Venison Episode 10 - Monday

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I woke up before everyone else. The light streamed through the curtains with the amber hue of a fresh sun. I tried to clench my eyes shut and force myself back into a slumber, but my stubborn body had already made the decision for me: I was awake. I stood and stretched my back, a few joints popped and cracked as I tested their flexion. After the last few days of excitement, I felt pretty sore. Really sore, actually. Even though I’d taken a shower last night, I figured a hot shower would do the trick, so I grabbed my iPod and headed to the bathroom. I turned on the shower and held my breath hoping for warm water to start flowing from the shower-head, but by the time I needed to take a breath, the water was still ice cold. Great. I fired up my iPod and hopped in the frigid water, gritting my teeth and hating every stupid moment.

I showered quickly and darted out of the shower to wrap myself in a towel and get warm. At least it was August and probably already eighty degrees outside. I considered opening the bathroom window to let some warmth in, but decided against it. After toweling off, I wrapped the towel around my waist and reached to change the song on my iPod. It was the only one of the album I didn’t really care for. I swiped with my pointer finger to unlock the device and yelped at a lancing pain surging up my hand.

“You gotta be kidding me.” I grabbed my finger, squeezing the wound. Stupid cracked screen cut my finger.

“Gray? Is that you?” I heard Mallory’s muffled voice from behind the door. Of course.

“Yeah, hang on.” Blood gushed out of my finger, dribbling down my other hand in crimson rivers onto—great. Onto the white bathmat. “Shoot, shoot, shoot,” I muttered as I stepped off the mat. The red droplets expanded into large circles. The mat soaked up the blood like crazy.

I reached for toilet paper to wrap my finger in and found an empty roll. Peachy. My finger really stung as I searched through the cupboards for a bandaid or anything. Nothing. Was it a Monday? It felt like a Monday. I had almost forgotten what those were like. But this definitely had all the ingredients.

“Are you okay?” Mallory asked, closer to the door this time. She must’ve heard me rifling through the cabinets.

“Yeah, I’m fine, I just—” I shrieked as my left foot slipped on the puddle of blood that had been growing on the tile under my feet. My knee banged against the cabinet sending stars into my vision. Definitely a Monday.

I looked down at the floor and gasped at the blood smeared all over the tile. At least I had stepped off the mat I guess. My knee throbbed and my finger was absolutely killing me.

“Hey, uh,” I said awkwardly. “Do you know where I can get a bandage or something?”

“A bandage? What’d you do, cut yourself shaving?” I didn’t really appreciate her chuckle from the other side of the door.

“Yeah, something like that,” I grimaced. Stupid. It takes a special talent to nearly cut your finger off with an iPod.

“I’ll see if I can find something, are you decent?”

I looked down at the towel lazily wrapped around my waste, now with its own adornment of blood. “Not really.” Laughter. All I heard from the other side of the door was laughter.

The towel already had blood on it, so I took it off and tried to compress part of it around my finger. That stung like fire. An angry, stupid fire. I tried to hold the mass of dense fabric in place with my thumb as I grabbed my underwear to put them on. I tried to balance myself with my good hand and lifted a leg to get into my boxers, but as soon as I hooked a foot into the hole, my other food slipped again on the slick floor and I found myself careening through the air onto my back. My head hit the door with a loud thump and a sharp pain. The whole house was probably awake by now. Grayson Davis, everyone.

“Oh my gosh, Gray, are you okay?” Mallory’s voice was back on the other side of the door.

“Yeah, just uh, wanted to sit down.” Wanted to what? Maybe I hit my head harder than I thought. While I was down here, I decided to go ahead and finish getting those boxers on. By some miracle, I had managed to keep the towel wrapped around my finger during my tumble. It’s the little things…

I grabbed my pants and awkwardly worked those on, doing the one-hand dance, making sure to stay on the mat so I didn’t slip around on the wet tile. I looked at my shirt, then my towel-wrapped hand, then back to my shirt. I had never been self-conscious, but after my embarrassing previous five minutes and pudgy stomach staring back at me in the mirror, I felt it in force. I groaned with the realization that there would be no good way to get my shirt on without getting blood everywhere. I hung my head low, in shame, and opened the door expecting to find a group of onlookers ready to heckle my humiliating morning, but found only a concerned Mallory.

“Gray, what the heck happened to you?”

“You know, it’s been a day.” I held up my finger and eased the towel off. Blood still poured from the wound as if the towel had never been there. I blame the Lumineers.

“That’s a mean cut,” she said, trying to get a look at the wound. “Seriously, Gray, I think you need stitches.”

“Don’t tell me that.”

“Sorry. Here’s a band-aid, but we should take you to Mason.”

