I’m driving Beefcake’s truck. It’s hot out today, over a hundred degrees, and he’s grown tired of sitting on the hood where he was waving to passersby and handing out flyers. He’s come inside, and now sits in the passenger seat with the AC vents turned fully on him. His zombie posse rides in the back, standing up and shuffling around to the beat of the Briscoe for Mayor theme song.
Don’t worry: I drive slowly. I wouldn’t want them to get hurt. Much.
“So do you have a girlfriend, Henry?”
From the corner of my eye I can feel Beefcake giving me a suspicious once-over. “Huh.”
“What’s that grunt even mean? It’s a simple question. Civilized people ask one another simple questions. It’s called conversation.”
“You surprised me.”
“Forget it.” I drive silently for some minutes. “Briscoe for Mayor” sounds tinny and vapid from inside the cab of the truck. It’s an overly hot day, and not many people are out on the streets. Which is to say, there are none at all. This whole venture is ludicrous, which is a perfect way for Beefcake to spend his valuable time.
“It’s just that I know this woman you might be interested in.”
“Oh. I thought you were offering,” Beefcake says. “You know, to be my woman. That maybe it wasn’t enough that you stole Paulette’s business, you wanted me, too.”
I ignore the comment about the business. “Was Paulette your woman?”
“She was her own woman.”
We pass a cluster of zombies on the corner of Main and Hinman. When Beefcake hops out to shake their hands and deliver his flyer, they scatter in fear.
He climbs back in. He uses a pair of particularly nasty words to describe the cowards. “So you were saying. You’ve got a girl for me. Someone to address my needs.”
“Maybe. She’s pretty, and she’s single.” I leave out the part about her three kids.
Beefcake scoots over on the bench seat until he’s right up next to me. With his hand curled gently into a fist, he runs his knuckles lightly up and down my arm. He’s near enough for me to smell him, and doesn’t smell like beef or baked goods, to tell you the truth of it, he smells like a man who showered this morning and then perspired a sheen of fresh sweat while sitting in hundred degree sun. The scent is so alarming I almost run the truck off the road and onto the sidewalk.
“What’s wrong with you? You giving me away to some other girl when you’ve got me right here?”
Jill Riddell is a writer in Chicago. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute and has a weakness for nature, magic, and pennies abandoned in sidewalk cracks.