A Mistake in the Parking Lot of the Sarasota-Bradenton airport
Tenth Annual Writer's Digest Short Short Story Competition.
By Robert Sachs
Bob Wilson puts down his carry on, wipes his forehead with his handkerchief and looks around the parking lot. A thin, deeply tanned man stands next to a car looking in Bob’s direction. “Al?” “Yes.... Bob?” “Yeah. How ya doin’? “Doing fine.” “How’s Betty?” “Betty?” Al looks surprised. “She’s getting along.” They stand in the airport parking lot silently looking at each other. “You’re not Al Nawatsky, are you?” “Uh uh. You’re not Bob Burkis?” “No.” “How did you know my mother?” “Your mother?” “Betty.” “Oh, that’s Al’s wife. My Al. The guy I’m supposed to meet. Some coincidence. I used to work with Betty and she married this fellow Al who I’ve never met. He’s supposed to pick me up.” “The curse of common names.” “How is your mother?” “Thanks for asking. Not so good, actually. They think it’s cancer. She’s eighty-five.” “Mmm. Is she down here with you?” “Kansas City.” “That’s a switch. Usually it’s the parents who move down to Florida.” “Mom never liked the hot weather. And all her friends are in Kansas City.” “It’s a nice place. I get there a couple times a year.” “Business?” “Yeah. Light fixtures.” “Light fixtures. Ever run into Aaron Jonas?” “Aaron. Sure. I’ve done a lot of business with him over the years. How do you know Aaron?” “He’s my brother-in-law.” “You’re kidding. So Margaret is your sister?” “My wife’s sister.” “Wait a minute. You’re married to Ann?” “Yes. Don’t tell me you know Ann.” “Well yeah. When Aaron and Margaret were dating, they fixed me up with Annie. For God’s sake. This is incredible. That was a long time ago.” “Really?” “I was new to the business. Aaron was one of my first suppliers.” “What’s your last name, Bob?” “Wilson. Bob Wilson.” “Al Dunleavy.” They shake hands. “She’s never mentioned me?” “Ann? Probably has. I’m sure she has. I just forgot.” “So you married Annie Rutledge. Isn’t that something. How long has it been?” “We just celebrated our fifth. I’m surprised Aaron didn’t mention it.” “Actually, it’s been a while since I’ve seen him.” “You weren’t caught up in that mess were you?” “Yeah, ‘fraid so. Cost me a bundle.” “Ouch. So I take it you’re not on the best of terms with him at the moment.” “That’s an understatement. I do feel sorry for him though. Jail and all.” “Margaret left him about six months ago.” “No kidding. Sorry to hear that. I should give her a call. Poor kid.” “She probably should have done it years ago.” “I guess you’re right.” “So you were friends with Ann in Kansas City.” “Buddies. We dated for a while, I guess. Then we split. Neither of us were ready for any kind of commitment. We were young.” “Like you say, it was a long time ago.” “So is Margaret still in KC?” “Yeah, Kansas City. Ann’s a Christian now.” “Born again? That’s quite a turnaround.” “We’re both pretty serious about it. In what way do you mean ‘turnaround’?” “Well, when I knew her, she didn’t seem the type ... .” “People grow up. Change. It’s a process.” “That’s wonderful. You’ve been a good influence on her.” “I try to be, Bob. What about you? Have you accepted Christ?” “Me. No. I ... .” “Salvation will absolve you of all your sins, Bob. It’ll bring you peace.” “I appreciate the advice, but I’m just not a believer. It doesn’t speak to me, Al. So, you guys are down here all year?” “Four or five months. We keep our place in Chicago.” “That’s my home town. Whereabouts?” “Dearborn, near Oak.” “One of the high rises.” “Yeah. We’re on the seventeenth. Good view of the lake.” “I’ll bet. I’m out near Wrigleyville. It’s handy to the El. I like it. Say, do you happen to know Margaret’s number off hand? I really should give her a call next time I’m in Kansas City.” “Margaret’s involved with someone, Bob.” “Great. I just want to say hi. We’re old friends.” “Bob, I’m an up front kind of guy, so I’ll be honest with you. From what Ann has told me about you, I don’t think you’ve got much in common with my sister-in-law.” “I thought you didn’t remember Ann speaking about me. Now you do?” “I was trying to be nice, Bob. That’s all. Look, it was an incredible coincidence running into you like this. I’ll tell Ann all about it. Let’s leave it at that.” “Wait a minute. Don’t walk away. What has Ann said about me? What did she tell you?” “Nothing.” “Sounds like it was something all right. She was very bitter when we split.” “Let’s just say her memories of you aren’t the happiest.” “That thing with her sister just happened.” “Lower your voice. This is not a place to be shouting about infidelity.” “I don’t give a shit what Ann says. She wasn’t any more faithful that I was. I’m sure she didn’t tell you that part of the story, did she?” “You crummy piece of shit. Who the fuck do you think you are. We’re talking about my wife.” “You’ve heard one side, Al. Annie was fucking Aaron right up to the day he and Margaret got married. Margaret and I found out about it.” “I don’t want to hear this bull shit. Ann told me all about your duplicity.” “Margaret and I were literally crying on each other’s shoulder. We slept together, sure; those things happen. For Chrissake, Al, don’t walk away. You know I’m telling the truth, don’t you?” “Stay back, Bob. I’m warning you.” As Al opens his car door, Bob rushes to him, grabbing his arm. “Born again, huh. Annie becomes a born again virgin so she can marry you and I’m the bad guy? I’m the bride fucker?” Al tries to break loose, but Bob’s grip is tight. He pushes Al up against the car. “I’ve had to fight guys like you all my life. So superior. So righteous. Think your shit doesn’t smell, Al? Who you fucking, Al? Your secretary? Your maid? And how about Annie? Who’s she fucking while you’re here? Huh, Al? Who’s she fucking? Born again cocksucker.” Al’s eyes grow wide and unfocussed. He’s no longer struggling against Bob’s grip. He starts to wheeze. His face is bright red. “Pills. Pocket,” he gurgles. Bob let’s go and Al falls to the ground. “Pills. Please. The pills.” Bob hears his name being called from several rows to his left. “Over here. It’s Al.” A heavy set, balding man is waving at him. Bob picks up his carry-on, steps over the motionless body, and waves. “Hey,” he says.