“Mason?” Mason? The gun-toting gearhead with anger issues? The crazy redneck who had saved our skins last night with a chorus of shotgun fire? Sure, he was a medic or whatever in Afghanistan, and I’m sure he field-dressed Dillon just fine—

“Hey, that reminds me, how’s Dillon?” I had just remembered that we’d left him in a pretty rough state.

“Do you actually care?” Mallory responded without skipping a beat. I started to look offended, but I saw her smirk. So my dislike for the guy was that obvious. “I think he’ll be alright. Mason’s crazy, but he knows what he’s doing. He said Dillon may take a couple days to wake up, but he should be alright.”

“Oh, good,” I said, trying to sound amicable, but reeling on the inside. “I’m sure Mason will take my glorified paper cut very seriously. Maybe we can just have Daryl kiss it and make it better, too.”

“C’mon, I promise it won’t be that bad.”

“What’s going on here?” Matt’s voice hit me like a ton of bricks from the top of the stairs. At least he sounded way better than he did yesterday. I looked down at my shirtless torso, and up at Mallory holding a bandage to my hand, and then up to Matt on the stairs. This would end well.

“Gray cut himself,” Mallory responded while I struggled to remember how words worked.

“Oh yeah?” He said as he strolled down the stairs, “What’d you do, bro, cut yourself shaving?”

I looked down at the three or four chest hairs fighting for relevance on my chest before looking back up at him. “Not really, no.”

“Actually, what did you cut yourself with, Gray?” Mallory asked with a sincerity that stood in stark contrast to Matt’s condescension.

“My freakin’ iPod,” I said with a weak voice.

“Your what?” Matt chuckled. “Nice war story, bro. That’ll really impress the ladies.”

I simply stared at him for what seemed like hours. My wit had escaped me in my greatest time of need. My one true compass, my friend that had never failed me, the sarcasm that had treated me so well for so long had decided that now was an opportune time for a vacation. I made a mental note to scold my humor for abandoning me. Then, I made a mental note to stop talking to myself.

“Let’s go get you sewn up,” Mallory said and headed to the door.

“Oh yeah,” Matt said. “Mason will love this.” He laughed again and headed to the kitchen.

I grabbed my shirt from the bathroom and turned my iPod off—without cutting my finger in half—and followed Mallory out the door.

The bandaid on my finger threatened to fall off as I tugged my shirt on over my head. I could feel it slipping as my finger became soaked with what appeared to be an endless flow of blood. I was hoping Mallory would turn toward the truck, even though Mason’s house was just a few blocks away, I didn’t want to walk. It was already hot and I was already grumpy. Not a good mix. Alas, she walked right onto the street and turned up toward the middle of downtown. Yay.

A quiet town met our eyes in the warming dawn. People doing whatever it is they do at the end of the world, I guess. If anyone was surprised to see us back after our late arrival, no one showed it.

From a few houses away, I could hear Mason banging on something. It sounded like he was hitting a car door with a sledgehammer. Honestly, knowing Mason, it probably wasn’t far from the truth. The man was the kind of crazy you either loved or you hated, I couldn’t decide which for myself. After last night, loved is probably where I’d land.

We came around the side of the house and found Mason hitting that same muffler from a few days ago with a wrench. Color me surprised.

“Mason, you’re going to wake up the whole town,” Mallory said, and then added with a smirk, “You know that just because it’s a muffler, it doesn’t mean it’s quiet when you hit it.”

“You’re hilarious.” His eyes never left the muffler. His face contorted as if trying to work out a thought that was particularly painful. “I have an idea, just let me work.”

Part of me wanted to ask what he could possibly be working on, but most of me knew better.

“You still have that triage kit?” Mallory asked, changing the subject.

“Yeah, it’s in the truck,” Mason replied. “Used it to whip up a stint for Dillon last night, why?”

“How is he?” I asked, tucking my hand behind my back.

“He’ll be alright, prolly. Popped a lung. Broke his arm. Nothin’ I didn’t see in the desert. He’ll have a good long rest, but he’ll be just fine.”

“Good, well, glad you’re on it.”

“Uh-huh.” Mason looked at me for a pregnant pause and then picked up the wrench.

“Gray needs some patching up, too,” Mallory said before he started wailing on the muffler again, unsuccessfully suppressing a grin.

“Oh?” Mason’s head shot back up to scrutinize me. “Something from last night? One of those quids didn’t get ya, did they?” His hand slipped toward his pistol. I hoped it was just reflex.

“No, nothing like that,” I said quickly. “It’s uh—”

“He cut himself this morning,” Mallory cut me off.

“On what? You cutting open some breakfast with your pocket knife or something?”

“Well, not exactly…”

“Spit it out, kid, what’s wrong with you? Well, let me see it,” Mason said, looking me up and down. Slowly, awkwardly, I held my hand up. “Oh yeah, that’s a good’n. Could probably use a few stitches. Better yet, super-glue might be the better bet.”

