door and he turned back. No problem, he said, making sure to check the score on the TV one last time.

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Jared Yates Sexton is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Georgia Southern University and serves as Managing Editor of the literary magazine BULL. His work has appeared in publications around the world and has been nominated for a pair of Pushcart’s, The Million Writer’s Award, and was a finalist for The New American Fiction Prize. His first book, An End To All Things, is available from Atticus Books.