I stood silent. Bewildered. “What?”

“Oh yeah, they’ve been using that to tighten up cuts since ‘Nam. Not that I was there or anything, but whatever. Seals it up good. Stops the bleeding, and you don’t have to mess with stitches.”

“Okay, if you’re sure, I guess.” I looked to Mallory, but she seemed confident.

Mason shot me a knowing look. “This way, the cut’s less noticeable. Otherwise, you’ll have to tell everyone you meet all about whatever embarrassing story led to this thing. Yeah, I’m sharper than I look, kid.”

He walked passed me to a tall, red toolbox up against the wall. “I got it somewhere here…” We watched in silence as he rifled through the drawers. He checked each drawer once without success and started back at the top, this time shuffling the contents with a hand, searching. He started cursing under his breath after his second trip through the drawers and slamming them shut a little more forcefully.

“I’ll probably be fine, if you can’t—”

“No, I have it right here. I saw it just the other…” He trailed off and scratched his ear, absently checking his finger to see if he found any treasure, presumably. Gross. “Ah! I bet I left it in the kitchen,” he finally said and stalked off into the house.

I looked to Mallory to see if we should follow him in, but she didn’t make any movement. When I heard something crash inside the house I knew why. Apparently, his anger-management problems were exacerbated when he couldn’t find something. After a few curse words and what sounded like a pan being thrown through a plate-glass window, Mason emerged from the house, face red and eyes locked in a scowl.

“I swear, if it’s—ah! Of course it is.” He stormed over to a stack of large plastic tubs and grabbed the small tube of super-glue that rested on top. “Okay, come over here, we’ll get’r sealed up good.”

I held out my hand once more for him to patch up my cut. With one hand, he squeezed the cut shut tight, which almost made me loose a scream. I didn’t want to act like it hurt really bad, which proved difficult, but y’know, pride and stuff. The cloudy, thick liquid squirted out of the tube onto my cut—it stung a little, but it wasn’t bad. He held my finger for about a minute longer so the glue could seal and then released it.

“There you go,” he said as twisted the cap onto the tube. “It’ll peel off in a week or so, and you won’t even notice the cut.”

“Thanks, man.” I examined the clear coating over the cut with a shrug. I looked to Mallory who was looking around and tapping her foot. She looked like if she had a watch, she would be checking it right about now. “Sorry to bother you over something so dumb.”

“Yeah, that’s pretty dumb,” Mason said and returned the glue to the stack of tubs. “But with everything gone to pot, you can’t be too careful.”

“Let’s go grab some breakfast at The Rock,” Mallory said.

“Good luck,” Mason chuckled. “Daryl is pissed.”

“Of course he is,” I said with a grimace. “Oh, by the way, what is today?”

“Heck, I dunno kid. Who cares?” With that, he shooed us away and scrutinized the muffler, scratching his chin.

“C’mon, maybe it won’t be so bad,” Mallory said. “Besides… no, never mind.”

“No, what?”

“Don’t worry about it.” She walked on ahead, forcing me to catch up. She was acting off all the sudden, and I didn’t like it. Gone were the flirty smiles and jokes ever since Mason started finishing up his minor patch up on my finger.

We made it to The Rock in a couple minutes and I tried to get a fist bump from Michael, Daryl’s henchman, on the way in, but he just jerked his head toward the door. As we went inside, I wondered what it would be like to have no personality to speak of whatsoever. Then I wondered if I had a personality to speak of. I decided that maybe I did. Callum met us at the door with a goofy grin. I knew that grin. It was the goofy grin he wore when he’s eaten a whole lot of greasy food.

The smell hit me like a ton of bricks and I realized for the first time how hungry I was. Famished, actually. I surveyed the room, looking for the bacon I smelled. I wasn’t sure if I was capable of murder, but to have some of that bacon, I may have considered it.

“They’re about to bring some more out,” Callum said, guiding us to the table we’ve always sat at. If he was still upset about yesterday, he didn’t show any signs of it. My temper wasn’t so hastily dissipated and seeing him reminded me of some of my frustrations. “Where have you two been?”

“Gray had a boo-boo,” Matt jeered, coming from the kitchen just in time to make a verbal jab. How was his timing always so impeccable? He threw a playful punch into my shoulder and grabbed Mallory around the waist. She half-smiled and then pushed away from him and sat down across from Callum.

“I bet that felt about as good as mine.” I lifted my glued finger with a wide grin, to which he gave a fake laugh and pulled a chair up to the end of the table.

“What’s up, Em?” He looked at her intently. When she didn’t respond, he looked at me and then Callum, and finally back to Mallory. “Is it Dillon? What did Mason say?” Silence.

“Mason’s optimistic,” I answered for her. “Dillon is definitely gonna have it rough, but Mason feels good about him pulling through.”

“Good,” Matt replied, relief washing over his face. I was surprised at how much emotion he was capable of showing. Real life, meaningful emotion. Maybe there was more to this meathead after all.

I was still marveling at this bright new idea that Matt could have a real-life soul when I heard a slight sizzle behind my head. I turned to find what could only be the sweetest gift from heaven since God Himself dropped manna on the earth: bacon. Brianna walked toward us with outstretched arms holding this pure gold on a pair of platters more precious than silver. She placed the heaping mounds of treasure on the table in front of us without a single word to ruin the reverence.

I understood now why Callum wore that goofy grin. I now wore a mockery of that same grin upon my own speechless face. It had been years—or at least had seemed like it—since I had eaten bacon. I didn’t remember ever being so zealous for this meal before all of this, but now my desire was insatiable. I couldn’t bring myself to grab a piece for fear that this all might disappear in front of my eyes. By the cruelty of my own masochistic brain, this could all be a dream. I swore to myself in that moment that if I woke up on the world’s most uncomfortable mattress in Matt’s living room, stuck with naught but dry, expired Pop-Tarts for breakfast, I would have to burn the house down in fury.

I was lost in this reverie of whatever the opposite of wishful thinking is when Matt reached across the table and took a slice of perfectly fatty, greasy, pink bacon and popped it into his mouth. I found myself gaping after him in envy before realizing that I, too, could partake of this glorious feast. I stretched out my hand toward the pile of bacon and—

“Why are you being weird?” Mallory asked, snapping me out of my religious moment. I felt my face turning red, and I couldn’t decide whether I was feeling embarrassed or defensive. My face probably landed somewhere awkwardly in-between.

“Sorry,” I managed. “It’s just been a long time since have had anything like this.” I wanted to scream, “This is bacon! Don’t you people understand?” but I sustained a little bit of decorum.

“He’s right,” Callum said, rescuing me. “Aside from a few meals we’ve had here, we’ve had crap for food for a while. Since before we hit the road. You know, one thing they never really talk about in video games is food. Like, the only time it’s important is when you’re low on health and it miraculously heals you. But there’s another kind of healing, too. A good meal goes a long way. I already feel better about trying to make a life in this stupid world, and I think it’s because of a few good meals.”

“What are you talking about?” Matt said. “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” There’s the Matt we all know and love. Or don’t love. Put up with. Whatever. I resolved to get back to the bacon as soon as possible.

I grabbed the crispiest piece I could find. I love all bacon, sure, but I don’t like to have to chew it for an hour. I pulled the bacon toward my open mouth, salivating with the anticipation of this glorious pan-fried meat gracing my yearning taste buds. What I felt was cold water rushing down my back, followed by an, “Oh crap, I’m so sorry!”

I shot up in a vain attempt to escape the ice water freezing my back and turned to Brianna with what must’ve been pure fire in my eyes because she retreated and offered her apology over and over. Seeing her so timid and on the defensive cooled my temper, probably the only thing that kept me from yelling at her.

“Well, that’s about how today’s gone, gah.” I shook my hands to help relieve them of the excess water that had made rivers down my arms. “You guys remember Mondays? Today just feels like a Monday.”

“Oh, don’t remind me,” Mallory groaned.

“Yeah, I’d be skipping my first-period class right about now,” Callum admitted. He was probably right. Kid played video games in the mornings and ended up being late to classes all the time.

“What is today, anyway?” I asked.

“Who knows? Who cares?” Mallory waved her hand dismissively.

“It’s Sunday.” Callum shoved another piece of bacon in his mouth.

“Are you sure?” I asked, pleading more than out of curiosity.

“Yep, dead sure.” Callum looked around awkwardly. “No pun intended.”

I groaned. “That means I’m going to have to deal with another one of these?” I held up my finger as if my wound would punctate the crappy day I’d had. “Can today be over yet?”

“What happened to you, anyway?” Callum asked, pointing to my finger.

“You don’t wanna know. It’s stupid.” I looked around the restaurant, doing that dumb thing people do when there’s a mess they don’t really want to clean up, but they still want to look helpful.

“Gray, we’ve been through a lot of stupid together. I can guarantee it’s probably not the stupidest thing I’ve seen you do,” he laughed, then turned to Matt. “One time, when he and Curt were in high school, there was a girl—”

“Hey, you stop that,” I cut him off. There were a few stories that I would be perfectly fine with leaving in the past. “Fine, fine. I just cut my finger. My iPod had a piece of glass sticking up. It’s dumb, but it’s not a big deal.”

“Speaking of big deals,” a raspy voice growled from the entrance of the diner. Daryl. Yay. “Where’s my gas?”